To me the human element is such an important part of my travels to Disney or anywhere else. Our lives are all woven together in one way or another. Taking the time to pay attention and to soak it all in is something that has taken me years to cultivate. I often spotlight someone I have met in the parks on my Thursday posts. Today, is my first “client spotlight” and I am very happy to introduce you to one of my very special clients, Misty Leininger. Misty is a fellow Disney fan who has enjoyed many Disney trips with her family. She has a special Disney goal to accomplish this coming January. I am cheering her on and, once you have read her story, I hope you will too! Thank you so much for letting me share your story with my readers, Misty!
Tell me about your first visit to Walt Disney World?
I grew up in California so I spent A LOT of time in Disneyland but my first trip to Disney World happened when I was 23 in 1996. My fiancee, Jim, and I were both major Disney nuts and spent all year working to save enough money to go to WDW. We chose to go in August thinking that the water parks would be great and all the summer activities would be in full swing. It poured rain every single afternoon and the heat was stifling but we just bought bright yellow Mickey Mouse ponchos and kept going. On this first trip I fell instantly in love with the World Showcase in Epcot. I dragged Jim back every other day of our trip to try different foods from around the world. While visiting the Magic Kingdom I spent most of our time soaking in the differences between this park and Disneyland. I’m a big enough Disney geek that I wanted to memorize every single detail. The only really glaring difference for me was the lack of our “kissing bench”. In Disneyland there is a shaded and fairly hidden trail that goes from Frontierland to Fantasyland. About midway down this path was a bench tucked under a large tree. Since this was a very secluded spot, on every trip to Disneyland, Jim and I would walk this trail and stop at this bench for a quick kiss. It was such a tradition for us we were excited to find this trail in WDW but alas, no kissing bench, or even a hidden trail in the Magic Kingdom!!!
What is it that you love most about Disney?
Two things actually. First, I have always especially admired the talents of the people who create the Disney magic. The talent of the artists, the innovation and creativity of the imagineers, and the dedication of theme park employees. Secondly, I love Disney in general, but especially being in WDW, because it seems to me that it portrays the world as we all wish it could be. Clean, fair, happy, where every child is royalty. In short, a place where everyone’s dreams come true.
What is it that you love most about Disney World?
I have never been able to give a single answer to this question. I just can’t make up my mind between Epcot (in particular the World Showcase) and the Magic Kingdom. I love the detail in the World Showcase. We always take the time to stop and chat with the cast members about their home countries, take time to see all the performers and eat a new international food each time we go. But I also feel that you can’t beat the magic in the original park, the Magic Kingdom. I still spend all day smiling there and always cry at the evening fireworks.
What is your favorite resort?
It’s a tie between The Pop Century and The Polynesian. I know, I know two very different resorts. I love the Pop Century’s theming. The big Rubik Cube makes me chuckle every time. The Polynesian is just flat out beautiful and it’s on my bucket list to stay there one day.
What is your favorite ride? Show? Fireworks show?
How about a favorite from each park? I don’t think I could chose just one for all of WDW!! In the Magic Kingdom it’s definitely The Haunted Mansion. I am a BIG Haunted Mansion nut. In the Animal Kingdom I love the Kilimanjaro Safari, especially first thing in the morning when the animals are first being released. In Epcot, I really love Soarin. Not only is it a beautiful ride, but it reminds me so much of home. We moved to TN 5 years ago so it’s nice to get those memories of where we both grew up. In the Disney Studios I really enjoy The Muppet Vision 4D. I still laugh every single time.
My favorite show is Fantasmic. But I really enjoy watching the acrobats in the China pavilion in the World Showcase. Favorite fireworks? No contest. The fireworks in the Magic Kingdom.
What is your number one must-do for a new visitor?
This is almost an impossible question to answer. There is so much to do in WDW and it would depend greatly on the personality of the person you are talking to. But I do always tell first time visitors to take time to really look around yourself. No matter where you are the Disney planners have gone out of their way to make every inch of WDW magical. The tiniest details are sometimes the most memorable.
What is your best memory, so far, of Disney?
Hah! Finally, an easy one. When I was 21 my cousin, sister and I all went down to Disneyland for New Year’s Eve. It was insanely crowded but we had all been given hats and horns and the atmosphere was very festive. It seemed like every citizen of the whole world was crammed into the space in front of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. When midnight came something magical happened, all those people starting hugging and shaking hands with everyone around them regardless of whether or not you knew them, or even shared a common language. It’s not something I’ll ever be able to describe in a way that does it justice but it was a wonderful human experience.
What are you most looking forward to about your upcoming visit?
Well, I’ll be coming down in January of 2013 to run the Disney Half Marathon. So I guess I’m looking forward to finally finishing the race I’ve been training so hard for. That and finally getting to sleep in a bit on weekend mornings since I have been getting up at pre-dawn hours to do training runs for awhile. I have quite a few extended family members coming down to cheer me on, also. So I’m looking forward to seeing WDW with so many different people. It can be wonderful to see the reactions of people who are first time guests. Especially all the children. I’m even making us all matching shirts!
Tell me what made you decide to run the marathon this January?
Deciding to run the marathon was a bit of a process. I found out last January that I have small vessel heart disease which of course had me a little worried. I asked my doctor what I needed to do to make sure I was around to see my grandchildren grow up and he told me get skinny and become an athlete. I went home and thought about it for awhile and decided to run a marathon. I figured that if I could make it through that many miles I would have to be in shape so I might as well try for something big. I remembered visiting Disneyland once during a marathon weekend and how fun it all seemed. I knew right away that if I was going to try something this crazy (at least for me, since the only time I have ever run in my life was if I was being chased) I definitely had to do it with Mickey Mouse. I’ve even been online finding those fun running costumes so that I can dress up like Minnie while I run. If I am going to do something so big in my life I definitely want to do it in a place like Disney World. Besides I’ll get to have one of those cool mickey shaped magnets that has 13.1 on it for the back of my car. Actually I might plaster the ENTIRE car with them by the time I’m done.