Your birthday! Your anniversary! Your graduation! Your retirement! Your recovery! Your promotion! Your reunion! Your return from service! Your new baby! Your college acceptance! Your big win! Your engagement! Your honeymoon! Your new job!
Those are just a few of the reasons people celebrate. And they’re also some of the reasons people celebrate at Walt Disney World.
When I answer questions for the Disney Park Moms Panel, one of the most frequently asked types of questions is, “I’m celebrating X event at Walt Disney World. What can I do to make it special?” Indeed, celebrating is so much a part of the Disney zeitgeist, that they even made “What Will You Celebrate?” the focus of Walt Disney World’s primary marketing theme in 2009 and 2010.
So what’s the answer? How can you make a celebration special at Walt Disney World?
MAYBE THE TRIP IS THE CELEBRATION
Please consider that you need not jump through any magical hoops to make a Disney celebration special. A trip to Walt Disney World is special all by itself. Space Mountain and a hug from Mickey! Seriously, life really can’t get much better than that. If you’re celebrating something for a child or a first-time guest, just walking through the front gates of the Magic Kingdom will make them feel on top of the world. Indeed, for a sensitive or easily overwhelmed youngster, a fancy to-do may be counterproductive, resulting in tears all around.
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The Walt Disney World parties are wrapped up for this year, but in the spirit of “always planning for the next trip,” here are some observations from my 2011 visit to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party that may be helpful when 2012 trip planning time rolls around.
- It’s all about the dwarves. I showed up at the meet and greet area for the seven dwarves at 6:58 p.m. The cast member attending the queue told me that my wait at that time would be, “Well over an hour, probably an hour and a half.” As much as I’ve been wanting that me-with-the-dwarves photo for years, I decided to skip it. I just couldn’t rationalize spending more than 20% of my party time waiting in a line. Next time, I’ll show up at the queue at 5:30 or 6:00 and plan to eat dinner and clean out my email in-box while on line. Santa also had a sizable line, but most other characters could be seen in half an hour or less. Plus, there was no-lines-no-waiting character access at the dance party locations.
Snow fall in Florida.
- The snow makers have upped their game. I’ve been to MVMCP during each of the past five winters. In my previous experience, the “snow” that fell on Main Street was more like a suggestion of snow – a few odd flakes to remind you that there’s a winter wonderland somewhere out there in the universe. This year, the winter wonderland had really and truly taken residence in the Magic Kingdom. Fluffy white stuff was actually accumulating on the sidewalk. I was wondering when they were going to break out the shovels. Well done, magic makers.
- Disney is making a solid effort to include everyone with their holiday snack options. In addition to the endless supply of snickerdoodles, apples, cocoa and cider, there are gluten-free, sugar-free, and nut-free cookies available, as well as sugar-free cocoa. Just ask at any of the food stations for these alternative items. They’re included with the cost of your ticket.
Snickerdoodles and cocoa are yum, but there are plenty of alternatives for those who need them.
- They’re still making one misstep in the food area. While it’s lovely that guests get a free candy cane after visiting Santa, cast members are offering those candy canes directly to children, without first asking the parents. There are enough kids out there with food issues that I’m sure this poses an occasional problem.
- Christmas fireworks viewing is no good from the train station. One of my favorite evening spots at the Magic Kingdom is at the raised train station loading area just above the entrance to the park. From here you get a bird’s eye view of the Castle and the entire length of the parade coming down Main Street. This is perfect on a summer evening, or for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, but in November and December the view of the castle is almost entirely blocked by the very beautiful, but nonetheless completely annoying in this context, Christmas tree.
- Disney is experimenting with their special event merchandising. In the past, hard-ticket party merchandise had only been available at the party. You had to go there to get it – that was part of the allure. This year the special limited edition collectible Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party vinylmation figure was sold via disneystore.com. I’m curious to see whether this is a trend that will continue
A personal touch in Tomorrowland.
- Keep an eye out for personal touches. During my party tour, I encountered several cast member initiated activities that made the Magic Kingdom feel like a small home town, in the very best sense. Of these, my favorite was at Mickey’s Star Traders. Cast members we walking around with narrow strips of paper, asking children what they wished for the holidays. The wish paper is made into a chain encircling the backstage area of Tomorrowland to help cast members in that area personalize their guest interaction. Very sweet.
- Technology is working its way into the guest party experience. Park maps and signage throughout the parks invited guests to receive party tips via text message on their mobile phones. The messages were mostly generic reminders along the lines of, “Don’t miss the fireworks show starting in 15 minutes.” I’m looking forward to seeing how this concept evolves in future years.
- The holiday version of “The Magic, the Memories, and You” is all kinds of awesome. I must admit that when this fireworks preshow was announced, I was one of the naysayers. Pictures on MY castle? Never! But when you see the castle dressed up as the world’s most perfect gingerbread house, all that bah-humbug nonsense just melts away. I can’t wait to see it again.
Alrighty peeps, what’s was your take on the 2011 MVMCP offerings? Anything you particularly liked, or anything that you wish they’d bring back from previous years? Let us know in the comments below.