Archive for the ‘Disneyworld’ Category

25 Days of Christmas – Day 1: the Rainforest and Tangled

Wednesday kicked our the start of a new advent calendar for us, the 25 Days of Christmas. My youngest daughter turned four on that day so our advent activity was determined by her.

To the Rainforest Cafe for dinner.

The Rainforest Cafe is my daughter’s favourite restaurant, at the moment. Each of our kids has a birthday restaurant, a place we go on their birthday to celebrate their birthday as a family; the Rainforest Cafe is my youngest daughter’s birthday restaurant. I think she loved the show, the animals dressed in their Christmas finest dancing in during the storm, and the Volcano ice cream at the end. Reluctantly she shared. The big surprise was the show the kids got leaving the restaurant; an employee in a scuba suit submerged in one of their big tanks, cleaning it. Now there’s a job.

After dinner is was time to head open and open the presents. I think my daughter had an idea about what she was getting from us, due to no small part on my son’s end (he’s really not good at keeping a secret), but that didn’t affect her excitement. Although I love my iPhone, it doesn’t do a good job at grabbing clear pictures of a super excited child. She loved the Tangled movie and was ecstatic to receive the dolls and Tangled Tower for her birthday. The tower is so big standing at 3 feet it’s almost as tall as my daughter.

Of course the big surprise of the night was my 6-year old son’s enthusiasm for my daughter’s gift. Sure he was happy that his sister was excited about her gifts. He was happy that he played a part in making her so excited. He enthusiastically helped my daughter get all the castle parts out of the big box not because he wanted to wanted to help her set it up (that fell on dad to do), not because he wanted to play with her. No it turns out he wanted the big box for himself.

My daughter had a fantastic birthday and we kicked our 25 Days of Christmas in a big way. I think we’ll take it a little easy on Day 2.

A Day of Firsts

Day 1 at Disney World and we had to visit Magic Kingdom first. When you have young kids Magic Kingdom has to be your first stop. It will probably be one of the resorts we visit more than once on our current trip.

We’ve actually visited Disney World a few times, I think six times, but even with all those visits there are still things we haven’t seen or done. Today was actually a day of a few firsts. Today we checked out Country Bear Jamboree, a show we’ve never seen before. Similar to the Enchanted Tiki Room, this is more an attraction that you sit in an air-conditioned room to watch a themed animal animatronics show. The kids seemed to like it, I felt it was a little dated, especially some of the songs, though I’m sure my six-year old son will start singing the song ‘Blood on the Ground’. Probably not a show we’ll see again (unlike Enchanted Tiki Room which we have to see every time we visit) but I’m glad we did see it; I’m glad we had the chance to try something new at Disney.

We also tried Splash Mountain for the first time, especially after we found out our three-year old met the height restrictions, just. barely. Usually the stand-by wait for Splash Mountain has been up to 1.5 hours but when we walked by it was only 15 minutes. Everyone loved it. Yes we got wet, not too wet but wet enough. And once wasn’t enough; we went on two more times. If given the chance the kids would have kept going on but there were some other rides we wanted to hit before heading back to the hotel.

Since this was our youngest daughter’s big ride, just passing the height requirement, she received her Splash Mountain pin. (The kids like to participate in pin trading, but we also buy a few select pins on each visit, like for the resort we’re staying at and a specific ride pin that really means something to each child on that trip).

My six-year old son’s favourite roller coaster is Thunder Run; he experienced for the first time last year. So this year my eight-year old daughter convinced him that he should try her favourite roller coaster, Space Mountain. He sat in the car between me and my daughter. While we whipped around I asked if he liked it and he said ‘no’. Oh dear. I could say close your eyes and it will pass but the ride takes place in the dark so that wouldn’t accomplish much. As the ride continued he started screaming but not ‘get me off this ride before I jump’. No it was ‘this is awesome’. At the end of the ride I asked how he liked it and he said he loved it. After his initial fear of the lap restraint not holding him in, he relaxed and really loved it. He loved it so much he went again. So he earned his Space Mountain badge.

I love that a visit to Disney World means we can visit the attractions and rides we love but that we always find something new to try; a new resort, ride, food. It makes it a great new experience every time.

Disney Bound

So our Everything Disney road trip has begun. In 22 hours we should be at The House of Mouse (also known as Disney World). If you’re on twitter you can follow along using the hashtag #EverythingDisney.

Top 10 Tuesday: 10 Things my Kids Want to do at Disney World

Not that I’m too obsessed about my distant trip to Disney World (it’s four months away) but my contribution to Oh Amanda’s Top 10 Tuesday list Is Disney focused, again.

Last week I listed 10 things I have yet to do at Disney but plan on doing this coming trip. But what I want to do might be, okay will be, very different from what is on my kids list I’m sure. So I thought I’d ask the kids and below is the Top 10 things on their Disney list (in no particular order).

  1. Tower of Terror. This is my 8-year-old’s favorite ride. If she could only ride one ride, Tower of Terror would be it. My daughter doesn’t just ride this ride; she’s the one sitting in the front with her arms high in the air (while I have a white knuckle grip on the seat).
  2. Indiana Stunt Show. My 5-year-old son loves adventure; he thinks he’s Indiana Jones reincarnated. It doesn’t matter how many times he watches this show, each time he stares wide-eyed in awe. I think he secretly hopes to be picked as one of the volunteer extras.
  3. Dinner with Cinderella. My 3-year-old is still very much into princesses so what could be better than having dinner with Cinderella herself.
  4. The Enchanted Tiki Room. I blame this on the family; we love tikis (did you see our display in our second bathroom). So it comes as no surprise that all 3 of my kids enjoy The Tiki Room.
  5. Winnie the Pooh Honey Pots. My 3-year-old loves this ride ‘It’s like riding in Winnie the Pooh’s nightmare‘. Okay, that doesn’t really sound fun but this is still one of her favourite rides.
  6. Test Track. My adventurous 5-year-old would wait in line for 2-hours (and he has) just to ride this. His favourite part of course is the final super speed ring at the end. Even when it’s raining and the rain drops sting your face as you whip by them isn’t enough to deter him from going on this ride.
  7. Toy Story Mania. The first time we went on this ride was on our visit to Disneyland in California so we’re all looking forward to riding this one in Disney World. My husband has already said he plans to run to the FastPass booth as soon as we walk into the gate in order to get on. The last trip to Disney World we went to pick-up FastPasses but the return time was 9:30 p.m. (based on grabbing passes at 10 a.m.). We have since bought the Wii game version but it will never replace going on the ride.
  8. Popcorn. Every time we enter one of Disney World‘s theme parks, usually Magic Kingdom, the first thing my 8-year-old asks for is popcorn, from one of those vendor carts. Yah, I know it’s not special popcorn (though sometimes you can get it in special boxes) but that doesn’t deter my daughter. Having popcorn when she enters the park is now a tradition for her.
  9. Haunted Mansion. I remember the first time we went on this ride, the kids were terrified, not knowing what to expect. But as soon as the ride ended they wanted to go back on again and again. The kids love to ride in a car by themselves and scare each other. The ride isn’t more fun than scary but they’re hooked. The ride moves quickly and sometimes you will find very little line which usually means we end up riding it 3 or 4 times in a row. Of course my favourite version of Haunted Mansion is the Nightmare Before Christmas treatment they do in Disneyland (I had a chance to see it for my birthday last year).
  10. Space Mountain. As soon as my 8-year-old was big enough to ride the roller coasters, Space Mountain was her first pick and what a pick. She loves riding in the very first car and screams her head of in complete excitement (remember, she rides the Tower of Terror hands free).

I’m sure there are more things my kids could add to their list but if limited to just 10 things, these would be them.

What are your favourite things to do at Disney World?

Top 10 Tuesday: 10 Things I Plan To Do In Disney World

In case you missed my exuberant tweets yesterday, I just booked our family summer holiday. We’re off to Disney World! This isn’t our first trip to Disney World but even with that said there are a number of things I have yet to do. Perfect for this week’s Top 10 Tuesday post (a meme started by Oh Amanda, here are the 10 things I plan to do in Disney World this summer:

  1. Enjoy a pineapple drink (or two). We’re staying at the Polynesian for the first time but we’ve eaten there before at O’Hana‘s. They have these amazing cocktails that are served in a large hollowed out pineapple. What can I say, I’m a sucker for kitsch.
  2. Enjoy the hotel pool. Every one of the Disney World hotels we’ve stayed at have had great swimming pools but usually we’re so busy running around that we never use them. This trip I want to make sure to enjoy some down time at the pool.
  3. Eat the Kitchen Sink. No I’m not trying to go for a Guinness record or make-up for an iron deficiency by eating a sink. No, I’m talking about a huge ice-cream sundae with sauce 8 scoops of ice-cream, a whole can of whipped cream, cake, cookies, sprinkles and more served in a small sink. You have to see this video to really appreciate it in all it’s glory. I’ve talked about having one every time we’ve gone but have never made it out to the Beaches and Cream Ice Cream Parlour. Hopefully this year will be different.
  4. Go on Splash Mountain. I think we’ve been on every ride at Magic Kingdom at least once. Every ride but one. We’ve never been on Splash Mountain. I’m not sure why really. Maybe the kids didn’t want to get wet. Perhaps it wasn’t that warm out. Maybe the line was too long. Whatever the reason, I think this year we need to hit this ride at least once.
  5. Stay up to watch the fireworks. There are some amazing fireworks shows at Disney World, so I’ve been told. But as is the nature of fireworks, the shows need to run at night. And with 3 young kids who are used to going to bed at 8p.m. without adding all the walking and excitement of a theme park, staying up late has been difficult. If we can’t make it over to the park, perhaps we’ll be able to watch them from the hotel (I think you can see them from the Polynesian).
  6. Eat a Dole Whip (or two). There are many great places to eat at Disney World, besides the restaurants. I love picking up a turkey leg at the cart vendors and fresh fruit is always nice but my favourite snack in Magic Kingdom is the Dole Whip. I am disappointed they’ve altered it with pineapple ice-cream. The original vanilla ice-cream with pineapple sauce was the best. These things are big enough to share too, so my kids have told me every time I’ve bought one.
  7. Try not to push the kids. We’re only down in Disney World for a week. That sounds like a lot of time but considering the amount of things you can do, the week really does go by quickly. In the past we’ve tried to fill our day to the brim with stuff. The only time we were at the hotel would be to change or sleep. I found by the end of the week the kids would be cranky as would I. This year I want to enjoy the parks, but I also want to hang out at the pool or linger over dinner or walk around Downtown Disney or even just hang out in the room and watch some wonderful cable TV. This year I want to add a little relaxing into our vacation. Maybe it will make our week feel longer too.
  8. Eat at a restaurant I haven’t been too before (at least once). After I booked the hotel, making our dinner reservations was the next thing on my list. We have a few favourites that we wanted to secure right away so as to not be disappointed, like O’Hana‘s and dinner with Cinderella. But there are so many other great restaurants Disney World has to offer and we as a family love food. This year I wanted to try at least one new restaurant. I tried to get into Le Cellier but I couldn’t get a dinner spot for the entire week. I guess it is as good as they say. So this year we’re trying Edo in Epcot. My kids love all sorts of food, including Japanese. And when I discovered they cook right in front of you, I thought the kids would really enjoy that too. I still have lunches to fill so maybe I’ll find something new to try then too.
  9. Have a spa treatment. I’m not big on going to the spa but when I have gone for a message or something I really enjoy it and think to myself that I should do that more often. I never do of course. So what a perfect time to treat myself. Maybe a little mud and feather bath a-la Donald Duck or perhaps a cheese rub a-la Mickey or maybe just a good old fashion message.
  10. Get at least a few (good) pictures of me on vacation. I love taking pictures. I don’t go anywhere without my camera and love to capture my kids during holidays, special events or just being kids. But being the picture taker has it’s draw backs, like not being in any of the pictures. If I look back at our past trips there are very few pictures of me. When my kids are grown and looking back at childhood photos, they’re going to wonder if I was ever there. I think I’ll make a consorted effort to turn my camera over to someone else to take a few pictures, be that my husband, the waitress, a stranger or Disney’s PhotoPass Photographers.

Our trip is months away; my list will probably grow and change up to that moment. I’ll keep you posted if I actually achieve everything on my list.

If you were going to Disney World, what would be on your list to do?

And so that was 2009

2010 is here and I’m excited but at the same time I can’t help but look back over the past year. I started this blog last Spring because I thought this would be a year of change and I wanted to record it. The year didn’t bring quite the change I was looking for but it did consist of a few (both big and little) important events.

We celebrated a few birthdays

My oldest daughter turned seven and I hosted my first kids birthday party. My middle child turned five and we surprised him (and everyone) with a trip to Disney World. My husband actually kept a secret and surprised me for my birthday (Disneyland‘s Haunted Mansion and I celebrated our 4oth birthday together). We even made a trip to Disney World just after my youngest turned three, but both her and her brother ended up sick (my oldest and I had to celebrate on our own)

We celebrated a few other milestones too

My seven-year old decided she wanted to two-wheel it and there was no going back. It was another summer of participating in the library’s Summer Reading Club, but this year we actually finished the program. My son started Beavers and my oldest daughter graduated into Brownies. My son is actually starting to read on his own. And we’ve been experiencing the ups and downs of potty training with my youngest.

I did a little writing (beyond just this blog)

Not only did I participate in Writer Digest‘s Poem-A-Day competition, writing a poem each day in April based on a prompt, I completed it. I’ve actually met a lot of amazing people through blogging and twitter, one is Tara Lazar. I started participating in her weekly post idea Write a Review Wednesday and have enjoyed sharing great children’s books each week (and have met some amazing book publishers in the process). I even participated in my first book blog tour with Tundra Books Medina Hill book launch. Along with my weekly book reviews, I started writing a monthly book review post on Allie‘s amazing site No Time for Flashcards (she’s an amazing lady online and I hope one day to meet her in person) as well as a book review post every second week on the blog Best Tools for Schools. As for fiction writing, I submitted two children’s picture book stories and started an outline for a middle grader story. I wrote an article for Today’s Parent magazine also (it appeared in their November Toy Issue) and they even sent a photographer to our house for a photo shoot to accompany the article.

There were even some personal gains

It was hard, but I came to terms with becoming a van mama. I discovered twitter which as a work from home mom can be a lifesaver. I joined Mom Central Canada as one of their Canadian mom bloggers and test panel members (I had the chance to meet Kathryn, the head Mom Central Canada lady which was pretty awesome too). I spoke with and eventually met Erica Ehm, Yummy Mummy Club founder. And through the Yummy Mummy Club I’ve actually had the chance to meet some other amazing ladies. I even learned how to deal with ignorant parents with the help of my son. I started an additional blog on Michelle‘s mom site Everything MomMichelle also gave me the opportunity of a lifetime and offered me the position of Review Editor on Everything Mom, which I still enjoy doing. And of course I can’t forget about catering our Christmas dinner (okay, maybe that’s not a real gain, but I don’t regret it).

Yes 2009 has been eventful but now it’s time to move forward. And I have high expectations for 2010. I hope it can deliver.

Mickey’s Very Merry Rainy Christmas Party

So we arrived on a rainy Friday afternoon to Disney. Our plan was to attend Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party that night. This was great since we didn’t plan to go to the park that night; we’d now have some extra time in Magic Kingdom. 

Of course it didn’t help that the plane was an hour late arriving so by the time we arrived at the hotel we had to head out to Magic Kingdom. My two youngest were tired from the travels and with their colds we thought it best not to take them out to the park in the rain. 

So it was my seven-year old and myself. It wasn’t that busy but I think the rain kept most people away. It rained off and on all night. Mickey’s ‘Once Upon a Christmas Time Parade’ runs twice during the night so we decided to wait for the second show and hit the park. We shopped for pins and holiday hats. We also grabbed our FREE cookies, apple slices, hot cocoa and apple juice. There were a number of fun activities for kids throughout the park like signing a Christmas card for Santa, pretending to walk the plank, bowling and more. At one point the rain stopped and I actually packed the rain ponchos in my bag. But as we rode Thunder Run roller coaster the rain came back. And a light shower feels pretty sharp when it hits you whizzing around on a coaster. 

A little rain doesn't stop my daughter

Signing a Christmas Card for Santa

One of the many marked snack stops in the park

Enjoying unlimited cocoa and cookies

We were starting to get pretty wet at this point (it’s a good thing the other two kids didn’t come out). My daughter wanted to go but I convinced her to hang out a little longer to catch the ‘Holiday Wishes – Celebrate the Spirit of the Season’ fireworks show. She was glad we stayed; it was pretty spectacular. We hoped to catch the second showing of Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade, but they decided to cancel it due to rain. I should point out this was the one moment when it actually wasn’t raining. 

Waiting in the rain for the fireworks to start

Fireworks...

...fireworks...

...fireworks...

...fireworks...

...and more fireworks

It was cold and wet so we didin’t get to enjoy the party as much as I hoped but my daughter and I still had a great time. Hopefully we’ll be able to attend sometime in the future when the weather isn’t so disappointing.

I love Disneyland but…

You may be aware that I made a trip to Disneyland this past Halloween in celebration of my birthday. I’ve been to Disney World a few times but this would be my first time to Disneyland, where it all began. It was kind of exciting.

I had a great time but Disneyland isn’t the same as Disney World and I’m not just talking weather or size. In my opinion, the only connection Disneyland has to Disney is the name. The things I love about Disney World weren’t part of my Disneyland experience or at least they weren’t that obvious:

**** Photo Pass ****

At Disney World there are PhotoPass photographers throughout the park, at all parks. They take pictures of you at key locations and save them on your PhotoPass card which you can order from later. They’re usually super kind enough to take pictures of you with your own camera too. We’ve never really taken advantage of the PhotoPass photographers but on this trip, probably my only trip to Disneyland, I had decided to get photos at every spot I could and order a CD with all the pictures. As the family photographer in our house I’m not in many family vacation shots, so having a collection of pictures of my family AND me would have been great.

Problem of course, the PhotoPass photographers were nowhere to be found (I think we had one picture taken). Even during the special Mickey’s Not So Scary  Halloween Trick or Treat party they weren’t there. So needless to say I have very few family shots from this trip.

trading

Shhh...pin negotiating in progress

**** Pin Trading ****

Our kids were first introduced to pin trading during out last trip to Disney World and they loved it, especially my seven-year old daughter. All three of my kids have pin trading books at home and they plan which sets they want to collect and have an amazing time trading with the staff.

In Disney World you can’t pass a staff person without a sash of pins up for trading; even those cleaning up in the stores have these on. In Disneyland we were hard pressed to find anyone with pins to trade. On our Disney World trip the kids went through almost 100 pins in one week; in Disneyland we were lucky to have traded 10 pins. A bit of a disappointment.

cinder3

Then she met the real Cinderella

**** Costumed Characters ****

My youngest was so excited about going to Disneyland. On the plane ride there (two planes actually) all she talked about was seeing Mickey and Cinderella and the other characters. In Disney World there are designated areas to see certain characters, but walking around the parks we would see Captain Hook or  Buzz Lightyear or Chip and Dale walking around, waiting to greet people. Our whole trip we saw Goofy and Minnie Mouse and that was it (though there were more characters at the Halloween Party).

**** For the little Princesses/Princes ****

My first trip to Disney World, years ago, the first thing that struck me was how much the people in the parks focused on the kids. They talked to them. They called them princess and prince. The kids are the focus and parents second, which is what I want for a trip to Disney. This has stuck with me and is one of my favourite things about Disney World; something that I thought was  a Disney trait. But in Disneyland this isn’t the case. Sadly I didn’t feel a lot of Disney magic in the park.

I think my husband said it best:  Disney World is a destination. Disneyland is only a theme park.

And I think he’s right. Visiting Disneyland was just like visiting Wonderland or Six Flags but with the Disney name attached.

The big advantage to Disneyland is it’s size; it’s much smaller and easier to get around and to the other parks. Disneyland, California Adventure and Downtown Disney all branch off from a central courtyard so it’s easy to hit all three without taking a bus (not true in Disney World). And there are some differences in the rides too. Haunted Mansion has the Nightmare Before Christmas theme and it was amazing. It’s worth the trip to Disneyland just to see that. Space Mountain and Pirates of the Caribbean were different (and I actually preferred the Disneyland versions), plus there are all new rides.

Don’t get me wrong, we had a great time, but I expected a little more from Disney; Disney World has set the bar high. If given the choice of travelling to Disney World or Disneyland, Disney World would be my choice hands down. And good thing because we’re back there in December for the Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. I can’t wait!

A Deal fit for a Princess (or Prince)

Princesses are a popular theme in our house, especially with my youngest daughter. Our last trip to Disney World, my daughter was all about Cinderella. With Christmas around the corner and the big Santa Claus parade this weekend, all my kids are thinking about their wish lists. You know what’s on my youngest daughter’s list: anything princesses.

If you have a little princess in your house, I know just the thing and right in time for the holidays.

Disney on Ice, Princess Classics

An amazing journey to the magical lands of Disney classics fairy tales. Travel to a kingdom under the sea, an enchanted French castle, an Arabian palace and more! With special guest Tinker Bell, enter the worlds of your favourite Disney princesses Cinderella, Jasmine, Ariel, Sleeping Beauty, Belle, Mulan and Snow White and see their dreams come true as this royal skating extravaganza brings magic to your hometown. (from Disney on Ice website)

And if you’re in or near Toronto, you can take your little princesses and princes to see the Disney on Ice, Princess Classics from December 18 until December 27, 2009 at the Rogers Center. That’s not the best part. Mom Central Canada is offering you a chance to purchase tickets for only $11 each when you buy four or more tickets (Monday to Friday, excluding Friday evenings) or $4 off all weekend shows. *

To take advantage of this deal, visit TicketMaster.ca and enter the promotional code MCC.

* Not valid for rink side or VIP seating. Cannot be combined with other offers. Service charge and handling fees will apply.

Foto Friday: For the love of Princesses

Happy Friday

It’s been some time since I’ve participated in Candid Carrie’s Friday Foto Finish Fiesta, but I’m back today. We’re heading to Disneyland soon for my birthday which means my youngest has started talking about princesses again:

My 2yo and her Disney World pal Cinderella

My 2yo and her Disney World pal Cinderella

Then she met the real Cinderella

Then she met the real Cinderella

For the love of Princesses:My oldest daughter was never really into princesses. I mean she liked them, but she wasn’t nuts over them. Then comes child number three, the stereotypical fairytale, prince charming, castles in the sky, princess loving girl. It’s funny because we were never really big on pushing girly things.

One year my oldest daughter (now seven) received a Cinderella doll as a gift. She liked it but it sort of just sat on her bed. When my youngest found rescued Cinderella, she took possession, like it never belonged to her big sister. On our recent trip to Disney World the Cinderella doll came with us. She slept in the hotel, she ate dinner in the restaurants, she even went on a few rides. The Cinderella doll was the best friend a little princess loving girl could ask for.

Then we had dinner with ‘the real’ Cinderella and my daughter almost leapt across the table to give Cinderella a hug (according to my husband because, as life seems to work sometimes, I was away from the table and missed the whole event). Through the entire meal my daughter would wave at Cinderella, give her hugs, offer her food, even if Cinderella was across the room.

It was an amazing night for my youngest, which only makes it sad that the night should end with the Cinderella doll going missing. I don’t know if it was from the excitement of seeing Cinderella and therefore the doll was left behind. Or perhaps the doll now paled in comparison to the real princess. Whatever the reason, Cinderella doll will be missed, at least by me.