Days and Nights of Family Fun at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure

baby dealsGrowing up, I was lucky to have parents who took us on several family vacations to Disney World in Florida. I’ve always loved everything Disney, and those vacations satisfied my need for all the wonder and magic that I loved. Disneyland in California rarely crossed my mind, and I was often only thinking and mentally planning for the “next time” we’d head to Florida.

I had the opportunity to travel with a group of bloggers to California for the Brave movie premier, and I was excited to learn that a visit to Disneyland was also part of the press trip. I was super-excited to get there for the grand opening of Cars Land, but I didn’t know what to expect of the rest of the park.

I was beyond surprised to learn that Disneyland and Disney California Adventure are big, beautiful and overflowing with things to do, people to meet, food to eat and sights to see! While I had to cut my trip short to get back for my mother-in-law’s memorial, it was a bittersweet realization to know that there were plenty of things I didn’t have a chance to do. It only made me think, “I’ll need to come back with my family so we can see it all together!”

I remember hearing a few times over the years that Disney World was much bigger than Disneyland, and I can’t deny the truth of that. At the same time, there’s nothing small about Disneyland.

Given the extensive and exciting growth the entire Disneyland resort has seen over the past five years, Disneyland is definitely a vacation destination. A single day or a side trip to the parks won’t be enough time to see and do everything, especially if you have little ones in tow!

baby dealsIn my visions of taking my husband and two toddlers to Disneyland, I’ve come to realize that it’s going to require a little strategy to ensure we work everything into the trip with as little running as possible!

The traditional rides of Disneyland and California Adventure are guaranteed to take up a big chunk of time, but it’s important to me to experience the magic with my little ones while they’re still, well, little! These classic activities are key to my visit:

  • Seeing Sleeping Beauty’s Castle
  • Boarding the Disneyland Railroad
  • Riding the merry-go-round on the King Arthur Carousel
  • Taking off on Peter Pan’s Flight
  • Watching my toddlers on Dumbo the Flying Elephant
  • Twirling at the Mad Tea Party
  • Floating on the Mark Twain Riverboat
  • Walking Main Street USA
  • Cruising on the Jungle Cruise
  • Getting spooked in the Haunted Mansion
  • Singing with the birds at the Enchanted Tiki Room

I’m also well-aware that almost any child will be ready and geared up to experience the more modern and adventurous attractions. I’m pretty sure that I’ll be game for all of these , too!

  • Playing the 3D video game ride Toy Story Mania!
  • Drifting through The Little Mermaid – Ariel’s Undersea Adventure
  • Conversing at Turtle Talk with Crush
  • Riding along at Monsters Inc: Mike and Sully to the Rescue
  • Space traveling at Star Tours: The Adventure Continues
  • Racing with Lightning McQueen at Radiator Springs Racers
  • Spinning on Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree

And let’s not forget the shows, parades and visits that provide enchanting entertainment from the first step inside the parks to the long-after-bedtime moments that make nighttime at the parks so special:

  • Phineas and Ferb Rockin’ Rollin’ Dance Party
  • Character shows at Disney Junior – Live on Stage
  • Mickey’s Soundsational Parade
  • Pixie Hollow meet and greets with Tinker Bell and her fairy friends
  • Nighttime neon lights of Radiator Springs
  • The World of Color nighttime water spectacular
  • The Red Trolley’s on Buena Vista Street

baby dealsA trip wouldn’t be complete without taking time to explore the shops and restaurants of Downtown Disney.

Plus, a stay at the Disneyland Hotel deserves time for exploration and enjoying everything the hotel has to offer! The hidden Mickey’s just in your hotel room will consume more time than you imagine!

Disneyland surprised me with all it has to offer, and I know that my family couldn’t do it all in a day. I’m hoping to make my dream of bringing my little ones to the Disneyland resort come true. When we do, I’ll be sure to share all the details here!

Thanks to Toni of A Daily Dose of Toni for some of the photos featured above.

Disney covered costs of this blog travel press trip to Disneyland. Opinions remain my own. 

Hidden Toy Story & Monster’s Inc. Images in Disney/Pixar’s Brave!

baby dealsThis is fun!

Super fans of Disney/Pixar movies have discovered the excitement of scouring the screen in search of the Hidden Gems the filmmakers sneak into each feature film:

WALL-E’s explorations and adventures turn up a Mike Wazowski (of Monsters, antenna ball, and the telltale Luxo Jr. ball can be seen in a child’s room as Carl Fredricksen’s balloon-lifted home sails past her bedroom window in Up.

Disney/Pixar’s brand new, epic action adventure movie,  Brave features more than a few hidden gems. I have the inside scoop on 2 of them, but there are plenty of others if you look hard enough!

Here are two hidden gems that Disney is publicly talking about:
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The Witch, an eccentric crone disguised as a woodcarver specializing in whittling wooden bear figurines and conjuring haphazard spells, showcases her mysterious and inexplicable knowledge of the future with a carved figurine of the infamous Pizza Planet truck, an iconic delivery vehicle that’s appeared in nearly every full-length feature film from Pixar Animation Studios since 1995’s Toy Story.

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A carving of Sulley, the lovable blue monster slated to return to the big screen in 2013’s Monsters University, appears on a piece of wood in the home of the Witch.

I think I have zero attention to detail. I saw Brave once, then learned about where a few of the hidden gems were before I screened  it a second time. I have to say, I didn’t see either of these (or any other ones!) the second time I watched it, and I knew exactly when and where to look!

Oh, well, there’s always a 3rd time to look for them, since I’m definitely going to see Brave again soon! You can see my Brave review here!

Like BRAVE on Facebook and follow BRAVE on Twitter to stay on top of all the Brave news!

Why I Want to go to Disneyland for Our Next Family Vacation

baby dealsGrowing up, my family visited Walt Disney World in Florida many times. Even all through my teenage years,  I was completely enchanted with anything and everything Disney, as were my parents. Actually, we all still feel the same way!

It wasn’t just that I loved Splash Mountain, or Space Mountain, or Hollywood’s Tower of Terror. My parents actually really don’t even care for rides and they still want to go on a Disney vacation every year. It was the way the parks felt when you walked into them. There was nowhere I knew that made me feel like the outside world, current events, everything, seemed to dissolve in the instant Cinderella’s Castle came into view.

I was seriously so happy when I walked into Disney California Adventure Park last month and felt that exact same way. As a distinctly non-creative, linear-thinking person, it can take a lot for me to be moved, but the Disneyland Resort did exactly that, at a time when I really needed it.

My travel plans changed at the last minute, so I only had one day to experience both California Adventure and Disneyland Parks. In addition to the guided tour of the spectacular new CarsLand I was lucky to spend the day with some other amazing bloggers who enjoyed everything Disney just as much as I did!

There are lots of reasons to take a vacation to California, and there are tons of reasons to take a family trip to the Disneyland resort. New attractions and classics make the parks magical and entertaining for everyone, and I was given a lot of facts that make it all the interesting and family-vacation-worthy.

I have a follow-up post planned with just interesting Disneyland facts, but right now I want to share just a few reasons why I want to take my family to both Disneyland and Disney California Adventure:

Piper, my 2 year old daughter, will love…

  • The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Undersea Adventure is a classic ride that just opened in 2011.

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  • The all-new Jolly Holiday Bakery. Piper has a near-insatiable sweet tooth and we all love Mary Poppins!
  • The Playhouse Disney – Live on Stage show. This is a preschool-appropriate interactive show that will be perfect for Piper and her brother!
  • Meeting Tinkerbell and other fairies at Pixie Hollow and meeting Merida from Brave.
Haiden, my 3 year old son, will love…

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Cars Land at night

  • Everything Cars Land, of course! He’s obsessed with Lightning McQueen, Mater and the rest of the “Car”-acters.
  • Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree: This fun, spinning ride is completely outside, which is great for my little guy, who doesn’t care for dark, enclosed attractions.
  • Toy Story Mania, the interactive video-game ride that takes riders on a 3D adventure/competition.
  • That newly-remodeled LEGO store in Downtown Disney

My husband will love…

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World of Color Light Show

  • The World of Color Show : I was able to view this amazing water, laser, light, music and animation show just before I left to get to the airport. The show brought tears to my eyes–it was spectacularly beautiful!
  • The Citizens of Buena Vista Street: Buena Vista Street was inspired by Los Angeles circa the 1920s and 1930s and the streets are filled with in-character “citizens” like a fun-loving photographer, a messenger and a comical cop.
  • Getting a treat at the new Ghiradelli Soda Fountain inside Disney California Adventure  :: It’s the first Ghiradelli shop to open inside a theme park, it smells fantastic and my husband can’t resist ice cream on any day, let alone a Disneyland day!
Finally, I missed experiencing these attractions and I really want to see them:

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Red Car Trolley on Buena Vista Street

  • Exploring Buena Vista Street, the all new entrance to Disney California Adventure.

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    Carthay Circle Restaurant

  • Dining at The Carthay Circle Restaurant: The restaurant boasts a gourmet menu and hand-crafted cocktails all set in Spanish Colonial Revival architecture and decorated with amazing movie memorabilia straight from the Disney Archives.
  • The Pixar Play Parade : We were given reserved seats for this parade during the trip, but other bloggers and I really wanted to make the most of our time and experience other attractions while we could.
  • The Mickey’s Soundsational Parade. I love parades!
  • Walking through Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. Castles are magical. That’s all 🙂

Disclosure: Disney provided my transportation, accommodations and covered most expenses for this event. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.

Attending Disney/Pixar’s BRAVE Green Carpet Premier {And a Gigantic THANK YOU!}

baby dealsLast Monday I was feeling incredibly fortunate to even be in Los Angeles, let alone attend the premier of Disney/Pixar’s newest movie, Brave. But there I was, press credentials around my neck, able to walk the green Astroturf “carpet” with a slew of stars before viewing the movie at the Dolby Theater.

Attending the premier was exhilarating. I knew we wouldn’t be able to linger on the walk into the theater, and I’m thankful my phone had the camera-reversing self-portrait feature! I barely had time to take a a handful of pictures on the fly before I was ushered into the theater. While they aren’t my best photos, I’m happy that I was at least able to document the experience and share it with all of you. The Walt Disney Studios also provided some pictures to show the entire setting and how magical it was.

The top photo is me just after stepping onto the green carpet. I wish I looked a bit more excited to be experiencing the entire event. Believe me, I was thrilled on the inside!

baby dealsThis photo is the “official” photo of the green carpet before the festivities started. It’s as big as it looks! There are two sides of the carpet that are divided by the red velvet rope. Important people walk on the wider side. I walked on the narrow side 🙂

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Even as we approached the theater we could hear the sound of bagpipes playing. As a film based in Scotland, it made the entire experience pretty majestic!

baby dealsMerida, the star of the movie, made a live-action appearance at the premier. I wasn’t around for her arrival, and I wish I could have seen it!

This is a huge 3-dimensional backdrop for celebrity photos. A few people in our group were able to get in front of it for a photo but I wasn’t one of them.

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This is a photo I snapped that captured me with a larger-than-life image of Merida, the main character from the movie. I love how it looks like she’s staring right into the camera!

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Our group leader was able to round up almost all of our entire group in between the red carpet and the theater for a quick group photograph before going to get our popcorn and 3D glasses. I’m so happy I was with such an amazing group of bloggers for this event! (I’m the one that’s farthest to the left).

I’m at a bit of a loss for words when it comes to describing the entire evening of Brave’s green carpet and movie premier. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that wouldn’t have come true without this blog and, in turn, without all of you, my dear readers. While I have Disney to thank for the invite and the experience, I want to express a huge THANK YOU to all readers for making this possible! 

Brave opened on June 22, 2012. I’ve seen it, I loved it and I’m ready to see it again! You can read my Brave movie review, then stay tuned for another Brave-themed post coming your way tomorrow!

Like BRAVE on Facebook and follow BRAVE on Twitter to stay on top of all the Brave news!

Disney provided transportation and accommodations for this event. All opinons expressed are my own.

Help Me Pick a Shirt for My Disneyland Trip! {Unique Disney Tees!} #BraveCarsLandEvent

baby dealsI’m so excited to head out to California in less than 2 weeks. It will be new experience after new experience for me, but I’m thrilled that I’ll be taking my first trip to Disneyland!

The last time I visited Disney World in Florida, I had repeated t-shirt envy over all the unique Disney shirts I saw a lot of people wearing. I asked a few people where they purchased them. After getting answered “Online…not from” more than once, I gave up asking and also gave up on finding the perfect Disney shirt on that vacation.

I didn’t explore the variety of shirts available online when I returned home because I really wanted one to wear to the parks. Now that I have a trip planned, I’m determined to have a fun shirt!

I explored and I’m happy to say that I found a few shirts that I really liked. I do, however, have to agree that the real variety lives outside the walls of that store. It makes sense that sites where users can create and sell their own designs are the place to find the best shirts.

So…I found a good number of shirts that I love and I listed them below.  I’ll buy the one that all of you decide you like the most, and I promise I’ll wear it to Disneyland and take a photo for all of you!

Note: I must say I adored the variety of different Disney shirts I found on Red Bubble, and many of the tees below are from that site. I do need to warn you that the selection isn’t entirely family-friendly. I’m sure you can handle it, but some search results may not be exactly what you’re looking for!

baby deals1. Disneyland Castle Word Cloud Tee


baby deals2. Disney Smashed Pennies Shirt


baby deals3. I Heart Nerds Muppets Tee


baby deals4. Disneyland Logo shirt


baby deals5. Keep Calm and Have a Magical Day shirt


5. Forever M+M {Mickey & Minnie} Shirt


baby deals6. Pirates of the Caribbean lyrics shirt


baby deals7. Disneyland Designed icon shirt


baby deals8. Never Grow Up Peter Pan tee


baby deals9. “I Found All the Hidden Mickeys” Shirt


baby deals10. Tangled Duel Scene Shirt

Tell me: which one is your favorite? Leave a comment and let me know!

I’m Going to the Red Carpet Premier of Disney/Pixar’s BRAVE! #BraveCarsLandEvent

baby dealsA few days ago I, a little Minnesota mom blogger, received an email that literally had me jumping up and down with excitement. Here’s the most important text from it:

Hello Marybeth!

We would like to invite you to a very special Disney and Pixar hosted event in June…This will include Disney/Pixar’s Brave, DreamWorks Pictures’ People Like Us, getting a sneak peak of Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie and attending Cars Land at Disneyland’s California Adventure park!

My little ones were sleeping and my grandma was napping on my couch so I had to cover my mouth to muffle in the squeal that came out! I danced outside and called my husband and my sister to share the amazing news and get childcare arrangements in place.

After jumping around for a few more seconds, I went back inside and tried very hard to limit my capital letters, exclamation points and excessive gratitude while confirming my attendance with the Disney folks.

Those of you who have been reading here for a while know that I rarely travel for blog trips. Compared to other bloggers I so admire, I’m definitely a homebody. Going to learn about KFC in February was my first ever brand blog trip, and I’ve only been to two other small conferences in the years since I started writing. To jump from those few experiences to a red carpet premier of a movie I’m dying to see, my first trip to Disneyland, a screening of a Dreamworks movie and a full itinerary of Disney, Pixar and Dreamworks events is almost more than I can handle!

baby dealsI’ll be sharing this experience with 24 other influential bloggers. Here are a few highlights of the trip that I am so excited about:

  • Brave is the inaugural movie premier at the all-new Dolby Theater in Hollywood, which is where the Academy Awards are held!
  • We’ll be staying at the beautiful, brand new Hilton Garden Inn AND the recently renovated Disneyland Hotel.
  • We’ll receive a special tour of Cars Land at Disney’s California Adventure Park
  • We’re going to participate in a roundtable interview with Kelly Macdonald (voice of “Merida”), Kevin McKidd (voice of “Lord MacGuffin”), Director Mark Andrews and Producer Katherine Sarafian.

There’s so much more on the agenda but I can’t fit it all in one post. I’m so thrilled to be participating and I’m super excited to share my experiences with all of you! Be sure to follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest to virtually travel with me to the event!

If you have any questions about Brave, People Like Us, Cars Land or anything else I’ll be taking part in next month, I’m going to do my best to get them answered by the right people! Please leave a comment sharing what you’d like to know. I’ll take all questions with me when I go next month.