Tag Archives: Walt Disney World

Disney Waffles – we can relive the magic at home!

The kids were enamored of the Mickey Mouse waffles we had for breakfast at Walt Disney World.

Magical Breakfast, only $9 at All Star Movies resort at Walt Disney World

On a whim, I just searched Amazon for Disney waffle makers, and look what I found! Why didn’t I think of this before?

Feeling a bit slow now, but I think I’ll order one of these for our Ukrainian Christmas family present. Which one, though?

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The Princess version, in pink. Somehow, I don't think this will be as universally appealing in a few years as it is now.

Winnie the Pooh & Tigger – How cute is that?

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Or the classic Micky Mouse. I think this is our winner!


Filed under Family, Food, Travel

Disney’s Art of Animation Resort opening Summer 2012 at WDW

It’s all about the swimming pool for this family. When booking any hotel or resort or vacation of any kind, I have to look first at the pool situation. My kids are water babies, and we all four love some play time in the water.

When we visited Walt Disney World in March of 2011, I knew the Parks would take precedence over the pools, but it was still important to have good pools for our downtime. Considering the possibility that this trip may very well be our only chance to visit Disney World, we chose to spend a few days at all three levels of resort at Disney World: Value, Moderate and Delux.

Obviously, I prefer the Delux! We were fortunate enough to get to stay at The Grand Floridian during the Disney Social Media Moms celebration, and it was amazingly wonderful. Just stunning, and lovely. Truly luxurious.

We arrived for the conference a few days early so we could get our sea legs, so to speak, and chose the Port Orleans Riverside for this leg of our trip. We chose a Moderate level resort for these few days for a couple reasons: we didn’t have park passes yet, and we wanted a fun pool experience. Plus it was a short boat ride to Downtown Disney, for which you also don’t need park passes. This resort was great for us: nice pools and amenities. In fact, the pool at Port Orleans French Quarter was our favorite pool at any of the resorts we stayed at. We did in fact spend a lot of time in the awesome pools there, so I know we made the right decision.

I highly recommend the Riverside. The food court was great, the pools were awesome, the rooms were nice, there was a nice running trail that I used each morning, and I liked being able to stroll or boat down to French Quarter to use that pool and grab some beignets. I’d totally stay there again, especially now that they are adding “Royal Guest Rooms” as part of the new Disney Story Rooms experience available at some resorts.

After the conference, we moved to All Star Movies, a Value level resort. The kids really like the giant statues from Toy Story, and the room was perfectly adequate (and a great price), but it was hard not to be disappointed in the amenities after spending a few days at The Grand Floridian. Particularly, the pool left a lot to be desired. It really just felt like a giant bland pool – no slides, no extra features. It’s too bad, because the Value price level certainly is appealing – but I know we couldn’t stay there again.

So I was delighted to see that Disney is adding a new level to their Value resorts! The new Art of Animation resort seems like a good solution to some of the issues we had with ASM.

Courtesy of Disney1. Three pools, with the Finding Nemo pool being the largest pool outside of a Disney Water Park. Awesome.

2. Family suites, for families with more than 2 kids, or if you’re traveling with grandparents or other family members.

Courtesy of Disney

3. More diverse dining areas. Though we had a fantastic breakfast at ASM, the food offerings really felt limited in comparison with the other resorts. Art of Animation will have more healthy options as well as specialty restaurants, such as a Mongolian Grill. My brothers would be thrilled. Maybe it’s time for a whole family vacay?

There will be four different themes at this resort, Finding Nemo opens first, on May 31, 2012. Cars, Lion King and The Little Mermaid will all follow throughout the year. The first three theme areas will be all family suites, and the Little Mermaid will have conventional hotel rooms (opening by the end of 2012).

This resort looks great, and I love that guests can feel like they’re part of the movies. Brian and I had so much fun at Toon Town in Disneyland when we got engaged, and we were looking forward to introducing the kids to that at Disney World. It no longer exists, but I think this Art of Animation experience will make up for that.

Happy Travels!

I attended the 2011 Disney Social Media Moms Celebration at Walt Disney World. Although we paid for our own trip to Disney World, the conference fee included 3 nights at the Grand Floridian, the conference and meals for me, several amazing meals for our entire family, park hopper passes for each of us, and some other fun perks. Disney did not ask me to write about this, and all opinions are my own.


Filed under Family, Travel

Wild Africa Trek!

Do you like adventure, but not too much?

I vividly remember flying through the tree canopy in Costa Rica, the wind in my face as my body was suspended from a harness with carabiners attached to airline cable, careening 200′ to the next platform. As I neared the station, I noticed that the cable that was holding this whole operation together was secured with duct tape. I’m sure there was some other reinforcement as well, but seriously. Duct tape?

While we waited on the platform 100′ in the air for our turn on the next zip-line, Brian and I speculated about the safety standards of the Costa Rican adventure tourism industry. We leaned less on the railings, and stayed closer to the tree trunks from that point on. I guess a little real danger adds to the fun eh? That experience remains one of my all-time favorites of my life – danger and all.

Imagine my excitement when I was offered a chance to experience Wild Africa Trek while I was at the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration! After zip-lining in the Monteverde cloud forest and rafting multiple class fives on the Pacaure in Costa Rica, I jumped up and down at the chance to have an adventure at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Trust Disney to remove any chance of actual danger, but they did a great job of immersing us in the experience so it felt adventurous!

My excitement grew as I read the requirements:
We have to wear a harness? Awesome.

We can only carry things that are attached to us? It must be dangerous.

Sign a release of liability waiver? So cool, I’m there.

We set off early in the morning, and could barely contain our excitement as we walked through the temporarily deserted Harambe village in the Africa section of Animal Kingdom. I’m so glad I had that chance to see the village before it was completely full of people later in the day! It really felt like we were in a different country.

Our Wild Africa Trek group, from the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration

We harnessed-up, went through several safety checks, one last bathroom run (no bathrooms would be available for the first 2/3 of the trek!), and we were off.

Leaving the trail... (Official expedition photo from the PhotoPass CD)

Our tour guides did a great job of getting us in the story of the trek. Building in back-story to the interpretive graphics throughout the public side of the exhibits, they explained that we were exploring a wildlife sanctuary attached to a conservation school. Coming from a zoo as I do, I asked if they had some specific African animals that I knew lived in that part of Africa. I wasn’t trying to get them to break character, I was genuinely curious. I said, “Do you have any African Painted Dogs?” and our guide answered, “I haven’t seen any of them at the sanctuary, although I’ve heard there are some near here.” Well played, madam. I changed the nature of my questions from that point on, because I of course like a good story! “How many elephants tend to be at the sanctuary at any given time?” instead of, “How many elephants do you have?” See, I can play along!

Want to know the really cool part about the Trek, and what makes it affordable? You get a PhotoPass CD! I’m not sure of the actual cost of the Trek, as I believe it’s dependent on the number of people in your party and what time of year you go. The website says to call for rates. At the time we went, it was about $200. But the PhotoPass CD is $150 ($100 if you buy it in advance), so really the cost of the Trek is $50-100. Totally worth it, in my opinion. I was skeptical about the need for a PhotoPass CD before we went, but after experiencing it, I’d never go without it!

Here’s some of the Wild Africa Trek adventure…

Stop for a photo opp!

I took the opportunity to grill interview as many of the moms as I could. In between harnessing up, wildlife viewing, and learning from the “Wardens,” I asked some of the most successful bloggers around how they got started, and what they love about this crazy social media world. Here are Molly @MyGOMOM, Valerie @ADisneyFamly & Amy @ResourcefulMommy, on the precipice overlooking the hippos.

The hippos... strangely, this is a father-son pair. Strange because males don't typically live together. Says the zoo geek.

The first 1/3 or so of the Trek was spent walking through the “wildlands” in between animal exhibits. Along the way, we encountered animal biofacts (skulls, traces of scratching on trees, scat, etc) in between seeing the animals.

Two big suspension rope bridges took us over a bog full of giant crocodiles.

The view was so beautiful, I wanted to stop and admire for longer, but didn't want to hold everyone up.

For the middle section of the Trek, we boarded a safari jeep-like-vehicle and toured the Savannah.

We were handed binoculars, and the vehicle stopped often so we could take in the wildlife and get some great photos.

Just like a real safari?

Disney has done a BRILLIANT job of obscuring any containment barriers or animal care facilities. It really appeared to be one large open space, with all the animals having ready access to each other. It was inspiring from an exhibit-design standpoint. Sorry, zoo geek keeps coming out.

At this point, we were on the same road as the regular visitors. Riding the Kilimanjaro Safari is available to anyone visiting Animal Kingdom – it just tends to fill up, so you need a FastPass if it’s a busy day.

Finally, we arrived at a beautiful pavilion where we were served an exquisitely crafted and exotic snack. Everything was delicious, and the presentation made it all the more special. The meal you are served depends on the time of your tour, it could be breakfast or lunch or a hearty snack.

The private pretty pavilion where we dined

During the last leg of the trip, our guides told us about critical conservation issues facing some of the endangered animals at the Sanctuary. We were all given mancala stones, and asked to vote with our stones on which animal would get a portion of the proceeds from our tour. I chose white rhinos because I know how critically endangered they are. I really appreciate that Disney included the conservation messages in the tour, and the moms were all talking about it long after the tour.

I loved spending time at Animal Kingdom, and I highly recommend the Wild Africa Trek. It’s a fun and inspirational adventure that I won’t forget. I look forward to going back when the kids are older (you have to be at least 8 years old). It’s certainly more affordable than an actual trip to Africa… which I’d also like to do, by the way!

Yours in adventure,



PS: all of the photos in this post are from the PhotoPass CD that I received as part of the Wild Africa Trek package, except the first group shot, which was sent to me by my now-friend Cathi from Planes, Trains & Taxicabs.

Disclosure: I attended the 2011 Disney Social Media Moms Celebration at Walt Disney World. Although we paid for our own trip to Disney World, the conference fee included 3 nights at the Grand Floridian, the conference and meals for me, several amazing meals for our entire family, park hopper passes for each of us, and this Wild Africa Trek. Disney did not ask me to write about this event, and all opinions are my own.


Filed under Nature, Travel

Travel with my Family

Wow, I have so much to process and write about from the fantastic trip we took to Disney World. I was fortunate enough to be included in Disney’s Social Media Moms Celebration March 17-20, and I’m still pinching myself. It was overwhelming and unreal, to be honest. I learned so much, experienced so much, and met some pretty incredible people ~ all of which I’ll be writing about soon!

But the biggest headline from the trip is that my family travels well together.

On the river boat from Port Orleans to Downtown Disney

Fairly early into my relationship with Brian, we realized that we could travel well together, and we were so relieved! It’s not that it would have been a deal breaker – or maybe it would have – but since we both love travel, it’s nice that we are such a good team.
As we were tucking the kids into bed upon returning from this big trip, Brian told the kids how proud we are of them for also being such good travel team members. I got all mushy when he said that. I’m sure it’s just because I was so tired…  But how sweet, right?

And really, the kids were awesome. We’ve been on many trips together, but nothing this complex or scheduled. We were trying to squeeze as much as possible into this trip! They were such troopers, and I just couldn’t be prouder of my little team.

At the airport for our red eye flight, way past their bedtime in jammies & backpacks

I saw so many families at the parks sniping and yelling at each other, and just generally being unkind. It was so sad, and made me that much more grateful that we all discussed it and agreed to be nice to each other. It made the whole trip better. Don’t get me wrong, there was tension at times. But we were committed to not taking any frustrations out on each other.

I actually came back from this trip more in love with my husband, and more in love with my kids. That’s pretty good for a 10-day extravaganza.

I’m so grateful. And so proud. And already planning our next trip!



I attended the 2011 Disney Social Media Moms Celebration at Walt Disney World. Although we paid for our own trip to Disney World, the conference fee included 3 nights at the Grand Floridian, the conference and meals for me, several amazing meals for our entire family, park hopper passes for each of us, and some pretty incredible swag items to take home. Disney did not ask me to write about this event, and all opinions are my own.

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Filed under Family, Travel