Sunday, July 5, 2015


It can't be true, but it is!  The Magic Kingdom's "New Fantasyland" has been around for a couple of  years now.

   It seems like yesterday when we received an invitation to attend a soft opening event for the New Fantasyland.  We were excited and honored to get to preview the newest addition to Walt Disney World.

We almost blew it!
   We had visited the Magic Kingdom the day before the preview.  While we took a break to rest on a bench somewhere near "City Hall" in the Main Street USA area, I managed to leave my folder with all of our trip plans AND the printed invitation for the New Fantasyland preview!  I didn't realize what I had done until we got back to our room that evening (A Royal room at Port Orleans Riverside).

We didn't get lost, but the signs were helpful
   We went back the next day (preview day), and went straight to guest relations to explain what had happened.  The Cast Members were sympathetic and understanding, and were able to get us 2 wrist bands so that we could attend the event.  Ahh.... Disney Magic!

The wrist bands made us feel like "VIP's"!

Be Our Guest Restaurant 
 The first thing we wanted to see was The Beast's Castle and The Be Our Guest Restaurant.  They weren't serving lunch or dinners yet, but they were allowing guests to tour the place.  It was impressive, and we looked forward to eating there.

I like this place already
The Entry way was very regal

The main ballroom is very large, and quite stunning
This guy looks a little worried about the crowds Be Our Guest Restaurant will attract!

Under the Sea: The Journey of the Little Mermaid

The Journey of the little mermaid was open, and was another beautiful attraction.  We got in line and again, we were very impressed with it's design.

Prince Eric's Castle is cool!
Oh man, I LOVE Waterfalls!

It is a great ride.  A really well done addition to The Magic Kingdom's lineup.  There are lots of details to enjoy from the moment you get into the line, all the way through the winding queue, through the ride itself, and even the exit is really well done.

Story Book Circus area
   The Story Book Circus area of New Fantasyland had already been open, and we got to enjoy the "Double Dumbo" ride, as well as the Casey Jr. Splash n' Soak, The Great Goofini, and the new Train Station.

The new "Double Dumbo" is a winner!

If you haven't been to BIG TOP SOUVENIRS - You're missing a fun place with some great snacks!

It is a great part of the New Fantasyland area, and adds a lot of color and fun to The Magic Kingdom.

Enchanted Tales with Belle

   I wasn't too sure about this attraction, but knew I HAD to scout it out for future trips with our Granddaughter, and at the time, we didn't know we'd soon have 2 Granddaughters to bring for future WDW trips.

We did the attraction and were just blown away by the whole experience!

Grandma & Grandpa were pretty amazed
It's not a ride, but it's more than a show!

An unexpected favorite
   My personal, and very unexpected, surprise of the whole tour was Gaston's Tavern.  The little eatery was great.  Serving a Pork Shank... A PORK SHANK!  A HUNK OF MEAT ON A BONE!  That's what Grandpa Dan's talkin' about!
"Grandpa Dan food"!

   The imagineers did a great job with this place.  I've never even seen the whole movie, but I enjoyed hanging out here.  A Pork Shank, a LeFou's Brew, and a giant Cinnamon Roll made me very, very happy! (Don't worry - I shared it with Grandma!)

It makes me want to see the movie!

All of the nice touches
The Beast's castle in the background
   I think what impressed me the most was just the way it all turned out.  It's not a land filled with attractions, but the design, the feel of this section of Fantasyland is enjoyable, almost comforting.

"Le Toilettes"

And there was more to come! 

   The main event was still being worked on as we toured.  The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train was nothing but steel and concrete, partially hidden behind construction walls, but plenty of rails in sight to cause lots of excitement and anticipation.

We could only imagine what this ride would be like when it's finished!
It was an amazing day
   After making the rounds a few times, we were pleased with the way things turned out.  Knowing that the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train ride would probably be ready for us when we returned to WDW's Magic Kingdom kept the anticipation going.  Now, a couple of years later, New Fantasyland isn't such a big deal to most WDW fans.

Happy "Sneak Previewers"

   It's not a mystery to anyone anymore.  But we will long remember how we felt like special invited guests to get that sneak preview!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014


   I've had some great moments in my life.  Memorable events that will be recalled with pleasure often.  Of course most of them are family and spiritually oriented, but of all kinds of events, the Night of Joy 2014 will be high on my list of great  memories!  It actually combines "family" and "spiritual"!

   We bought tickets for the event in 2009, I was ready to see P.O.D. in concert, but when I came down with an illness (that didn't last long), we decided to skip it and stay in our room so that I could recover.  I missed seeing P.O.D. (at Disney Hollywood Studios that year), but looking back it did turn out to be for the best as I was able to recover, and go on to have a great vacation with my Wife.

   In 2011 we returned and attended the hard ticket event on one of the nights, enjoying a performance by Francesca Battistelli with 2 of our dearest friends.  It was a wonderful night, and left us saying that we wanted to do another WDW Night of Joy!

   When we saw the lineup for the 2014 event, we HAD to go, and we really wanted to attend both nights.  We purchased the tickets for Saturday night only, since Friday would be our travel and arrival day, we weren't sure if we'd have the energy to attend Friday's show.

   Even though Chris Tomlin, and "For King & Country" were performing on Friday, we were tired and decided to just use our fastpass+ for the new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train ride before heading out of the park and resting up for the start of another WDW adventure.

   The way it works is you buy the separate tickets for the event, and can enter the park for the event a few hours before the scheduled start time, even though the event was "officially" scheduled for a 7:30pm start, those holding event tickets were allowed to enter at about 4:00pm.  They close the park to the general day guests, and you need the special wrist bands to remain in the park for the special events and rides.
The 2014 night of joy wristband for Sat. night

   After spending the day at Epcot, we went back to our room at Old Key West and rested a bit before getting ready for the big night.  As we were leaving Epcot, the clouds were rolling in, and the rain began.  It turned into a monster Thunderstorm, and it didn't look good for our chances.  We waited it out thinking that we may not leave the room that night, but as the storm started to let up, we grabbed our rain ponchos and headed out to the disney bus stop. It seems that we weren't the only ones who were determined to wait out the storm and head to the Magic Kingdom that night as the buses were pretty full!

Saturday's awesome lineup

   As we arrived there was a light rain falling, but it started to let up and eventually stopped just as we found a spot right behind the "Partners Statue" (you know, The bronze of Walt Disney holding Mickey Mouse's hand).  There are no seats for these events, yes, you have to stand for each performance, but honestly, once the music started, we forgot all about standing.

                    THE SETUP                 

   The setup is 3 different stages - The Castle stage, The Galaxy stage, and The Rocketeer Plaza stage.  3 or 4 different groups or performers play at different times for each stage.  Last time we saw Francesca Battistelli at the Galaxy stage in tomorrowland.  This time we saw MercyMe, Phil Perry, and Casting Crowns all at the Castle forecourt stage in the hub area between Main Street USA and Cinderella's castle.
Make sure you grab an event map when you enter the park!

   Since many of them are performing at the same time, you have to pick who you want to see and make plans to be at that stage at the right time. We had a hard time deciding between Colton Dixon (7:30 pm - Galaxy stage) or Mercy Me (7:40 pm - Castle stage), we decided to see MercyMe and then just stay put for Casting Crowns at 9:50 pm with Phil Perry doing a short set at 9:30 pm between bands.  That way we didn't have to leave the area and could see both of these awesome bands!

   Most of the rides, shops, and eateries are open so there is plenty for everyone to see and do all night long.  The park remained open until 1:00 am.

We were very happy with the viewing spot we found to start the evening

           THE MUSIC                        

   MercyMe took the stage and were great, playing many of their hits including "I can only imagine" & "Move".  There was a special moment when the lead singer announced that they had some special guest playing in their horn section, among them was Dan Michaels of Christian Rock group - The Choir.  The reason this was special for me is that the lead singer and guitarist of The Choir is Derri Daugherty who my Wife and I went to High School with, and I played bass guitar in a band with Derri in the late 1970's.  And now here we were at a concert, in front of the castle, at Walt Disney World with a very tiny but still special connection to the show!  It was cool as night fell and the day changed to night.  The atmosphere was fantastic with everyone around us really getting into the music and enjoying the short testimonies given between songs.

Clip of: MercyMe's performance at 2014 Night of Joy

Casting Crowns  Was just AWESOME!  What a performance, song after hit song.  We enjoyed singing along with just about every song.  We found a fence to lean against for their performance, and that really helped since we ended up standing for a few hours.
Casting Crowns just floored us!  What a night!

The skies remained dry for the entire performance.
I remember just standing there looking out at the entire scene with the music filling the air, just thinking, "Wow, I just can't believe this night!"

Looking back towards Main Street between sets
Waiting for Casting Crowns to start.

Video clip of Casting crown's performance

We enjoyed hearing Phil Perry who is a new talent on the Contemporary Christian Music scene, and he played solo on keyboard between MercyMe & Casting Crowns.  His gospel style was a nice touch to the evening!

              The EVENING OVERALL                               

We heard stories of rowdy teenagers running rampant during these events, but we've been to two of them now, and haven't encountered anything like that.  Maybe that's just happening at the rides, or maybe we've just been lucky, but we felt surrounded by fellow believers with lots of local church youth groups and such.  After Casting Crowns finished, we were just glowing.  We headed to the Tomorrowland Terrace where everyone was buzzing about the performance.  The younger set were getting amped up for Skillet to take the Castle stage.  We grabbed some Night of Joy 2014 T-Shirts, and a pin, and then grabbed some Mickey Premium ice cream bars and just sat back and looked out at the scene before boarding the bus back to Old Key West.  We were in contact with our Daughter back home, where she and her family watched some of the performances on a stream that Disney provided.  She said they really enjoyed it and would love to attend some day.

   It was one of the absolute highlights of our Disney trips and we will be back for another one some day.  It was "a joyous night" indeed!


Wednesday, August 20, 2014


I was looking through some old photo albums, and I couldn't believe what I found.  It was the ticket from my 1977 visit to Disneyland and "Grad Nite"!
Disneyland Grad Nite 1977 Ticket
ABOUT 37 YEARS AGO!  I took my "Girlfriend" to that event.  Now we've been married nearly 36 years!

   I honestly don't remember too much about that night.  I know that we went with one of my best friends and his date.  We met up with some of our High School friends there at Disneyland and had a great time.  The one thing that I remember pretty clearly is riding Space Mountain!

   You see, I was TERRIFIED of roller coasters in those days, but with my cute girlfriend and all of our friends pushing me, I finally gave in and got in line.  Maybe THAT is why I don't remember much from that night?  Maybe everything was just a blur after surviving Space Mountain?  I don't know.  But I guess I picked the right girl (or she picked me), because here we are 37 years later and we are STILL Disney nuts!

   Did you notice the price on the ticket... 9 BUCKS!  I think the Grad Nite tickets are $75 these days.

The back of the ticket had the "rules" in 1977

   Check out the back of the ticket.  I wore a suit?  Anyone that knows me, knows that I only wear a suit to a wedding, funeral, or when I'm working a boxing event as an official, that's about it.  Ahhh... the things we do for love!

   They don't offer Grad Nite at Walt Disney World in Orlando any longer.  They still have it at Disneyland though.

Ed & Dan ready to head to Grad Nite 1977 at Disneyland

I do remember buying my "Girlfriend" a Winnie the Pooh Graduation plush bear.  And I do remember getting into line at Space Mountain with my heart pounding all the way through.  It was a great night!

Friday, February 14, 2014


   Guess where we just got back from.  Yup, another great WDW trip is in the books, and just like all of the others, it was fantastic!
It's not the "Fab 5" but they look ready for fun!

   As any good Disney nut knows, no matter how often you go, there is always something new to see and do in this vast world of exploration.

The Wilderness Lodge Villas:  We did a "Split Stay" which started with 2 nights at Pop Century, and then we moved over to the Wilderness Lodge Villas for 5 nights.  This was our first time staying at the Wilderness Lodge, and it was great. 
Welcome Home!

We always wanted to stay here!
   The room was comfortable, and the 4th floor view was so pleasant.  From our windows and balcony we could see the trees and lake - that's it.  It was like we were at a lake in the mountains or something, no sign of Walt Disney World in sight.  As if we were transported to another place just by entering our room.  Actually, there was 1 reminder of where we really were.  Each night at about 9:30 we would hear the music and look out to see the Electrical Water Pageant out on the lake.  We could see it with just a few trees in our view, but we would step out onto the balcony and take in the short spectacle.  The Water Pageant is one of those little WDW touches that we appreciate, both for the actual color and novelty of it, but also for the historical significance of it, since it is something that has remained from the opening of Walt Disney World in 1971.
Everything is better on a boat
Getting there was a big part of the fun!

   Something that we really enjoyed about staying at the Wilderness Lodge was the transportation via boat  between the resort and The Magic Kingdom.  I don't know if we hit it just right, or if it's always that way, but we never had to "crowd" onto the boat.  It was very relaxing to cruise the waters and glide past the other beautiful resorts with the Magic Kingdom in sight. 

   The pool was so much fun.  We spent an afternoon at the main pool and just like all of the pools at the Disney resorts, it was pure fun.  Grabbed a BBQ Pork & Slaw Sandwich with Chips and a Coke from the Roaring Fork with my Son-in-Law and kicked back at a poolside table before hitting the water.  Looking up at the Lodge itself, with the flags waving lightly in the breeze was just a beautiful moment in time, and writing about it here makes me want to experience that again soon.

The lobby of Disney's Wilderness Lodge is stunning

   Wilderness Lodge is everything I thought it would be, and like I was telling my Daughter - Which is my favorite DVC resort?  It seems like whichever one I stayed at last is my "new favorite".  They have all been awesome, and Wilderness Lodge is no exception.

For more on this awesome Disney resort, check out this website:

Wednesday, December 25, 2013


When it comes to descriptive words for this place, a few come to mind quickly! ...Location, Simple, Charming, and Yummy are 4 words that I see to describe this place.

Location is at the end of Main Street U.S.A. near the hub.  If you are seated near a window, it's a great place to people watch, with Cinderella's Castle making a great back drop.  As we ate lunch, we could see the parade going by and really enjoyed all of the excitement that goes along with it.  We didn't have a clear view of the parade as much as we could see the whole scene with the crowd enjoying the event itself.

A beautiful place to eat!

The colorful and busy location can't be beat!

We loved it because it made us feel like we were part of the "Main Street U.S.A. scene".  It is such a colorful spot with the beautiful landscaping surrounding the immediate area, just steps away from entry to the different lands of The Magic Kingdom.

The grounds around the Plaza are beautiful

Simple is a word that comes to mind because the seating is not fancy, just tables and chairs.  It has the feel of a counter service eatery, except that you are given menus and served.  It's a basic dining room with ornate mirrors on the walls.

The menu is also very simple.  Salads and Sandwiches are offered along with a Meatloaf Meal and Desserts.

Hmmm.... Meatloaf meal or Grilled Reuben?

Charming comes to mind because of the simplicity of the whole experience.  It is a less expensive place to eat in the Magic Kingdom, and it's a place where you feel very comfortable sitting down and enjoying a meal while wearing your WDW today podcast, or Mouise Junkies T-Shirts!  I guess "Charming" and "Simple" go hand in hand but both words came to mind when I thought of The Plaza Restaurant.

A very casual place to enjoy a meal
Yummy is the key word here.  We booked our ADR for 11:00 am, right when they opened and we were ready for an early lunch to fuel us up for the rest of our park touring day.

The Grilled Reuben was a masterpiece!

I had the Grilled Reuben, and it was a winner.  Generous portions of Corned Beef on a marbled Rye bread with Sauerkraut and Swiss Cheese, one of the better Reuben sandwiches on property.

The Mrs. went with the Tuna Salad sandwich and it was another hit!  It could have used a little more Tuna salad, but it was delicious.
The Tuna Salad sandwich
We kind of cheated and had our "dessert" WITH our meal... Chocolate Milk Shakes just sounded too good to wait for, so we had them along with the sandwiches.
Why wait for Dessert?

Overall, it was a great part of our day at the Magic Kingdom.  I agree with those that say this would not be a wise choice if you are on the Disney Dining Plan, since the entrees are so much less expensive than the other park eateries.  But for a "Simply Charming Yummy Location"... THIS IS THE PLACE!

Information for The Plaza Restaurant