My Favorite Things

by Debra Martin Koma, ALL EARS® Senior Editor

Feature Article

This article appeared in the December 26, 2006, Issue #379 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright colored kettles and warm woolen mittens...
Brown-paper packages tied up with strings...
These are a few of my favorite things...

Somehow, over the years, this old Julie Andrews tune from "The Sound of Music" has become associated with the holidays. I've been hearing it on the radio a lot lately and so it was going through my head the other day as I walked the dog. And I started to think about what MY favorite things were... and not surprisingly many of them were things that I've found or done or experienced at Walt Disney World.

As I started enumerating my favorites -- and not just favorite rides or shows, but favorite experiences, favorite Disney-related memories, too -- the list grew rather long...

... the tantalizing aroma of fresh-baked cookies wafting up and down Main Street USA... It's better, in my opinion, than the almost cloying smell that emanates from the Confectionery and the sticky sweet scent that you can detect as you walk by the neighboring Ice Cream Parlor. That delicate warm cookie smell sets my mouth to watering almost immediately... and it's so hard to pass by without stopping to take a deep breath... much less without visiting inside to make a purchase.

... enjoying a fine meal in the Contemporary Resort's California Grill. To me, there's no better way to spend an evening out than getting dressed up and having a delicious meal in a refined setting, even when, and actually especially when, I'm on vacation. The California Grill fits the bill on all counts. The fabulous view from the tower's 15th floor is matched by the uncommonly good cuisine that comes out of the CG's kitchen, and when that's coupled with being able to watch fireworks -- well, I'm practically in heaven. Yes, dining at California Grill is one of my very favorite things.

... the sound of laughter when you walk past the Mad Tea Party, as folks are spinning themselves into oblivion... If you listen, you'll hear it, over the music, over the buzz of a hundred conversations and all the other background noise -- people laugh on that ride. I myself can't ride it without getting the giggles, usually as my son spins the teacup faster and faster, so that I'm sliding around the seat, unable to get my bearings. That's a good from-the-belly laughter. (My apologies, and sympathy, to those of you who can't do the spinny-type rides -- the teacups really are a lot of fun.)

... the sight of a small child approaching a character. Some are hesitant, and hang back with wide eyes, as though not quite sure that the looming figure is safe to walk up to. Others run up to the character excitedly, throwing arms around the fuzzy bear or begowned princess with an unfettered exuberance that only the innocent can conjure. Hanging in the background, watching a queue of kids waiting for characters, is one of my favorite things to do, especially when I'm in the Magic Kingdom.

... and, speaking of hanging back and watching, the sight of perplexed guests being addressed by PUSH the walking, talking trashcan in Tomorrowland, or Wes Palm the tree or Pipa the recycling bin in Animal Kingdom. Only folks who have been tricked before can detect the source of the voice (no, I won't tell how they do it!), but even after you've been fooled once, the charm of this little diversion is addictive. The various looks of surprise, confusion and amusement on faces both young and old as they try to figure out how that tree/trashcan/recycling bin knows what they're wearing and what they're doing is, as the commercials say, "priceless."

... the Rose Walk in Epcot that connects Future World, near the Imagination pavilion, to World Showcase. (Note the tie-in with the raindrops on roses from the song.) Maybe it's because I have such a brown thumb, but that long line of gorgeous roses cheers me every time I see it. Sure, sometimes it looks more spectacular than others -- during the Flower and Garden Festival, for example, it's at its peak. But even in the off-season, when there is no trace of floral color in my hometown in Virginia, there are roses, roses, roses, lining that walkway, and I can usually find at least one that is the very definition of perfection. Ahhh... yes, I stop to smell it.

... the Voices of Liberty in the American Adventure in Epcot. This a cappella ensemble is a joy to listen to, whether performing the usual repertoire of songs from our country's earliest days, or performing Christmas carols in Dickensian attire. I loved the more contemporary group (American Vybe) that used to perform in this pavilion, too, but if I am limited to having just one act performing here, I'll take the Voices of Liberty without a complaint. They never fail to get me more than a little verklempt.

... riding Star Tours. I realize that my fondness for this ride goes back to my son's previous obsession with all things related to the Force and its followers. But let's face it, I'm a bit of a Star Wars junkie, too -- after all, I was just a teenager when the first movie came out, so I practically grew up with Luke, Darth Vader, Chewie and C3PO. And this bouncy, jouncy ride to Endor and back recaptures all those memories, as well as the memory of my little boy arguing with his best friend over whether the laser cannons on an X-wing made more of a "pyoom-pyoom" or "toin-toin" sound. In any case, I find myself seeking out Star Tours at least once every visit to Walt Disney World, even when I'm not with my now 14-year-old. It's a definite must-do.

... watching Miyuki, the Japanese woman who makes edible art out of candy in the Japan pavilion in World Showcase. Look at the swiftness of her hands as they mold the hot "caramel" into the shape of a gorilla, an eagle, a dragon, or whatever the chosen guest has selected. See the intensity of her eyes as she determines where to apply paint, where to pull out a wing or foot or a tail. A faint smile plays around her mouth as she automatically repeats the patter she's uttered hundreds of times before her enrapt spectators. And then see the delight on the face of the child on whom she bestows the brilliantly colored animal pop that will most likely never be eaten, only admired.

... the drop on Splash Mountain. Watch out for that step, it's a doozy! It's the big kid in me, I know, but I just love that drop, even though, despite what some of my best friends have assured me over the years, you DO get that wet, especially if you sit in the front. I'm sure I'm so fond of the drop because of the many happy memories associated with it -- there was the time when I sat in front on an unusually cold (for Florida) winter's evening and got completely drenched after aforementioned friends assured me that we'd be fine; there was the time I rode with my niece Lindsey when she was just 4 and her father and I tried to shield her, unsuccessfully, from the splashes, and we were then chided by her squeaky little voice: "Well, I don't do need to do THAT ride again!" And of course there's my very best memory of that big drop -- riding with a group of crazy internet women friends, many of whom had just met in real life for the first time that weekend, and my seatmate, Pam, throwing her arms up at the moment of the big plunge with a look of sheer ectasy on her face, captured by the Splash Mountain camera forever in a photograph that has come to be known as the "Splash-gasm." That Splash Mountain drop has to be one of my favorite things -- even if I don't ride it every time I'm in Disney World, I find myself standing at the bottom of the falls, at least for a few minutes, watching the logs as they tumble down, smiling as I hear the squeals of the delighted, or indignant, as they slosh through the water.

... sitting outside on a balmy evening on the balcony at the BoardWalk's Belle Vue Room, watching the reflection of the twinkling lights on the water of Crescent Lake. Depending on the time of night, there may be live entertainers rope-wrangling or juggling or playing music, there may be people taking a chance on the boardwalk games at the kiosks below, and there will surely be happy families clanging the bells on their surrey bikes as they huff and puff past the slow pedestrians. In the distance you sometimes catch a glimpse of some fireworks -- maybe some of IllumiNations if you look one way, maybe a bit of Wishes if you look the other. And no matter which way you look you see Walt Disney World and you know that undoubtedly you are in the Most Magical Place on Earth.

... IllumiNations. My list of favorite things would not be complete without including this amazing laser and pyrotechnics show. I don't know what else I can say about it that hasn't already been said. The music is stirring and meaningful, and the synchronization of the fireworks and lasers to that music? Well, it's simply perfect. I've loved fireworks since I was a little girl, love to feel the concussion of the overhead explosions deep in my chest, love to have my eyes dazzled by the bursts of light and color. There's something magical about fireworks -- I can't explain why they affect me as they do. And IllumiNations just seems to be the embodiment of that magic to me. When I'm standing there, somewhere around the World Showcase Lagoon, in the dark, yet engulfed in the light and the music, I can't stop from singing along and feeling just plain... happy. And by the end of the presentation, no matter how many times I've seen it (and I've seen it plenty, believe me!), I can't stop myself from tearing up. It's a feeling of contentment, and hopefulness, and a tinge of sadness all rolled together, and it's overwhelming. IllumiNations may well be, not just one of my favorite Disney things, but one of my very favorite things, ever.

Oh, I suppose I could go on and on -- it's no secret to anyone who knows me that Walt Disney World is FILLED with my favorite things. Aside from my family and my furry four-legged son, Walt Disney World has things that have made me and my family and friends happier than we could have imagined, favorite things that have made memories for us that will last our lifetimes, and if we're lucky, will be the stories that our children will tell their children in the years to come.

So...

When the dog bites
When the bee stings
When I'm feeling sad...
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don't feel so bad.

Here's to a very happy holiday season for all of us, filled with all of our favorite things, Disney and otherwise. And best wishes to you and yours for a new year filled with the discovery of many, many more favorite things... and all the happy memories that go with them.


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Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.