Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

On behalf of the entire Growing Up Disney family, I wish you a very Merry Christmas. I hope you enjoy a day of celebration and love with family and friends. 

Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. (Luke 2:11 NIV)

Friday, December 20, 2013

Magical Blogorail: My Ideal Disney Meal

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.

This month's blogorail topic is so much fun. We were asked to put together our ideal Disney meal, selecting its courses from any Disney restaurant we choose. I have no idea how I shall narrow the list but here goes…

Appetizers: Crispy Pork Belly with Black Beans, Onions, Avocado and Cilantro from the Brazil Marketplace at the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival -and- Mozzarella Stuffed Rice Balls - crispy fried risotto, fresh mozzarella, marinara sauce from Portobello at Downtown Disney

Soup: Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup - made with Moosehead Beer and Nueske's Smoked Bacon from Le Cellier

Salad: Mozzarella and Tomato Salad- with mixed greens and balsamic syrup from Olivia's Cafe at Old Key West

Entree: Tamarind Seafood Stew over rice, salmon, and samosas from Tusker House with a side of green beans from Olivia's

Cheese: Kerrygold Cheese Selection: Reserve Cheddar, Dubliner with Irish Stout, Skellig from the Ireland Marketplace at EIF&WF

Dessert: The Chocolate Wave from Coral Reef -and- white chocolate Cinderella slipper from my Disney Fairy Tale Wedding

Oh my, would I be full but happy after this meal! What would be on the menu for your ideal Disney meal?

Thanks to for listing menus and making this post easier. :)

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

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Photo Flashback! Cinderella Castle

Cinderella Castle is just as beautiful from the rear as it is from Main Street USA.
Rear view of Cinderella Castle

Click on the photo below or the caption below it to open the interactive Spherical photo of Fantasyland showing the rear of Cinderella Castle and Prince Charming Regal Carrousel.
 Cinderella Castle Rear Spherical photo
Cinderella Castle and Prince Charming Regal Carrousel

Disney Letter "R" - Regal
Focused on the Magic

Friday, December 13, 2013

Quick Tip: Mark Your Stroller

If you have one of these babies, use it.

At Walt Disney World, you are going to leave your stroller outside at most buildings.  And while it's a pretty safe bet that you'll find your stroller fairly close to where you left it, be sure to put your phone number somewhere on it.  This way, if someone accidentally takes your stroller and then leaves it elsewhere, a Cast Member can reach you.  I have used my label maker to put my last name and phone number on the frame of the strollers I have taken to the World.  This also does double-duty of marking them for gate check (you do have your contact information on things you leave with an airline, right??)  And don't worry about the label machine, a piece of tape and a Sharpie will work just fine.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Five Photos +1: Disney's Old Key West Resort

Today's Five Photo post is of  Old Key West.  Be sure to check out the +1 at the bottom.

On our last visit to Walt Disney World in November 2013 we stayed at Disney's Old Key West Resort.  We are Disney Vacation Club members and Old Key West is our home resort.  I took a few pictures while we were waiting for the rest of the family to arrive.  

OKW was still decorated for fall with this display of pumpkins outside of Olivia's.  Mom found a nice place to wait as I took photos.
Growing Up Disney
Olivia's at OKW with Mom
It was a bright sunny Florida day when we arrived.  The boardwalk outside of Olivia's was beautiful.
Growing Up Disney
The boardwalk outside of Olivia's at OKW
This is a view from the boardwalk across the Marina toward some of the villas at Old Key West.  Inspired by Key West architecture Old Key West is a beautiful resort.  
Growing Up Disney
View of some of the Villas at OKW
The Lighthouse at Old Key West was used as the original symbols for the resort.  It is beautiful by day as well as at night.  It sits by the main pool and houses a sauna in its base.
Growing Up Disney
The Lighthouse at OKW
Old Key West's beauty really comes alive after dark.  Here is a view across the Marina to the Hospitality House.  I love the reflection of the lights in the water at night.
Growing Up Disney
View of Olivia's at night
The SIXTH photo in our Five Photo post today is one of the new SPHERICAL photos.  Click on the photo below or the caption to open the interactive photo.  You can move all around in the photo to see the boardwalk at OKW.  All the Growing Up Disney family is in this photo. But especially Tink and Minnie are striking a pose.  Of course if you look around you see Amy instructing the girls in how to pose.  This is a 360 degree photo after all.  :-)
Spherical Photo of OKW Boardwalk


Friday, December 6, 2013

Minnie Moms: A Quick Meal at Walt Disney World

This month, our Minnie Moms share their favorite spots for a quick meal at Walt Disney World.

Danielle: It was only until recently (maybe five Disney vacations ago), that I discovered my new favourite spot for a quick meal. Although, it's not a popular quick-service location, for me it's the yummiest spot to eat in the Magic Kingdom. Where am I talking about? Tortuga Tavern! Now, the trouble with TT is that it is not open all year round. It seems to only be open during the busier travel seasons. But, if you happen to be visiting and you see it's open, do give it a shot! It's somewhat similar to Pecos Bill's, but TT has a nacho platter! Two of my favourite items on the menu are the nachos and the taco salad! A similarity to Pecos Bill's is the bar with all the fixings! So here is what I do: I usually get the taco salad. Eat that all up, minus the taco bowl. Then, I'll proceed to the fixings bar, add some more shredded lettuce to the taco bowl, then some salsa, and top it off with some cheese! There ya have it folks! Two meals in one! Love it! Don't get me wrong, Pecos Bill's is probably my second favourite place for a quick meal in Magic Kingdom, but I like the addition of the nachos, as well as the atmosphere at TT. It's also usually a quieter place to eat. :)

Corby: Food at Disney World! One of my favorite topics! I have several places I love to enjoy a quick meal at on property and for different reasons. Pinnochio Village Haus is one of my favorites due to the location in Fantasyland (and the flatbread!). Grab a table by the window and wave at the boats going by from It's a Small World.

I also enjoy Flame Tree BBQ at Animal Kingdom. The BBQ is great and if you walk down by the water, there are some great tables to sit, relax and enjoy the view.

Expedition Everest, view from Flame Tree BBQ

Another one of my favorites is Be our Guest for lunch. I particularly enjoy dining in the West Wing! It may be a little too creepy for some children though in my opinion with the dark lighting, theming and sound effects. The food is excellent for a quick service restaurant and you can't beat the atmosphere no matter which room you choose to dine in. Lines are typically very long to enter the restaurant so do be prepared.

lunch at Be Our Guest, West Wing

Lastly, I enjoy getting a table outside at Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe at Magic Kingdom's Tomorrowland which offers a beautiful view of the castle while eating. I don't think it gets much better than that!

Amy: My favorite place for a quick bite at Walt Disney World is Good's Food to Go at Old Key West. Not that I'd suggest you make a trip over to OKW just to eat there…substitute the quick service counter at any Disney resort hotel.

Since I've become at mom, I've really started to appreciate these quick restaurants. We don't tend to stay out late so we are often back at our resort by dinnertime. We can let the kids play in the room or at the pool or playground while one of the adults picks up meals for the group. Old Key West's villas have a full kitchen and dining table so we get individual sandwiches and kids meals. My part of the Growing Up Disney family stayed a couple of nights at Art of Animation at the end of our last group vacation. The table in the Little Mermaid rooms is tiny so we kept it simple there with a pizza from the AoA food court.

Your resort's counter service restaurant can also be a great choice for breakfast when you want a hot meal and don't want to spend prime park touring time at a sit-down meal. Good's Food to Go makes a great bacon/egg/cheese croissant.

The parks have a variety of great spots for a quick meal.  At Magic Kingdom, I love to sit upstairs at Columbia Harbour House (fish & chicken basket) or by the Small World window at Pinocchio's Village Haus (tomato basil soup.)  I've just become a fan of Pecos Bill's (taco salad) in the last few years.  At Epcot, I like Tangerine Cafe in Morrocco and the fish and chips stand in the United Kingdom.  At the Studios, the Commissary is cool, usually not too loud, has a yummy Asian salad and the best thing ever…kids power packs.  The exact composition of the power packs changes from time to time but it is filled with kid-friendly healthy snacks.  My girls love these boxes and I love not having to coerce them to eat.  At Animal Kingdom, Flame Tree BBQ is a great spot for lunch with tasty options and nice outdoor seating.

Kids power pack, ABC Commissary
Minnie enjoying a Power Pack after the Osborne Lights

kids power pack, disney kids meal, art of animation food court
The food court at Art of Animation had Power Packs too!   I bought two on our last night and put them in the fridge.  The girls had the milk and yogurt for breakfast and we took the rest of the goodies for the road.
And if you can sneak away from the kiddos for a bit, the Tambu Lounge near 'Ohana has some really tasty pulled pork nachos.

Please leave us a comment below and let us know your favorite spot for a quick meal at Walt Disney World!

Many thanks to Danielle and Corby for joining me today!  Please visit our Minnie Moms page for more information on these terrific ladies and the rest of the team, as well as links to our past articles.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Photo Flashback! Christmas on Main Street USA

Growing Up Disney
Christmas on Main Street USA

To me there is nothing prettier than Main Street USA at night.  And no nights are prettier on Main Street than when it is decorated for Christmas.  I took this on our last trip the first of November, 2013.

December Calendar Shot

Focused on the Magic

Monday, December 2, 2013

Hello Kitty Doll Review

Hello Kitty will be 40 next year and is back in a big way.  I loved the Hello Kitty store when I was young and I’m thrilled to introduce my girls to this adorable feline.  Large poseable and dressable dolls are available now.
Hello Kitty doll, Hello Kitty dancer

Tink was given a 13” Hello Kitty doll by Blip Toys.  We received the “Dance” doll, which was a perfect choice for my little ballerina.  Tink loves changing Hello Kitty’s outfit that consists of a dress, hat, socks, legwarmers, and shoes.  Her doll also wears a nightgown that is probably meant for an 18” doll but makes Tink happy.  Kitty has been her near-constant companion, joining us for breakfast, tagging along for preschool and dance class, and snuggling for bedtime. 

Hello Kitty doll, Hello Kitty dancer

Hello Kitty doll, Hello Kitty dancer

Hello Kitty doll, Hello Kitty dancer

Hello Kitty doll, Hello Kitty dancer

These dolls are suggested for ages 4 and up.  Tink is 4 and has some trouble with the doll’s shoes but does well with the other clothing.  I’m thrilled with toys that make my older child happy but are still safe for my two-year-old.  I bought Minnie her own plush Hello Kitty dancer.  It’s technically also suggested for ages 4 and above but it doesn’t have any loose parts so I think it’s a good choice for the little sister.
Hello Kitty plush

Another thing I love about this doll is that it doesn’t DO anything.  There are no batteries so it is powered by the girls’ imaginations.  She can be or do anything their little minds can create. 

The other dolls in the large doll series include Pop, Princess, and Best Friends.  Hello Kitty can also have her own special bed and a truly adorable scooter.  We haven’t played with the accessories yet but they look like they’d be great for imaginative play. 

There are also small plush sets available now with mini doll sets joining the line up in the spring. 

We received one doll for free but these are my honest thoughts and experiences.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Guest Post: Before Autograph Books and FastPasses


In October 1971, decades before Fastpasses and autograph books, my dad became one of the very first visitors to Walt Disney’s iconic dream come true, Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. My Father, then only 9 years old, was entranced in the world Walt built and fascinated with the magic that defines Disney. Stepping into Disney World was, and still is today, like stepping into the imagination of a truly brilliant and special man. My parents first took me in 1988 when I was 4 years old, and I met a mouse named Mickey on Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom and I’ve been a believer ever since.

Autographs, Queues and Schedules, Oh My!

While I absolutely love the continuing evolution toward growth and innovation that makes Walt Disney World special, there are a few precious memories I'm sad future generations will never experience. The thing I miss most is characters casually wandering the streets. Nothing will beat walking toward Toon Town and turning to my right and suddenly noticing Little John strolling and ‘giggling’ in step with me, trying to get my attention. While I may be close to 30 years old, I still wouldn’t mind an unexpected photo op or two with that dang mouse who is nearly impossible to find. But alas, characters freely mingling with their pint-sized paparazzi has given way to organized queues, scheduled times for appearances and the very time consuming autograph book.

To Infinity and Beyond

Disney World is one big, constantly evolving project that is forever one-upping itself. While I once thought nothing could beat EPCOT’s Mission Space, something did – Fastpass: the ability to get to Mission Space even faster. Now if I could only tell Lieutenant Dan I’m well aware of how to fly the ship and bypass the cadet training, we’d be in business. Disney is the best in the industry for coming up with new ways to fascinate guests. Anyone remember the Honey I Shrunk the Audience show being all the rage in the 90s? Well despite the introduction of the movie-set playground, that attraction is part of Disney’s history and forever a fond memory of mine. I have a feeling the next generation will remember Soarin' Over California or Mickey's Philharmagic with the same fondness I have for Honey I Shrunk the Audience.

Cinderelli, Cinderelli, Night and Day it’s Cinderelli!

Next to Mickey Mouse himself, the next most recognizable thing in Disney World, is Cinderella’s Castle. Clearly iconic, both the same and continually different, the castle captures everyone's imagination. I distinctly remember going right up to it and walking the hall looking at the mosaic artwork. The castle is less approachable these days compared to the 80s and early 90s. Maybe fame is too much for Cinderella but the front entrance to the castle is blocked off more than it's open. Several shows a day, plus parades make this understandably necessary; but sometimes I miss easy access to the castle and would enjoy taking my time to gaze at the mosaics once again.

Mother’s Knows Best, Take It From Your Mumsy

Now I must throw in at least one, “when I was a kid…” When I was a kid, a t-shirt with Minnie Mouse or Tink seemed more than sufficient as a souvenir. These days, kids require nothing short of an all-out princess or pirate treatment. If Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique had existed in the 80's, I surely would have rocked it but is it just me or do those tight buns and braids on the heads of little girls look more painful than princess-like? But alas most little girls want it and when my three-year-old Goddaughter demanded it, I quickly discovered my Fairy Godmother skills were not as impressive as Cinderella’s. So I booked in the princess-treatment for both of us at the local hotel and off we went glittered and pampered.

There's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow

Walt Disney was always looking toward progress. Progress to him meant innovation in everyday life, giving one the ability to be more productive at work and freeing up time for leisure with the family. Yet as the Dad in the Carousel of Progress attraction points out, "Some things never change."

The Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue Musical is a never changing must-see as well as the Country Bear Jamboree and Small World. That's exactly the way it is with Walt Disney World. Just enough stays the same providing classic happiness and a secure sense of familiarity; while progress is continually made toward new and exciting things to do, see and experience.

Dreams Really Do Come True…

For me, growing up Disney was almost like being in a secret club. When you arrive at your hotel and are greeted with a “Welcome Home” from the gate keeper, there’s something truly magical about that. Walt Disney World is a strong desire in the hearts of so many children and I got to experience it not once, but many times. It will always be a regular part of my life and the magic, while different and always in motion, is still as wondrous today as it was when I experienced it first as a 4 year old.

"Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination in the world." -Walt Disney

Leah Rise is a Florida native and proud Florida State Seminole fan and the truest of Disney Geeks. A passionate traveler, Leah has visited over 20 countries and currently is splitting her time between Florida and Sydney, Australia. Trying to put her Spanish and English degrees to good use, Leah enjoys blogging in her free time and taking her wolfdog, Simba, to the beach when she’s home. You can follow Leah @Leahrise on Twitter or on Google+ to keep up with her latest blogs.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving…A Challenge

If you are fortunate enough to go to Walt Disney World at this time of year (or ever for that matter,) please remember that you are truly blessed to have such an opportunity. There are many families in the communities we leave for the World who have to get by for a week on what you can spend in one good eat and drink session around World Showcase.

So this Autumn, let's all enjoy our vacations and be thankful for the opportunity to go on such a trip. I challenge you to share your blessings with others. Why not send a check to your local food bank or homeless shelter?  You could help your church provide food for children who don't have much to eat other than the free school meals. A donation of your time (or money) at Give Kids the World helps children and their parents enjoy a brief and magical break from severe medical problems.

Many thanks!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Photo Flashback! I Am Thankful

As we stop tomorrow to gather with family to remember all the things for which we are thankful, I want to share a few photos from our recent Walt Disney World vacation.  I am certainly thankful for these people and for the blessed lives that allow us to get together at our favorite place.

Growing Up Disney, Ohana breakfast
The Growing Up Disney family awaiting breakfast with Lilo and Stitch

growing up disney, grandparents and children at Disney's Old Key West
Granny and Granddaddy with Minnie and Tink at Old Key West

Growing Up Disney, Osborne Lights
Me and baby brother, Ridge, enjoying some dancing lights

Growing Up Disney, Osborne Lights
Happy Thanksgiving from my family to yours! ~Amy

Monday, November 25, 2013

Five Photos: Mickey Meets Part 2

Growing Up Disney Five Photos

Last month, I posted a series of photos showing Growing Up Disney family members with our favorite mouse and highlighted his fabulous wardrobe. This month, I'd like to share images from our recent Walt Disney World vacation. Mickey was a big part of it, as you can see. 

Mickey Mouse in yellow bow tie, Mickey getting a kiss
Tink giving Mickey a smooch at the Disney Visa cardholders meet and greet. 

Talking Mickey with two little girls
Magician Mickey (I thought I shot video of this experience but didn't get it. Oh well, talking Mickey is interesting.)

Mickey Mouse at 'Ohana Breakfast
DisneyDad and Mickey were photobombed by an enthusiastic fan. 

Mickey ice cream bar
I wouldn't hug this version of Mickey, but it certainly makes me happy.

Safari Mickey Mouse in processional at Tusker House
Minnie helped Mickey lead the procession at Tusker House.