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Thursday Treasures

September 29, 2011
By Judi and Dean Dodge


We decided to celebrate our 35th anniversary with a trip to Hawaii. We booked a cruise, scheduled our flight to arrive a day prior to its departure, and made arrangements to visit Aulani, the newest Disney resort, located on the island of Oahu. The first piece of news we received after arriving in Honolulu was that our luggage had made its way to Seattle, was in the process of making its return trip to Phoenix and would be in Hawaii the next afternoon. No problem, we would simply stop by the airport the next day, pick up our luggage, and head to the harbor. We had packed a change of clothes in our carry on baggage and were looking forward to seeing Mickey and the gang!

Aulani had been open for less than a week. Local Disney fans had stopped by earlier in the week so they could be the first to ride the new attractions. Unfortunately, there are no attractions to ride at the resort, but there are plenty of other activities available for the resort's guests. Most of the activities take place in the Waikolohe Valley, located between the hotel lobby and the beach area of the resort. Our options for the evening included sitting near the fire pit for some traditional Hawaiian storytelling or making our way over to the stingray pool where the movie "UP" was playing on a giant outdoor movie screen. We chose instead to watch the sunset with a Pina Colada in hand.

Many of the island's residents were at the resort to spend a few hours with Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, and Donald at the restaurant's character breakfast. In addition to the character breakfast, the resort has meet and greets with Stitch in the morning and Chip and Dale in the evening.

The Disney Imagineers have done an incredible job incorporating the history of Hawaii and its people throughout the resort. A walking bridge that crosses over the Waikolohe Stream (a lazy river) is an exact replica of a bridge located in the very popular North Shore surf area of Oahu. The bridge was chosen because it was built in 1923, the year Disney was founded. A mound of lava located near the center of the valley (includes water slides) was designed and created by the same person that created and designed the Tree of Life in Disney's Animal Kingdom. Like the Tree of Life, look closely and you will see sketchings of recognizable forms of life in the lava mound. If you decide to participate in the Menehune adventure trail interactive experience (similar to Epcot's Kim Possible adventure), you will have the opportunity to see a portion of the lava turn into an active volcano.

Traditional Hawaiian references and characteristics are included in all of the resort's buildings, particularly the hotel's lobby area. The Lava Shack, a convenience store in the valley, is built with a corrugated roof similar to those seen at the local surf shops and the stairs to the valley from the hotel lobby area are made of Koa wood, a beautiful wood native to the Hawaiian Islands. The Olelo Room, a great place to stop for a continental breakfast or barbeque lunch, is very impressive. Olelo means word or language in Hawaiian and the room is dedicated to the Hawaiian language. One hundred and fifty local artists were chosen to make wood carvings of various objects. Each object is displayed in its own wooden frame along with the object's Hawaiian word.

As one has come to expect, the Disney Cast Members were incredibly helpful, well-versed in the Hawaiian traditions and very knowledgeable of all the resort's details. It was interesting to hear that the original Cast Members were all granted a free two nights stay at the resort with their families.

Once again, Disney has outdone itself and has created a remarkable world class resort!


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