Book Review: National Geographic’s “100 Disney Adventures of a Lifetime: Magical Experiences from Around the World” by Marcy Carriker Smothers

Having been a part of The Walt Disney Company since 2019, National Geographic gets into the spirit of Disney’s 100th anniversary celebration with the latest installment of their hardcover “[Blank] of a Lifetime” book series. From author Marcy Carriker Smothers (Eat Like Walt) comes 100 Disney Adventures of a Lifetime: Magical Experiences from Around the World. With previous entries in the series having included destinations, dives, drives, and hikes, this Disney-themed edition is distilled down to more granular experiences rather than broader destinations or itineraries.

(Disney/Nat Geo)

(Disney/Nat Geo)

With theme park resort destinations around the world, unique offerings from Disney Cruise Line, Disney Vacation Club destinations away from the theme parks, and guided travel experiences around the globe, Disney’s portfolio of vacation offerings can be a little overwhelming. 100 Disney Adventures of a Lifetime presents a fairly broad overview of all of these opportunities, broken up by types of experiences rather than geographical location. Chapter titles include “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” (fun for all ages), “Adventure Is a Wonderful Thing” (fun for thrill seekers), “A Whole New World” (worldwide travel), “Be Our Guest” (all about food), and “When You Wish Upon a Star” (premium services).

As a well-read scholar on all things Walt Disney, Marcy Carriker Smothers incorporates uniquely Walt experiences throughout the book, which are among the few non-Disney owned or operated experiences featured. From exploring Walt’s childhood in Chicago and Marceline, to following his travels in Europe and seeking out preserved remnants of his past, these breakout sections were among the most intriguing to me. While they are interspersed throughout the entire book, Marcy also starts the adventure with a chapter called “The Happiest Adventurer on Earth,” trying to connect as much of the story back to the company’s namesake as possible. Sometimes it can’t be done, such as the inclusion of a National Geographic Expeditions trip to Africa, while other opportunities like Disney Cruise Line excursions in Alaska are connected back to Walt Disney’s personal travels.

Fun Fact, there are actually more than 100 adventures listed throughout the book, plus bonus features, like the evolution of the popular mouse ears souvenir and a fold-out double-sided map in the back of the book by Sara Mulvanny, which pins many of the included experiences. Imagineer Joe Rhode provides the book’s Foreword, sharing the love of travel that was instilled in him by Disney Legends Marc Davis and Herb Ryman and how his own travels contributed to his work on projects like Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa.

The inherent challenge with any book about Disney destinations is that they’re out of date the moment they hit the presses, which is why Birnbaum Guides are updated annually. Attempts were made to future-proof this tome, for at least a little while, with upcoming experiences featured. These include Shanghai Disneyland’s Zootopia land, Disneyland Paris’ Frozen area, and the newest upcoming addition to Magic Kingdom, Tron Lightcycle Run. At the same time, who could’ve known that Disney KiteTails would have such a short run? As of today’s release date, that show has already faded into the sunset, although it is included in a section of entertainment offerings at the parks.

At times feeling like a holiday wish book, 100 Disney Adventures of a Lifetime teases some experiences that most readers will never have the chance to try. Club 33, for example, is featured in the section about food, primarily focused on its original location inside Disneyland, but with a blurb about its offshoots around the world. For the uninformed, you have to either be a member (there’s a waitlist to join, followed by a 5-figure initiation fee and costly annual dues to remain in the club) or the guest of a member to get inside. Or Golden Oak Ranch, luxury homes that offer the rich and famous the chance to have their own piece of property within the Walt Disney World Resort. Less exclusive, but still out of reach for many, are Disney Fairytale Weddings, VIP Guided Tours, and a meal at 21 Royal, Disneyland’s $15,000 single-meal splurge. And then there’s an item that even money can’t buy, a stay in the Cinderella Castle Suite at Magic Kingdom, which can either be won through infrequent contests or, if you’re a real somebody, Disney might quietly treat you to the experience.

As with National Geographic’s other “[Blank] of a Lifetime” books, 100 Disney Adventures of a Lifetime: Magical Experiences from Around the World really offers a license to dream. It may spark an idea for your next Disney vacation, or perhaps make you feel like you’ve come close enough to seeing something through the high-quality photos that dominate the glossy pages. Perhaps you’ll learn about something you never knew existed, or add a new dream to your bucket list. Either way, it’s fun to peruse as a Disney fan and makes for a great conversation starter as a decoration on your coffee table.

100 Disney Adventures of a Lifetime: Magical Experiences from Around the World is now available in a standard edition (MSRP $40) or in a limited edition deluxe version (MSRP $100).

(Disney/Nat Geo)

(Disney/Nat Geo)

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Alex Reif
Alex joined the Laughing Place team in 2014 and has been a lifelong Disney fan. His main beats for LP are Disney-branded movies, TV shows, books, music and toys. He recently became a member of the Television Critics Association (TCA).