Monday, November 29, 2010

Applesauce Worthy of NASA, well almost

I have a new favorite quick snack for Tink: applesauce packs from GoGo SqueeZ. These handy little packets hold one serving of all natural unsweetened applesauce. I admit I think it’s really cool that the package was originally designed for NASA.

We received our sample kit in October prior to our last trip to Walt Disney World. I gave Tink one as soon as I unpacked the box; it doesn’t require refrigeration. She’s a big applesauce fan and I could tell she enjoyed being able to feed herself. Even at 17 months, GoGo SqueeZ was easy for her to maneuver and as long as she doesn’t swing it around, there isn’t any mess. We’ve only had leftovers once, but technically you can replace the cap and store the opened pack in the fridge for 24 hours. In my experience, it’s more likely that you’ll be opening a second one than storing some of the first. I usually have to hide the cap once I remove it because Tink always wants to play with it. Since it’s a potential choking hazard, I keep it out of reach.

GoGo SqueeZ is available in 5 all natural flavors: Apple/Apple, Apple/Strawberry, Apple/Cinnamon, Apple/Banana, and Apple/Peach. We have the Apple/Apple and Apple/Banana flavors and Tink likes them both. I requested the simpler flavors for my toddler but I can see the other combos being popular with older children.

I put GoGo SqueeZ to the ultimate test on vacation. I packed up my whole stash for Walt Disney World. The one or two packs in my carry-on luggage went through security with no problem. They were in my quart-sized zipper bag, of course. Tink is a little picky so feeding her in airports and on planes is a challenge. GoGo SqueeZ helped me know I was giving her something healthy. The leg of our trip from St. Louis to Orlando was a full flight, so Tink had to sit in my lap. Even in those tight quarters, she enjoyed an applesauce pack with no mess to either of us or our very kind seat mates.

Once at the World, even though we tried to stick close to Tink’s schedule, time just seemed to get away from us. The GoGo SqueeZ was really helpful in providing a quick snack when meal time was still just a little while off. I didn’t get any pictures of her with her applesauce because you don’t tend to think of capturing memories of your life preserver. I specifically remember her eating one on the benches outside Carousel of Progress, in line for and on the monorail, and Granny giving her one while waiting for lunch at the Studios.

GoGo SqueeZ is now a staple in my kitchen and diaper bag. It’s really convenient, not messy, and healthy. I can see it coming in handy on future road trips. An applesauce cup and spoon would be out of the question in a moving car, but I think she could handle the GoGo Squeez just fine.

Check your local store to buy a box at a time.  It's available in some of the major discount and grocery stores.  Or if you prefer to buy in bulk, check out Amazon for case prices. 

A big thanks to GoGo SqueeZ for providing us some of their product to try. I’m hooked!

I received no compensation other than some applesauce in exchange for this review.  I honestly think this is a cool product.

Friday, November 26, 2010

A Walk Around The World With Ridge--A day in the park alone

Happy Black Friday Everyone! I am not shopping in stores today so on with the show!

Unless you go on a solo trip or have just had all the fun you can stand with your family or significant other, most people never wander un-tethered around the parks. I like it when I can just have a little while alone and get things done at my own pace. On the October 2010 trip I had a day to do just that.

With Amy not feeling so hot and little Tink in a ultra playful mood I decided that I would hit the parks alone and let Disney Dad, Mom and Amy go shopping and let Tink play. I would go use my newly acquired DSLR camera (Canon Rebel EOS T1i) to stock up on photos. I decided to just hop on the first bus to a park I saw and exactly the moment I hit the stop Hollywood Studios was there.

I hit the park right at the end of rope drop and move straight to Toy Story Midway Mania. I had never stood in the stand by line and therefore had never see Mr. Potato Head acting as the Carnival barker. I have read several times that he breaks down often and was just hoping that I would get to see him in action. Lucky day after 45 minutes I got to where I could actually hear him speaking. I was able to watch him move around for a while but listening to him sing and tell jokes was even better. My patience paid off as I was able to take lots of shots of the queue and Mr. Potato Head. As soon as I was past him and picking up my 3-D glasses he broke down and his curtain was pulled. The rest of the ride was as fun as I remembered it. At least until I was able to ride it a few days later with Todd and a few other awesome folks after the Growing Up Disney meet-up at the Writers Stop, but all that is for another day.

After TSMM, I aimlessly walked around the park just taking pictures. To my surprise on the Streets of America I found a set of porcelain Siamese cats in a window. Unimpressive to most whom were to walk by and I am sure to the teenagers that were walking behind me I must have been an extreme weirdo to me marveling over some cats in a window. However what they didn't know is that my Grandmother had the exact same cats and inside is a light that would make their eyes glow. So weirdo was I not, merely a nostalgic passer by who happened to take 20 pictures of cats in a window.

After another hour of listlessness I made my way to the Tower of Terror. The Lines app said it was only a five minute wait and after all, it is one of my favorite rides. Well not only was it less than five minutes but I had free reign of the queue and used my time to take pictures with little to no one in them. Best part of the story, I was able to ride all by myself. I thought it was funny enough to buy the picture.

End of part one....

See the full flickr stream either to the right or click here.

Monday, November 22, 2010

BIG ANNOUNCEMENT & a Schedule Change

The Growing Up Disney family is growing and we are all very excited!

Tink is going to be a big sister! I am expecting my second child due May 31, 2011.

Andy and I shared the news with our parents by dressing Audrey in a "I'm a BIG sister" t-shirt. We told his family when we visited them in mid-October. My parents learned the news on our first night of our recent Walt Disney World vacation. Chris, as my partner in crime, had known since the day I found out, and took pictures of their reactions. Of course, all of the family and friends we have told are thrilled.

I'm much sicker this time than I was with Audrey. Since I'm at the end of the first trimester, I'm hoping to feel better soon. I just don't have the juice to keep up our current publishing schedule, so for the next few weeks, we'll post about three times a week. As soon as I feel up to my editor-in-chief duties again, we'll be back to providing you with fun and informative articles each weekday.


Friday, November 19, 2010

A Walk Around The World With Ridge--Vending Machines

At the end of a long day in the Magic Kingdom Amy and I stayed after Wishes and talked to our new friend Jeff the EMT (@Jeff_EMT on twitter). This was an outstanding opportunity to grab a picture of the castle with no one (or at least very few people) in front of it. I have become quite intrigued with the art of taking photographs and I will cover things I have and am still learning soon. So I told you that to tell you this, the down side to staying late is that nothing is open as you leave to get a drink or snack. We all know how important a little something can be to lift the spirits while waiting in the ominous bus line. If we are late getting out of a park we are prone to finding a bench or something else to look at while the bus crowd mellows out a bit before waiting in line. This is good when you don’t have to get right back to the resort. However, upon leaving MK this night we were both feeling thirsty and I had no small bills for the coke machines. I remarked to Amy I wish the machines out next to the MK bus stop took credit cards. As we neared them Amy noticed that the machines had a little something extra near where the bills are placed. Lo and behold! They did take credit cards, we were saved from having to wait 30 minutes to get home before we could quench our thirst! A Coke zero and a Sprite Zero later we were both much happier and heading back to the resort with a seat on the bus;)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Walt Disney World on Wheels

WDW on Wheels can mean a lot of different things to different people. On Growing Up Disney “wheels” are normally Tink’s stroller. Parades are on wheels, food and merchandise carts are on wheels, DHS has an excellent show – Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show – that is all about cars and motorcycle stunts where they really burn rubber from their wheels. Today, I am talking about wheels on something different.

My wife, while far from handicapped, has problems with her pain in her knees. The long hours of walking at WDW causes her more pain than she normally puts up with. For some time now when we go to EPCOT I have rented her an ECV at the park. EPCOT has some of the longest walks between attractions of any of the parks. The ECV made my wife’s trip much more enjoyable for her. As things progressed, I began renting ECVs at other parks for her until she needed an ECV at every park. On our last trip (we returned the first week of November) I rented a 3-wheeled scooter from one of the “outside” rental companies so she had the scooter for the entire 10-day trip. This allowed her to go from our room to a park with only minimal walking. There are many excellent companies that rent scooters in the Orlando area, we rented from Randy’s Mobility. I only have good things to say about Randy’s Mobility. Randy delivered the scooter to our room after we checked in at Saratoga Springs. He showed my wife how to operate it and me how to take it apart so I could put it in the trunk of our car. On our 10 day trip I ended up taking it apart and putting it back together on at least 9 days of our 10 day trip. The one day I did not take it apart my wife used the WDW Bus to get to a park. At the end of our trip we left the scooter with bell services at the hotel for Randy's Mobility to pick up.

Scooters give a mobility impaired person a new sense of freedom. I think that Walt Disney World is one of the most wheel chair friendly places you can go. (Yes the ADA requires businesses to be handicap accessible and Disney has done a wonderful implementation of this. The cast members are well trained and helpful to those needing extra assistance bringing with them the extra Disney “Magic”.) All transportation readily accommodates guests “on wheels”. My wife traveled by bus, boat, and monorail. On wheels she could have also boarded the train to ride around the Magic Kingdom or a truck at Kilimanjaro Safaris in the Animal Kingdom. You can go into attractions, restaurants or visit the “facilities” on wheels. My wife chooses to park her scooter and walk into most of the stores and attractions. Since she is not confined to wheelchair she tries to be as courteous as possible when using a scooter.

We took Tink on the train at the MK around to Mickey’s Toontown Fair. While my wife could have ridden the train she “scooted” around to that area. She enjoys going fast on the scooter as with her knees she can never go faster than a slow amble. By herself she could go as fast as the crowd level would allow.

The newer parks and new attractions are more accommodating to someone who is mobility impaired as they were designed from the beginning with ADA in mind. A friend whose husband is confined to a wheelchair agreed that most of the attractions and rides were accommodating for someone in a wheelchair. The problem for him is when he has to transfer from his chair into a ride vehicle as it gets to be very tiring .

Many of the attractions do not require you to transfer from your ECV/scooter to be able to enjoy the attraction. Some require you be able to move from the ECV to a wheelchair and others require you to be able to move to the attraction seating. Each of the parks has maps designed for the guest with disabilities. You may have to ask for a map. The MK did not have them on display on our last trip, but were glad to give you one at the ECV/stroller rental stand at the MK entrance. The park map will show you what is required at each attraction for the mobility impaired person to enjoy the attraction.

A quick check with your favorite search engine will give you lots of information on traveling with disabilities. Walt Disney World’s web site has pages of information on visiting WDW for people with disabilities. Check out the official WDW web site for traveling with disabilities here.

Do you have experience traveling at WDW with a mobility impaired person? Let us know your experience.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Photo Flashback! Meet & Greet with Duffy

Duffy, Mickey's teddy bear made for him by Minnie, started appearing in Epcot in October.  We were lucky to come upon him with no line.  Audrey loved hugging and dancing with him.  Even the character handlers were taken with how cute she was.  (Sorry, proud mama moment.)  Click here for the full Duffy story from Disney's official blog.  Not surprisingly, there is a full line of Duffy merchandise.  We didn't get Audrey one this time.  She's very attached to the Mickey and Minnie Dolls she received on our recent trip.

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Minnie Moms: Parades and Fireworks

Janine: This month’s post is another hypothetical one for me as we have yet to take F to WDW and she has not even seen a firework display or parade in England yet. We have an annual celebration on 5/11 called Guy Fawkes Night (fireworks night or bonfire night) which dates back to when Fawkes tried to blow up the English parliament with gunpowder. Therefore there have been fireworks going off in our neighborhood for the last few weeks. But F has yet to really notice them as she’s usually asleep by the time the parties start.

If we were over in the parks at the moment, we would actually miss all the parades and fireworks as F likes to be at least dozing by 7:30pm. And unlike most children, F refuses to sleep in her stroller so we would not even be able to do that. We will have to see what she is like with excitement and loud noises and what her bedtime is when we go over in a few years. If we have to miss out until she is older then we are not too worried, we've seen them all plenty of times and we'll make sure we see the daytime ones.

But I'll still write a little about what we like to do. For MK we've had many different spots for the parade but we actually found a very relaxing one a couple of years ago! We sat on the outside chairs by the Main Street Bakery to the side where you can hear a music lesson in one of the upstairs windows, right by where there is a CM entrance where the balloon sellers come in and out. So we got to sit down with a coffee and cake after a long day and watch the parade go by, and then just move back onto the street for Wishes! And we were only a minute or so from the exit, great stuff! The Noodle Station was another great spot where we could actually sit down and saw Tink fly over really well but was incredibly busy!

For Illuminations we have stood in different places every year. Last year we actually stood on the gateway between FW and WS and that was actually a pretty good spot! When we've been in a party, we all take turns saving the spot whilst the others go off and get snacks and when we've been on our own we just made sure we had a drink and sat down in a decent spot about 30 minutes before it was due to start. To be honest there are so many places to see from I don't think you need to find a spot hours before unless you have a member of your party who has to sit down I guess. We were lucky enough to catch the 4th July fireworks at EPCOT in 2008 and these we the best we've ever seen.

My only tip for Fantasmic at HS would be to get there in good time as it fills pretty fast. We've done both the 9pm and 1030pm shows (both been packed) but the late one meant getting back to the hotel after midnight which may be too late for some little ones.

In regards to handling the wait with the kiddies, maybe if you have more than one then mom can take one for a quick stroll while dad and the other stake out a place and vice versa. Definitely make sure they've been to the restroom and you've got a drink and a snack. This could be a good time to check for any nearby hidden Mickeys or discussion on what to do the next day/reflection on what you've just done. We will be with our in-laws when we next go so if F gets fidgety then we will take it in turns to walk her stroller around until time for the show. I may even try to buy her a little in-expensive treat during the day and then whip it out before the parade/fireworks if she starts to get too fussy.

General points for consideration - bear in mind your child’s reaction to the dark, the crowds and the noise if they have never seen anything like it before. I would plan to be somewhere where you can make a quick exit if your child does not react well to their first viewing of the parade/fireworks without causing too much fuss and bother. If this does happen, just take it in your stride and don't panic too much. Kiddie may just be overtired from the day and if you try a different park's nightly entertainment the following night you may be pleasantly surprised. And if not, hey it's a great excuse to go back next year when they're older!

DH reminded me of another very good issue. Just because a spot looks good to you, make sure your little one can see everything they need to from their much lower vantage point. If you're planning on putting them on your shoulders, take a second to consider those around you. You and your child may be having a ball, but that couple who've waited over an hour for this spot now to have it impeded by the child-sized impediment in front of them may not be so pleased.

We're yet to know whether the dark will be an issue for F, she seems happy enough during night feeds etc but that can all change at any time. And being outdoors at night is a whole different ballgame. One way to make your child more at ease in the dark (although the parks are very well lit, the lights all go down for the fireworks for atmosphere) may be to get a glow stick. They sell all different kinds in the parks or get a much cheaper one before you go.

Amy: Tink has been to Walt Disney World twice this year and she hasn’t seen any of the parades or fireworks. The afternoon parade at Magic Kingdom has either been during a nap, a break at a resort, or simply rained out. I know some would think that makes me a horrible Disney mom, but at this point, a well-rested baby is much higher on my list of priorities than parades. Once she’s a little older and able to understand why we are waiting, we’ll camp out on the curb and get a good spot to wave at all her favorite characters. Regarding nighttime shows, those are just too late for her and at 18 months old, she doesn’t really care if she sees fireworks or not. Again, once she’s older, we’ll get a good spot in Frontierland for the parade and enjoy a Dole Whip while we wait. I did find a pink glow stick fairy wand in the dollar bin at Michael’s with the intent of using it at night. Once it comes down to it, she has just been too tired to stay out late. On my most recent trip, I was able to stand with my cousin’s daughters while they saw their very first Disney parade, Main Street Electrical Parade. (Tink had left the park with Granny and Granddaddy.) We waited at the rope to make sure they had a great view. It was so much fun to see them take it all in. Once the parade was over, we headed toward the center of the park to find a spot for Wishes. We found a good place for the girls and the adults all stood back just a bit so we didn’t crowd those who had been waiting. Since it might be a couple of years before we take Tink back to the World, we’ll attend some local fireworks shows between now and then to see how she reacts to the noise.

Corby: As we all know Disney has some great rides and attractions. They also have some great parades and some of the most spectacular fireworks shows you’ll ever see. I am a big fireworks show fan! It’s usually not my 6 year old son but myself who begs the family to stay and watch them! My husband can’t stand the mass exodus afterwards but every now and then, I win and I get to stay and watch! My favorite show is Epcot’s IllumiNations. Coming in a close second place is Magic Kingdom’s Wishes. For IllumiNations, as long as you’re standing by the lake, you’re going to get a good view. We seem to change our location each time. I think our favorite spot was when we watched it on the bridge. Every time those torches go out and I start hearing the beat of the music, I can barely contain my excitement! For Wishes, I will admit, I get a little teary when I hear “When You Wish upon a Star”. Sad, I know, but it’s true. My family’s favorite viewing spot is on top of the train station. There are some chairs up there and if you get there early, you may be lucky enough to get one. We like going early, grabbing a seat and people watching as the crowds start coming in below. In regard to Hollywood Studios’ Fantasmic!, we’ve only seen it once with our son. He was three and it basically traumatized him so we haven’t been back since. We may just give it a try again now that he’s six but I do think it’s something parents need to be aware of. It is very entertaining but in my opinion, it’s not for every child, especially those that are young or get easily scared.

As far as parades go, we usually only take time to view one as we’re not big parade fans. I know, I can hear the boos and hisses. We see it as the perfect opportunity when everyone else is watching the parade to go get shorter lines at the rides! Our favorite one hands down, is the Spectro Magic night-time parade at Magic Kingdom. As I’ve said in the past, we always plan our dinner at Tony’s Town Square around it and that’s where we view it. I’m looking forward to seeing the Main Street Electrical Parade next week so I can compare the two. (Yes, I said next week…*smile*!) (Amy’s note: Corby is in WDW now! Yay!)

Heather: We recently returned from WDW with our 4 year old and 6 month old sons. While there we enjoyed the Mickey’s Not so Scary Halloween Party, Illuminations, and Wishes. Last year, our then 3 year old was petrified of all fireworks to the point after the first night of crying we punted any other nighttime performances. This trip we planned ahead and after some research bought Peltor 97070 Junior Earmuff, Black for Ben. We let him decorate them with Toy Story stickers and practiced wearing around the hotel before the nighttime parades and fireworks. They worked like a charm. Ben was still a little apprehensive and wanted to watch the fireworks from a far, but he seemed happy that the noise was muffled and didn’t bother him.

As far as parades we tried to make sure we found a location near the start of the parade so that we could hit rides with a limited line wait while others were still watching. This strategy worked especially well on the night of the Halloween party. We timed eating at Pecos Bill CafĂ© for dinner before the parade start. We in turn had great seats at the start of the parade and were close to Woody and Jessie’s Dance Party at the Diamond Horseshoe Saloon afterwards for some one on one dance moves with Bullseye.

Ben was genuinely interested and loved the fireworks this trip. A little pre-planning and also another year of maturity made a big difference in his (and also our) enjoyment of the fabulous nighttime shows at WDW.

Thanks to our Minnie Moms for sharing such helpful tips! If you have a question for us or a topic you'd like us to cover, please leave a comment or email Amy.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Stop and Smell the Roses

If you are traveling to Walt Disney World with a toddler, your commando touring days are over.  Sure, you could push everyone and rush from attraction to attraction, but WHY?  Families planning the "once in a lifetime" trip to WDW generally will wait until kids are older and can remember the trip.  So those of us who are watching little ones toddle down Main Street are more likely regular guests.    

The Growing Up Disney family (minus my dear husband who had to travel for business) recently took a long vacation to WDW.  Tink is 18 months old and was a champ on the trip.

Here are a few observations from this adventure:

1.  An afternoon break is key.  Some kids need to go back to the hotel to nap or older children might prefer a dip in the pool.  For Tink, the stroller was a fine place to nap.  We'd find a relatively cool and quiet spot and let her snooze.  It's a great chance to people-watch, grab a cool drink, or catch up on some blogging (maybe that's just me.)
Catching some ZZZs in Adventureland

2.  You may miss stuff.  Even with all those days, there were attractions that I didn't see and places I wanted to show Tink that just didn't happen.  Well, other than Captain EO, I've seen it before and I'll see it again.  (With EO, I did see it before, but I was hoping to catch this run.)  And while I really wanted to take Tink to Country Bears and Jungle Cruise, she's surely not lying in her crib fretting about it as I type this.  Attractions Tink especially enjoyed included Festival of the Lion King, Monsters Inc Laugh Floor, The Tiki Room: Under New Management, and Playhouse Disney Live on Stage.
Tink really liked "Hello Humans"
Check out the accidental mouse ears
Dancing at Playhouse Disney: Live on Stage
Fascinated by Festival of the Lion King

3.  Little ones enjoy the little things.  We had the privilege of spending some time in the parks with my cousin and his family on their very first Walt Disney World vacation.  Tink loved the attention she got from the older girls.  She thought she was big stuff.  Tink also had a blast at the Lego store at Downtown Disney.  She loved the slide and it didn't take her too long to get the hang of climbing the stairs and crossing the bridge to get to the slide.  She would giggle while running from the slide back to the stairs to start it all over.  We then let her check out one of the Duplo tables and build to her little heart's content.  Wow, she was so intense about stacking those little bricks.  And by the way, it was free.  On our last full day, we went to Magic Kingdom.  As you pass under the train station to the right, there is an area most people walk right by.  For some reason, we stopped and Tink had the best time, running and giggling and giving out hugs.  I took about 50 pictures of this moment of pure joy.  I would bet she was the happiest little girl at the happiest place on earth.
Tink thought my cousin's daughters were fantastic
(and they are pretty special!)
The small playground at the Lego store was
a tremendous hit
I had no idea she'd be so intense about
building with Duplos.
Pure joy.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Mickey Mouse Christmas Lights

Mickey Mouse Christmas lights
Thanks to a tip from Beth Doda I bought these cute lights at Lowe's tonight. Audrey loved pushing the button and dancing to "Deck the Halls". We just got one set for a hidden Mickey effect.

Update 12/5/12:  Our lights are still going strong.  Yesterday I saw a similar set of lights at Target.  Same look but without the music.  They also had Cars, Toy Story, and Princess themed light sets.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Welcome to the Magical Blogorail!

Hi everyone and welcome aboard the Magical Blogorail. We're now embarking on a nonstop return journey to the Main Entrance and parking area. During the trip, we ask that you remain seated at all times and no smoking, please.

Sorry, I couldn’t resist quoting a former monorail spiel. If you’re joining us from Meet the Magic, welcome!

DisneyDad and DisneyMom on
their honeymoon in 1973

Growing Up Disney is a family project. I (Amy) am leading the charge. My brother, Chris AKA Ridge, is our man about town/aspiring photographer. My father, known on the blog as DisneyDad, writes mostly about Disney Vacation Club and is the one who initiated our Disney fascination. My family talked about doing a blog or podcast during our Disney vacation in April 2010. Once we got home, I wanted to share what I had learned about traveling with a small child and started writing. I invited Chris and Dad to contribute and the blog has evolved into a place to share our family’s stories of nearly 40 years of Walt Disney World vacations. We also offer lots of tips related to children and have some great guest bloggers who share their own ideas and experiences.

Amy's first trip to WDW in 1979

Raised as a Disney kid myself, I participated in the Disney College Program in 1997 and was a Cast Member at Crystal Palace. After I began running, the Disney marathon became my goal and I crossed the finish line, earning my Mickey medal, in January 2005. In April 2005, my Prince Charming and I married in Disney's Wedding Pavilion and honeymooned on the Disney Wonder. My dad surprised me with special guests at the wedding reception, Mickey and Minnie! My daughter, nickname Tink, celebrated her first birthday at Walt Disney World and had breakfast with Mickey on the big day. She has recently made her second trip to WDW.

We've had great fun on Growing Up Disney sharing these stories, in more detail, and many others. I hope you enjoy reading them as you prepare for a trip or keep the magic going between vacations. Please explore the site a bit while you are here.

Thank you for joining us on the Magical Blogorail. Please take the journey with us again next month on December 10th when we cover a fun Disney topic.

Here are all the stops along the blogorail:


"Best Of" Week: Walk Around The World With Ridge—The Haunted Mansion

Rounding out the edge of Liberty Square is The Haunted Mansion, home of Master Gracey. This is truly a classic attraction at Walt Disney World. Opening with the park in 1971, it has been a staple of Magic Kingdom ever since. The grim grinning ghosts come out to socialize, so shouldn't you? If you're lucky, one may even follow you home.

The Haunted Mansion was built in a Tudor style popular in the 1890s in the Northeastern U.S. As you approach the mansion if you look at the ground, you may spot horseshoe tracks in the pavement. Follow them to the horseless carriage in front of the mansion and to the queuing area. If the lines are long you'll be out in front of the carriage house. Take a look around you'll notice something strange, the horse shoes are all facing down... all the luck has run out. Not a good thing to be out of when you're about to walk into a haunted mansion.

As you get closer to the entrance of the attraction, you'll see the final resting place of some of the former residents. There are several tombstones and even a freshly mounded plot. Each of the tombstones has a humorous epitaph telling of how they departed. In reality these are tributes to the Imagineers who worked on the mansion. One of the newest tombstones belongs to Madame Leota; Leota Thomas was one of the lead Imagineers. Her tombstone holds extra secrets; she blinks and looks around. You’ll see Madame Leota again inside the mansion.

Once inside the fun gets started as you are led into an octagonal room. Check out the grates around the floor, now you'll have to use a flash camera or some night vision goggles for this. From here the butler or maid brings you into the parlor to meet with your host, your ghost host. He explains that the only way back out the house is his way. Hop in your "doom buggy” and take the tour. It is a fun romp through a dimly lit mansion. If you are lucky, at the end of the tour you may even have a new friend who follows you home—Phineas, Ezra or Gus. Outside at the exit there is a mausoleum. Stop and look, have a laugh. Then take a look at the pet cemetery *sniffle*.

When you go to the Haunted Mansion after dark, allow some additional time. With a keen eye you may catch a few extra sights. Outside you may see lightning and hear thunder. If you look at the window over the front door you may catch a glimpse of someone or something walking in front of the window with a lantern. So watch out.

The Haunted Mansion is a must-do for the Growing Up Disney team. How about you?

Thursday, November 11, 2010


DisneyDad's posts on Aulani, the Disney Vacation Club property under construction in Hawaii, are always popular.  For today's "Best Of," I've shared all three articles.  It's a dreary day here and the thought of combining a beautiful tropical location with the magic of Disney brightens my outlook.  Enjoy!

"Best Of" Week: Aulani – Disney Magic in Hawaii - update

Make your reservations soon. Aulani opens in less than a year.

Well, what do you see when you get to Aulani? For one, you will not see a volcano. Disney Imagineer Joe Rohde, Senior Vice President and Creative Executive of Disney Imagineering, who grew up on Oahu didn’t think it would be believable. What you do see on Oahu is lava flows piling up on one another making fantastic shapes. So Aulani sits in the Imagineered “valley” in the Disney Story of Aulani (everything with Disney is based on a story) called Waikolohe, which is Hawaiian for “mischievous water” There will be what Disney describes as a “not-so-lazy river” going around a Pu’u Kino or large lava formation which will contain 2 water slides twisting in and out of the rock formation.

An article about Aulani in Disney Files Magazine (Disney Magazine for DVC Members) Fall 2010 reads:

“And, in upholding a Disney and Hawaiian tradition that will play our in every aspect of Aulani, there will be more to these volcanic formations than meet the eye.”

“It is part of Hawaiian culture to see images and meaning in the world around us…Sometimes, this is a deep cultural practice with spiritual overtones, but other times , it’s like, “hey, that rock looks like a dolphin!” …It’s the notion that you don’t get the full meaning of something until you really explore it. We definitely applied that principle to the design of the resort, and the magical touches we’re putting into the rock formations are great examples of that principles.”

Disney is hoping that guests to Aulani will discover theses creations as they explore and “our hope is they won’t notice many of these symbolic images on the first day of their trip.” Many DVC members will come back to Aulani year after year and Disney is hoping they are “creating some details so subtle that a family may not fine them until decades after their first visit.”

A reader of visited the Ko Olina resort and sent them some fantastic pictures of the construction and the first pictures of model rooms at the DVC Sales office across the street from Aulani. See their pictures here.

On Disney’s web site you can make reservations at Aulani, a Disney Resort and Spa, Ko Olina, Hawaii starting August 29, 2011. A Standard room starts at $399 a night with an ocean view room going for $549 a night. Vacation Club points for Aulani, Disney Vacation Club Villas, Ko Olina, Hawaii start at 22 points per night for a Deluxe Studio Standard view to 29 points per night for a Deluxe Studio Ocean view.

"Best Of" Week: Aulani, Disney Vacation Club Villas, Ko Olina, Hawai`

Aulani is Open for Business – at least you can now spend your money there. As of July 1, 2010 Disney began selling memberships at Aulani. The newest Disney Vacation Club resort is located in the Ko Olina resort on the Hawaiian island of O’ahu near Honolulu. The Ko Olina Resort and Marina has 4 manmade lagoons named Kohola (Whale), Honu (Turtle), Nai’a (Dolphin) and Ulna (Fish). Aulani shares the Kohola lagoon with the Marriott Ihilani Resort and Spa and the Ko Olina Wedding Chapel. The Hawaiian Railroad Society runs weekly 90 minute sightseeing trips on the narrow-gage railway that runs through Ko Olina. Transportation on O’hau’s bus system, called The Bus, is available in the area with the closest stop about a mile from the resort. Trolley routes are not as extensive as The Bus but run through the tourist area of Waikiki. Paradise Cove Luau and Cultural Center is located on 12 acres of the Ko Olina Resort and is “one of the largest and most respected luau shows in Hawai’i."

Aulani DVC consists of 481 two bedroom equivalent villas including 21 Grand Villas. The Deluxe Studio will sleep up to 4 and is 356 sq ft. It has a queen bed and a sleeper sofa. The One-Bedroom Villa is 756 sq ft and will sleep up to 5 with a king bed, sleeper sofa and a pull down bunk-sized bed in the living room. The Two-Bedroom Dedicated Villa adds a second bedroom with 2 queen beds and a sleeper chair in the living room. It is 1125 sq ft and will sleep up to 9. The one story Grand Villa is 2174 sq ft and adds a third bedroom with 2 more queen beds and sleeps up to 12.

The resort will have several dining options. It will have an open–air buffet restaurant called Makahiki Buffet Restaurant that will have a Character breakfast as well as dinner. The ‘Olelo Room next door to Makahiki will have a continental breakfast and traditional afternoon tea and cocktails. Overlooking the beach will be ‘AMA’AMA Beachside Restaurant serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Next to ‘AMA’AMA will be a counter service restaurant and a beachside bar. Near the Rainbow Reef snorkel lagoon will be The Lava Shack. The resort will also have a Hawaiian Shaved Ice cart and a Yogurt Bar.

Activities will include the Rainbow Reef snorkel lagoon, Waikolohe – a lazy-river ride, a water play area for kids, an adult pool, whirlpools, a leisure pool and of course the beach on the lagoon. Disney describes it as “A strand of sandy beach rims a large, turquoise-colored saltwater lagoon and the crystal blue Pacific beyond, perfect for sunbathing, frolicking and snorkeling.”

Rooms are offered in four different categories: Standard View, Island Gardens View, Poolside Gardens View and Ocean View. Points range from 18 points per night for a Standard View Deluxe Studio in Adventure Season to 184 points per night for an Ocean View Grand Villa in Premier Season. All days throughout the week have the same point value. The State of Hawai’i imposes a daily transient accommodations tax that must be paid by checkout so unlike other DVCs you will have to pay some cash at checkout.

With so much offered at the resort you might be tempted to spend your entire trip there. Nearby is Pearl Harbor with the USS Arizona Memorial as well as island historical tours. The Ko Olina resort offers Ko Olina Sports Club with gym and tennis courts, Ko Olina Golf Club, Ko Olina Marina with deep-sea fishing to sailing and sunset dinner cruises, Oceanside Ko Olina Wedding Chapel, Lagoons and Beaches with over a mile of seashore pathways, and Ko Olina Center and Ko Olina Station shopping centers.

"Best Of" Week: Aloha from Hawai’i

January 14 1973 … Aloha from Hawai’i… Elvis Pressley broadcast a concert from Hawaii live via satellite. It was the most watched television broadcast by an entertainer in history. He brought his individual style and magic to Hawaii. Now Disney will say “Aloha from Hawai’i” with their new resort on O’ahu.

Disney has had a connection with Hawaii with movies and TV set there and who could forget Lilo and Stitch. Now Disney is building a resort on O’ahu. The resort's name - Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa, Ko Olina, Hawai'i - reflects the company's deep commitment to celebrating the islands' rich history and traditions. Scheduled to open August 2011 it is located on the western side of O'ahu, Aulani on 21 acres of oceanfront property in the Ko Olina Resort & Marina development. The Resort is planned to have 360 hotel rooms and 481 two-bedroom equivalent Disney Vacation Club villas.

On web sites I have read: “Disney officials said the new resort's name reflects "the company's deep commitment to celebrating the Islands' rich history and traditions." "We want this resort destination to reflect the vibrant culture that surrounds it. The name 'Aulani' expresses a connection to tradition and deep story-telling — and its roots are here in this land," said Joe Rohde, a senior vice president. The English translation of Aulani is "messenger of a chief," according to the Hawaiian Dictionary by Mary Kawena Pukui and Samuel H. Elbert.” Disney translates the Hawaiian name Aulani, to mean "the place that speaks for the great ones" or "the place that speaks with deep messages." Disney's message will include a family resort with an 18,000 square-foot spa, two restaurants, 14,545 square-foot conference center, and 48,685 square feet of outdoor venues, including pools, hot tubs, a snorkeling lagoon and a variety of programs for children. Aulani should employee about 1000 cast members. Disney will begin taking reservations for the new resort in August.

The official Aulani web site is Construction pictures may be found on several web sites, click here and here to see pictures from

By the way, the DVC portion of the resort is called "Aulani, Disney Vacation Club Villas, Ko Olina, Hawai'i". Point charts are available on the DVC Members web site.

My wife has already told me to make reservations for our 40th anniversary there in 2013. Anyone want to go along?