Tanya’s Tips for being selected as First Family at Disney!

image By Tanya.  Have you ever opened one of the Disney Parks? One of my Disney dreams is to someday have my family chosen to open the Magic Kingdom, ride in on Casey Jr. with Mickey and throw Pixie Dust over the crowd! What a spectacular memory that would be!

Our family has been chosen to be the first family in Disney’s Animal Kingdom and we opened the park with our son when he was 6. It ranks as one of our favorite Disney memories. We shook rain sticks, banged drums and then raced toward Expedition Everest while everyone else was fiddling with turnstiles and tickets! We also got a certificate stating we were the first to enter the park that day, our own Photopass photographer for the event and a free 5×7 voucher to choose one of our photos!

So just how are you chosen to open a Disney park? Disney would have you to believe that this is a random occurrence. And, while some “randomness” does come into play. I believe there are a few tips any family can use to up their odds so to speak.

First and foremost, arrive early, arrive early, arrive early. If you are not at the turnstiles well before opening, you will not be in the running. There is no chance to be chosen if you are not at the park’s gate well before opening time.

The next tip is to befriend the turnstile cast members. In my experience, there is usually a cast member or two that are “in charge” of making the selection. It’s hard to tell who they are exactly, but when we were chosen for Animal Kingdom’s opening family, it was clear there was a cast member that was in charge of the selection and she was roaming about the “early” crowd looking for candidates! Talk to the cast members, ask questions, tell them about your kids, your trip and where you are from. I believe this helps your chance of being chosen. Our son had fallen down after standing on a planter box and skinned his knee. A cast member was asking us if he was alright after I gave him a band-aide and we struck up a small conversation. It happened to be the same cast member who chose us for the opening….coincidence? While I don’t recommend tossing your child off a Disney planter box….it might help. Be lively! Be “the” Disney family. Make your presence known, but don’t be obnoxious….there is a fine line to walk here.

My last tip is to dress your family alike. I know, I know, I hear the collective sigh of every dad in America. Don’t be afraid to walk on the wild side here dads! Sacrifice your pride for a wonderful family memory. I can’t promise it will happen, but I do believe it helps! First of all, you will be able to spot your family and children in the crowd….and so will the cast member looking for a family to open the park!! While this is not the deciding factor…and not always the case, start watching the families who are chosen. Often they are dressed alike, in Disney gear, or in bright colors! When our family opened Animal Kingdom, you guessed it, matching shirts!

So, try these tips next time you go to a Disney Park. If you are selected to open a Disney Park, remember to be gracious for the honor! Thank your cast members, smile and live it up! After all you likely were selected for some reason. (And, matching shirts really might help!)

Here’s to Magical Memories,

53 Days til Disneyland – Disney’s Aladdin – A Musical Spectacular!


Image ©Disney Parks

Today, at Day 53 of our Countdown to Disneyland series, we are taking a look at Disney’s Aladdin – A Musical Spectacular!  This show, which feels to me like the types of shows we can see at Walt Disney World, is one that I’m looking forward to because I’ve never see Aladdin protrayed on the stage like this before.

In this Broadway-style production, Aladdin meets and falls in love with the incredible Princess Jasmine, and then later on finds the magic lamp and meets the Genie!  Will Aladdin win Princess Jasmine and free the Genie, or will Jafar win and take over the thrown from the Sultan…and the power from the Genie?

This 40 minute production is performed in the  Hyperion Theater in Hollywoodland at Disney’s California Adventure park.  During some times of the year, the production isn’t put on daily, so make sure you check the Entertainment Schedule to see when it is playing.

One of the best things I’ve read about this is that Alan Menken, the composer of the original soundtrack, actually wrote a brand new song — “To Be Free” — just for this show!

So tell me, what do you think about Disney’s Aladdin – A Musical Spectacular?  Is it a show that you can’t wait to see each time you visit, or do you skip on by?  If you’ve seen this show and the shows at Walt Disney World, specifically, Beauty and the Beast: Live on Stage, Finding Nemo – The Musical, or Festival of the Lion King, where do you rank this show with those?  In fact, let’s do a quick poll, tell me which is your favorite, and thanks!

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Memories

My Favorite Sites and Sounds at Animal Kingdom

Happy Birthday Animal Kingdom! Today is the 15th Anniversary of the largest Walt Disney World park opening for Guests! On April 22nd, 1998, Animal Kingdom opened and proved that it was more then just a zoo.

For today’s birthday party, I thought I would take a little time and share with you some of my favorite Animal Kingdom memories that my family and I have enjoyed over the years.

Animal Kingdom Memory #1: Extra Magic Hours Block Party

I’ve written about this before — in fact, it was one of the memories I shared with you for my 15 Days to 15 Years post for my friend Didi over at DISTherapy!  It was 2007, and we went to Animal Kingdom for evening Extra Magic Hours — which are no longer offered at the park.  In essence, the only section that was really open was DinoLand, U.S.A., but when we got there, we came upon a block party involving Chip, Dale, and Goofy!  It was so much fun, Sophie loved it!  Out of that Disney Magic came these photos!  Enjoy!

Chip with Sophie!

Chip with Sophie!

Goofy and Sophie Dancing!

Goofy and Sophie Dancing!

Chip hamming it up for the camera!

Chip hamming it up for the camera!

I don’t have any photos of Dale from that experience — he was shy in front of the camera…

Animal Kingdom Memory #2: Rafiki’s Planet Watch

We took the train out to Rafiki’s Planet Watch to check it out because, quite honestly, it wasn’t a part of the park that we really went out to very often.  It’s a bit overlooked in our eyes, and perhaps it is in others — which may contribute to the park’s reputation as being a half-day park.  Anyway, we headed over that way because we wanted to check it out, and because it was air conditioned comfort on a blazing hot summer day, and because we never really go over there.  After we got there, we learned that Rafiki’s Planet Watch has a lot of great exhibits, and we enjoyed many of them that day, but then, we went around a photo spot, and who did we find? Pocahontas herself, seemingly waiting for Sophie to come over!  In that encounter, we got this picture perfect memory!

Pocahontas and Sophie

Pocahontas and Sophie

Animal Kingdom Memory #3: Jumbo Turkey Leg

We had just gotten off of Kali River Rapids when we went to Walt Disney World with Anna Jane and her family, and Sophie was hungry. She had tried some of my Jumbo Turkey Leg, and really liked it, and had to have one of her own, so I took her to get one while the others rode Kali River Rapids on their own. Sophie loved that Jumbo Turkey Leg, and this picture is one of my favorites when you talk about Disney food!

Sophie digging into her Jumbo Turkey Leg!

Sophie digging into her Jumbo Turkey Leg!

Animal Kingdom Memory #4: Face Painting

Sophie was really interested in face painting when we went to Animal Kingdom during our trip in 2007. She decided that this was the souvenir that she wanted most from that trip — to have her face painted! The price was quite reasonable (and Sophie may have gotten a more permanent souvenir in addition to her face painting…) so we went ahead and did it for her. Here is how she turned out!

The Face Painting Process

The Face Painting Process

Keep Still

Keep Still

The final result!

The final result!

Animal Kingdom Memory #5: Cindy’s First Ride on Expedition Everest

Cindy’s favorite attraction in all of Walt Disney World is Expedition Everest. To her, it is the perfect roller coaster!  I asked her what her favorite memory from Animal Kingdom was, and she told me, without hesitation, “The first time I rode Expedition Everest!”

Some people may not know this, but Walt Disney World veterans know that Expedition Everest has a single rider line, and also has a system called the Rider Swap that you can utilize.  We elected to do that because Sophie wasn’t big enough to ride it, so Cindy went first, and then, when she came out, I decided that I didn’t want to try it, so Cindy got to go again, twice in the span of 15 minutes or less!  Here are a couple of shots of the ride for you to enjoy.

The big mountain!

The big mountain!

Expedition Everest drop!

One of the Expedition Everest drops!

Thank you for stopping by as I took a look at some of my favorite Animal Kingdom Memories!  It has been my pleasure to share with you Animal Kingdom for 2 plus years of blogging, and I wish Disney’s Animal Kingdom park many more years of fun operation!  What does the future hold? Who knows?  Why don’t you tell me what you would like to see at the park in the future, and thanks for stopping by!  Who knows?  Maybe your idea will be seen by Disney and turned into the next great attraction!


Celebrating Mother’s Day at Walt Disney World


My Mom with Sophie at Minnie’s Country House, 2006

Sunday, May 12th, 2013…a day that every child and husband should know and remember.  Sunday, May 12th, 2013 is Mother’s Day in the United States.

While I haven’t yet taken my Mom (and Sophie hasn’t taken her Mom) to Walt Disney World for Mother’s Day, it is definitely something on both of our radar screens to do at some point.  While I know that Mother’s Day at Walt Disney World is likely a terrible time to go because of crowds, restaurants being booked solid, and so on, to me, what better way to celebrate all that our Moms mean to us then by sharing the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, or Disney’s Hollywood Studios with them for a day – or longer!

With the help of my good friend Dave’s Crowd Calendar from the site YourFirstVisit.net, it is apparent to me that while going to Walt Disney World on Mother’s Day may be quite busy, actually going for the week that Mother’s Day falls on isn’t that bad at all — or at least, isn’t projected to be that bad!  So for those of you looking to do something to wow your Mom, wife, or other Mother figure in your life, this may be just the ticket you are looking for!

The Canada Pavilion Gardens

The Canada Pavilion Gardens

And another shot of the Gardens.

And another shot of the Gardens.

To me, one of my favorite things to do is to just walk around Epcot’s World Showcase.  I could really see this as being one of the things to do to make a perfect Mother’s Day afternoon.  Can you picture stopping to take a look at the gardens of Canada, then going in to watch O Canada! inside the pavilion?


Perhaps a Monorail Ride is something you enjoy?

Or, perhaps a ride on the monorail is something you enjoy a bit more?  I love the look of this picture, with the flower bed before the lake, and the Tron monorail passing by overhead, this picture just worked out perfectly for me — pure luck, I might add!


Or, perhaps you are like Daisy, and shopping is your thing?

Perhaps, though, you are more like Daisy, and you prefer to shop for something special on Mother’s Day?  There are a lot of great shopping locations, of course, so take time to purchase that new Dooney & Bourke — and remember, if you buy too much, you’ve always got Donald here to carry your bags for you!

Donald will do anything for his Daisy!

Donald will do anything for his Daisy!

So, as you can see, at Epcot at least, there are plenty of things to do — and there will be at the other parks as well!  Perhaps a ride on “it’s a Small World” is what you crave right now?


it's a small world Or, perhaps a ride on Expedition Everest at Disney’s Animal Kingdom is more up your alley?

Animal Kingdom Monday - Expedition Everest

Expedition Everest


Or, maybe even a good idea is to just take in a parade at Disney’s Hollywood Studios…

Wordless Wednesday - Pixar Pals Countdown to Fun Parade!

The Pixar Pals Countdown to Fun Parade at Disney’s Hollywood Studios!


Whatever you choose to do, you are spending time with your Mom — or in some cases, remembering your Mom — so no matter what you do, whether you go to Walt Disney World or not, it’s a good day…a day to truly remember what your Mom means to you, and to honor her in all that you do.

Have you spent the day at Walt Disney World with your Mom on Mother’s Day?  If so, how were the crowds?  Please comment and let us know, and thanks for stopping by today!


15 Days to 15 Years – Animal Kingdom, 2003

15 Days to 15 Years
Today I have the distinct honor and privilege to be writing one of the 15 Days to 15 Years posts over at DISTherapy.  My great friends Donna and Beth have been the driving force now for the Magic Kingdom 40 Days to 40 Years Series, the Epcot 30 Days to 30 Years Series, the Disneyland Paris 20 Days to 20 Years Series, and now, the Animal Kingdom 15 Days to 15 Years Series!

So, stop on by and read the post, and enjoy the rest of the great posts in this series!  Thanks, and have a great day!