Walt Disney World kicked off its “100 Years of Magic” celebration in October to celebrate Walt Disney's birth 100 years ago. A series of special events takes place through the end of 2002 at each of the four theme parks. Here are our top six picks for themed events or parties:
Groups can opt to dine either inside the Castle, or waterside, at the new Plaza Landing, nestled in its shadow. “Accent an evening of elegance with special menus and entertainment timed to the flight of Tinkerbell, as she heralds the classic Fantasy in the Sky fireworks,” suggests George Aguel, senior vice president of sales for Walt Disney Parks & Resorts. Plaza Landing accommodates groups of up to 200.
World ShowPlace at Epcot
It's the largest dedicated group facility ever created within a theme park, accommodating up to 4,000 guests. There's more than 45,000 square feet of flexible function space, which can be transformed into just about any theme using Disney's talented staff, known for creating magic.
The World Showcase at Epcot
Big groups dining at the World ShowPlace at Epcot (above), can walk outside into Epcot's World Showcase, which has pavilions from 11 different nations. Event locations ring the World Showcase lagoon (including private islands adjacent to Italy and France). The largest outdoor location, called World Showcase Plaza, can accommodate groups of up to 4,000. Smaller groups may want to have a dessert party at, for example, the UK terrace.
Who Wants to Be a Millionaire — Play It!
Groups will scream with laughter as they see one of their own in the hot seat. The new attraction at MGM Studios is patterned after the popular TV game show starring Regis Philbin. The theater seats 600. Every aspect of the show can be tailored to the group's needs.
Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge
If you can't send your group to Africa, this is the next best thing. A selection of outdoor venues is available for groups who party at Disney's newest hotel. Right next door to the Animal Kingdom Theme Park, the Lodge has its own savanna filled with giraffe, zebra, impala, gazelle, and wildfowl.
The Haunted Mansion
At a dinner event for up to 72 people at this Magic Kingdom venue, servers are grim-faced and silent — the hostess, Madame Leota, has put a curse on them. Elegant centerpieces are made with dead flowers, and the sorbet between courses is — what else? — “Blood Orange” served in an iced “skullpture.” The biggest problem with this event is getting people to leave, says Aguel. “The whole evening is screamingly funny.”