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Growing up in California I remember my family trips to Disneyland at a time when tickets corresponded to the first five letters of the alphabet. The most treasured tickets among these were the E-Tickets, which we used to ride Space Mountain and the Haunted Mansion . To mark Southern California's Disneyland 's 50th anniversary, Walt Disney World kicked off "The Happiest Celebration on Earth" in grand style at Disney theme parks around the world.




Drop in at the Tower
of Terror for a thrill.

Our family is on hand to witness the anniversary preparations at the Disney Parks in Florida , featuring several unique shows and attractions from around the world. We like to stay close to the attractions at Downtown Disney, yet away from the traffic. The spacious Comfort Inn in Lake Buena Vista, Florida , is less than two miles from Downtown Disney, and within walking distance to restaurants and shops. Amenities include continental breakfast at their onsite restaurant, a bar, game room, sparkling pools, and free transportation to Disney Parks.

We’re pleasantly surprised upon arriving at our room moments after checking in to find an attendant with the roll-away bed we requested. Before heading out to Disney we enjoy a FREE Deluxe Continental Breakfast in the Boardwalk Buffet Restaurant. The restaurant also features a Kids Eat Free program, and Early Bird & Senior breakfast & dinner specials.




River Cruise at Animal Kingdom.

Arriving early at Magic Kingdom, I find myself standing front of Cinderella's castle imagining the bright-eyed children watching the spectacular musical show imported from Tokyo Disneyland for the "Cinderellabration." I can't wait to return with our niece so she can meet Disney's most beloved princesses, who'll gather for a coronation and "happily-ever-after" story of Cinderella after each magical show. I couldn't resist a ride on Aladdin's magical carpet on our visit to Agrabah in Adventureland. The ride made me think of the Arabian Nights, which inspired us to visit the themed dinner show that evening.




Amazing performers in beautiful
costumes entertain the crowd.

The Arabian Nights Dinner Attraction, located at 6225 W. Irlo Bronson Memorial Hwy. in Kissimmee (800/553-6116; www.arabian-nights.com), brings a fairy tale to life before your eyes with 60 extraordinary horses and Walter Farley's Black Stallion. After a graceful belly dancer entertained us we settled into the arena where performers, dressed in elaborate costumes performed amazing stunts with the grace of ballerina's and the skill of acrobats on the back of horses. Adding a special touch to the tasty feast and magical show was the parade of horses galloping into the arena with the performers as the show closed.




At Epcot's World Showcase we
are entertained by performers
from around the world.

At Epcot the next day we arrive in Italy, located at the World Showcase in time to catch a performance by colorful mimes. Each day, performers representing cultures from around the world participate in new and exciting shows. After hopping from country to country at the World Showcase we sampled authentic Mexican food in Mexico for lunch and later dined on Fish and Chips at dinner while in England. To top the evening off we found a comfortable spot around the lagoon for the nightly fireworks show: Illuminations: Reflections of Earth.




Muppet Vision 3D
at MGM Studios.

The Disney-Walt Disney World Resort in Central Florida has unveiled a new ticketing policy called "Magic Your Way," that gives visitors greater flexibility in customizing vacation packages. This new program allows visitors to choose their length of stay, along with a base ticket allowing for one-day admission to a single theme park. "Magic Your Way" allows guests to add on options as they see fit; like the ability to "hop" between parks, admission to other gated attractions, and a "No Expiration" option for unused days. We like the Park Hopper Passes because we're able to have a flexible schedule and get the most out of our trip.

At Disney's MGM Studio's we laughed ourselves silly at the Muppet Vision 3D Show before a wild, rockin ride on the Rock 'N' Roll Rollercoaster, featuring music by Aerosmith. Another ride that left me clutching my seat was the thrill of falling 13 floors on the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. After that rush we needed a break from the action and head over to Animal Kingdom.




A parrot entertains @ Animal Kingdom.



Making friends with Lilo & Stitch.



Sleuth's Mystery Dinner Show
keeps guests gussing whodunit.

A friendly and playful parrot greets visitors along the path while ahead Lilo and Stitch pause with visitors for pictures. Around the corner in the Asia area of Disney's Animal Kingdom we took a cruise and caught a view of construction on one of the newest attractions set to open later in this celebration year — the towering Expedition Everest thrill ride. As our cruise ended we heard drumming and meet up with native band of drummers before a festive parade.

Florida is filled with exciting attractions and natural beauty to explore outside of Disney. We discovered many unique and intriguing attractions and activities to enjoy with the help of a fabulous book called, "The Other Orlando: What to Do When You've Done Disney & Universal," by Kelly Monaghan. The current edition highlights almost 200 attractions around the state; including dinner shows, arts, sporting events and outdoor activities. Among our favorite attractions suggested in the book were the dinner attractions, which were all located close to our hotel in Lake Buena Vista .

Sleuth's Mystery Dinner Show has several different shows featuring various themes that keep guest guessing whodunit. Located in Orlando at 7508 Universal Blvd. ( 800/393-1985; www.sleuths.com), the Sleuths Mystery Dinner Show came to life the moment we entered. Throughout our flavorful, full course meal everyone at our table tried to figure out which of the award-winning actors committed the murders in the comical mystery show. When the culprit is revealed, everyone who guessed who it was entered into a drawing for a prize.

We returned to the Lake Buena Vista Comfort Inn to lounge under a full moon around one of the two heated swimming pools and enjoy a snack from the Lite Bite Deli, open until midnight. When a cool breeze blew in as the clouds gathered overhead we sought the warmth of casual company in the Comfort Zone Lounge. The courteous staff continued to impress us by offering dry cleaning service, and helping with attraction tickets and restaurant reservations throughout our stay.




Dine with the King & Princess
as knights battle at the
Medieval Times Dinner Show.



Cheer for the knights as
beautiful horses perform tricks.

We took a day off to sleep in and hang out again around the pool before shopping at Downtown Disney. On our last evening we stepped back in history at Medieval Times Dinner Show located at 4510 W. Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway in Kissimmee (800/WE-JOUST). Upon entering the King and Princess greeted us in the great hall and gave us all our own colorful crowns to wear as honored guests. When the trumpets announced that dinner was prepared we were led to our section of the arena. On the field below brave knights paraded in to honor their king. Each knight’s section of the arena cheered as beautiful horse’s performed, and knights engaged in sword fights and jousts.

Florida is filled with exciting attractions and natural beauty to explore outside of Disney. We discovered many unique and intriguing attractions and activities to enjoy with the help of a fabulous book called, "The Other Orlando: What to Do When You've Done Disney & Universal," by Kelly Monaghan. The current edition highlights almost 200 attractions around the state; including dinner shows, arts, sporting events and outdoor activities. Among our favorite attractions suggested in the book were the dinner attractions, which were all located close to our hotel in Lake Buena Vista .

For more Fun and Great Florida Getaways we also checked out www.visitflorida.com. Take a peek at the beautiful beaches while at http://www.beachbooker.com where you can find the lowest beach resorts on each beach, backed with a 110% low rate guarantee, plus beachand tropical gear and unique suntan lotions, lip and skin balms and more. Look for air and hotel discounts packages on the homepage.

To find out more about the new Disney ticketing policy called "Magic Your Way" or to plan a trip to experience Disney's "The Happiest Celebration on Earth," marking Southern California's Disneyland 's 50th anniversary, visit www.disneyworld.com or call: 1-407-939-4636.

By Melody Schubert, Indianapolis Correspondent.

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