Mickey Mouse Club: Alma Mater

Tonight I was given a very great honor — being asked to help write for the blog Chip & Company.  They are in need of writers to help fill in some needs that they have on their site, and I sent an email asking if I could help, and they said yes!  Anyway, in the course of writing my bio for the site, I was brought back to my childhood days of growing up being called Mickey by my parents, grandparents, friends, and those that weren’t my friends.  Most of all, I remember being sung the goodbye song from the Mickey Mouse Club.  A quick Google search and I found the following YouTube video.  Enjoy, it brought back memories!

Top Dining locations without children

Being a Dad, my wife and I have always planned our dining experiences around the type of character interactions we can get for our daughter.  Those meals are great and the character autographs and photos make the meal that much better.

As a result, my wife and I have never had a really truly sit-down dinner on our own at Disney, unless you count the time we ate our way around Disney when we were pregnant with Sophie.

So I ask you, where are the best places to eat at Disney without kids around?

I’ve heard some of the best ones mentioned — Le Cellier Steakhouse, California Grill, and I’ve looked at the others online also — but which one should I go with?

What to do when you aren’t at WDW

For most of us, we are not able to spend all year at Walt Disney World.  Money, work obligations, time off, school — all of these conspire to keep us away from the place where the Magic is.

So, what do you do when you are not visiting the parks?  Here is a list of things that I like to do to keep a bit of the Magic going.

  • Google Earth
    • One of the coolest things that Google Earth has going for it is the Walt Disney World layer you can turn on.  If you have never done so, take a look at it.  To turn it on, go into the “Layers” section, then navigate to “Gallery”, then “Travel and Tourism”, and check the box by “Walt Disney World® Resort”.  Also make sure that 3D buildings is turned on — that will really enhance your experience!
  • Blogs
    • I read a lot of blogs, and have been recently following various accounts on Twitter.  Here is a list of the blogs and sites that I like to follow:
  • Disney Twitter Friends
    • I don’t post much to Twitter, but I do follow some, so if you are interested in who I follow, check out my Disney list in Twitter.  You do need to have a Twitter account I think to view this list (I’m no expert, though, so I could be wrong).
  • Podcasts
    • Every few days or so I sit down with my iTunes and download the latest podcast from WDW Radio.  Lou Mongello is the host of the show, and does a really great job of bringing in exciting stories about the parks and also informing the listeners about the news of the day regarding Disney.
      • On a side note, Lou is also the author of the “Walt Disney World Trivia Books”, and the producer of the “Audio Guides to the Magic Kingdom®”.  There are currently five of them, and each one is related to a land of the Magic Kingdom.  I highly recommend them!
  • Pictures
    • The best memories, of course, are the photographs that we take when we visit the park.  Just playing a slideshow, or working on a movie of pictures brings me back to when we were there!
  • Walt Disney World® Moms Panel
    • This unique site, hosted by Disney itself, is perhaps the greatest site out there for getting answers to your Disney questions!  The Moms Panel is so big, it even has blokes like me applying for it!  Several of the panelists are ones that I follow on Twitter, and even on Facebook as FB Friends.  The information they are able to pass along is amazing!

So, for those of you that are starving for some Disney Magic, I hope that this list of resources helps you to find your Disney fix away from the parks!

My top 10 attractions at Walt Disney World

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Is there any way at all to create a top ten list of all the attractions at Walt Disney World?  I felt I was reasonably successful in coming up with my top ten places to eat at Disney World, but what about the attractions?  There are so many attractions — as of this writing, there are 123 attractions of every style sprinkled throughout the big four parks — Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom.  How is it going to be possible to rank a top ten list out of that?!! Well, I did my best, so here it is, starting at number 10!

10) Gran Fiesta Tour starring The Three Caballaros

  • This attraction is one of our favorites — located in the Mexico Pavilion at Epcot, it has a lot of everything.
    • A relaxing boat ride
    • A nice, romantic setting
    • A fun story involving Donald, Panchito, and Jose Carioca
    • Most of the time, there is very little line
    • On hot days, a nice respite from the heat!

9)  Peter Pan’s Flight

  • My main problem with Peter Pan’s Flight isn’t the ride at all — I absolutely love the ride! — the problem I have is that the lines are so long!
    • The way Disney used the perspective to represent London from the air was really well done.
    • The transition from London to Neverland really sets the stage for the fun to follow!
    • The problem is that if you aren’t at the park early enough, you will have to either wait a couple of hours to ride, or get your fastpass tickets and come back later in the evening.

8) Pirates of the Caribbean®

  • There is so much to enjoy about this ride!  It all starts with the queue — all of the memorabilia really sets the tone!
  • The boat ride, with it’s waterfall drop, is really cool!
  • The classic scenes are great, and the inclusion of Captain Jack Sparrow was done exceptionally well!

7) Toy Story Mania!

  • This ride is so cool!  I wish the line went quicker, especially when you have a fast pass, but all of the games you play while you are on the ride are cool!  Also, it is so cool that they can easily update the software and then the ride is completely different!

6) The Haunted Mansion®

  • This classic attraction is awesome!  I can ride this a hundred times, and no matter how much it doesn’t change, it is timeless, wholesome fun.  Last June, when we were about to start on our Doom Buggy, all of a sudden one of our “hosts” looked into the buggy in front of us — where my niece and daughter where.  It absolutely freaked out my niece because the “host” never said a word, and it was quite spooky to Stephanie!

5) “it’s a small world”

  • I’m sure to get some flak here from other people, but here is my confession:  I love the song!  I don’t care how long it is stuck in my head, I absolutely love it.  I always take hundreds of meaningless pictures, but it doesn’t matter.  We love everything about the ride, from the music, to the set pieces, to the way the starter waves to us when we leave — all of this adds up to why this is in my top 10 list.

4) Space Mountain®

  • Cindy and I love Space Mountain® — Sophie, not so much.  The first time I rode it, I kept trying to figure out which way it was going to go (if you haven’t ridden it before, Space Mountain® is in the dark) and when I guessed wrong nearly every time, by the end of the ride I had a splitting headache!  However, I have ridden it since and really enjoy the thrills of the ride.  Since Sophie doesn’t like the ride, though, we don’t ride it every year because we like to ride roller coasters together, not by way of the rider swap.  However, this coming trip in June we will be riding Space Mountain®!

3) Expedition Everest™

  • As a roller coaster, I actually find Expedition Everest™ to be a little slow.  Please correct me with numbers if I am way off base.  However, the fun part of the ride for me was when we rode backwards down the track!  It is because of this that I put Expedition Everest™ at number three on my list.

At this point, we are down to the final two spots on my list.  Without further ado, at number two:

2) Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

  • BTMR was the first roller coaster I rode.  Years before Cindy, decades before Sophie, when I came to MK with Grandma and Grandpa, I rode BTMR.  Back then, I thought it was ok, but now I think it is awesome!  It is as much about the theming as it is about the ride.
  • Ride this roller coaster at night — you will get a unique perspective with the night sky!
  • Also while riding at night, when you get to the saloon, look in the upper floor window — see if you can see the saloon girls dancing in the windows!

1) Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster® Starring Aerosmith

  • Until this past June, I had NEVER ridden the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster®!  None of us had.  For whatever reason, we always seemed to go beyond that ride and over to the Tower of Terror.  However, this trip I was determined that I wanted to ride the roller coaster.
  • We were in the fast pass line, and I didn’t pay any attention to the start of the ride.  Let me tell you, when that stretch limo takes off and you do 0-60 in a few seconds, it is a huge adrenaline rush!  When you couple the speed of the start with the music of Aerosmith played in your ears the whole time, it is a great mixture that really leads to a great ride.
  • Additionally, throw in a loop-de-loop and a corkscrew, and the illusion of a long ride to the concert, and this attraction just has everything I’m looking for in a rollercoaster.

There are so many other attractions that could have made this list — and perhaps should have!  In future posts, I’m going to take a look at the top attractions in different categories.

I hope you like my list — for any differences of opinion, feel free to comment!