Please welcome back guest poster Eric K., who is excited to share the second half of his post about his first trip to Disney as an adult without children (and why he now finally understands us Disney Adults!):
I recently asked my 9-year-old son what he wanted to be when he grew up. While I was certainly curious to know what types of goals and dreams he has for himself, I was also selfishly hoping his answer would help me figure out what I wanted to do with my own life! I mean, I’m only 42…I have plenty of time to figure this out, right?
Well, my 9-year-old self would have answered that question without hesitation and with the utmost confidence. I wanted to play Second Base for the Chicago Cubs (once Ryne Sandburg retired, obviously) and be the starting Quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles and win the Super Bowl.
When my son responded to my question with a surprisingly similar answer (he wants to play professional basketball, professional soccer, and work at Dominos), I seized the opportunity to ask the best follow-up question in the history of questions – “Why?” Unfortunately, I am still waiting for my son to provide a more thoughtful answer because I know he can do better than “I don’t know, just because!”
Well, if my Dad had asked me the “why” question way back in the late 1980s – “Eric, why do you want to be a professional football player?” – I know my response would have knocked his socks off. I would look him square in his eyes and recite the exact moment in time when I made this decision for my future. It happened on January 22, 1989, after the San Francisco 49ers won the Super Bowl. The specific moment itself has since become somewhat of a post-championship tradition, but my 8-year-old self will never forget watching and listening to Joe Montana running off the field as a World Champion telling the world he was going to Disneyland.
In hindsight, I think this moment stuck with me because, more than anything else, I just really wanted to go to Disneyland. At the time I probably figured I had a better chance of making this a reality by winning the Super Bowl compared to the impossible task of selling my Mom and Dad on this idea to travel to California for our next family vacation.
I know I know, all of this begs the question that I hope everyone is asking themselves – “Eric, what in the world does any of this have to do with the reason you’re even here to begin with…to publish the second half of your VADWAACAWNK review??” Follow me here…
I am so excited to share that I recently came home from my first-ever trip to Disneyland! Even though it took me over 40 years to get there, it was worth the wait. And since I am really enjoying this whole blogging thing, I want to write another post about my time at Disneyland. However, I can’t start writing about Disneyland until I finish my writing about Disneyworld. That would be silly.
So without further ado, I am very excited to provide Part 2 of my VAKWAACAWNK review which will highlight my favorite dining experiences, a 1920s themed New Year’s Eve celebration, and finally, the primary reason this trip was booked to begin with: my experiences during Marathon Weekend and the completion of my first ever 10K.
Delicious Disney Dining
In my humble opinion, any piece of writing that is worth my time and energy should have something to do with food. And since I will naively assume that everyone currently reading this is the same way, or perhaps you’re just hungry, I cannot think of a more fitting experience to discuss first…Delicious Disney Dining (off the record, I want to call this my Triple D review but the thought of Guy Fierei taking out his copyright revenge on me just isn’t worth the risk). Hashtagfoodnetworkreference.
As a Disney Dining Newbie, one of my most pleasant surprises throughout my trip was the quality of all of my dining experiences. In the back of my mind, and due to a complete lack of personal research on the subject, I assumed that most dining options would be set up as a buffet style/all-you-can-eat extravaganza offering the world’s best chicken fingers and mac and cheese. I’m not saying these places would be the worst option in a pinch, but now that I’ve been able to experience meals at Sanaa, Tiffins, Topolinos, and my personal crem de la crem, Space 2020, I’ve kind of turned into a Food Snob…and I’m not ashamed to admit it.
I’m not sure if what I am about to say is an official Disney policy (but someone should probably suggest this to the Powers that Be), but the Bread Service from Sanaa should be a required part of your dining experience at this restaurant. By providing 5 different varieties of bread and 9 dipping sauces, I was able to enjoy a wide range of flavors and textures that were almost all very unique to me. Unique but oh so delicious!
While the bread service was the star of the show that day, the runner-up was easily the theme and ambiance which made me feel like I was on Safari. Needless to say, this is an experience that you can’t find anywhere else except for Animal Kingdom/Animal Kingdom Lodge.
With my overall dining expectations now at a much higher level, I was eager to see what Tiffins had to offer.
Before I get ahead of myself, I will confess that up until that meal I had no idea that a Tiffin is an actual “thing.” I was admittedly a little too excited to learn something new that I’ll probably never bring up in conversation ever again. Oh well!
Since my dining experience that afternoon set me on a path of new discoveries, I also learned about something called Butter Chicken. While I may have been the only person on the planet at that point who had never heard of this dish before, my shame and embarrassment melted away with each and every delicious bite. It ended up being my favorite dish of my entire trip. If you dine at Tiffins, get the Butter Chicken – no questions asked.
Then it was time to fancy it up a bit more with a dinner reservation at Topolino’s Terrace. Within seconds of walking into the dining area, the nearly 360-degree view over the theme parks gave me a verbal “wow” moment. Even though the timing of our reservation didn’t quite align with the sunset that day, the view from our table and our overall dining experience was top-notch.
We returned to Topolino’s a few days later for a Character Brunch featuring art-inspired costumes and enough Mimosas to set a joyful mood for the rest of the day.
In the spirit of ‘saving the best for last,’ I can now talk about the one reservation I was looking forward to more than all of the rest…combined. A reservation where I set the bar so high in my mind and had such unrealistic expectations that I was convinced I’d walk away a little disappointed. But Space 220 completely blew my mind and was everything I had hoped for – and a lot more. The atmosphere itself was unlike anything I had ever experienced before in my life. True to Disney form, the dining experience started before ever stepping foot inside the restaurant. To get to our table, we had to first collect our tickets for the 220-mile elevator ride up into space. This experience was so well done and more realistic than I could have imagined. There may still be a part of me that wouldn’t be surprised if we actually did make it outside the atmosphere for a couple of hours.
Once inside the restaurant, the theming and ambiance is nothing short of spectacular. The dining room is perfectly set up so all guests can enjoy a panoramic view of the Earth, various sections of the space station, spaceships, and astronauts working away, and I’m pretty sure I even saw an orbiting dog (possibly Cosmo the Space Dog) at one point.
Even though the ambiance was the star of the show (pun intended), the overall service and the spaced-themed cocktails came in a very close second place. What can I say, Space 220 was an out-of-this-world experience (sorry, I couldn’t help myself!)
It’s probably hard to imagine having enough time in the day to fit more into my VADWAACAWNK itinerary. Fortunately, with the help of an expert travel agent, we found enough time to squeeze in two more experiences. In the spirit of saving the ‘best for last,’ I’m excited to talk about spending New Year’s Eve 2022 at the Edison and then attempting my first ever 10K.
New Year’s Eve at The Edison
I feel like it’s a lot safer to blame my lack of excitement for New Year’s Eve on my age. And that’s partially true because I am technically middle-aged now. Yuck. But for several other reasons, NYE has never been one of my favorite holidays. As someone who would traditionally ring in the new year with Dick Clark on TV (I told you I was old), I truly did not know what to even expect when the reservation was booked for a full-blown 1920’s themed extravaganza at the Edison to close out 2022.
I could easily write up a full blog post on this single experience alone because there are so many memorable things to talk about. The nostalgic building, the bootlegging/prohibition ambiance, countless Flappers dancing from wall to wall, an equal amount of Jay Gatsby look-alikes, the authentic Jazz Age music and cocktail menu, and celebrating the start of 2023 with a burlesque trio, stilt walkers, aerialists, and free champagne.
As I sit here now thinking back on all of these incredible memories, I’ve realized that there just aren’t the right words or pictures or stories to share that will accurately communicate this truly once-in-a-lifetime experience. The best I can do is leave you with this simple recommendation – spending NYE at the Edison may just be the perfect place for auld lang syne.
Disney World 10k
With 2023 now in full swing and with my VADAACAWNK coming to an end, it was time to shift gears and focus on the daunting task ahead of me…finishing my first-ever 10K race. Before I get to the actual details of my runDisney experience, some context is needed. For about 40 years of my life, the idea of running for fun felt equivalent to a root canal procedure for me. I just never enjoyed it, I was never really good at it, and because I’m such a huge sissy overall, I never liked how it made me feel.
Then fate played a funny trick on me. About 2 years ago, I became friends with a runner. A really good runner. As our friendship grew, and with her encouragement and motivation, I began to see running in a different light. I started running on a semi-regular basis, which quickly brought about some very tangible health benefits. It wasn’t long before I found enough courage to run with other people who were all much more experienced. But I saw myself getting better. And stronger. And faster. Before long, I started running in formal 5K races…at the beginning just praying that I would finish, but eventually being able to finish with better and better times.
When it was first suggested that I sign up for my first ever runDisney Marathon Weekend, I had mixed feelings. My initial reaction was doubt…was I really ready to participate in a ‘real’ race? To me, this was Big Time and the entire scope of the race weekend itself was very intimidating. Was I physically and mentally ready to push myself and run 6.2 miles? At the time this distance was further than I had ever run in one shot in my entire life.
In hindsight, I think it’s pretty funny acknowledging the little things that helped me change my mind about this race. At first, it was the fact that the theme for the weekend was right in my wheelhouse… 1990s characters, including many of my favorites from my youth. Ducktails, Toy Story, Rescue Rangers, and Darkwing Duck – just to name a few. Okay, I’m starting to get interested.
Then I found out how people actually dress up in character costumes for the races. Like really dress up. And as a general rule for my life, I will never pass up an opportunity to dress up in a costume…the more outrageous the better. At this point, I was basically fully convinced that I would actually enjoy this experience, even if I had to run a few miles.
Before I knew it, I was walking towards the start of the race. It was the middle of the night, and I was dressed from head to toe as Ken (including the ascot) with Barbie right by my side. The challenge of maneuvering through the cattle shoot of people was daunting in itself but proved to be an effective warmup for the course. And honestly, I couldn’t let go of the thought that running with an ascot tied around my neck was just a bad idea.
And then, an hour or so later, it happened. With my arms up in the air and with Barbie by my side, I crossed the finish line and felt an incredible sense of accomplishment that will stay with me for a long time. Yes, I was certainly proud of myself for making it across the finish line in one piece. I will admit there were times during the race I wasn’t so sure how far I’d make it. But then the genius of Disney made itself known with their perfect placement of the Ducktales character stop. After taking a quick break for a picture, I pressed on to the finish with a surge of energy and confidence…and a song in my head. It turns out the Ducktales theme song is the perfect distraction when you feel like you have nothing left. Miraculously, I didn’t give another single thought to how tired I felt, how sore I was, or how many miles were left. Instead, I pressed on and finally crossed the finish line singing at the top of my lungs – “Ducktales – WOO OHH!”
Now that my first ever VADWAACAWNK is in the rearview mirror, I am setting my sights ahead to many more new Disney experiences. As I mentioned earlier, I have already enjoyed my first-ever VADLAACAWNK vacation. I have a feeling that a blog post on that experience will happen soon. Perhaps I’ll even find myself on a Disney cruise someday. Yes, you guessed it. A VOADCAACAWNK. No matter where my future Disney experiences take me, I can confidently say that I finally ‘get it.’ And I’m so glad I do! Until next time…
We’d love to hear your thoughts on Eric’s vacation and his experience with dining and special events! Do you wish more people would have experiences like this so they can start understanding Disney Adults?