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Our Tower of Terror Anniversary Party

Click here for information on how this party was planned.

The whole evening was designed to be a sort of progressive surprise for my husband, with each new revelation building on the previous one. I was going for an Old Hollywood Glamour theme, so the first surprise was that I rented him a tux (MW Tux in Winter Garden) and me a fabulous sequined gown (RentTheRunway.com). I also hired Patricia LeJeune to do my retro hair and makeup around the time I realized there was absolutely no way I could learn to do finger waves in just 2 weeks!

The next surprise came when we got to the lobby of the Beach Club and Patrick discovered that our pals the Roots were in Orlando and would be joining us for the party!

We walked over to Bayside Marina, where I’d had to rent a less-than-Old-Hollywood-glamorous pontoon boat for our IllumiNations cruise because it turns out Disney has sold the retro-fabulous Breathless II runabout. Our driver was anxiously pacing the dock when we got there—the next surprise of the night was that our event manager gave me the wrong time and we were super-late for our cruise! Usually they take you all the way down to Hollywood Studios and around by the BoardWalk before tying up for IllumiNations, but he turned back when we got to the Swan and booked it for Epcot. It wasn’t a big deal cuz we were headed back to Hollywood Studios later anyway.

See how fast we were going?

We’d been on an IllumiNations cruise before and were not impressed. They tie up directly under the bridge between the UK and France pavilions, and while you are looking out toward the fireworks, it kinda seemed like they were at the end of a tunnel because of the bridge overhead and the waterway beyond. However, two nights before, Patrick and I had seen pontoon boats docked all the way up at the mouth of the lagoon, by the edge of the lower French Island terrace. When I asked our captain about it, he said it was a brand-new policy in the last month, and that they can only do it if they get the OK from higher ups (it has to do with wind and drifting ash from the show). He also said he’d only seen it happen about four times since they started.

So we were thrilled when he got the OK and moved our boat up to the very front, right at the edge of the lagoon. The view turned out to be SO much better there—almost inside the show, with shells exploding overhead and reflecting on the water below.

Where the pontoon boats usually park

Where they park if you’re lucky

We were also very fortunate to be in one of the two boats in the front row—two more were parked behind us—which, our captain said, is assigned before the cruises depart. Obviously, the whole show is overhead, so it’s not like there would have been people’s heads in our way, but it was nice to just turn slightly and have this entire show practically in our laps!

Now, I was thinking it would be fun to have some photos of us smooching in front of IllumiNations like at our wedding dessert party, but I hadn’t accounted for the fact that we would be, you know, ON A BOAT, which does not mix well with low light and camera tripods, it turns out. So after a couple of shots we looked at the Roots and the Roots looked at us and we all said, “Let’s just enjoy the show, shall we?”

“What’s happening? Is something happening behind us? It sounds like something’s happening!”

You’ve all probably seen IllumiNations a bazillion times, so I’ll save most of the photos for my full anniversary trip report and just put in some favorites here.

…OK, that was kind of a lot of photos… sorry! But at least it shows what kind of views you get from the new parking spot for cruises.

Because our boat was at the front, we got to hang out for a little bit as the park was emptying. Then the driver announced that we were going back to the dock to switch boats before cruising a little longer. I shot him a frantic look—earlier I’d cornered him and explained that the drop-off at Hollywood Studios was to be a surprise. But I think maybe the boat we were on wasn’t big enough to dock there or something, so back we went to the Marina, traipsing up over their little portable bridge in our finery and around the corner to another pontoon boat, this one tricked out with sweet neon “ground effects” (or whatever they call them when it’s a boat not a car) like the nautical equivalent of Tokyo Mater. Finally we were off to Hollywood Studios!

Waiting for us at the dock were an event guide, a park event manager and a couple other people who all welcomed us to Hollywood Studios and lead us into the park, down Sunset Blvd., and up the stairs by Tower of Terror’s gift shop exit.

To my surprise and delight, the event staff had set our table up right in front of the open lobby doors, instead of back in the dark corner where the event space technically is. Guess I didn’t need a light-up cake after all!

And then yet another surprise: One of the event staff invited us to step into the lobby, unhooked the velvet rope, and told us we could go take pictures on the set!!! Again, I’ll save most of these for the full trip report, but here’s a sampling:

Dinner was interesting. Our wonderful server was there when we needed her and gone when we didn’t. My hopes for the food soared when she brought out four beautifully plated salads, each bursting out of a hollowed-out tomato and garnished with a flower made of vegetable shavings.

California Greens with Choice of Lemon Vinaigrette and Avocado Cream Dressings

However the entrees had not been split for us and came out looking more like your typical convention-center food.

Beef Fillet with Red Wine Demi, Mashed Potatoes, Asparagus, and Roasted Tomatoes

Pacific Salmon with Lemon Butter, Mashed Potatoes, Asparagus, and Roasted Tomatoes and a side of Jiko White Cheddar Macaroni & Cheese

We found the food pretty underwhelming. Granted, it had been made in the Hollywood Studios’ central kitchen and shipped out to Tower of Terror on a cart, and then it sat around waiting for us to arrive and finish taking a bazillion photos. But the fish was dry and bland, and its accompaniments had been steamed into a soggy, homogenous mass. The “Jiko” macaroni and cheese tasted like it had come out of The Blue Box. Jensey very diplomatically compared their filet to the passable fare at Applebee’s, which made me smile because I use that name as a culinary insult.

At least Patrick was appropriately attired for dividing up our meal

I think we may have been running behind schedule, because there was only time for two photos of the cake before it was whisked backstage for cutting. Detail freak that I am, if I had known this was the last time we’d see it with fondant on, I would have insisted on time for more close-ups.

I thought they did a great job with the cake decorations, it was just the topper that didn’t come out quite like I’d imagined. I think if I’d had Patrick helping me with the concept illustration things might’ve been different. But I also wish I’d known that it wasn’t the Grand Floridian Bakery making the cake as they did for our last anniversary party. Our pieces came out sans fondant, just like at our wedding. What surprised me was receiving a totally naked cake in a box at the end of the night—all that work on the decorations and we didn’t even get to take them with us to admire later!

As the last fork hit the plate, our dishes vanished, our cake turned up in a box, and our chairs seemed to pitch us out of them as the park event manager looked at his watch and muttered into his radio. Guess we overstayed our welcome!

Farewell, Tower of Terror

Oh good—looks like they’re finally fixing up the place!

As we walked back down Sunset Blvd., our guide seemed to come up with as many ideas for photo ops as we did, and who were we to argue?

When they finally dragged me kicking and screaming out of the park, the event manager sighed with relief and radioed that the park was clear of guests. We were left to straggle out to the parking lot like tourists we were, but it was worth it not to have a town car waiting backstage in order to squeeze in a few more photo ops!

All in all, it was a wonderful evening and such a fun way to incorporate elements of our wedding with something new for our anniversary. I’d worried that, without a fireworks show during dinner, sitting around eating convention food in an empty theme park would be kinda, well, boring. But it actually felt really special and fun! And the very best part was that we got to share the occasion with the dear friends we’d made on our wedding day. I just don’t know how I’m ever going to top it next year. I wonder if they do private events at Applebee’s…

For complete information on how this party was planned, click HERE. And for more information about planning small private events at Walt Disney World, click HERE.

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{ 58 comments… add one }

  • Megan February 18, 2011, 11:22 AM

    Wow! Carrie, that was an awesome anniversary party. When I finally plan my wedding I need you to be right by my side. (Yes, it’s been 3 years since we met and I still haven’t received a ring!)

    • lurkyloo February 18, 2011, 2:48 PM

      I’ll be there for ya! (And don’t worry—Patrick was a slow-mover too… they’re the best kind!)

  • Matt Hochberg February 18, 2011, 12:02 PM

    Amazing photos, I’m very jealous!

    • lurkyloo February 18, 2011, 2:49 PM

      Thanks for reading!

  • mrsksomeday - Tracy February 18, 2011, 12:51 PM

    WOW!!! How amazing and wonderful!! You both looked gorgeous and the outfits were perfect for the Tower of Terror setting. As always the Roots pictures were fantastic!! Thank you so much for sharing with us!

    • lurkyloo February 18, 2011, 2:50 PM

      I was thinking, “Well where else am I ever gonna get to wear a floor-length gold-sequined gown?!” 😀

  • Hope February 18, 2011, 3:13 PM

    WOW Carrie! You guys look gorgeous!!!!!!

    I think I just need to give you a wad of cash and let you plan our anniversary celebrations. You’re so creative!

    • lurkyloo February 18, 2011, 3:22 PM

      I’ll take a wad of cash! :) Seriously, though, it would be fun to help you plan—let me know if you need any ideas! It’s just too bad Disneyland doesn’t have more small-group opportunities…

  • Andrea February 18, 2011, 3:29 PM

    Love it! You are the luckiest gal in the world!

    • lurkyloo February 18, 2011, 3:40 PM

      Only cuz I married Patrick! 😉

  • Cheryl February 18, 2011, 5:26 PM

    Yes, I still read your commentaries….and love them! I am thinking that for my 25th anniversary I will have to tap into you and your ideas to surprise my husband. Thanks for the great story and photos…

    • lurkyloo February 18, 2011, 5:29 PM

      Hey, thanks for reading! I would love to help you out with ideas for your anniversary—just say the word!

  • Nancy February 18, 2011, 5:26 PM

    Wow, Carrie!!! Jumped over here from the disboards (Zuzu03) – what a beautiful and special evening you had!!!! So romantic! And the Roots did a beautiful job capturing it all. CONGRATULATIONS!!!

    • lurkyloo February 18, 2011, 5:30 PM

      Good to see you here—thanks for the kind words!

  • Jenn Paul February 18, 2011, 5:47 PM

    Oh Carrie! You have most definitely out done yourself! Patrick is a most lucky man! COOLEST thing I have ever seen anyone do! WOW WOW WOW!1 I really can’t stop smiling for you!

    • lurkyloo February 18, 2011, 6:00 PM

      You are so sweet! Thank you!

  • megan February 18, 2011, 8:37 PM

    Lovely, lovely event all around! You really know how to throw a party, and you and Patrick looked fabulous. Even though the cake didn’t turned out exactly how you envisioned, I think it was pretty beautiful. I love that you’re out there thinking outside the box and coming up with new adventures for yourself, can’t wait to see what you’re up to next!

    • lurkyloo February 19, 2011, 10:07 AM

      At this point I think we’ll have to go back to Tokyo DisneySea if we’re gonna top it – LOL!

      • megan February 20, 2011, 3:41 PM

        I see nothing wrong with that plan!!

  • Kate February 19, 2011, 4:33 AM

    My jaw has literally been hanging open the whole time I’ve been looking at this!!! This is amazing and you guys look spectacular! Congrats on the most gorgeous anniversary EVER!

    • lurkyloo February 19, 2011, 10:06 AM

      Thank you so much!

  • kcampbell February 19, 2011, 6:39 AM

    I have always wanted to use that space above the gift shop/ ride entrance for an event. So awesome you were able to. May I ask how much the rental fee and minimums were?

    And you both looked fab! Patricia did a wonderful job on your hair & make-up….you looked gorgeous! Jensey and Nate should’ve gotten dolled up too!

    • lurkyloo February 19, 2011, 10:06 AM

      The complete pricing breakdown is here: http://disneytravelbabble.com/how-to/private-party/tower-of-terror-dinner/ We had to save up a little longer, but I did some calculations and figured out that the dinner itself was actually cheaper than doing a Fantasmic! dessert party, spending 2 hours on the Grand 1, or having brunch at the Attic!

      • kcampbell February 19, 2011, 11:14 AM

        Good deal…Sorry I missed that breakdown before. It would’ve saved you from repeating yourself. Something to definitely keep in mind. Glad you and Patrick had a great time! (minus the ok food)

  • Lauren February 19, 2011, 6:59 AM

    WOW Carrie, how amazing!!

    You plan the best Disney events ever!!!!

    • lurkyloo February 19, 2011, 10:03 AM

      I don’t think I could ever top this one, though!

  • Pinkgirl February 19, 2011, 7:50 AM

    Wow! Fantastic dress and amazing themeing. Wouldnt be surprised if Disney try to pinch some of The Roots shots for publicity.

    • lurkyloo February 19, 2011, 10:03 AM


  • Rachael February 21, 2011, 2:32 PM

    I am gob-smacked! Amazing! I am very envious of you both. I wonder if my hubby would oblige me and get dressed up, as he is a denim jeans kind of guy all year round…

    I LOVED the cake. Small yet impacting. I loved how it lit up!!! How did they do that?

    Congratulations to you both!!

    • lurkyloo February 21, 2011, 3:14 PM

      Thanks! What you have to do is *surprise* your husband with the tux—then he can’t say no! 😉 The cake had three battery-operated lights stuck in the top behind the tiara. I took them home… dunno what I think I’m going to use them for…

  • Mary Kay (Disneybuckeye) February 22, 2011, 6:12 PM

    Wow! Wow! Wow! I don’t even know where to begin. The venue, the outfits, the cake, the pictures, what a perfect evening. Thank you so much for sharing. I definitely need to start saving some pennies and maybe for our 30th anniversay (when all the kids are out of college) I can hopefully do something like this. I never knew this was possible. Your pictures are incredible and what a wonderful memory. Congrats on planning and pulling off a great anniversary!

    • lurkyloo February 22, 2011, 6:29 PM

      Thanks for the kind comment! Disney is definitely a fabulous place to celebrate an anniversary—I’d be interested to hear what you end up doing for your 30th!

  • ATG February 23, 2011, 2:26 AM

    *Thud* You guys look amazing! Patrick is so dapper in a tux. We should find more events to go to that demand formal wear…

    And you…I cannot find the words to express just how gorgeous you look and how much you’ve inspired me. I am DETERMINED to find a way to wear something almost as spectacular on my next trip to WDW!

    • lurkyloo February 23, 2011, 8:53 AM

      Go for it! That’s the great thing about Disney, especially with all those brides running around—it’s one of the few places you can all dolled up and nobody bats an eye!

  • Tammie Manfull February 24, 2011, 2:56 PM

    Another amazing event, Carrie! Congratulations – was Patrick blown away?

    • lurkyloo February 24, 2011, 3:03 PM

      Speechless! But I still think his favorite part of the surprise was seeing the Roots again. 😉

  • Donna ~ Sherpasmom on the DIS March 17, 2011, 10:13 AM

    Hopped here because I’m in the middle of A Very Lurkyloo Christmas and couldn’t wait for a TOT terrace party review ~ I *LOVE* this venue, and now thanks to you Mrs loo I know how to save accordingly not only for my daughter’s wedding, but her 16th Birthday. She and I go to WDW at least 2-3x yearly and TOT is her fave ride ~ I think a surprise 16th here would be a scream….


    I wonder if between now and then (she’s 8) I could get enough Disney Rewards points to spring for the ride being open, and would they let us ride it repeatedly as is our custom after getting our fill of 50’s Prime Time Fried Chicken?

    I like you and know am obsessed with Disney private events particularly with the Roots photographic flair…..this can’t be good for the college savings account! 😉

    Better hope my girl keeps making A’s.

    • lurkyloo March 18, 2011, 3:12 PM

      Hilarious! At 1 Disney Reward Dollar to 100 real dollars, I hope you started saving, like, 20 years ago! 😉

  • J Darling April 5, 2011, 2:01 PM

    An idea for next year…
    What about an after hours party at the Animal Kingdom? It would be so different from everything else you’ve done, and I hear the park is BEAUTIFUL at night.

    • lurkyloo April 5, 2011, 2:40 PM

      It’s definitely something I’m considering! We’ve only had a chance to be at AK after dark once, but we loved it! I just have to get over the idea that fireworks must be involved in the party…

  • Bas4a April 10, 2011, 8:21 PM

    I enjoyed reading your review, what a wonderful anniversary gift! I noticed that you mentioned in your review that it costs $6,500 to buy out the TOT ride. Is this a possible wedding reception venue? If it is, does it cost $6,500 to buy out the ride plus food and drink minimums plus venue rental? Thank u in advance for any info! :]

    • lurkyloo April 10, 2011, 9:25 PM

      Yes—the $6,500 is only to keep the ride operating for your party. The venue rental and food and beverage minimums are on top of that. If your group is larger than 10 people, you’ll have to rent out the courtyard below the terrace, just outside the gift shop, which has a $2,000 venue-rental fee and an $850 food and beverage minimum. Hope this helps! :)

  • Kyle April 27, 2011, 1:41 PM

    Just got off the phone seems they now only rent the courtyard they would not rent me that space :(

    They said its not going to happen.

    • lurkyloo April 27, 2011, 1:53 PM

      Oh no! Now did you talk to an actual planner or just the person who answers the phone? Because Disney is notorious for giving conflicting info…

  • Kyle April 27, 2011, 1:55 PM

    A planner. I was so broken but its okay I’m not done fighting it yet

    • lurkyloo April 27, 2011, 2:00 PM

      Hang in there—this stuff changes all the time. Right after our last anniversary, they said they’d stopped letting people do dessert parties at UK Pubside, but within a few months, that was back on again too!

  • Kyle April 27, 2011, 1:56 PM

    They called the studios and they wouldn’t also.

  • Conor May 3, 2011, 3:40 PM

    OMGGG. This is AMAZING. I am beyond jealous. Tower of Terror is my favorite ride. You looked stunning and all of the pictures came out amazing as well.

    • lurkyloo May 3, 2011, 3:42 PM

      Thanks for your kind comments! :)

  • Jessica July 9, 2011, 6:13 PM

    This is soooo freaking cool.. I must say we were on the fence about what “2nd” park to add for our portrait sessions. Mgm studios (sorry refuse to say hollywood) was the best choice we ever made. The photos came out wayyy better then our MK ones. Something about the old hollywood look you get, esp when the park is empty. Nothing compares. :)

    • lurkyloo July 9, 2011, 6:23 PM

      Great to hear your photos turned out so well! I think you’re right about the Old Hollywood look. As much as I grouse about DHS’—excuse me, MGM Studios’—lack of shade and rides, it is definitely a feast for the eyes.

  • Victoria July 26, 2011, 1:09 PM

    “I wonder if they do private events at Applebees…” LOL! I love your style, Lurkyloo!!!

    • lurkyloo July 26, 2011, 1:12 PM

      Gosh, thanks!

  • kellea kenyon May 11, 2014, 7:16 AM

    Fantastic !!!! I love, love, love it :)

  • Gayle June 19, 2014, 2:08 PM

    Your celebration looks amazing, just looking for ideas for our 25th wedding anniversary. We’ve been on the cruise, but this looks a perfect end to the evening. And you look stunning, what a lovely memory for you x

    • Carrie June 19, 2014, 2:58 PM

      Hey, thanks for the kind words!

  • Sasha June 23, 2014, 12:05 PM

    Carrie, I don’t understand: where does the fondant go?? How can the cake come out naked after cutting? They peel off the fondant in the process of cutting? This doesn’t make sense! How could your wedding cake have become naked also?!

    So worried. I don’t want a wedding cake to end up in just dry slices after cutting. I was really excited about the mini cake options, and was going to get two (we have a really small wedding ceremony in the works), but now that I’m looking at an Escape ceremony, there will be a real cake, and I’m just not even all that excited about it.

    And the fact that fondant and decorations disappear scares me! Where do they go?!

    • Carrie June 23, 2014, 12:10 PM

      Hi Sasha! There is always buttercream under the fondant, so the cake isn’t completely naked. I’m a frosting fiend, and I’ve never found it dry either. Disney just removes the fondant by default because most people don’t like the taste of it. If you want it left on, all you have to do is have your planner note that in the BEO. Plus, since you’re Escape, it’s not like they take the cake away to cut it like they do at Wishes events. They’ll cut it right in front of you, so you can always throw yourself in front of the cake to shield it if you see them starting to peel off the fondant. :)

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