Making memories that last a lifetime – at Disney Parks and beyond #DisneySMMoms

As you may know, recently I had the privilege of attending the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration held at Disneyland in California. There was an action-packed weekend of fun, excitement, and extra Disney magic that was so spectacular even Dory wouldn’t be able to forget what an amazing event this was! The speakers were fantastic, the friendships cultivated were wonderful, and the memories made with my family were the icing on the cake.

While attending the general session for attendees one of the first things that Tom Staggs, Chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, mentioned was that their vision is “making memories that last a lifetime”.

This one thought really stuck with me, and as I reflect back on both my experiences during previous visits to Walt Disney World in Florida, and my time here at Disneyland in California, I know they have done just that. To experience Disney is to make memories that WILL last a lifetime.

My First Memories Of Disney

One of my first memories of experiencing Disney World was back in my senior year of high school. April of ’98 to be exact. Although it seems like many moons ago, I can remember it like it was yesterday.

I don’t remember much about the plane ride or the long bus ride to the airport, but what I do remember was all of the magic and joy that was Disney. We were there for Grad Nite – which if your school ever gets the chance to fundraise for a trip — DO THIS ONE!!!

I did notice they are no longer holding Grad Nite at Disney World, but you can still experience it at Disneyland.

Grad Nite was magical, just like all things Disney. We got to see exclusive concerts, including the hot hot hot band at the time – Backstreet Boys. And yes, I was a fan – Backstreet Boys all the way (sorry N’ Sync fans).  The other music acts of the night were:  La Bouche, Rhett Atkins (pictured below), Allure, and Reel Big Fish.

Grad Nite Rhett Atkins

We got exclusive access to Magic Kingdom where one of my first, and best memories of Disney took place – riding Space Mountain with my friends! And no lines made it even better – everything is better with no lines right?

The weekend was filled with fun and laughter, but our first day there also taught me a little bit about who I was as a person. You see, one of my classmates was not so great in social situations, and was probably a little homesick (even though we had only been gone for one day). She didn’t want to go to the park at all – looking back on it I imagine being someplace so new and unfamiliar and crowded with people probably terrified her.

I decided to forgo visiting the parks that day even though I had never been to Disney before and really really wanted to get out and experience things. I decided that staying back at the hotel to keep her company was probably more important. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was that kind of thing that really makes a true friendship.

Luckily the next day I was able to convince her to go and we had the time of our lives. There were hardly any lines for anything since we were there in one of the slower months, and that meant we got to make up for lost time.

We rode the Tower of Terror so many times in a row it became our favorite ride (and still is to this day).  We got lost in Epcot experiencing the wonders of the world, and even found a character or two to strike a pose with.

Grad Nite Epcot

Grad Nite Goofy

Experiencing Disney as a young adult – with no kids

A few years later I would get to go again…and of course in another magical way. This time I would earn a trip from the company I had been working for at the time. The company sent me and a guest to stay at the Grand Floridian, and we were welcomed with gifts that I still have to this day!

Staying at the Grand Floridian was magical all on its own, but experiencing Disney yet again as a young adult was truly something to behold. This time I got to visit Animal Kingdom and fell in love with all it has to offer, especially the interactive shows! It’s A Bug’s Life was and is still one of my favorites! The only thing I missed out on this time was Expedition Everest, as it was under construction and not slated to open for a few more years.

Experiencing Disney with Kids

Fast forward seven plus years later and I would finally get back to visit Disney World again. This time I would get to take my family along with me!  Going to Disney World with young children is a completely different experience than doing it without kids. You soon realize you need to slow down and appreciate the subtleties that you may not have noticed before, take in a few shows just to get a break, and be sure to have strollers at the handy!

The third time around was just as magical as the first, and a whole new set of memories was born. I got to see the reactions on my kids’ faces after experiencing Disney for the first time. I got to visit Magic Kingdom with a whole new mindset and experience it through a child’s eyes.

tea cups 2012

I rode Splash Mountain for the first time. I cannot believe I had been to Disney World twice already and had not stepped foot on Splash Mountain! I’m sure my husband as well as both of my kids will tell you it is a MUST for anyone visiting the park.

Splash Mountain 2012

My son had just turned five, and my daughter was two during this trip. One thing I will say is that even a five year old needs a stroller. My husband was skeptical because he felt he was too old to be in a stroller, but Disney is a big place and even the biggest of kids will get worn out – me included! My daughter found the stroller to be a nice place to nap as we continued to navigate the many wonders of Disney (although I would recommend a stroller with a reclining back as these are not really great for napping and they are pretty short for my tall husband to try to push around).

Stroller 2012

We rounded out the trip by staying at the park late to watch the Wishes nighttime spectacular at Magic Kingdom. I’ve never really been into big fireworks shows but I’m glad my husband talked me into it. The kids loved it and it really was worth waiting up for.

I still didn’t make it on Expedition Everest as both kids were too small and we didn’t want to do something they couldn’t also do when there was so much more to experience. Next time.

Disney Social Media Moms at Disneyland

Two more years and a few more firsts — experiencing Disneyland for the first time, taking a baby to Disney, and experiencing one of the most coveted events of the year firsthand – the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration.

DisneySMMoms2014

A celebration indeed. I cannot think of a better way to describe what it was like to attend the Social Media Moms conference put on by the wonderful folks at Disney.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post there are things that just stood out in my mind. Tom’s statement was just one of many, and those “memories that last a lifetime” were all brought rushing back to me as I listened to Tom, Leanne, Gary, Kathy, Thomas, and Jay (Disney/Pixar PR) talk about how Disney has/had impacted their lives and what Disney means to them. Each presenter really had something profound to say, and Tom’s statement was just one of many that impacted me.

Visiting the parks was of course one of the highlights for me and my family, including all the special perks we received; like unlimited fast pass access to a few select and very coveted rides – HUGE!

I did worry that bringing a baby along would limit what we would be able to do and experience at the event, but I shouldn’t have worried. I brought her along with me to the conference session where she was perfectly content the entire time. She checked out the scenery, nursed, tried to nap (although was awoken a few times by loud clapping), and was generally quite pleased to be in my company.

If you look closely you can kind of see me in this shot of the conference. I believe baby was happily being fed at this point.

Conference Shot

At the parks she was just as happy to be toted along in the stroller and baby carrier. Disney makes it really easy as well by allowing for rider swap, and even allows you to take baby on most rides (nothing too extreme)….more on this later, but here we all are riding Pirates of the Caribbean together, baby included. She looks pretty content. 🙂

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Another amazing experience was the special dinner and breakfast events that my husband just could not believe we got to take part in. Like this dinner in Toon Town, sponsored by GoGo Squeez, where the food was absolutely delectable and the good times were abundant! Apparently dessert was high on my priority list. 🙂

Toon Town Dinner gogo squeez

We were truly made to feel extra special and got to see a bit more of the Disney magic without having to tackle large crowds since certain areas of the park were open only to us. Can you imagine visiting Cars Land for the first time with no crowds? No Crowds! Oh so magical!

Time Stamp: 6:40 am  — Yes, I was enjoying the Happiest Place on Earth, and yes everyone else was sleeping — the baby in the carrier, my daughter in the stroller, and my son who I believe was on my husband’s shoulders (although he probably didn’t sleep up there).

Cars Land early admission

I’m pretty sure Radiator Springs Racers with no lines is just unheard of. 🙂

Cars Land no lines

In the end more memories were made, fun was had, and our family will have another experience that we will never forget. Of course with Disney you are always looking forward to your next trip before you even get back from the one you just took.

Yes, we are already planning that next trip to Disney World and I’m determined to get on Expedition Everest since my kids will be tall enough to go with me this time!

Additional Disney Memories

Although I’ve been talking about our memories visiting the parks, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that those Disney memories are with us in other ways too. One of the first movies that I fell in love with was Disney’s Aladdin, and to this day it is still my favorite.

The Lion King was another movie that is right up there with Aladdin, and my best friend and I were known to watch it over and over again, quoting nearly every line from the movie word for word. Here is one of our favorites that was just have us in stitches every time we would say it.

Lion King quote

We were in high school at the time and these movies were a big part of our childhood and bring back such wonderful memories!

My kids have their own favorite movies and I love watching them grow and develop their tastes. I can’t wait to see which movies end up becoming their favorites in the end and evoke the same kind of wonderful memories that I have when I think back to my childhood favorites.

 

So tell us…

Whether it be a magical moment at a Disney park, or a movie that evokes wonderful memories…. What are your Disney memories that last a lifetime?

 

 

Disclosure: I was invited to attend the DisneySMMom Celebration. I paid my own conference fees and received gifts during the conference. The DisneySMMom sponsors provided product and helped make the magic happen. All opinions magical or otherwise are my own.

 

Jesica H

My name is Jesica and I'm happy to 'meet' you! I'm just living life and loving every minute of it! I try to not let things hold me down or hold me back, I just live! Here at The Mommy Bunch, I offer solid advice on all things parenting, household, and living life as a working mom.

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