Why I love Disney

In today’s post, I’m going to explain why I, personally, am so in love with Disney.

Well, to put it in the most clichéd way possible, it’s because it makes me forget problems and live in a magical world for a while. I can escape.

Yes, this is cliché, but completely accurate. When I visit Disney, you can see the glow in my eyes as I wander around a different world that’s not what I’m typically used to. I can leave my problems and fears behind for a bit and go to somewhere unfamiliar and happy.

Sure, any amusement park can provide something like this. You go on rides, and you forget some of your cares. You dare to do things you couldn’t every day. But there’s something different and innovative about Disney that just makes it so much more incredible for me. Each ride tells a story. It’s not just a roller coaster you ride on for a bit and then come off with your stomach in your feet. Each and every single attraction tells a story.

And that makes all the difference to me.

I’m a storyteller, and I want my work to inspire people in ways of hope and beauty. And a good story that I hear or become involved in can inspire me to write my own, or even just to appreciate someone else’s work. I want to know how they would tell a tale, to learn from their strategies, and how I can make my own work better. A story makes anything more personal and special.

Disney’s stories are completely immersive. You actually take an interactive journey through each attraction and plot line. And the conflict is always happily resolved in a nice pretty package. Good triumphs over evil, you make it to the concert just in time, and you survive your own journey through time and space, avoiding dinosaurs, natural predators, and asteroids. YOU are the main character in the story, not Snow White, Peter Pan, or Figment. Each attraction tells your own story of a personal journey that you must take until you get off that car. Maybe I’m the only one who feels this way, but I always feel a little different when I hope off those cars at the end of the ride. I take something away from a lesson I learned, or, to continue the clichés, I feel a little bit of magic in me. But I’m not the same person who came on the ride in the first place.

Before I went to Disney this past summer, I went all out getting ready for the trip. I looked at websites and books to read up on the attractions and places to visit, stay, and eat. I researched typical weather reports and bought all of the things I could possibly need. I tried to learn some of the history of the park that changes people’s lives. I wanted everything to be perfect. But, as I packed my bags for the trip, I had a shock to my system: What if I was overdoing the whole thing? What if I had made too much out of a simple amusement park? Sure, I had been there before, and it had been great, but I was getting older. What if, gasp, I was too old and cynical to really enjoy the magic as I had before?

Sure enough, I did have a different appreciation for the resort. Items, food, and hotels are expensive. People are constantly on their cell phones and MP3 players distracting themselves, hardly even noticing that they are on vacation. The wait for the buses can be long and boring, and the Florida weather can be wet and hot. Some things felt a little more, well, commercial.

I felt a bit cynical.

But I went to our hotel. The outside looked like a special hotel, nothing too out of the ordinary. However, as we walked up to check in, even just on the walk, everything felt different. I felt different. There was a spring in my step, and a huge smile was on my face. I wasn’t too cynical; I was a kid. I was so excited just to be there, and, as we entered the lobby and the cast members greeted us so pleasantly with “Jambo,” my eyes grew in amazement and awe.

I felt like I was really in Africa.

Every little detail that the Imagineers invent and implement gives me, the traveler, a feeling where chills run up and down my spine. I actually lose my breath sometimes when I see what they can do. I am fascinated by what these engineers do, and, though it may seem like knowing the technical “magic” that they perform would steal my wonder and awe, somehow it brings in a more adult awe. They take simple things like lighting, animatronics, music, and a great, though not complex, story, and make something that seems like a dream become a reality. It really is like traveling to another world. How breathtaking is it to hang-glide over California without a fear of falling? Or travelling to the bottom of the ocean to hang out with some of its inhabitants? Or travelling to see the Yetti without a passport? Or even watching fireworks light up the night sky while your hero battles all of good and evil? It’s amazing how these engineers can bring you to places you never thought possible, or to reach the innermost portions of your imagination, places that you never would have believed you could dream of. This is what the Imagineers do. And they do it so well. So well that I never want to leave once I arrive.

It’s a feeling that’s impossible to describe. Goodness knows the best word I can come up with is “magic.” And maybe magic IS real here. Maybe magic isn’t just fairy dust or spells or creatures or talking animals or whatever. Maybe, just maybe, magic is something that we access inside ourselves at a certain moment, a moment when everything feels RIGHT. It’s the feeling that nothing can harm us, and there’s a peace that we may never have thought we could feel again. A feeling where we can be and do whatever we want and go wherever our hearts desire. There are no limits except our imaginations. And the imagination is far from limited. We become children at heart, no matter our ages.

Leave your troubles at home. Sure, they will wait for you there for when you come back, but maybe you’ll feel a little different when you come back. Maybe you’ll even find the inspiration to solve some problems or deal with them a little differently. A story can change your life. Many stories can make an impact. And my life has always been a little brighter when I’ve been to Disney. I hope you, too, can find that little spark of inspiration like I have when you visit.

And may all your wishes come true.

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Can you keep a secret?

Ok, I’m not going to make you keep these secrets I’m going to share with you today. But I am going to give you some hints that may make your Disney trip a bit more magical.

Just today, there was an article in The Morning Call newspaper with some “insider info” on how to amp-up your trip. Some of them I knew of, some I didn’t. It was interesting and full of humor that is overly true, and here’s the link:

http://www.startribune.com/lifestyle/travel/138589239.html

Now, he’s mentioned some pretty awesome stuff, and I’d like to try anything I haven’t already done, but here are some of my own tips to add some magic to your Disney trip.

  1. Extra Magic Hours

If you stay on the property and in a Disney resort, there is a pretty great perk that allows you some extra time at the parks, even though they would normally be closed at a given time. And, best of all, it’s free. That’s right, no extra money for extra time. This gives you a chance to extend your park stays for an extra hour to three hours.

Extra magic hours can be in the morning or at night, and can give an extra hour to an extra three hours, depending on the time of day and the specific park. Magic Kingdom sometimes stays open until 2 AM. I suggest, if you come across this opportunity, that you take advantage of it. Once you get past the regular park hours, you lose a lot of the crowds from people who a) aren’t staying on the property, b) don’t know about the program, or c) are just too tired to make it (especially families with young children). I have never done the extra magic hours in the morning since I’m not an early riser, so this benefits many people who are. However, I like to stay up late, so I utilize my time with the late nights at the parks. The crowds are definitely smaller during the extra magic hours, but they are getting larger as time goes on and more people learn about what this is.

So how does it work? Well, all you really need is to stay on the Disney property during your trip and know when the extra magic hours are for each park. They are not every night or morning, and you must keep track of the schedule. Once you know where you’re going on a given day, just show up early or stay late. Then, to get on each attraction, you must show the cast members your hotel swipe card key at each attraction to prove that you are staying on the property. It’s that simple.

When the program first started, guests had to find cast members who would give out wrist bands to those utilizing the program. This was not a smooth system, however, and, though it may be somewhat annoying to keep your card handy everywhere you go, it’s so much simpler than having to track down one cast member who is secretly handing out wrist bands.

Keep in mind that, if you decide to go to extra magic hours, not every attraction or restaurant will be open for the extra time. Only certain attractions follow this, so make sure to know where you can and cannot go when the time comes so you don’t plan to visit something and discover that it’s not actually open. But, for the most part, I think you’ll find just about anything you would want to go on will be running. And especially look for those ones that are terribly busy during the day. My brother and I found it was a great time to ride Big Thunder.

  1. Taking the bus versus driving

See my last blog post for my review of the bus system. I really think this is the way to go to get around Disney.

  1. Go see the second parade

We know that the Magic Kingdom has two parade times every evening for the Main Street Electrical Parade (currently). Everyone with children is going to try to see the first showing because they will want to go back and sleep for another day of park hopping. But, if you’re not in a hurry, don’t go to this one. It will be incredibly crowded, and you may not be able to see very well, especially if you’re lacking in height as much as I am. If you wait until the second one later at night, there will not be as many people. Trust me. And then you can get out of the park (relatively) quickly and easily, especially if you stand near the entrance of the park. Go see other attractions during the first parade, and the lines won’t be quite as bad since many people will be at the parade. You’ll save yourself some time, and you’ll get to enjoy a few more things.

  1. Pecos Bill’s order kiosks

Overall, you may think this sounds ridiculous, but this was the greatest addition to the counter service fare. Like going to a Wawa and ordering your favorite hoagie, there are computers in Pecos Bill’s where customers can order their food. That’s right, no more waiting in crazy lines to order, but you can walk right up and use your Disney hotel key to pay if you can use it as a credit card. Though the computers are a bit hidden in some small columns that people hadn’t seemed to have found or cared about in June 2011, they are a great way to quickly order without waiting in line, if you don’t mind the lack of personal service. There was no line at all when I went, and it really didn’t seem like people were using them yet. Maybe they are by now, but I suggest that if you’re in the neighborhood, go check it out. The food’s not bad either.

  1. Go resort hopping

I know I’ve mentioned this before in previous posts, but what’s better than checking out other Disney hotels? There are so many to see, and more are being built all the time (i.e. The Art of Animation Resort opening in May 2012). No, I haven’t had a chance to visit all of the resorts on the property, nor have I stayed at all the ones I have checked out, but this is a great wait to see more of the World. They are all very detailed with a unique theme, and you can’t really go wrong with any of them. Take the bus or hop onto the monorail and just walk around the lobbies and through the courtyards to see a part of Disney that you might not otherwise have thought to experience before. Go see the totem poles and the watering hole at Wilderness Lodge. Check out the Pepper Market at Coronado Springs. Take a boat ride through the Port Orleans. Ride the monorail through the Contemporary and see the mosaic of children. And make sure to get some food along the way!

Got some other Disney tips I may have missed? Let me know, and I’ll try to add them to another post!