Thanks for the memories – Saying Goodbye to Mickey’s Toontown Fair

As everyone knows, tomorrow is the date that Mickey’s Toontown Fair will be closed to the public, a casualty to the expansion of Fantasyland (although on the Disney World website it says that it is closed as of February 12th).  Gone will be Mickey’s Country House, and Minnie’s Country House; gone will be the Judging Tent; gone will be Donald’s boat, the S.S. Miss Daisy.

While I am excited for the possibilities of what the Fantasyland expansion will bring, still, it saddens me to know that some of the best memories that Sophie had, especially in the early trips, will be just that — memories.

We are traveling to Disney World in June with my brother-in-law, his wife, their six year-old daughter, and his Mother-in-Law, and unfortunately, Anna Jane will not be able to see those things that brought such joy to Sophie when she was that age.  Has Sophie grown up?  Certainly she has.  Does Mickey’s Toontown Fair still hold a prominent place for her when we visit?  No, Sophie doesn’t need to visit the Fair like she used to.  But that’s not the point for me.  What saddens me is that Anna Jane won’t get the opportunity to experience those same things that Sophie did.  She won’t get to jump up and down because she is so excited to see Donald Duck, like Sophie did in this picture.

Sophie started jumping up and down, and that led Donald Duck to start jumping up and down also!

She won’t get to go to the Judges tent to see her favorite characters.

She won’t get to tour Mickey and Minnie’s houses, and press the play button on the answering machine, or try out the microwave, or hear the pots and pans rattle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I don’t know what will happen with Mickey’s Country House, and Minnie’s Country House.  Those structures are so big, I just can’t see Disney just getting rid of them.  I am hopeful that a rumor, anything, will crop up that they are going to move them somewhere else, and until I hear that they are officially gone and will never be seen again, I’ll hold onto that hope.  For now, though, here are my best pictures of the houses.  I hope you enjoy them.

Mickey’s Country House

 

Minnie’s Country House

Whatever the future holds in store for the Magic Kingdom, one thing I know is that Mickey’s Toontown Fair, while gone, will not be forgotten.  Thanks for the incredible memories!

Reclaiming my nickname: Say hello to Mickey!

Remembering the past, I’m working on “Earning My Ears”

When I was a kid, my parents gave me the nickname “Mickey”.  I never understood why they did this.  Perhaps it was because my Dad was such a fan of Mickey Mantle when he was a kid.  Or perhaps they liked the work of Mickey Rooney.  I don’t know.  Maybe it was because my Mom liked Mickey Mouse?  Who knows?  But here is what I do know.  When I was a kid, I hated the nickname!  I thought it was a case of dumbing down a perfectly good name, Michael — or Mike for short, and calling me Mickey was just not something I really liked.  But, being a kid, I endured it, even when other kids in school would sing the Mickey Mouse song to me.

When I was ten, my Grandma and Grandpa took my Mom, sister, and myself (my Dad was home working) to Disney World.  It was my first trip to Disney, and as excited as I was with the trip, somehow it still didn’t sink in that I was in the home of the Mouse.

Even as I continued my visits to Disney, ironically, I became a teenager, and surprisingly my Grandparents were finally able to start calling me by the name I wished to be called: Mike.  Finally, even my Mom and Dad were able to change their thoughts and started calling me Mike.  My “lifelong” (funny that I say that as I was only about 15 years old when this happened) ambition to be known as Mike, and not Mickey, was realized.

In the year 2000, I met a wonderful person, the woman who would later be my wife, Cindy.  She is everything to me; my heart, my soul, my best friend, the person I can and do tell everything to.  In July of 2000, the month before we got married, we spent two days at the Magic Kingdom and Epcot.  It was Cindy’s first visit to Disney World, and we had a great time.  Funny, but while she called me “Mikey” (side note: my nephew Brett, when he was a baby, called me Mikey, and it stuck.  Funny I didn’t mind that for some reason), still I didn’t think about Mickey, and she didn’t call me Mickey very much.  Usually just when she was teasing me.

The following year, 2001, was when we had Sophie.  At that point our Disney hiatus began.  Although I wouldn’t realize it right then, looking back, it occurs to me that the softening of my dislike of the nickname started to soften around the time that Cindy and then Sophie came into my life.  I can’t really pinpoint when I was okay with the nickname; it hasn’t been all that long ago, but recently, I realized that there are certainly worse names that I could be called.

I started My Dreams of Disney on September 8th, 2010, and since then I have gone from having very few readers (mainly just myself), to having some of the Moms Panel read my blog, then branching out to other blogs, and finally, to becoming a writer for the Chip & Company site!

After forty-two years, many Disney trips, and meeting some really incredible Disney fans, I have come to the following conclusion:  Being called Mickey isn’t a put-down, it isn’t a way of turning a man into a kid or a way of keeping a kid from becoming a man.  Being called Mickey is an honor.

You can call me Mickey

 

My favorite Disney World Roller Coasters

As a roller coaster fan, I’ll admit that I grew up a self-proclaimed roller coaster CHICKEN!  In fact, it wasn’t until I went to a theme park in Virginia that I became a fan.  But that’s another story for another time.
Over the years, I have become a huge fan of the roller coaster genre, and Walt Disney World, in my opinion, has some of the best roller coasters on the planet.  A lot of my friends will disagree with me, saying that this roller coaster, or that roller coaster is better, but to me, there is a whole lot more than how many loops a roller coaster can do, or how far the drop is.  To me, what sets the roller coasters at Walt Disney World apart from all of the others is the theming that the Disney Imagineers put into planning the attraction.  I believe that Disney spends more time on the theme of an attraction than any other “theme” park in the world, and it is the theme of their lands, attractions, shows, and other things that really sets the parks apart from all of the others.  Now, after all of that build-up, I am going to give you my rankings for my favorite roller coaster rides at Walt Disney World.

6)  The Barnstormer at Goofy’s Wiseacre Farm

I know what you are thinking.  I am absolutely insane by including The Barnstormer in my listing of my favorite coasters.  I have now lost the two readers that come to Chip & Company to read my material.  I can’t be serious.
However, my friends, I am serious.  The Barnstormer was the very first roller coaster that my daughter Sophie ever rode, and the moment she got on that coaster, she was addicted.  There is not a single roller coaster that my daughter will NOT ride.  My wife and I enjoyed it too!  It was a quick ride, certainly, but when we went that first year, the park wasn’t very busy, and Sophie wanted to ride it again, and again, and again, and again, so we ended up riding that thing probably eight times in a row.  You know why we did?  Because there was no line.  We walked off, turned around, and walked right back on.  It was fun.  It was quick.  It provided excitement for us.  It was great.
Today, we don’t ride The Barnstormer as much, simply because Sophie has moved on to many other fun and challenging rides, but I have a soft spot in my heart for those days when Sophie was excited beyond compare by the simple joys of that roller coaster.  With the closing of Mickey’s Toontown Fair, I’m not certain what the future holds for The Barnstormer.  I hope it stays to be enjoyed for generations to come.

5) Primeval Whirl

When we first wanted to ride Primeval Whirl, it continually amazed us that you had to be 48” tall in order to ride this roller coaster.  For the first two years, Sophie wasn’t tall enough to ride it, but in year three, she was.  The Whirl is not your typical roller coaster, in fact, I’m not sure if it should be classified as a roller coaster at all.  But for our discussion, that’s what I’m calling it.
The Whirl is a fun ride because it takes you fast through some turns, dips, climbs, all sorts of things that spin you around and almost make it seem like you are going to fall right off the edge of the structure.  In fact, in some ways Primeval Whirl may have more thrills than some of the other coasters because it is a completely different experience.  The circular car really makes a difference, especially when it is turning you around this way and that as you make one of the 90 degree turns on the track.
The Primeval Whirl is located in Animal Kingdom at DinoLand U.S.A.

4)  Space Mountain

Space Mountain is a ride that I enjoy, but I haven’t ridden it for a few years.  The first time I rode it I kept trying to anticipate which way the coaster was going to turn, and since night vision isn’t my thing, I was anticipating completely wrong!  By the end of the ride I had a headache from the jarring.  However, I did ride Space Mountain again after that, and when I decided that the key was to just go with the flow, I really enjoyed the ride.
Sophie isn’t a big fan of it because it is in the dark, but she has told us that she is going to try it again when we go in June.  However, while the appeal to Space Mountain is that it is in the dark, I feel like it takes away something from the ride.  We haven’t ridden it since it was renovated, so I’m looking forward to reacquainting myself with the ride.  Space Mountain is the signature attraction in Tomorrowland, located in the Magic Kingdom.

3) Expedition Everest

Expedition Everest is one of those rides that I, for whatever reason, never seemed to ride – until this past June.  Then we all rode it, and I liked it!  For me the most gut-wrenching part (I say that literally) was when we rode backwards down the track.  I did feel like the speed of the coaster was a little slower than I would have liked.  But I liked the coaster, and will ride it again.  Last time I was in the very back of the train, so this year I’ll see what it’s like at a different location!
For me, I really like the mountain.  Additionally, the Disney Imagineers have done a great job in theming this attraction.  In so many ways, the theming of an attraction also helps to make the wait in line seem shorter because you can look around and see all the little details of the ride.
Expedition Everest is located in Animal Kingdom, not far from the Kali River Rapids.

2) Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

I absolutely LOVE Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.  It is one of my favorite roller coasters anywhere, not just at Disney World.  There is so much to experience with BTMR that it is easy to ride it over and over again just to pick out the things you missed before.
Have you ever ridden it at night?  If you haven’t you absolutely must experience that at least once.  It introduces a totally different dynamic into the ride.
Have you seen the dancers dancing above the saloon?  If you haven’t, look for it.  BTMR is one of those attractions that delivers – over and over again!
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is located in Frontierland in the Magic Kingdom.

1) Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith

I wonder where I have been all my life – six years in a row we have gone to Disney for at least one day, and in the previous five years, I never rode the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster.  How stupid have I been?!
Last June I made the distinct decision that I was going to ride this roller coaster, and when we were at Disney’s Hollywood Studios we did just that.  We had a Fastpass for it, so we walked right on.  In fact, we walked in the queue so quickly that I didn’t even pay attention to the limo leaving with the previous group of riders.  You know what?  That was better, because I had NO IDEA how quickly that limo was going to take off!
The initial start is from 0-60 in 2.8 seconds, immediately propelled into the dark with the music of Aerosmith blasting in your ears!  The ride contains a corkscrew, a loop-de-loop, and several high speed turns, all with the music playing.  The ride is in the dark, but there are several neon signs to look at, so it really is cool!  The Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster immediately became my favorite roller coaster anywhere, not just at Disney World!

But tell me, what are your favorite roller coasters at Walt Disney World?  How do they compare in your eyes with roller coasters at other theme parks?  Tell me in the comments below, and thanks!

Planning the Multi-Generational Family Vacation

Cinderella Castle at Night!

Cinderella Castle at Night!

There is nothing quite like taking a family vacation to Walt Disney World.  The excitement that comes with planning the trip is almost half the fun.  How long do I stay?  Where do we want to eat?  Should we do the Disney Dining Plan?  These are some of the questions that need answering.

However, there is a whole other dimension that gets introduced when you start planning a trip involving multiple families, and even multiple generations of people going.  Just like planning your own family vacation, the excitement that builds as you plan it with another family is perhaps even greater!  Here is a real life example involving myself, my wife and daughter, my niece and her boyfriend, my sister-in-law and her husband and daughter, AND my sister-in-law’s Mother.

Last year when my wife and I took our daughter to Disney World for her birthday, we also invited and brought along my niece.  That was an incredible trip, in part because our daughter didn’t know that my niece was coming until she showed up the day before our trip, and also because Steph hadn’t been to Disney in about thirteen years!  The trip was phenomenal, and while we were there, we took the plunge – we purchased our Disney Vacation Club at the Villas at the Grand Californian Resort & Spa!  Part of what made that purchase phenomenal was that we received double points, meaning the 220 we purchased were doubled, we banked them, and we have 440 to spend this year!  We already knew what we were going to do with those points!

Last year we tried to convince my sister-in-law’s family to take a trip with us, but with the economy the way it was, they declined.  This past September, we had a little get together with them and convinced them that they needed to come with us next year!  How could they say no when we would be able to book a two bedroom suite at Bay Lake Towers with our points?  That day in September, we decided that our vacation dates would be June 17th – 24th, 2011.

Planning Tip #1:  Select a date that works for all of you in the party.
We selected those dates because my daughter’s 10th birthday falls in that window. There is nothing quite like being at Walt Disney World when it is your birthday!
Now that we had a firm “Yes” that they would be coming, and a date that worked for all of us, I had to wait a little bit because I couldn’t make the reservation at BLT until it was 7 months out from our check-in date.  That was about two months away.
November 17th finally arrived, and with it, my telephone call to the Disney Vacation Club.  9:00 AM arrived, I dialed the phone, got an agent almost immediately…then was told that they couldn’t book my reservation because of the computer upgrades they were performing to the system.  I would be able to call back and make my reservation at 1:00 PM that afternoon.
At this point, my nerves started getting to me a little.  Would we be able to get the room we wanted?  Would we have to go to a different resort?  Would we have to change our dates?  I resolved to try and put it out of my head for the morning, and worry about it when I called back.  Unfortunately, I had a dentist appointment at 1:00 PM, so I wasn’t able to call right then – I had to call after that was over, about 2:30 PM.
When I called back, I spoke with a nice lady named Flo who walked me through the whole process.  They had a two bedroom available – Lake View – so I snatched it right up!  I gave her the names of all the adults, then all the children and their ages, and our reservation for nine people was set!  This brings me to my next tip.


Planning Tip #2: After your reservations are set, get together with all concerned to iron out additional details.
The next thing was to figure out some of the details that we needed to cover.  I had a list of four things to cover with Nancy:

  1. How many days of park tickets do we want to do?  We decided on six days, with park hopper, no water park option.  When planning, I went to the detail of documenting how much the tickets would cost for various days so that they would have as much information as possible.
  2. What sort of dining reservations do we want to make?  I outlined to them what it would cost if we elected to do the Disney Dining Plan or the Disney Quick Service Dining Plan.  In the end, we decided on one Princess Character Dining meal at Akershus, one non-Character meal at ‘50s Prime Time Café, and a third meal (location TBD) just for adults.
  3. We also mentioned a special surprise that Cindy and I are going to do for the girls: a certain treat that has the initials BBB – I’ll let you figure out the surprise!
  4. Lastly, we made the decision that we will drive down from NC in one day – it is about a ten hour drive.

In addition to those decisions, Nancy decided that she would get the tickets now.  There are some good reasons for this.  For starters, getting the tickets now will lock them in at the price that they currently are, which is good in case the price goes up.  Secondly, getting the tickets now will lock them in for the trip.  Thirdly, getting the tickets now will help them to have some things to include in the “gift” that they are giving their daughter at Christmas to tell her that they are going to Disney World!  And lastly, the tickets don’t activate the two-week window before they expire until the first day that they are used.
At this point, we are all caught up on what we need to do right now.  Later on next month, we’ll need to book our reservations for dining, and call to schedule the secret surprise.  Additionally, I’m going to read some of my friend Ken’s posts on things that Nancy’s Mom might like to do as an older Disney visitor!

Planning Tip #3: Communication, Communication, Communication

What it all comes down to when planning a family vacation involving multiple families is communication, communication, communication!  The more planning you do together, the greater your chances of everyone having a great trip, and enjoying every moment of it!

Planning Tip #4: Adding in the extra touches that make planning fun

One of the things that I really enjoy getting as a way of increasing the excitement of our upcoming trip is the Customized Maps that Disney offers.  These maps are an incredible reference, and a free keepsake that you can enjoy before and after the vacation.  Some other things to look into include getting your music together, looking at trivia books and other books on what to do at the parks, and researching the various changes that are occurring at the parks to see if any of the attractions are going to be closed when you are visiting.  What things do you like to do to get ready for your Disney vacations, and when do you like to do them?