Whenever we go to Walt Disney World, we try as many hotels as we can. Visiting Coronado Springs Resort was super exciting, as the Invictus Games were being held at ESPN World of Sports while we visited and many of the athletes were on the property. I find that this is one of the beautiful things about Disney – you meet so many interesting people from all walks of life and can learn so much. My kids chatted with a British wheelchair volleyball athlete and watched him remove his prosthetic leg as they stood in awe!
Since my last trip to Disney World two years ago, the resort has introduced magic bands. Mailed to your home prior to your trip so you have them on arrival, each Disney World ‘Magic Band‘ is engraved with the names of the respective members in your party. The bands come in 8 solid colours—pink, green, red, purple, orange, yellow, blue, and grey. Basically, the My Disney Experience website emails to let you know when your bands are being sent to your home (Don’t worry, if you make a last minute reservation you can pick them up at the resort when you arrive.) They’re sleek and pretty cool actually, but if you want something a bit fancier (think: Star Wars or Frozen) you can grab those online at the Disney Store.
Though Disney has received criticism for some of their Disney princess characters of the past—exaggerated in dimension, with tiny waists and huge eyes, they didn’t represent “real women” in shape. Despite this talk, however, I never looked down on these characters or their stories. Then again, you can find me on any given day flipping through pages of numerous fashion magazines, feeling inspired and proud of my gender, not angered at the logistics of airbrushing.
What’s New at Walt Disney World? The Disney Social Media Moms Celebration is an inspiring and exciting event and as I sit in the Yacht Club Resort’s conference room, I am live blogging about all that’s new and exciting here.
Check Out What’s New at Walt Disney World for 2016/2017
Nothing like Valentines Day to announce to the kids that we are off to Disneyland! I was honoured with an invitation to Disney Social Media Moms in April and decided to do a reveal to the kids on a romantic Valentine night.
We showed the kids our #DisneySide with Mickey hands, sparkly red heart balloons and mouse ears.
They ate Mickey Grilled Cheese and extra special cookies. I am such a kid!
Have you done a special Disney reveal for your kids? Tell us about it!
Every time I enter DisneyLand, Walt Disney World or one of the Disney cruises, pixie dust fills my lungs, families get giddy and stress is stomped like a marshmallow. This year I have been showered with love and good fortune and yet I’m ashamed to admit that I don’t always recognize the blessings around me. I allow myself to get stampeded by work and *gasp*, complain sometimes. In travels to California and Florida, Disney has taught me several things, and my goal for 2014 is to incorporate as many of the lessons into my own life as I can. Here are my 12 Disney-inspired New Year’s resolutions.
1. It’s good to be scared sometimes. A little push to boost the adrenaline can remind you that you always survive risks. At times we forget to truly ‘live’ and ‘feel’ when we get bogged down with the day-to-day. The Radiator Springs Racers in Disney’s California Adventure, Tower of Terror, Expedition Everest at the Animal Kingdom and the Test Track presented by Chevrolet at Epcot will all get your heart going again.
2. Even if you can’t travel you can still explore cultures. Epcot features countries from around the world and the people working at each pavilion are actually from the countries represented. You can create cultures and experiences with your kids at home by exploring foods, languages and styles of dress – even if you can’t hop a jet to China.
3. Stimulate all of your senses. My favourite ride in both parks is ‘Soarin’. The magic happens when you soar over California in a simulated hang glider and odours pumped into the air correspond to the images you are seeing on-screen. Orange orchards,the pacific ocean and cedar forests bring all of your senses to life.
4. Learn from the animals. Of all of the experiences I have had with Disney, the Animal Kingdom is still a favourite. I like to stay at the Animal Kingdom Lodge in a room that allows me to watch the animals in the Savannah all night long. The kids are given special checklists so they can find and learn about the animals during breaks from the parks. Giraffes rarely sleep and the interactions between the antelopes and other animals is mesmerizing. On the Kilimanjaro Safari in the Animal Kingdom you learn about habitats of the animals and see something different every time.
5. Don’t complain. One of the joys of being at Disney is that the staff are smiling and happy all the time. Even after long days and hot hours they treat each person like it’s the vacation of a lifetime. I’m going to try and do this every time I get gas, have a parking spot nabbed or am in the grocery checkout line.
7. It’s ok to make mistakes. Whether it is the Beast being nasty to Belle, Ariel agreeing to give up her voice or Woody being jealous of Buzz – we all make mistakes. Realize them, apologize, sing a song or two and move on. You’ll be much more fulfilled in life.
6. Dance often and spontaneously. The parades and dancing never stop at Disney and even the least co-ordinated visitors find their feet tapping. Every time there’s a show a whole community is created through the arts. Everyone is equal and experiencing something together.
8. Lighten your plate. Disney has taken a strong stance on healthy eating over the past year with their Mickey Check icon on nutritious menu choices and they even have healthy downloadable recipes to try. And squirt the ketchup in a Mickey shape once in a while.
9. Be a kid. Go ahead – pose with a princess, try to win a stuffed toy and go to Cinderella’s Castle for brunch. It’s ok to have fun and recreate the innocence and playfulness of childhood.
10. Go all in. If you’re going to do it, give it everything you’ve got. As an actor playing a role I’d have the proper coins in my pocket even when the audience would never know. But going all in made me more authentic. This is what Disney does at every turn.
Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post though UrbanMommies has been invited to Disney Parks in the past. All of our opinions are our own.
You know you feel special when a cruise line picks your hometown as a departure port. We luckily got to tour the Disney Wonder prior to her first Vancouver – Alaska sailing. The ship, like the Disney Fantasy was elegant, filled with mystique and the first class service Disney always provides. Here are our top 10 favourite tips when heading to Alaska on the Disney Wonder.
2. Crew members announce each family via microphone, making your little princesses, pirates (and Mom and Dad) feel special from the moment you step aboard.
3. Servers follow your family to each of the 3 dining rooms. This is a revolutionary concept in cruising, and ensures that your personal staff know your menu requirements. Knowing that you liked the dark beer last night, they may suggest a fun alternative. Being aware of kids allergies or gluten-free preferences adds an extra layer of safety to Disney’s already allergy-friendly alternatives
5. Before 9pm kids are allowed in the nightclubs so they can experience a taste of the adult spaces on the ship. Awesome for teaching.
6. Palo is an adults-only restaurant and brunch is over the top. Reservations are required and we’d recommend you make one as soon as u get on the ship!
7. Unlike the other Disney cruise destinations, there are no fireworks on the Alaska itinerary in order to honour the environment.
8. The Spa sells a limited number of passes for the Rainforest Relaxation Room. With water features, lounges and soft music our family will certainly nab a pass for our next cruise. Services in the spa include barber services for men and teeth whitening for women. You may become the 12th Disney princess.
9. Personal training is available as well as boot camps and body sculpting in the gym. The experts in the spa also offer footprint analysis.
11. ‘Ionithermie’ is a special treatment that flushes toxins out of the body and you could lose up to 8 inches during the cruise.
12. The child activity areas are incredible and while on the Fantasy, my kids never wanted to leave. Children are not only outfitted with a GPS so their location in the facilities can be determined immediately, but parents are constantly reachable via wave phone that is provided in the stateroom.
13. The Nursery is for kids from 12 weeks to 3 years and requires an extra fee ($6 per hour, per child). The Oceaneers Club hosts 3-12 year olds.
So head to Vancouver, grab an ocean-view cabin (you don’t want to miss the stunning views) and let the Disney Wonder sweep you off your feet. Your kids will be transfixed by Northwest culture, and you may lost up to 8 inches (if you can resist the glorious food).
Her mother Queen Elinor placed the crown atop her head as she yelled – “I am Strong. I am Brave. I am Merida and I am a Princess!” Tears, tingles and cries of joy from the crowd as we gathered to see Merida’s coronation as the 11th Disney Princess on May 11, 2013 at Walt Disney World Resort.
Celebrity gymnast Gabby Douglas graced the stage, and Sophie Grace and Rosie from Ellen sang before Merida entered on horseback, bow in hand. My two boys (who usually hide around princesses “They are so beautiful Mommy!”) were in awe at her stature, her smile, but mostly the poise and strength she exuded.
There has been controversy on Disney’s decision to give Merida a lovely, Princess-worthy outfit for the most important day of her life. That Merida looked beautiful on this day does not say that she is less outdoorsy, strong or courageous. She dressed for the occasion and in my view is no less a role model for girls everywhere. Disney has given us our 11th role model for girls and boys alike, and I was proud to have my boys and my own mother by my side for the coronation.
“You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”
— A.A. Milne
If your kids are living with Type 1 diabetes, you’ve got a few extra challenges. We’re very excited about a Disney’s New Diabetes Resource from one of our favourite Disney sites. Disney Interactive has partnered with Lilly Diabetes to launch an online destination dedicated to help families affected by type 1 diabetes on Disney’s family lifestyle site Spoonful.com. Combining Lilly’s knowledge of diabetes with Disney’s robust parenting network has created a unique and powerful diabetes resource.
Through a mix of articles, videos and advice, site contributors (which include dietitians, psychologists, nurses and everyday families) cover a variety of topics all designed to help families manage type 1 diabetes in everyday situations, such as:
· Routines for families that manage type 1 diabetes while still letting kids be kids
· Important info on how to pack for vacations, sleepovers and other outings
· Talking tips about type 1 diabetes to share with friends, teachers and coaches
One of our favourite sections contains quotes from mothers about how they deal with everyday challenges such as sibling rivalry, glucose checks and keeping every day fun. There are even printables for the babysitter and great ways to care for the caregivers! Disney’s New Diabetes Resource is a great addition to the Spoonful roster.
I had never been to Walt’s first theme park. ‘The Happiest Place on Earth’ is certainly a fitting name, and with the addition of Cars Land and extra attractions in Disney California Adventure Park, my family was continuously grinning. It is absolutely certain that Disneyland just got happier. Much smaller than Disney World, the original California location was intimate and incredibly accessible. Popping back to the room for nap time was easy and using my park-hopper pass to make the best of each day was a breeze.
Downtown Disney was smack dab in the middle of everything and featured amazing shopping, food and evening childcare. On one side of the Downtown section there are the 2 parks (Disney California Adventure and Disneyland Park) and on the other, the Disneyland Hotel, with incredible waterslides, character meals and beds that [had a headboard that had fireworks carved within that lit up and played music] as the kids drifted off to sleep. No buses were needed to get around, and the shopping and dining options were as plentiful as princesses.
I spent many a meal at Catal wine bar. Not only did it have great food, and an amazing patio, but it was super kid-friendly. (Plus it was right beside Sephora, which aided in my Lightening McQueen-inspired manicure.) When my feet got a bit tired, I grabbed some shoes at Sanuk, I watched the Stanley Cup final at the ESPN Sports Bar and saw the handmade signature quilts within the House of Blues. (With all of these great places you can skip the parks for a day or two!) One of my favourite spots was Wonderground Gallery, which featured reasonably-priced Disney-inspired original works by up-and-coming artists.
When the kids needed some down time, the Lego Imagination Centre was the place to be. With giant Lego sculptures and a kid’s (and parent…) play area, we were able to transition beautifully from the excitement of the parks to some quiet time.
Divided into Frontierland, Adventureland, Tomorrowland, Fantasyland, Main Street USA, New Orleans Square, Critter Country and Mickey’s Toontown, the iconic and original park remains the stuff of dreams. Just like in Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, no alcohol is served at this park, which places a huge focus on the family experience and holds true to Walt Disney’s original vision.
As a huge fan of New Orleans, the authenticity of the buildings, food and rides in New Orleans Square kept me going back to this park again and again. I just wish I could have played some jazz with the bands or strolled across the square in a Mardi-gras gown. In green silk. Because I’m kind of odd like that. (Note to self: apply to be a Disney cast member).
1. Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique (which is also available out at sea on the the Disney Fantasy). Have your little princess get styled, coiffed and sparkled by the beauty experts in this popular Fantasyland salon. And if you’ve brought a little pirate with you? There is a hairstyle package for boys too.
2. The Mad Hatter’s Teacups: “Again! Again!’ Was all my 4 year old would say.
3. Star Tours: with 60 possible scenarios, you become a passenger on a space flight piloted by C3PO. Different landing sites include Coruscant and Naboo. You are chased by stormtroopers, spoken to by Yoda and some scenarios even include a pod race. Yes. I did it at least 7 times with my boys and we had a new story every time.
4. Jedi Training: Kids are picked from the audience, unlike Disney World where you get there early and sign up. Different than Disney World, however, the young Jedis fight against both Darth Maul and Darth Vader. My kids were enthralled just to watch!
5. Space Mountain continues to be one of my favourite attractions, and unlike Disney World, where riders sit alone, this Space Mountain allowed for 2 people side by side, which made my son much more comfortable.
6. The fireworks above Sleeping Beauty Castle brought me to happy tears. Even with small children, they shouldn’t be missed. And keep your eyes peeled for Tinkerbell and Dumbo, who fly in at a special time. Depending on the age of your kids, I would recommend a stroller in case sleep comes calling. (You can rent a double or singe at the entrance gates).
7. Jungle Cruise: This 7-minute Jungle Cruise was one of the opening day attractions when Disneyland Park opened in July, 1955. The animals you see along this trek of water engage the whole family.
Disney California Adventure Park
Being in town for the grand re-opening of the park was an honour and will be a lifelong memory. The day of the opening, the line snaked all the way through Downtown Disney as customer service experts entertained the buzzing crowd. I have never seen such excitement. Broadcasters interviewed the public and a huge TV screen gave people hints of what was to come. Not only was this the first day that Cars Land was open to the public, but California Adventure Park had been revamped and upgraded with the addition of Buena Vista Street – a re-enactment of the Los Angeles Walt Disney would have discovered when he arrived in 1923. Carthay Circle is a bustling focal point with a 1920’s-30’s vibe, where talented Disney cast members perform swing and tap numbers. The Red Car Trolley carries passengers from the gate to the Circle, and newspapers are distributed as fast as your kids ask to grab penny candy at the Five and Dime.
2. Soarin’ over California: The sensation of hang gliding over different parts of the state but you’re actually sitting, as smells are pumped into the room to correspond with the imagery. Hint: take off your shoes – it’s even better with bare feet.
3. California Screamer: this classic rollercoaster takes you for a loop. And make sure you smile as you come to the end so you can grab the photo of yourself at the Disney Photopass kiosk at the exit.
4. Goofy’s Sky School: I was fine on the Screamer, but this ride (geared for smaller kids) scared me! It was a gas, as you ride in a buggy over 4 levels of railings, twisting, turning and going down slopes. A must.
5. Silly Symphony Swings: The boys couldn’t stop grinning as we ventured on this old-fashioned carnival-style swing ride. It also gave me a chance to explain centrifugal force, which they fully ignored.
6. The Tower of Terror: Pretty scary as you drop several stories, but you may save some money on food if you lose your appetite like I did.
7. The Pixar Play Parade is incredible and even the clumsiest of readers will feel like dancing! A great venue to watch is right outside the Tower of Terror. You can get great photos of the familiar Pixar characters dancing and on elaborate floats.
8. World of Color: This nighttime water spectacular incorporates water, color, fire and light. With more than 1,000 jets of water forming incredible shapes in time to the music, kids are mesmerized. Hint: (Pre-order a World of Color picnic with reserved viewing).
I felt as if I could go to Disneyland once a week. Actually maybe I should just move to California! I’m hooked, and I haven’t stopped swing dancing or saying Ka-Chow since my return. And when you go? (Insert Tow Mater voice)… You’ll be happier than a tornado in a trailer park. I couldn’t resist.
Disclosure: UrbanMommies was hosted for the grand re-opening of Disney’s California Adventure Park. As always, our opinions are our own.
I had a solid strategy. Focus. Spy-talk. Going dark on Twitter, Facebook and email. The camera could also wait. The Mission. Step 1: Get into the park, go straight along the Red Car Trolley route and bear left at Carthay Circle. Step 2: At the Radiator Springs sign announcing the new Cars Land at Disneyland Resort in Southern California, head straight to the back to get in line for the Radiator Springs Racers. The highly secretive ‘cast members’ (Disney employees) who experienced the new attractions a full week prior to the general public had glimmering eyes and sly grins when I asked about this particular ride. My plan would have been stellar had my first experience been in daylight. On this particular evening – the grand opening ceremony of the new California Adventure Park – I was so struck by the neon signs and ambiance that I froze in my tracks. There was Flo’s V8 Cafe! The Cozy Cone Motel! (which serves goodies and snacks exclusively in cones.) I may need to wax poetic. Wouldn’t that be a shocker. The hum of the neon. The tunes wafting from the band. The giggles of guests on Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree and Luigi’s Flying Tires. This would be a good night.
And it was. But not nearly as good as the next day, when my two boys joined me in the park. Despite a string of temper tantrums by the 4 year-old (witnessed by Andy Garcia), the giggles he allowed escape during Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree were priceless. On this ride, you sit on a tractor and get spun around every which way as square dance music plays and Mater welcomes you to his yard. With a height minimum of only 32 inches, very young kids are able to experience the magic. We just lined up over and over again. You giggle as much in line watching others as you do on the ride.
Then there are Luigi’s Flying Tires. I must admit that I was a bit dubious at this. Air blows up through holes in the floor and lifts huge tires off the ground. Hovercraft Tires. The floating monoliths are controlled as the 2 riders lean side to side, front to back, allowing the tire to skim across the floor amidst bouncing beach balls. A jaunty Italian song plays and Luigi coaxes you to have a ball. So to speak. First thought? Do not wear a full skirt as you walk across the platform with air blowing upwards. I failed this first test. Second? Another ride where the minimum is 32 inches – Disney sure knows their demographic! And finally, Totally fun. We giggled as we bumped other tires, made caches of beach balls fly into the air and watched the faces of our fellow riders. Laughed so hard I cried. How very Italian of me. Not very spy-like though, as I was clearly wearing my heart on my sleeve.
The Radiator Springs Racers turned me back into the Bond Girl I am. (ok. Think I am.) 6 People in each car go for a leisurely ride through Ornament Valley, including a drive by the valley’s famous plunging waterfall, Radiator Falls. As you prepare for the big race, Luigi gives you whitewalls, Doc Hudson supplies some racing tips, and Mater tries to coax you into joining him for a cow-tipping escapade. Suddenly, you’re off, racing fast around high-banked turns and camelback straightaways, past spectacular red-rock formations. The entire ride spans a huge space through the towering Cadillac Range mountains. “Car aficionados will notice that the 6 mountain peaks resemble the tail fins of classic Cadillac models from 1957 to 1962.” Cool. One more thing. Best. Ride. Ever.
There are a few tips for when you go:
1. Check it out at night. The Neon is incredible.
2. Buy a pylon drink. You can later give it to the worst hockey player on your team.
3. Do the Radiator Springs Racers at least twice. make it your first stop and grab a Fastpass.
4. Get there early and study a map so you know the fastest beeline.
5. Watch the movies just before going. You’ll be floored (oh I love my car jokes) at the level of detail that will surround you.
6. Get a photo taken in front of the Radiator Springs sign. (You’ve got to do it). The Photopass photographers are amazing.
Tickets are $81-$87 per day, or $119-$125 for a park-hopper pass that allows you to walk across to Disneyland in the same day. Other options are available for multi-day passes. The Disneyland website is informative and allows you to select various packages.
Disclosure: UrbanMommies was invited to experience the opening of the revamped California Adventure Park and as always, our opinions are our own.