Photo credit: Dennis Brown, NDU 5

For many a D23 member, a Walt Disney World vacation is all about makin’ memories. With 39 years of Disney vacation magic, I have quite a few to chose from. Today, though, I thought I would share one of the youngest Disney enchantments that I remember. I must have been about eight, and I can recall hanging half way over the railing, fifteen stories high. It was always windy up there and my baby blue sweatshirt flapped in the breeze. From this vantage point, it seemed like anything was possible.  It must have been the best part of that vacation, because the memory still remains as if it were yesterday. I walked all the way out to the end of the catwalk.  The emergency stairs beckoned me, and I wondered if I ran down far enough, could I wave at the people on the monorail as they entered and left the building? Before my adventure set in though, my aunt called for me to come in, and I went skipping back across the roof of the Contemporary Resort Hotel.

Waiting for our table in the lounge made me feel very grown up. We had reservations for Sunday Brunch at the Top of the World, and I was in for a real treat. As the hostess led us into the main room my eyes grew wide, taking in the giant buffet of food.  There was even a watermelon that was carved to look like a boat, which was very high end for a little girl in the late 1970s. The hostess sat us at our table, which was right next to a very large panoramic window, and I climbed into my seat, my heart filled with joy. I had the perfect seat and the perfect view.  All of the Walt Disney World Resort was at my feet. My aunt told me that if I was really good, we could come back later and watch the fireworks from the seating in the lounge. All the magic of the world was right in front of me to grab. For several years after that trip, I asked if we could go back to the Top of the World to see the dinner show called “Broadway at the Top,” but my family was hooked on the Sunday Brunch and the make your own shortcake bar. I didn’t complain!  After all, I was still able to run down the cat walk to the stairs.

The restaurant I remember as the Top of the World closed in 1993, and the show floor was re-imagined.  In May of 1995 a cutting edge show kitchen was the highlight of the restaurant that reopened as Disney’s signature dining experience, the California Grill. D23 Magazine’s spring 2009 issue showcased this market-driven concept, featuring creative American cuisine inspired by the Golden State. 100 fine California wines are offered so that guests may explore how the state accounts for over 90% of America’s wine production. With the same stunning panoramic views of the Walt Disney World Resort as well as coveted view of the Magic Kingdom’s fireworks spectacular, a table at the California Grill remains one of the most sought after seatings in Walt Disney World. If you’re not headed down anytime soon, you can still create the magic at home.  Some of California Grill’s delicious recipes are up on the D23 website, such as Sonoma Goat Cheese Ravioli or the very special Nori Wrapped Ahi Tuna. I’m very much looking forward to my first experience at the California Grill when my room mate and I travel to Disney World in May. I hope that it’s as spectacular as I remember. This will be his first WDW trip, and I’m hoping to help him create fabulous memories as well.

When the Disney Vacation Club property Bay Lake Tower opened, Disney treated members to a special tribute. With a special nod to nostalgia, high above the sparkling new tower, sits the Top of the World Lounge. Those who find themselves lucky enough to be staying at Bay Lake Tower can take the special elevator up and grab a drink and a snack before they head out to that blustery balcony to view the fireworks. Just like that little girl so very many years ago, I bet they too lean over the edge and hope they’ll be back soon.

Contributed by: Kristen Kirk (NDM#252)  Kristen is the DDL D23 Blogger and creator of The DVC Mom.

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