Friday, April 29, 2011

Guest Post: Growing Up Disney

So, the other day, Growing Up Disney celebrated their first anniversary. I want to first congratulate them, as I know how much work and dedication goes into this endeavor. And also how much Love you have to have to continue doing it. I have been fortunate enough to have met Amy and Ridge, if only online and have had the honor to write a guest post (or two) for this wonderful website in the past. When Amy asked for another guest post, I knew exactly what I was going to write about; the name of this website; Growing Up Disney.

Getting to know Ridge (Chris) and Amy and reading their father’s words, they truly grew up Disney. A few weeks ago, Ridge posted a picture on Twitter of a pile of stuffed animals from his childhood. Believe me, they could have lost Amy’s “Tink” in the pile, it was that big. I made the comment that they truly did Grow Up Disney. Then Amy and I had a conversation about a guide map from the Magic Kingdom that she used to have hanging on her wall, when she was a kid. (I still actually have mine; I know she’s jealous of that.) They mention on the site that they visited Disney World often as kids (I’m jealous of that). Their Father is still a big Disney enthusiast; I mean he writes for the site. Again, I think, “Wow, they did Grow Up Disney.”

I didn’t have that Disney experience. We did go twice to Disney World when I was a kid. I was 12 and 14 when we went; Epcot wasn’t even open yet. I fell in love with the most magical place in the world on those trips. I went back on my senior trip in high school in 1985, then got back again in 1990. It would be another decade before I made it again. That is when I realized I couldn’t live without going every couple of years. I needed to go to Disney World, so I bought in to the Disney Vacation Club.

Because of that, my son, John, hasn’t gone more than two years without going to Disney World since he has been eight (that was when we took our first trip as a family. You can read about it on this site.)  So, I consider that he has been Growing Up Disney. He has undergone many changes, since then; he is 15 now, a true teenage boy, and you can see that in his room (which I try not to look at). But when it comes to Disney, he is still the same kid that got excited about driving the Tomorrowland Indy Speedway car by himself. He has his favorites as we all do, but if we don’t get to them, he doesn’t pout like he did years ago, because he knows it is only a matter of time, before we will be back again.

His favorites have changed a little over the years. He still likes the attractions, and although we haven’t driven the Indy cars in years, (I think they are a little too slow for him) he still likes the cars. Test Track is in his top five favorites, as is Expedition Everest. He has made me go on Mission Space with him a few times and he really enjoys Toy Story Mania and Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin; I think that’s because he competes against his mother and I. I don’t think he really likes some of the attractions that we go to, The Country Bears and Mickey’s Philharmagic for example, but he is good about humoring us and not being much of a teenager when we are in Disney.

John’s favorites now are more of the non-attraction variety: The Boardwalk, Winter Summerland mini-golf, Downtown Disney and of course the FOOD! John helps me write an article on Tuesdays on my website called Tips from a Teenager Tuesday. Every week I ask him to tell me something that everyone should know about in Disney World. The first article we wrote together was called Food, Food, Food. Most weeks he wants to talk about another restaurant, but I keep putting him off. His food favorites are varied. He really likes Le Cellier and the Nine Dragons (He loves Chinese food) and he enjoyed when we ate at Teppan Edo, the Japanese Restaurant in Epcot, but he also includes in his top five the Pepper Market in the Coronado Springs Resort and Big River Brewing, on the Boardwalk. He likes these for the different choices they give him and in the case of Big River, the burgers.

It is very cool, to travel with him to Disney World now, not that it wasn’t when he was younger, but then he wouldn’t share with us what he wanted to do, as kids sometimes do, and then when we couldn’t read his mind, he’d be disappointed. Now it is much easier. He’ll either tell us what he wants to do, or where he would like to eat or he just tells us he’d rather not go. When we were down last summer with our friends, John and his friend decided they wanted a night in. It was funny, two 15 year old boys not wanting to go out at night in Disney World. But they both were tired and in need of some down time, so they stayed in and watched our friends’ little girl and the four of us went out for the evening to a nice dinner and a stroll of Downtown Disney. If John hadn’t been Growing Up Disney this whole time, I don’t think he would have stayed in, he would have forced himself to go out and then the next day he would have been even more tired, which in turn would have probably made him grumpy. And the best part is, he still gets excited about going to Disney World and still wants to go.

What is funny is that I know some kids whose parents guide them in a certain direction when they are young. I have a friend whose siblings all attended a major university, because they grew up being brainwashed, by their dad, to go there. I remember my friend’s sister threatening that she wasn’t going to go to that university, once when she was having a fight with her parents. I have seen this with other things also, but I don’t force John to like Disney, I don’t make him sit and watch Disney movies with us or discuss what is happening in Disney World, but sometimes he does sit with us and watch a Disney movie and sometimes he does bring up the Fantasyland expansion, but he does it on his own. I think it is because, even though it isn’t cool as a fifteen year old, Disney is in his blood. Not just because of the Disney objects we have around the house, but because he has been Growing Up Disney. And I hope that like Amy and Chris, John will look back on these family trips and the things we did in Disney World with happy memories of great family times and I hope that when he has kids I can be like DisneyDad and enjoy walking them up Main Street USA.

Contributed by Bruce G., husband to Heather, proud father of John, and creator of The Unknown Magic Within Walt Disney World.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Last day! Travel with the Magic Giveaway

I'm giving away a variety of fun Disney stuff to multiple winners thanks to Travel with the Magic.  The entries close at midnight tonight.  If you haven't entered yet, follow the link below.  We've kept the process simple to celebrate our blogoversary.

Click here to enter to win!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Photo Flashback! Oklahoma!

In 2007, Oklahoma became the first state featured in the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival.  The state was celebrating its centennial.  That was right in the middle of our five years in Oklahoma and I thought they did a great job with the exhibit.

Route 66 memorabilia is big in Oklahoma

Head Country is a little BBQ joint north of Tulsa.
Their sauce is popular at the grocery stores.

I wish I had bought more Frankoma pottery while I lived in OK.
They have gone out of production in the last year.

Oklahoma sent some really enthusiastic representatives.

The logo on the teepees is on the state flag.
The little boy cracks me up, classic case of 'too much fun.'

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

We made it! Happy Blogoversary!

Happy birthday to you! 
Happy birthday to you! 
Happy birthday, Growing Up Disney! 
Happy birthday to you!

Consider this your excuse to have a cupcake today!

We've made it through our first year.  What started as a mom wanting to share what she had researched and learned the hard way about WDW travel with an infant as certainly grown, just like that little girl.  A few days ago, we celebrated Tink's second birthday.  Both she and Growing Up Disney have changed so much over the last year.

I'm not going to name names for fear of leaving out someone, but I'd like to thank those who have supported and encouraged us along the way.  Our team has made some great friends and learned so much.

Please join us throughout the next year, as we continue to share our family's love of Disney.

My next Disney baby is due soon, so please bear with us over the summer as our posting schedule changes to adapt to the new addition to the family.

We still have birthday gifts...for you!  If you haven't done so yet, please enter our Disney grab bag giveaway sponsored by Travel with the Magic.  I have some really fun stuff to share!

And if you are reading this, thank YOU from the Growing Up Disney family.  We've all enjoyed interacting with other Disney fans so much!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Minnie Moms: Surprisingly Scary Attractions Part 2

Have you ever boarded an attraction vehicle only to find out too late that this ride you thought was simple was frightening to your child? The Minnie Moms discuss their experiences and ideas on Walt Disney World attractions that are surprisingly scary.

Janine: I think that this totally depends upon your kid or indeed, even the adult. My husband and I are pretty fearless when it comes to rides, in fact if one is slightly scary it just adds to the whole experience for us. But there are adults who won't ride The Mountains, The Tower of Terror, Rock 'n' Rollercoaster etc. because they are afraid. Conversely, I've seen tiny kiddos only just tall enough to ride, squealing with delight and begging to do them over and over.

It also depends on your definition of scary. The one attraction I would have to be forced to do again because I was so nervous and uncomfortable throughout is ... Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor at the Magic Kingdom. Not because I'm frightened of one-eyed green aliens, I love Mike (with one I), but because of the audience participation. Believe it or not, I'm pretty shy. I hate being centre of attention. I'd rather run for 100 miles than do public speaking. So when the cameras started cutting to the audience and they had to do something like a silly dance in front of everyone, I actually felt sick for the duration of the show. So if your kiddo is shy too, I wouldn't recommend this attraction at all. Maybe it's an English thing though, because the American kids in there just adored being up on the screen, as they should.

If ExtraTerrorestrial was still at the Magic Kingdom, there's no way I'd take Tink on it until she was much older. I was 21 and was spooked. I'm still slightly wary of the Stitch version and won't take her on it on her first trip (she'll be 4). Another ride which always gets me is Dinosaur at Animal Kingdom. I'm the same with the Jurassic Park ride at Universal Studios.  I love them, but my heart does flutter, especially towards the end. I also find Dinosaur a little bumpy. I'll consider taking Tink on this but I think it could freak out small children.

A definite one to think about seriously is It's a Bugs Life, also at Animal Kingdom. I'm terrified of spiders. I know when 'that bit' is coming now, and even at 29 on my last trip, I had to close my eyes and hug my husband for dear life until he says it's safe to look again. Every time we go into this attraction, I hear children screaming. And I don't mean happy, adrenaline screams like I make on ToT, I mean real cries of fright that don't stop. If your child is in any way, shape or form scared of insects, this is NOT the attraction for them.

Another one just to consider in my opinion is The Great Movie Ride at Hollywood Studios. I think some of the scenes are quite intense, and the Alien one could potentially be a little scary. That being said I've not seen a child go into total meltdown on this ride so maybe today's kids are used to seeing more stuff like this on the TV and on video games?

So all in all, I really think each ride's potential scariness depends totally on an individual child. While some 4 and 5 year olds (so long as they are tall enough of course) will be ready for rides some adults are too scared to go on, other 9 and 10 year olds may not be ready. So it's best to plan ahead as much as you can and if you haven't been to WDW or on a certain ride before, read up on it beforehand or ask a CM what it involves.

As said, some are obvious. If your child is scared of water, don't go on Splash Mountain at Magic Kingdom or Kali River Rapids at Animal Kingdom. But also be aware that things like It's a Small World and Pirates of the Caribbean at Magic Kingdom are also boat rides on the water. It's also obvious to avoid the coasters if they're scared of heights but both Space Mountain at Magic Kingdom and Rock 'n' Rollercoaster at Hollywood Studios are in the dark too, which can be extra fun or super frightening!

So if your little one has any fears, just check out any of the many guides or websites before you go, so you don't end up with a total meltdown mid attraction.

As a side note, I have heard parents say that their kiddos have never been upset by something before and yet had a major wobbly over something in the Parks. Just remember that heat, tiredness, being over excited or totally daunted can all add up to a child's worst nightmare. Don't panic or feel bad if kiddo kicks off during Talk with Crush in EPCOT when normally they watch Finding Nemo ten times a day. WDW is a massive explosion to the senses and it can just all be too much. Just be forewarned and be prepared, most things can be sorted out with a cuddle and a Mickey bar.

Amy:  My "Tink" has been to Walt Disney World twice now, once for her first birthday and again at 18 months.  Between her need for naps and my pregnancy on the more recent trip, she didn't ride much so we haven't yet personally experienced attraction meltdown. 

However, I have done some research on this for the future.  Beyond the Attractions: A Guide to Walt Disney World with Preschoolers (2011) has some great information on attractions that can be too much for little ones.  The Unofficial Guide Walt Disney World 2011 (Unofficial Guides) is another good resource for parents.  Arm yourself with some information and you can help keep your trip a positive experience for the whole family. 

Tink has been on Pirates of the Caribbean a number of times but has never had a problem.  However, if your child is scared of the dark, water, or pirate scenes, this might be one to walk past.  We also didn't have any problems on The Great Movie Ride, but I could see this being a little much for some children.  On each trip, we'll decide what is appropriate for the girls since what might not scare a one year-old could totally frighten the same child a little further down the road. 

Keep in mind that Disney does a great job of making pretend things look realistic and children don't yet have the capacity to separate reality and fiction.  Also, many indoor attractions take place in the dark.  This doesn't mean you should avoid the parks with small children, but rather, simply be aware of what fears your child may have.  Better to skip something this vacation instead of setting up a situation where they won't go on a ride for many years.  When I would go to WDW as a preschooler, my parents took me on Haunted Mansion and it scared the fool out of me.  It's a little embarrassing to admit this but I wouldn't go on it again until I was in high school and could appreciate the details of the attraction.

For Tink's first trip, we planned a couple of character breakfasts.  I was thankful that she loved Pooh and Tigger, but during my Cast Member days, I saw quite a few kiddos freak out when such a large creature was coming their way.  If you'd like to test your child in advance, take him or her to meet someone locally, maybe the Easter Bunny, a school mascot, etc.  Then you'll know their tolerance for characters.  Some kids are ok with a little distance, so please allow them just to wave from a few feet away, if that's what they are comfortable with.  Forcing them to hug a character just because you've paid for breakfast or park tickets isn't good for anyone.  Most kids are ok with face characters, so if Chip and Dale are too much on a particular trip, why not look for Peter Pan or Snow White instead?  (The only time Tink cried around a character was the Mad Hatter, but that was due to his obnoxious personality.  Seriously dude, sign the card and move on.  Don't harrass my 12 month old baby.)

Please also be aware that some attractions are rather long and you are stuck for the duration.  Ellen's Energy Adventure is 45 minutes long and has large dinosaurs.  We skipped this one in October.  I didn't want to risk a freak out with nowhere to go. 

The Voyage of the Little Mermaid at Disney's Hollywood Studios is a great show, but it's a little intense for small ones.  If you try it, shoot for a seat near the far end of the row so you can make a quick exit if needed. 

Fireworks can also be too loud for some children.  It wouldn't be a bad idea to try out the local 4th of July fireworks to see how your child reacts before waiting for a prime spot at Magic Kingdom.

And don't forget that you can always use FastPass and RiderSwap to minimize wait times if the adults in the group want to trade off going on an attraction the little ones are too nervous (or short) to try.

Cast Members are there to help, so feel free to ask questions before entering an attraction if you are unsure if it's a good idea.  They'll also help as much as they can if you do end up with a meltdown, because as all parents will surprise you. 

Thanks to Janine for joining me on this post and sharing her ideas.  Please check out our Minnie Moms page to find past topics and to learn more about these ladies' other projects.

Minnie Moms: Surprisingly Scary Attractions Part 1

Have you ever boarded an attraction vehicle only to find out too late that this ride you thought was simple was frightening to your child?  The Minnie Moms discuss their experiences and ideas on Walt Disney World attractions that are surprisingly scary.

Beth: My son has a bit of anxiety and in Disney, out of his regular routine, things that are not necessarily scary to most kids will terrify him. I had vowed before our 2008 trip, we would not go into any of the 4D movies. They are loud, things are coming at you (or it appears they are) and that left a lot of room for Joey’s anxiety to come into play. As we walked around Fantasyland, Joey spotted Mickey’s Philharmagic. I was very honest with him about how it is 3D and loud, and that maybe we would save it for another trip. He kept pulling my hand in the direction of the attraction. I explained to him again what it was and he wanted to try it. So against my better judgment, we entered Mickey’s Philharmagic.

I tried to prepare myself for a quick escape, by being first in the row so I could make it all the way to the seats at the end. No such luck, but we were close – only 5 seats away. I had all the kids keep their glasses off and we waited for it to begin. Within the first two notes of music, Joey started crying because it was so loud. I hopped up, grabbed his hand and we made our way to the end of the row – he was screaming and I was mortified interrupting everyone else’s opportunity to see the show. Someone behind us let out a big “SHHHHH.” I was already upset, but that just pushed me over the edge. I filled up with tears because here was my little guy terrified and then so angry that someone would do that.

A cast member met me at the end of the aisle with a flashlight and escorted us to the door. He could tell I was upset and without me even saying anything, he said, “Don’t worry it happens all the time” and gave me a big smile. It probably didn’t mean much to him, but that smile helped me calm down and get Joey calmed down. It was not my proudest mom moment, I knew better, but the good thing is, Hayley and Emily loved it and watched the entire show with my husband and parents. So even though Mickey’s Philharmagic is a fun attraction, it is one of the loudest I have experienced and was very scary for my son.

Corby: As we all know Disney World is an amazing theme park with many rides and attractions perfect for kids off all ages. We’ve been taking our son since he was barely 3 years old and while he’s ridden and seen just about everything, some things quite frankly terrified him which I didn’t expect when he was younger. Because of this, I now make it a point to inform my clients of a few things that may be scary for younger children that they might not have considered. Obviously, each child is different, some are more sensitive and fearful than others so I always advise using your best judgment based off your child’s personality. No one knows them better than you and go with your gut instinct. If you are not sure how your child will react, to certain things, test it out yourself (use the parent swap option if need be). There are also videos on if you’d like to view them ahead of time from home.

I can vividly remember as a child being terrified of the train on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride that used to be in Fantasyland. I’m sure my parents didn’t think twice before putting me on the ride as a child but I was truly scared of the “train” coming at me when I was younger. Of course as I became older, it was quite laughable but it just goes to show that young children may perceive things differently and more realistically.

Here are a few rides/attractions I would say to use caution with when dealing with young children that my surprise you:

Fantasmic! (Hollywood Studios): The first thing that comes to my mind that I always give warning is Hollywood Studios’ Fantasmic! We took our son when he was younger. We were quite the newbies and didn’t know much about Hollywood Studios. Several cast members asked us if we were going to see Fantasmic!, as it was showing the night we were there. So, of course we thought we had to go. While it is a fantastic show that I do recommend viewing, little did we know, it scared the daylights out of our son at his young age. The show is about Mickey’s nightmares and all the movie clips featuring Disney villains was simply too much for my young child.

Snow White’s Scary Adventures: Even though it’s in Fantasyland and it is Snow White, the witch can be pretty creepy to young ones.

Fireworks: Disney offers some truly amazing fireworks at Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Hollywood Studios. Some children can become frightened by the noise. And while IllumiNations at Epcot is my absolute favorite, due to the fireworks being shot low off the water, it may be scarier to children as they do look like they are coming right at you.

The Enchanted Tiki Room: The part which may be scary to young ones is when the lights go out and the evil Tiki Goddess appears.

Voyage of the Little Mermaid (Hollywood Studios): Ursala’s presence may be frightening to some.

Dinosaur (Animal Kingdom): Even though there is a warning on this ride, I think some parents think it may be frightening because it has dinosaurs without realizing the intensity of the ride.

Characters: Surprisingly, some children may be scared of characters. If you find your little one is rather uneasy around characters, simply avoid the meet and greets.

If you should find that your child is suddenly afraid and doesn’t want to go on any rides as my son did one vacation, try not to get frustrated. There are plenty of other things to do and see. Sometimes they go through phases and I would be pretty confident in saying when you return for your next trip, they will have grown out of it as my son did.

Thanks to Beth and Corby for sharing these stories.  We'll have more from other Minnie Moms later today.  Please come back for more strategies and lessons learned.  Please check out our Minnie Moms page to find past topics and to learn more about these ladies' other projects.

Friday, April 22, 2011

A Walk Around The World With Ridge—28 Days & Counting.

There are few things I get really excited about these days. I prefer to have a quite reserve, unflappable demeanor, but the eminent re-opening of Star Tours has me pretty geared up. Also it doesn’t hurt that I have made wonderful friends and I’ll be seeing lots of them again at the opening. The opening of Star Tours 2 will be on May 20, 2011. It has been closed since September of 2010 and in a short time has been retooled to house a new ride, new preshow and lots of excitement. I understand that Tatooine Traders has been closed for refurbishment to get ready for the grand opening.

Like most guys my age I am a Star Wars fan. When the original films were re-released for the first time in special addition packaging and in theatrical and enhanced editions on VHS, I got them. Action figures... I have those too. Yeah, I even have a lightsaber that I bought back in about 1993 from the then titled MGM Studios. Like most people I know, Star Tours was originally a staple attraction not to be missed. Toward the end of the run of Star Tours 1 it was easy to walk right on and sometimes even get your own vehicle. But the attraction had so much character, from outside in.

When MGM Studios was a working TV and Movie studio, the attractions at the time were all built to reflect the studio feel. So Star Tours outdoor queue is only detailed on the front and the backs are exposed steel. When you first walked in there was a director’s chair on the right as well as painted signs of active set and even the red lights to let you know that filming was in progress. You were being let onto the set to be part of your own movie.

The new ride has been in the works, I can only assume, for a long time because all of the computer graphics involved. I am sure those can’t be completed overnight. Also writing the storyline takes a while and George Lucas doesn’t just approve anything. In the last few days there has been lots of fun info released. I have been keeping up with it all thanks to

As the time looms nearer I am growing more excited. It will be a new attraction combined with an old favorite and the Studios have extended the park hours to accommodate staying open till midnight. It is going to be an absolute blast.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Eversave Orlando Giveaway, One Day Only!

Eversave is a super site featuring deals all over the country and I am working on a full review of this service to appear here soon. They have a great one day only "Save" today. 

10 carwashes for only $10 in Orlando and New Port Richey.  Seriously, when's the last time you saw that price?  I used to pay that with a fill up at my local gas station but that was back in high school and that was, well, not last year.  AND if you use the code WASH, you'll get another dollar off. 

Buy them for yourself or for gifts and use them between now and October 21, 2012.  Even if you only vacation in the area, it's still a super price. 

Visit Eversave for all the details and to buy this super Save!  Don't forget to use the code WASH for additional savings.

This is too good a deal to pass up, but it gets even better!  Eversave is giving two Saves to Growing Up Disney readers. This will be open from midnight to midnight, today only, so enter NOW!

You get one entry for each of the following. Please note each as a separate comment below so you receive your maximum number of entries. (If you are already following us through any of these channels, just note that. Hey, free entry!)

~Like Eversave Orlando on Facebook
~Like Growing Up Disney on Facebook
~Follow Eversave Orlando on Twitter
~Follow Growing Up Disney on Twitter
~Tweet about this giveaway, one entry per day.
~Blog about this giveaway
~Follow Growing Up Disney publicly on Google Friend Connect. See widget at right.

This contest ends at midnight Eastern time on Thursday, April 21, 2011. The two winners will be chosen at random from all eligible entries. You'll be notified via email (so make sure I can reach you!) and have 48 hours to respond or another winner will be chosen. Good luck!
The random number generator pulled comment #7 and #3.  Congrats to Tracey F and JJ! 

Photo Flashback!!! T-Shirts

One of the ways that Amy and I made our last brother sister trip in 2007 special is by having commemorative t-shirts made. On them we placed our favorite do not miss attractions and things we love to say. The list goes:

_Mountains, Presidents & Aliens

_"Lower your head and watch your step. If you forget, then lower your voice and watch your language."

_Off Kilter and The Jammitors

_Tonga Toast, Dole Whip & Turkey Legs

_Haunted houses and Peter Pan

_"Hey you in the yellow poncho!"

_Ragland Road and Dad's Den

_Magic orchestras and fiery car chases

_Snack at Columbia Harbor House

_Space Missions and high-speed tests

_"Por favor mantenganse alejado de las puertas."

_A Pirate's life for me!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Blogoversary Month: Sponsors

I'd like to thank those individuals and companies who provided items for reviews and/or giveaways this past year.  I've enjoyed getting to know the representatives of these companies  They are great people in addition to having wonderful projects, products, and services.

~Travel with the Magic, an excellent Authorized Disney Vacation Planner with a current giveaway, they also brought you our coverage of Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party
~Beyond the Attractions, a very helpful book all about WDW with preschoolers
~Punflay, fun and educational iPhone/iPod/iPad apps for children
~Knell Studio Works and Mouse of Zen, two talented guys sharing their Disney passion through photography, graphic design and haiku poetry
~GoGo squeeZ, the coolest applesauce ever
~Swanky Stitch, beautiful handmade strap covers for your SLR/DSLR camera
~coming soon Eversave Orlando

Monday, April 18, 2011

Hotel Review: All Star Music

Our last family trip to Walt Disney World combined two vacations in one. For this trip we had DisneyDad & Mom, Amy & Tink and Ridge. (Amy’s husband had to work and missed this trip.) We had started to go on a trip to the EPCOT International Food and Wine Festival and then decided to come back in 2 weeks to see one of the last Space Shuttle launches. Vacation dates were rescheduled to a 10 day 2 part trip. The first part of the trip we were at Disney’s Saratoga Springs in a 2 bedroom villa staying on Disney Vacation Club points. For the second part of the trip we moved to one of the Family Suites at Disney’s All Star Music Resort paying cash. There is a world of difference staying on Vacation Club property and one of the Value Resorts. With more people vacationing with either large families or multi-generation vacations the Family Suites are a good lower cost option.

Family Suites at the All Star Music Resort have taken 2 of the standard rooms and remodeled them into a living room, a separate private bedroom, a small kitchenette, and kept the 2 baths. The living room had a full size sleeper sofa, an oversized chair that made into a twin bed with an oversized ottoman that became a second twin bed. There was also a TV stand with drawers and storage space as well as a small round table with 2 chairs. The private bed room had a queen bed, a side chair, a desk & chair and a TV stand with drawers and storage. The sleeper sofa seemed to be adequate for Amy & Tink. Ridge said the twin beds were obviously for kids and not too comfortable for adults. The queen bed was comfortable after a long day in the parks and I had no problem falling asleep each night. On this trip we also had rented a scooter for Mom. It took up a lot of space in the living room each night as it had to be plugged in to recharge.

The kitchenette had an under counter refrigerator, a microwave, cabinets and a small sink. It was a nice place to store some snacks, and would have been OK for making breakfast in the room. Breakfast for us each morning was from the Intermission Food Court. They had some good breakfast selections and Tink loved the Mickey Waffles each morning.

One thing we really missed from the Vacation Club was having a washer and dryer in our room. We have gotten use to packing clean clothes for our return trip home and with a washer you don’t have to pack as many clothes. So on this trip Mom and I went to the coin-operated self-service laundry near the pool. It took a few dollars to wash and dry our clothes, but the most interesting part was the” people watching” in the laundry. We met some interesting people while we were waiting on our clothes to finish.

The resort has two pools. A smaller piano shaped pool and the larger guitar shaped pool that our room was near. Mom and I sat outside the laundry and watch people in and around the pool while waiting. Beside the pool the resort also played Disney movies on a large inflatable screen that always seemed to draw a large group.

All in all the All Star Music Resort provided a nice place to stay for our group of 4 adults and one toddler. Current pricing on list standard rooms starting at $82 and Family Suites at $194.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Magical Blogorail: Once in a Lifetime Dining

Welcome to those of you joining me from A World View and those of you who have just hopped aboard.  I am the 3rd stop on our Magical Blogorail.

This month's blogorail topic is "favorite WDW restaurant."  Well, there's my favorite place for a character meal or my favorite spot for a quick bite or my favorite restaurant for a relaxing meal.  I couldn't decide on one overall favorite, at first.  Then I remembered a once in a lifetime dining experience and knew it could rank above all others as "favorite."

Victoria and Albert's Chef's Table  

My father and I dined here two days before my wedding.  I have no pictures at all from the evening.  This was well before I thought of blogging and I'm not sure if my phone at the time even had a camera.  We just relaxed and enjoyed the experience.  The table will seat up to 10 but it was nice to share this ultimate Disney dining night just with Dad.  The photo below is from Disney's official site and shows the table and your view.  Only one party is seated per evening and the 10 course meal takes about three to four hours.

When you call 407-WDW-DINE for reservations at Victoria and Albert's, you are directed to a special area and not routed through the normal process (or you can now call 407-WDW-DVNA.)  In addition to getting your contact information, they want to know about any special dietary needs and if your party is celebrating anything. I know this is common now with the marketing emphasis on special events at Walt Disney World, but V&A is has always been a place that attracts guests treating themselves for a big occasion.

You'll want to dress up for dinner at Victoria and Albert's and the dress code requires it.  Men need to wear a jacket and ladies are encouraged to wear a nice dress or pant suit.  Here's the official wording:

Proper Attire may include the following:
Men: Dinner jackets with dress pants/slacks and shoes. Ties are optional (Please no jeans, shorts, sandals, flip-flops, or tennis shoes)
Ladies: Cocktail dress, dressy pant suit, skirt/blouse or nice dress. (Please no jeans, shorts, capri pants, sandals, flip-flops or tennis shoes)

I wore a black cocktail dress and Dad wore a suit.  At $200 per person for the meal plus $95 per person for the wine pairing (current prices), it only seems right to don fancy clothes. 

After we were escorted through the kitchen to the table and settled in by our butler, the chef came out to introduce herself and check again for any special dietary needs or likes/dislikes (Chef Hunnel was not in on this night.)  Dad and I will both try anything once.  There wasn't anything strange served to us but this might not be the best idea for picky people.  There is not a menu at the Chef's Table.  You are brought a selection that is determined by the chef and it was all DELICIOUS.  On some courses, we were given the same foods and other times Dad and I each had totally different items.  In the latter case, we'd eat half and trade plates so we still got to try everything. 

With each course, the butler would serve our dishes and pour the wine, explaining the pairing.  The chef would go over the food and answer any questions we had about its origin or preparation.  Again, all of the food was amazing.  I can't think of anything we didn't like.  The presentation was impressive too, plated beautifully on a series of creative plates.  How can you not love a place with a chocolate course?!? 

I am a coffee fanatic and was fascinated by the vacuum coffee maker brought to our table at the end of the meal.  It brewed a terrific cup of coffee, as well as being very entertaining.  They get so many questions about it that the butler had business cards for guests who would like to purchase one.  (I included the full link from Amazon so you could see the price.  That's why I haven't ever bought one.)

Since there is no way to remember that many courses, several with multiple dishes within the course, we were given commemorative menus at the end of the meal. I've scanned them and they are below.  They are printed on fine paper with a blue vinyl cover to protect these mementos.  I was given a long stemmed red rose as we were leaving the restaurant. 

While I'd be more than happy to go back, this was a very special night and I was honored to share it with my first love, Daddy.

DisneyDad's menu

DisneyDad's menu part 2

Amy's menu

Amy's menu part 2

Thank you for joining me today. Your next stop on the Magical Blogorail Red Loop is WDW Backstage.

1st Stop ~ My Dreams of Disney
2nd Stop ~ A World View
3rd Stop ~ Growing Up Disney
4th Stop ~ WDW Backstage
Final Stop ~ Makin’ Memories

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Travel with the Magic Giveaway

I asked Kelly from Travel with the Magic if she'd be interested in sponsoring a giveaway for our blogoversary and she said she would love to.  Jump ahead a week or two and a HUGE box of Disney goodies was delivered to my door.  So we'll have three grab bag giveaways.

Travel with the Magic is an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner and would love to help you with your next Disney vacation.  Whether you are going to Walt Disney World, Disneyland, or sailing on one of the beautiful ships of Disney Cruise Line, Travel with the Magic can take care of the details for you.  And there is no fee to you!  You'll pay the same or less than booking direct since Travel with the Magic knows the available deals and will watch for new ones for you.  Even if you've already booked, Travel with the Magic can take over and be your expert.  Contact Kelly and her team today!

Ready to enter to win a variety of cool Disney merchandise?

You get one entry for each of the following. Please note each as a separate comment below so you receive your maximum number of entries. (If you are already following us through any of these channels, just note that. Hey, free entry!)

REQUIRED: Tell me which two of the following movies you prefer.  This will help me put together your prize if you win.  Toy Story, Tangled, Fantasia, and Nightmare Before Christmas.

Additional (optional) entries:
~Like Travel with the Magic on Facebook
~Like Growing Up Disney on Facebook
~Follow Travel with the Magic on Twitter
~Follow Growing Up Disney on Twitter
~Tweet about this giveaway, one entry per day.
~Blog about this giveaway
~Follow Growing Up Disney publicly on Google Friend Connect. See widget at right.

This contest ends at midnight Eastern time on Thursday, April 28, 2011, and is limited to residents of the United States and Canada. The three winners will be chosen at random from all eligible entries. You'll be notified via email (so make sure I can reach you!) and have 48 hours to respond or another winner will be chosen. Good luck!

There are still a few more hours to enter the giveaway for a copy of Lisa Battista's book, Beyond the Attractions: A Guide to Walt Disney World with Preschoolers.  Click here to enter.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Photo Flashback! Happy Anniversary!

Happy Anniversary!

For me Amy's wedding day was a blur of activities watching whole thing unfold. Disney's wedding people were like ninjas moving around taking pictures, radioing ahead, keeping everything on schedule. It was a fun day and Amy asking me to be her 'Man of Honor' was a real treat.

Dad played a little trick on Andy's brother Gary and myself, we were the carriers of the rings and just before we were to take our places Dad asked us for them back so he could "bless" them. Well he didn't give them back to us and when it was time for them Gary and I looked a little bewildered. Then Major Domo walked in carrying the rings, crisis averted and I am sure I had a visible look of relief on my face. 

Photo Flashback - Happy Wedding Anniversary!!

Happy Anniversary!!

Amy and DisneyDad.
---- One last kiss from Dad just before I escorted her down the aisle.

I surprised Amy & Andy with two friends to help them cut their cake.

These are two of my favorite memories from Amy & Andy's wedding. It was an absolutely beautiful wedding. I can't say enough good things about Disney's Fairytale Weddings. They did an absolutely wonderful job in putting everything together.

Photo Flashback! Wedding Anniversary

Today is our 6th wedding anniversary.  Andy and I have been on quite an adventure these past few years: lived in three states, had our first child, sold two homes and looking for a third, and expecting our second child next month.  I wouldn't want to take this journey with anyone else.  

A huge thanks to my parents for letting our lives together begin at the the most magical place on earth.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Blogoversary Month: Guest Contributors

Again, one of the best things about blogging is tapping into the Disney online community and all the friends that are to be made there.  I have new friendships, collaborations, and reconnected with old friends.

I'd like to highlight those friends who have shared their passion for Disney by contributing to Growing Up Disney.  (And I look forward to this being a longer list next year!)

In alphabetical order:

~Beth: Our newest Minnie Mom, with her own blog, Pursuing the Magic, creator of Magical Blogorail (a project in which I happily participate) and contributor to even more sites.  Beth is one busy lady and I am so happy to have gotten to know her.  I always marvel at how much she can accomplish.  She's adding her experiences of traveling to Walt Disney World with three small children and a bunch of other family members to our Minnie Moms posts and her own guest writing.
Please check out Beth's past guest post:
Three Kids in Diapers or Pull-ups

~Bruce:  He's the creator of Unknown Magic Within Walt Disney World.  We became friends through twitter and luckily for me, he's had a couple of articles that didn't fit his theme and he shared them with me. He's a super supportive friend and I've enjoyed watching his blog develop and expand over the last year.  I can't imagine how many photos he must have of WDW.  Seems he has a shot of everything!
Please check out Bruce's past guest posts.
The Best Thing I've Ever Seen at a Disney Park (a personal favorite!)
Disney Pools, Fun for All

~Corby: She's a sorority sister of mine from college and we reconnected through Facebook.  I've been thrilled to chat with her again and I tell ya, her enthusiasm for WDW jumps off the screen in her writing.  Not that I can take credit for it, but Corby connected with Kelly and is now a vacation planner with Travel with the Magic.  Corby has written some wonderful guest posts and I am proud she's also an active part of our Minnie Moms.  
Please check out Corby's past guest posts:
Magic Your Way
Rain, Rain, Go Away!
Reflecting on Disney Memories
Reconnecting at Disney

~Heather: The only person I know with her own theme song.  Ok, so that was in the sorority days but she's funny enough to deserve one.  Heather is another of my sorority sisters whom I have reconnected over a shared love of Disney.  She came to it kicking and screaming, but she's a fan now nonetheless.  I was delighted when our travel dates overlapped and we were able to meet up for tea at the Grand Floridian.  Heather is a great asset to the Minnie Moms and has written some really helpful guest posts as well.  Visit Freeze Ahead Frenzy for her delicious recipes and her personal blog, Pieces of Me.
Please check out Heather's past guest posts:
Heather's WDW Travel Tips
Warning! This post will inspire mom bag envy

~Janine: Our Minnie Mom who lives the furthest from WDW, Janine keeps the Disney magic alive in England in part by tweeting and writing about the Mouse.  We connected on Twitter mostly through the fact that we both nicknamed our daughters "Tink."  I can't wait to meet Nine and Tink at WDW in 2014.  (Seriously, it just has to happen.)  She's one of the nicest people I've never actually met and I am honored that she contributes to Growing Up Disney.  Several other sites have realized her talents, but I am proud to say we were the first.  If you'd like to be one of her Twitter followers, you can find her at
Please check out Janine's past guest posts:
Travel Tips from Nine: Part 1
Travel Tips from Nine: Part 2
Veggie in the Heart of Surf and Turf Land
Keeping the Magic Alive

~Kelly: Last but certainly not least, Kelly has supported Growing Up Disney from early on.  She's the owner of Travel with the Magic and an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner.  (Did you know their services are free to you? And they can usually save you money!)  Kelly contacted me shortly after GUD got started and suggested we do a link swap.  I didn't even know what that was yet but after a phone conversation with her, I knew this was a woman whose business I wanted to back.  Kelly has helped us grow in many ways and I really hope we've sent some folks her direction.  Chris and I have each booked vacations through her and recommend her to our real world friends.  Lucky dog, Kelly gets to visit WDW and Disney Cruise Line frequently and has shared some interesting articles here.  She also has her own blog featuring Disney news and deals.
Check out Kelly's past guest posts:
Travel Agent 101
Grand Floridian
Disney Dream Christening

Thank you all!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Team Post: I Never...

Ridge: Whenever I go to WDW there are things that just don’t ever get done. It‘s not that they are any less fun but either they have run their course with me or I am simply not willing to wait in the massive lines anymore.

Number one thing I generally don’t do is character meets. Unless I am with others or a character breakfast, there just isn’t a character that I would wait to see. Unless you count me breaking this rule on my last trip. Since the demise of Mickey’s Toontown Fair, Mickey is now available at other locations. The one I was actually excited about is the Hall of Presidents meet with Mickey in Colonial vestments. Mickey looks good in a tri-corner hat.

Astro-Orbiters.  While heights in general don’t bother me (I’m a licensed private pilot,) I am not a fan of things that are bolted to a pole and spin unless I have the chance to inspect it before flight. It’s not that I don’t trust it, because I don’t but I remember riding it once as a small lad and it not being something I have ever really wanted to do again. So far I have been able to maintain that resolution.

Something that is slowly working its way into the never or rarely do category is Test Track. I used to love Test Track, but with the lack of ABS skid test and queue making all the intense noise and the heat vision camera not always working, I have started losing interest.

I have never been over to Beaches and Cream. It sounds like a wonderful place and I have had nothing but plans for years to go over and have a No Way Jose or with a group a Kitchen Sink. Maybe I can pull it off on my next trip.

Disney Quest is also something I have skipped. I went once right after it opened and because I was young and it was new and I had fun. But I eventually grew out of video games and just didn’t care anymore, but now I am playing games again. I think it is time to give it a go once more just to see what is new in arcade style gaming.

Characters in Flight.  This isn’t really a never do; this is a never done. It isn’t because I don’t want to but every time I go over the wind is too high or weather is bad in general.

Amy: While we always try to explore what's new at Walt Disney World, it does seem that there are a few things that we just don't do.

I intentionally pass on the water rides. I think Splash Mountain is a fantastic attraction but it's a once every 5 years or so ride for me. I always end up soaked and I just don't find that to be fun. Not to sound like a stick in the mud, but I prefer to show up for ADRs with dry clothes. I've ridden Kali River Rapids only once and then I took a change of clothes.

I enjoy the films at Epcot, especially "O Canada!" but those aren't an every trip thing for me. I'm sure that's partially influenced by the fact that we frequently visit during the Food and Wine Festival and the booths keep us mainly on the promenade.

I've never been to DisneyQuest. Just not my thing but hey, I doubt I'm the target audience there anyway.

I always want to see the Beauty and the Beast stage show and Flights of Wonder, but the times just don't tend to work out.

Please don't throw things at your computer, but I haven't seen the candy artist at Epcot.

There are still a few restaurants left to explore, but I consider most of those in the "haven't gotten to it yet" than the "I avoid it or forget about it" category. However, I do avoid Cinderella's Royal Table. I prefer the old days there. With two daughters, I'm sure I'll go again someday, but for now, no thanks. I also pass on the mega-sized, huge chain, super loud restaurants at Downtown Disney. I've given them a shot, but with the other unique options on Disney property, I'll skip these over the top eateries.

I don't do so, but I always want to yell at people who never experience "American Adventure."

DisneyDad:  Over the years of going to Walt Disney World, I feel like I have done most everything once. There are, however, a few things that I have not done or don’t repeat too often. We have favorite things that are must-do on each trip, but I don’t think much about the opposite. Some of the things I never do are not because I have an aversion to something, but often because my wife does not want to do something and I don’t often go off by myself to do/ride anything.

One ride I have done “once” falls into this category. My wife does not want to get wet on a ride, so I only remember riding Splash Mountain once or twice. I love the ride, and even now as I write this I can hear “everybody has a laughin place” in my head. There is another water ride I have never been on at AK and that is Kali River Rapids. Like my wife, the idea of walking around in wet shoes and jeans does not sound appealing to me.

I’ve stayed away from “The American Idol Experience” at the Hollywood Studios. I am one of the few people in the USA that does not watch this on TV, so the attraction at the Studios does not hold any “attraction” to me. So, on every trip I will bypass this.

Tink enjoying the beginning of "Playhouse Disney:
Live on Stage" in Granddaddy's lap
There are things I did do, then didn’t do, and now are doing again. When my kids were young I sat on the floor with them to see Bear in the Big Blue House at the Studios. For a long time, I stayed away from this attraction and its many iterations. On our last trip, I sat in the floor again with my granddaughter as my feet and legs went to sleep to see Playhouse Disney Live on Stage (now Disney Junior Live on Stage). While I enjoyed the show and watching my granddaughter excitedly watching Mickey and Handy Mandy, without her I would not have taken time to sit in the floor to see the show.

Many of the things I don’t do fall into the “age appropriate” category. Rides that have thousands of children in the line are probably things I will bypass. I have ridden on Cinderella’s Golden Carrousel and in the Mad Tea Party tea cups and will do so again with my granddaughters, for now, I will bypass these as well as Dumbo the Flying Elephant and The Magic Carpets of Aladdin. I love Peter Pan’s Flight, Snow Whites Scary Adventures and The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, but not the long lines. Although, if the lines are short, you’ll see me on these too.

What are your "never do's" at Walt Disney World?