but oft times catches you by complete surprise. And so it was at the Meet-Up and Fly Away in Disneyland Resort during the Inaugural Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend. Having participated in runDisney's Wine & Dine Meet Up and Eat Up, I was flying high at the chance to once again run with and learn from guru Jeff Galloway, and ecstatic to discover that my first flight through a Disney castle would be such a grand and "all to myself" experience!
But never, in any wild wish upon a star, did I imagine we would also be treated to a true, once in a lifetime Disney dream. When runDisney Public Relations Manager Robert Hitchcock announced that our group of 40 or so would be touring the Disneyland Dream Suite as the finale to our Meet-Up, the group was incredulous. This was a "money can't buy", strictly limited access event!!
Disneyland historians will know the score. The Disney family apartment, situated above the Disneyland Main Street Fire Station, was the Disney's home in the park.
Though deliberately warm and comfortable, it was not adequate for entertaining dignitaries or larger groups. For this reason, Walt began planning for a "Royal Suite" (to be named after its location on Royal Street in New Orleans Square) in the early 1960's. Sadly, this close-to-completion project was abandoned when he passed in 1966. Thereafter, the location acted as office space (if you can imagine that) for many years, and then morphed into The Disney Gallery from 1987- 2007. During that time, guests willing to pay a tidy sum were treated to Dessert and Fantasmic viewing while lounging on the attached balcony that bears Walt's and Roy's Initials.
(My family was incredibly fortunate to enjoy this package in 2005. While munching on chocolate covered strawberries, and watching Fantasmic from this incredible vantage point, we imagined the Disney family doing the same...) It was not until the "Year of a Million Dreams" promotion that Walt's vision for the space was finally realized. Using original specs and concept art from set designer Dorothea Redmond (of Gone With the Wind fame), this two bedroom, two bath apartment would become a most-coveted promotion award.
On the morning of January 28th, 2012, we too were grand winners, as our gang of Neverland runners was granted exclusive access to this corner of Walt's world. Our guide requested that in order to preserve the mystique of the Dream Suite we not take photos or video, but there are some wonderful approved images on the Disney Parks Blog. Each main room in the suite is complete with magical moments, but for me, the dearest was the "goodnight kiss" in the Master Suite. After all, this would have been Walt and Lilly's bedroom, and their personal taste was clearly evident. Because this particular room sits closest to Adventureland, it is themed accordingly; the large canopy bed is framed by blue drapes or "waterfalls", a beautiful lagoon water color hangs over the headboard, and the dark wooden furniture is inspired by the jungle motif. Exotic and breathtaking to be sure. And then it happens. At the press of a button, palm fronds appear on the walls, stars twinkle from the ceiling, the water color painting transforms into an interactive mermaid's playground (complete with flowing waterfalls), and finally the moon appears, along with the silhouette of Peter Pan's flying pirate ship. I couldn't help imagining this "show" tucking Walt in for the night. What a special connection to the master dreamer himself! Every Tinker Bell in our group had been treated to the ultimate surprise,the ultimate goodnight kiss- by Walt, his extended family, and runDisney. Proving once again, you never know what magic awaits you at a Disney Park, especially if it is sealed with a kiss!