As we wrap up 2010 at the end of this week (Happy New Year everyone!) I thought I’d take this week’s post to review what this year brought us at Walt Disney World as well as a chance to reflect this year’s events within the Disney area of my life. There is so much to discuss from new restaurants to fantastic trips with great friends; its hard to decided where to begin! I thought the best way to get things started was to take a look at some of the happenings around WDW since this is what drives us all to keep taking those great trips.
As with most years at Disney, the new year brought a new ad campaign. The “Give a Day Get a Day” promotion encouraged folks to get out there and do some good and in return receive a free day’s admission to a Disney park. Disney partnered with several organizations with which people could volunteer their time. The idea was such a success that one million people quickly signed up to volunteer in exchange for their park pass that the campaign was over in what seemed like the blink of an eye. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to participate before the promotion was over! It was one of those things where I meant to do it, but just didn’t get the chance. I hope all of you readers who seizing this opportunity had a great experience during your day of volunteering and you’ve been encouraged to keep giving back to your communities!
This year also saw a fair number of changes at Walt Disney World. While most of them seem pretty minor (like the renaming of the carousel at the Magic Kingdom), some were major events like breaking ground for the Fantasyland expansion. Walls went up and attractions closed this year to make way for construction for the largest addition the park has ever made. If you ride Dumbo you can get a glimpse at the working being done behind the walls. Buildings are starting to be framed out with steel beams and Disney geeks’ imaginations run wild with the possibilities coming in phases in 2012 and 2013.
Two fan favorites made a return to the parks this summer. Captain EO returned to its home in the Imagination Pavilion at Epcot to once again make guests feel like dancing out of the theater. While the effects are cheesy and the plot is fairly ridiculous, but I love this film. I think the whole thing is riot and a I giggle and dance every time I watch it. If you really want to have a laugh come watch the show with some of my friends and I. We’re getting the choreography down pretty well, right girls? The Main Street Electrical Parade also made a return to the Magic Kingdom for nightly performances. I got to see it for the first time in August and had a blast at the Touringplans we held to take in the parade on what was supposed to be one of its last nights. However, Disney decided to extend the parade’s run indefinitely so if you haven’t caught it yet you should have plenty of time to get down to see it.
Epcot’s World Showcase got two additions to its already awesome line up of table service eateries. Via Napoli opened this summer to rave reviews in the Disney community. This restaurant serves up pizza and other specialties in the Italy Pavilion. I had the chance to dine here in August and I just loved it. As I explained in my original review, I was a skeptic going in but came out a fan. Be sure to hit up this fantastic pizza joint on one of your upcoming trips. La Hacienda de San Angel and La Catina de San Angel were also added to World Showcase in the Mexico Pavilion. A counter service restaurant called La Catina de San Angel previously sat on the shores of World Showcase Lagoon, but was torn down to be rebuilt along with a table service facility. Both opened this fall to hungry crowds wanting to experience Mexican cuisine. The counter service option is very similar to its previous incarnation, offering tacos, nachos, and other quick meals. Inside at La Hacienda guests are welcomed into a beautiful homey atmosphere to enjoy more sophisticated Mexican fare. This new restaurant has gotten so-so feedback from many of the people I know who have dined there. I stopped in for a quick appetizer and a cocktail before rushing to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party in October. I loved my coffee margarita but my taco trio appetizer was good, but not anything to write home about. I’ll be sure to give this one another try in the coming months.
The additions to the Epcot line up continue with the reintroduction of Duffy the Bear. Duffy roamed around Epcot several years ago, but never really caught on so they are bringing him back for another try. This cuddly guy is a huge success in the Disney parks in Japan, so let’s see if he can win the hearts of American guests. His story is Minnie packed him in Mickey’s duffle bag (Duffy, get it?) to keep him company on a trip around the world. Sliding him into World Showcase seemed to make sense to take advantage of its many locales. Guests can meet Duffy and/or purchase their very own stuffed friend to pack in their very own suitcase. Outfits themed to the various World Showcase countries are also available for purchase. I don’t really get the whole thing, but I’m also not that into meeting characters. I’d rather have a pineapple margarita in La Cava del Tequila than stand in line to meet some bear. But that’s just me. If you are into Duffy I hope you are enjoying him and his many outfits!
This year also saw an addition outside of the parks for guests four legged friends. The Best Friends Pet Care Center offers one central location for pet lovers to board their critters. Previously, there were kennels at each park, but they have closed to make way for this brand new facility. Not only can folks check their furry friends into this pet hotel, but grooming services are available as well. Our blogger Todd Perlmutter took advantage of Best Friend’s hospitality recently and wrote all about it. His dog, Jasper, seemed to enjoy his stay there very much!
Now, that we’ve discussed some of the changes at WDW (I’m sure I missed some) let me take a moment to discuss my Disney year. Overall, 2010 has been a pretty great year for me especially in the Disney area of my life. First of all, I’d like to thank off the readers of the touringplans blog! Without you all this wouldn’t be possible! Your support means the world to us and we can’t thank you enough. It’s been really great to get to meet so many of you at our various meets this year, and I’m looking forward to more of these opportunities next year. The disney community has become a huge part of my life. I’ve been lucky to find some wonderful friends through community events and online outlets like Twitter. I made four great trips to Walt Disney World in 2010 to spend time in my favorite place with some of my favorite people.
My trip in March centered around WDW Today and Mousefan Travel’s TentFest. Yes, I camped in 38 degree weather. I went into this trip knowing I’d be hanging out with a few old friends, but I didn’t know how many new friends I’d make during my time at the chilly events! Hanging out with people who understood my love of Disney is always a treat. My love of the Disney community was really solidified on this trip. I also got to take in a few new experiences on this journey such as my first dinner at Jiko, my first camping overnight, and getting down at Atlantic Dance Hall.
The trip I took in August was supposed to be a nice, quiet trip with a few friends from home which turned into a huge trip averaging 20-25 people at all times. Several of the folks I met in March came along in August as well as some other folks I only new via twitter or through mutual friends. The touringplans team hosted four fantastic meets during my stay and we loved meeting everyone who came out! I had an amazing (but hot) time with these friends. We hit up Typhoon Lagoon, a couple character meals, and all of the parks. Most of us stayed at Pop Century so it was blast to have everyone together. This trip was particularly special for me because I brought one of my closest friends from back home in New Jersey who we managed to convert to a full on Disney geek. She even bought an annual pass! It was awesome to bring together these to parts of my life.
While my core group of friends was smaller on my October trip, it certainly wasn’t a relaxed, quite weekend get away. So many fun people were in town that weekend for the Wine and Dine running events it was hard to keep up with all of the meets. Touringplans hosted a great meet in Mexico where about 90 people came out to support us! We couldn’t have been happier to meet all of you and treat you to a margarita. This time around I tried Disney’s club level for the first time at the Yacht Club. I also got the chance to tour the Food and Wine Festival and Mickey’s Not so Scary Halloween Party. One of the things I’ll always remember about this trip was going back to WDW from Orlando International Airport when my flight home was significantly delayed. I literally ran through the Beach Club to Epcot’s International Gateway to meet my friends just in time for the start of Illuminations. It was a truly magical moment!
My December trip was another crazy one! With Reunion events, planned get togethers with friends, and trying to enjoy the Christmas atmosphere I never returned to my room before about 1 a.m. on an early night. It was really tough to fit it all in, but I think we managed as best we could and had a great time doing it. The touringplans team participated in the Reunion Team Challenge as well as hosting a meet in the UK were we doled out fish and chips. Did you spot us in our spiffy new T-shirts? Some of the highlights of this trip for me on this trip included a special event called DE-sserts and DE-lights featuring a private viewing of the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights, watching the Candlelight Processional with two different wonderful groups, an emotional cast member interaction, and drinks and laughs at the Tambu Lounge at the Polynesian.
My Disney filled year was capped off in a most special way. The Inner Mouse vidcast co-hosted by our very own JL Knopp made their nominations for their first DDL Academy Awards a few weeks ago. I was thrilled to be nominated in two categories: Neurotic Disney Person of the Year and Most Active Disney Auntie. I lost out on the Auntie title to my friend, Kim who clearly deserved it! However, I scrambled together the votes to be named the Neurotic Disney Person of the Year! It was such an honor to know the wonderful people in the Disney community thought I deserved this award. Thank you so much to all of the people who voted! Touringplans also won several of the DDL Academy awards! Its always exciting to be a part of a winning team.
How about you? Did you have an amazing Disney year too? What were you most excited to see added to the line up of WDW fun? Tell me all about your 2010!
Next week I’ll write about all the things I’m looking forward to in 2011!