Family Fun at DisneyWorld

You guys. I just found this post I had drafted from 2015. I can’t believe this post has been hiding out and never got published. It put such a smile on my face to go through the stories I wrote and the photos I captured during the holidays at Disneyworld. This was before Nolan was born, Colton had just turned two (while we were there) and Kelsey was only four.

If you don’t mind … let’s take a trip down memory lane and go through some of my favorite family photos from our trip. However, a warning is in order: I really didn’t condense down the number of photos I wanted to post. Photo overload! Sorry in advance.

DSC00058 small

disneyworld holidays

disneyworld holidays

disneyworld holidays

disneyworld holidays

disneyworld holidays

disneyworld holidays

DSC00054 small

In December, along with my family, we spent one week at the Disneyworld Parks. We went to Epcot, Disneyworld, MGM Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom. We experienced the character breakfast the first morning at the Disneyworld Grand Floridian Hotel (totally reminded me of the Hotel Del). And the best part? The parks were decorated for the holidays! My faaaaaaaaaaaavorite time of year.

There was Starbucks in the park. Autographs by the characters. Larger than life Christmas trees. Nighttime parades. Fireworks. A few tantrums (from the kids and from me). Great Disney desserts. A few lost park passes (mom!) and so many smiles from ear to ear from our two little kids. Colton turned 2 during our trip, so it’s a bit of a blast from the past to see him looking so little in these pictures.

epcot family vacation

epcot family vacation

epcot family vacation

epcot family vacation

We went to Epcot for dinner on the first night. No one told me that you had to get reservations 6 months in advance. I booked our reservations 3 months out and thought I was getting a head start. Luckily, we got great reservations at the San Angel Inn Restaurante and it was a great first night out.

It reminded me a lot of the Blue Bayuo restaurant in Disneyland. It was a themed Mexican restaurant with a huge Mayan temple inside. It was just loud enough to where the kids were able to enjoy themselves (and me!) and the drinks and food were great. There is a ride inside and a gift shop (good luck getting past that without buying something) and it truly felt like an authentic Mexican experience.

Epcot family vacation
Epcot family vacation
epcot family vacation
Epcot family vacation
DSC00129 small

We were back at Epcot the next morning. We had just gotten Starbucks when Colton saw this huge fountain. He immediately ran to it and watched the water “jump around.” Then, he decided to squat down and refused to move. Literally. He wouldn’t budge. I think he was like this for a good 5 minutes before we bribed him with, “Nanni’s over there! Let’s go find her!”

Nanni was quickly replaced though when we spotted our first characters at Epcot: Chip & Dale. Get your autograph books out! This was a real treat and one of Kelsey’s first times really getting the concept of getting their autograph. It was so precious to watch them anxiously wait in line for this moment.

Epcot Family Vacation
Epcot Family Vacation
Epcot family vacation

He actually did good in the long lines. Some moments were better than others, but what can you expect from an almost-two-year-old. He was a perfect gentleman, most of the time. Kelsey was on point, as always. I was just happy I wore my running shoes. Do you know how much walking you do at Disneyworld? We must have taken a gazillion steps each day.

finding nemo coral reef restaurant disneyworld

epcot family vacation
epcot family vacation
Those curls! And that smile. I remember his face looking like this like it was yesterday. The humidity only made those curls more magical.
epcot family vacation

epcot family vacation

We met up with Nanni and the crew for lunch at the Coral Reef Restaurant. I highly recommend reservations there if you have kids. It’s inside this huge aquarium and every seat as a great view of the sharks and fish swimming by. Colton loved it! After you exit, you can go on the Finding Nemo ride and see all the fish once more. Cute little place.

disneyworld first visit pin

Disneyworld Holidays
We went back to the main Disneyworld park that evening. It was like planes, trains and automobiles to get to into the park. You drive from your hotel to the park. Park your car. Grab the strollers. Stroll to the shuttle. Take the shuttle to your choice of the ferry or the monorail. Then stand in line to get into the gates.

Looking back though, I think getting to the park was one of the best parts for the kids. The ferry was so relaxing and cool to cruise over water as the park gets closer and closer. And the monorail was “so fast!” that Kelsey kept staring out the window in awe. Disney does that too you, doesn’t it? As parents you spend more time looking into your child’s eyes than you do experiencing the park yourself.

DSC00246 small

Disneyworld Holidays with Kids

disneyworld during the holidays

Once you enter the Magic Kingdom and see all of the Christmas lights take over, it’s pretty remarkable. You smell the sweet scent of popcorn and hot chocolate, along with hearing Christmas carols and kids laughing for miles.

We window shopped as we walked down Maine Street, peeking inside and seeing little Disney music boxes sing and ornaments glow on little Christmas trees. Then, we made our way to the castle – the most magical thing in the place.

disneyworld during the holidays
disneyworld during the holidays

disneyworld holidays with kids
disneyworld holidays kids

disneyworld holidays kids

Disneyworld with Kids

disneyworld with kids during the holidays

We were back at it again the next morning! At this point, I thought for sure I would have lost 10lbs with all of the walking that we did, but then I remembered … the Mickey Mouse popsicles, chocolate covered bananas, churros and all of that other amazingly horrible food for you that you just have to indulge in while at Disneyworld. It’s like a right of passage.

disneyworld main street usa

disneyworld
disneyworld | many hats of a mom blog
disneyworld | many hats of a mom blog

disneyworld | many hats of a mom blog

Before a storm rolled in that left us SOAKED she was able to convince Grandpa to ride the merry-go-round with her. Carousels, tea cups, and this mom do not mix. So, I was happy to sit this one out. Thanks, Grandpa.

disneyworld | many hats of a mom blog

disneyworld | many hats of a mom blog
disneyworld mom blogger
disneyworld | many hats of a mom blog
Disneyworld has some of the best people watching. Am I right? Like this guy with the selfie stick. I can’t tell you how many selfie sticks we saw at the park. A sign of the times, don’t you think?

disney family vacation mom blogger

By the time we got to MGM Studios for their nighttime holiday shows, I was so incredibly tired. Tired of walking. Strolling. Bribing the kids to behave. All of it. I may have thrown a little adult tantrum right when we walked in. After a few minutes, my husband was able to snap me out of my terrible mood so we could enjoy the night. He’s kind of perfect like that. We saw some remarkable Christmas light displays and then wandered into a Fantasmic! Firework show.

mgm disney vacation mom blogger

disney holidays

mgm disney holidays

Then it was off to Disney’s Animal Kindgom to celebrate Colton’s second birthday! It did not feel like December, it felt like summer, and the crowds were a bit out of control, but when you look back – you never really remember all of that. You just remember these moments that make you smile from ear to ear.

disney animal kingdom mom bloggers
disney animal kingdom mom bloggers
Animal Kingdom
Animal Kingdom 2
disney animal kingdom mom bloggers
Animal Kingdom
Animal Kingdom
Animal Kingdom
animal kingdom
Animal Kingdom 3
Animal Kingdom
DSC00655 small

The next night, Ryan and I snuck off for an aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaamazing dinner at Victoria & Albert’s. It’s this fancy pants restaurant located at one of the Disneyworld resorts. My brother and his wife gave us a $400 gift card to dine here + they babysit the kids for us. I mean, how could we not be smiling from ear to ear after this evening?

victoria and alberts orlando

victoria and alberts orlando restaurant

Then it was back to parenthood and another few days in Orlando. What an amazing vacation this was! Memories to last a lifetime, that is for sure. Tantrums and all.

disney 2
DSC01025 small
disney

Update: We are looking to take a Disneyland trip in the Fall with all three kids (are we crazy?) and I look forward to any and all of your recommendations.

See more of my posts from past Disney family trips here, here and here,

13 Disneyland Park Tips for Little Girls

In September, we took our 3 1/2 year-old girl to the most magical place on earth, Disneyland! My friends have been asking for some tips from our experience, so I’ll lay them out here. Have an amazing time!

1. Bring a stroller
Preferably an umbrella stroller that reclines for naps. Sure, they have them to rent but who wants to wait in a stroller line when you’re eager to get in and out of the park. Plus, if you leave for naps you’ll have to return in and then check one out again. Just another line you’ll avoid.

2. Bring a backpack
You can take them on the rides. We just stuffed ours under our seat. And our backpack was huge, filled with: Snacks, water bottles, camera, video camera, sunglasses, sunscreen, hats and a change of clothes for Kelsey (just in case).

3. Tie a balloon to your stroller
This way you can easily identify your stroller amongst the hundreds parked outside rides. No one steals your stroller. It’s like an unwritten stroller/ parent rule there.

4. See Tinkerbell
She’s in Pixie Hollow just to the east of the castle. We walked right by this place last time we were here (it’s kind of hidden). It’s worth the wait because your child gets great one on one time with the pixie. She told Kelsey jokes, let her look around her tree house and posed for pictures.

5. Get a Three-Day Pass
Because then you’re not rushed to see everything in a short time frame. And, with a three-day pass, you’ll get one Magic Hour day. This means, you get to enter the park one hour early before it opens to everyone else. During this time you can hit up all the kid rides that usually take forever to ride. See: Peter Pan, Cars Land.

6. Ariel’s Grotto is Fantastic!
We went for lunch. It was a bit pricey (I think about $100 for 2 adults, 1 kid) but oh-so worth it! Kelsey still talks about meeting Ariel and all of the Princesses (they greet every table). She met Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Bell. They do this for breakfast or lunch only (not dinner) so book one of those times. Reservations go fast (I booked mine 2 weeks in advance and didn’t get the time I wanted). So, book early. You can email dine@disneyland.com.

7. Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue
If you love country music and good ‘ole family style barbecue, then you’ll love this place. We sat at picnic tables and food was brought to us right when we sat down. No ordering here, it’s all the same. I think. At least our neighbors to our right were eating the same food too. Country singers invited kids up on stage and put on a great show. Plus, they had red tongs on the table that kept Kelsey very entertained. Who knew.

8. Best Ice Cream at the Park is …
At Cozy Cone Motel in California Adventure Park. It’s really just ice cream cones and such, but go here when the sun goes down and enjoy ice cream in this snack area. The orange cones light up at night and make for a really pretty (and cozy) little spot.

9. Starbucks is now on Main Street
This is an obvious adult-pit stop right when you arrive in the park. Get your caffeine fix, but make it a Grande. We got Ventis and then quickly realized that you can’t take them with you on any rides. Doh.

10. Buy stuffed animals before you go
This sounds a little cheap, but trust me, it’s a good tip: Go to Costco, Target or even the Disney store and purchase a stuffed animal before you go. Little girls everywhere were carrying around little stuffed animals. It keeps them busy in line and is great for them to have and hold throughout the entire day. Plus, you’ll avoid the large markup if you were to purchase this toy inside the Park.

11. Bring a costume
We brought two. One of the days, we let her dress up like her favorite Princess. With running shoes on, she sported a Disney costume and loved the attention she got, “Here comes a real Princess” strangers would say. It was so cute. And meeting Snow White, while dressed as Snow White … well, you can only imagine her excitement there. Tip: Wear clothes under the costume because if you know three-year-olds then you know they are ‘over it’ as quickly as they were into it.

12. Check the event calendar
I checked the hours and the event calendar one week prior to our trip. This way you know when the park opens (it varies by season) and what parades or special events are happening. Kelsey sat through an entire parade! I was impressed (and oh-so grateful because our feet were killing us). Here’s a link to the Event Schedule.

13. Take it all in!
Stop to take it all in. At some point, you’ve made your dinner reservations, planned the must-see spots for the day, brought all of your gear … now, let loose. Enjoy the rides, watch your child’s eyes light up when they watch “World of Color” and really soak it all in. Seeing Disneyland from a child’s eyes is truly the most magical thing to see.

View more pictures and details from our Disneyland trip here.

Feel free to add your travel tips to this post too. We’re taking both kids to Disneyworld next year and I sure could use the tips for taking kids there.

The Travel Hat: Disneyland Photos

I love fall. I love Disneyland. It was like the stars aligned for this trip. Two weeks ago we went to Disneyland with Kelsey. I was there for a work trip so we decided to make the most of it.

Ryan flew out with Kelsey and away we went. We bought a three-day pass and used every minute of it. And even more exciting is seeing the Park from your child’s eyes.

We went on the Ariel ride (about 5 times) and just before our first ride, Kelsey would turn to us and say, “When we see Ursula, we have to cover our mouth so she won’t take our voice!” See what I mean. Just too cute for words.

disneyland at halloween time

disneyland with kidsdisneyland with kidsdisneyland with kids

big thunder ranch barbecue

We went to Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue for dinner on our first night. It’s family style barbecue food (and oh-so good!). They had great country singers, we sat outdoors and there were pumpkins all around. Kelsey’s favorite part were the tongs on the table. Go figure.

disneyland with kids OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA disneyland with kids disneyland with kids

disneyland with kidsdisneyland with kidsClick on this picture to enlarge it. There’s something so nostalgic about it. Maybe it’s the guy in stripes. Maybe it’s the bouquet of balloons. Or, maybe it’s the castle in the background. Whatever it was, I really liked this moment and had to snap a photo.

disneyland with kids

disneyland with kidsKelsey’s two heroes: Dad and Peter Pan. I’m pretty sure my daughter was the only girl in the Park carrying around Peter Pan. Two years ago, all she wanted was Mickey. This year, it is all about Peter Pan and the Princesses.

disneyland with kids disneyland with kidsdisneyland with kidsThere is something about heights and going round and round in a circle that doesn’t do it for me. But, Kelsey’s G-ma told her that she had to ride Dumbo and the Tea Cups so away we went.

For the record, I stayed on the ground and Ryan took one for the team on Dumbo. It’s a classic. You can’t come to Disneyland without riding the elephant.

disneyland with kids

After day one, we had been on Dumbo, Tea Cups, Alice & Wonderland, met some characters, visited Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue and the nearby Halloween Fall Carnival.  And to think our day started at 2pm.

We went to Cars Land too. We had no idea who the Cars were, but the rides were so much fun. We at ice cream at “Cozy Cone Motel”. It’s this super cute outdoor eating area where the buildings are orange traffic cones. The cones light up at night and it makes for a great spot to end the day with dessert.

disneyland with kids disneyland with kidsdisneyland with kids

disneyland shirt

There came a point during our trip, when Kelsey wore a Snow White costume and I was purchased a Dumbo tee-shirt. When in Rome, right?

disneyland with kids

disneyland with kidsdisneyland with kids

disneyland with kids

disneyland with kids

Meeting Tinkerbell was one of the highlights. But, not to be outdone by the new Starbucks that opened on Main Street the very day that we were there. They even have their own Disney cups. Let’s just say we were a bit excited.

disneyland with kids disneyland with kids disneyland with kids disneyland with kidsThe castle! Where do I even start? Kelsey loved seeing a real Princess castle up close and personal. She even threw a Princess-sized tantrum right outside of the gates. What’s that saying? Ah yes, If the shoe fits.

disneyland with kids

disneyland with kids

cars land at disneylanddisneyland with kidsdisneyland with kids We convinced Lauren to visit us on Friday. And then a few hours later she and her brother convinced me to try the world’s best sandwich, the Monte Cristo sandwich at the Blue Bayou Restaurant. Wowza. This thing was loaded  deep-fried goodness and I think I’m still working off the calories of that lunch. You can read about the Monte Cristo here.

goofydisneyland with kids   disneyland with kids

disnyand with kids disnyand with kids OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen, we waited in line for Goofy, Minnie, Mickey … the works. The button that she is wearing is from lunch at Ariel’s Grotto. If you’re going to Disneyland, I recommend the Grotto for lunch.

I’ll be honest, we spent way too much on lunch ($115 for three) but it was worth it to see her face light up as each Princess visited our table. And she met Ariel, her favorite.

All in all, Disneyland was worth every penny, every tantrum, every early morning. We just loved experiencing the “Happiest Place on Earth” through a child’s eyes. We’ll be back … next time, we’ll take baby Colton with us.

The Family Hat: Yes, Your Heiness

Snow White came to visit this morning. She’s a lot more sassy than Belle is. In fact, she demands that I am Prince Charming, my husband is Dopey. And Colton? Well, that’s the best part. She insists that we call him The Queen. Poor guy. I wonder if he’ll pay her back when he’s older and demand that she plays trucks, trains and automobiles with him.

snow white dress up snow white dress upsnow white dress up snow white dress up

The Working Hat: The Things We Do

The things we do for our kids. I’m at a Marketing Conference when I see Disney characters in the hallway. Without hesitation I bolt to meet Minnie Mouse. For Kelsey, clearly. And then I spy Captain Hook and do the same. I immediately send these photos to Ryan to show Kelsey tonight. I can’t wait to hear how she reacts!! And yes, I’m aware of how silly I look.

disney

The Mommy Hat: She’s the Belle of them All

Yep. It’s official. Dressing up like Belle while playing outside is just as fun as it sounds. While Daddy got ready to plant some flowers, we marched around in our Disney Princess clothes. And when I say ‘we’ I really mean Kelsey and her dolls. I took a back seat. That’s not to say that if I found a Disney outfit in my size, I wouldn’t try it on.

dress up

dress up

dress updres up dressup 

The Family Hat: Disneyland Secret Spot

While in Disneyland, Ryan and I stumbled upon an amazing spot for toddlers. It’s a spot near Frontierland (Santa’s playground during the holidays). There are reindeer there, Pluto is there, but most importantly, there is a quiet resting spot for the kids.

There are picnic tables a plenty with coloring books and crayons. Why so excited you ask? Because it was a quiet little spot to escape the chaos, the crowd and the noise for just a few moments and rest. And besides, being our first day at Disneyland, these first-time parent feet welcomed a little R&R.

You can read more here.

I love the photo above because she could careless that Pluto is just steps away. In fact, Pluto came up to her many times throughout the trip and every time she would look and him, look at me and then scrunch up her nose and say, “I don’t like it.” I would look at her and say, “Honey, you don’t like Pluto?” to which she would reply, “no” followed by, “mommy, find Mickey.”

The Family Hat: Disney at Dark

Last night, my family and I visited Disneyland’s California Adventure. We heard the show, Water of Color, was amazing so we decided to check it out. After a quick detour on the Little Mermaid ride, we located our standing-only seats and settled in to view the show.

The minute the show started – I mean, the second the show started – Kelsey dove head first into my chest. She was scared from the noise and the bright lights. And thus … buried into my chest is where Kelsey stayed the entire time.

It didn’t bother me though. I took a seat on the cold pavement and with Kelsey in my lap we started singing and talking while everyone around us stood and watched the show. And you know what? I’m pretty sure I got the best seat in the house.

Here are a few photos from our night out at Disneyland.

Do you think she is upset because Shaun stole her signature color?

This photo makes me laugh. I was standing on my tippy toes to get it. Then, I slipped the minute I hit the flash. Hence, the streaks.