Disney is Still Magical: Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas

It was magical. Thats how I felt watching the fireworks burst over Disney’s Castle at Magic Kingdom in Orlando, FL. Magic is what Disney and in this case, Mickey does best at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas.

I took a trip with my sister’s family to Walt Disney World to get in the Christmas spirit. It was my first time at Magic Kingdom as an adult and it was quite the experience.

We were only there for one night – Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. I had no expectations about lines or food or kids running around. Usually, the world is my amusement park – I love visiting cities like Seattle and LA. So trading in hiking and skyscrapers for Mickey ears and roller coasters is new to me.

Dressing Up for Mickey:

But it’s not new to everyone. From the moment we were in the parking lot – we saw the outfits and the Mickey ears and the t-shirts. This was a costume party and everyone couldn’t wait to meet their host – Mickey.

Even some of my favorite Chicago bloggers were going to Disney for the holidays.

But let me tell you, it took parking, a transit corral, and from there a train or a boat, and then a finger scan – yes they scanned our finger – to get into this party. Writing this makes me think the experience was similar to a James Bond film in slow motion. Que Trey Songz.

I think the Magic began on the boat when I saw the Disney castle. I don’t know if it was seeing Beauty and The Beast this year but I became a little girl inside seeing the iconic castle.

If You’re Going to Wing It – Here’s a ProTip:

From the moment you scan your finger, you enter into this magical space.

The first thing we did was read an article to with tons of tips. One of those tips was to make sure we had a plan. We had no plan unlike this guy. The other was to get the Disney Parks app. It tells you vital information like wait time for rides and for people like me who walk in the wrong direction, it’s the Google Maps for Disney.

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas party started at 7 pm but you could enter as early as 4 pm.

When we got to the theme park, we started with an easy ride – Swiss Family Treehouse – which is like walking in a well-built tree house. There was no wait and we got to see a great view of the Disney Castle. If you haven’t read the book, The Swiss Family Robinson about the shipwrecked family – it’s kind of fascinating. It goes in depth in how they used their resources on the island to survive.

Next, was dinner time! You could tell the theme park was probably at half the capacity because we could grab a table and eat with little commotion. They shutdown the park early for regular guests so that there were less crowds. Pro tip: you can bring your own food into Disney and I highly reccomend it, but also the Lobster Roll was on point.

Waiting in Line:

We then walked to our first ride – the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad – where you drop and turn through a haunted gold mining town. I was with my 5 year old nephew and we were so close to being next in line when he had to go to the bathroom. This is the part where I emphasize with parents taking kids to Disney. The wait time during Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas was fantastic. We literally only waited 10 minutes to go on rides. I cants imagine having to wait for an hour and then your kid had a bathroom emergency.

So, this is the part where I go on my first roller coaster this year and I’m so glad my nephew wasn’t there to hear me scream (some obscenities). Honestly, right turns, dark tunnels and the fear of the unknown had me dropping more f*bombs.

My nephew and his dad came back and we were ready for round two. Well, this was my nephew’s first roller coaster and he didn’t like it.

So, after that, we had to think of something besides rides. We tried to get him on the Magic Carpet ride but it was too soon. I personally loved the Magic Carpet ride. We got to fly pretty high but the speed was slower so it was like a horizontal Ferris Wheel. It was low key and nice.

The Mickey Parade:

Up next, we went back to the Disney castle and saw the end of the Mickey show. One of the biggest events of the night was the Mickey parade. We waited with tired kids and rows of strollers and then it began. There were flips. There was the muffin man and Snow White. There was Aladdin and the Beast. And last but not least, there was Santa reading off names of boys and girls. Everyone was happy – all the performers had an extra bounce in their step and a forever smile on their face.

Fireworks Over The Disney Castle:

We finished the night in Tomorrowland at an underwhelming car ride. Our lips were blue from the free blue snow cones and we caught a second wave of energy from the dancing polar beers. We walked past the spinning tea cups and met back at the Disney Castle with a fireworks finale. The streets were lined and the iPhones we’re up as the Disney Castle lit up with shooting fireworks. My nephew was tired and so were a lot of kids at 10 pm. As we headed towards the exit and I saw the last firework fade, snow started falling from the sky. I still get goosebumps thinking about that moment. Thinking about how perfect and magical it felt.

We followed the parents who were walking with their kids fast asleep and hanging onto them. We took the ferry and then as we went on the trolley back to our car my nephew out his hands up in the air like we were on a rollercoaster.

We finished the night at the 24 hour drive thru Starbucks for some hot cocoa and then fell asleep too fast.

Disney: Why It’s The Happiest Place:

When I woke up the next morning, I hoped into the jacuzzi and thought about this experience – Disney is magical because your smile is met with a smile and everyone’s nice. Imagine a world where everyone is nice. Nice is nice.

I hope you spread the Magic this year where ever you are. To wear that velvet blue dress or red skirt and to wear it with arms that reach out and help someone with their bags and lips that smile back at a passerby, and patience in a time when there’s too many parties, too many gifts and not enough alone time and sanity.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays! I’m thankful for all of you – my loyal readers and inspiration and party goers. Let me know if there’s something I can do to make your spirits bright!

Amanda Elliott is a writer and speaker and a relationship builder. She believes that meeting people in person is important. After attending numerous fashion, startup, and creative events, she founded Windy City Cosmo is 2015 to help people make connections in the city as they build their businesses, start and end relationships and see and be seen. Over the past three years, the entrepreneurs she’s interviewed have become the most successful in Chicago and Windy City Cosmo won an award in 2017 for her work for female entrepreneurs.

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It’s Not Easy Going Home For Christmas: Chicago O’Hare Edition

A small blonde twenty something rushes up to me, “Are you going to Ft. Lauderdale? You missed it.”

On December 22, 2015,  I arrived to the airport and saw everyone’s worst airport nightmare, the longest line.

TSA Pre-check:

I thought like Seth Godin encouraged me to do in several of his books. He looked at the systems we have in place and thought about how we could use them more efficiently.

I looked into TSA pre-check, and you have to go through an application process prior to using it along with paying $85.00 for five years of TSA pre-check benefits.

While people were cutting in line and freaking out about missing their flight, I thought about using TSA precheck as a solution.

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There should be airport workers soliciting the service in line, especially for those who are going to miss their flight.

Even if they had to take their shoes off and take their laptops out into a separate bins, if passengers at O’Hare paid for a one time use or signed up for the program, I think it would help relieve the stress, the swear words, and let’s face it, the tears from missing your flight.

The lines at O’Hare were insane.

For all of the passengers who got there an hour and a half before boarding and missed their flight, this is for you. Me and the three guys behind me the eve before Christmas Eve doing our second round of security TSA checks feel you.

The prior night’s experience was civil, painful, but civil. At 6:00 pm at O’Hare, people were dressed in pink dresses, cute booties, and the only thing they were missing was a smile.

Stay Positive:

The girl standing in line with me was Becca. She lives in LA, but was on her way to a small town in Iowa (not the same as The Bachelor).

She had the best Christmas spirit. We talked about our LA experience and about project management. She does fundraising for universities like UCLA.

We laughed at and almost asked the girl who brought Stan’s Donuts as her carry on, if she would share.

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We talked about our families and Christmas activities. And it felt amazing.

It felt amazing to not be standing in line for over an hour hating my life, but rather making the best of enduring the longest line of my life, like longer than Universal Studios.

“Did she bring every non-TSA approved item in her carry on?”

Becca commented as a girl tossed out four water bottles.

It was 15 minutes until my flight left, and the attendant just checked my ID. My gate was the last one at the end of the hall. I took my bags, threw on my heels without zipping them, and then ran to the gate—the gate where I met the thirteen year old boy sobbing because their family is going to miss their cruise. And I met the blonde, who I later learned was named Sage, and she was traveling with her boyfriend.

I left the airport shocked. And hurt and hangry. Yes, hangry. I hadn’t eaten  I kicked my bag through the turnstile to head back on the blue line.

Does Your Family Really Want You Home For Christmas:

I got home and called my sister. She was so there for me and said if I didn’t make it home, then she would come fly to see me. She then offered to pick me up at another airport. And then, she said that her boyfriend had a flight voucher I could use.

A tear rolled down my face. I was dumbfounded by the lengths my sister would go through to see me for Christmas.

I Snapchatted(@Rationalization) with my other sister, who said that she missed me and sang me a Christmas song. It was perfect and everything.

I then entered into emotional eating at the thought of not going home for Christmas.

I’ll Be Home For Christmas:

When the food arrived. I turned on Empire. I am still behind. I fell asleep. No alarm set.

I was dreaming of Jonathan Taylor Thomas and his struggle to get home for Christmas with Jessica Biel in the Christmas movie, I’ll Be Home for Christmas.

I woke up at 5:40 am.

I ordered an Uber and a nice Asian man took my bag and played some Christmas jazz on the way to the airport.

Standby:

I was on standby with sixteen other people for the already overbooked 8:50 am flight. A group of four of us, Sage and her boyfriend, a graduate from Northwestern and I, all were rooting for each other to go home for Christmas.

Our logic was that if we all missed our flight, it could happen again.

There was another flight at 11:50 am. The Northwestern graduate found another flight home, so it was me and the couple.

It started to rain. They finished boarding the 11:50 am flight, and I was fourth on the standby list.

The flight attendant started calling names on standby. She called Sage’s name and said they had ONE ticket left. Sage discussed it with her boyfriend, and they wanted to give the ticket to me.

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The next person on the list was the Northwestern graduate, who took another flight home.

Then, they called my name. I felt like I won the golden ticket.

Sage and her boyfriend each gave me a hug, and I rushed on the plane to none other than a window seat.

There’s no place in the world I would rather be than home for Christmas.

The struggle was real, but by the time I went on the runway, my spirits were lifted, and I was ready to celebrate Christmas with my family.

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I Prefer Holiday Parties Where Dradles and Christmas Trees Dance

Christmas is about magic and there’s nothing more magical than Macy’s at Christmas time.

I have seen a few magical parties this year like Paris in Chicago with  Bel Brands, and and of course, my first Daybreaker, but this was by far the most magical dance party, ugly Christmas sweater style.

It all started at 6:00 am when I was greeted by an oversized sign labeled “ugly holiday sweater,” with an elf below it for the Ugly Holiday Sweater Party by Macy’s and Daybreaker. It was held at Macy’s flagship store on State Street in Chicago.

Me and my Twitter giveaway winner, joined the crowd in the elevator with a group of girls with yoga mats.

We ask if we should be doing this right now.

“I always carry a yoga mat with me at Macy’s,” I said, “I go into downward dog and breathe in and out before maxing out my credit cards for Christmas gifts.”

The girls laugh and the doors open. We are met with a festive holiday group waiting for coat check.

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Two people, dressed as presents, smile and encourage us to be in the present.

Those same presents joined me in a vinyasa flow twenty minutes later.

But before the party started at 6:00 am, my giveaway guest and I went back to bed followed the path to a pile of giant pillows.

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Macy’s and Daybreaker had a photobooth set up and printed our photos.

It was Vinyasa time.

Yoga Six came back again to instruct us through a vinyasa flow.

This flow had deep twists, deep breaths, and persistent flows. My favorite was when she made us sleigh bell foward and back into downward dog. It sounds so much better than “plank”. She also had us do the tree pose and breathe out “ho”.

It was festive but most importantly effective. I was able to loosen my body and loosen up.

About 10 minutes before 7:00 am, we were ready for faster beats from my new favorite djs, Win + Woo. They know how to drop EDM beats and switch to old school, shake that laffy taffy songs.

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We formed a circle as usual and that’s when the Christmas tree started dancing with the dradle, right below the stage.

On the stage, a group of the most incredible spirited dancers, reved up the party.

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We could keep going. But we grabbed a vanilla protein shake and stood in a short line to get something holiday painted on our face. A girl came up to me with a penguin drawn on her nose. The girls behind me brainstormed Christmas lights down their arms.

Since I had to be at work in two hours, I opted for stars and blue fairy dust on the edge of either eye. Let me tell you on the streets of Chicago everyone was smiling at me. It was magical.

We ended the party with glitter bombs, selfies at the ho, ho, ho sign and a $10.00 gift card from Macy’s.

Thank you, Daybreaker and Macy’s, for always throwing magical parties and helping us believe. Fifty percent of each ticket sales was donated to The Make a Wish Foundation.

Daybreaker returns in January. To join in the morning dance party movement, get Chicago Daybreaker tickets.

Merry Christmas!

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5 Holiday Things To Do in Chicago To Get in The Christmas Spirit

Christmas is 10 days away. 10 days!

Get in the holiday spirit by doing these five things in Chicago.

1. Grab an ugly Christmas sweater.

You know you want one. While you are shopping for friends and family, get a little something ugly for yourself.

You can wear your ugly Christmas sweater at Earls during Ugly Holiday Sweater happy hour Monday-Friday, 3 pm -6 pm. Best of all? If your sweater is ugly enough, you could win a $25 gift card.

2. Dance in that ugly Christmas sweater.

Daybreaker, a national initative to change the way we have fun, came to Chicago this fall. For the third morning dance party and yoga Daybreaker event, they are having a festive ugly sweater dance party in an epic location on Friday, December 18, 2015. Yoga starts at 6 am and the dance party starts at 7 am.

The location is a surprise, just like Secret Santa. But it’s going to be big and magical. Plus, to make it merrier, 50 percent of the ticket price is will be donated to Make-A-Wish®

“We are so thrilled to be partnering with Make-A-Wish® for our biggest party yet on Friday, December 18 at a secret, iconic downtown holiday location,” said a Daybreaker representative.

Get Daybreaker Holiday Party tickets here before they sell out. You can also enter to win a ticket to dance with Windy City Cosmo.

Two people I met at Daybreaker Chicago are coming back to this festive event, which is one of the reasons I love Daybreaker—it builds community.

This time, I want to dance with you. Go to WindyCityCosmo’s Instagram and Twitter and tag (@WindyCityCosmo) in your post along with #daybreaker + #windycitycosmo, for a chance to win a ticket to dance with Windy City Cosmo at the final Daybreaker of the year. I will do the drawing Thursday morning, December 17, 2015.

3. Give locally and nationally.

There are so many festive opportunities to give your time and your donations this winter.

The Chicago Food Depository, a Chicago nonprofit organization that works with 650 food pantries is having two upcoming events this weekend, where you can give non-perishable food items.

  •  December 19, 2015 at 12:30 pm is the 27th Annual Tuba Christmas at the Palmer House Hilton. Bring a nonperishable food item to donate.
  • December 26, 2015 the Cubby Bear’s first annual Jingle Ball,  will a black tie and ball gown affair is free with a donation to Greater Chicago Food Depository.

Salvation Army has a special Virtual Angel Tree program. You can donate until December 24, 2015. NBC 5 and Telemundo Chicago and Salvation Army have all partnered together to help kids in needs have their Christmas wishes granted. You can register for the Virtual Angel Tree and see all of the children’s Christmas lists. All you have to do is drop off the gift by December 24, 2015 to The Salvation Army’s Divisional Headquarters (5040 N. Pulaski Rd.) or the Salvation Army Corps Community Centers.

4. Take a walk in winter wonderland.

There may not be snow—yet, but there are lights, and lots of them in Chicago.

Enjoy the decorations by taking a walk in a local Chicago neighborhood, like Andersonville. In my opinion, Lady Gregory’s has the best decorations on the block.

There are also beautiful lights in Millenium Park, The Roosevelt Collection in the south loop, Navy Pier, and at the Lincoln Park Zoo for Zoo Lights.

Best of all, when you are overwhelmed with budgets and the holiday bustle, this is something free you can do in Chicago.

5. Unwind with wine.

Do you want to get away? How about a trip to the vineyards. This year, I joined an event company, Cannonball Production. They do seasonal Midwest events. Right now, they are doing wine tours to Southwest Michigan. The last tours are this weekend, but they will also be available in January and February!

Get you guy friends and girlfriends together for a day out of the city for an all-inclusive winery tour at four location with lunch and roundtrip transportation. It makes an awesome gift, if you are having trouble with that like me. Get your tickets to Cannonball’s wine tour here.

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Why All I Want This Christmas is You

I will confess, during the holidays I mooch off of other people’s families. See that picture above—that’s me having breakfast with my friend’s wonderful family.

My plus one at holiday parties is a martini.

I don’t have any family in Chicago. I have amazing friends, but no family. But, I do have a family. I do—a loving, wonderful family. And spending it with my real, amazing family is what makes the holidays wonderful to me.

Travel Thousands of Miles:

I was there for Black Friday. The struggle was real to wake up from the post Turkey nap get a good discount on the blazer for my brother.

While I love shopping, my favorite part of Black Friday and the holiday season this year was that I traveled thousands of miles to be with my brother and spend quality time doing what we do best — update our wardrobes.

Being with family for Thanksgiving—even though it was just one of my siblings, was amazing. It made me appreciate the holidays on a new level.

All I Want for Christmas:

This holiday season, while I will be Pinteresting presents and excited for the gifting and the giving, I’m so much more excited that I have you to not only shop for, but spend time together with.

These are the parts of Christmas that most excite me about hanging out with you this Christmas:

1. Hugs.

I don’t know about you, but I am looking forward to some love and affection. As an Italian, I love hugs. And I love getting hugged by people I know like me (cough, not my Tinder date, cough). Those people would be my friends and family. During the holidays, hugs warm me up on another level especially when I get off the plane and run into my father’s arms at the airport.

2. Seeing friends and people from high school.

Getting together with people you grew up with is that Hallmark card that hasn’t been made yet. I know high school was so 2000s, but I kind of love the awkward and informal reunions during Christmas time. My classmates all went on to work for the President or travel the world, and I love that we all still come back to our hometown and get together once a year. Nostalgia, love!

3. A good holiday party.

I like events and parties. They are the highlights of my day.

The holidays are a great time to hang out with friends you haven’t seen and maybe, just maybe you might meet someone who will like all those Instagram photos you post of your Christmas vacation.

But honestly, I like to go to that one Christmas party where I know everyone and want to hangout with everyone in the room.

Every year, my sisters and I throw a Winter Whining party and it’s the highlight of my season.

4. Hanging out with my parents.

It’s weird that I have come to the age where I want to hang out with my parents. They are as much my parents as they are my mentors, my cheerleaders, and my friends. It’s nice to have their wisdom, but it’s also nice that I am on their level, making adult decisions.

I was watching  Four Christmases this weekend, and Reese Witherspoon was packing for Fiji. I wanted to go with her. I did, But I still would choose to go home and see my parents over taking another adventurous vacation. Plus, I grew up in South Florida, so I can do the whole Christmas at the beach moment if I wanted to.

5. Taking the pretentious Christmas picture.

By now if you haven’t taken your Christmas picture, you are looking through your vacation photos wishing there was one good shot of everyone. The Christmas card is that opportunity to look pretty and tell your world that you went somewhere and you progressed in someway as a family.

We’ve stood next to cows, been blinded by the sun for that perfect beach family photo, and even had a Victorian Christmas photo. It’s getting to that awkward stage in my life where my siblings are entering into their thirties next year and we’re not going to do the Christmas card anymore.  PS this might have already happened because I don’t even know what it looks like right now. And I’m going to miss it.

Going Home For Christmas:

All I want for Christmas is you. I want your company and the moment of burning Christmas cookies and laughing so hard we can’t finish our wine.

Today, I finally bought my plane tickets home. And I’m so excited to be with you this Christmas.

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