Thanksgiving has always connoted New York City for me. I’ve mentioned this here before, but my grandfather worked for the company behind the historical Thanksgiving’s Day Parade in NYC. For this reason, each year I make a pilgrimage of sorts into Manhattan, just prior to Thanksgiving, to remember my grandfather and my childhood. During that annual ritual memories of my grandfather come flooding back, bringing with it the sites, sounds and smells of him and his city.
This year that trip was precipitated by a completely wonderful and unforeseen turn of events, an invitation provided to me by the wonderful folks at Disney Parks, and the equally wonderful women of Latina Mom Bloggers. My three daughters and I were invited to spend a special… no, make that magical… morning, in the heart of NYC, as guests of Disney Parks and the Times Square Disney Store.
The girls woke up early that morning – 6AM early – but without difficulty. A day of Disney lay ahead which is the most powerful alarm clock in the world. They showered, put on their new outfits selected specially for the day (yes – I went shopping for it) and I dried their hair. By 7AM the four women of the house were dressed, primped and out the door on their way into Manhattan thanks to my wonderful hubby who drove us in. In no time we were standing in front of the glass doors of the Disney Store and under the giant flashing electronic billboard over its door. At 8:30 the doors opened and we joined seven other NY metro area based latina bloggers and their families in a private tour of the store.
If a tour of a store does not sound like a reason to wake up at 6AM on a Saturday morning, remember this is not any store. The Times Square Disney store holds the distinction of being home to special activity sections only found in a handful of other Disney stores nationwide, such as the Cars build your own ride area and a child operated theater and party area. Let’s also not forget that this is a DISNEY store which means leaving reality behind and entering a world of fantasy as imagined by Walt himself. The store was beautiful and gigantic, sparkling with characters, music and high tech digital projections over two humungous floors, housing even a castle! We followed the Pixie Dust path around it visiting area after area. The gentility of the Disney staff is unmatched both at the parks as well as at the store. During the tour, one staff member, Louie, heard one of my girls say that her favorite princess was Belle. After the tour was over he approached me and offered to take her to the castle so that she could interact with Belle in one of the magical mirrors there. This was not part of the tour, but an act of genuine kindness from a staff member who saw a little girl who didn’t have a chance to play in one of the mirrors and wanted to give her that chance. This, I’m willing to bet, embodied the spirit of what Walt Disney had imagined and hoped for. Thank you, Louie. Your act of kindness made a big difference to her.
What followed the tour was breathtaking. Over the weekend of November 18, 19 and 20, Disney Parks turned Times Square into its own theme park by creating a space where Disney fans of all ages could meet some of the most memorable Disney characters of all time, and appear with them on a giant 60 foot screen high above the bustling pre-Thanksgiving weekend crowds passing by. They called it the Times Square Digital Memories event, and we became a part of it. Well, let me tell you that you know you love your children when you “shake your tail feathers” on cue with Donald Duck for all of the inhabitants of Times Square – and anyone who happens to visit the video section of the WDW News website – to see! While two of my girls were given the opportunity to “meet” Mickey Mouse virtually, another and I got down to Donald Duck’s boom box for what seemed like all the world to see. The girls were delighted to see themselves in lights, and I was delighted for them. Below is a beautifully produced compilation of the event earlier in the week.
How do you get to Broadway? Practice, practice, practice… and a little Disney Magic.
Here’s my oldest and youngest meeting the man, er, Mouse himself…
And here is my Belle fan… and, gulp, yes me, shaking our tail feathers!
After a delightful brunch at the Blue Fin restaurant across from the store, my girls and I trudged happily to the train station to return to reality. Each one held the special new friend I had purchased for them at the store after we ate, and stared dreamily out the window. I’m not sure what they were thinking, but occasional outbursts of “Mommy I loved today” or “Can we do this again tomorrow” made the early rise and aching feet well worth it.
Oh yes! One more thing. While at the store we were introduced to a cool new Disney Memories app for the Android. The app can be downloaded for free and used to take a photo which can be edited to add various Disney characters or other decorations to it. The neatest aspect of the app was that its GPS technology allows it to sense if it is in a Disney store which will unlock additional characters for you to add to a photo.
In short, magic abounded that morning and I was a hero to my daughters for a day. That morning I returned to Manhattan for my traditional pre-Thanksgiving visit… and maybe, just maybe, sparked many new and wonderful memories for my daughters.
Disclosure: Although my daughters and I were invited to visit the store and participate in the Times Square Digital Memories event, I was not compensated for this post. I am writing it happily and voluntarily, out of gratitude for the opportunity to treat my girls to a special morning, be a hero for a day, and provide them with Disney Memories for life! Special thanks to Piera Jolly of Latina Mom Bloggers for the opportunity.