Monday, November 28, 2011

Disney for Free

On our January trips, we often head down to Orlando for several more days than we plan to be in the parks.  This works for us for several reasons - we participate in marathon weekend and don't want to be exhausted for the races.. and frankly, we don't want to spend the money to be in the parks for that many days!!  We have an amazing military deal for 4 park hopping days, so 4 park hopping days it is.  We have 1 day left over from a previous trip, so we may actually enjoy 5 park hopping days, but more than that isn't likely.

So, what else is there to do?

A LOT!  Aside from Downtown Disney, there is plenty to see and do!

  1. Visit Celebration - the town literally created by the Disney Co.  Though no longer owned by Disney, it is extreme suburban perfection.  A little Stepford, but still pretty fantastical.
  2. Head to Disney's Boardwalk - at night, the Boardwalk is alive with entertainers of different sorts, but even during the day, it's a beautiful walk with plenty of restaurants and shops.  Or, head to the Beach Club/Yacht Club area - not as big, but still several restaurants to look in and see!
  3. Resort hop - I love to check out different resorts for meal time, but even if you're not hungry, you can stop by and check out the different scenery and stories!  In the last year, we looked around the Polynesian, Pop Century, and Animal Kingdom Lodge - Kidani Village all for meal time.
    1. Resort tip - if you're stopping by the Animal Kingdom Lodge - Jambo House at night - make sure to ask where you can get the night vision goggles to view the animals!! Free every night!
    2. Wilderness Lodge hosts the Chip n' Dale Campfire Sing-a-long - movie and campfire!  Free to resort guests - you can bring or buy your own marshmallows!
  4. Ride the Monorail!  Who doesn't love the monorail?  If you're a resort guest, you can park at the TTC (Ticket and Transportation center) with your hotel parking pass, or bus on over.  If you're just coming for a few minutes, stop at a monorail resort and say you want to shop.  You can park for free - not recommended for extended periods of time, but perfect for resort hopping/monorail viewing.
There are too many more options for this post..  I'll have to add more later!

What are some of your out-of-park favorite activities?  Share them below or on our facebook page!  

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Travel Map and Diary - Review and Giveaway!!

Sponsored by
If you're like me, you probably save everything from your vacations...  Plane ticket stubs, park tickets, Magical Express tags, etc...  I have a box that I know put everything in, but it's just a mess.

So, when I saw the Travelers Gift Set, I thought this would be perfect.  And, I was pretty close to right.

A 2 part gift set, there is a Travel Stub Diary and a Scratch World Map - think World Map + lotto ticket.  It's a fun concept, don't you think?

The Travel Stub Diary is basically a photo album decorated for the traveler -

Inside, there are two options - sideways 4x6 pockets, for full length pages - both with places to write notes about what you're keeping - all in an easy to flip through book so you can actually easily flip through your memories instead of storing them in a box in a closet.

The map is interesting -
It comes fully covered in gold and at first, I thought it was dry erase.  Once I really sat down to look at it, I realized the gold would scratch off and since I don't play the lotto often, this gave me an excuse to use a penny!

I sat through and scratched off all the places I've been - though not too many as of yet.

Look closely and you'll notice that the different countries are different colors underneath the gold and they show different cities, rivers, lakes, etc...

Now, you may automatically think this isn't for you if you don't travel frequently, but I had a different thought.

This would be awesome for Epcot's Food and Wine Festival.  You could save all of your souvenirs in the Travel Stub Diary, but then you could also scratch off on the map where you sampled the different food and beverages.  Clever idea, don't you think?  Probably travel more in that one festival than in 20 years!

Looking for other gifts?  Uncommon Goods, the creators of these clever projects also have great stuff for a variety of gift givers/getters:

1.      Gifts for Travelers
2.      Quirky Gifts
3.      Funny Gifts

Now for my favorite part: A Giveaway!!!  I get to give one of my lucky readers one of these fantastic gift sets!!  You have from today through next Thursday to enter!  Open to U.S. residents only (sorry!!)

Wordless Wednesday!

Focused on the Magic

"Here Lies Good Old Fred
A Great Big Rock Fell on His Head

Fred Joerger, Disney Legend and Imagineer.  He created 3-D models of attractions, to help Walt visualize the theme parks.  Along with other Disney legends, was part of the original "model shop" that helped create Disneyland.  He also built miniature sets and props for movies including Mary Poppins and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.  

And, as with many others, he is also honored in a window on Main Street!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Attractions I Love- The Peoplemover!

Depending on when you first visited the parks - or truly made your first impressions, you probably know this ride as something different.  To some, it's the TTA (Tomorrowland Transit Authority).  To me, it's the Peoplemover.  Others may refer to it as the "Blue Line" from a period int he 90's.  I've taught Noah to say "Wedway" - it's easier to say than Peoplemover, and being the original 1975 name "Wedway Peoplemover" it's all acceptable to me.

Whatever you may refer to it as, this attraction is a wonderfully slow moving ride throughout Tomorrowland.  The views you capture while riding are some of the best available 

Cool view of the crane taking down the holiday lights

If you look closely, you'll see a small part of the original "Progress City" model - the city that led to the dream of EPCOT.
Excuse the blur!

This ride is great for sleeping or feeding/nursing babies - sit down and get comfortable!  I've heard the cast members have allowed people to stay on and ride again in such situations.  As the lines are rarely long (or lines at all), it's a nice place to sit for 10 minutes to take a tour.

Just beware - I do remember a trip from my college years where it was closed for maintenance.  When we asked why, the cast member reminded us that the ride worked on magnets and that the polarization had gone a little loopy - Beware of Bumper Peoplemovers!!!  Whoops!  

A Family Portrait (taken by me!) in January 2011

I'd love for you to share some of your favorite pictures from the Peoplemover!  You can share them on our facebook page!  Or, just leave a comment letting me know what name you use referring to this favorite attraction!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Child Friendly... Grand Floridian

Possibly the most elegant resort on Walt Disney property, the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa is home to the Wedding Pavilion, a luxurious spa, and is in the works to house the next Disney Vacation Club (DVC) Villas.

And, the Grand Floridian is also very child friendly.  One perk?  There are actual cribs and not just pack and plays for the little ones.   

Another obvious perk?
Being on the monorail line and having the ferry right there, getting back from the Magic Kingdom or EPCOT for nap time or after a fun day in the parks is really easy.  Not quite as quick as the walkway to the Contemporary, but still - very good options!

If you think the resort may be too stuffy, remember that at the entrance of the Main Building is 1900 Park Fare - a restaurant that has both character breakfast and dinners.  There are constantly children and costumed characters in the building!  Not to mention, when you walk in you are immediately welcomed by beautiful characters in the floor!  Walk around a little more past the check in area and you'll even find a small sitting area with a television playing old Mickey Mouse cartoons playing.   

The pools are also a great place for kids.  Though there are quite pools, one located directly outside of our  building in June, the best for us had a splash pad, a walk in end, and a fun water slide.  Though at 18 months, Noah was too small for the slide, we got to enjoy it while he played in the shallow end and the splash pad!

Our favorite part of the resort - our balcony.  We requested a bay lake view, but if we looked at the right angle, we could see the castle.  With that, we could see the fireworks, hear the music, and had a perfect view of the monorail loop.  Another perk - The Electrical Water Pageant!  Who doesn't love to see the floats go by?  Plus, Noah loved running out on the balcony in the morning.  It gave him a little extra room to play while we were getting ready.

Not convinced?  Check it out yourself next time!!

What resorts are your favorites with or without children?  We still like to try out the different resorts, but have had the most success on the monorail loop.  Next up will have to be the Polynesian!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Mickey's Birthday

Welcome to our Mickey Mouse Birthday Blog Hop!  This year, Mickey Mouse is turning 83 and we thought it would be fun to all celebrate with our little ones.  I'll be sharing about making Mickey Mouse birthday invitations, great for our blog hop and for my little one's 2nd birthday!  You can find links to other party ideas at the end of the post!

To make Mickey's invitation, I thought about copying what Melissa made for her daughter's 2nd birthday.  I have to admit, that would have been much easier.  But, instead, I got on Etsy to get some creative ideas - and it worked!  
The Final Product
If you're up for some paper crafting, here's the process!

First, I pulled out a lot of paper and tools to get my motors working:
I had already traced a Mickey on a scrap of paper to be the base for everything and used traced around it to cut out both black and red mice:

 The next step was the easy one - I used a tape roller to stick the red cut out to the black mickey, then stamped some buttons on.  I embellished the buttons by using button brads as well:

Then, for the invitation, I used stamps, scraps of paper, a sharpee, and stickers to make:

I hope the invitation made it to you and you enjoy Mickey Mouse's Birthday Party!!

Thanks for joining us as we celebrate Mickey's Birthday!  Don't forget to check out the other blogs for great ideas on a Mickey Mouse Birthday Party!

Capturing Magical Memories shares how to makes a birthday sign!

A Disney Mom's Thoughts helps create the party games!

Growing Up Disney shares making the birthday cake!

Pursuing the Magic makes party favors!

Delightfully Disney makes party snacks! 

Return to Disney gets crafty for the party!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Running, running!

For those have been following this blog for a while, you know that after my son was born, I became a runner. Not just my required 2 miles for work (Army Physical Fitness), but since January 2011, I've run 2 half marathons (13.1 miles each!) and had logged over 100 miles by June 1st.

Since June, I've had to cut down on mileage and deferred my 2012 half marathon entrance to the 2013 half marathon.  Luckily, RunDisney is pretty awesome with deferring, as long as you can do it 45 days out.

As of last week, my family and I are registered for the WDW Marathon Weekend 5k - Disney's Family Fiesta 5k with the Three Caballeros!  My husband surprised me with his entry - he thought he could keep it from me, but I got it out of him pretty easily.

The best part about this 5k?  Even Noah, who will be riding in a stroller with us, will earn a medal!  How cute is that?  Of course, with Noah running in the kid's race later that day and Adam running the half marathon the next day, I'll be the only one with 1 medal, but that's okay.

Anyone else considering registering for these or any other RunDisney events?  I'd love to hear about your training or motivate you if you think you can't!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Wordless Wednesday!

Focused on the Magic

So, since I'm out of Window pictures for the time being, I'm moving on!   
Decoding some Haunted Mansion Tombstones!
This one I even mentioned in a previous Wordless Wednesday

Grandpa Marc = Marc Davis - one of Walt's 9 Old Men

Animator, Imagineer, and Artist.

He worked on basically everything - Bambi, Snow White, Song of the South, Pirates of the Caribbean, the Haunted Mansion, The Tiki Room, etc...

definitely deserving of both a tomb and a window!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Waiting, waiting...

As I mentioned yesterday, I can't wait to see the Magic Kingdom Rope Drop Show!

With less than 2 months away from Walt Disney World's 2012 Marathon Weekend, trip planning is nearly taking over my mind.  Shock, right?  I'm not alone in that, I'm sure!

See you soon, Magic Kingdom!
But, just yesterday, I received a comment on the post asking about how to keep toddlers entertained while waiting for this show.

As with pretty much everything, there will always be an aspect of waiting at Walt Disney World.  Whether in line for an attraction, to get food, or even, like this one, just to enter the park, there will pretty much always be some waiting.

To me, this is the absolute must wait show.  Why?  Because if you're not at rope drop, you'll have more lines inside the park.  Whether in January or June, starting with rope drop and heading towards Fantasyland, we've done every attraction in the hour after park opening.  So, you may wait a few minutes for this show to start, but it will be worth it after.

Another perk - once you cross through the turnstiles, which open a few minutes before the morning show, it's okay for the kids to be kids - they can run around and play!  I've seen in the past Cast Members leave hula hoops on the ground for kids to play.  Now, if only they'd have the bubble machines or sidewalk chalk out and my son would be in set!  But, honestly, even my incredibly inpatient tot has been fantastic while waiting for this show.  We usually find a spot in the back where he can watch the monorail, ferries, and crowds, while not being trampled.  

If we're really getting antsy?  I pull out my entertainment to keep him, and sometimes other children, busy.  

And, after a wonderful show, we're off to be first in line for Peter Pan, Dumbo, etc... before most of the Resort guests even wake up!
Early morning Photo Pass in Fantasyland.. no waits!
Hope this helps!!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Getting Excited!

Magic Kingdom Rope Drop

I've mentioned before that I love singing to Noah in the morning.  When I enter his room every morning, I love to sing mostly my own words to "Good Morning, Good Morning!"

It's even more fun now, because Noah - who will be 2 in a few short weeks - now sings along!

"Good morning, good morning - it's fun to stay up late, good morning, good morning to you!"

And Noah replies "to You!" and points to me or his dad.

Yes, I'm a biased mom - but it's ridiculously adorable when he sings "to you!".

Now, to incorporate and excite our upcoming travel plans -
I brought him downstairs and found a video on You Tube of the rope drop ceremony.  From just a few months ago, he wouldn't remember - he's still too young - but he loved it.

He smiled, clapped, and sang along with the video!

BTW - make sure you notice Mickey when he's talking - he's talking and blinking Mickey!!

I can't wait to show him the rope drop live again!  I think 2 will be a magical trip, don't you?  4th time's a charm!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Great Disney Moments

Welcome to those of you joining me from the CanaDisney Blog and those of you just hopping aboard.  I am the third stop on today's Magical Blogorail.  Today we are discussing our...

Greatest Disney Moment Since Magical Blogorail

It's hard to believe that his makes 1 full year of the Magical Blogorail Blue.  When Beth first asked me, I had no idea this group would become so amazing - several different loops filled with great Disney people and bloggers.  Thank you, Beth, for putting this awesome group together!

This loop, we're talking about our Greatest Disney Moment in the past year.  

I've been lucky enough to have been to Walt Disney World twice since the inception of the blogorail - first time for the 2011 WDW Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend and second for a last minute trip in June.

There have been almost too many amazing moments - watching my son see Mickey Mouse while waiting our turn and literally begging will probably always stay with me

And watching him have the time of his life getting soaked at Disney's Animal Kingdom:

But, I think I'll have to be completely selfish.  My greatest Disney Moment in the past 12 months includes more than just fun - accomplishment. 
Post Race

Last mile (or 1.5 miles)
Finishing the WDW 2011 Half Marathon.  With a 13 month old, I ran 13.1 miles for the first time in my life.  Starting outside of EPCOT, through the TTC, to and through the Magic Kingdom, then back through and exiting EPCOT to cross the finish line and receive my first medal.

I ran with Disney people - with a Disney team, for a Disney cause - raising money for the WDW Radio Dream Team Project - helping the Make-A-Wish Foundation give children their wish to visit Walt Disney World.  

I burned a gagillion calories (no really, like 2000 calories) and splurged at several amazing Disney restaurants for the following days, all while wearing my medal and running shirts from the weekend.

That Disney memory is a point of fun, excitement, and pride - a major accomplishment and one that I will never forget.

Your next stop on this month's Magical Blogorail Blue is Cooking with Mickey

Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail should you happen to have to make a stop along the way and want to reboard:
1st Stop ~ Days in the Park
2nd Stop ~ The CanaDisney Blog
3rd Stop ~ Disney Babies Blog
4th Stop ~ Cooking with Mickey

5th Stop ~ Meet the Magic
Final Stop ~ Pursuing the Magic

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Wordless Wednesday Hop!

Focused on the Magic

I'm currently out of window pictures, so instead, enjoy this Hidden Mickey!

Can you guess where this was taken? 
Comment below or on our facebook page!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A WDW Today Idea

As a commuter facing 32 miles each way - i.e. an hour driving to and from work, I've become a huge fan of podcasts.  I have several on my playlist, including friends over at Days in the Parkcast and Mouse Chat, but my big 3 for learning and travel tips these days are Wedway Radio, WDW Radio, and WDW Today.

What I've noticed lately on WDW Today is that I agree with them a lot.  Just like those guys, I prefer to have my own car and drive myself from gate to gate.  Though, I did love my experience on Disney's Magical Express, I'm just too impatient to take an hour to go from point A to point B!
Noah loved DME as well!
Another place I agree with them?  Disney's Dining Plan.  Ever since I first thought about it, I knew for me, that it wouldn't be a good value.  According to those podcasting Disney folks, it's most likely not a good value for anyone.  With recent price increases, the Dining Plan now values every sit down meal at $30 for meal.  That's definitely more than I usually spend, so I can see that.  

Now, many will argue (and have!) with me that it's a great value, it's easy, it saves thinking, time, money, etc...  A big perk - you pre-pay for all of your meals so you don't even have to worry about spending.  Even my originally co-blogger Melissa thought it sounded great and tried it in the spring.  But, just like Melissa, I don't think it's necessarily worth it - nor do I think it's the healthiest way to travel (dessert at every meal plus snacks?) .  But again, I'll probably anger some Disney Dining Plan-die hard fans with this.

So instead, I wanted to offer this fantastic tip that Matt, Mikes, and Len share on WDW Today:

Take all the money you would set aside for the Disney Dining Plan and put that money on a prepaid Visa or Disney Gift Card.  Then, if you want to order the salad, you order the salad.  Want to skip dessert and pick up a treat at Karamelle Kuche?  No problem, because you won't have already prepaid for that dessert with your meal.  Then, if you have money left over, you can spend it on extra souvenirs instead of stocking up on extra snacks before you leave with extra snack credits leftover!

Now, if you have free dining, that's a different topic.  I personally would rather a quality room discount to free dining (only 2 adults!), but I could easily see the appeal of free food for a big family.  

Have you ever considered dining this version?  The "make your own" Disney Dining Plan?  

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Inner Disney Girl

This weekend we celebrated my husband's grandmother's birthday with family.  My gift plan?  A calender.

I didn't plan in advance enough to make one from a great digital program, but I still made a pretty decent one thanks to (by the way - if you do this, make sure you check before hand that it's ready.  Even after confirmation that the product was complete, it wasn't done.  Yup.  It's okay, 25% off and a day late, I walked out with a good calender).

Now, you're probably wondering what this has to do with Disney.

Well, if you've ever made a calender, you know you can add big pictures for every month, but small pictures wherever you want in the year.

For October 1st, 2012 - given to a non-Disney lover, I added this photo:

Can you believe EPCOT is almost 30 years old?

Friday, November 4, 2011

Did You Know?

Ever see a Disney bus that is around that is labeled "Rapunzel" and wondered where it was going?

It's not!  Rapunzel is Disney code for "out of service."

I knew from a previous cast member that back in the early 2000's, a bus named "Belle" meant out of service, so when I saw this last January, I realized they'd changed the names. 

Clever, don't you think?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Trip Update!

My friend, Melissa, is the one who helped me create this blog.  She writes on occasion, though it's been a good while (send some love to her on our facebook page and maybe we can convince her to write some more!).

Unfortunately, I live in the DC area and she lives in Louisiana!  That's quite a trek.  And, for some unknown reason, flying between the two seems more expensive than traveling to London half the time, so we don't get to visit very often.

Our last time together?
June 2010!

We talk on the phone regularly and skype once or twice a month so Noah and Piper, her daughter, can hopefully recognize each other.. eventually.

We plan ahead - way ahead.  We're already in talks for a Spring 2012 trip to WDW.

But then, last week, after some talks, it was decided:

Melissa, David, and Piper will make the drive to Orlando for a long weekend (long b/c of the long drive) to see US at Walt Disney World!!  They'll be coming in for marathon weekend, and though we'll only be in the parks for 1 day together, I'm so excited to see my friend and her family!!  They're really like a second family and I know they'll make the trip more fun!

They're a bit bigger than in this picture.. Heck, I've even taught Noah to say "Wedway"

January, here we come!!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Window Wednesdays!

Focused on the Magic

Thanks to Melissa from for this great pic!

Okay, I have to admit - I've analyzed this window before, but from a picture I had to seriously enlarge and you couldn't see it well, so when I saw this, I jumped on it!!

In case you missed it - this window is actually one of 3 on the Main Street Art Festival 
(for the full post, check it out here!)

Anyhoo - Pete Clark was the Vice President of  Lessee Relations in Disneyland before becoming the VP of Participant Affairs - finding sponsors for Disneyland than for the Pavilions of the World Showcase!

Happy Wordless Wednesday!