a peek inside the fishbowl

19 Nov, 2008

Four things I loved about Disney and one I didn’t: part two*

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Photography|travel talk

Our tour of Disney was so whirlwind-fast I hardly had time to form blisters on my feet.  I love nothing more than to sit back and take things in (a common quality among us introspective types) and Disney is a good place to do that. I really do love the details and the creativity that goes into everything here. I can’t imagine how much planning went into these places. It is mind-boggling.

Take Animal Kingdom for example. For those of you who haven’t been, it’s part midway, part zoo, part shopping, and it’s chock-a-block full of things to do and see, big and small. And I mean small. If you’re looking down at the pavement under your feet you’ll notice it’s stamped with tiny leaves.  The light fixtures at the Kilimanjaro Safari look authentic, as if they were ripped out of a shack somewhere on the Savannah. At Expedition Everest you never feel like you’re waiting in a line because the building which houses the queue has been designed to like a cross between a Yeti museum and an abandoned Tibetan mountaineering shop: wool mittens, signs, prayer flags, pottery … all this and more fills your eyeballs everywhere you turn.

And then there’s the Tree of Life, the centerpiece of Animal Kingdom.

It’s a 145 foot tall construction (which looks quite real from a distance) which depicts 400 different animals within its framework.

“A unique system of fabricating and assembling the branches was designed that brought the flexibility that was needed to bring this idea to life. There are 45 secondary branches that lead to 756 tertiary branches. With 7891 end branches, the entire structure is covered with 102,583 manmade leaves, each of which is more than a foot long.” (from here)

Some people probably think Disney goes overboard. Does there really need to be a gingerbread smell emanating from the floats during the Christmas parade? And fake snow? And the hot cocoa on every corner?

Does there really need to be a shop made entirely out of real gingerbread?


Or a three storey Mowgli and Baloo over looking the pool?

Pop Culture

Or a salon where little girls get transformed into princesses?


That’s up to you to decide … ’cause Disney, when they do something, they do it big. And kids love it.


* FYI – I would like to point out that even though Disney foot the bill for my recent trip I was in no way obligated to post anything about it. These posts are entirely my own.

6 Responses to "Four things I loved about Disney and one I didn’t: part two*"

1 | Jennifer

November 19th, 2008 at 9:34 am


Wow Andrea – it all looks so great. I am a HUGE Disney fan and I am glad to see you enjoyed (thus far!). Pathetic as this may seem .. I have been saving for quite a few years for a family trip to Disney. From what you saw what would you say is a good age for kids to go? I know Disney will tell you any age, but would a 3 year old really get that much out of it? I always thought going when kids are about 7 or 8 would be best. What do you think?

2 | andrea

November 19th, 2008 at 9:43 am


Disney is kid heaven… surprisingly (and a few of our group mentioned it) we seldom saw any meltdowns. But I did see a doozy just before I left. I was in the ladies room at our hotel. A woman was begging her daughter to put on her princess costume. As I left the stall and washed my hands I noticed the little girl (who might have been two?) red-faced from crying. There was no way she was going to wear the dress.



ANYWAY, we went as a family last year. The girls were 6 and 8. There are things for kids of all ages – and child care facilities if you need them – but I think 6/7/8 is a great time to go. They were old enough to truly get it, *and* walk on their own steam. I really didn’t want to be saddled with a stroller … although they’re widely available. I saw lots of parents with really young kids – babies even – I wondered about that. There’s a lot for kids to take in at Disney. And it’s a lot of work for the parents. Maybe it’s just me, but I prefer a much more relaxed holiday atmosphere! ;)

3 | porter

November 19th, 2008 at 12:06 pm


It’s not just you…I too love a relaxed holiday atmosphere. As I’ve mentioned before, we plan to take the girls to Disney but only once. We won’t be the family who likes to go every year!

Oh and the meltdown you heard in the washroom? That wasn’t a child having a meltdown, that was the Mama having the meltdown!!!

4 | Yoni

November 19th, 2008 at 4:57 pm


Hi Andrea,

I’ve had umpteen patients complain to me about how ridiculous the portions of food were and how difficult it was to find healthy options.

Can you comment?

Welcome home,

5 | andrea

November 20th, 2008 at 9:01 am


Hi Yoni –

I think oversize portions are the norm across North America. The same shows up at Disney because, unfortunately, that’s what people have come to expect from their dining experience and Disney really just wants to keep people happy, and more importantly, coming back.

Portions are big, sure, but it’s not totally impossible to eat in a healthy way. I tried to eat well for most meals and not feel guilty about splurging for a few. I think I achieved a pretty good balance.

Our first breakfast was at a really nice sit-down restaurant at our hotel. The breakfast menu had a lot of traditional big-breakfast options: sausage, bacon, eggs. It was here that I was introduced to sausage gravy. (!) I didn’t order it, I just sampled, but it was a cream-based gravy with bits of sausage in it. Wow. It’s a heart attack on a plate.

The menu here was divided into appetizers and entrees. The breakfast entrees didn’t appeal to me so I ordered smoked salmon off the appetizer part of the menu. FYI – this is what I got. I also ordered half a grapefruit because I thought my meal would be a smaller portion, simply because it was listed in the appetizer section of the menu. Crazy huh?

We had lunch in one of the parks one day. It was a fast-food type pizzaria, but there were also these massive “italian” sandwiches and big cheesy breadsticks on the menu. There weren’t a lot of options on this particular menu, but I settled with a chicken caesar salad with dressing on the side. I think I did pretty good, the salad was ok, but in that one particular place that was the lowest-cal offering on the menu.

Another morning we had a buffet-style breakfast at a “meet the characters” event and I think (if you had the willpower), it seemed to be a good option for people on calorie-reduced diets. That is, only if you can steer clear of the mickey-shaped waffles and the sausage gravy. I had some fruit and more smoked salmon. (I love the stuff, what can I say.) At this particular buffet I noticed a distinct lack of whole grain breads.

On my last day I’m pretty sure I noticed someone getting pop for breakfast. (ugh) Disney has some kind of offer wherein you buy a plastic souvenir travel mug for $11.99 and get some kind of deal on your drinks. (Sorry for the scant details, but it’s something like that.) I asked if there was a kid-sized cup. There wasn’t. It’s one-size mug for all. Hello portion control! I am sure many parents fill it with milk, but I’m sure the majority fill it with pop. In our house we treat pop like a dessert item, a rare treat like ice cream or cake. Most people drink pop with meals.

I think a big trap for a lot of people (and I include myself here) is that when we’re on holidays we slip into this “holiday eating mode.” But just because we’re on holiday doesn’t mean we should take a break from healthy eating habits. Clinically obese people (like the kind you’re treating Yoni) probably can’t afford to think this way.

Keeping to a healthy diet is challenging but it can be done.

FYI, here’s a sample menu from a typical food court kind of place… what would you pick from it?

6 | Yoni

November 20th, 2008 at 9:51 am


If it were somehow possible – nothing.

I would imagine that there’s not a single item on that menu (including the kids’ meals) that doesn’t have a day’s worth of sodium and over 1,000 calories.

The big problem is that calories are completely non-intuitive.

If they were intuitive one might think the veggie burger would be a good choice but I’ve certainly seen many veggie burger that when broken down had more calories than beef ones.

I don’t mind that places like Disneyworld have “holiday eating” style options – but it’s really a shame that it’s often in the absence of available, heathier, lower calorie alternatives.

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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