New Poll: What’s your family’s favorite character meal?

Tell us why in your comments. For the choices, I only included restaurants whose regular service is a character meal (that leaves out places like ‘Ohana and Donald’s Safari Breakfast, that do character meals at more limited times). Also, take advantage of the comments to share any tips or tricks for making the most of character meals with your family.

Today in Disney History

Disney Cruise Line – May 3, 1994
 Based on their past successful relationship with “The Big Red Boat” and the increasing interest in week-long Walt Disney World vacations, The Walt Disney Company announces plans to create a cruise line with initial cruise itineraries to be announced later, but the cruise line will be based in Florida, with Caribbean ports of call. 

Disneyland – May 3, 2005
Walt Disney Records celebrates the 50th Anniversary of Disneyland with 4 new CDs to honor the event:  “50th Anniversary: A Musical History of Disneyland,” “Julie Andrews Selects Her Favorite Disney Songs,” “The Official Album of the Disneyland Resort: The Happiest Homecoming on Earth” and “Walt Disney Records Presents: Wishes!”

Today in Disney History

Walt Disney World:  May 1, 1977 
The “Empress Lilly,” a replica of a three-decked Mississippi steamship is christened by Walt Disney’s widow, Lillian, for whom it is named. Located at the Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village, this new Walt Disney World landmark, contains 3 restaurants – Fisherman’s Deck, Steerman’s Quarters, and the Empress Room.
Walt Disney World:  May 1, 1989  
Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park, the Walt Disney Company’s 5th theme park opens. Although it rains throughout the day, the park is packed. It is the largest opening day press event in Walt Disney World history. Attractions in the park include Walt Disney Studios Animation Studios (where guests can watch story personnel, animators, artists and technicians produce motion pictures), The Great Movie Ride, SuperStar Television, and The Monster Sound Show. The Great Movie Ride, a full-scale replica of famed Graumann’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood, CA features a courtyard for celebrity handprints and signatures.
Pleasure Island, on the extreme west side of the Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village opens today as well, offering a unique late-night entertainment venue for adults.  Based on the extremely popular Church Street Station in nearby Orlando, the Walt Disney Company hopes to offer an alternative of their own for after theme park hours.  The island is filled with shops, restaurants and a variety of six different nightclubs including a Jazz club, Comedy Warehouse, Adventurer’s Club, Mannequins dance club, the Zephyr RockinRolladrome and Videopolis Cafe (an indoor version of Disneyland’s very popular under-21 dance area).
Walt Disney World:  May 1, 2009 
Disney Vacation Club opens the first phase of Kidani Village, at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge resort.  Kidani Village is an extension of the overall resort adding a completely dedicated wing of  time-share villa accomodations, complementing the existing (and now renamed building) Jambo House, which includes both traditional hotel rooms and time-share villa accomodationsThe name Kidani comes from the Swahili word for “necklace” and is meant to represent the resort’s layout.


Southern Swing, Part 4

Welcome to the heavy-driving portion of our trip.  Please keep your arms and legs inside the vehicle at all times.  Por favor mantenganse alejado de las puertas.

Saturday started off in relaxed fashion, as my aunt held a mini-Easter Egg hunt for the kids around her yard.  I moved quickly to hide the eggs so we could do the hunt and then get moving on our drive.  I can’t tell you how excited I was to get lots of chocolate candy to keep in the hot, stuffy van on a long road trip.  The kids loved it, of course, and Sarah impressed me by finding the one I had concealed in the bird feeder.

Scotty shows off his bounty.

We packed up the van and got ready to leave.  As I climbed in to start the van, I noticed a red light blinking on the dashboard.  Hmmm…wonder what that is.  I started the van, and the car alarm immediately started blasting the horn.  For some reason, the security system hadn’t disabled itself when I had unlocked the van.  I tried pushing the alarm button on the remote, turning the car on and off, unlocking the doors again…nothing worked.  For a full two minutes, we serenaded the neighbors, our car alarm echoing through the valley.  My uncle came out and made a motion to turn the ignition with his hands, his look clearly saying, “Hey, moron, turn the car off.”  “I already tried that!”, I said.  The kids giggled at me from the back seat through the entire ordeal.  Finally, we turned it off,  locked the doors, then unlocked them again.  That seemed to re-set the system.  Oy.

Finally, we set out and entered the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Have you noticed we like to take pictures of signs to mark our journey?

Blue Ridge Mountains, 20-Minute Cliff overlook

This is a 457-mile two-lane road that connects Shenandoah National Park with Great Smoky Mountains National Park, traversing the Blue Ridge Mountains the whole way.  Our plan had been to drive the first 100 miles or so to Roanoake before jumping over to the interstate to get to my Uncle Bill’s house in Abingdon, VA.

The drive was very similar to Shenandoah: 35 mph, lots of twists and turns and random guardrails with deadly drops unprotected.  We also saw a couple of “overlooks” where huge trees blocked any chance at a view.  Not sure what the point was there.  We saw yet another one of these and started to drive on past, when we noticed a big waterfall up the slope.  Aha!  So that’s why that parking lot was there.  I successfully performed a 27-point turn and pulled into the lot.

I'm a sucker for waterfalls.

Lunch was at the bridge over the James River.  We’d gone about 85 miles on the BRP at this point and everyone felt like they’d had enough mountain driving for the day.  So, we had our PBJ and cheese balls and took a walk.  They had a cool little pedestrian bridge under the main road bridge that led to the river’s shores and a restored lock from a canal.  Great little spot for a break.

Crossing the James River

Old-time canal lock

I just like this picture.

After jumping on I-81, we drove 2.5 hours to my uncle’s place.  You don’t realize how big Virginia really is until you have to drive to Abingdon, way down in the SW corner of the state.  Here, we met up with my parents and relatives to celebrate Easter with a nice dinner, a church service in the morning, and of course, a huge bonfire.

My uncle likes to save his Christmas tree, get it nice and dry, and then burn it to mark the beginning of spring.  Here’s the fire before we put the tree in…


And after.  That tree had been sitting for 3 months, and it went up fast.  We’re talking a Biblical pillar of fire here.  If that doesn’t scream “Awesome!” to you, then I really can’t help you.


Contrary to reports, the other homes, trees and yards in the picture were not harmed.

Sunday was the Easter service (Julie made me pack a coat and tie for this–ugh!) and then 5.5 hours of driving down to Columbia, SC.  DVD showings for the day included Wall-E and 101 Dalmatians.  We drove into Tennessee first.

State Line #3

I drove past Trennr’s office in Johnson City.  Given that it was Easter Sunday, I figured he had better things to do than try and catch me passing through, but I did unleash my best wave in his direction.  Trennr reported later that the sheer seismic force of this wave knocked Chuck off of his keyboard in his office.  We passed through North Carolina and South Carolina in short order.

State Line #4

State Line #5. Can't get enough of these pictures, can you?

I was following my dad the whole way.  His speed ranged from about 48-75 mph, which made following him…well, let’s say “difficult”.  But we survived and pulled into our hotel right around dinner time.  It was located on “Harbison Blvd.”  Dave couldn’t believe that nobody in South Carolina could spell our name correctly.

One final story.  At dinner that night, I was fooling around with my iPod on the wireless connection, and said to the table, “Wow…the Eagles traded McNabb to the Redskins.”  My dad looked at me like I had sprouted antennae.  I let the family twist a little before I revealed that I was just kidding.  After all, nobody would be stupid enough to trade a franchise QB to a division rival.

Two hours later, the news popped up on ESPN: Eagles Trade McNabb To Redskins.  My jaw dropped, and I knocked on my dad’s door to tell him.  “Yeah, right…” he said.  I had to get him to turn on the TV to confirm it.  True story.

Coming Up Next: A day on hallowed ground…Augusta National Golf Club.  Followed by dinner in Nowhere, SC.

Today in Disney History

Walt Disney World:  April 30, 1969
During a press conference at the Ramada Inn on Highway 50 in Ocoee, Florida (a suburb on the outskirts of Orlando), Donn B. Tatum (then-president of new Walt Disney World Co. subsidiary) details the more than 3 years of planning for a “Destination Vacation”.  By now it has been two years since special legislation had been passed to allow Disney to build its Florida project, and now the company has rented out the entire Ramada Inn for Walt Disney World’s official first press event. A large circus tent outside the hotel is filled with models and artist renderings of Walt Disney World for this three-day gala. Among the Disney officials in attendance is Walt’s brother, Roy O. Disney, and Disney publicist Charlie Ridgway. A 16-mm 17 minute film titled “Walt Disney World – Phase 1″  is shown at the Parkwood Cinema Theater, showing the master plan and concept art for a “Magic Kingdom” theme park as well as the nearby hotels and amenities.  Though the new park is modeled after the company’s flagship, Disneyland, in Anaheim, CA with many of the the familiar lands and attractions made popular during that park’s first 14 years of operation, the company’s planners and executives decide against making a carbon copy for the east coast.  Various lands and attractions would remain unique to California, while new lands and attractions would become unique to Florida, thereby generating and retaining interest in both destinations by as many people as possible.  The project is slated to open to the public in the fall of 1971.