Disney Parks Shutdown: Top Family Disney Parks Moments

March 29, 2020

Written by: Jim Smith

Welcome to the worldwide Coronavirus shutdown. Today is May 18, 2020, Day 57 and the start of Week Nine of the worldwide shutdown. Shanghai Disneyland has opened back up to visitors (under strict health-driven operating restrictions), and this week Walt Disney World’s Disney Springs will be partially opening to guests. It’s a start, and there’s still a long way to go, but at last we see the light!

While this social shutdown has been very frustrating – and for many downright scary – my goal over these past two months has been to share one wonderful Disney Parks memory each day. As this time has worn on, I have transitioned from daily to weekly postings, starting with Week Seven. I will continue to update this post with the newest memory at the top, and cascading in reverse order from there, until we have a majority of Disney Parks back open in some form for guests to visit again.

I hope these postings will continue to bring smiles to those who are reading, and provide an ongoing feeling of fun and hope, because we will get through this, and we will be stronger for it! Enjoy, stay strong, and stay healthy!

Day Sixty-Four – Week Ten: The Liberty Tree

Liberty Square is often rushed through by guests as a means of passage from Frontierland to Fantasyland – or as a place to stop and watch the parade – but it has just as much charm as any other land in Magic Kingdom. One of our most pleasant evenings ever in Magic Kingdom was spent largely in Liberty Square. We had reservations for dinner at Liberty Tree Tavern, where we enjoyed the Patriot’s Platter (Thanksgiving dinner) for dinner and ooey gooey toffee cake for dessert. Prior to dinner, we spent a good hour or more exploring the area itself.  We watched a performance of The Muppets’ Present – Great Moments in American History, which adds a hue of comedy to the area.   Being from one of the original 13 colonies, we identified our home state of Massachusetts on the Liberty Tree, as well as around the Liberty Bell.

The Liberty Tree

Aside from the Haunted Mansion – what is your favorite thing about Liberty Square?

Day Fifty-Seven – Week Nine: The Grand Canyon Mural at the Contemporary

I had heard and read about the famous Mary Blair Grand Canyon mural at the WDW’s Contemporary Resort. As I understood it, the mural sprawled along the wall of the monorail concourse.  My mind’s eye pictured a long mural behind a subway platform, and that is how I always envisioned it. In 2017, while we were at the Contemporary to eat dinner at Chef Mickey’s, my daughter Abby and I decided to check out the mural and search for the infamous five-legged goat, which was tucked somewhere in the mural.

The mural was not just one single wall – it was several walls that sprawled around the sides of the central elevator shaft in the concourse. The mural is MUCH TALLER than I expected. In fact, it is 90 feet tall! Little did Abby and I realize our hunt for the five-legged goat would take us not only to the ends of the concourse, but also to an elevated platform within the concourse (maybe the second or third floor?) to be able to find the goat, which was hidden in a hard to see corner of the mural. I don’t think we would have found it without the guidance of a cast member!

Mary Blair was a brilliant artist, and was one of Walt’s top creative talents.  She placed the five-legged goat in the mural to remind the viewers that no man-made creation is perfect.

Have you found the five-legged goat?

Day Fifty – Week Eight: The Gingerbread House at the Grand Floridian

One of the sweetest ways Walt Disney World celebrates the Christmas season is by creating and displaying amazing gingerbread houses at several of the resort hotels. We’ve visited several of these gingerbread houses, but the granddaddy of them all is located in the lobby at the Grand Floridian.

Made with over 1,000 pounds of honey, 140 pints of egg whites, 600 pounds of powdered sugar, 700 pounds of chocolate, 800 pounds of flour, and 35 pounds of spices – this gingerbread house is actually a functioning building, not just a display piece.

Guests can purchase numerous sweet treats, including gourmet themed lollipops, cookies, and even a miniature gingerbread house of their own. The festive gingerbread aroma fills the entire Grand Floridian lobby, and the cookies taste as good as the house smells.

The house is decorated with traditional seasonal touches. Disney friends adorn many of the house’s windows, and there are plenty of Hidden Mickeys to find as well.

When you visit this sweet piece of architecture, be sure to view it from the second floor level, in addition to the main lobby level. You’ll be able to appreciate some of the additional details that aren’t as obvious from the ground.

Have you purchased a treat from this iconic gingerbread house? If so, what was it (and how tasty)?

Week Seven (Day 43): Are You Satisfied With Your Care?

Who wouldn’t want to hug a giant squishy balloon-man?

We met Baymax during an Annual Passholder Christmas Party at Epcot, as guests of our AP friends. The line was short, and Baymax was huge! When you watch closely, you might even see him blink. His Cast Member friend had to warn us not to poke him too hard (They must not have had any extra tape to patch him up if he got a hole).

Have you had a chance to fist pump this dude?


Day Forty-Two: Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party

The sights. The sounds. The smells! Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party had it all. We decked out in festive clothing and lighted necklaces, hit Magic Kingdom at 4 PM, and stayed ‘til the stroke of midnight.

We treated ourselves to an early dinner at Be Our Guest before the official party began at 7:00. Throughout the evening, we ate way too many Christmas cookies, and met Mary Poppins, Bert, and Sandy Claws – big bucket list items for us! The Christmas parade was bright and cheerful, capped off by a sighting of Santa.

We’ve been to both Magic Kingdom parties – Halloween and Christmas. Opinions are generally split pretty evenly as to which party is the favorite, but our Christmas-loving family definitely enjoyed the Christmas Party more.

Do you have a preferred Magic Kingdom holiday party?

Day Forty-One: The Siemens VIP Center Corporate Lounge in Spaceship Earth

My wife works with Siemens, and in 2015 we were given the opportunity to visit the Siemens VIP Center, hidden around the backside of Spaceship Earth. We needed a special code to get in, and once we were inside we were greeted by a very friendly lady who made us feel at home in the lobby. We partook of complimentary drinks, snacks, private bathrooms, and AIR CONDITIONING (it was almost 90 degrees that day).

When we finished chilling, the lady escorted us down a set of interior stairs, through a door, to…the front of the line to board Spaceship Earth! Score! Sadly, Siemens ended their sponsor partnership with Disney Parks in mid-2017, so we weren’t able to enjoy the lounge again during our Christmas 2017 visit. It was a one-time experience for us, and it was truly unique.

Day Forty: Garden Grill Dinner

Yummy Yummy! Not only was this a fun dinner with Chip ‘n Dale, Mickey, and Pluto, but it was delicious as well! Another family style meal including roast turkey and beef, stuffing, mac and cheese, veggies, and dessert. It’s the type of menu our New England family absolutely loves! Plus, some of the ingredients are sourced right from the Land pavilion.

The restaurant’s dining room rotates with a slow spin, and at times during our meal, we could see down into a portion of the Living With the Land attraction.

As far as character meal experiences go, Chip ‘n Dale were among the most enjoyable characters we’ve met. They joked with our kids, teased each other, and had lots of fun energy. And you can never go wrong with Mickey and Pluto.

Day Thirty-Nine: Search for Remi at Food and Wine

The search for Remi at Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival in 2015 was one of the unexpected highlights of our trip. He wasn’t easy to spot, that’s for sure. Here are a few Remis to consider (I don’t remember exactly in which pavillion each Remi was found?)

Have you done the Remi hunt? Did you find them all? We missed a couple.

Day Thirty-Eight: Ohana

“Ohana means family. Family means nobody gets left behind…or forgotten.”

Ohana also means a fabulous breakfast with fun characters – a perfect way to kick off a day before going to Magic Kingdom. The breakfast at this meal is served Family Style, so there is no need to get up for seconds and thirds at a buffet line and risk missing out on a character visit.  Besides Lilo and Stitch, we also met Mickey and Pluto. With Stitch as Abby’s favorite, and Pluto as my favorite, we met two family favorites in one breakfast. Score one for time efficiency!

At this meal, we were introduced to “Stitch Juice” which is a combination of passion fruit, orange, and guava juices. It was super yummy, and remains one of our favorite Disney tastes. Newman’s Own Orange Mango Tango evokes memories of Stitch Juice. It’s not quite the same, but it’s close enough to give us the feels.

Day Thirty-Seven: Photo Shoot By the Big Blue Pool

Ok, this was not a professional photo shoot, but I thought Abby looked adorable in this dress, so we paused during some rare quiet time at Art of Animation resort to take a few cute photos at the Righteous Reef Playground, which is adjacent to the Big Blue Pool. We absolutely loved Art of Animation resort, so much that I even wrote a full blog post about it.

My little girl…

Day Thirty-Six: Stitch

Meeting Stitch at Hollywood Studios was an unexpected treat. He was the first character to really play with our kids during our meet and greet. He got down on all four paws, poked and played games, and was a real treat. We’ve made a point to see him again on our return trips!

Like many in the film Lilo & Stitch, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of Stitch at first. But over the years, Stitch has become a member of our Disney family. He is one of Abby’s favorite characters, even when she was little and completely smitten with the Disney princesses. Stitch fully emerged as a superstar in our family when Abby’s princess phase began to fade.  We used to call our growly playful dog Bailey “Stitch” when he was a roly poly puppy.

Day Thirty-Five: Mickey Bars

I’m pretty sure we ate these little beauties in Adventureland. During our first visit in 2013, I didn’t realize just how iconic these particular snacks were, but I’m glad I took a photo of them! Every day of our first family trip, the temps were in the 80s, so these cold treats satisfied Abby and Ben just right.

Here’s the million dollar question – what’s your favorite Disney Parks treat?

Day Thirty-Four: Abby’s First Selfie

I feel like selfie’s weren’t really a trendy thing “way back” in 2013, but yet my six-year-old Abby took this funny one with her little brother Ben, who seemed confused by the whole thing. I think this photo occurred while we were waiting for Illuminations so start.

Being at Disney provides many iconic memory moments, but it has also given our family many more “regular” special family moments, which didn’t involve a character or a ride. Just us being together, being goofy, and having fun.

Day Thirty-Three: Akershus Royal Banquet Hall – Our First Princess Dinner

Cinderella’s Royal Table gets most of the accolades, but we’ve dined with the Disney princesses at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall (in Epcot’s Norway pavillion) twice. For our first visit, we were told Belle would be the host, and besides Belle we would meet several other princesses, but the cast members would not confirm who. After spending a moment with Belle for our official photo, we were escorted to our table.  Abby’s eyes lit up as she caught a glimpse of Snow White streaking by. Then Aurora, then Cinderella, then…Ariel, her favorite! As a six (almost seven) year old who loved princesses, this might have been the highlight of Abby’s first Disney trip. Ben enjoyed the experience too. He dined with his brand new Duffy bear.

The dinner menu was a little tricky, with a lot of Norwegian fare (cured meats, smoked cheeses, other items that our New England bred family was less familiar with) but there were enough options for the kids to choose, and we all enjoyed our meals.  We returned a couple years later and did the breakfast buffet, which was fabulous!

Day Thirty-Two: Playing with Perspective

As a little girl whose favorite princess was Ariel, Abby was thrilled to see all the larger-than-life character figures at Disney’s Art of Animation resort when we stayed there in 2013. We played with photo perspective a bit here, so she could hold Sebastian in her hand.

The next photo shows the real size of this worrisome crab.

Spaceship Earth in Epcot is another great use of photo perspective. Have you tried to play with photo perspective during your visits to Disney parks?

Day Thirty-One: The Boneyard

It was a hot, sunny day in animal Kingdom, yet we were tired from waiting in line for attractions. Where better to release the two-year old and six-year old than the Boneyard? This place is full of ramps, bridges, slides, sand, caves, and… sun. Shade is in low supply here. But despite their sweaty, bothered-looking appearances, the kids had a blast exploring and discovering this dino wonderland.

And after they got the sweats out, they enjoyed a cool treat!

(This is what we call Ben’s “cheese face”)

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