Disney To-Dos: Little Known and Hidden Things


The key under the mat in the queue for Muppet Vision 3D.

One of the things I love so much about Disney is that there’s always something new to do, some area that can be explored just a little more. I like that you can go on a ride that you’ve been on a million times and notice a new detail or you find a new, quiet place to sit in a bustling park. Here are 10 hidden gems things I want to explore, find, or do during our next (yet to be scheduled!) trip:

  1. Meet the Mayor and pin trade with Scoop Sanderson (two of the Citizens of Main Street). Seriously, this has been on my to-do list forever, but I always miss them!
  2. Go to Jellyrolls to hear the dueling pianos.
  3. Find 10 Hidden Pascals in the Tangled rest area in the Magic Kingdom.
  4. Finally see the famous hidden Mickey plate arrangement in the ballroom scene in the Haunted Mansion. Somehow, I always miss it!
  5. Spend some time at the Animal Kingdom Lodge at night. I’d like take advantage of the night vision goggles (!!) to see the animals at night, or listen to an African story by the campfire. Obviously, we’ll be forced to stuff ourselves at Boma first…
  6. Submit a joke to the Monster’s Inc. Laugh Floor. I also want to be “That Guy,” but I’m a girl so maybe I can’t be? BUT, maybe The Dude can!
  7. Check out the Metrophone in Tomorrowland and listen to intergalactic conversations. I am nosy, after all.
  8. Meet DiVine in Animal Kingdom. I’ve heard rumors that there’s a male version, too, but I’m not positive. Anyone know?
  9. Find and press the “Press for a Surprise” buttons in Epcot’s Italy pavilion. I’m sorry in advance if I inadvertently squirt you with water!
  10. Spend time appreciating hidden or in-the-background atmospheric details. For example, I love hearing the music lessons on Main Street U.S.A., but have never heard the people talking/dishes clattering on the back patio of Tusker House. Epcot is also full of these little features (like the talking water fountains in Future World or the single cracked tile in each of Morocco’s mosaics).

I can’t wait to go back!


Things I Miss in Disney: Pappy

When I was 6 or 7 my grandparents took two of my cousins and me (and, our moms) to Disney World. For part of the trip, I was sick – not sick enough to not be in the parks, just sick enough to have no energy. My youngest cousin refused to let me ride in her stroller when I got tired, so my Pappy carried me everywhere. I don’t remember very  much about that trip, but I do remember him holding me.

I also remember sitting next to him in the Tiki Room and hearing him sing along. He’s never had a good voice.

One of my most vivid childhood memories is being in Disney World with him and going on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. I’ve always been small for my age, so this was my first “big girl” roller coaster. I remember standing in line and watching the train speed around the tracks and hearing those tracks rattle as it moved around. I remember clutching his hand and thinking that I didn’t think anything could go as fast as that train.

I was terrified.

I was terrified, but determined to do it. Pappy had been talking about this ride and promised that I would love it. He would never lie to me, I knew (and, still know). My Pappy, the strongest man in the world, would make sure I was safe.

I remember getting into the train car next to him. I remember him putting his arm around me and scooting me closer. I remember his telling me to hold on tight.

And, I remember him smiling from ear to ear.

We took off into the darkness of the mine. I remember getting splashed by water and screaming and we started to pick up speed. I remember looking over at him as we emerged from the mine and seeing his face filled with joy. I remember that, suddenly, I wasn’t afraid anymore.

And, I remember him looking at me and laughing. I remember that I started laughing, too.

It could have been yesterday: my Pappy and I, him in his brown polo shirt and with his arm around me, racing around a Disney-made mountain and smiling and laughing like we didn’t know how to stop.

Now, my Disney memories are made with The Dude, something I love and would never change.  Still, a part of me will always miss being there with my grandfather; I miss seeing that wonder in his eyes as he sees a new show or rides a new ride. Even now, when I go on Soarin’ or see Enchanted Tales with Belle, I think about how much he would have loved it.

My Pappy is still very much alive, but our days of Disney travelling are, I think, done. But, that memory of laughter and safety and joy never will be. Whenever I go on Thunder Mountain or hum the Tiki Room song, I’ll remember all over again.

And, I’ll smile like I don’t know how to stop.

Mmm… BBQ

I love BBQ. I love the smell of the meats and veggies cooking (on the grill or in the smoker) and the sauces simmering. I love how tender everything is and the distinct, smoky flavor that everything has. I love that you get permission to eat too much coleslaw or potato salad or corn on the cob and that there’s usually watermelon for dessert.


Ribs, beans, and coleslaw from the Firehouse BBQ truck at the Bands and BBQ Fall Festival in Celebration, FL.

I also really love how casual BBQ is, how unpretentious. You’re encouraged to eat with your hands and don’t have to bother with many utensils (and, that the plates are usually paper or plastic which means little clean-up). I like being able to get messy while I eat.

Now, I know that May is National BBQ Month, but it’s not until June that I really start craving it. In June, the semester has been over for a few weeks and all of the end-of-the-year craziness is behind us. We haven’t really started gearing up for the next year yet, so it’s just a bit quieter and more relaxed. The days are long and mild and all you want to do is eat outside. It’s the perfect time to drop pretension and just dig in.


I love ribs.

This picture is from October 2013. The Dude and I went to Disney and took a long enough trip that we ended up spending an afternoon in Celebration, FL. I absolutely loved the town; it was quaint and quiet and lovely, but still seemed to have a nice array of things to do. Plus, it’s minutes away from Disney World! As luck would have it, we visited on the day of their Bands & BBQ Fall Festival. It was an absolutely perfect (if sweltering) afternoon. We walked around a new town (one that I could see myself living in), ate really great ribs, beans, and corn, and had ice cream for dessert.

I kind of want to have that day right now, don’t you?

England with a Side of Mickey

Prompt: (This is from a few days ago and I’m choosing places, not cites. Rebellion, here I come!) If you could split your time evenly between two places, and two places only, which would these be?

This is an easy one for me: If I could, I’d want to split my time between England and Disney World. Between both, I have almost everything I want: delicious food, culture, sunny skies, gentle rains, and sandy beaches.


The Dude whispering in my ear.

Disney is still one of my favorite places; I’m always planning my next trip – even if the planning is only in my head! I love seeing the Castle again for the first time and I love hearing the entrance music as I walk into Epcot. I love how much attention is paid to even the tiniest detail and how it’s almost preternaturally clean. I love the characters and the laughter and that anyone can spontaneously burst into song. I love the magic.


The cliffs of Tintagel.


Fallen steps near the cave of Merlin


When The Dude and I went to England in 2012, my immediate feeling was one of belonging, of coming home. Sure, parts of it are big, bustling, and expensive, but other parts are lovely and quaint and just breathtaking. I love the history and tradition that is just part of the landscape. I love the diversity of people and places (and foods!) and I love the convention of afternoon tea. Sitting on the cliffs in Tintagel and frolicking in and around Merlin’s Cave made for an almost perfect day.

Things I Miss in Disney, Part 1: Residential Street

I love Disney. I’m not quite as obsessive as some (for example, I absolutely want to go to other places on my vacations), but I’m almost always planning my next trip or at least dreaming about planning it. One of the things I love so much about Disney is that it’s always changing, always evolving. The downside of that is some of the things that I really love go away or change into something unrecognizable.

“Picture it…”

– Sophia Petrillo, The Golden Girls

One of the things that has gone away is Residential Street in Hollywood Studios (the park formerly known as Disney MGM Studios). Visible during the Backlot Tour, the street was really just a bunch of facades that were used in a variety of television shows, commercials, and movies. My favorite house? The one from The Golden Girls! It was always the highlight of the tour for me. Just thinking about makes me want to cut a big piece of cheesecake and hear stories about St. Olaf and Sicily.