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Disney Social Media Moms Celebration: A Glimpse Behind Mickey’s Magic Curtain

The Disney Social Media Moms Celebration is undeniably one of the most sought-after conferences in the mom blogger world. And for good reason.  This invitation-only event pulls in some of the blogosphere’s most influential moms and offers three days of inspiring world-class speakers, exclusive access to Disneyland and celebrity encounters that will make you feel like a crazed groupie.

In 2013, I was honored to be invited and I did the unthinkable: reluctantly turned it down due to finances. In my (insanity) defense, though there are amazing sponsors, you still need to pay airfare and for the conference.

I was delighted to be invited this year but we had just returned from Maui and once again, our budget was stretched. “You won’t be invited back if we don’t do it,” my husband begged and I suspected he was right. So, I put the question out to a man with far great influence and wisdom and asked WWMD (What Would Mickey Do?)mickeyminnie

He says the answer is always, always Disneyland.

During our whirlwind long weekend, I had the opportunity to learn from one of the most powerful brands on the planet including Chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Tom Staggs and was spoon-fed insights from Build-A-Bear Workshop Founder Maxine Clark, Creative Director of Twitter Doug Bowman and Donald Driver, former Super Bowl Champion and inspirational speaker.

celebrity storytime

celebrity storytime

Most of us are familiar with Disney Parks and Resorts’ resorts, cruise line, vacation ownership program and guided family adventure business but I saw how the brand is using their enormous influence to make a difference in the world.  

During the conference, Disney Junior launched their “Give A Book, Get A Book” program where  Disney will partner with First Book to provide for the donation of up to 1 million books to U.S. communities in need, and also present families with free digital books from Disney Publishing Worldwide. (Get the redemption code for a free Disney Digital book and find how you can donate books to the community here).

To introduce an initiative of this magnitude, you could make an announcement but wouldn’t it be more fun to have Disney Junior stars Ariel Winter and Tim Gunn (of “Sofia the First“) and David Arquette (of “Jake and the Never Land Pirates“) perform a storybook reading to your kids in a beanbag-filled ballroom?

Elle Fanning and Mickey

Elle Fanning and Mickey

And while you’re at it, don’t just show an exclusive clip from “Maleficent” (coming out May 30) but it would be so much better to sing happy birthday to Elle Fanning (who plays Aurora a.k.a. Sleeping Beauty) and coincidentally just turned 16. And while everyone is singing, have Disney’s more iconic villain Maleficent crash the party and then have cupcakes served afterward because it is, after all, Disneyland.

Then there was the time they closed down Mickey’s Toontown for dinner and our families ate, hung with Mickey, rode the rides and did the Macarena all night long.

Or the early fun run morning (we’re talking 5:30 a.m.) where many moms dressed up in Disney costumes and ran through the park, ending up at Cars Land where we were given free reign of the park before it officially opened. Have you ever ridden the popular Radiator Springs Racers over and over and over again with no lines? Ka-chow!

But you can’t pre-plan and force the very best memories; they just happen in the most unexpected ways. After our first full day, we were exhausted, moody and just wanted to go to bed when we were suddenly hit with a scene like this.

thundersmThen the real magic of Disney was ignited as we repeatedly careened through Big Thunder Mountain Railroad’s recently renovated haunted gold-mining town under the glow of sandstone and an applauding moon.

My absolute favorite moment started out as one of our worst. Early in the trip, my daughter bought a pair of Minnie ears with her hard-earned money and proudly wore them as if she was the She-Mouse herself. But on the final day, she inadvertently left them in the front pocket of a ride and when we returned five minutes later, they had been stolen.

minnieearsShe was devastated to lose her beloved souvenir. Though sympathetic, I took a live-and-learn approach because they weren’t exactly cheap but her sweet dad snuck away and surprised her by buying and placing another pair on her head. For a girl who isn’t overly sensitive I thought she was going to burst into tears.

Now, when she looks at her Minnie ears she’ll not only fondly remember Disneyland but more importantly, her father’s love.

 Disney is all about nostalgia–that intangible part of childhood that escapes us when we grow up and it is the place we go to recapture it all.

Often in the most unexpected ways.

Be sure to stay tuned at my personal blog this week as I detail more behind-the-scenes adventures including how Frozen’s Elsa and I are practically BFFs, the fun run of death (and my sickbed) and much more! Disclaimer: I paid for all travel and conference fees while Disney and their sponsors provided the magic with food, entertainment and special discounts.

Tips for Feeling Disneyland’s Magic (and be sure to share your own)

I have figured out the “Magic of Disney.” It has nothing to do with Disneyland’s characters, rides, parades, shops or food. That magic has to do with how two children–completely overwhelmed, overheated and exhausted–can whine for hours about the conditions….

….and yet at day’s end forget it all and attest they had the most fun of their entire lives.

Hadley, Bode and I had just one day to spend at Disneyland over Spring Break. My friend Stephanie (a local) was going to be our tour guide but had to bail at the last-minute. I had foolishly planned on blindly following her around but instead was thrown into the lake without a paddle.

Or a boat.

My kids and I initially failed at navigating the crowds but by day’s end we had started to figure out the system (and I would love to hear your insights