Can you afford a trip to Disney?

Can YOU afford a trip to Disney?

HammFirst let me say that ONLY YOU can really answer this question.  In order to honestly answer this question, however first you must be informed, which is where DWDads hope we can help.

The first step in deciding on whether you can afford a trip is to find out how much it will cost by answering these 4 simple questions:

  1. Who is going [# of Adults + # of Children (with ages)]?
  2. When do you want to go and for how many days/nights?
  3. Where do you want to stay?
  4. How do you think you’ll eat – table service or counter service meals?

By answering these 4 simple questions DWDads can give you a quote (without discounts) so you can begin saving or budgeting for your trip.

**Note – We will often book/quote clients at “rack rates” knowing there is a strong possibility of a discount coming in the future.  When the discount is released, we then apply the discount and the balance due decreases or a refund is issued.

Here is an example:

  1. Who is going?  2 Adults and 2 Children (ages 8 & 5)
  2. When do you want to go and for how many days/nights? October for 6 nights and 7 days
  3. Where do you want to stay?  Anywhere on property – Value is fine
  4. How do you think you’ll eat – table service or counter service meals?  We like to eat one big sit down meal and the other meals we will eat on the go.

Given the information above the Hotel (Pop Century), Meals (Dining Plan with 24 Table service, 24 Counter Service, 24 Snacks & 4 refillable mugs) and Tickets (7 day base tickets) would cost just about $3,000 before any discounts that might be released.

 So how do I save $3000? 

Here are some ways the DWDads recommend saving:

Simple budgeting 

Put $250 per month or $60 a week in a separate account = $3,000 after 1 year

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  • *Better yet each month go to Target and purchase $250 in Disney entertainment cards with your Target REDCARD (saving 5% on each purchase) – By the end you’ll have spent $2,850 on $3,000 in Disney Cards a $150 SAVINGS – Stack the REDCARD with a 5% Pharmacy Rewards Card (not valid in NJ) and you will save $300 on the $3,000 in cards.

Use your income tax refund

Many people receive a tax refund when they file their yearly taxes.  What better way to use this “found money” than on a family trip.tax-refund

  • In 2012 my federal and state return totaled – $3,248

Use your credit card cash back or miles balances

  • Disney Visa Card gives you 1%-2% (depending on the card) on all purchases and also saves you 10% on purchases of $50 or more at select locations including the Disneystore and Disneystore.com – Current Disney Visa Balance – $126
  • Discover Cash Back Credit Card – (2% on all purchases and 5% on select purchases each quarter) – Current Discover CASH BACK balance – $1,204

Save pocket change or even every $1 or $5 bills when you break a large bill

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  • Every time you come home, empty your pockets into a jar or milk jug.  You’d be surprised how much you can save over time.
  • DO NOT use Coinstar machines that charge a fee or spend your time rolling your change – many banks (TD Bank in my area) have FREE coin sorting machines and you do not even need to have an account there to use these machines.

Make a sacrifice for Disney

  • Quit smoking – $8 per pack per day = $2,920 in one year. Not only can you save the money, but you’ll be healthier and touring the parks will be easier too.
  • Give up Dunkin Donuts/Starbucks for daily coffee – $3-$5 or more per day
  • Pack your lunch daily – Lunch can cost you $5-$10 or more per day and those savings add up
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Disney Offically Breaks Ground on Animal Kingdom’s AVATAR-inspired land

Last week, Disney officially broke ground on  the largest Animal Kingdom expansion in the Park’s history, an AVATAR-insprired land, with a ceremony which included large blue Na’vi-inspired shovels.

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Check out the video:

Still not excited about the AVATARland expansion – read below:

If untitledyou have ever felt that Disney’s Animal Kingdom was incomplete, or “missing” something, it’s probably because the original plans for the park included plans for another land called “Beastly Kingdom”.  The park concept was to have lands for all animals – those that exist in reality today (Safari), those that did exist but are now extinct (Dinoland) and those that only exist in fantasy. When the park opened in April 1998, given budget constraints and concerns over conservation, “Beastly Kingdom” was put on hold and a placeholder “Camp Minnie-Mickey” was put in its place.   If you look closely around the park today however there are several places where you can find leftover elements from the plans for this “Beastly Kingdom”.   Most prominently, a silhouette of a dragon appears in the park’s logo.   Also the next time you are standing in line waiting to enter the park notice the three large heads over the entrance of the park/ticket booths, the Elephant, the Triceratops and the Dragon.

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Disney seemed to put a placeholder for these mythical creatures in place when they constructed Expedition Everest which has been home to the Yeti since 2006.  Over the years concepts and rumors regarding a larger Fantasy inspired expansion have come and gone.  In September 2011 though, an announcement was made that Disney was working with James Cameron on Avatarland which would consist of elements of both his original movie and the subsequent two.   Nearly two years later the plans for that land seem to be moving forward as recently Disney has released some concept art and rough timelines for completion (early 2017). 

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In the world of AVATAR you will encounter awe-inspiring floating mountains and wander through a nighttime jungle of bioluminescent plants found on Pandora (the planet from the film).

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Guests will also discover what it feels like to soar into the sky riding a Banshee (a mythical winged creature that lives on Pandora)

One of the other major drawbacks to Animal Kingdom since its opening has been the limited park hours.  Since the park was only open during daylight hours and had no nighttime entertainment many guests would refer to this park a “half-day park”.  Along with this expansion of the new AVATAR-inspired land, for the first time ever, Disney’s Animal Kingdom will also offer a new nighttime spectacular where live music, floating lanterns, water screens and swirling animal imagery all combine to bring a show to Discovery River.  The Park will introduce more nighttime entertainment as well, including live performers on Discovery Island® and a new nighttime version of the Kilimanjaro Safaris®.    With these changes on the horizon DWDads are looking forward to spending alot more time at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. dtnemail-Avatar_4-92a23

DW Dads Best of 2013: Packing for Disney – I SHIPPED My Pants!

Happy Holidays!

As we wind down 2013, we are taking a look back at some of our most popular articles from the past several months. Over the next couple of weeks, we will re-share these tips and tricks, so our newest fans can check them out, or so those of you who have been with us from the beginning can check them out again!

Today’s article comes from August 9 and it offers some great tips about packing for your Disney World vacation. Enjoy!

If you have ever packed a bag for a week of vacation anywhere, you are well aware of the joys of trying to fit everything you need for your whole trip into 1 bag that cannot weigh more than 50 lbs.  One DWDads suggestion to alleviate some of this headache is to ship some items directly to your resort and pick them up at check in.  So you ask what can I ship?

Just as Kmart states in their commercial, you can basically ship ANYTHING to your resort (including your pants) within a few days of your arrival and it will be waiting for you when you check in.  For our last trip our family shipped many items including 2 cases of bottled water (about $10 shipped for 24 bottles on Amazon.com) which makes them about .40 each vs. $2.50 in the parks – SAVINGS $2+ per bottle.

Mickey Box

Other items which are great for shipping are baby items.  For a 10 day stay we needed 40-50 diapers and wipes for our 2 year old.  Since the volume of that box is so large and most airlines charge for bags these days, why not buy a small case from an online retailer and ship directly to the resort.   We are PRIME members of Amazon.com so we get 2 day shipping on all Prime items to any location in the continental US for free.

Here are some items I found useful from Amazon.com:

Glow sticks $9.49 (100 glow sticks @ < $.10 each)

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http://www.amazon.com/LumiStick-Brand-Glowsticks-Bracelets-Colors/dp/B000IZ9N78/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1376009789&sr=8-1&keywords=glow+sticks

NutriGrain Bars – $15 (48 bars for .31 each)

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http://www.amazon.com/Nutri-Grain-Cereal-Bars-Cherry-8-Count/dp/B000AYFCHW/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1375978342&sr=8-5&keywords=cereal+bars

Bottled water, snacks, and baby items, are popular items to ship to your resort, but just about anything can be shipped to Disney.   In 2010 we were in Disney for my wife’s birthday, and I shopped online for her birthday gifts – new sandals, and a necklace and had them shipped to the resort.  Once we arrived, I slipped them into a gift bag with some tissue and Presto she had birthday presents.  Another idea is to ship some Disney book/toy/stickers to the resort to have waiting for your child when they check-in.  There really is no limit to how you can use online shopping to enhance your trip.

 

Here are some simple rules for shipping to your resort:

  1. Make sure you have the correct physical address of your resort (LINK), and your name arrival date are clearly labeled.
  2. Shipments must be sent via courier services (UPS, FedEx, DHL) since US Postal Service (USPS) won’t deliver to the property
  3. Do the research ahead of time and schedule your deliveries to arrive a few days before your check-in date so that the items are waiting for you upon arrival.

https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/guest-services/mail-services/

EXAMPLE
J.R.Longino – GUEST
C/O Disney’s Pop Century Front Desk
Hold for guest arrival 11/06
1050 Century Drive
LakeBuena Vista, Fl 32830
 

Here is a list of the resort addresses (again this can ONLY be used for courier services, US Post office will not deliver to the property directly)

 
*All hotels are in Lake Buena Vista, FL32830 (Except Animal Kingdom Lodge which is Bay   Lake, FL 32830).
Disney’s All Star Movies Resort 1991 West Buena Vista Drive
Disney’s All Star Music Resort 1801 West Buena Vista Drive
Disney’s All Star Sports Resort 1701 West Buena Vista Drive
Disney’s Art of Animation address: 1850 Animation Way
Disney’s Pop Century Resort 1050 Century Drive
Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort 900 Cayman Way
Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort 1000 West Buena Vista Drive
Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter 2201 Orleans Drive
Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside 1251 Riverside Drive
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge 2901 Osceola Pkwy.*
Disney’s Contemporary Resort 4600 North World Drive
Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa 4401 Floridian Way
Disney’s Wilderness Lodge 901 Timberline Dr.
Disney’s Polynesian Resort 1600 Seven Seas Drive
Disney’s Beach Club Resort 1800 West Epcot Resort Blvd.
Disney’s Yacht Club Resort 1700 Epcot Resort Blvd.
Disney’s Boardwalk Inn 2101 North W Epcot Resort Blvd.
Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort/Campground 4510 N Ft. Wilderness Trail
Disney’s Old Key West Resort 1510 North Cove Rd.
Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort 1960 Broadway
WaltDisney World Dolphin 1500 Epcot Resort Blvd.
WaltDisney World Swan 1200 Epcot Resort Blvd.
Shades of Green 1950   W. Magnolia Palm Dr.

The Best Ways to Spend the Holiday Season in the Disney World Parks

Spending the Holiday Season in the Disney World Parks

As you might have already guessed the DW Dads really love the Christmas Season.  Although Disney gives you a taste of the holiday season all year long, starting in early November, Disney World starts to celebrate the holidays as only Disney does.  So if you are looking to book your trip anytime from early November through early January, you can enjoy some of the festivities.  Although there are so many ways to spend the holidays in Disney World, below are a few of our favorite suggestions. So if you are looking to make a quick getaway in 2013 or plan a trip for next season, let DWDads get you started with a quote.

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Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party

  • Location: Magic Kingdom (special event)
  • Dates: Select Nights – Early November–Late December
  • Times: 7:00 PM-Midnight (entry starting at 4:00 PM)
  • Cost: Tickets $62-71–ages 10+; $57-66-ages 3-9

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is a special ticketed Christmas themed event.  This event includes Special Character Meet & Greets including Santa, Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmastime Parade, Holiday Wishes Fireworks Display, Special Holiday themed stage shows, snowfall on Main Street and all the hot chocolate, cider and cookies you care to enjoy.   The event festivities begin at 7PM, but the ticket grants you admission starting at 4PM on the day of the party.  Since there are so many special attractions, setting a plan for the night is important.

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Tip:  Special Meet & Greets are one of the major attractions at these private parties.  All Seven Dwarfs only appear together during this event in Frontierland so the line can become VERY long.  If you want to meet these guys, we suggest you line up before the party starts about 6pm, this way you won’t miss other scheduled events.

Holidays Around the World Candlelight Procession

  • Location: Epcot – America Gardens Theatre
  • Dates: Every Night – Late November–Late December
  • Times: 5:00 PM, 6:45 PM & 8:15 PM
  • Cost: FREE with park admission – First come first seated

The Candlelight procession is held three times every night starting in late November at the America Gardens Threatre in Epcot.  A large ensemble choir joins a celebrity narrator to tell the story of Christmas with words and music in a very special way.  Some of the celebrity narrators for 2013 are: Whoopi Goldberg, Sigourney Weaver, Ashley Judd, Trace Adkins & Blair Underwood.

Tip:  To guarantee seating at the Candlelight Procession, reserve a Candlelight Dining Package available starting in July at many table service restaurants in Epcot.   This reservation not only provides you one three course meal or buffet, it also guarantees you a seat for the Candlelight Procession, and reserved viewing for IllumiNations. 

 

The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights

  • Location: Disney’s Hollywood Studios – Streets of America
  • Dates: Most Nights – Early November to Early January
  • Times: Dusk until about 1 hour after close
  • Cost: Free with park admission

Close your eyes and imagine Clark Griswold’s house in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.  Now imagine that Clark’s whole neighborhood joined in and decorated their homes.   If you can picture that in your head, you are just scratching the surface of the display that is put together on the Streets of America in Disney’s Hollywood Studios every year.  This tradition began in 1995 in Disney World after a real life Griswold family from Arkansas – the Osbornes – were no longer permitted to display their light display by court order.  Each year since then, Disney has proudly displayed this collection at Hollywood Studios.  The lights are turned on as dusk and are displayed on most nights when there is not a special event at the park until an hour or so after closing.  Although aptly named as a “Spectacle of Dancing Lights,”  words truly do not do this display justice.

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Tip:  On your way over to the Streets of America, stop and grab some treats (Mickey Ice Cream Bar or PB&J Milkshake from 50s Prime Time) and casually walk through the display just before park closing.  The lights stay on for about an hour after the park is closed, so you can enjoy a couple more attractions before ending your night with the show.

 

Mickey’s Jingle Jungle Parade Animal Kingdom

  • Location: Animal Kingdom
  • Dates: Every Afternoon – Early November – Early January
  • Times: 3:45PM
  • Cost: Free with park admission

This popular music-filled street celebration is a variation on Mickey’s Jammin’ Jungle parade and is full of holiday spirit.  The daily parade has festive music and Mickey and all his friends get you into the holiday spirit as they parade through the park.

 Tip:  There are stone “benches” that are between Pizzafari and the restrooms on the same side as the restaurant.  These natural seats are right on the parade line and nicely elevated to give you a good view of the parade.  They are close by the bathrooms and typically there is an ice cream cart nearby.  Since the parade line runs right by you, your party can sit at these benches while enjoying an ice cream or beverage and wait for the parade without fear that someone will stand in front of you.

Disney’s Best Christmas Programming

One part of the holiday season that I looked forward to the most as a child and I still treasure today are watching “Christmas Specials”.  My father used to record Christmas themed programs onto VHS tapes (sometimes he even tried to edit the commercials out).   We would enjoy those tapes throughout the month of December into January.  DVDs, BlueRays, DVRs, and streaming content to our mobile devices, have made these programs more readily available today.

Although not all of my favorites are by Disney, here are the DWDads – Top 5 Disney Christmas movies:

1) Mickey’s Christmas Carol – (1983) as part of Mickey’s Magical Christmas: Snowed in at the House of Mickey Mouse – Currently steaming on Netflix; Airing December 18 @ 7:30PM on ABC Family

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2) A Muppet Chrismas Carol – Airing Friday December 6 @ 6:30PM on ABC Family

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3) The Santa Clause Series – Parts 1, 2 & 3  – Airing multiple times in December on ABC Family including all three starting @ 6:00PM on December 21st;

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4) A Christmas Carol (2009) Available on DVD @ Amazon for under $10

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5) Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas (1999) – Currently Steaming on Netflix

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ABC family each year puts out a schedule of 25 Days of Christmas.  Be sure to DVR your favorites on this this.

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“The View” inside Walt Disney’s Apartment in Disneyland

The ViewDisneyland

DWDads are not regular watchers of “the View” on ABC, but this week we have had a good reason for tuning in. All week, November 18-22, ABC’s “the View” has been broadcasting LIVE at 11am eastern or 10am central/pacific from The Disneyland Resort with a variety of guests and entertainers in order to celebrate Mickey Mouse’s 85th birthday (November 18).  Although all of the programming on “the View” was in some way linked to ABC/Disney this week, the espisode I am looking forward to seeing most, is on Friday, November 22nd.

Fri., Nov. 22:  Kurt Russell, who had a 10 year contract in the 1970s with the Walt Disney Company, takes Barbara Walters on a magical walk in Walt Disney’s footsteps as they take a “step in time” into the past and tour never-before-seen places including Disney’s private apartment and a private club. Music sensation Pitbull appears. Singer and co-host Demi Lovato performs.  The hosts bid farewell to the Disneyland Resort during a magical finale celebration.

Since the show hasn’t aired, I can only assume Barbara will document the highlights of a tour that is offered daily at Disneyland called  “A Walk in Walt’s Disneyland Footsteps”.  This 3½-hour guided tour covers the life of Walt Disney and how his vision became reality.  Basically, this tour tells you stories about the man behind the magic and you will learn some behind-the-scenes secrets to the theme of the various lands, and special touches by the Imagineers and Walt himself. This show might give you a taste of what that tour has to offer or it may leave you wanting the to experience it on your own.  So if you want to book this tour as part of your Disneyland vacation or you would like a quote please contact us.

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 Walk in Walt’s Disneyland Footsteps:

  • Passage on the Disney Railroad and two other attractions
  • An exclusive look at the lobby of the famed Club 33
  • An exclusive look at Walt Disney’s private apartment
  • A private Lunch on Main Street USA
  • An exclusive collectible trading pin

Price:

$109.00 per person; Discounted to $87.20 per person for Annual Pass holders, AAA, Disney Visa, DVC members.

Tours are available every day at 9:30am and have a capacity of 15 people per tour. Not recommended for small children.

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party

This past weekend marked the opening of Christmas season in Walt Disney World with the first Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party (MVMCP) of the year. For many, planning for the Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party can be both exciting and overwhelming.  Since this event requires a separate ticket ($62-$71 ages 10+; $57-$66 ages 3-9) and some make this a one-time experience, most want to get the most out of this evening and DWDads is here to help.

The most important way to prepare yourself for MVMCP is knowing what to expect.  The event is held November 8, 11, 14, 15, 17, 21 and 22 and December 1, 3, 5, 6, 8, 10, 12, 13, 15, 17, 19 and 20 from 7PM-12AM, though the park opens to those that have party tickets at 4PM  Given that this party begins at or around many of our little children’s bedtimes, taking a late afternoon nap, might allow your group to prolong your night later than a typical night – after all, it is Christmas. Eating dinner prior to the start of the party is also a good idea, unless you plan on eating cookies and hot chocolate for dinner (no judgment here).  Pick a few things that you list as your Must-Dos and prioritize the rest.  Since the party is only 5 hours long, it nearly impossible to do it all and that is ok.

Here is our list of the 12 best things about the Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party – the Twelve “Yays!” of MVMCP.

The 12 “Yays!” of MVMCP

12) All you care to enjoy cookies, hot chocolate and cider

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These posts mark the places where you can find these treats

11) Glow with the Show Mickey Ears – new in 2013

10) Special Party Edition Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom Cards

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9) Character Dance Parties – Club Tinsel (Cosmic Ray’s) & Woody’s Hootin’ Holiday (Diamond Horseshoe)

8) Seeing Santa Claus in Disney World (Parade and Meet & Greet Next to City Hall)

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7) Very short lines at attractions – most rides are walk-on throughout the night

6) A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas Show

5) Celebrate the Season Cinderella’s Castle Stage Show

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4) Special Character Meet & Greets in Holiday attire – especially All of The Seven Dwarfs

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3) Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmastime Parade

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2) Holiday Wishes!

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1) Snow falling on Main Street

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DWDads’ MVMCP plan:

In 2012 we went to the first MVMCP of the year on November 9th.  At the time, our boys were 3 and 18 months.  We spent that morning at Animal Kingdom and left right after lunch. All four of us went back to our resort and took a 1-2 hour nap and got ready to be on the bus by 4:30 or so.  We arrived at the Magic Kingdom just after dark and we watched the Move It! Shake It! Celebrate It! Street Party coming down Main Street.  After picking up some hotdogs and snacks at Casey’s, we immediately headed toward Frontierland to line up to meet the Seven Dwarfs.  We got there at about 6:30 and the line had already formed and continued to build as we enjoyed our dinner in line.  The party started at 7 and we were able to meet the 7 Dwarfs and get pictures by 7:30.

Clare and Charlie then walked toward Main Street to get a spot for the parade while Jack and I rode Splash Mountain (no line).  We then met up with them on Main Street and waited for the parade.  You want to make sure you watch the parade from in front of the shops ON Main Street in order to capture the full effect of the snow falling during the parade.  As you wait for the parade, there are cast members in the street entertaining you and the kids. Charlie even got called out with other kids to dance in the street. As soon as the parade ends, you should make your way into the street and grab a spot for the special Holiday Wishes! somewhere in the street before the hub.  As we waited for the show, Clare ran to get some cookies and hot chocolate for all of us to enjoy.  It was truly one of the best displays we had ever seen.

Once Wishes! was over, we made our way down toward Cinderella’s Castle to get a spot to watch the Celebrate the Season Stage Show which started soon after the end of Wishes!  During that show, our 18-month-old fell asleep. It was at that time that I realized how important seeing the early parade and naptime had been.  Our 3 year old continued to party, though, at the Character Dance party in Cosmic Rays.  We enjoyed a few more cookies and he and Clare rode the WEDway People Mover once again. We caught the end of the 2nd parade as we walked down Main Street and stopped in the shops. I picked up my special Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom cards.  The thing I remember most, though, about that night was that as we walked down Main Street and glanced back at the castle, how softly the snow fell.  It was truly a magical night!

If you want to give Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party a try, please contact us and we can help make it happen!

MVMCP Show times:

Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmastime Parade – 8:15pm, 10:30pm
Holiday Wishes – Celebrate the Spirit of the Season – 9:30pm
A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas Show – 7:45pm, 8:45pm, 9:55pm, 10:50pm, 11:45pm
Celebrate the Season Cinderella’s Castle- 7:45pm, 10:05pm, 11:20pm