Two weeks ago I flew to California to join a group of amazing bloggers at the Disney Social Media Moms Conference. It is an invitation only event to which I have been waiting five years for an invitation. Ideally, I would have brought my family so we could all have experienced the Magic of the parks where Walt walked. Alas, the air fare for five cross-country was more than we could handle with all the changes around here at this time, so I went solo. While I do wish my kids could have seen what I was seeing, overall it was an incredible experience from beginning to end. I have waited to write this post because it was hard for me to come up with the words to describe the wonder of the weekend. Imagine, me speechless! That should tell you how incredible the team at Disney SM Moms was for all that they planned for us. Instead of rambling on as I am apt to do when I can’t wrap my mind around something, I figured I would just let the beautiful work of Josh Hallett tell the story for me. Some of the following images are mine (that bad ones) but for the most part, I have Josh to thank for this post.
Here we go
We arrived Thursday to the Disneyland resort hotel which is so gorgeous and huge, I could have easily spent four days just there! The kids would have loved the monorail water slide at the pool and all the amazing touches in the room (look at the bed!) The Husband would have loved a G&T next to the huge outdoor fireplace. Calling this Disneyland property a resort is an understatement!
Thursday night we attended a cocktail party sponsored by Coppertone. We got to learn about some exciting new products for sun protection and see some dear friends. We left to attend dinner in the park and learn all about Disney’s Healthy Living initiatives to offer kids and families healthier food options in the park and in their regular lives. You can be this mama was happy to hear about this! And of course, what’s a Disney dinner without a little magic? The entertainment and kids’ activities were a great opening night surprise for all.
I’m going out of order to tell you about Saturday and Sunday first. Saturday we met, wait for it, Genevieve from Choo Choo Soul and LaVar Burton of Reading Rainbow. The moms in the room were breathless at both! This amazing duo came to tell us about the Disney Give a Book Get a Book program. I’ll write more on that later but let’s just say it is a program that warmed this ex-reading teacher’s heart.
In another room, all the kiddies gathered for a Disney Junior Extravaganza. They had stories read by the actual voices of Sophia the First (yes, Tim Gunn was there!) and got to meet their favorite characters. This was the morning I ACHED for my kids. I know two of them are technically too old for Disney Junior. But I also know that they secretly still watch it and one of them even asked me to meet Jake of the Never Land Pirates for him! They would have loved this morning and I tried to soak it all up for them including the somewhat scary, but quite gorgeous, special guest at the end.
Saturday we got some great part time on our own and I may have rollercoastered myself back to my teen years! Oh the laughter.
That night, we had dinner in Toon Town, all by ourselves. No one but the attendees were allowed in the section of the park or on the rides of Toon Town. There really are no words to describe this. I’m still in a state of disbelief. (Especially about my Genevieve sighting!) Thankfully, my friend allowed me to tag along with her family so I got to witness the Disney magic on real life kids. I still wished mine were there, but watching the joy in Amy’s kids’ eyes was nearly as good!
Sunday, at zero dark thirty a few brave souls woke to take on a two mile fun run through the parks with our fancy new New Balance kicks. Normally, I wouldn’t be worried about a two mile run (it may not seem obvious from my zaftig frame) but I can hold my own in a road race. However, I injured my knee a few weeks back and the park-walking had exacerbated it to the point of major swelling and pain. I was determined to try anyway and hoped I wouldn’t spend the afternoon of the six hour plane ride writhing in pain! There must have been Pixie dust on that trail because not only did I run and finish the race, my knee had never felt better and I flew home incident free! I also was bitten by the Run Disney bug and would love to do a race again soon. Maybe even longer than 2 miles next time. <wink>
Now, back to the meat of the weekend. Friday was our conference day full of speakers who informed and inspired. It opened with a breakfast sponsored by Hanes and included an Alamo sponsored Candy Bar which no one complained about. We all figured it was a when in Rome thing. When in Disney, act (and eat) like the kid you feel you are!
I’ll write another post about the incredible speakers like Doug Bowman from Twitter and Maxine Clark CEO Build a Bear workshop and Donald Driver, retired NFL star and winner of Dancing With the Stars. They each had incredible stories to tell and it was through those stories we learned the importance of creativity and tenacity. We also heard from Disney folks whose enthusiasm and love for what they do was so palpable you could not help but want to run out and experience the parks in a whole new way.
We got behind the scenes looks at the making of movies and their park counterparts. We heard a lot about Cars Land which, with a boy who spent years obsessed with all things McQueen, happened to be my favorite part. We heard that Pixar Creative Director Jay Ward, who they called the “Guardian of the Cars Franchise”, said the people behind Cars Land wanted the rides and attractions to feel like a “love letter to the movie fans”.
Not only does it feel like exactly that, but knowing the creators spent so much time and effort creating it as an honor to the fans of the movie make it all that much more special. It was hard at first for me to totally buy in to the Disney hype. Somehow, it felt like selling out. As someone who preaches simplicity and frugal living, Disney does not seem like a great fit. However, experiencing the wonder of the parks and hearing about the love that is poured into them helped me see things in a different light. My kids adore, and have adored since almost birth, all things associated with The Mouse. I may hope for simple and frugal, but there is nothing more simple the the pure joy that comes from kids in Disney Parks. How can I not believe in that too?
This isn’t the last you’ll hear of my Disney Advetures. There is so much to tell but I wanted to at least provide an answer to the question I’ve been getting for two weeks: “You went to Disney without your kids? What the heck did you do?”