The man behind the magic would surely have taken great pride in the unveiling of the latest endeavors at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. His dreams, after all, were based around family, beauty and entertainment, and the new attractions that debuted in October — Wishes, Mickey’s PhilharMagic, Pop Century Resort, Magical Gatherings and Mission: SPACE — all epitomize those dreams. Wishes, a spectacular fireworks program, and Mickey’s PhilharMagic, a delightful 3-D movie, are both must-see events at the Magic Kingdom; the Pop Century Resort, which opens in December, offers glimpses of fads and fashions gone by. Magical Gatherings and Mission: SPACE, however, are the most noteworthyhighlights for Trailer Life travelers. With renewed focus on domestic travel and family since 911, reunions have increased in popularity, and Disney has put together a warm and fuzzy program to attract relatives and friends of all ages. Magical Gatherings takes the guesswork out of vacations for large parties; whether you’re gathering members of your clan from around the country, planning a high school reunion or organizing a meeting among your military buddies, Disney can help schedule the fun. From suggestions on where best to book multiple rooms in the same hotel, to guaranteeing dinner reservations for large parties, Magical Gatherings assures a stress-free vacation. For groups of eight or more, Grand Gatherings goes one step beyond; travel planners work with you to coordinate itineraries, tickets, photo opportunities and one-of-a-kind visits to sites and “lands.” Imagine spending the evening with your selected group at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, taking a VIP safari on the African savanna and dining at Tusker House Restaurant, with specialty cuisine and live entertainment. Other unique opportunities include special breakfasts, shows, visits with characters and more. Magical Gatherings offers a wonderful opportunity to renew acquaintances, spend quality time with loved ones, and make new memories in a very magical place. As an alternative to the selected hotels, RVers are invited to enjoy accommodations at Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground, which is rated a 10-10-10 park in the Trailer Life Campground and Parks Directory, located on Walt Disney World property (407/WDISNEY). Both a Magical Gathering and Grand Gathering Travel Planner are available to get you started. Go to www.waltdisneyworld.com for more information. Even Walt Disney himself probably never dreamed of Mission: SPACE. Working with NASA and Hewlett Packard (HP), Disney Imagineers spent five years, 350,000 work hours and $100 million dollars to create the other-worldly attraction at Epcot. Officially launched on October 9 to selected members of the media, the historical unveiling was breathtaking. Michael Eisner, chairman and CEO of Disney, facilitated the program and introduced the evening’s special guests: NASA President, Sean O’Keefe; HP CEO, Carly Fiorina; and legendary astronauts Buzz Aldrin, Jim Lovell and Wally Schirra. Joining this already auspicious group were two space travelers: Russian Cosmonaut Commander Yuri Malenchenko and NASA International Space Station science officer Ed Lu beamed in their best wishes for Mission: SPACE from the International Space Station. It was, indeed, a night to remember. Although you probably won’t see Aldrin and the other astronauts when you visit Epcot’s long-awaited attraction, you will find the thrilling sights, sounds and action incredible. Mission: SPACE is as close to the “real deal” as the overwhelming majority of us will ever experience. Simulating a mission to Mars, the ride carries travelers through space where they encounter meteor showers, nebula and the sensation of zero gravity. Riders are actually assigned duties varying from commander to engineer, and are responsible for their respective assignments; help is offered via narration by Apollo 13 actor, Gary Sinese. Each crew member is strapped into his/her seat, with an individual computer screen and control board just inches away. As the engines roar and lift-off is announced, the flight simulator capsule is fired into space and through the gravitational pull of the Earth. Approved by Aldrin and other former astronauts, several of whom worked with Disney and HP and gave the ride a thumbs-up for its authenticity, Mission: SPACE does affect riders in different ways. Guests are urged to read the signs carefully before proceeding, and once inside, are given yet another chance to reconsider: You may feel dizziness and/or queasiness — a couple of the symptoms the actual astronauts experience in space. Do not, however, allow that to preclude visiting Mission: SPACE. The area contains memorabilia well worth viewing, including one of only four Moon Rover vehicles on loan from the Smithsonian Institute. This is one of those rare opportunities to share a piece of history. For more information, go to www.disneymissionspace.com. Return to TL/MH eNewsletter.
Originally Published in Trailer Life Magazine