Friday, July 29, 2011

Checking In

Miss Ashley is now almost two months old. She's a very sweet baby and is cooing and smiling up a storm. Her big sister adores her and is doing pretty well with sharing her spotlight. We have moved into our new home. We are by no means settled, but thanks to our parents, the house is functional. My husband and I will just keep working on the boxes as we can and we'll get there.

Thank you for joining us here at Growing Up Disney and for humoring us through our erratic posting schedule this summer. I'm hoping we can settle into a good pattern for the fall. Be sure to stay with us for all our regular features such as Team Posts, Minnie Moms, A Walk Around the World with Ridge and Photo Flashbacks. We'll be hosting a new series from Nine as she plans for her trip to Disneyland Paris and our other guests will continue to share their tips and stories.

I hope you have a magical weekend!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Toddler Talk Thursdays

I'm participating in this week's Toddler Talk Thursday hosted by Family and Life in Las Vegas, Crazy about my Baybah, and My Life as a Sippy Cup Mom.

This week's topic is... How do you keep your toddler entertained in difficult situations – grocery store, doctors office, etc?

I consider my iPhone as the big guns when it comes to entertaining my toddler.  I recently had another baby and big sister was as good as gold during my doctors visits.  Once we were in the exam room, Tink was allowed to watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.  She also has tons of apps and can run most of them herself.

I try not to go straight to the phone so our bag is stocked with other toddler favorites: snacks, stickers, and crayons.  With my girl, a plastic bracelet or Minnie Mouse ring can buy a fair amount of time.

Fisher-Price Kid-Tough Mini Doodler Disney/Pixar Toy Story 3One of our family's favorites is the Fisher-Price Kid-Tough Mini Doodler.  I orginally bought one for a flight to Walt Disney World but it fits well in a diaper bag and is really durable so we take it everywhere.  Tink likes for us to draw her pictures and we use it to practice letters and numbers.  This one has been invaluable while waiting in restaurants.

Now that we are wrangling two little ones when we go out, I also pack one of the "coloring books" with the water marker.  Tink can color but if we look away for a moment, she can't color all over the place and make a mess.

My suggestion for a future topic is, what else, travel.  What tips do other parents have for car travel with kiddos? 

Thank you to the hosts and to all the parents sharing their ideas!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Photo Flashback! Night Pictures, Epcot

At park closing you don't have to immediately vacate the premises because the restaurants in the back of World Showcase will still have guests eating so you have at least an hour before you are asked to leave. That is the perfect time to get out your tripod and start taking some long exposure shots of the pavilions without anyone in front of them.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Photo Flashback - You can find yourself at WDW

Or at least you can find someone who looks like you!

In October 2007 I was walking down Main Street USA at the Magic Kingdom and ran into myself... Or at least someone who bore a striking resembalance as you can tell from this picture.

We had a nice time talking. His wife had bought him his monogramed Mickey Mouse shirt, my daughter had given me mine. Gray beards, khaki hats and shorts, and sunglasses made the rest of the look.

I've heard everyone has a twin, and I came close to finding mine on Main Street USA.

By the way, I'm the one on the left. :-)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Home Away From Home

I've finally realized why I don't like change at Old Key West.  It truly is my home away from home.  They are renovating the rooms at Old Key West and I'm afraid it will be like when you go home for a visit and your mom has turned your childhood bedroom into a guest room.  The space is familiar but it just doesn't feel like yours.

My parents bought into Disney Vacation Club in 1993 and I was in senior high school at the time.  We've most often stayed in a two bedroom villa.  I love knowing where my things go and I enjoy the familiar decor.  During the time that we've been a DVC family, I've gone to college, lived in London for a semester, participated in Disney's College Program, gotten married, moved away and had two children.  I've lived in four states, two countries and multiple dorms/apartments/houses.  All of my grandparents have passed away and their homes have been sold.  My parents are looking to buy a new house.  Old Key West has been the constant among all the change.

Non-Disney folks often wonder why some of us return time after time.  The typical answer to why we go so much is that there is always something new.  I assert that it is also the sameness that draws us back.  Amid the chaos of real life, we know we can escape to a World where people are nice and things are pretty.  Our favorite snacks are waiting for us.  Treasured attractions reassure us that magic is real.  And someone is always there to welcome us home.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Baby's First WDW Visit

When should our new Disney baby first make the trip to WDW?

Growing Up Disney and our Minnie Moms have done general articles on this topic before (click here or here.) When it came to my first daughter, it was an easy decision to time her first Walt Disney World vacation during the week of her first birthday.

My second daughter was born June 1. So when should she go?

Complicating this question is our recent move and its cost, both in terms of money and vacation time. We relocated to North Carolina from Oklahoma in March. We've been in a rental house and are thankfully closing on and moving into our new home in mid-July. Our families live in Alabama, Kansas and DC and we should probably get home to introduce Ashley to family and friends.

Another consideration is cost. I was pushing for a late winter/early spring trip to save some money. Kids under age 3 don't need a park ticket and eat free with a paying adult at Disney buffet meals. Tink's third birthday will be in April 2012. Going to WDW before this time would save us hundreds since a child's ticket is just slightly less than an adult. Just for example, one day's admission for an adult currently costs $90.53. For a child ages 3-9, the cost is $84.14. Ticket chart from Of course, the per day expense goes down the more days you buy, but the child price hovers just below the adult price.

We could go for baby's first birthday but June is a little too hot and crowded for us. My husband was giving me a hard time, saying the baby would want to know why her big sister got to go to WDW for her first birthday and she didn't. I said I'll take Ashley on a special trip when she's old enough to make that argument.

So basically, our decision came down to February or March of 2012 or wait until our regular October Food and Wine Festival vacation, also in 2012. That meant the baby would be either 8 months old or 16 months old. There is a huge difference between those ages. At 8 months, a baby is fun, but they are still all baby. She'd need to nurse or be bottle-fed, we'd have to carry baby food, and multiple naps would be required each day. At 16 months, the little one will be a toddler. She'll be able to walk down Main Street with Granddaddy, eat "real" food, and drink from a sippy cup.

October 2012 it is then.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Magical Blogorail: Transportation, Personal Car

Welcome to the first stop aboard Magical Blogorail Red. Enjoy the ride as we share with you the different modes of Disney transportation.

Today Ridge represents Growing Up Disney on the Magical Blogorail.

When traveling to Disney I have become a convert of driving my car around property rather than taking the provided transportation. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the Disney buses, ferries, and Monorail; on the contrary, I still use them when it suits my needs. However, there have been just so many more reasons why I have needed my car while on property on my recent trips. I haven’t been touring the parks as a regular vacationer, oh no, I have called them “working trips” since they make it to this blog. And I have needed my car to meet up with all the excellent Disney community members I have met and look forward to seeing again in October.

When traveling to the parks or simply navigating around the property, in general in my opinion, taking my car is just a faster proposition than waiting for Disney transportation, but what does driving my car allow me to do that I can’t do taking a bus? Well in simple terms, I am young and mobile and speed is something that I find important especially for not having to plan on leaving my accommodations too early and spend the extra few minutes it would take to plan my egress to the parks. The only park that doesn’t allow for easy walking from the parking lot is the Magic Kingdom. When I make my way to MK when driving, depending on where I have the opportunity to park in proximity to the TTC, I try and walk because the wait for the trams is usually pretty good in the morning. So I hoof it as often as I can so that I have a few minutes to get my plans together and make the decision on whether I am going to use the monorail or the ferry to get over to MK.

The other parks: Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom have large parking lots but not so large that I don’t find them easy to navigate especially with the help on my iPhone, drop a pin and the car is right there on the map waiting for me to return.

The WDW property is easy to navigate as well. When I first started driving to the world I found it daunting because there are so many roads and turns. I was over whelmed. What I have learned is the layout is expertly designed to make getting to all guest areas a snap. There are ample road signs and plenty of arrows to point you in the right directions. Only a few times have I made a tactical error and made a wrong turn. It happens, and sometimes you see something cool. Like on my last trip. I turned into a back entrance to HS and went through an open gate onto the backstage area behind Tower of Terror. It was interesting to see how the places that aren’t meant to be seen look like the back of any old building. For “cool” part, there was an old taxi cab I think used to be somewhere on the Streets of America.

The parking at most of the resorts is also pretty easy to maneuver. Once you get to the security gate state your purpose and they will tell you where you can park. I don’t remember ever having any problems getting in anywhere to eat or park. Security is generally pretty helpful to get you where you want and need to go.

Driving around Walt Disney World is a real time saver for me and is a necessity if you are staying off property as I have also done recently to save a little bit of money. Now staying off property also means unless you have an Annual Pass you are going to be paying for parking and at 14 bucks a pop. Doing that is not something I recommend. I do have an AP and a Tables in Wonderland card, so at resorts that I will be dining, I can receive free valet parking. It’s a nice perk. There are so many extra things to see and do at WDW. Without a vehicle they are not impossible but require more time and planning to make happen.

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

Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail should you happen to have to make a stop along the way and want to reboard:

1st Stop ~ Growing Up Disney (you are here)
2nd Stop ~ WDW Backstage
3rd Stop ~ A Disney Mom’s Thoughts
4th Stop ~ My Dreams of Disney
Final Stop ~ A World View

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


We have closed on the house and are heading over now to check it out. There were a few snafus but nothing major.


Photo Flashback! Festival of the Masters

Festival of the Masters is an annual art festival held at Downtown Disney featuring nearly 150 artists.  It's about time to be planning fall trips to Walt Disney World, so if you will be in the area November 11-13, 2011, be sure to drop by an experience this wonderful (and free) event with art on display, fun activities, live music and special food items.

Photos contributed by Corby C. of Atlanta, Georgia. She is a proud wife and mom to Banks and Henley and a Disney Destination Planner with Travel with the Magic and one of our Minnie Moms.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Guest Post: New Series from Nine

It's not long now until one of our favourite times of the year, our family holiday to France.  We are very lucky to have a family-owned old farm house right in the middle of rural France, which is just idyllic.

So of course we are looking forward to two weeks of family fun, and rest and relaxation.  Well, as much as you can get with an 18 month-old.  Thank goodness for Granny and Granddad!

However, I am already looking forward to next years annual trek across to the continent.  Why, when we haven't been this year yet?

Well, because next year we are going here ...

To visit ...


How exciting!

Be sure to stop by and follow my planning process and watch the excitement grow as we get ready for Tink's big adventure to meet The Mouse at Disneyland Paris.

See ya real soon!

Contributed by Janine P. of Swindon, England. She is a proud wife, mommy to Felicity and one of our Minnie Moms.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Pixar films on sale on iTunes

Five Disney/Pixar films are currently on sale on iTunes for $9.99 each.

Toy Story 1, 2, and 3, The Incredibles, and Cars Toon - Mater's Tall Tales are the available titles.

If your i-device is needing a bit more entertainment, now is a good time to catch a fun movie at a sweet price.


It's Official: We're on a wait list....

We have been discussing purchasing additional points with the Disney Vacation Club. We have a larger family and could use additional points to book our vacation trips to WDW, cruises on The Disney Cruise Line, trips to Hilton Head, and planning ahead to go to Aulani.

I had been looking on the re-sale market to purchase additional points. This is complicated when you are purchasing an add-on, as you have a "use year" to consider as well as the expiration date of the points. Disney's Old Key West points expire in 2042. We purchased a fifteen year extension so our OKW points expire in 2057. It is desirable to have all points on the same use year and expiration date. One other complication recently arose as Disney has created 2 classes of points: Those bought from Disney and those bought on the re-sale market. Re-sale points do not have access to everything like the Disney Cruise Line or staying at one of the Disney Resorts outside of DVC resorts that points bought directly from Disney have.

I called last week and talked to my vacation guide, Nancy Barbee, to discuss what is available. DVC is currently selling Bay Lake Tower at Disney's Contemporary Resort and Aulani, Disney Vacation Club Villas, Ko Olina, Hawai'i. While both of these are wonderful resorts, I have always liked having all our points at one resort. We have already purchased two add-ons to our original purchase, both at OKW.

In talking to Nancy, I found out they also have points for sale at Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa. What I finally did was put my name on a wait list to purchase additional points at our home resort, Disney's Old Key West Resort. I'm not sure how long it takes to work your way through the wait list as Disney exercises their "Right of First Refusal" to buy back points from members who have put them up for sale so DVC can re-sale them. I will keep you posted on how the process goes.

If you have any questions about the Disney Vacation Club, or purchasing a membership, I'll be glad to help or put you in touch with my vacation advisior, Nancy Barbee.

--Disney Dad

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Photo Flashback!!! When There's a Smile In Your Heart...

No one can put their finger on why Peter Pan's Flight is so incredibly popular but it most certainly is. Maybe because like the story, we all believe we can fly, fight pirates, save an Indian princess and return home with the help of a little pixie dust, all before our parents find out we've been gone. All you need to do is leave the window open.

- Posted by Ridge using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Don't carry that brand-new (insert item here) around with you all day!

Most merchandise locations at Walt Disney World theme parks and Downtown Disney will offer resort delivery.  If you've bought something you don't want to carry around with you, the store can have it sent to the gift shop at the WDW resort where you are staying.  This takes a couple of days, but even if you are at the end of your visit or staying off property, they still have you covered.  Your purchase can also be delivered to the front of the park where you can pick it up on your way out.  This is especially nice with larger or fragile items but feel free to use it for just about any purchase you don't want to carry with you.

Monday, July 4, 2011

A Walk Around The World With Ridge--More America….American Adventure

       In this three hour tribute to all Nations but Mostly America, I will take just a few minutes to talk about American Adventure in Walt Disney’s EPCOT in World Showcase. The American Pavilion is located directly to the rear of the park between Japan and Italy.

Let’s look at the building, shall we? The building’s architecture is modeled after the Georgian style buildings found in Colonial America and is covered in 110,000 Georgian clay bricks. Beautiful columns stand before the entry to the rotunda queuing area of the American Adventure. Outside is a large fountain and to the left of the entrance is the Liberty Inn, where the typical fare is hamburgers, hotdogs and cold Sam Adams, let’s drink to Patriotism! Across from the American Adventure is the American Gardens Theatre where, at various times of year i.e. Flower and Garden Festival or Food and Wine Festival, musical acts liven the festivities. There is a shop to the right side of the entrance, which I am ashamed to say I have never been in…I pledge now that I will go into this shop on my next trip in 5 months and buy something with an American flag on it…although seeing as I am going back for Food and “Beer” Festival someone may have to remind me because the Sam Adams beer seminar is always right there and I forget, but I digress.

The pavilion has two different groups that perform daily: The Spirit of America Drum and Fife Corps and the Voices of Liberty. Both of these are wonderful experiences. The drum and fife corps plays outside a couple times a day between the American Adventure and the American Gardens Theatre. It is about a 10 minute performance that has Cast Members in Revolutionary period uniforms playing traditional marches. In the period they represent, the fife and drum were used to signal the army of the orders that were given such as march, halt, ready weapons, etc. because battle field communication was a bit frantic and signals were sometimes hard to relay by voice. Instruments have been used for thousands of years to aid commanders in giving orders that everyone should be able to hear. See what we learn from a tangent?…ok back to topic. The group Voices of Liberty is an acappella group that performs approximately a 15 minute show in the rotunda just prior to the crowd being allowed upstairs to enter the theatre. Usually they are dressed in a period costume; I personally have only seen them dressed in the fashions that would have been popular in the 1800s but I understand they have other costumes.

Take a few moments and peruse the rotunda. It displays a number of paintings by famous American artists depicting moments from US history. One of my favorites can be found to your left as you enter the building. It is a painting depicting the assembly of a B 17. If you look down at the floor, it is real marble and inlayed with copper. On the right side of the room is the American Heritage Gallery housing pieces such as a cast of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s hand, chairs that belonged to George Washington and Benjamin Franklin and Edison’s phonograph. Once it is show time, you are taken upstairs by an escalator, stairs or elevator. If using the escalator and stairs it is via the Hall of Flags. There are flags from other countries that have had claim over the lands of United States. In total there are 44; however, I have never seen the Confederate flag in the Hall. I guess we are just forgetting the struggle to hold a nation together?

Once inside the theatre, you will notice there are statues along the wings of the stage. These are to represent the spirits of America: Adventure, Compassion, Discovery, Freedom, Heritage, Knowledge, Independence, Individualism, Innovation, Pioneering, Self-Reliance and Tomorrow. When you are seated in the 1000+ seat theatre, don’t worry about your position. Personally I like to sit down front because I am in awe over how real the animatronics figures are but with a stage so big I think this is truly an attraction where the theatre was designed to have no bad seats. Your hosts of the American Adventure are two of my favorite Americans, Benjamin Franklin and Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain). Both were extremely influential men of their own times as well as our own. I could ramble on about Dr. Franklin but I will spare you all the nap that would surely ensue.

Our illustrious hosts take us on a journey through the building of America. Now something I have failed to mention to this point is that this attraction uses sets and animatronics figures that rise up from out of the floor and descend from the ceiling. The show is as technically complicated as you can imagine; however, when you are watching the show your belief is completely suspended and these are not just animatronics they are real living, breathing and, in Mark Twain’s case smoking, people. As we stroll with our hosts through our country’s history starting with the Pre-Revolutionary war and ending with the “Golden Dreams” montage (believe me, it is a catchy tune and you will be humming it as you walk out at the end,) we are introduced to figures such as Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Fredrick Douglas, Susan B. Anthony, F.D.R., Will Rogers (who twirls a lasso!) and Chief Joseph just to name a few. The movie that plays at the end of the show called the “Golden Dreams” montage has been updated in the last few years to include 45 new seconds of footage some of our most recent American tragedies and triumphs and I dare anyone to make it through without being just a little misty eyed. As the show comes to an end Dr. Franklin and Mr. Twain discuss the past and future quoting John Steinbeck and Thomas Wolfe and their influential thoughts on America. Again I will not take your time and tell you what is said; instead I invite you to make your way to the attraction and see it for yourselves and experience our American Adventure.

originally appeared 7/9/10

Photo Flashback! A Proclamation

A still from the American Adventure.

In the early days of the American Revolution, the Colonial Representatives outraged over taxation being applied on goods imported and exported caused a redress of grievances to the King. This fell on deaf ears as the French and Indian war had done much to empty the English coffers. King George angry with the audacity of his subjects to not pay their taxes, sent troops to stop all trade in Boston and end any thoughts of sedition. However we all know how this was received.

originally appeared 1/12/11

Photo Flashback! Welcome to the Hall of Presidents

There is just something about the architecture of Liberty Square that inspires me. The detailing used on the buildings down to the shutter hinges is impressive. The best example being on the southern facing window at the Columbia Harbor House. I bet you've never noticed but the shutters are crooked, that's because the hinges would often be made from leather and leather would deform over time. But I digress since I can't find my picture of it.

The Hall of Presidents has to be one of my favorite buildings in WDW.

originally appeared 6/15/11

A Walk Around The World With Ridge--Hall of Presidents

“Welcome to the Hall of Presidents”

You may remember that line from “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” when the boys were studying for their history presentation. While I don’t think Mr. Lincoln ever actually said that, the Hall of Presidents is still one of my favorite attractions.

Setting the scene, the attraction is located in the Magic Kingdom between Frontierland and Fantasyland in Liberty Square. If you are like me (a huge history fan) then you will want to look at the surrounding buildings. All are stunning recreations of 1780s-1790s Boston architecture and, with Disney flare, use trompe l'oe (to trick the eye, thanks Reading Rainbow) and forced perspective to make the buildings seem larger than they really are. Disney uses these effects all over the place; they are masters of the techniques.

When crossing the bridge from the Hub into Liberty Square, the Disney magic comes out and with a little eye for detail you can really see all the effort that goes into creating the theme for each land. Around the bridge are ropes, crates marked tea and other sundry items you were likely to find in a Boston harbor town of the Revolutionary War period. The lamp posts have eagle finials adorning them and they are illuminated at night. In the middle of the square is a reproduction of the Liberty Bell, installed in 1989. The large oak next to the Liberty Bell is the Liberty Tree and the plaque next to it tells how the tree was a used in colonial times as a meeting place for the planning of the Revolution. The tree has 13 lamps hanging from it to symbolize the original colonies and their struggle. Seeing the tree always makes me think of the Thomas Jefferson quote: “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants." Anyway history lesson aside, directly opposite the Liberty Bell and Tree is the reason you are reading this, the Hall of Presidents. It now also bears the subtitle, “A Celebration of Liberty’s Leaders.” The outside of the building is marked with the date 1787 for the year the Constitution was first signed; it wasn’t ratified till 1788, then the first Presidential election under the Constitution was held in 1789 (sorry, more history lessons).

The HoP, as we call it in my family, is an attraction that grows every four to eight years, with the addition of each new President. The pre-show area holds items on loan from the National Archives and from the families of the Presidents themselves. The personal effects include those of Washington, Ford and Bush 41 & 43. The boots 43 wore to his inauguration were in the display at one time. The current display also includes dresses from several First Ladies. The center piece of the rotunda is the Great Seal of the United States. It is the only official seal outside of Washington D.C. and it literally took an act of Congress to get it there (ok, so they signed a resolution to allow it… close enough.) There are portraits on the walls and usually there is a cast member offering details of the artifacts in the room. If you are lucky enough to get to meet James, listen carefully. James has to be hands-down the most knowledgeable cast member I have ever had the pleasure to talk with and I have been able to do just that on my last two trips to the World. I am a history buff and James told me several things I had never heard. The show itself is about 20 or 25 minutes and runs every half hour but don’t be afraid to hang back and look around when everyone else goes inside.

Once it is time to enter the theatre please move all the way to the end of the row. Believe me there is usually plenty of room once everyone is seated to move around if you just have to sit in the middle. The theatre is also ECV accessible so don’t be afraid taking it in. Once seated, you will notice right off that this is a very large theatre. The stage, after all, has to accommodate 43 people or the likenesses thereof. Now I know you’re saying 43 people? Ridge, there are 44 Presidents, and you would be right; but please remember civics class and the fact that Grover Cleveland served two nonconsecutive terms as the 22nd and 24th President so he is only counted once.

In the latest update of the show there is a new film, centered on Mr. Washington, Mr. Jackson, Mr. Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, JFK and the 9/11 tragedy. Basically the film is about some of the Nation’s greatest Presidents and the struggles they faced. There is new narration with Morgan Freeman, although my sister is adamant that they should have Maya Angelou come back and do it. Mr. Lincoln gives the Gettysburg address alone onstage. Also new this year is a standing and speaking George Washington, voiced by David Morse, the same actor who portrayed Washington in the HBO mini-series “John Adams.” When Mr. Washington has completed his speech the Presidential roll call begins and each President is highlighted. The end is capped off with Barack Obama giving his Oath of Office and a short speech about his ideas of the American dream. Curtain closes, house lights go up, if you have been napping in the air conditioning, sorry it’s time to go; there is always the Haunted Manson to continue the cool. All joking aside, the Hall of Presidents tells a short but stirring tale of “Us”, We the People, where we came from, how we as a nation struggled and the men we have selected to lead us forward. To see even more of the story of “Us” I highly recommend heading over to EPCOT to American Adventure.

originally appeared 5/2/10

Happy Independence Day!

Good morning all! I am proud to be waking up in this wonderful country. No, she's not perfect, but she's ours. I am thankful for all who have worked and fought to give us freedom. I've been watching the History Channel's "Story of Us" series lately. It's amazing what earlier generations endured. Today, let's be thankful for their sacrifices.

Ridge is here in North Carolina visiting with my family. We'll be grilling later and just might go to a baseball game. We'll be reposting a few of Ridge's articles on some of Disney's patriotic attractions. I hope you have a very happy and safe day of celebrations.