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By James R. Warda

1.  It truly is the “Happiest Place on Earth.” Whether it’s because Orlando sits in some weird dimensional time shift or the laws of physics are suspended there, it is physically impossible to be somber at Disney World. In fact, even frowning is frowned upon.

2.  The minute you arrive, you become part of a fairy tale. Unfortunately, when you get home, it’s hard to come back to reality. In fact, I’m still trying to convince my boss that I’m King James and have a Princess Daughter. Though it’s not as hard to convince my daughter.

3.  Walt used to love walking through Disneyland in the morning  before anyone else had arrived. When we take advantage of Extra Magic Hours and walk down Main Street in the Magic Kingdom, before the park has officially opened, we know why he did, and what he was probably feeling. 

4.  Watching old B-movies with our kids at the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater. After all, where else can you be harassed by carhops, dunk French fries in your shake, and tell your kids to stop poking each other in the back seat, all while enjoying the nuanced storyline of “The Giant Gila Monster”?

5.  The Kitchen Sink dessert at Beaches and Cream in the Beach Club Resort. Eight scoops of ice cream covered with fudge, fruit, caramel, nuts and candy bars – with an entire can of Whipped Cream on top. But don’t worry; I always ask for a diet drink.

6.  Every time you go to Disney World, something will happen that you’ll remember the rest of your life. On our most recent trip, my nine-year-old daughter forgot her purse – with her cell phone inside – on the monorail, which meant that life as we knew it stopped. After sharing our story with Security, they radioed the train we’d been on, and asked the conductor to drop it off at the next station, so another train could pick it up on the way back. Within half an hour, I was giving Alexandra’s purse back to her. While Disney had given her something even more important – the belief that magic does exist.

7.  Watching my family’s faces as they try the different Coca-Cola products at Club Cool, especially the ones they don’t like. As for me, when I drink “Beverly” from Italy, I end up looking like Yoda. Or Ernest Borgnine.

8.  The Friendship boats that take you between the parks and resorts. In fact, just saying “Friendship” makes you feel good. It’s definitely better than “Acquaintance Flotilla.”

9.  The miniature village and trains in the Germany Pavilion at the World Showcase. I don’t care how old the man, the minute he sees those trains, he becomes seven again. And he doesn’t even want a refund on his adult ticket.

    9-1/2.  Why a half? To remember that you can’t do anything halfway at Disney. You have to commit, like Walt did. After all, he’s the same man who bought a first class train ticket for Hollywood, to try to become a director, after his Laugh-O-Gram company in Kansas City failed. When his wife Lillian was asked later why Walt would buy such an expensive ticket when he had almost no money, she said it was because “he always liked the best way.”* And, all you have to do is ride “Peter Pan’s Flight,” watch “Illuminations,” listen to the detailed “backstory” behind the Tower of Terror, or sit wide-eyed on the Kilimanjaro safari, to realize that Walt’s commitment to perfection endures.

What are your reasons?


*“Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination” by Neal Gabler, pp. 77. (2006, Vintage Books)

Copyright 2010, James R. Warda. All rights reserved. James R. Warda, author of Where Are We Going So Fast?, is a Speaker, Writer and Workshop Presenter on finding meaning in our moments. He has written and spoken for Chicken Soup for the Soul and the Chicago Tribune.

Many of the Dads I know that are heading to Disney World for the first time have that very familiar first timer’s look of fear and worry. Well I’m here to tell ya, you’ve got nothing to worry about. Walt Disney World is the most family friendly tourist attraction on the planet. The saddest stories I hear are when the entire trip just flew by and was so stressful that they couldn’t wait to get home. What a tragedy. In order to prevent the Disney Dad Blues I have compiled a list of my Top Ten Must Do’s For the Disney Dad.

1)      Ride test track. This ride is a blast for the whole family. I would make sure you do this before you do the draft beers from around the world showcase challenge and take it from me take off your hat.(I miss That Hat)

2)      Draft beers from around the World Showcase challenge. I have successfully completed this one twice. Pace yourself if you’re a beginner. Start on the Canada side so you can get your significant other a glass of wine or a Grand Marnier  slushy in France to get her more keen on your Draft Beer endeavor

3)      Illuminations. This is a must for all Disney Dads. Fire, explosions, liquid propane torches, lasers, argh argh argh (Tim Allen groans). Best viewed in my opinion in front of The Japan Pavilion. (Beer tap and bathroom at the top of the little hill, SHHHHH! Don’t tell anyone).

4)      Mission Space (Epcot) – Feel the sensation of blast off with the same technology that NASA uses to prepare their astronauts for flight. In the space vehicle, each person on the four person flight crew is assigned a task to make the mission successful. As your space craft “launches” into space, you feel the G forces push you back as your window to space shows your progress as you race toward the heavens. (Another one to do before the Draft beer challenge).

5)      Expedition Everest (Disney’s Animal Kingdom) Enjoy a scenic train trek to the top of Mount Everest, which is at least until the infamous Yeti changes the plan. As your train emerges from a cave, riders catch a glimpse of the Yeti’s shadow and notice the train track ahead is ripped into two. Unable to proceed, the train starts going backwards, downhill into a dark cave and speeds over and around Mount Everest to escape the Yeti.

6)      Fantasmic! (Disney’s Hollywood Studios) – Mickey Mouse’s dreams quickly turn in to a nightmare as the forces of good and evil battle for control of Mickey’s dreams in the spectacular show at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Presented in the Hollywood Hills Theater, the memorizing show features all of your Disney friends, fireworks, music, floating stages, and patented water screen technology on which clips from classic Disney movies are shown. Beer and pretzels conveniently sold at the top of the amphitheater.

7)      The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (Disney’s Hollywood  Studio) – Find yourself in an episode of the classic TV show “The Twilight Zone.” From the moment you step in to the deserted Hollywood hotel, you know somethings not right. From the hotel’s boiler room, riders are whisked in to a service elevator for a journey to the top of the hotel… 13 stories up. Along the way, the elevator stops on different floors to reveal scenes straight out of the Twilight Zone. Then, without warning, the elevator plunges 13 stories straight down. Do this before the big lunch at the Brown Derby

8)      Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster (Disney’s Hollywood Studios) – Aerosmith invite riders to be VIP’s at their concert .The only problem is that the show beings in just a few minutes and the limo has to take off like a rocket from 0-57mph in 2.8 seconds. From there, it’s a super-fast journey through the freeways of LA to get to the show on time. Along with plenty of ups, downs, and loops, riders rock out to an awesome speaker system in each “limo” playing some of Aerosmith’s greatest hits. Go ahead and get you 80’s on with this ride.

9)      Wishes. No not from Magic Kingdom. Take a ride over to Fort Wilderness Campground or the Wilderness Lodge and Order up a Cold one at the Outdoor bar while you await a great fireworks show followed by parade of light up boat floats with music. I’m not saying that Magic Kingdom is no good, but it is a dry park if you know what I mean. Also the beaches are less crowded and have hammocks so you can snuggle with your lady while the kids make sand castles in the dark.

10)   GIVE IN TO YOUR KIDS. 1-9 are for you but you must be sure that you let each one of your children have their special moment. Grant them a Disney Wish. Let them pick something to do, or lead the way, map in hand, to the next stop. Be their best friend. Be their age. Look through their eyes. BE A KID AGAIN. You’ll never forget it.


Most important of all, have FUN being a DAD!!!


See ya real soon,


DISNEY AND THE JETS: The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds fly over Main Street USA and Cinderella Castle Oct. 26, 2010 at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The special flight commemorated the start of “Air Force Week” which takes place Oct. 26-31, 2010 in nearby Cocoa Beach, Fla. (Kent Phillips, photographer)

Well, it’s been a while since I sat down to the keyboard for a Disney related bit of writing. One could say I had lost my mojo. Living in upstate NY and being a business owner there, has really taken a toll on me this year. I feel that upstate NY is slowly turning into Detroit, Michigan sans the car factories. Every school function has been littered with talks of divorces, job losses, and fear. Every advance toward my dream for my family is taken away by tax increases, insurance increases, and lack of business.

With that said, this has been a year of evaluation for me. I have had plenty of time to think about what means the most to me. I have had plenty of time to reflect on my past. I have witnessed the destruction of families and friendships all with one common denominator – MONEY.  From all this, I have come to the conclusion that many times people live their lives like they are climbing a mountain. The mountain I speak of refers to the uphill battle for material things.

What am I talking about you ask? Well relax, I’ll tell ya. You see, many people I know go through a life of acquisition with no regard to those around them, myself included. They feel the need to acquire things. And when those things get boring, it’s off to find bigger and better things. They want the biggest house, the best cars, supersized plasma screen televisions, boats, etc. You get the picture. The rat race of acquisition is often times their main focus. All of these things bring joy, I cannot lie, but they just don’t add value to a person’s life.

If you really want to know what’s important in life, ask a senior citizen. Ask someone who has lost their home. Ask someone who has lost a loved one. Ask a parent who has buried their child. I don’t mean to be so glum, but I am trying to make a point; that point being, why climb the mountain at all. Why do all the acquiring of “things” just to have to sell it off at a loss, or give it away because you can’t afford to keep it on your way down the mountain? Every one of those people I mention above would say the same thing…. I wish I shared more, cared more, and loved more, with the people that meant the most to me.

 I say, the secret is to walk around that mountain holding the hands of the ones you love. Skip all of the material acquisitions and just collect the love and joy of your dearest friends and family. Give of yourself to them. Be available to your spouse and children when they need you. Build friendships that last more than a lifetime. Focus on those that matter most to you, and leave the rest to climb the mountain alone. You’ll find that you will become part of a new crowd – a crowd that loves to gather and celebrate family, fun, and the joys life has to offer. What better place to join this crowd then at Disney World, “The happiest place on earth”.

This year I need the “Magic of Disney” more than ever. I will breath in every scent, I will admire every color, and I will hear every note. I will walk not in front of my children, but just behind. I will let them lead the way. I will give them memories of love, togetherness, and family. I will fill their vacation with smiles, hugs, and laughter they will never forget. When my wife and I are at Disney World this Christmas, we will be giving our children the best gift we could ever give them without any expense at all…ourselves.

See ya real soon’