Sunday, September 30, 2012

Growing Up Disney @ MK

Growing Up Disney is at the Magic Kingdom today. Ridge is off with friends in the New Fantasyland and I am walking around taking lots of pictures.
Note the GUD button at the bottom of the picture.
-- DisneyDad

Growing Up Disney @ WDW

Ridge and DisneyDad have arrived at WDW for Epcot's 30th anniversary. Right now we are on the bus headed to the Magic Kingdom. More to follow....

Friday, September 28, 2012

Stroller Rental at WDW

I'm so excited to be using a stroller from Simple Stroller Rental for my Walt Disney World vacation in January!  This morning I booked a City Mini Double.  It will come with the parent console (cup holder!) and I requested the optional rain cover.  I've not used the City Mini Double before but my girls loved the single versions we tried out at a local store and my friend, Corby, swears by hers.  I use a Bob Revolution Dualie at home and the City Mini Double seems to have similar maneuverability and excellent reclining seats for naptime.

I recently wrote about our two single stroller plan and you may be wondering why I am renting.  Well, this will be a unique vacation.  Normally, we travel with 3-5 adults and my two children.  In January, I will be flying alone with my girls and meeting my BFF in Orlando for a week of Disney fun.  She and I decided we'd prefer to keep up with one stroller, rather than two, for that trip even if it might be just a bit larger for the buses.  I'll still travel with my Maclaren Volo so I can corral at least one of the girls at airports.

Simple Stroller Rental is offering a 10% discount to my readers, so head over and take a look at their collection of single and double strollers.  Use code "growingupdisney" when you check out.  They deliver to resorts and private residences within 15 miles of Walt Disney World.  The site was very simple to use and even accommodates those who change resorts during their stay.  I quickly received a confirmation email to let me know we are all set.

I'll do a full review post after I return from vacation to let you know how I liked the stroller, the service, and more.

Disclosure: I am receiving my stroller rental for free for review purposes.

Follow this link for my full review of Simple Stroller Rental.

Friday Field Trip: Disney on the USS North Carolina

Recently my family visited Wilmington for the day.  While there, we decided to take a quick tour of the Battleship U.S.S. North Carolina.  You don't get to read too many museum signs when trying to keep two little girls safe on a ship built for war and not for kids, but I was pleasantly surprised to see a touch of Disney on the ship.

The ship serves as the state's World War II memorial and even on a quick walk-through was really interesting.  Here's a link to the ship's history and some impressive stats.  I'm always thankful for our military members and their families but this certainly brought home the sacrifice of these brave folks.

Not bad for an iPhone camera.

The ship needed a little dose of cute.

I couldn't get over the size of the guns.  They could shoot a target many miles away.

If Tink's driving this ship, we are in big trouble.

True but I'm more frightened of the people for whom this sign was written.
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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Photo Flashback: Horizons

October 1, 1983 - January 9, 1999

Horizons Pavilion at EPCOT Center 1993
August 1993 we went on a cruise on one of Premier Cruise Line's Big Red Boats - The Official Cruise Line of Walt Disney World - or at least it was back then.  After the cruise we came back and spent several days at WDW.  Horizons was part of EPCOT Center back then.  It was an interesting ride of things past and future.  I still remember Jules Vern floating around in his "space capsule" on his way to the Moon.  The pavilion has since been torn down and replaced by Mission: Space.

Horizons opened one year after EPCOT Center's opening day and while it is not still around, Epcot is still there and turning 30 on October 1st.  Ridge and I will be making a trip to WDW for the anniversary and will be blogging and tweeting about events at the Anniversary.  I will be taking in as much of Epcot's International Food and Wine Festival as I can and taking lots of pictures to post here at Growing Up Disney.


Focused on the Magic

Monday, September 24, 2012

Minnie Moms: Extending Your WDW Vacation with a Non-Park Day

Enjoying non-park days is a great way to extend your family's Walt Disney World vacation.  You can enjoy the magic of the World just a little longer without another day's park admission.  The Minnie Moms share their favorite tips.

Amy: I suggested this month's topic because I'm planning a trip with my kiddos and my BFF for January.  I told her we'd take a day off from the parks but once I start planning I just can't do it.  My annual pass burns a hole in my pocket and I feel this need to enter a park every day I'm at the World, even if it's only for a short time.  So, learn along with me and let's see if we can all take a non-park day.  

Janine: As we fly over to the US from the UK, we always stay in Florida for 2 weeks. We buy park tickets to cover the whole time we are there which are available to pre-purchase in the UK. On previous holidays, we have also spent time in those, ahem, other parks in Orlando so we don't have an awful lot of non-park days even with being there for so long!

We do like to factor in a so-called rest days though. I say so-called as our non-park days tend to be shopping days! We usually spend a lazy morning by the pool and then head off to the Malls and Outlets to stock up on jeans, trainers, and other clothing items which are so much cheaper in America.

We also usually (although not this year with it being our first trip with Tink) go down to the coast for a couple of days, St Petes Beach is our favourite. Here we go to watch the Tampa Bay Rays play and enjoy a dolphin watching trip and paddling in the sea. Of course we make time for yet another well known theme park here too.

This year we have factored in 2 non-park things I'm really looking forward to. On one morning we are going to head into the Grand Floridian Resort for a nosey around and maybe a cup of tea. I'm super excited about this as we always stay off-site so I have never been in a WDW hotel before. And secondly, we are going to head to Celebration for a look around. I have heard that this quaint little town is just beautiful and I'm hoping some of the houses will be decorated for Halloween by then.

Of course, if I had my way, I'd spend the entire 2 weeks just in the Magic Kingdom ;-)

Corby: When we first started going to Disney World as a family, we would literally go from park opening to park closing, we would stay in a moderate resort for about a week and get 6 or 7 day park tickets. We started to change things up a couple of years ago when our daughter was born. We realized our park touring plans would have to change with an infant in tow. For the past couple of years we have chosen to stay in deluxe resorts for added convenience and get fewer park tickets so that we can actually enjoy where we are staying. We now take a much more laid back approach which has been a change of pace for us.

The Disney resorts have so much to offer! You could easily spend an entire vacation at the resort alone! We find each resort offers something different and I find it fun to run with whatever particular theme that resort we're staying in has. Some fun things you can enjoy are swimming, games/dancing/entertainment by the pool, and movies under the stars for example. Some resorts offer activities such as fishing, canoeing, water slides, boat rental, shopping, wonderful restaurants onsite, special tours, ability to view animals on a savanna from your balcony, fireworks viewing, campfires (some with characters), musical entertainment and so much more! You can literally choose to make your Disney vacation unique each visit and that's what keeps us going back for more. The possibilities are endless. You can make your vacation as action packed as you like or do what we do and take some breaks every now and then, slow down, relax and enjoy all that the Disney resorts have to offer. I'm sure we'll go back to commando park touring as our kids get older but for right now taking it easy and having some downtime works for us and I highly recommend trying it sometime!

Natalie: When heading to Disney World, often times it is a good day to take a dayaway from the parks. This allows for you to do some of the many other things that are available in the Disney World Resort area. It also allows you time to recuperate from your many hours of walking in the theme parks!

Here are some suggestions of things you can do for your day in the Disney Resort while not spending time in the theme parks:

1. Visit other Disney Resorts in the area. You will find beautiful landscapes, pools, and entertaining decorations. In addition, there are shops and a wide variety of restaurants to try. Check the listing of amenities as well for additional fun things to do!
2. Take the monorail around both loops. It is quite entertaining to see the various theme parks and Resort high above.
3. Take a stroll around Downtown Disney. At Downtown Disney, you can find a variety of entertaining things to do to include entertainers, jugglers, balloon artists, and magicians. All of the entertainment found in the walk-through of Downtown Disney is free. In addition, there is a large variety of shops and restaurants that offer hours of entertainment. The property for Downtown Disney is quite vast and takes up a good 2-3 hours of a day.
4. From Downtown Disney (or a variety of other locations), you can take a ferry ride. From the ferry you can head over to Port Orleans Riverside or Port Orleans French Quarter. If you time the visit to these Resorts right, you can see a show performed by Bob Jackson at Port Orleans Riverside. Bob typically performs Tuesday through Saturday nights and plays from 8:30PM-Midnight but the schedule is subject to change. There is no charge for admission.
5. Head over to the Resorts for nighttime fun. Head to Fort Wilderness Campgrounds for the Camp Fire Sing-A-Long with Chip and Dale. This is a great way to have loads of fun with characters. Typically after seeing Chip and Dale, a movie is shown. Double your entertainment for FREE! Be sure to check other Resorts for their offerings of free entertainment.
6. Spend time at the pools! Each resort has a great pool area. There are typically fun activities for everyone to include singing, dancing, and games.

These suggestions are all FREE as well! Have a great day, at a great price!

Be sure to pick up your copy of Strategies for Paying for Disney for other great advice on how to save money so you can afford your dream Disney vacation!

Danielle: We love non-park days! Don't get me wrong, we love our park days, too, but lately, as the kids are growing, we've really come to enjoy our free days, as well. My family doesn't believe in leaving the Disney bubble while on a WDW vacation so going to outlet malls or other local attractions doesn't do it for us. We prefer to sleep until whenever we feel like waking up (or rather, when the kids feel like waking up) and enjoy our wonderful home resort, Disney's Animal Kingdom Villas. The grounds are so amazing, the animals are an attraction in themselves, and the Uzima Pool is beautiful. Being on Disney property still gives us the Disney fix we need while being on a WDW vacation, but we don't have to follow a schedule! Occasionally, we will also visit Downtown Disney and that fulfills the same needs, but the long bus ride from Animal Kingdom Villas is pretty prohibitive with the little ones. Non-park days are necessary in our opinion, because they provide a nice break for us to re-charge our batteries. We are fresh and ready to hit the parks the following day! :)

Beth: Taking a day off from the parks is something our family has done every trip with the kids. Walt Disney World has so much to offer, and with three little ones, some of those out of park experiences are their favorites. It gives a nice break from having to be anywhere at a particular time and has become a day for the kids (especially when they were younger) to rest their legs and get rejuvenated.

There is plenty to do for adults and children alike outside of the parks. For Joey, Hayley and Emily, they love when we spend an afternoon just playing in the pool. The resort pools are so themed that it probably seems to them that the pools are a park in themselves. Being from New Hampshire, our season to use the pool is short, so being able to take a swim is always something they look forward to. For the adults, my dad and husband can take a morning to go golfing. Between all the resorts and Downtown Disney, there is something for everyone of every age.

When my children were really young, taking a day off from the parks was a nice break for their little legs. All three of my kids were never really fans of being in strollers and most of our Disney vacations have been spent pushing a stroller with our backpack in it. Now as they have gotten older, the break from the parks isn’t for anything more than to take advantage of some of the out of park experiences, such as a Kitchen Sink from Beaches and Cream, shopping at Downtown Disney and something new we are trying on our next trip, the Bayou Pirate Adventure Cruise at Port Orleans Riverside.

Many thanks to Janine, Corby, Natalie, Danielle, and Beth for sharing their tips this month.  With these great ideas, I might just be able to pass up the parks for a day.  Please check out our Minnie Moms page for past articles and more information about this terrific team. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Magical Blogorail: Live Resort Entertainment I Can't Wait to See Again

Welcome to those of you joining me from A World View and those of you just hopping aboard. I am the 2nd stop on our Magical Blogorail.

If you think live entertainment is only inside the Disney Parks, you are missing out on some truly special experiences.  The Disney resort hotels offer a variety of talented performers as well.  Covering a  wide range of musical styles and price ranges, there is something for everyone.

I've only been to Hoop-Dee-Doo once and it was about 19 years ago (holy cow!) but it is definitely on my list of must-dos once my daughters get just a little older.  We had a blast the last time we went and had a table right by the stage.  My dad is a good sport and that's fortunate since one of the performers decided to pick on him all night.  My brother and cousin and I had a great time hitting each other with napkins when they instructed us to spin them over our heads.  (Hey, we were kids.)  Mickey's Backyard Barbeque is a little more kid-friendly so we may give that one a shot in the meantime.  It's a family-style BBQ meal like Hoop-Dee-Doo however as the name implies, the entertainment is more child-oriented with characters and lots of chances for kids to get up and wiggle.

A sentimental favorite is The Grand Floridian Society Orchestra, the jazz band that plays most evenings on the upper level of the lobby at the Grand.  They've provided a lovely background to some special evenings...dinner at Victoria and Albert's Chef's Table with my father, walking through the lobby feeling like a princess after our wedding reception, and relaxing in a honeymoon suite after the big day.  We could hear the band inside our room on the club level and I wish now that we had taken a peek at the concierge offerings, but we had a brunch planned the following morning with family and friends at OKW (I digress.)
Thanks to Channing Wilson at Travel with the Magic for sharing this photo.

Another favorite live entertainment option is the Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show at Disney's Polynesian Resort.  I've been 4 or 5 times over the years.  When we started going, it was indoors.  While that was climate-controlled and not subject to extremes in the weather, I love the luau cove where the current show is performed.  It's one of those Disney things where the food is good but not stellar and the show is a bit contrived but the overall experience is still somehow lots of fun.  The most recent storyline involves a girl coming home from the mainland and reconnecting with her Polynesian roots.   That's the contrived part but it does tie together the series of beautiful hula dances, powerful warrior dances/chants, and fire-knife dancing.  The dinner is served family-style and includes ribs, chicken, pineapple, etc.  The dessert is a chocolate mousse volcano.  Everyone is served these treats, which appear to have smoke coming from them, at the same time, for a little fun and drama.

One performer whom I haven't seen at all is Yehaa Bob.  I have heard fantastic things about his show at Port Orleans Riverside and someday I will get over there and catch a performance.

If you ever get the pleasure of visiting Disney's Hilton Head Island Resort, be sure to check the events schedule and spend some time with B'Lou Crabbe.  He is part storyteller, part musician, part Shadow sidekick and part magician.

Thank you for joining me today. Your next stop on the Magical Blogorail Loop is My Dreams of Disney.

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 ~ A World View
2nd Stop ~ Growing Up Disney
4th Stop ~ Disney Donna Kay
Final Stop ~ Heidi's Head

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Five Photos: Disney's Hilton Head Island Resort, Coligny Beach

A visit to Coligny Beach Park is one of the fun things you can do while staying at Disney's Hilton Head Island Resort.  And it's a special treat to play on the beach in January.


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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Saving Money on Your Flights to Walt Disney World

Don't forget to keep an eye on sales even after you book your flight.  I made air reservations for us in August as soon as our January dates were confirmed.  Flying alone with two little girls, the nonstop flight was a necessity.  While I got a good price initially, the sale out today from Southwest was even better.  I went online and "changed" my flight, keeping the same dates and times but selecting the new lower prices.  Now Southwest's rules don't allow them to send me a refund check on the particular tickets I purchased, but I do have a $64 credit with them toward a future trip.  Not sure if all airlines do this but it's certainly worth checking out.


Monday, September 17, 2012

Guest Post: Waiting in Lines? There’s An App For That!

There’s nothing more magical than watching your son’s face light up when he sees his favorite character (Tigger, for the record) for the first time. But there’s nothing less magical than listening to that positively grating whine he makes when we’ve been waiting in line too long.

That’s where my iPhone comes in. These four fun, free apps will distract your whiney little Mickey or Minnie in no time flat:

1. Awesome Eats
Created by Whole Kids (a foundation established by Whole Foods to improve nutrition), I like this because it is free of ads. My son likes it because it appeals to the OCD in him. (My fault.) The load times are a little bit slow, but once the game gets going, though, he loves swiping the vegetables into their proper bins. As a mom, it’s pretty awesome to see your kid getting excited about snap peas and mushrooms.

This is a simple tap and color app, but it keeps my son occupied for hours. He loves sweeping through the crayons at the bottom of the screen, looking for the exact right shade for the pop color creation in his imagination. Created by, this app offers nearly 100 free designs to color, although it does display lots of “locked” pages that can’t be colored unless you upgrade. For now, though, my little guy is happy with the free pages.

3. Tic Tac Toe
It’s so simple and obvious, but my son loves the interaction of clicking in the boxes and passing the phone back and forth with me. Maybe it’s not teaching him math or spelling, but he is learning to be a good sport. (Because, ehem, I don’t let him win.) The only thing I don’t like about this app—developed by Optime Software—is the ads, but so far I haven’t seen any that are objectionable.

4. Toy Story 3
There are many, many opportunities to spend money with this app by Disney Interactive, but there are some fun, free components in this download, including Woody’s Wild Ride, which is pretty much my son’s favorite game. Ever. I am useless at this game (I can barely keep Woody on his horse), but my son is able to expertly pilot Woody through the series of obstacles, and it keeps him going for 10-15 minutes at a stretch. Ride like the wind, Bullseye!

Now it’s your turn: what’s your favorite app for distracting kids from a long wait?

Elisabeth McGuirk is a full-time mommy and part-time Disney enthusiast living near Johnson City, N.C. She works on, helping fellow Disney fans find all of the Disney stuff they didn’t know they needed. Find your Mickey Fix on twitter @mickeyfix.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

30 Days to 30 Years

Good morning! We are only a couple weeks out from Epcot's 30th Anniversary and the lovely ladies from DISTherapy and Pursuing the Magic are hosting a series counting down to the big day.  Today, I am participating with an article about 1997, the great addition to the park that year, and a few personal memories.  Please check out my post and the rest of this fun series.

30 Days to 30 Years

Friday, September 14, 2012

A Walk Around The World With Ridge -- Last minute trip… again…

In the last few months I have moved my trips around two or three times and I’m right back where I started. I have to laugh at myself with the planning process because I know my stuff when it comes to traveling but making a long term trip plan and sticking to it isn’t my thing apparently. But I want to be at Epcot on its birthday since I myself am only a year and a little more than a week older than the park is. I don’t have a ton of ideas about the trip other than to be at Epcot on 10/01/2012 say Happy Birthday, pick up any swag that may be exclusive, maybe make some plans for a giveaway for later (everyone would like that wouldn’t they?) and see as many of my friends as I can. I have some buttons from my last trip, how about a tweet up on 10/01/12? American Adventure meet up at 4:30 then see the 5:00 show?

No matter what happens I am also excited to see what if anything has been opened in Fantasyland. So much is coming and the changes are exciting. I've been one of the many sticking a camera over the wall to try and get a look. In November, and yes I'll be back in November, there is going to be an Annual Passholder preview that has yet to be announced but I have fingers crossed that it will overlap with our family vacation.

Back to Epcot... 30 Years of Epcot begins on 10/01 to celebrate all that is Epcot and also the Food and Wine festival will kick off the same weekend. I love the EIF&WF, as the kids call it, it has been a time when not only I have tried new drinks and dishes but also I have taken some of my favorite pictures. So I'll give you a taste of some of the fun from years past.