5 Reasons to Stay at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort

Disclosure: I attended an expenses paid media trip with Walt Disney World. All opinions are my own.

When you stay on Disney property, you have so many choices on where to rest your head at night. That’s one thing I love about Disney—there is something for everyone. There is also something for every price range, which makes my heart happy because as if having a child wasn’t expensive enough, now I have to take her to Disney? HA! I’m getting off track. I had the privilege of touring Disney’s Art of Animation resort a few weeks ago on a press trip, and I kept saying to myself over and over “Emma Kate (my two year old) would LOVE this!” That being said, I wanted to give you five reasons to stay at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort with your family on your next vacation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.) Price: Art of Animation is considered a value resort by Disney categories, but it is what is called a “value plus” resort as it seems a bit of a step up from the other values in several ways (some which are bullet points in this post!) The grounds are spacious and beautiful with great Disney detail I have come to know and love, there are interior hallways, a great gift shop, food court, and more.

You can stay in a “family suite” (I know, the word suite makes me think of thousands of dollars a night!) for a decent price for a larger family. You still get all the perks of staying onsite like access to the Disney bus system, free magic bands, and access to daily extra magic hours, but for a fraction of the cost of some of the deluxe resorts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

2.) Space options: Family suites were designed with larger families in mind that can’t fit in a regular value resort room (which sleeps 4). These babies sleep six, and there are three themes: Cars, Finding Nemo, and the Lion King. I’m fairly certain my two year old would flip out over any of these themes! There is a bedroom/bath combo with a queen bed, as well as a living room with fold out sofa bed, a table that turns into a bed, a kitchenette, and a second bathroom (HUGE plus!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3.) Great food court: If I’m being honest, the food courts at the other value resorts don’t thrill me. However the food court at Art of Animation (called Landscape of Flavors), has taken things up a notch with delicious options like gelato, create your own pasta bowl, and many others. Not to mention it’s really beautiful inside!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4.) Great pools: At value resorts, pools are pretty basic, but not here! Not only are there multiple ones to choose from, but the Finding Nemo pool has a splash pad area, and you can even hear music underwater! Be sure to stop by the bar, adorably named the drop off, for your favorite adult beverage to sip poolside, or grab a first come first serve cabana at the Cozy Cone Cars themed pool.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5.) Life Size characters: Every little kid (ok and big kid, too) loves life sized Disney characters. Thankfully, there is no shortage of them at Art of Animation! Each themed area is scattered with your favorites like Mufasa, Tow Mater, and Prince Eric. (PS: there are standard sized resort rooms in the Little Mermaid section if you don’t want to stay in a family suite).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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No matter your reason for staying, there is a lot to do and see at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort. Be sure to take a look at the options there on your next Disney vacation!

QOTD: Have you stayed at Art of Animation? What is your favorite Disney resort?

FRiYay Lessons with Disney Junior

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Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Disney Junior, however all opinions are my own.

In case you are new to my blog, I think it’s important for you to know that Disney is a HUGE part of our household. We live in Tampa, so fortunately we get to visit Disney World a lot. However, during times we can’t visit, we do the next best thing, which is watch Disney Junior show on TV! More specifically, we are loving the FRiYAY all NEW episodes that come on every Friday morning on Disney Channel!

Right now Emma Kate is really into Mickey and the Roadster Racers. She has always been a fan of the mouse, and I think her competitive nature is starting to come out (just like mom and dad!) so she really likes the racing aspect of the show. Me? I’m more of a princess girl but I know we have plenty of time for that!

Since my husband and I are both competitive and (admittedly) like to win, we connect with Mickey and the gang and their racing ways. It’s a fun show for both boys and girls who love Disney! We decided it would be fun to have some racing and games of our own at home, and thought up some fun outdoor activities for Emma Kate. However, daily rain in the forecast changed our plans so we had to get creative with indoor games. Fortunately it didn’t matter to Emma Kate, and she had a blast!

First we played a game to see who could throw the most balls into the basket.

 

Then we decided to see who could build the tallest tower out of blocks.

Lastly, we played a racing game, which was Emma Kate’s favorite. I gave her and her daddy a school bus and told them they had to push their bus down the hall and see who could get theirs to go the furthest.

 

She kept wanting to play again and again, and kept saying “I win” or “I lost”, so we explained to her that winning isn’t everything, that it’s about having fun, too and being with people you care about, just like in Mickey and the Roadster Racers when Goofy got to compete against his movie hero but ended up losing the competition. However, Goofy ends up gaining respect form the other racers and even the sponsor who has a special surprise for Goofy.

Want to know how you can watch these new episodes with your family? There are two places to look! First of all, The Disney Channel:  During the morning block (usually 6-10am), Disney Junior shows will air first on Disney Channel.  Usually new episodes will air here FIRST so tune in to catch the premiere! Check out the schedule below:

FRiYAY, 6/16 – Mickey and the Roadster Racers @ 8:30am followed by an all-new Puppy Dog Pals
FRiYAY, 6/23 – Puppy Dog Pals @ 9a
FRiYAY, 6/30 – Sofia the First @ 9am followed by an all-new Elena of Avalor
FRiYAY, 7/7 – Back to back Lion Guard starting @ 8am followed by an all-new Puppy Dog Pals
FRiYAY, 7/14– Lion Guard starting @ 8am followed by all-new Mickey & The Roadster Racers and Puppy Dog Pals
FRiYAY, 7/21 – Lion Guard @ 8am followed by all-new Sofia The First and Elena of Avalor

FRiYAY, 7/28- Mickey & The Roadster Racers @8:30am followed by an all-new Puppy Dog Pals
FRiYAY,  8/4 – Sofia the First @ 9am
FRiYAY, 8/11 – Lion Guard @ 8am followed by all-new Mickey and the Roadster Racers  and Puppy Dog Pals
FRiYAY, 8/18 – Sofia The First @ 9am followed by an all-new Elena of Avalor

I hope you tune in on FRiYAY mornings on Disney Channel this summer and can catch the premiers of some of these great shows!

QOTD: In what ways do you teach your kids that winning isn’t everything? What is your favorite Disney Junior show?

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Disney Junior.

Wyndham Orlando Resort International Drive

Disclosure: I was hosted by Wyndham for my stay in their resort. However, all opinions are my own.

Over Memorial Day weekend, Bobby and I decided we wanted to take Emma Kate to her very first water park in Orlando. When Wyndham Orlando Resort International Drive invited us to stay as their guests, I knew this would be the perfect opportunity.

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The best thing about this resort is that you can stay where you play. It is the official resort of I-Drive 360, and there is so much to see and do, many things within walking distance (Like the Orlando eye). It’s also only twelve miles from the airport, so you are literally close to everything. The resort also offers a complimentary shuttle to Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, and SeaWorld.

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I loved all the greenery and tropical plants surrounding the walkways and the pool areas. There are also plenty of dining options including a bar in the lobby and at the pool. The resort is also home to Gatorville, he poolside grill and bar.

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The rooms all have pillowtop mattresses, 40” flat screen tv’s and mini refrigerators. We were in a king room/family suite that included a separate area with bunk beds and another TV for the kids.

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I really love the idea of the bunk beds, I just wish there was a door or partition to close off this area from the rest of the room. Emma Kate LOVED the bunks though and hung out on the top one all evening.

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Another thing I liked is there is complimentary wifi at the resort. I was given a password upon check in and logging on was super easy.

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Also, there are TWO outdoor pools as well as a heated spa, and a renovated fitness center. The lounge chairs at the pool looked so nice and relaxing!

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This resort also boasts over 60,000 square feet of meeting space. There are two grand ballrooms, and a catering team ready to meet your wedding, party, or business needs.

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I wish we had more time to explore the area, as there were so many things within walking distance we could have done! There is the Sea Life Orlando Aquarium, the 7D Dark ride adventure, and great restaurants and shopping like Tervis, Buffalo Wild Wings, and the Sugar Factory.

Probably the best thing about this resort is the price. Rates start at just $79 per night, so it’s perfect for a quick getaway, girls weekend, or business trip.

QOTD: Have you ever stayed here? What do you look for in a resort?

KidsPark: Easy, Fun Childcare

When we moved to Tampa at the end of last year, I knew one of the things we were going to miss most was being close to family. Not only did we enjoy hanging out with them on a regular basis, but we really loved the option for babysitters, and never had to have a stranger watch our two year old!

Not only does Tampa offer a wide range of fun activities I wanted to attend, but as a blogger I get invited to special events and dinner etc., too. Not knowing anyone made it difficult to find a baby sitter, so when I saw an ad in a local paper for KidsPark, I knew I needed to investigate.

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The website is very informative, and I found out that KidsPark is actually a pay by the hour daycare franchise with many locations throughout the country. I was super excited as my babysitting problem was solved! Not only that, but Emma Kate would get to play in a new environment and have fun interacting with other kids all at a very low hourly rate, while mom and dad go to have fun of our own. Lucky for us, the nearest location is less than ten minutes from our house. The best part is there are NO RESERVATIONS REQUIRED! You simply show up, check your child in, and leave. Some people drop their kids off for an hour or two so they can go get groceries or go to the doctor, and some leave them for a full day of fun. It’s up to you!

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When you arrive, you register and pay a small registration fee, and then are charged by the hour for your child’s time at KidsPark. At the end of the day the price per hour is WAY less than I would have to pay an in home sitter, plus my child is getting to be in a new fun place with new friends, which I prefer.

There are cubbies at the front for your child’s belongings and shoes. Children are required to take their shoes off, but must wear socks, so don’t forget them!

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Another thing that I love is there are meals and snacks at KidsPark. Meals at our location are $4.00, or you can bring your own meal from home (we have done both, it just depends on the menu and home much time I have as to what we do). Snacks are at no additional charge. Wondering about ages and activities? Kids can start going to KidsPark at age two through age eleven at our location. The “big kids” also have a special play area so they aren’t constantly on top of the little kids, so no worries there!

They even help assist with potty training. Emma Kate wears a special color sticker on her name tag so they know to remind her about the potty. Awesome! Sometimes Emma Kate comes home with a craft or picture that she drew, so it’s nice to know they are doing different activities with the kids. They also have different themed days and weeks depending on time of year, holidays, etc.

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As you can see from this happy face, Emma Kate has never been upset when we leave her! There is so much to do, and so many new friends to make! Another favorite thing about KidsPark is that it is open on a lot of holidays when regular schools are closed. There have been times when EK’s daycare was closed that we brought her to KidsPark because I needed to get work done. They are also open late into the night for those date nights for mom and dad (midnight on Friday and Saturday!)

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Another option we have not taken advantage of is that KidsPark operates as a preschool during the day. It’s a traditional preschool with a modern twist, so think music, drama, art, math and science for your little ones. You can even start a young child at one day a week and move up to five days.

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Emma Kate LOVES the little house and kitchen area!

KidsPark is even open for private parties on Sunday mornings and evenings when the center is closed to the public. You get a hostess to help with your party so you can enjoy instead of clean up, lead games, etc.

Don’t forget KidsPark is licensed and all the teachers have early childhood backgrounds and pass background checks. They are great at making your child feel comfortable and they always remember Emma Kate’s name, even after she had only attended a couple of times (they know her as the girl with the big bows, of course!) KidsPark’s mission is simple: Happy kids, happy parents, and in our family, they have succeeded!

Click here to see if there is a KidsPark location near you!

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

5 Things Friday XXV

Hey guys! I haven’t done one of these in awhile so I thought it would be fun for this Memorial Day weekend Friday.

1.) Me, Bobby, and Emma Kate are headed to Orlando on Sunday and will be hitting the Disney Waterparks (her first time at a water park!) We will be going to Blizzard Beach because I hear that is the most kid friendly of the two. I can’t wait! I haven’t been to a Disney Waterpark in YEARS.

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2.) While we are in Orlando we will be staying at the Wyndham I-Drive, which is the official hotel for International drive. I will be posting pictures and Insta stories on Sunday and Monday, so stay tuned!

3.) I attended a Carnival Cruise Lines event yesterday at Port Canaveral, and will be posting a blog post about it soon. We were on the Carnival Liberty for a couple of hours, eating hamburgers!

4.) You may have noticed I am finally back to running! I haven’t done anything over three miles, but my leg is feeling better and better. I still have to foam roll and stretch really well, and don’t have 100% range of motion when I squat or lunge, but I have no knee pain!

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5.) Recently we tried out FitLife foods, which has locations here in Tampa, and delivers meals right to your door. You get to pick what meals you want and when you want them delivered, and they just show up! Some of them tasted pretty good, and some were honestly pretty bland and needed some serious salt and pepper. I enjoyed not having to think/worry about what I was going to eat for dinner as a busy working mom, which was the main/huge draw for me. I just knew we had meals in the refrigerator, and so that stress hanging over my head was gone, plus I didn’t have to go to the store as much. But, the one downside for us/Bobby is that the portion sizes were too small for him. He eats a lot and works out a lot and would need 2-3 “meals” for one meal, and that gets expensive quickly.  I may give them another go the next time he is out of town and it’s just me and Emma Kate, because I truly enjoyed the convenience! If you haven’t tried it out I say give it a go one time!

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Pandora: World of Avatar Overview

Disclosure: I attend an all expenses paid media trip to Walt Disney World and part of that trip was a sneak peek tour of Pandora. All opinions are my own.

When I first saw the itinerary for the media event I was going to be attending with Walt Disney World, I may have squealed a little when I saw we were to be spending time in Pandora before it was open to the public. A new space? With hardly any people in it? Heck yes!

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Something to keep in mind as your tour this area, is that it is supposed to take place many years after the movie, and now humans are allowed to come to Pandora. Look carefully for nods to the movie, it’s fun to pick things out!

Our tour was on a Monday morning, and we were running a little late so we were ushered straight to the Flights of Passage Ride.

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But not before getting a couple of quick photos as we crossed the bridge and went into the World of Pandora. This guy behind me was really fun. If you touched him in the spot right above my head, he started to steam and make noise. So interactive and fun!

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I didn’t have a ton of time to stop and explore the que since the ride was only going to be available for a few more minutes, but all I can say is details, details, details! There is just SO much to see!

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Flights of passage is awesome in a word. I was a little nervous not knowing what to expect, and it far exceeded my expectations. We went into a series of rooms where we were given instructions and backstory via cast members and video screen, and one part was interactive and fun!

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You are given a number to stand on, and it lines up with the banshee you will be riding in the last room. There is a space to store purses, backpacks, etc. and then you get on the ride. A back restraint and leg restraints come up, and then the four and a half minute journey begins. I don’t want to give too much away, but it is breathtaking, vivid, and intense all at the same time. Please note if you are prone to motion sickness, you may want to be careful with this one. I had to shut my eyes a couple of times for a brief moment as to not get sick, but then I was ok. Totally worth it by the way.

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After Flights of Passage we rode the Na’vi River Journey, which is fun for the whole family. It’s a leisurely boat ride down the “river”, and there are beautiful things to look at on all sides. I will say after going right off of Flights of Passage this ride was way less thrilling, but I’m glad Disney decided to put in something mild that little kids and those that don’t like intense rides can enjoy.

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The Shaman at the end was very impressive, but the rest of the ride didn’t wow me.

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Before getting off the boat at the end of the River Journey.

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After you ride this ride, you are let out into the gift shop called Windtraders. Something I noticed right away was that there are no signs of Mickey Mouse anywhere. This shop is totally Pandora themed, with no sign of autograph books or Donald Duck hats anywhere, which I loved. You could bead a necklace, buy some Avatar ears, or even adopt a Banshee which is a super cute process you go through at the store.

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I showed lots of restraint and didn’t buy anything at the store, but I loved this floating mountains mug. anyone who knows me knows I’m a sucker for Disney mugs.

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Outside of the store, I did more looking/staring in awe at the gorgeous landscaping and floating mountains. I just couldn’t get enough!

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I wandered over to the counter service location which has a nice covered outdoor seating area. The menu looks really good and I’m dying to get back and try it.

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Right outside of the gift shop and next to the counter service location you will find a cute little stand called Pongu Pongu where you can order drinks or a snack. It was a little too early for alcohol, but the Night Blossom (non alcoholic) looked pretty and I just had to try it.

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The drink comes with passion fruit bobas on top, but I asked for half and half with strawberry so I could try them out as well.

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Verdict on the drink: it was very refreshing, but also really sweet and tart. I couldn’t finish mine, but can definitely see the advantage of having one on a hot Florida day. Plus, who am I kidding, bobas are fun to eat.

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There is an overlook area that is higher than the rest of Pandora, and you can get some great panoramic shots. (Be sure to look for the photopass photographers in this area) Also, watch out for “things” that may spit water on you in this area!

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I did my best to just try and soak everything in, because I knew I would never see Pandora this empty again. I was there for over an hour and a half, and I know I still didn’t see everything there is to see!

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Oh, another cool thing, be sure to talk with some cast members. They stay in character and will tell you about how they came to Pandora form earth. Be sure to check out their name tags, too. Seriously, Disney thought of everything.

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I really enjoyed my brief time in this new land, and can’t wait to go back with my family when it’s open to the public. Even if the movie wasn’t your thing and you don’t like rides, it’s totally worth it to take a walk through this area and see the amazing things Disney created for it’s guests. No detail was spared, and they really have upped their game as far as creating a truly immersive experience as a part of your vacation. I can’t wait to see what they come up with next.

QOTD: Thoughts on Pandora? Do you plan to visit?

runDisney Kids races: Star Wars

When I realized our family Disney World trip lined up with the runDisney Star Wars half marathon weekend, I couldn’t believe all the stars were aligning for not only Bobby and I to run the half marathon, but for Emma Kate (2 years old) to participate in her very first kids races. I was pleasantly surprised that the registration price was very reasonable ($20!) and that each child got a medal (rubber) and a t-shirt. As a lover of the “I Did it” shirts, I couldn’t wait for my little mini me to have her very own.

The kids races were held on Friday and Saturday, but since Bobby wasn’t arriving until Friday night, we opted for the Saturday morning race. It actually all worked out nicely, as we were able to get to the expo right when it opened at 10:00, get all three of our bibs, and then walk over to the track at the Wide World of Sports and attend the kids races. Keep in mind strollers are NOT allowed in the expo, but are allowed on the grounds of WWOS, so we simply parked ours in a stroller parking area to get our bibs, then brought it down to the track with us for the races.

Of course Emma Kate had to get her picture with the kids race sign, and I wore her “future runDisney runner” shirt.

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After getting our bibs (you have to sign a race waiver for the kiddos, too) and getting our t-shirts, we headed out to the track around 10:45. I will be honest and say it seemed REALLY chaotic. Having never been to one before, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I figured out that I was supposed to match the color of Emma Kate’s race bib with the flags at the starting line area, so we all walked over that way, to be told only one adult could actually “run” the race with the child. So Bobby and my parents headed to the side of the track behind a fence so they could see her run and hopefully squeeze in to the fence once it was time for her wave.

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It was hot outside and I wanted to get done quickly, but in hindsight I should have just chilled and waited for the last wave. We were basically put in a holding area all close together which made it even more hot. I can see how it could be overwhelming for some kids that don’t like a lot of people. There were plenty of volunteers and they all did a great job don’t get me wrong, but it was still chaotic, but I guess organized chaos would be a better word?

They would line up a handful of kids on the start line then put another group behind them, then after the first group went, the one behind would step forward, and the volunteers filled in the back with another line of kids. This part seemed very organized, but there wasn’t really a line so it was more of a free for all as to which parent pushed through the area first to get their kid to the start. We ended up somewhere towards the middle. Usually EK doesn’t let me hold her but I think all the people made her nervous so she was happy to be on my hip while we waited. She made some funny faces for me, and soon we were in the holding area for the next wave.

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I texted my family to let them know we were coming, and thankfully I was wearing pink and Emma Kate had on a huge pink bow so we were hard to miss. When we were standing behind the wave about to go, I told her to watch the boys and girls run and that was what we were going to do when the man said to go. She didn’t look too sure about it and I had NO idea how she would react.

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It was our turn, and our wave began. Emma Kate started running (sort of) and looking around all at the same time. 100 meters seems a long way when you are running with a two year old! Midway through we got a shout out from announcer Carisa who spotted EK’s big bow.

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About 75 meters in, Emma Kate realized she was tired and wanted me to hold her. About that time I saw Mickey, so I grabbed her and went over to him for a quick hug. Then because I just can’t help it, I put her down and made her walk across the finish line herself. #RunnerMom.

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We all cheered, and she got her medal, but was way more concerned about her banana oddly enough. We found my family and took some photos before grabbing the stroller and heading out. Did I mention it was really warm? (heh.)

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I had a lot of fun and loved sharing something that I do with my little girl. I feel like now that I know what to expect, the next time will be way less overwhelming for all of us.

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I love how runDisney kept everyone moving and then moved on to the next race. We got some free gogo squeeze pouches too which was nice since EK loves those things (they are a sponsor). Emma Kate wore her medal to the park, and looked adorable in her I did it shirt.

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When do we sign up again?

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Here are a couple of videos from the race:


Then of course the video I shot while she was running. Please excuse my shrieking voice in the background. I was a little excited.

 

QOTD: Has your child ever done a kids race?

Walt Disney World’s Bay Lake Tower 2 Bedroom Villa

My parents became DVC members last year via buying resale. Their home resort is Saratoga Springs, which is where we stayed in October of last year. They had some extra points on their contract due to some that were banked by the previous owner, so Me, Bobby, and Emma Kate were invited to stay with them in a two bedroom villa for five nights in April. We were blown away by this resort, and I wanted to share our two bedroom villa with you.

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Before I begin, I feel it’s important to note that the modern style is REALLY not my thing. I never had a desire to stay at the Contemporary, and the only time I have was for a conference a few years ago. Bay Lake wasn’t on my radar, until I realized how easy it would be with my two year old to be able to walk to and from the Magic Kingdom and be on the monorail. I was able to snag us a villa right as our date window opened, and while I was excited about our trip, I was just “eh” when it came to the thought of the resort portion. That is until we walked into the lobby, down the hall, and up to our two bedroom villa on the sixth floor facing the gorgeous Lake. WOW.

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I’m going to try to paint you a picture here of the layout, because there really is a ton of space here. When you walk in, to the right is the second bedroom, straight ahead is a closet and a wall, slightly left is the walkway into the other bedroom and living/kitchen area, and directly left was a 3rd FULL bathroom. Keep in mind this villa sleeps nine people, so it’s nice that your guests on the sofa sleeper and chair have access to a full bath as seen below.

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Let’s start by going left and passing up the living room for a second to go into the Master. But first there is a door for the washer and dryer, and this room was WAY bigger than anticipated. We used it to store things and keep them out of the way like our coolers we had brought.

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On into the master suite is a gorgeous bathroom with a huge tub and shower.

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My only qualm with this bathroom is that it only had one vanity as opposed to the master at Saratoga which had two. The bathroom was really big so maybe space could have been found? Maybe just to add another sink?

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The master boasts a king sized bed and it’s own balcony, which you can also access from the living room. Check out the cute painting above the bed.

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There was also a desk and a flat screen TV as well as plenty of drawer space.

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Back out into the hallway, you can see into the living room and kitchen. I loved how bright and open it was, and we never closed the curtains the whole trip.

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From the wall of windows facing into the kitchen, you can also see the open door where the laundry room was. There was a stove, over, microwave, refrigerator/freezer combo and a cute table to the right. The TV was on the wall parallel to the table not shown in this picture.

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The sofa was weird in that the cushions would NOT stay put. We must have had to push them back 100 times. I’m not sure if it’s because it is a sofa sleeper or just old, but it was odd. There were sheets and blankets in the ottoman.

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Here you can see the huge TV as well as the door going to the same balcony that is attached to the master, and you also get a shot of the sleeper chair.

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I thought this Space Mountain picture above the table was a nice touch.

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As was this Bay lake/monorail/Contemporary photo above the sofa.

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If you go back to the hallway and go straight, you reach the second bedroom which ahs two big closets and it’s own bathroom. We had two queen sized beds and our own balcony, too! In the below picture, to the left is one closet, the other is straight behind me, and to the right is the sink area and then the separate bathroom.

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We used a bed rail so Emma Kate could have her own bed. Y’all, these beds were SO comfortable. Like a cloud I tell ya.

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We also had a table and two chairs as well as a set of drawers and TV, which we never turned on one time.

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The very best thing about the room was the view. It never got old. Sitting on the sofa, or the balcony, or just milling around the kitchen I loved the huge windows looking out over the pool and Bay lake.

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Going to be honest here for a moment. You can pay extra/use more DVC points to have a theme park view…but in my personal opinion the lake view is better at this particular resort. I don’t like seeing all the cars and concrete out the theme park view here, and it’s I think 10 extra points PER NIGHT and that is a lot. Also, the afternoon sun beat right down on the theme park view side, and many people kept their curtains closed to avoid the heat and sun, so then they couldn’t even see their view!

When we walked out to the elevator, we had a view of the “theme park side” so I am posting a photo here for you to see what I mean. It just doesn’t wow me.

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I watched the sunrise most mornings from our balcony and it was just spectacular. We also enjoyed seeing the boats all coming and going, and we watched the electrical water pageant most nights.

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We were all surprised at how much we all loved this resort, and would stay there again in a heartbeat. We walked to Magic Kingdom several times, and used the monorail for EPCOT. Keep in mind if you aren’t using points and are just booking this resort outright, that it rarely if ever qualifies for discounts because it’s already so popular. I do however highly recommend staying here if you get the chance!

QOTD: What is your favorite Disney resort? Why?

My Disney Experience and Magic Bands FREE E-Course

In the past few years, Walt Disney World has grown leaps and bounds as far as technology goes. What once was a card used to swipe into your room, turned into what we now know as “Magic Bands.” Some called it big brother-ish, some called it amazing, but what we do know about these bands and it’s other component called My Disney Experience, is that they are here to stay.

 

As someone who dislikes change, I understand not wanting to try something different or take the time to learn the new technology, but trust me when I say it will be WORTH IT when it comes to time (and sanity) saved on your Disney vacation if you know how to efficiently use My Disney experience and understand how the Magic bands work!T1CjCNKhhvIS8VNw0MpiMB6ClWHNTiRO07xTUBRFIJYpX92IB

This is exactly why I created a FREE E-course for you. I want you to have a stress free vacation. There is no need to be overwhelmed by the technology and the process if you just have someone to explain it to you, piece by piece…and that is precisely what I do in my free course.

 

In this course, you will learn all about Magic Bands, making Fastpass+ reservations, dining reservations, and how to use Memory maker. I also show you how to set up an account, manage your family and friends list, and research different resort and dining options. This is in a video format, so you don’t have to sit and read for endless hours to get it done. The course is broken down into sections, so you can go through as much or as little as you want to at a time. All in all it should take you no more than two hours to get through this free course. I’m so excited for you to feel confident about your knowledge in this area, and have a great vacation because of it!

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So what are you waiting for? Stop wondering what Magic Bands and My Disney Experience are all about, and get to dreaming up the perfect vacation for you and your family. (PS: When you click the link to go to the course page, it mentions a coming soon course not yet available, but if you click the button, you will be taken to sign up for my FREE e-course, so don’t let it confuse you!)

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QOTD: Thoughts on Disney’s new technologies? Love it or loathe it?

Tampa Tuesdays: Busch Gardens Tampa

On Saturday, Bobby and I took Emma Kate to Busch Gardens Tampa. It was our first experience in the park aside from seeing a small portion when we went for a media event a few weeks ago. I did a little bit of research to at least know what we did and didn’t want to do, and we arrived at the park when it opened at 10:00 (which I thought was late!)

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Getting on the tram at the parking lot was a little hectic as there was no one there to keep people in order, and there were no true “lines”. We had a family try and push us out of the way to get on the tram (I was holding EK in my arms!) and I had to yell at a guy to let Bobby get on the tram with us b/c he had the stroller and people were pushing in front of him. However, I tried to shake it off and not let it ruin the day. The park can’t control what other people do, and it wasn’t their fault. We made it to the front, and bag check was smooth and quick.

I wanted Bobby to get to ride at least one roller coaster, so he jumped in line for Cheetah Hunt because it said there was only a ten minute wait. I took Emma Kate to go visit some animals while we waited.

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After about 30 minutes I texted Bobby and he was still in line. I was not thrilled because Emma Kate was getting bored and wanted to go ride the train. We visited the giraffes which there was SO many of, very cool, and then waited some more.

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All in all he was gone a total of 45 minutes for a ten minute wait, so I’m not sure what happened there. Maybe it temporarily broke down and we didn’t realize. Either way, nothing we could do to change it so we moved along and got in line for the train.

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It was fun seeing the animals along the route. A very nice touch. We decided to get off at the next stop and go see the monkeys and the tigers. This guy was just sitting up at the glass staring at all the kids. Emma Kate kept saying she wanted to hold him, of course.

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We also saw a couple of sleepy tigers. I loved all the lush landscaping in their habitats with multiple vantage points to view them from.

By this time it was after noon, and we were getting  hungry. We tried to get Emma Kate to nap in her stroller as we walked down towards the Food and Wine festival area.

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I love how the booths are mainly contained to two areas so you don’t have to walk all that far to get from one to another. Also, there were no long lines to wait in which was a plus.

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We each had an 8 pack sampler card courtesy of Busch Gardens, and were ready to enjoy the festival. (These can be purchased at the booths, and also you can find festival guides at each booth with a map and list of all the food and drink offerings.)

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First up, Bobby got the lamb chops and a mango margarita, which got two thumbs up.

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We then headed over towards the two Coke booths, which are next door to an inside air conditioned area with tables. We were happy to find this spot, as it was getting HOT outside. Bobby got a couple more things to eat and I got a pulled pork slider. After a brief rest, we headed over towards the concert area where there were a lot of other booths.

Bobby tried some ribs, and I got my favorite: the bacon mac and cheese, which was just as delicious as I remembered it. Emma Kate loved it, too and kept stealing my bacon.

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We both also had watermelon margaritas, which would become our favorite drink of the festival. (I may have had three.) I may have also had a regular margarita on the rocks at the margarita bar while we were in this area.

Emma Kate had been dying to “see Elmo” in the kids area, so we went there next. This area was great. TONS to do for kids all confined to one very large space. She was so overwhelmed we weren’t sure what to do first. She rode several rides, and even did a small “water ride” by herself!

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We put her in the bounce house because she LOVES those things, but there were a lot of big kids in there and she got upset and wanted to get out. We also did the carousel, and she climbed up in a large tree house area with Bobby.

Seriously we could have stayed in this area all day and Emma Kate would have been jjuussttt fine. There was also a huge really cool looking splash pad area, but we decided to skip that one for the day because it was already getting late in the day and we were all tired. We did however have one more stop to make, the show with Elmo and the gang! EK clapped and waved, and even got to touch Grover which I think made her whole day. This area was covered and had fans which was a very nice touch on such a sunny afternoon. There were also plenty of benches and other seating around the whole kids area for moms and dads to take a rest as the kids played.

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We still had a couple of punches left on our food and wine cards, so Bobby got some steak and said it was his favorite dish of the day.

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We met up with Megan and Gabe for a few minutes and chatted at a table and people watched before calling it a day. Check out the cool topiary in the background!

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The park is really big, and there was no way we could have done everything in a day, which just means we will have to go back!

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Not five minutes after leaving the park, this one fell asleep in the car. I think that’s a sign of a good day!

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A huge thanks to Busch Gardens for inviting us back to experience the park and the food and wine festival. Don’t forget, you can experience it for yourself every weekend through the end of this month, and there is a free concert every night of the festival with your park admission! Check out BuschGardens.com for the lineup and information.

Disclosure: I was provided free park admission for two as well as lanyards to try out the food at the festival. However, I was not asked to write a blog post about it, but we had a great time and I wanted too! Also, all opinions are my own.

**I would love it if you would take a quick second to fill out a 6 question survey about how you plan Disney vacations. Thanks in advance!**