By Matt Villano, on July 10, 2013

The best of Disney Parks

I married into a Disney family. When my wife and her sisters were kids, my in-laws repeatedly took their entire home in New York to Walt Disney World Resort. The girls kept this passion into adulthood, as my wife has passed it along to our two daughters.


Naturally, then, I’ve had my share of exposure to Disney Parks over the years. In Florida, we’ve chased down princesses at Magic Kingdom Park, sampled international culture (and cuisine) at Epcot, and ogled gorillas at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park. We’ve even mugged for the cameras at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.


Because we live in California, however, we have had more experience with the Disneyland Resort and Disney properties in the west. That means we’re regulars at Disneyland Park, and were among the first to check out the new Cars Land at Disney California Adventure Park. 

In June, we knocked another Disney hotspot off our list, spending five days and nights at Aulani, the Disney Parks property on the Hawaiian island of OahuTo say the trip was relaxing would be the understatement of the year.


Every morning, we woke up and started the day on the resort’s beach, building sandcastles and burying feet. In the afternoons, when the tropical sun made us sluggish, we piled into two inner tube-shaped floats and whiled away hours floating around the pool’s lazy river.

Viewfinder Tip: Take advantage of the Aulani’s free arts and crafts classes; you might have the opportunity to make your own lei!

Beyond these rituals, my kids loved Aunty’s Beach House, the Aulani’s take on a kids’ club, where they were able to paint, draw, and play dress-up with fun finds from a costume closet. The girls also enjoyed the resort’s “Starlit Hui,” a modern take on the traditional Hawaiian luau – complete with hula performers, arts and crafts stations, and lots of dancing (as well as cameos from Mickey and Minnie, of course).


Perhaps most important, my wife and I liked Aulani, too. While the kids were able to chase down menehunes (these are little people who play an important part in Hawaiian folklore) and splash in a spectacular water playground, my wife and I were able to eat good food, drink Mai Tais, and watch sunsets from the lanai (that’s Hawaiian for “balcony) of our 15th-floor room.

 During my stay, I hosted a Google+ Hangout on Air on behalf of Expedia about some of the wonders at Disney Parks and Resorts. As part of this event, I interviewed three Disney experts: Todd Apo, spokesperson and cultural ambassador at the Aulani; Megan Navarette, Disneyland Resort ambassador; and Tye Arnold, Walt Disney World Resort ambassador. The event was chock-full of insider tips about some of these great parks and resorts. And it’s still online for your enjoyment. So check it out. Take some notes. And tell me what you think.


As for us Villanos, we’re planning our next big Disney vacation – to Disneyland Resort Paris – during a 4-month stint in Europe this fall. Nobody in our family speaks a lick of French. But something tells me that so long as at least one of us speaks “princess” there, the lot of us should do just fine.

What do you like best about Disney Parks and Resorts?