Hooray for Hollywood – Visiting the Happiest Place on Earth

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Me at Disneyland in the late 80’s

Growing up in San Diego with a Disney loving father meant that my family visited Disneyland a lot. In fact, my parents got engaged at Disneyland! So it’s become pretty important to share these experiences with my kids. I have to admit, I was so excited the first time I took mini-man I forgot that I didn’t have a teenager, I had a baby – their abilities at a theme park are vastly different.

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Us at Disneyland in 2016, when we were still a family of three

I have taken these lessons and applied them to all of our outtings – take your time, have your must-do’s, be flexible, and relax! Since then, our adventures have been much more successful.

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My boys at the main entrance

Thanks to some wonderful family members, we were able to get some free tickets to Disneyland. After parking, the day was so nice we decided to walk from the parking garage to the park – something mini-man absolutely loved!

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Trains! (by the end mini-man was saying ‘toot toot’

After we got in the park, we attempted our first attraction – the Disneyland Railroad. Little-dude hadn’t been on any rides before and mini-man isn’t the biggest fan of riding anything. We thought that since mini-man liked trains, it was open-air, and slow, that he’d okay. At first, he wasn’t thrilled and tried to get off. But after riding for a bit, and playing with my purse, he calmed down. I was worried about the dinosaur section of the ride, but once it started mini-man just closed his eyes and waited for it to be over. I’d call that a success.

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Mini-man loved the stairs but hated the crowds

Next we took a stroll down Main Street U.S.A (one of my favorite things), and headed to the Mark Twain River Boat. We had a similar thought with this ride – it’s slow, outside, and you can see a lot of things. Mini-man loved climbing the stairs but didn’t like hanging out with other guests. Eventually, he and I found an empty bench to sit on while the journey finished. He was very excited to go back down the stairs.

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Coming soon to a galaxy near you!

Feeling bold with our two minor successes, we took mini-man and little-dude on Pirates of the Caribbean. Little-dude didn’t seem to notice, but mini-man did not like it. He started crying once we sat down on the boat. After that ride, we decided to relax and walk around for bit, making sure to visit some of the new Star Wars areas.

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Tea , anyone?

Once we made it to Fantasyland, we took one last chance and rode the tea cups. Little-dude loved the wheel in the middle of the cup while mini-man was not happy. But, by the end of the ride he went from ‘I hate this’ to ‘it’s not terrible’. Hey, I’ll take it.

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Mmmmm!

At this point we were all tired, so we started for the exit of the park. However, I cannot leave this place without a churro and a dole whip. Luckily, we found both fairly quickly and with very short lines. Mini-man wasn’t interested in my snacks, but little-dude could not get enough. I think he’s following in his mama’s food-lovin’ foot steps.

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All-in-all, it was a very successful, and fun, trip to Disneyland. I can’t wait to return many more times in the future.

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Visiting SeaWorld San Antonio

Mini-man’s first visit to SeaWorld San Diego

SeaWorld has a special place in my heart. I grew up going to the park in San Diego and worked for the Orlando park marketing for many years. So I was very excited to have the opportunity to visit the San Antonio park.

Some of my favorite SeaWorld memories

Now before I talk about our visit, I want to make something clear – I support Seaworld. They aren’t perfect, but no company is. As a whole, their efforts help marine animals around the world is incredible. I don’t care if you’ve seen that film. Seeing a 90 minute documentary doesn’t make you an expert. Educating yourself, helping animals, dedicating your life to conservation – that makes you an expert. Which is what SeaWorld is all about – teaching the public how to care for our oceans. Because if we don’t, then we’re in danger of losing a whole, valuable eco-system. Now I will step off my soap box and tell you about our wonderful trip!

Main entrance to the park

Unlike her sister parks, SeaWorld San Antonio is a seasonal park. Right now, they are only open on weekends and start letting people in at 1p. Another difference is their entrance plaza. Unlike San Diego and Orlando, all of San Antonio’s parks are next to each other.

Entrance to SeaWorld

So when we arrived, we were greeted by a nice, albeit slightly confusing, entrance plaza. 

Both boys enjoyed the Bay of Play area

Once we entered the park, the first thing we see is Bay of Play, the kids play area. This is great for us, as we could get the kids out instantly and start playing.

The comedy styling of Clyde and Seamore

Next we headed to see everyones favorite sea lions – Clyde and Seamore. I’ve always loved them since I was a child. However, the jokes in the show only made sense to locals, which I guess is their primary audience.

I. ❤️. 🐧!

Afterwards we headed to see the penguins, one of the few animal exhibits in the park. I love penguins and felt giddy going through the exhibit. Mini-man even enjoyed seeing the penguins!

The area outside of Shamu Stadium was beautiful

At this point, the sun is setting and the Christmas lights are starting to come one. The park was absolutely beautiful covered in 8 million lights. 

Im super proud of this picture. I’m no photographer, so the fact that this came out makes me really happy.

Next up, was an impromptu stop to see Shamu’s Christmas Miracle. I’m so glad we stopped. It’s a beautiful show filled with Wonder music. Plus, their staduim wraps around their killer whale pool, giving everyone a nice view of the show. 

Loved all the lights

At this point, we we’re all tired, so we started to head towards the front of the park. This worked out well as most of the pathway was lined with Christmas lights. 

We had a great time and highly recommend visiting the park if you ever get the chance.

San Antonio – Week 1, Part I

Welcome to San Antonio

We’ve been in San Antonio for a full week and a lot has happened. 

Mini-man didnt care that the water was cold, he went straight in

Thursday: This is the first stop in a long time that’s had an opened pool. So once we set up, we had to visit, much to mini-man’s delight.

Watching big brother, who’s almost ready for a bicycle, is fun!

Friday: A much needed shopping day. After weeks of small towns with small grocery stores, it was wonderful to get back into a Costco and Sam’s Club to stock up on some basic supplies.

Saturday: We met up with my Uncle Sherif and Aunt Coral for lunch at In-and-Out Burger and enjoyed catching up. 

Then we took our kids to SeaWorld. With this visit, I’ve officially visited all the SeaWorld parks. Although it’s the smallest, that worked for us since we had two small kids. We enjoyed seeing the lights but wished  there were more animal exhibits. See more in our Visiting SeaWorld San Antonio blog post.

We love our trailer, but she needed some help

Sunday: As you may recall, we’ve had some issues with our RV for a while (electrical, water, just a couple of small things) and FINALLY got it into a repair place. The day was rough as both kids had horrible nights and we were all tired and cranky. Luckily, Damon and I regrouped and managed to get our things together and move into a rental house. 

Fun fact: my dad and Uncle Sherif, one of his best childhood friends, were born on the same day 😄

After a quick drop off, we headed to my Uncle and Aunt’s house for dinner. It was fun to see them for a few hours and have a delicious meal, prepared by my Uncle. 

Not quite done!

All that in just half a week! See what we did during the second half, in our San Antonio, Week 1, part II blog post. 

The Great Movie Ride

A few weeks ago, the Walt Disney Company announced the closure of a beloved attraction at Disney’s Hollywood Studios – The Great Movie Ride. While I understand the need to retire the attraction, I am saddened as it holds a special place in my heart.

In October of 2004, I’d been working at ‘The Great Movie Ride’ for a few weeks when I met a new person in the break room – Damon. He’d just transfer from ‘The Tower of Tower’ and was finishing his training for the ride. I remember this meeting because of how we clicked. I’d never felt an instant connection with anyone before. From then on, I constantly looked for him in the break room. Unfortunately, he kept getting assigned to ‘The Tower of Tower’, so I never saw him. 

Then in June 2005, we were both selected for be character trained for the ride (which means doing the gangster/bandit scenes). At this point, we were seeing more of each other each weekend and definitely had a crush on each other.

During training, Damon tried to help the trainer by grabbing a box of pens for our class. The next thing we know, Damon tripped and pens went flying across the room. He turned beet red and I thought he was the cutest thing ever!

After work, Damon invited me to his house to watch a movie. I don’t remember much about the movie. What I do remember is how comfortable I felt with him. While we were talking, he asked if I’d like to go out with him sometime. I said that sounded like fun (girl code for yes). Unfortunately, Damon didn’t speak girl code and asked me again. I explained that my answer ment yes and thus began our journey of being honest with each other.

So, as you can imagine, ‘The Great Movie Ride’ means a great deal to us. Which is why I was thrilled to get to go back one more time. Last night, the Disney Parks Blog hosted a meet-up at the ride and allowed us to walk the track! Not only did I get to relive some very fond memories but I got to take all the pictures I’d neglected to take while I worked there (lesson learnes + always take pictures).

What a wonderful way to close such a meaningful chapter of my life. I only hope it’s replacement will live up to ‘The Great Movie Ride’

Monday Motivation: Six Years of Marriage

Six years ago, my best friend and I made it official. However, I felt married to him long before our wedding day. For me, our wedding day was just making our relationship legally binding. 

Damon and I had met five years prior, at Disney right after a hurricane hit. We were friends immediately. 

Soon after we were selected for a special training class. During this class Damon got up to get some pens for the class. He tripped, and the pens went flying. He turned beet red and I thought he was the cutest thing ever. He asked me out later that afternoon. 

I knew he was special immediately. However, there was a point where I wondered if he was too old for me. Fortunately, some part of my brain yelled at me, telling me it was dumb to stop seeing someone fantastic just because of age.

Soon after that, we traveled to Disneyland together and I knew this guy was special. I wasn’t 100% positive that I would marry him but I knew that he would be an important person in my life. 

So as you can imagine, by the time our wedding day rolled around it was just another day of adventure with Damon. We were already an awesome partnership, which continues to this day. 

I love our life and adventures together. It hasn’t been easy but nothing valuable in life is every easy. And I can’t wait to see what this road ahead has in store for us.

California Adventures: Disneyland

As a self-proclaimed Disney geek (and proud of it) I couldn’t come to California and not visit Disneyland. Since mini-man was little we decided to just visit a couple of times.

Our first trip was when mini-man was six-months old. Looking back, he might have been a bit too young – but we still had fun. He really enjoyed the outdoor rides – the carousel and Casey Jr. He didn’t quite understand the dark rides – Winnie the Pooh.

However, it was a stressful visit – it was hot, crowded, and we didn’t really have goals to accomplish anything.

After this visit we waited a year to go back. The main reason we went back was so I could see Paint the Night before it left. But this time, I was more prepared.

After the first visit, I realized I couldn’t power through the park and try to do everything – kids just can’t do that.

This time I researched everything and made a loose goals for the day. I wanted everyone to have fun.

In the end, the goals worked really well and everyone had fun. What worked best was taking lots of breaks to let mini-man walk and explore in his own.

And I got to see Paint the Night (which was incredible!). Best of all, mini-man loved seeing it too. 

I am so happy that we got to go to Disneyland and create some great memories. 

Theme Park – SeaWorld Orlando

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I am a huge theme park freak. Growing up in San Diego, my family and I would often visit SeaWorld, Disneyland, and the zoo. Damon and I even met while working at Walt Disney World – so you could say theme parks are in my blood. I was so excited to take Mini-man to visit these same places.

After taking mini-man to a few theme parks I learned some very valuable lessons and applied them to this trip. Damon and I agreed ahead of time to only go for a few hours, see a show, see some animals, and leave. Keeping expectations simple is becoming the key to our success. (every time I spell success – the 1980’s song S-U-C-C-E-S-S from the ‘Secret of my Sucess’ with Michael J. Fox plays in my head)

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Anyways, we got to the park around 10am just in time to see my favorite show ‘Blue Horizons’ – an amazing performance showcasing the beauty and power of the Atlantic Bottlenose dolphin. We sat up high to stay out of the sun (in Florida, always seek out cover for shade or protection from rain). Mini-man loved watching the dolphins jumping through the air and was completely mesmerized during the show.

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One of the great things about visiting SeaWorld Orlando in October is their Halloween Spooktacular – included with park admission! We headed to the Bayside Pathway to partake in the festivities. The celebration offers trick-or-treating, a dance party, face painting, character meet-n-greets, and much more! Since Mini-man was under one, we decided to just walk the pathway slowly and do some trick-or-treating. This was fascinating to mini-man – he loved reaching into the bag and pulling out the candy to play with it. (don’t worry – Damon valiantly stepped and ate the candy on Mini-mans behalf). 

Since the pathway ends in Shamu’s Happy Harbor we decided to try some of the attractions in this area. Much to our suprise, there was nothing that mini-man could do! All of the rides required a child to sit in their own. And while Mini-man could sit on his own he couldn’t quite stay seated on his own. It really amazed me that a park that markets itself to kids, wouldn’t have anything for those who are under two.

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Afterwards, we were getting hungry and decided it was time to leave. SeaWorld has some amazing food, but it can be pricey and a little hectic. Little tip – there is a Wendy’s, Panera, Taco Bell, and Mellow Mushroom just outside of the park (no more than a 10 minute drive).

Thanks to our ‘keep things simple’ strategy, we managed to have a fun day with each other and create lots of amazing memories.  

Lessons learned – Disneyland

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As a life-long theme park addict (seriously – I have pictures of me at Disneyland when I’m only a few months old), I thought I knew it all when it came to navigating theme parks. I. Was. Wrong! Here are some great lessons I learned from our first trip to Disneyland with kids:

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  • Plan Ahead of Time: Before kids I had no limits to what I wanted to do and when. Now that I have Mini-man with me, it became very important to pay attention to height requirements and ride appropriateness. Some things might be too loud or scary for little ones, even if they meet the minimum ride requirements.                                                                                                                                                 All of this information is available on-line. I suggest noting which attractions you think would be best before you arrive.
  • Be Prepared: admit it – you sang those words 😁. Going to a theme park takes some preparation. I recommend lots of water, sunscreen, and really comfortable shoes. Also, Disney can be expensive so bringing some snacks for all to enjoy will go a long way.
  • Take Your Time: The phrase ‘Stop and Smell a Rose’ is pretty apt here. Pre-kids, I would charge through the park to hit as much as possible. With kids, I’ve learned it’s important to take my time and enjoy the journey. Mini-man didn’t care how many, if any, rides we did. He was more interested in taking in his surroundings than riding a lot of rides.
  • Pay Attention: Pre-kids, I would get the park at opening and stay until the park closed. With kids, I’ve learned we need to go at their pace. Its more important for Mini-man to sleep than for me to get to the park early. During the day, if you see the kids getting tired it’s ok to leave the park for some quiet/nap time. If you stay all day, everyone ends up tired and miserable – which is not great memories for anyone. Its more important to have a fun, relaxing day.

I hope these tips help make your visit to a theme park more enjoyable. We Love to know – what tips do you have for enjoying a theme park with your kids?

Theme Parks – Taking Mini-man to Disneyland!

Disneyland – the happiest place on earth. I have a lot of happy memories visiting this park as a child. Now that I am a mom I couldn’t wait to take mini-man to visit these special places.

We started the day slow by checking into our hotel and dropping off our things. It was a very hot day in Anaheim so we took extra time to make sure we all had our sunscreen on and water bottles were filled. Once we were ready we walked over to Disneyland! (I purposely got a hotel within walking distance to the park – it was closer than the Disney hotels and was waaaaaay cheaper).

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We went for a classic start of the day – a grand circle tour of the magic kingdom aboard the Disneyland Railroad. Mini-man was confounded at first but started to enjoy it – until the dinosaur scene, which he really didn’t like.

 

 

imageAfter the train, we got off and headed toward the castle. It was a pretty crowded day. Damon and I got frustrated pretty quickly as we were all starting to over heat. Instead of for`aging ahead, like we might have done pre-kids, we stopped at the Hungry Bear Restaurant for food and to cool down. Mini-man got in a quick nap which gave Damon and me time to talk and figure out our next steps. We realized we couldn’t tackle the park like we used to. We needed to slow down and take things ride by ride.

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When mini-man woke up we headed to the Winnie the Pooh ride. I thought mini-man would like it since kids like Winnie the Pooh. Judging by mini-mans face at the end of the ride he didn’t quite get it. I then realized that indoor rides might be a bit advanced for a six-month old, so we headed Fantasyland for some of the open-aired rides.

 

 

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Success! We rode the carousel and Casey Jr. and mini-man loved them both! He couldn’t get enough of looking at all of the scenery happening around him.

 

 

 

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Now, normally, on a pre-kid trip three rides would not have taken that long. However this took several hours. This combined with the heat and moving extra weight equal three exhausted individuals. We headed back to the hotel to rest up for an evening trip.

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After wonderful naps we headed back to the park. I really wanted to see the new parade, Paint the Night, and the fireworks show. What I wasn’t expecting were the massive crowds.

 

Mini-man became very overwhelmed by all the people around him. I hoped if we found a quiet spot we could enjoy the parade. What I didn’t take into account was how loud the parade was. I really never realized how loud the parade was. Maybe I’m old now but it was really loud and it freaked out mini-man. We decided it was better all around to leave the park. What made matters worse was as we left the fireworks started and the banging freaked mini-man out even more. This was the final nail in the coffin. I walked as fast as I could toward the exit cuddling a crying mini-man on the way. By the time we made it out of the park mini-man was fast asleep.

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All-in-all it was a good day. I have some good memories and learned some great lessons. Check out my next post to see my lessons learned.