We just returned from a trip to Walt Disney World (like I haven’t mentioned it enough already ) and one of my biggest pieces of advice is to do your souvenir shopping beforehand – at the Disney Store. You’ll find great stuff – toys, clothes, home decor, luggage, and so much more – at reasonable prices. Easily 2-3 times less than a similar item would cost you in the parks!
Our local Disney Store reopened just days before we left. You can imagine how happy I was! I picked up a Minnie-themed water bottle, t-shirts for both the girls and myself, sunglasses, flip-flops, a light-spinning thing (whatever those are called), handheld fan, and a few other things… and my mom bought the girls new bathing suits and beach towels, at a Disney Store back in Texas. I stashed all the goodies away in the girls’ suitcases for them to discover when we unpacked at the hotel, and saved myself a ton of money in the process. With more than 200 Disney Store locations in North America, over 100 across Europe, and 40-something in Japan, chances are there’s one not too far from you!
While shopping is the obvious reason for visiting the Disney Store, stepping foot in a store is an enchanting experience in itself. My local store, at Tyson’s Corner, just unveiled an innovative, highly interactive new store design aimed at delivering the best 30 minutes of a child’s day. These are a few of its features.
- Unlock Imagination
Every single day, a fun ceremony takes place at every new Disney Store. One lucky child is chosen to take part in “unlocking imagination” with a big lock and key. The child even receives their very own replica key to take home as a keepsake to remind them of that special day. I saw this take place, and the excitement in the little boy’s eyes was just priceless! I hope my kids get to participate one day.
- Pixie Dust Trail
As you enter the Disney Store, the story begins with the Pixie Dust Trail, a sparkly path that you can follow all the way to the back of the store. The store is divided into neighborhoods – Princess, Mickey & Minnie, Cars, Toy Story, The Muppets, etc. – which are all found along this path.
- Disney Princess Castle with Magic Mirror
My favorite part of the new store is the Disney Princess neighborhood, the centerpiece of which is the Disney Princess Castle. When a child enters the castle, she’ll see a mirror, which at first glance looks like any other. Wave any princess product in front of the mirror, however, and the mirror comes alive. The princess will appear, and even talk! All the favorite Disney princesses – Ariel, Belle, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White and Tiana – tell their stories through short film clips. The voices were recorded exclusively for the Disney Store magic mirror, and many were recorded by the original voice talent from the films! Maura was a little startled by it, but it’s all very cool.
- Magical Trees
Disney Store’s magical trees are a unique feature that I’ve never seen anywhere else. They definitely help create the mood of the store. The trees will change with the four seasons – coming to life with bright green leaves in the summer, and orange and red in the autumn, play a part in celebrations with fireworks, or show whatever the brand is trying to focus on. Some of Disney’s favorite characters make appearances in the trees – I saw Tinker Bell!
- Custom Skyline
One of the more subtle features of the newly designed Disney Stores is the custom skyline, which lines the upper perimeter of the store. You might not notice this unless you’re looking for it. It incorporates Disney storytelling moments with local (to that store) landmarks. For example, I saw Cinderella and her Prince looking over the 14th St bridge, with the Washington Monument in the distance. With Disney, it’s all in the details!
- Disney Store Theatre
At the end of the Pixie Dust Trail, you’ll find the Disney Store Theatre. It’s basically a giant video library containing Disney film trailers, film clips, music videos, classic animation and more, that you can access from a jukebox-type touchscreen computer. Choose from over 50 clips to watch on the 12-foot long screen, and you can even request a special “celebration” clip personalized with your child’s name for their birthday or any other special occasion. There’s a table with crayons and coloring sheets, and this is where Disney Store will host family activities and events.
- Disney Gives Back
With each new store opening in 2012, Disney Store will donate 10 percent of grand opening day’s sales to the Make-A-Wish Foundation in the United States!
- Let’s Go Shopping!
Video of the “unlock imagination” ceremony on the day of the Grand Opening of Disney Store at Tyson’s corner, by Jennvswrld on YouTube:
Disclosure: I was given a tour of a new Disney Store by a district manager, and received a discount and a goodie bag to thank me for my time, but all opinions are my own.