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Each day, at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, a small number of families are selected from the guests to be a part of Mickey’s Jungle Jammin’ Parade. But what’s it really like to be a family that is selected? It is the most magical, amazing, memorable time a Disney guest can have!

A few years ago, my family was enjoying a reunion at Walt Disney World and having great fun eating at Donald’s Safari Breakfast at Tucker House in Animal Kingdom. While interacting with various characters coming around to our tables, my sweet sister-in-law was approached by a cast member in a casual conversation. Her picture perfect smile and the joyful nature of our family caught the cast member’s eye. At the end of the conversation, the cast member invited our family to participate in Mickey’s Jungle Jammin’ Parade! What an honor!

A few hours later, eight members of our family met our new Disney friend in Africa to get ready for the parade. We were taken behind the scenes, donned our new safari vests and hats and then we walked towards the parade lineup of floats and cast members. We kept walking past all the floats we could see and finally we got to the one we would be riding in. It wasn’t just any float – we were going to be on Mickey’s float himself! As you can imagine, we were in awe!

Before we knew it, the parade was about to begin and our float started moving. The contagious excitement hit us as soon as the crowds appeared and started waving to us. You can’t help but grin and wave the entire time you are on the float. Cameras are flashing, videos are being taken and everyone is dancing to the music as you drive by – it’s a rush of adrenaline that carries you the rest of the day.

At the end of the parade we were singing the theme song that we listened to all parade long and I may have been found dancing around the park. It was definitely the best Disney experience I have ever had! I still look back at the photos we have from that trip and smile every time I see them.

Next time you are at Animal Kingdom, take the time to watch my most favorite Disney parade of all and be sure to wave to the families chosen that day to part of the magic. Mickey’s Jungle Jammin’ Parade appears daily in Africa, Discovery Island, and Asia.

Michelle Browne

Travel Specialist

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Do you have a favorite ride from your Disney vacation?  Visit the parks during a special time of year?  Celebrating a special milestone while on vacation?  All of the memories can be celebrated and come home with you with a Disney Trading Pin!

 
Disney Pin Trading was started in 1999 and has been an interactive and fun way to

collect the perfect souvenir to treasure from your Disney vacation.

 
How do you start?  You need an authentic Disney trading pin.  These can be purchased throughout the park stores and Trading Pin posts, resort gift shops and Downtown Disney stores.  You can find starter sets with 4 pins and a lanyard at most of these locations for $24.95.  Disney trading pins range from $5.95 up to $12.95 on average.  Lanyards come in all colors, themes and patterns.  These start at $8.95 and up.
 
Cast members throughout Disney World and Disneyland, as well as on the Disney Cruise lines, have lanyards or small trading purses with their pins on display.  When your child spots the perfect pin on a Cast Member, they can ask to trade by giving one of their pins for that perfect pin.  You will also find pin books and/or pin boards at all the resort locations.  Some resorts have special trading times or events that your family can participate in too.  
 
My children enjoyed trading pins on our recent stay at Disney’s Art of Animation resort.  During a special trading event, they were able to trade for a mystery pin from the pin board inside the resort’s gift shop, the Ink and Paint Shop.  They loved the surprise of getting an unknown pin.  If it wasn’t a favorite, then they had another one to trade. If they loved it, it went on their lanyard for “keeps”
 
You will get extra special attention from the characters when they see that you have one of their pins.  My two oldest boys decided early on to only collect Pluto and Chip and Dale Pins.  
 
Whether you loved to ride Space Mountain, met Cinderella for the first time, attended Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas party, or celebrated your 1st Disney vacation- all these magical memories can be represented by the trading pin you collected on your trip to Disney!

Tressa Krippel

Travel Specialist

 

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Whether you are a short distance or long distance runner, being a part of a runDisney race is an experience like no other! Even if you have never run a mile before in your life, striving for and reaching a goal of participating in a runDisney race is one that you will never regret.

At all runDisney races enjoying the experience comes first. Runners are there to finish the distance and have fun while doing so.  You know this is true when head to the race surrounded by many people dressed up as princesses, monsters, and villains. People of all shapes and sizes, from the young to the old become your comrades on your path – from the fireworks that you begin with to the confetti on the ground as you finish. Picture Mickey himself giving you a high-five for accomplishing what many only dream about!

Signing up for a runDisney race begins many months in advance. This is great because you commit to the race and in turn have plenty of time to train, even if it’s your very first race. runDisney caters to runners of all distances – from kids’ races and 5Ks to half marathons and full marathons, plus challenges that combine multiple distances. Don’t delay on signing up as races fill quickly. runDisney even provides a training schedule by Jeff Galloway for the longer distances to be sure you get the appropriate training to finish strong and within the very reasonable time limits.

As a first time runDisney participant this year, the Wine and Dine Half Marathon was a great introduction to the world of half marathons and runDisney races. From the moment of stepping onto the grounds of the ESPN Wide World of Sport Complex and seeing the welcome signs excitement started to build. Disney is great at efficiency and the packet pickup went very smoothly for all. Next came attending the race expo. Every item on a runner’s wish list can be found at the expo –t-shirts, race belts, medal holders, and even the runDisney official running shoes!

The weekend culminates with the race itself.  runDisney matches the excitement you find at any of the Disney parks. Fireworks mark the start of the race for each corral and the entertainment as you run along the course gives a party atmosphere all the way through. With photo opportunities with Disney characters, people lined up along the course to cheer you on, not to mention running through the parks with nobody else there it is such a treat for each runner. You’ll find yourself at various times singing along to the songs and dancing your way through one of the most memorable times of your life!

The pride of accomplishment is a high like no other at the end of a race. Give yourself a few days to recover and you’ll be wondering when the next runDisney sign up is happening! runDisney’s motto is “every mile is magic”. Try a runDisney race yourself and experience that magic as you make your dreams come true!

Michelle Browne

Travel Specialist

Florida Road SignCan’t decide which resort to visit? Here’s some information, which might help you determine what fits your family’s travel style and budget!

The Disneyland Resort (DLR) is Walt’s original theme park. It opened its gates to children, young and old, in 1955. It currently occupies approximately 510 acres. The DLR will celebrate its 60th Anniversary in 2015!

Walt Disney World (WDW) opened its doors in late 1971 with the help of Walt’s brother Roy who continued Walt’s dream after his passing in 1966. The entire WDW resort spans over 30,000 acres (about 47 square miles, with most of that land undeveloped), including resorts and theme parks.california road sign

Number of Theme Parks
DLR = 2    Disneyland (DL) and Disney’s California Adventure (CA) are in easy walking distance from each other and the DLR hotels.
WDW = 4    The Magic Kingdom (MK), Epcot (EP), Hollywood Studios (HS), and the Animal Kingdom (AK) are spread throughout WDW and require walking, monorail, boat, or shuttle to get to and from parks and resorts.

Additional Entertainment*
DLR – Downtown Disney (shopping, movies, restaurants, and entertainment), resort pools, a spa, and a Children’s Activity Center.
WDW – Downtown Disney (shopping, movies, restaurants, Cirque du Soleil, and more), 2 waterparks (Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon), shopping, pools, miniature golf, golf courses, bike rental, boat rental, fishing, archery, pony rides, movies under the stars, spas, and 5 Children’s Activity Centers.

* Additional entertainment and amenities require a stay at one of the many Disney resorts on-property.

Number of Attractions
DLR – 52 (DL), 31 (CA)
WDW – 40 (MK), 31 (EP), 20 (AK), and 13 (HS)

Attractions Unique to California or Florida
California’s DLR has CarsLand, Toontown, Sulley to the Rescue, Alice in Wonderland, and a great thrill ride – Indiana Jones’ Adventure. Although WDW also has “It’s a Small World,” the exterior of the attraction at Disneyland, especially during Christmastime, is something to see!
Florida’s WDW has Mission: Space and Test Track by Chevrolet, both great thrill rides. WDW also has Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom, which is a free interactive game you can play at the Magic Kingdom.

Shows and Parades Unique to California or Florida
Both resorts have an amazing amount of entertainment, which includes special events around holidays.
California has the additions of Disney Junior – Live on Stage!, Disney’s Aladdin – A Musical Spectacular, and Mickey and the Magical Map.
Florida has the American Idol Experience, Beauty and the Beast Live On Stage, Captain Jack Sparrow’s Pirate Tutorial, Finding Nemo – The Musical, and the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular!

Resorts and Accommodations
DLR includes 3 on-site Disney resorts (1 Value, 1 Moderate, and 1 Deluxe), as well as 39 Good Neighbor Hotels.
WDW has over 25 on-site resorts (5 Value, 5 Moderate, 9 Deluxe, and 9 Deluxe Villas).

Dining
DLR has over 85 restaurants and quick-service locations, including character dining (5), family/buffet (2) and Signature dining (3).
WDW has over 275 restaurants and quick-service dining options throughout the resort, including dinner shows (3), character dining (14), family/buffet (18), and Signature dining (19).

Ticket Prices (as of November 2013)
DLR: A 1 Day Park Hopper ticket for an adult is $92, $86 for kids 3-9.
WDW: A 1 Day Park Hopper ticket for an adult is $154, $148 for kids 3-9.
The longer you play, the more you save!

If you like to Go-Go-Go!, or if you enjoy soaking up every amenity at the resort and taking advantage of quiet time poolside, Walt Disney World offers an immense amount of entertainment, attractions, and pampering. Plan no less than 3 days at the parks, but we recommend 6 days to be able to see everything you want and still be able to take a few breathers.

If you love your theme parks but also enjoy a more laid back approach to your experience, the Disneyland Resort is done magnificently on a much smaller scale. In less crowded seasons, you can see everything in the 2 parks in 2 days. In heavier seasons, we recommend 3 days to be sure to get everything in!

Of course, if you’re not a huge theme park person to begin with and would prefer to simply relax, why not try a Disney cruise or a visit to Disney’s Aulani Resort in Hawaii?!

 

Nancy Wideman

Travel Specialist