The Vacation Kingdom of the World: What Will You Celebrate?by Tom Richards, contributing writer
In 2011, the Marketeers at Disney dreamt up a catchy promotional theme for Walt Disney World: What Will You Celebrate? While I am generally immune to the marketing machinations of the Disney empire, this particular concept resonated with me. The idea of commemorating both big and small milestones at Walt Disney World is very appealing. In my own family, we have marked milestone birthdays at Disneyland and celebrated anniversaries at Walt Disney World. Sometimes, we have even returned to Walt Disney World after particularly trying times to relax, regroup, and restore.
One popular way of celebrating at Walt Disney World is to let everyone around you know what you are celebrating. How? Disney typically provides free buttons marking everything from birthdays and anniversaries to first-time visits. Generally, these are available at each Disney resort; just ask at the front desk and someone will undoubtedly find one for you. Additionally, most Guest Service locations in the park offer these buttons as well. City Hall at the Magic Kingdom or Guest Relations at Epcot are good place to check.
When wearing one of these buttons, be prepared for cast members and fellow guests to acknowledge your big day. You might be subjected to extra attention at Disney dinging locations or live shows as well.
To really call attention to yourself, consider stopping by one of the ubiquitous Disney shops to purchase special "ears" to mark the occasion. Popular choices are the huge birthday cake hat (complete with candles and drippy frosting) and the always-stylish Mickey and Minnie bride and groom ears. For many guests, the added attention and well wishes make their visit memorable in a unique way.
While dining around the Walt Disney World Resort, you might also enhance your "big day" or important event by mentioning the occasion to your server. Many locations offer special table decorations or a very loud, very public recognition of your event that may or may not involve singing and clapping.
If you are like me, you may not want that extra attention from fellow guests or the extra fuss Cast Members typically make for guests wearing those celebratory buttons, For guests who prefer quieter celebrations with their immediate family and friends, Walt Disney World offers many opportunities for making those special days even more special.
Here are just a few of the "little extras" to consider when planning a celebration at the Walt Disney World Resort:
One way to mark special events is by giving personalized or dated gifts. These may be relatively affordable or very lavish, depending on your tastes and budget. For example. the often-overlooked silhouette artists do beautiful work. You can typically find artists at the Magic Kingdom in two locations: in Liberty Square (right across the bridge near the Christmas shop) and on Main Street U.S.A. (in the cul-de-sac between Uptown Jewelers and the Market House). Artists are also located in the France Pavilion in Epcot Center's World Showcase just outside of Chefs de France on the shores of the World Showcase Lagoon. At the Disney Village Marketplace portion of Downtown Disney, silhouette artists are often located near the Disney's Pin Traders shop across from Once Upon a Toy.
According to the Official Disney Parks Blog, "Silhouettes are $9 each (two copies, in opposite directions), and if you're looking to make it into a gift, then have it framed while you wait." Frames are usually priced around $12, so the entire purchase is very reasonably priced. Artists can create single silhouettes or group silhouettes, and the quality, the artistry, and the sentimental value of theses little "pieces of time" make for truly memorable gifts and mementos.
Another popular choice for personalization can be found at the many Christmas-themed shops located throughout the resort. You can purchase personalized ornaments at Disney's Days of Christmas (Disney Village Marketplace), Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe (at the Magic Kingdom's Liberty Square), It's a Wonderful Shop (at Disney's Hollywood Studios), or at several World Showcase locations throughout Epcot. Prices range from very reasonable to extravagant, and ornaments range from cute to classy. Consider adding names and dates to commemorate that very special visit.
Flowers and Party Themes
Custom-designed floral arrangements are also viable to order through Disney Florist and Gifts of Lake Buena Vista. Prices range from $59 to well over $100. There are birthday arrangements as well as the traditional dozen roses. The contact number is 407-WDW-GIFT (407-939-4438). Balloon arrangements, personalized signs, and personalized gift packages are also available through this number.
If you would rather celebrate your event in the privacy of your resort hotel room, Disney offers packages of party-themed plates, cups, napkins, decorations, and cakes suitable for every age group. There are pirate- and princess-themed packages, Cars- and Toy Story-inspired packages, romantic packages for grown-up princesses, and even a beer party-themed package for that big kid in your family. Prices range from a modest $36 to well in the $100 range. Contact 407-WDW-GIFT (407-939-4438), or visit DisneyFlorist.com for more information and pricing.
Nothing says "Happy Birthday" like a personalized birthday cake. The party planners at the Walt Disney World Resort offer two options: in-room delivery or table-service dining location delivery. There are a plethora of choices, from modest round cakes to extravagant creations featuring favorite Disney characters, special candles, flowers, and packages that may include themed gifts and decorations.
You can also have your custom cake delivered to most table-service restaurants located throughout the parks and resorts at Walt Disney World. If you are the plan-ahead type, you can order in advance. According to the official Disney World website:
A custom cake can be the icing on your celebration. Choose from a variety of cakes and shapes, personalized for your special occasion. Just give us 48 hours advance notice so we can make your customized creation. To order any custom bakery cake, call the Walt Disney World Resort at (407) 827-2253. Requires advanced reservations.
If you are less likely to plan ahead, you can still make the special occasion even more special by ordering a cake on the spot at most table service restaurants. Again, the official Disney World website provides some helpful advice: "Be spontaneous! Have an instant celebration with our 6-inch cake—available in both chocolate and vanilla. No notice is necessary; you can order upon arrival at most of our table-service restaurants."
What Will You Celebrate?
There's no denying the emotional connection that many of us feel for Walt Disney World. This connection makes celebrating life's milestones—both big and small—at this special place very appealing for many guests. With a little pre-planning or a little spontaneity, it is relatively simple to add that extra special touch to your next Disney vacation with personalized gifts, flowers, or cakes.
Because we're talking about Disney, however, these suggestions are really just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Please watch for future columns offering suggestions for planning special experiences suitable for youngsters as well as the young at heart.