My Disney Lessons

by: Erica Ehm

Who would have imagined a 37-year-old theme park would still blow the minds of two slightly cynical adults and two over-stimulated kids? I just came back from a five day whirlwind vacation at Disneyworld in Florida with my husband and kids. My head is still spinning, and it's not from going on too many rides.

Here's some yummy stuff I learned during my amazing Disney Family Getaway:

Africa is a Bus Ride Away
The smartest thing we did was stay at the posh Animal Kingdom Lodge. Aside from the impeccable Disney service with a smile, we enjoyed a ton of benefits. First, our African inspired resort encircled an area where zebras, giraffes and other wildlife roamed which we could see from our hotel room. Free transportation to anywhere in the Magic Kingdom was a breeze with an efficient army of buses to drop us at our next adventure. When we shopped at the parks (boy| did we shop!), our packages were delivered to our hotel - no extra bags to carry. We lounged at the pool when we needed a break from the Disney magic, (my kids went nuts for the slide). And when Mummy and Daddy needed to relax, we dropped Thing one and Thing two at Simba's Clubhouse.

I Can Fly
Day one at Magic Kingdom we began to suspend our disbelief and allowed ourselves to fly. We loved Peter Pan's Flight and Aladdin's Magic Carpet ride. Then, in Epcot, one of our favourite attractions was Soarin'. Using simulators and amazing cinematography, you actually feel like you're flying across California. Spectacular!

Fairy Princesses are from Norway
I thought Epcot was for adults. I was wrong. We started at the Canada Pavilion to check out the new tourism movie starring Martin Short. At the exit, kids were invited to design face masks and have them stamped at each country. My kids were on a mission. We managed to visit seven countries before our dinner reservations in Norway. We spent an entire day there and couldn't see it all.

No matter what you've read in fairytales, we learned that princesses roam castles in the Norway Pavilion for a Storybook Dinner. While being served a three course royal meal, Cinderella, Snow White, Belle, and Ariel visited our tables to chat and take photos. My daughter was shrieking with excitement. My son swooned when Princess Jasmine planted a kiss on his cheek. Definitely a holiday highlight.

Tortoises can live up to 50 Years...
...and flamingos are pink because of all the shrimp they eat. Just a couple of tidbits we picked up at Animal Kingdom Park. Disney has a brilliant way of passing on information in a fun way. We learned about flamingos on the Kilimanjaro Safari ride as we were driven around acres of land that replicates Africa watching real elephants, lions, antelopes, giraffes in their natural habitat. Then, the hilarious 3D movie It's Tough to be a Bug was a blast - we were screaming and laughing with surprise.

Indiana Jones is a Hunk!
Hollywood Studios park was fantastic. My husband was chosen to be an extra in the Indiana Jones Stunt Show so he had an extra close look at how all the stunts from the movie were done. But what he really wanted to be a part of was the Lights, Camera, Action Show - a testosterone filled thrill-fest filled with amazing race car and motorcycle extreme driving and lots of big explosions.

Superheroes are real at Disney
It's weird. Something happens to people at Disney. They get...nicer! We spent the evening at Downtown Disney. Someone tapped my husband on his back. "Excuse me, did you drop this?" she asked. It was a hundred dollar bill that had slipped out of his back pocket! Other similar experiences: I lost my camera and it was returned to the Lost and Found, and my husband lost his sunglasses which were also returned.

Twenty Minutes is Ten Minutes
Get ready to wait in line for the attractions. Each ride has a stand by time posted, which advises how long you'll be stuck in a line. Here's the good news. We found that wait times are usually over-estimated. So, cut the time in half. If the wait is exceedingly long, we'd look for a FastPass kiosk and come back to that ride an hour later and be waltzed right in with our FastPass.

Pashminas Are Multi-tasking
The weather in Orlando is unpredictable. Evenings can be cool. Plus, there's lots of air conditioning. The smartest things I packed were pashminas. They stuff nicely into my backpack, I would throw one on when chilly, my kids could wrap themselves in one and it doubles nicely as a blanket.

It's Ok to Lie When Eating
Disney dining was surprisingly yummy!! I'd made reservations in advance, so eating was a breeze. No line ups. The chef always visited our table to advise us on what my allergic daughter could eat. And kudos to the Disney chefs for making kiddie meals that aren't all deep fried! What more could a mummy ask for?

And in true Disney style, eating is a blast. There are a ton of themed eateries. We lunched with Pooh and his friends at the Crystal Palace in the Magic Kingdom. The buffet was delicious| but the kids barely touched their food, choosing instead to run after Piglet and Eyeore. At Disney's Hollywood Studio, we dined at the Sci-fi Drive-In where we watched old alien flicks in a retro car while chomping on scrumptious sandwiches.

But our fave meal was at Whispering Canyon Café in the Wilderness Resort. We ordered all you can eat chick'n ribs, beans, taters and corn on the cob. My husband was in culinary heaven. The place was a madhouse, all the servers encouraging us to misbehave and have fun. So, we lied to our waiter Smoking Sam and said it was Josh's 7th birthday. The staff warbled happy birthday to him and then ate the cake right in front of him before he had a chance to have a bite! Everyone in the restaurant was in hysterics!

Kids can grow up overnight
Unlike Peter Pan, my kids grew up a little at Disney. They stopped whining and started listening. They grew brave after facing scary rides like Star Wars and Pirates of the Caribbean. They learned how to budget with the $30 they were given to spend on toys. I think they even got taller.

Walt Disney Discovered the Fountain of Youth
It took a couple of days, but by the third day both my husband and I had become Mr. And Mrs. Goofy. We whooped with delight during the rides, ate Mickey Mouse ice creams without a care and relaxed as our city-hardened hearts melted from the Disney Magic. We felt like kids. Warning! Magic wears off quickly once you get home. If only they could bottle it to take with you....


Erica Ehm has gone from rock'n roll to rocking the cradle. After a decade starring on MuchMusic, she had kids and is the founder of and the Ehm & Co, a digital agency focused on moms. Erica's two teens Josh and Jessie, and hubby Terry help her put life into perspective.