Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

I am busy today preparing fairy wings, tutus, a jack-o-lantern and a big bowl of candy.

We have done many posts here on Halloween and fall fun at Walt Disney World.  Please also take a moment and browse some of our past articles and photos posted from the parks.  Our Minnie Moms recently shared a terrific series on Disney in the Fall.

Hope you have a spooky day!

Friday, October 28, 2011

On the DL with Chad: Why the History of DisneyLAND Means the World to Me

"To all who come to this happy place, welcome.  Disneyland is your land... with the hope that it will be a source of joy, and inspiration, to all the world" 
- Walt Disney, 1955

Disneyland - 1955

The beginning, and the end, of Walt Disney's 1955 Disneyland dedication speech is something that still gives me goosebumps every time I hear it, which is probably one of the main reasons I have it committed to memory.  Not a time goes by when I enter the gates that I don't hear those word ringing in the back of my mind, and they're just as important to Disneyland today as they were the day he spoke them 56 years ago.

Allow me to set up today's article for you.  I'm a "Lander".  I'm not sure if it's a term I coined myself or not (I'd not heard anyone else use it before I started to) but for me the land of Disney fans can be broken down into two primary categories above all others (excluding the foreign Parks):  "Landers" (those who claim Disneyland as their "home" Park) and "Worlders" (those who claim Walt Disney World as their "home" Park).  I assure you, nothing derogatory is meant by either.  It's just something I started saying a while back.  I know that there can sometimes be a little "push and pull" where the two Parks are concerned, but for me, both have always been something special and they each mean something to loads of people, so I have a healthy respect for that other Park in Orlando, and can't wait to get back there someday!

Other than the fact that I only live about 45 minutes from the Disneyland Resort, I want to explain why Disneyland is now (and would be if I moved closer to the east coast) so important to me.  Why is Disneyland so important?  Is it too cliche to say that it really boils down to Walt?  I'm going to say it anyway; it really boils down to Walt. 

Disneyland was Walt's Park.  Because he passed away before he was able to see Walt Disney World come to fruition, Walt is inexorably tied to Disneyland in a way that no other Disney Park can ever have.  And that's one of the things that makes it so special to me and to so many others.

One of my favorite views in the entire world

No matter how many times I go into The Park, I'm consistently taken aback by the magnitude of the history, Walt's history, that I'm taking part in.  From the moment I walk inside the Main Gates and glance up at The Disneyland Limited ("now leaving for a grand circle tour"...), especially if the Lilly Belle (which Walt himself and his wife once rode in) is on track, I'm powerfully reminded of just who has come before me, looking and seeing the exact same things I find myself looking at decades later. 

Walt's Apartment (and candle) are still above the Disneyland Fire Dept.

You can't go two steps without looking and seeing something that Walt himself had a personal hand in:  his apartment over the Disneyland Fire Dept., the Opera House which houses Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln,  the very bench Walt himself used to sit on while at Griffith Park in Los Angeles dreaming of Disneyland, the back row of Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room in which I never fail to see in my mind's eye the picture of Walt with his animatronic birds, and both It's A Small World and King Arthur Carousel, which Walt had shipped and moved, piece by piece, from their original locations on the East Coast because he loved them so much and wanted to share them with the rest of the world.  The list could just go on and on.

It reads: "The actual park bench from the Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round in Los Angeles, where Walt Disney first dreamed of Disneyland"

Perhaps the greatest reminder of all, though, is walking through the arch of Sleeping Beauty Castle between Fantasyland and Main Street, U.S.A.  Maybe nowhere in the entire Park is the thought "I'm literally walking where Walt himself once walked" quite so powerful.  Our castle might be smaller than Cinderella's, but ours is the one where Walt once walked.  Sometimes walking through, I just have to stop and take a look around, and if I'm in an imaginative mood, I can picture myself in perhaps the exact same spot that Walt once stood, looking around and surveying his Kingdom himself.  That alone is worth the price of admission.

One of my favorite pictures on the entire planet

There's an entire litany of things I enjoy doing in The Park.  I have my favorite attractions, favorite restaurants, favorite stores, and even my favorite restrooms.  But at the heart of the matter, Disneyland Park is so important to me because of Walt.

My family and I plan on taking a trip to Walt Disney World again someday, and there is no doubt in my mind that it will go down in the annals of Elliott Family Vacations as one of the greatest ever.  We literally cannot wait to get there and spend our seven days running around like complete fools, enamored with everything we see.

But it's safe to say that when I do return home after, and walk through the Main Gates of my favorite Park again, the first words out of my mouth will most likely be, "Welcome Home, Chad.  Welcome Home."

Walt, Mickey, and a Beauty

For those days when I can't go

Contributed by Chad E of Rancho Cucamonga, CA. I'm a married dad with three little boys doing the stay-at-home-dad/youth ministry/seminary student/card carrying Disneyland Annual Passholder (Premium!) thang! And when I have the time, I also like to blog and podcast about The Disneyland Resort and am the co-creator of both Days in the Park and the Days in the Parkcast podcast.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Photo Flashback! Clang, Clang Clang Goes the Trolley

From the Main Street Trolley Show

Each morning, this troupe of dancers performs several peppy tunes on Main Street.  If you haven't seen it for yourself, here's a link to a video from All Ears' Jack Spence.  
Hope you have a wonderful day!  I'll have this song in my head all day.  :)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Win Disney Winnie the Pooh on Blu-Ray Combo Pack

Winnie the Pooh is my all time favorite Disney character.  I was really hoping to take Tink to the theatre to see this as her first movie.  Oh, well, that just didn't work out with Baby Minnie.  She'll see it soon though because the DVD release is today.  If you aren't running out to get the movie, take a chance at the giveaway below.

Ready to enter to win a Blu-Ray Combo Pack?

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 Pooh character you are most like.  (Either from your own opinion or from the fun personality quiz above.)

Additional (optional) entries:
~Like Growing Up Disney on Facebook
~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 Saturday, October 29, 2011, and is limited to residents of the United States and Canada. The winner will be chosen at random from all eligible entries. You'll be notified via email (so make sure I can reach you!) and have 24 hours to respond or another winner will be chosen. Good luck!

The winner is comment #10, Jen.  Please email me at with your mailing address ASAP.  I hope you enjoy!  Thanks to all who entered!!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Disney Baby Tips: Part 2 Feeding Time

Today is a continuation of my favorite baby items, as my sister-in-law prepares her registry for her first child.  I've appreciated the help from other parents in the many reviews I have read and it's my turn to pass along some lessons learned.  I make nothing off these recommendations.  They are simply products I use and love.

For nursing, I can't say enough good things about My Brest Friend.  This pillow provides proper support for baby, improving latch-on and saving mom's back.  I got one when Tink was a few weeks old.  I was so tired of struggling with sliding pillows and I hated the boppy.  I made sure that I took my nursing pillow to the hospital when Minnie was born and used it from the second feeding on.  I've even thrown it in the van when we've traveled to make on-the-go feedings easier.

For older kids, I love the Bumkins Super Bib.  It's thin but really stops messes from ending up on clothes since it lays flat on the child.  The little pocket catches a good bit of the crumbs.  The best thing is how easy it is to clean.  Simply rinse it off after a meal and hang it up to dry.  It will be ready for the next meal.  From time to time, I put it in a mesh bag and wash it with the girls' clothes.  Ideally it shouldn't be machine dried but will survive just fine if you forget a few times.  We only have one and that's been enough.  I've used disposable bibs for travel while we are on the road or out at the parks, but I always carry along my Bumkins bib for use in the DVC villa or at Grandma's house.  It's so much easier than the stack of cloth bibs I traveled with (and had to wash) when Tink was very small.  I recently bought the starter bib which is a smaller version for Minnie.  So far I don't love it.  It's the same great fabric, but she's a brand new eater and things tend to slide down her neck past the starter bib.  I'll try it again when she's a little bigger.

The Munchkin Snack Catcher is terrific for keeping snack time cleaner.  The lid allows the kiddo to slide her hand in but stays shut in case the bowl is turned over.  Tink uses these around the house, in the van and at theme parks, the zoo, the farm, etc.  When we are out with the stroller, I've used a No Throw Strap (got mine at Walgreens) to attach the snack catcher to the stroller.  That way if she dropped it, we didn't have to worry about loss or dirt since it didn't reach the ground.  My pack had two straps so I attach one to each side of the stroller so we can secure snack cups, sippy cups or toys.  I do put these cups in a ziploc bag before putting them in the diaper bag.

Another little gizmo I like for snacks on the go is the Philips Avent Formula Dispenser/Snack Cup.  While I wasn't crazy about this as a formula dispenser, it seals tightly and is great for carrying small snacks in your diaper bag.  With Tink, I kept this loaded with three different toddler friendly snacks.  It was really handy at Disney World.  If she got cranky on the bus, I could give her a few bites without making a mess.  I also like that this can be used longer since the divider comes out and you can use it for larger food, like apple slices.

I hope this helps another parent (or someone doing baby shower shopping.)  These items have all made my life a little easier in their own way.

All of the photos in this post were obtained from Amazon and are property of the manufacturers.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Magical Blogorail: Time Away From The Parks

Welcome to those of you joining me from A World View and those of you just hopping aboard.  I am the 4th stop on our Magical Blogorail.

This month, we were asked to write about how we spend a day at Walt Disney World without visiting one of the theme parks. Well, I almost never do this. I usually buy an annual pass and with that burning a hole in my pocket, I will pass through the turnstiles of a park every day. However, I am a big fan of spending time out of the parks. Whether it be a long lunch or an evening of miniature golf, there is much to do at the Walt Disney World resort that doesn't require a park ticket.

DINE: All levels of dining are available away from the parks in the resorts and surrounding area. A couple of casual favorites are Wolfgang Puck Express and Chevy's. WPE has two locations at Downtown Disney but my current favorite is in the Marketplace. Patio, evening breeze, excellent pizza and a glass of wine. Need I go on? Or shall I just meet you there? Chevy's is a Tex-Mex restaurant located in the Crossroads shopping center just off of Disney property on 535. They have very good chips and salsa but the star is the freshly made tortillas. Their flautas with pepper jelly have also been a past favorite.

SHOP: I usually visit World of Disney at Downtown Disney to buy most of the souvenirs that I take home for family and friends. TIP: always ask about discounts. They are offered for annual pass holders, DVC members, Disney Visa cardholders and more. I also love to visit the Basin stores at DTD and Grand Floridian. I don't always make a purchase from these fancy bath product stores but they are great to browse.

My mom with ANOTHER hole in one

PLAY: My family loves the miniature golf courses at Winter Summerland, located near Blizzard Beach. Again ask for discounts and remember that some vacation packages include a round of golf. These courses are delightfully themed as if the elves have moved south and feature Santa and the elves in cute vacation themes. World-class golf, horseback riding, fishing, fantastic resort pools and boat rentals are other recreation options available at WDW; I don't tend to slow down enough to take advantage of those. On some trip, I am going to ride the hot air balloon at DTD, known as Characters in Fight.

RESORT FUN: My home resort is Old Key West and they offer activities most days. From crafts to scavenger hunts to special tours, check your resort to see what is available. OKW also has basketball and volleyball courts, playgrounds, and I think shuffleboard for a little outdoor activity. Since I am always rushing off to a park, I miss these but I have a feeling I will see more of the playgrounds and pools in the coming years. I do enjoy going out for a morning run from OKW. The grounds themselves make for a nice workout or hitting the trail to Saratoga Springs and then on to Downtown Disney is even better. I almost always see DTD in the evening so it's nice to see it wake up as I jog past.

From my pre-wedding tea party
RELAX: I treated myself to a massage at the Grand Floridian Spa after the marathon. Fab-u-lous. However, my FAVORITE way to relax at WDW is with tea at the Grand Floridian. Mom and I go almost every trip. Sometimes we have other friends join us and other times the two of us just enjoy a break from the crowds and noise of the parks and of life in general.

Thank you for joining me today. Your next stop on the Magical Blogorail Loop is Disney Donna Kay.

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 ~ Makin’ Memories

2nd Stop ~ My Dreams of Disney
3rd Stop ~ A World View
4th Stop ~ Growing Up Disney
Final Stop ~ Disney Donna Kay

Quick Post: One Day Stroller Deal

I have an obsession with strollers.
This morning I received an email from It's one of those deal a day sites. Today they are offering a First Years Indigo stroller for $99. I don't know much about them. It it looks like alot of features for the price. It is infant carrier compatible and will go up to 50 lbs in the preschool years. The seat can be placed in both forward and rear facing positions.
If you are in the market, it's a good price and would be worth a little research. Oh, and the product description is hysterical.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Stars Fell on Disney Fans from Alabama, It's My Turn!

My friend, Beth Green, at A Disney Mom's Thoughts is hosting a series highlighting her fellow bloggers from the great state of Alabama.  Today I am there with the story of my two homes, Alabama and Walt Disney World.  There are even stories and photos I haven't shared here yet.  Y'all drop by and check it out.  While you are there, Beth has recently returned from a trip to WDW, so be sure to peruse her recent posts.  Don't miss her costume for the Halloween party!

A Disney Mom’s Thoughts


Photo Flashback! -- Magic Morning

There are so many lamps and lighting fixtures all over Disney and each are themed to their respective land as they should be, this one just happened to be in the perfect place to catch the morning sun and glow while I admired the castle.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Ridge's Animal Kingdom Lodge Review

Good Monday Morning All. Welcome to my hotel review of Animal Kingdom Lodge's Kidani Village.

From October 3-5, I had the pleasure of staying at AKL KV in a deluxe studio with a Savannah View room. The basics of the Studio are pretty similar at all the of Disney Vacation Club resorts if they have been upgraded to what is called a "deluxe studio." The room is furnished with a queen bed, sleeper sofa, TV, dresser and small table. If you care to use it, internet access is available and a cable is usually found in the closet. Access is $9.99 a day unless you are a DVC member and then it is free.
The most fantastic part of staying at AKL is the ability to see the animals from your room and from the windows in the hallways. I think the savannah view room would be an absolute must for families with small children or just for anyone that would like the experience of waking up early and sitting on the balcony before sunrise and hearing something outside snoring only to find out that it was a zebra. It really was so much fun. My room faced the Sunset Savannah, there are three savannas with different animals on each: Sunset, Arusha and Uzima. Each brings a different feeling and available animals.

I’m sorry to say that this trip was so filled with activity that I didn’t get to fully explore the main lobby of Kidani Village. Nor make it over to the animal viewing area that I could see from my room. It is a fenced in area and had a fire pit and I believe that this is also the location where you would find the storytellers at the resort. But let my pictures do the talking and show just how wonderful and relaxing a savannah view can be. Overall I think that staying at the Animal Kingdom Lodge is worth it for a another stay in the future.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

My Pumpkin Crisp Recipe is at The Life of a Sippy Cup Mom

Wow!  Time flies!  I can't believe it's been a whole year since I participated in Melissa's "Mommy's Lil Monster Bash."  She's rerunning some of the best recipes and ideas for the fall.  Mine was featured on Friday.  It's a delicious and super easy pumpkin crisp recipe.  Head on over and check out the recipe and her great site.

Friday, October 14, 2011

A Walk Around The World With Ridge -- October 2011 Trip

Hello again kids!!! Guess what? I just got home from Disney World.

It was a what seems like a super fast trip for the 40th Birthday of the Magic Kingdom. Combined with seeing old friends and showing around some family on their first trip together, I stayed very busy during my short time in the World.

I did a few new things on this trip, I rented my first car which couldn't have been easier. When I flew in to MCO I had used Priceline to rent a car from Avis. Now if you know anything about Priceline, you know that you don't pick the companies that you use only the price you're willing to pay for it. The car came in handy since I was changing hotels/resorts 3 times. Then to my surprise the return process of the car was easier than checking it out. It was literally as easy as following the signs and making sure I filled up the tank before I brought it back.

As for time in the parks, I missed most of the fun stuff early in the morning since I was late getting into town then having to check into my off site hotel for the first night. I will talk about my accommodations more in a separate post later.

One other of the new things I had the opportunity to do is go to the meet at La Hacienda de San Angel and met tons of new people including Cody @codywdwfan on twitter, it was really a pleasure getting to meet you in person and who didn't like having some free margaritas? I also followed Lou Mongello and the WDW Radio crew around Magic Kingdom for a while during their 40 hour broadcast. You might have seen me walking around in the background if you were one of the "box people".

As always I drug around my 20 some odd pounds of camera gear, looking for something that would catch my eye and make it on to "film". I love my digital camera for it's ease of use but I have also been carrying my dad's 1975 35mm Minolta. It really does help me take some fantastic pictures. I can't wait to get my film developed and scan them into the system.

So if you will allow me to share a few pictures from my time in the World.

BOB Stroller Recall

I am a proud BOB Stroller owner and received the following message about a current recall. It's a very simple one to fix, so  read on and "let's play safe for you and me 'cause I'm no fool."

B.O.B. Trailers, Inc., in cooperation with the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), is voluntarily recalling all B.O.B., Ironman and Stroller Strides jogging strollers. 

The recall involves all B.O.B., Ironman and Stroller Strides jogging strollers manufactured between November 1998 and November 2010. Strollers manufactured after October 2006 have a white label affixed to the back of the stroller's leg with the manufacturing date. Strollers with no manufacturing date listed were produced prior to October 2006 and are included in this recall. The strollers were sold in single seat and double-seat models. The BOB, Ironman or Stroller Strides brand name is embroidered on the canopy of the strollers.

The products are being recalled as the stroller canopy's embroidered logo's backing patch can detach, posing a choking hazard to babies and young children.

Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled strollers until they remove the embroidery backing patch from the interior of the canopy's logo. Consumers should contact B.O.B. Trailers for instructions on removing the backing. For additional information, contact B.O.B. Trailers toll-free at (855) 242-2245 between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. MTMonday through Friday, or visit the firm's website at

You may also find additional details about the recall in the CPSC bulletin at:

If you purchased this item as a gift for someone, please notify the recipient immediately and provide them with the information in the CPSC bulletin concerning these safety issues.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Photo Flashback: Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater

One of my wife and my favorite spots to stop for lunch at Disney's Hollywood Studios is the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater.  It is just a fun to stop in at an old drive-in movie.  Sit in the front seat and get the "ticket" from the car hop or sit in the back to just enjoy the ride.  It's always fun to watch the old "B" Sci-Fi movie clips.    By the way the rest rooms are over behind the bushes.

This picture was from an October 2004 trip.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Disneyland Paris Planning with Nine: Part 3 Where to Stay?

Where to stay?

Although we haven't yet decided exactly when we are going to Disneyland Paris (DLP), as a ballpark figure it'll be (I'm 99% sure) in July.

So the next question on the list is, where will we stay?

This question is not unlike the Walt Disney World decision of on-site verses off-site, except that usually when we go to Florida with the in-laws, we do an off-site villa rather than a hotel. As we will only be staying at DLP for a couple of days, and the French cities are not renowned for their spacious villas, the question remains basically a Disney hotel or not a Disney hotel?

Of course, I would love to stay in one of the park accommodations. I have yet to stay in a WDW resort, so this could be the first step to my husband agreeing that we must be engulfed with the Disney spirit 24/7 on our next trip to the US.

As with all popular destinations, there are varying seasons, and varying prices that go with them. You know you will pay far more for a room in the high season or holiday season than the low or value. Even just one day can make a difference in the price, and as rooms tend to be smaller than we're used to in FL (more NYC size than Orlando) we would definitely need 2 with the 5 of us.

There are six on-site hotels at DLP.
  • The Disneyland Hotel, which is 4 star and situated right at the entrance to the Disneyland Park.
  • The Hotel New York, also 4 star and about a 10 minute walk to either park.
  • Both the Newport Bay Club and the Sequoia Lodge are 3 stars, and about a 15 minute walk to the parks.
  • The 2 star accommodation is the Hotel Santa Fe and Hotel Cheyenne, they are about 20 minutes on foot.
  • There is also the Davey Crockett Ranch campsite too, which is about a 10 minute drive, but we are not that adventurous!
The Unofficial Guide to DLP rates all of the above and the Sequoia Lodge comes out best for children, value, theming and being the most romantic. The first three are high on our list of must-haves, and the latter being an added bonus, with the grandparents coming along as built in babysitters, who knows, we might even get a date night! It is also meant to be a very relaxing complex, which will feature very high on my mother-in-law's wish list.  The restaurant in the Sequoia Lodge, The Hunters Grill, is meant to be one of the best in the resort, and is very well placed, with the parks being a nice stroll away and the Disney Village around a 10 minute walk too.  The Sequoia Lodge is described as being full of wood trim, quilting and huge open hearths, so in my mind it is not dissimilar to The Wilderness Lodge in WDW. However, having seen neither in the flesh I could of course be completely wrong. I hope to visit both so I can see if my guess was right.  There is also a bus service, which is great if it is pouring with rain, as this is Europe of course.

All of the hotels have at least one eatery and offer kids menus, a shop, a pool and daily character meet and greets.

So what about off-site?

We have stayed in hotels in Paris itself before, they tend to be very small and very expensive. They are also of course a good drive away. But my in-laws may prefer this option as it means they will be able to dine in Paris itself after a day at the parks.

Another option may be one of the Disney associated hotels, not within the resort itself, but not too far away. Both the Adagio Val D'Europe and Hotel L'Elysee Val D'Europe are around a 25 minute walk with free shuttles, and are considerably cheaper than their Disney themed counterparts.

So what will we do?

As in the US, one huge advantage of staying on-site will be the Extra Magic Hours, although we may not need the late hours, if Tink is still up at dawn then this would be a great way of ensuring we get into the parks early and take full advantage. Proximity is also a big plus, being such a short distance means that we can come back for naps or rests easily if needed. And of course the guaranteed admission into the parks in peak season is always a huge bonus.

But, and it is a huge but, they are way, way more expensive than other hotels. And although being totally exposed to Disney 100% of the time is my idea of heaven, and I'm sure Tink would love it too, I'm not too sure about the rest of the party.

Lots to think about as usual.

Make sure you stick around to find out what we decide.

Contributed by Janine P. of Swindon, England. She is a proud wife, mommy to Felicity and one of our Minnie Moms.  Follow along throughout this monthly series as she plans her first trip to Disneyland Paris.

Other posts in this series:

  • New Series from Nine

  • Part 1: Questions

  • Part 2: When to Go?

  • Saturday, October 8, 2011

    No Moms Panel but I'm Proud to be a Minnie Mom

    The last four Septembers I have sat down at the computer and hoped that my passion for Disney flowed through the keyboard. And for four Octobers I have been told thanks but no thanks by the WDW Moms Panel. At least I made it to the second round last year.

    I don't want this to sound overly negative. The panel is a great tool and helps answer questions for many guests. It's hard not to take it at least a little personally when something you love so much doesn't want you as an ambassador. But I wouldn't change a thing.

    It was a blessing last year when I didn't go beyond round 2. At the time, I didn't know the year I was in for. Very sick pregnancy while chasing my toddler, moving to a new state, having a baby, moving again from the rental house when we bought a house and then damage from a hurricane and fire. Let's just say I am busy.

    I won't be eligible to apply for the panel next year since it will be a while between visits. But I know me and I will continue to apply every year I can.

    However, I love what I am doing here with Growing Up Disney and if I had to choose, this would win hands down. I get to write about my favorite places with family and friends. I have partnered with some terrific folks on various projects. I've made a bunch of friends that I've yet to meet in person. I have an ongoing creative project that's under my control and keeps me sane as a stay at home mom. I help people plan their vacations all the time.

    I wish all the best for my friends who are advancing in the competition. Even though I may not be earning the coveted pink polo, I proudly wear my light blue GUD shirt.


    Minnie Moms: Disney in the Fall, Fall is MY Season

    Amy: Fall is my family's prime time to take a Walt Disney World vacation. Over the years, we have visited WDW during every season but we always come back to the fall.

    The big draw for us in October and November is the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival. This will be the 16th year for the festival. It took a few years to gain steam but now it's one of the biggest events of the Disney year. I'm sure you know all about it so I will spare you the details. It's become especially important to us since my husband and I moved away in 2005 (for a silly thing called a paycheck). My family, and occasionally Andy's parents too, will meet up at Walt Disney World and spend a week enjoying the parks together. Having that designated time of year for our trip helps everyone plan vacation time and such. We experience the festival both in our large group and in small clusters, just like we tour the rest of the parks.

    Enjoying the Ireland booth in Ridge's honor
    when he couldn't join us in 2007
    Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party is a truly fun event. In 2006, my family went as a big group: DisneyDad, Mom, me, my husband, Ridge, and a friend. We had lots of fun. I mainly remember cutting up in the blacklights outside of Haunted Mansion, some great guest costumes, and scoring good seats, aka rocking chairs, for the parade. Dinner before the party was at Whispering Canyon at Wilderness Lodge so we took a boat to Magic Kingdom. Approaching the "spooky" park by water was very cool. Last year, Ridge and I went alone, courtesy of Kelly at Travel with the Magic. As bloggers, we took lots of camera gear and posted pictures as the night progressed but we also made sure to have fun along the way. That was also when we met Natalie of Meet the Magic, who I am proud to say now writes for us as a Minnie Mom. My first time with the Boo to You Parade was in 1997 during my college program. I was able to watch it during one of the dress rehearsals open to Cast Members. Now that grants you a prime spot on the curb, no camping out required.

    Makeup + blacklight = scary

    The Growing Up Disney family plus buddy, Ben
    ready for MNSSHP

    Fantastic costumes!

    While I don't care much for Halloween as a holiday, I do love the fall decorations, especially on Main Street at Magic Kingdom. The clever jack-o-lanterns and clusters of leaves are such a cheery way to celebrate fall. And it makes you feel like it's jacket weather, even if you get a late October heat wave like we did last year.
    Ridge and cousin Jason in 2008

    Since we've begun blogging and connected to the Disney online community, fall also means meeting new friends, such as Natalie. In 2010, Growing Up Disney held a meet at Writers Stop in Disney's Hollywood Studios. We had a wonderful time chatting in person with some super people and not being limited to 140 characters (and eating carrot cake cookies). We also met up with some friends for Electrical Parade and Wishes, as well as attending a meet with the family from Mousekefoodies. A real thrill came when I was able to meet up with Heather, one of my sorority sisters, whom I hadn't seen since college. She writes here too from time to time and has shared some great tips.

    Garden View Lounge for tea with Heather

    Growing Up Disney meet

    More GUD meet at Writers Stop

    Glad to finally meet JL from DDL in person

    Taking over the joint

    The ladies from the Mousekefoodie meet.
    The guys all jumped out of the shot to take pictures.

    Fall at Walt Disney World in the last few years has also meant big announcements for my family. In 2008, just before the start of IllumiNations, I told my parents that they were going to be grandparents for the first time. In 2010, at Olivia's at Old Key West, Tink wore a "big sister" t-shirt to let them know the Growing Up Disney family was growing again. And no, I don't plan on another announcement in 2012 unless someone has a child they need me to adopt.

    Tink, oblivious of the big news she's wearing,
    enjoying Duffy stickers at Olivia's

    Thank you for joining us as the Minnie Moms reflected on what makes Fall at Walt Disney World so special. If you've missed any articles in this week's series, I invite you to read on and enjoy the other wonderful Minnie Moms. While you are here, browse around to all our features and terrific staff and guest writers!

    Other posts in this month's series: