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Moms Panel Monday: Disney Parks After Dark

posted on December 3rd, 2012 by Laura Spencer, Social Media Manager, Walt Disney World Resort

The last few weeks when I leave the office I have felt a bit like Madam Leota. Cue spooky music here. It takes my internal clock at least three months to get acclimated to daylight savings time. In the fall and winter The Sunshine State seems more like a Doom Buggy, but that also means cooler, longer nights. Nighttime at a Disney Park is a horse of a different and magical color.

Evenings at Walt Disney World Resort offer nocturnal fun for the whole family. What better way to celebrate the holidays than with fireworks, lights and parades? Moms Panelist Krista Curtis loves visiting the theme parks at night. In fact, several of her family traditions are held while Disney is dark.

At Magic Kingdom Park, Krista and her family set aside time to watch their favorite nighttime shows including Main Street Electrical Parade. With its twenty-three illuminated floats, over eighty performers and lively Disney theme songs, this parade is a perfect companion to Wishes Nighttime Spectacular. “Whether we watch from Main Street, U.S.A., one of the great spots inside Magic Kingdom Park or from a resort beach, ‘Wishes’ is a must-see for my family,” Krista says.

Another long-time family favorite is the Electric Water Pageant. This quaint, nostalgic floating parade takes place on the Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake. “Watching the ‘Electric Water Pageant’ from the shores of Disney’s Polynesian Resort is a lovely ritual for us along with dining at Hoop-Dee-Do Musical Revue.”

On starry nights she suggests viewing IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth. At Disney’s Hollywood Studios, you definitely need to stay for Fantasmic! said Krista. For cooling off and spending quality time, the Curtis crew takes in a game of golf. That is, mini golf at Fantasia Gardens. “After the sun goes down the courses are cooler and my family loves a good game with friendly competition.”

My favorite “Disney After Dark” attraction is the holiday version of Cinderella Castle. Princess Mini-Me and I had a girls-only night a few weeks ago and attended Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. Arm in arm, we walked down Main Street, U.S.A. Actually it was less like walking and more rushing, as her long, coltish legs speed toward SpaceMountain with me dangling behind her like a Mickey balloon. That child hates gym but can move like greased lightening toward a thrill ride.

The castle glowed like a pixie-dusted sugarplum. It was truly larger than life. I know that I looked ridiculous holding her hand and intermittently placing kisses on her cheek. She was in full-scale “tween mode” and viewing me with embarrassment and horror. I don’t care. That castle, those kisses and the memory of the wafting scent of hot chocolate and cookies is a moment I will treasure forever.

What are your after-dusk customs?

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Moms Panel Monday: Happy Birthday Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa!

posted on November 19th, 2012 by Laura Spencer, Social Media Manager, Walt Disney World Resort

With the holidays approaching, many of us are looking forward to cool wintery days, hopefully filled with family, hot cocoa and warm hearts. A little over a year ago, my family and I were blessed with the opportunity to stay at the soon-to-be-opened Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa. Hawai’i was everything my family imagined and more.
Walt Disney World Moms Panelist Jill Cooper with Mickey and Minnie Mouse at Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa

We literally bumped into Imagineer Joe Rohde in the lobby and he took us on a walking tour of the main floor and gave us his thoughts and vision behind the making of the resort. Wow.

Our Moms Panelist Jill Cooper fell in love with Aulani after attending the grand opening events. She is planning another vacation to the lush resort that’s nestled between the crystal blue waters of the Pacific Ocean and the emerald green mountains of Oahu.

She has a few tips for making your vacation to this enchanting destination even more memorable.

  • Immerse yourself in Hawaiian culture. “Enjoy authentic Hawaiian music and dancing at the resort’s exclusive Starlit Hui. Take one of the free tours of Aulani’s art. The resort has one of the largest collections of contemporary Hawaiian art in the country. Learn a few words of the beautiful native tongue of Hawai’i in the Mo’ Olelo room.”
  • Fun for the kids. “Take your children to explore the offerings made just for them, throughout the resort. Have older children visit Painted Sky, the teen spa, and then have them relax at Rip Swirl, the smoothie bar! Tweens will enjoy the chance to meet their new friends at pool parties in the Waikolohe Valley. Aunty’s Beach House is for kids 3 to 12. They can spend hours in the dress-up room, science lab, high tech play area, and movie room if you let them!”
  • Fun for adults. “While your kids have their own fun, I highly recommend an escape to Laniwai, Aulani’s award-winning spa. I have never visited a more beautiful or welcoming place. Arrive early for your scheduled appointment so that you can take advantage of the relaxing outdoor hydrotherapy garden.”
  • Explore the island. “There are many adventures and tours you can book like kayaking right at the resort. Make sure to call in advance of your vacation to reserve your experience.”
  • Disney magic. “To me, Aulani is an immersive Hawaiian experience but you can also enjoy some traditional Disney fun here as well. Check the Daily ‘Iwa (a free guest newsletter) to see the times and locations when Disney characters will appear.”

Visit for more Aulani trip planning advice. Aloha!

See more of what there is to experience at Aulani in the posts below:

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Top Tips for Mickey’s Halloween Party from the Disneyland Moms Panelists

posted on September 28th, 2012 by Michele Himmelberg, Public Relations Director, Disneyland Resort

With the first night of Mickey’s Halloween Party tonight, I turned to some Disneyland Resort experts for their planning tips. Amanda Ficili and Ari Krell are the Disneyland Resort representatives on the Disney Moms Panel, a forum where guests can get advice for planning their visits to Disney Parks and Resorts.

Both Amanda and Ari recommend purchasing your tickets early for Mickey’s Halloween Party, since these 11 nights are very popular. They also encourage guests to arrive early and take advantage of this ticket’s special bonus – three extra hours to play in Disneyland park before the party begins. And they agree: arrive early to avoid delays at the parking structure (many people are arriving at the same time).

Enjoy the 'Halloween Screams' Fireworks During Mickey's Halloween Party at Disneyland Resort

What are some of your favorite things to do at Mickey’s Halloween Party?

Amanda: “I like to see all the spooktacular decorations in the daylight, so I don’t miss a single detail. One of our favorite photo locations is the giant Pumpkin in Town Square and we always try to arrive early enough to have PhotoPass snap a family photo here before the sun goes down. At night, we usually head over to the “hub” at about 9:00 to stake out a ‘Halloween Screams’ Fireworks viewing location in front of the castle.”

Ari: “One of my favorite pastimes is seeing how creative the guests are with their costumes. I am always impressed by the quality and creativity they put into these outfits. My family usually has a contest on how many princesses we will see, and that makes it more fun. If you’re wearing a costume, make sure you can wear it comfortably, especially the footwear. I vividly recall seeing many park guests walking barefoot because their costume shoes were not comfortable.”

Do you have any insights for first-timers at Mickey’s Halloween Party?

Amanda: “Keep your party wristband visible on your arm! This colorful band identifies you as a ticketed party guest during the event. If you’re coming later in the day, grab dinner early since many in-park dining locations will close early to prepare for the party. Or, arrive early and grab a bite at the Downtown Disney District.”

Ari: “Be realistic about how long your kids can play. We took our little girls on a night when they were 6 and 4. While they had a great time they were exhausted by 10 p.m. We were thrilled to have a room at the Disneyland Hotel that night. Not only was it the easiest place to get in our costumes – rather than driving to Disneyland park in full Buzz Lightyear regalia – it was also a short stroll back to our beds at the end of a lovely night. That was a lot happier than a long drive home.”

Go Trick-or-Treating at Disneyland Park During Mickey's Halloween Party at the Disneyland Resort

One, final spooky tip?

Amanda: “Be sure to grab a party map when you enter Disneyland park, but keep in mind there will be surprises not listed on it. You can use the map to locate Treat or Treat stops, dining options, dance parties, and even shops that offer Halloween-themed merchandise and goodies.

For Trick-or-Treating, no one is too old for candy at Disneyland. Mom, Dad, and the whole family can take advantage of the loot at Mickey’s Halloween Party. Be sure to ask for healthy treats, too, as each station has treats such as freeze dried apples and fresh fruit.”

Ari: “Mickey’s Halloween Party is a great time to capture precious one-of-a kind moments. Kids of all ages are dressed up and they’re posing with some of their favorite Disney characters, who are all decked out in Halloween costumes. Many of the best Disney villains have been known to make a special appearance during the party and they’re always ready to strike scary poses with you.”

Are you planning to celebrate Halloween Time at the Disneyland Resort? See more of what to expect in the posts below:

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For Fans Only: The 2012 Walt Disney World Moms Panel Fan Luncheon

posted on September 24th, 2012 by Laura Spencer, Social Media Manager, Walt Disney World Resort

UPDATE: This year’s fan meet has reached capacity. Keep checking the Disney Parks Blog for future events.

Do you love the Walt Disney World Moms Panel? I know I do. Well, we are having our 3rd annual fan meet on Saturday. This year, it’s a luncheon and meet and greet at a fun place with a very “magical” view. Panelists from the very first year to our most recent additions will be there to chat, nosh and hang out with the guests they love to help plan vacations for. We will also have some special surprises planned, but I don’t want to give it all away.
The 2011 Walt Disney World Moms Panel Fan Meet

Space is very limited. If you successfully RSVP before the spots are taken up, you will be notified via email with your confirmation, time and location of the event. Good luck and see some of you later this week.

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Moms Panel Monday: What We Are Looking For at Disney Parks!

posted on August 6th, 2012 by Laura Spencer, Social Media Manager, Walt Disney World Resort

The 2013 Walt Disney World Moms Panel search begins in September. Last year, we debuted our very first Disneyland Resort Panelists Amanda and Ari and our first runDisney Mom, Lori. We also began answering guest’s questions in Spanish!


This year we are looking for some interesting, new panelists. In 2013, we will have our very first Sports Team Panelist. This successful applicant is a mom who is heavily involved in planning sports events, from cheerleading, soccer, football to gymnastics. As the Moms Panel expands its reach around the globe, we are looking for seasoned international travelers and panelists who speak Spanish.


Of course, all successful applicants have to have the knowledge, passion and pixie dust needed to fill these big yellow shoes. If you think you hold the fairy wand with enough magic to join our elite team of dream makers, keep checking the Moms Panel site everyday in September to be one of the first to apply.

For more Moms Panel updates, see the posts below:

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Walt Disney World Resort Moms Panel: 2013 Search

posted on July 16th, 2012 by Laura Spencer, Social Media Manager, Walt Disney World Resort

The 2012 Walt Disney World Moms Panel

The search for the 2013 Walt Disney World Resort Moms Panel begins in September. Stay tuned. That is all.

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Reality Star Trista Sutter Shares Her Disney Parks Memories

posted on July 2nd, 2012 by Laura Spencer, Social Media Manager, Walt Disney World Resort

You might recognize her from ABC’s “The Bachelor,” “The Bachelorette,” and even “Dancing with the Stars,” but these days, Trista Sutter’s main gig is being a wife and mommy.

Recently, Trista sat down to chat with me and share some of her tips for travelling with little ones, including what to bring on the plane. She also told me what her favorite Disney Parks memories are and how she hopes to make many more.

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Moms Panel Monday: Beautiful Sunflower

posted on June 25th, 2012 by Laura Spencer, Social Media Manager, Walt Disney World Resort

Sunflowers are strong and beautiful, and produce in abundance seeds to grow and feed. And they always turn towards the light. I know this because years ago, I grew a sunflower bed in my backyard.

Walt Disney World Moms Panelist Dannée Neal

A few days ago, we lost one of our own, Walt Disney World Moms Panelist Dannée Neal, after a courageous fight with cancer. It seems fitting that the sunflower was Dannée’s favorite blossom. Dannée is one of the most beautiful people I have ever met, both inside and out. She had a glow. She was always positive and believed in light and love. Along with her precious husband and family, she loved her friends on the Moms Panel and sharing pixie dust with our guests.

I think Moms Panelist Kaylene says it best in her tribute to her here. Today, I am without words.

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Moms Panel Monday: Celebrate Dads at Disney Parks!

posted on June 18th, 2012 by Laura Spencer, Social Media Manager, Walt Disney World Resort

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there! I use Father’s Day to give my Prince Charming “boy band” clothes he only wears on dates with me. They make him look so handsome and cute it’s more a gift for me than him!
Walt Disney World Moms Panelist Terry McKinney

Did you know that we have six dads on the Walt Disney World Moms Panel? Our dads bring some extra manly magic to the panel each day to help you plan your next Disney vacation.

If you’re looking for ways to let the dad in your life know just how awesome he is, Father’s Day and all summer long, here at Walt Disney World Resort, panelist Terry McKinney has some tips to share:

“I was never able to visit Disney as a kid and my first visit was when I was 21, so I’m catching up on the fun as an adult alongside my children,” Terry says. “We love spending time together in the parks and try to do things that include all four of us, like The Pirates League. What’s cooler than becoming pirates together?”

Terry also knows that dads like to relax, so he recommends some downtime at any of the Walt Disney World Resort hotels. “They have so many fun things that Dad will enjoy, such as movies under the stars or even boat rentals if you want to go for a boat ride.”

For a photo finish to the fun, Terry suggests paying a visit to Disney’s Hollywood Studios to watch Fantasmic! “For a guy, that’s a phenomenal show: the special effects, fireworks and lots of action. It’s a great way to end your day at the parks and it’s something my family sees every time we visit.”

If you’re a dad, Terry says one of the most important things to do is let loose once in a while and act like a kid. “This is the only place you can act like a kid and no one will look at you funny! For me, it’s all about seeing the excitement in my children’s eyes, and we love being able to have fun together as a family.”

How did you celebrate this Father’s Day? Tell me the ways you celebrate Dad Mickey-style.

Check out more posts from the Moms Panel Monday series:

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Moms Panel Monday: Amanda & Laura Visit Cars Land at Disney California Adventure Park

posted on June 11th, 2012 by Laura Spencer, Social Media Manager, Walt Disney World Resort

This weekend, I put on my big sunglasses, my pink fedora and channeled my inner Nora Ephron and headed to Hollywood to be a director! Well, not exactly Hollywood, but to Disneyland Resort to a film shoot at the soon-to-be-opened Cars Land! Disneyland Mom Amanda Ficili and I spent the weekend filming some fun segments for the Disney Channel. Also making her TV debut was Amanda’s adorable daughter, Princess Bella. Yes, that’s her real name and she works it!

Disneyland Resort Mom Amanda Ficili and her Daughter Bella Visit Cars Land at Disney California Adventure Park

Amanda and I also were able to spend the day with her co-star, Cole Pendery, “Disney 365″ star and member of the up-and-coming band, “IM5.” Both Amanda and I kept telling his mom that he was the sweetest, most well-raised young man we had ever met. There is no doubt that in the near future, his poster will be on my daughter’s wall.

Since the filming took place in Cars Land, we got an early sneak peak into one of Disney California Adventure park’s newest and most exciting lands! I won’t spoil all the secrets, but everything there exceeded my expectations. I even got to take a ride on the new Radiator Springs Racers attraction, a dream come true for me. A fast race car, a pink dress, high heels and the sunshine of the West Coast. That’s California dreamin’ my way!

Cars Land opens to the public this week. Let me know if you loved it as much as we did!

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