A week ago, I was in California with pixie dust flying all over the place. I was invited to attend the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration this year where I paid my own conference fees and received gifts during the conference. (All opinions, experiences and thoughts are my own.) We had never been to Disneyland before, and my entire family – including the wee ones and my parents – were beyond excited to experience the magic across the country from our usual haunts.
In previous years, the event has been held in Orlando at Disney World, and I was so excited to head to California for Disneyland, as I’d never been there before. We stayed onsite at the Disneyland Hotel, which is walking distance from both the Disneyland park and California Adventures through Downtown Disney, although there is also a monorail close to the hotel that will take you into Tomorrowland at Disneyland.
To me, the celebration – not a conference, but a celebration – is one that not only makes amazing family memories but is incredibly inspiring to all those who attend. It’s more than just meeting the iconic characters we’ve all grown up loving and riding the rides. It’s about the new friends that you make while there, the magic of Disney, and the appreciation you develop for all that goes into making Disney the magical place that it is.
From the moment we arrived at the celebration, we were made to feel as though we had stepped into the world of Disney where our cares from home – including the 30 degree weather – were left far behind. Goofy was there to meet us in the lobby, and the wee ones were entranced. Yes, Goofy and I flirted. Just a little.
Even at registration we were magically incorporated onto a magazine cover thanks to ESPN Gameday Photos (their photo credit below). Even just this photo will be blown up and framed to remind all of us of the joy we experienced.
Though this was a celebration, there were incredibly inspiring conference sessions for me to attend, as well. The wee ones – and my parents, thank goodness DisneySMMoms allows us to bring along family members – enjoyed the parks while I was learning, and I loved hearing all about their adventures. In the meantime, the lineup of speakers was such a neat mix of informational and inspirational, and I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to listen to them.
Whether we were listening to an imagineer talk about how lands are developed and created or some of the genius behind Pixar sharing how they work with the parks to bring the movies to life, my eyes were opened to the level of detail involved in making Disneyland such a special place. I have so much more to say about all of this – and it honestly deserves its own post – but just keep this in mind: when Disney was opening Carsland, a week before it opened, they did a walk through and realized that the paint on Lightning McQueen was a touch too orange. Rather than deciding it was good enough, they scraped it all off and started over. Even at that late date, everything had to be perfect with brand new (correct) paint and decals.
There were incredibly inspiring speakers, too. I loved hearing from Donald Driver as he shared with us so much of what he’s been doing outside his storied football career. I loved his messages about never letting anyone getting you down and always having faith in yourself. I loved the reminders not to blog just to get attention but to have a purpose. It’s so easy to get lost in the daily grind, but the stories Donald Driver shared with us were funny and touching, and always came back to the central message of staying true to yourself and following your dream.
Maxine Clark the Chief Executive Bear from Build-A-Bear Workshop inspired us, as well. She spends much of her time now working on her foundation assisting women entrepreneurs – including the founder of GoldieBlox, interestingly! She embraced her mistakes and turned them as a way to move forward, and that’s a message she wants to get across to all of us, too.
It was more than the “lessons” we were given, however. With those in hand, I feel like I was able to experience the magic of Disney that much more fully, whether it was the screening of the Disney Nature movie Bears (review to come!) or playing in the parks or the special events Disney put on for us. And having those special events is such a special bonding time for our families, too.
We absolutely loved the ho-down where the wee ones had an absolute blast not just trying new foods (and I was so proud of them for trying only foods from the “adult” buffet and not even going near the kid foods) but also for their excitement in helping me to find the Mickey check marks, which was part of a scavenger hunt that night. As tired as the wee ones were – we had to wake up at 5:30am for our flight and dinner started at 7pm California time – they did a great job holding it together and enjoying the evening. Mister Man, in fact, was the one who directed me to the very last Mickey Mouse check mark, and I credit him with my luck in winning the drawing of those who completed the scavenger hunt that night.
The Mickey Check? This is an initiative by Disney where they have revamped some of their menu items, in particular kid menu items. These items meet the Disney Nutrition Guidelines, which match to the US Dietary Guidelines for Americans. They have fewer calories and lower sodium content, sugar, saturated fat, and the like. You can find these menu items throughout the Disney parks on both coasts, and now you will start to find these same Mickey Checks in your grocery store on selected items.
We also had parts of the park to ourselves on Saturday evening and Sunday morning, something that is so beyond special. Sharing it with the other Social Media Mom attendees and our families was an amazing experience. (Have I used the word “amazing” enough yet?) Wandering Toon Town on Saturday night and riding the rides there – plus Matterhorn just outside it – kept the wee ones entertained. They literally ran up to the entrance of the Go Go Gadget Coaster every time their ride ended. Seeing them go on a ride by themselves with no adult broke my heart just a little bit, but Disneyland is a safe place to allow children to grow and stretch their wings.
I got to stretch my wings, too. Although I did the C25K program years ago, I haven’t run a race since then. The Disney fun run is one that I couldn’t miss, however. It was “just” two miles, so it was definitely accessible, and I loved that there was a running group and a run/walk group so that no one was left behind. The cast members throughout the park cheered us on with huge smiles and high fives – and Mickey hands. I felt such joy running, and the wee ones were there at the finish line. Having them see me accomplish this is a lesson that will stick with them, I hope. No matter what, you can do it. Choose your dream, and stick with it.
And that, my friends, that is what the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration is all about.
Need more of a Disney fix? Check out my other posts from the 2014 Disney Social Media Moms Celebration
What I learned from the Disney Fun Run (and Costumes!)
DisneyNature Bears Movie Review
Why I can’t wait to see Maleficent (in theaters May 30)
A lesson to be inspired by your typos, thanks to Disney’s Gary Buchanan