This article won a Silver prize at the 2010 NATJA Awards in Category 128: Intergenerational and Family Travel
While almost every dad considers his little girl to be a princess, many don’t realize that they can actually make this dream come true…at least for day. I found this out for myself at a recent trip to Walt Disney World (WDW) with my very own little princess, eight-year-old Ariana.
Poring over The Unofficial Guide to Disney World before our trip, I discovered that a salon located in The Magic Kingdom’s Cinderella Castle could actually transform my little rug rat into a princess (albeit for a somewhat princely sum!) The uniquely dubbed Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique provides dresses, shoes, tiaras and scepters as well as hairstyling, make-up/manicure and even a portrait shoot as part of one package. I was sold!
Of course what’s the point of being a princess if you can’t go to a royal ball…or at least dine with royalty? Coincidentally, just across from the boutique is Cinderella’s Royal Table. This restaurant, located on the second floor of Cinderella’s Castle, offers meals in an authentic medieval banquet hall, with most Disney princesses in attendance. With about an hour-and-a-half required for the princess makeover, I scheduled our meal accordingly. Disney doesn’t offer this as one package, but they should.
I scheduled our vacation for the end of January, to take advantage of the small crowds and short line-ups at Disney World this time of year. Doing a little research I was able to book a week at WDW’s Coronado Springs Resort, a Mexican/Southwestern U.S. themed hotel that caters mostly to conventions. I took advantage of a special rate that offered accommodation, meal plan and park tickets free for three days if you paid for four.
You’ll see lots of advertising about WDW’s Vacation Club being “Disney’s best kept secret”, but the Coronado Springs Resort really is their best kept secret. The Mayan themed pool with a full sized pyramid and great water slide is awesome for kids. Best of all, being aimed mainly at conventioneers the pools and the theme park buses are rarely crowded. The hotel’s Pepper Market Restaurant, one of WDW’s best casual eateries, was usually three-quarters empty as long as you avoided the specific hours the convention-goers dined.
For guests’ entertainment Disney World has four theme parks available. The Animal Kingdom features authentic African and Asian ambiance with Bengal tigers, Komodo dragons, white and black rhinos, mountain gorillas and loads of other animals. Its “Expedition Everest” roller coaster and “Dinosaur” thrill rides keep kids (and adults) on the edge of their seats.
Disney Hollywood is the home for lots of Hollywood glitz including stunt shows, a chance to be an American Idol contestant and the opportunity to be accelerated from 0 to 100 kph in less than two seconds aboard the “Rock and Roller Coaster”. If the latter doesn’t curl your hair, the “Twilight Zone Tower of Terror” surely will. The evening’s “Fantasmic” spectacle is arguably Disney’s best show.
EPCOT Center can launch you to Mars on its “Mission Space” attraction or give you a like-real hang gliding experience aboard “Soarin”. Afterwards you can tour eleven different countries at the World Showcase.
The Magic Kingdom remains my favorite, though. Its old-fashioned Main Street, the soaring spires of its fairy tale castle and the abundance of traditional Disney characters transports me back to my own childhood. In fact, given that Disney has been a going concern since the 1930’s there aren’t too many people alive who can’t make the same claim.
The morning of Ariana’s princess makeover was greeted by a flash rain shower. In typical Florida fashion this cleared quickly by the time we’d finished breakfast (Mickey Mouse shaped waffles!) and grabbed a bus for the Magic Kingdom. We wended our way up Main Street, USA toward the castle and around back to the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique.
Appropriately, Cinderella’s fairy godmother was standing out front. Entering the boutique, Ari and I encountered a hoard of little girls in various stages of transformation. We were greeted by “apprentice” fairy godmother, Jessica, who helped Ariana choose an appropriate dress, magic slippers, tiara and scepter. My little princess chose to dress herself as Belle, the “beauty” half of “Beauty and the Beast” (guess who was labeled the “beast” for the rest of the day!)
After donning her royal garments, Jessica led Ariana into the “beauty” parlor where “apprentice” fairy godmother, Desiree proceeded for almost an hour to style her hair, apply make-up and manicure my daughter’s nails to perfection. I almost didn’t recognize my own offspring!
Sparkling with near perfection, Ariana bid adieu to her beneficent fairy godmothers and we ventured across the corridor to our next stop, Cinderella’s Royal Table. I was always curious to see what the inside of Cinderella’s Castle looked like, and was not disappointed. Entering a huge Gothic hallway, sporting suits of armor and a large fireplace, Cinderella herself formally greeted each guest.
Next we ascended to the second floor to the medieval banqueting hall with high ceilings, groined vaults and stained glass windows. Serving wenches and valets provided ample food and drink. Ariana and I chose to indulge in the Major Domo’s Favorite Pie, consisting of beef in Cabernet sauce, puffed pastry and mashed potatoes.
As we supped, various Disney princesses moved from table to table greeting guests. Among our visitors were Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Princess Jasmine and Belle (the latter causing Ariana a momentary identity crisis).
After lunch we departed for a tour of the Kingdom. As an added bonus, virtually every Disney employee greeted my daughter with a smile, saying “Hello, Princess”. The Disney characters all bowed and made fuss over my princess (except for Cinderella’s ugly stepsisters and stepmother, who put on a show of appearing quite indignant when they met Ariana during the afternoon parade)
Final verdict? My daughter was thrilled with her experience and so was I. We would share memories that would last a lifetime.
IF YOU GO…
For general information:: www.disney.ca
Reservations as Cinderella’s Royal Table: call 407-939-3463
Reservations for Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique: 407-WDW-STYLE
Note: Reservations can be hard to obtain, especially at more popular times for the park such as summer vacation, Christmas holidays and March break. To avoid disappointment call and make your booking 3-6 months in advance.
Disney World’s Coronado Springs Resort © George Burden
Cinderella’s Royal Table in Cinderella’s Castle © George Burden
Mad Hatter’s Tea Party Ride © George Burden
This article was previously published in the April 6, 2010 issue of The Medical Post.