Disney goes to great lengths to help us make the most of the important milestones in our lives, which is why celebrations are such a huge part of vacationing at Walt Disney World. Year after year, vacation after vacation people come from all over the world to get married, have a first haircut, go to a Halloween party, celebrate an anniversary, a birthday, or have a family reunion.
Despite the changes brought to the parks by their various park celebrations through the years the message has always been the same: What Will You Celebrate? Sure some of these are looked back upon very negatively like the giant pink birthday cake transformation of Cinderella’s Castle that was done to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Magic Kingdom. Other’s like The Happiest Celebration On Earth celebrating 50 years of Disney Parks were much better received (really loved and miss Cinderellabration).
And the new Let The Memories Begin celebration is really no different, only it takes the question of “What Will You Celebrate?” and turns that into “What Did You Celebrate?” It’s a subtle, yet clever slant on their existing marketing, and despite that people had psyched themselves up for more out of the announcement a few weeks ago, the change is genius – and I suspect many naysayers will come around once the new celebration kicks off fully.
Leveraging the basic tenants of social media marketing and continuing to deliver an on point message is a strong thing for any business to do. Sure you may never see yourself up on the walls Cinderella’s Castle, but guess what, you’re not supposed to. If you do, consider yourself lucky. But the point is that your picture is supposed to invoke memories in others of their adventures in the parks, and their picture is supposed to invoke your memories in turn.
Right now as you’re reading this my backpack is ready and my wife, Cheryl, and I are heading over to Disney World to celebrate my Birthday… my errr… 29th birthday that is. We’ve got the “JasperCam” monitoring DisneyDoggie, and he’ll get checked on throughout the day – despite that we’re out having fun, it’s always important for us to know he’s okay. Years ago, long before we moved to Florida, I made a conscious decision to never work on my Birthday – coming to Disney World for them instead. It is a long standing tradition of memories that I no intentions of breaking.
One thing I’ve come to learn is that my birthday, October 14th, is a day rooted in Disney History. For example, it is considered to be the birthday of many of Winnie the Pooh’s friends, though not the bear himself, Eeyore, or Tigger. Though Tigger is considered to have been born in October 1928 as this was his first book appearance. Disney uses the year 1968 since that was the year of the release of the movie Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day – the basis for The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh ride at Magic Kingdom. So I like to think of Tigger as my contemporary.
Like many, I lament the loss of my original “birthday ride”, 20000 Leagues Under the Sea. This is a ride that shares your birthday. If such a ride exists, and you are in the park on your birthday it is a rule that you must ride it. So for many years, after 20k closed, I wandered through the parks on my birthday without such a ride. Often I would stop at the old site and wonder things like why it wouldn’t get replaced with a Little Mermaid version of the ride.
Fortunately last year, on my birthday, The Sum Of All Thrills opened – the first ever ride attraction located in Innoventions. While this ride is not for everyone, especially the claustrophobic, it is a lot of fun. The concept is simple, you’re using a specialized computer program to design a roller coaster. It is then uploaded into the simulator where you get to experience your design in what Disney bills as a “4-D Robotic Simulator”. The rides you design can vary from simple and tame, to crazy and wild. You get a card that not only ties into a web site experience, but also stores your roller-coaster for later use should you desire to recall and ride it again, skipping the design phase.
Because of this, my first stop of the day will be in Epcot. The plan is to start with riding Spaceship Earth, because it’s the iconic park ride – probably the most iconic if you ask me. After we’ll head over to Innoventions East to ride The Sum Of All Thrills. And, time permitting I plan to seek out Duffy the Disney Bear who will be making his first appearances in Epcot that day (though I’ve seen him in the World ShowPlace pavillion before) – or at least take a good peek at his new merchandise.
Once this is all sorted out it will be time to head over to my chosen birthday meal for the day at Beaches & Cream. I’ll be honest, I’m not going for the burgers, because my favorite burger on property is still found at the Turf Club. In fact, my plan is to get the veggie burger. At home I’m Kosher, and while I get a bit lax when I’m out, I do try to stick to the basics, and one of those is to not have milk for 3 hours after you’ve had meat – thus a burger would mean no ice cream. I’m going for a No Way Jose – it’s been a while since I’ve had one, and I’m looking forward to it. That means no burger.
We’ll be meeting with a small group of friends who are planning to join me to celebrate. To me no celebration is complete without having friends and/or family along to be there with you. Today I’ll have both, and I couldn’t ask for more than that. Afterwards we’ll be heading into Disney’s Hollywood Studios for fun, adventure, and stardom.
Looking back, at my birthdays I realize that my single most favorite restaurant in all of Walt Disney World to celebrate a birthday has to be Whispering Canyon. And I’ve spent a few there, the most memorable of which was my last milestone birthday. This was a big production put on by my wife and brother, and I honestly had no idea where I was being taken. They even blindfolded me, though it only took me about 10 seconds of being led around in the lobby by my brother to realize where I was – Wilderness Lodge is one of my favorite resorts on property.
Even if you’re travelling, there’s no reason you can’t have a cake on your birthday if you’re heading to Walt Disney World. This used to require talking directly with the restaurant ahead of time, but these days Disney offers the Cake Hotline at (407) 827-2253. For a cost of approximately $25 and higher you can get a fantastic cake that will suit your celebration needs. Cheryl and I do this for our birthdays and anniversary when it makes sense to.
Cakes typically need to be ordered at least 48 hours in advance, though if you have special needs requirements to worry about like Cheryl and I do they will be taken care of. For our anniversary earlier in the year we had this amazing gluten and dairy free cake that became my breakfast the following day. Most restaurants have a smaller, less expensive 6” Celebrate Today cake available should you not plan ahead. You should get the smaller cake at least once at Whispering Canyon, you won’t regret it – I still laugh about it to this day.
There are so many other things you could do on your birthday. Consider that you could be having a specialized party at any of a number of locations (age dependent in some locations). For example, you could be playing a round of golf, or if miniature golf is more your thing you could have a party at the Winter Summerland Miniature Golf Course. Perhaps a Magic Kingdom or Illuminations fireworks cruise – maybe you’ll be lucky enough to get the legendary Captain Mike. Disney World is ready to provide you with any number of celebration customizations if you want them.
But barring everything else you may choose to do on your birthday at WDW, I can’t stress enough how much you’ll want to be wearing a “Happy Birthday” button with your name written on it. These can be found at any guest relations, ticket window, or resort registration desk. Castmembers will make it a point to send you wishes, and sometimes even bestow gifts or special experiences to you. A free snack, a card in your room signed by Mickey Mouse, a phone call from Goofy, a special celebration PhotoPass, etc. There’s nothing like getting a little something for nothing just for being you.
What about you? Have you ever celebrated a birthday in Disney World? If not, would you like to? What special thing do you like to do for your birthday when you’re at WDW? What WDW restaurant would you like to or are planning to have your birthday? What type of cake are we having? Yom Huledet Sameach!