This is the second part of my trip recap for the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration. You can read part one here.
Our opening reception was held at Epcot and they bussed us over from the conference center (first the attendees and then our families), although I think I might have preferred to walk if I had realized just how close we were to the park from our resort. I’m glad I caught the bus, though, because it gave me a chance to meet some of the bloggers I know online face to face, including Patty and Stacey. I had been a little nervous, as always, about everyone knowing everyone else except me, especially when I saw that my friend Mindy was delayed en route to the conference and wouldn’t make it to the party, but falling into conversations with new blogger friends is honestly as easy as falling. An hour later it was all hugs and laughs and where have you been all my life.
The reception itself was in this building in Epcot that I had somehow missed up until that point, which is very bizarre considering Epcot is my favorite park and I used to just wander around there when I was a cast member. It’s this space tucked behind the U.K. pavilion and when we walked in it had been transformed with lighting and glittery beaded curtains. They were serving wine, but I grabbed a Shirley Temple first because I didn’t want to gulp too much wine too quickly and we chatted and snapped selfies until Leanne took the stage to welcome us.
Really, being welcomed to Disney Social Media Moms was such a thing for me. I wanted this one and had made it a big work goal to get invited, so knowing that I was there with a lanyard on that had my name on it was a rush. Blogging doesn’t come with much validation unless you’re a big name blogger because most of us are just wandering around the Internet wondering every now and then if we’re just talking to ourselves. This was a nod and it was really nice.
After the welcoming remarks there were some icebreakers, which was overwhelming and noisy and definitely a low point right after the high of being there. As an introvert, icebreakers are unnavigable. I held my own and had some polite conversations but very quickly I couldn’t remember anyone’s name and retreated back to people I recognized. I do worry occasionally that people think I’m stuck up at these things because I gravitate toward established friends once things get going, but really I just have an internal limit on how many people I can meet in one evening and once I hit that number my mind goes into a full panic and I start saying inane things like, “You’re from where? Oh, I drove through there once. You have a nice IHOP.”
Suddenly they started playing music and pulled back some curtains and revealed this absolutely enormous event space connected to the room our reception was in. There was a DJ and a ton of food stations and different things to do and character experiences at the far end and it was like all of the Disney weddings I’ve ever wanted to attend got together and had a class reunion. I was so giddy I honestly ran all the way down to the end of the event space and didn’t realize until I was making my way back that the reveal of the event room had coincided with the arrival of our families. I had sprinted away from Kyle because I had seen egg rolls and Rapunzel and couldn’t contain myself. Whoops.
Outside of small local events, this is the first blogger event that Kyle has been able to attend with me. Usually I’m traveling alone or the events don’t include an invitation for spouses, so it was pretty sweet that his first social media event happened to be this glorious Epcot party. I’m pretty sure I got some cool wife points for that one.
Once we were able to settle and take it all in, I was so impressed with the decor. The tables were laid out in multicolored linens that matched the different lighting effects and the projected inspirational quotes from people connected to the Disney company. Each of the food stations were easily accessible and even though there had to be at least 700 people in that room we didn’t have to wait long for anything (although the line to meet Baymax was pretty constant).
As for the food, it was a strange mix of comfort food and the unexpected. The first thing we ate was caramel corn that had been dropped into liquid nitrogen and flash frozen so when you popped it in your mouth you could actually see your breath. I think that might have been my favorite treat just because I had never had anything like it and being frozen really made the popcorn more delicious (although it did get sticky and unpalatable if you let it sit too long).
I also loved the cheeseburger egg rolls and the paper cones of lobster mac and cheese. Some of it was a little too strange for me, though. They were serving up ice cream cones filled with mashed potatoes, bits of country fried steak, and onion gravy, for example, but I was lame and scooped everything out because the cone thing was too weird.
DJ Miles was running the event and taking requests via the conference hashtag on Twitter, so the dance floor picked up early and stayed crowded for most of the time we were in there. We enjoyed the music while we were eating but after a while it was too loud for us (yes, we’re that couple) so we snuck back out to the front room where the pre-reception had been held and hung out for a while, occasionally popping back to the room to visit the open bar or grab some more frozen popcorn.
We ran into a bunch of people who were similarly music overloaded (especially those with little kids) and eventually everyone migrated toward the dessert party area for Illuminations. The event staff stood at the door handing out bottled water (so smart!) and guides were lined up to direct us to the large pavilion at the front of the World Showcase, which is arguably the best seat in the house. I have to admit that it felt pretty special to be walking through the park crowds with my big sparkly conference lanyard. I think it might top walking around property in my wedding gown!
This was our first Illuminations dessert party ever. My biggest regret about our Disney wedding is that we didn’t add an Epcot dessert party to our reception because logistically we couldn’t figure out how to make it work and we were afraid of being rained out. I was so excited to actually be attending one and it did not disappoint at all! They had coffee, tea, big tables of grab-and-go desserts, carts featuring Mickey bars, and a funny hot dog style dessert that was an angel food bun and a raspberry ice cream hot dog with toppings that looked like the “real” thing but were all made from fruit and nuts.
We were pretty stuffed from dinner but we grabbed a couple of macarons and hung out with Stacey’s family, borrowing her cute kids for a little bit. I hadn’t seen Illuminations since 2009 and the show did not disappoint. It’s easily one of my favorite things about Walt Disney World and now that I’ve been spoiled with a dessert party, I think we might have to pull together some fanciness of our own for the first time the kids see it. Milling around with a cookie in your hand sure beats standing shoulder to shoulder with sweaty strangers vying for the best view!
After Illuminations had ended, they wrapped up the dessert party and most people went straight back to the resort since we had an early and very full conference day ahead of us. Kyle and I grabbed two cups of tea and took the long way around the World Showcase, which is an end-of-the-night favorite for me. Even though the shops were closing down it was magical to be strolling through the countries with nowhere that we really had to be and nobody to put to bed. I was also a big fan of the fact that we could walk back to our resort and skip the end-of-night bus struggle, which is easily one of my least favorite Disney activities.
After we got back to the resort, we popped over to BoardWalk for a bit and met up with Mindy, who had finally made it to Florida. The three of us walked around for a while, but when a search for late night ice cream proved unfruitful (none after 11 PM – who knew?), we all turned in. I was expecting to crash hard after such an eventful two days, but my mind was waaaaay too awake after the excitement of everything and I tossed and turned until the wee hours of the morning, anticipating what fun was coming next…
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