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?

Disney’s Boardwalk Inn and Villas

Disclosure: I attended an expenses paid trip to Walt Disney World for a media event. However, all opinions are my own.

If you read my recent post about all of the amazing and fun things to do on Disney’s Boardwalk, then you may be thinking “gosh, it would be really nice to stay here and be right in the middle of the action!” Well, you would be absolutely right…it IS really nice! Being able to experience all the Boardwalk has to offer, and then simply walk back to your room at night. No buses, no driving—Disney’s Boardwalk Inn and Villas is perfect if you ask me.

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I wanted to tell you a little bit about this resort because sometimes people get confused when it comes to places with “regular” rooms and villas.

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1.) You do NOT have to be a Disney vacation club owner to stay in a villa.

2.) The “Inn” is the portion on the right side when you walk in the lobby, and the villas are on the left side. Check in for both is at the same place.

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3.) A deluxe studio is very similar to a regular hotel room, except instead of two queen beds, there is one queen bed and a sofa sleeper. There is also the addition of a kitchenette. While both rooms have a refrigerator, only the villa side has a microwave. Photo below is of a deluxe studio.

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4.) If you are staying at the Inn or in the villas, you still have access to all the pools at the Boardwalk. The feature pool/Luna park is on the villa side, but Inn guests simply walk over and can join in the water fun.

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For our stay, we had the opportunity to try out the one bedroom villas, which I had never stayed in before. The master had a king sized bed which felt like sleeping on a cloud.

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The TV’s in the villas were huge (55”), and there was a lot of natural light in the master, as well as plenty of space for storage in the closet in the bathroom.

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We were on the first floor, and had a beautiful view of the water and lush landscaping that Disney does so well. Our balcony had doors in the living room, and off the master suite.

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Speaking of the master, the bathroom was huge! The vanity had plenty of space to spread out, as well as cabinets and drawers for your things.

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I loved how you could open the room up above the large jetted tub.

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The bathroom was kind of “two in one” if you will. There was another door leading to a second sink, as well as the shower and toilet. This way, guests sleeping on the sofa sleeper could use the bathroom at night without having to go into the master bedroom. Genius! (I explain this more in the video at the end if you don’t quite know what I mean).

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The kitchen was small but cute. I loved the wood floors and the bask splash. It still felt vintage but with a modern twist. Our kitchen was fully stocked with dishes, gadgets, a stove, oven, refrigerator, and dishwasher. It was so nice knowing we didn’t have to bring any of these things with us!

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The kitchen was open into the living room where there was a table, and also a dainty little bar with two chairs. See the white door to the left in the below picture? The stacked washer and dryer were tucked away in this space.DSC_0077

One thing I would have changed is that I felt it was kind of dark over in the far corner by the TV. Maybe the addition of a standing lamp behind the chair in the corner would have made it easier to see at night.

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The mirrors behind the table made the room look huge!

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Check out the adorable print above the sofa. I loved the Disney touches throughout this space.

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There was plenty of seating for a larger family wanting to spread out, but also be together for family time in one location.

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I was in love with this light!

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I really enjoyed the updated villas, and hope to bring my family back to stay in them sometime. The proximity to the “action” was amazing. You can walk to and from Hollywood Studios AND Epcot, or take a boat. Not only do you have access to the amenities at the resort, but you can walk across to the Beach and Yacht club to dine at any of their restaurants. So much to choose from!

On top of these amazing reasons for staying at the Boardwalk Inn and Villas, you can experience extra magic hours. That’s right, guests of any WDW resort get to enter a park one hour early or stay up to three hours later than everyone else each day (check disneyworld.com for park hours info). This added time while the park is less crowded really helps to get in those extra attractions during the day. Also, don’t forget that if you are staying on property, you have access to free Disney transportation during your stay, free parking, and a free airport shuttle called Disney’s Magical Express.

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I love all the extra perks for staying on Disney property, it’s so much more fun to actually stay inside the magic for your whole trip, not just while you are at the parks during the day. The cast members go above and beyond to make you feel special, and you will forever be spoiled! I hope you will consider staying at Disney’s Boardwalk Inn and Villas for your next stay, so you never have to leave the magic, or step foot off Disney property.

Please enjoy this vide tour I took of our one bedroom villa:

 

QOTD: Have you stayed at the Boardwalk? Favorite thing about it?

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?

Be Entertained at Disney’s Boardwalk

Disclosure: I attended an expenses paid media trip with Walt Disney World at Disney’s Boardwalk Inn and Villas. However, all opinions are my own.

You don’t have to look far to find things to do at Walt Disney World. However, what about those days where you don’t have a park ticket? Or what about those people that want to have fun without leaving their resort? The answer you are looking for is a visit and/or stay at Disney’s Boardwalk. In the past couple of years, a lot of changes have come to this little corner of the “world”, and as someone who loves to just chill at the resort, I couldn’t be more thrilled.

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The entire Boardwalk is filled with activities for the family, foodie, couple, or girls night. Let’s start on one end and head down to the other, but first I think it’s important to understand the “history” of the Boardwalk. This fun area is reminiscent of the grand hotels of the early 1900’s along the Jersey shore. Around the lobby and in the restaurants you will find artifacts from this time period, transporting you through time to a slower pace of life where carnival games could be heard at night, and you could even watch horse jumping (into the water!) by day.

If you have ever heard of Sonora Webster Carver and her diving horses (Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken anyone?) then you will love this fun fact I learned: The structure that sits atop the ESPN Club at the far end of the Boardwalk is the same size as the water tank that Sonora and her horses dove into back in the early 1930’s. I had no idea! I just thought it was part of the décor of the ESPN club. But like many hidden things at Walt Disney World, it stands for something greater, and I love it. At the ESPN Club you will find 100 screens and a 10 x 10 projection screen in which to watch your favorite sports team, along with a menu to match. I may or may not have spent many a Saturday night or Sunday afternoon here making new friends (and taunting new rivals, of course) all in good Disney fun.

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Moving on down the Boardwalk you will come across Ample Hills Creamery. Be sure to stop in for a sample…which will then turn into a scoop (or two!) of this delicious dessert. There are sixteen signature ice cream flavors, one is even made just for the Boardwalk. Speaking of sweet treats, the aroma of the decedent pastries at the Boardwalk Bakery will have you dropping in to see what’s baking even if it wasn’t part of your plan. This is where guests of the Inn and Villas can refill their resort refillable mugs, grab breakfast, coffee, and light snacks during the day. Keep in mind there is no indoor seating, however there are plenty of tables and chairs right outside.

Trattoria al Forno boasts a lot of real estate on the Boardwalk, and it is well deserved. This relaxing eatery inspired by the farms in the Italian countryside, serves wood fired pizzas, house made pastas, and a 100% Italian wine list. During breakfast hours, the restaurant is transformed into a fun family gathering place. You can meet Rapunzel, Flynn Ryder, Ariel, and Prince Eric while you dine. Note that this is the ONLY place on Disney property where you can meet these two princes! This experience fills up fast, so be sure to make dining reservations early.

Inspired by farms in the Italian countryside, Trattoria al Forno at Disney’s BoardWalk Resort features an open kitchen and family-friendly dining rooms. The restaurant highlights authentic flavors of Italy’s diverse regions including wood-fired pizzas, house-made pastas, hand-crafted mozzarella, imported charcuterie and cheese and a 100 percent Italian wine list. The restaurant is open for breakfast and dinner at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Kent Phillips, photographer)

Recently opened next to Trattoria al Forno is somewhere I finally got to check out, the Abracadabar (say that ten times fast!) This quirky bar has drinks that do magic tricks, and wall posters that disappear in the blink of an eye. Legend has it that this spot was once the local hangout of famous touring magicians and boardwalk illusionists. Apparently at night after their shows, they would meet at the lounge and swap tips and tricks with each other. One day, they all vanished while at the bar, but their magic remains, so pay attention to the details!

AbracadaBar, a "curious cocktail lounge," combines the Golden Age of Magic with the magic of Disney storytelling to bring a whimsical experience to Walt Disney World Resort guests. Located at Disney's BoardWalk, AbracadaBar serves up signature specialty drinks amongst enchanted show posters, mystifying mirrors and vintage props and tricks. It is open daily from 4 p.m. to midnight. (Matt Stroshane, photographer)

The drinks also happen to be very good. Keep in mind this isn’t a large bar, so get there early!

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Capping off this side of the Boardwalk is an old favorite with a fresh new look: The Flying Fish Café. I was very impressed with the remodel, as it has more of a sophisticated flair with the blues, greys, and ocean vibe. The menu is also top notch, with items you won’t see at many places on property. The service was great too, and it’s fun to take a peek at the open kitchen while you are relaxing and enjoying the atmosphere. There is even enough space for 12 guests at the “chef’s counter” directly in front of the kitchen. Flying Fish is a signature dining experience, which counts as two credits on the Disney Dining Plan.

With hues that conjure up the deep blue sea, the re-imagined Flying Fish restaurant beckons guests to Disney's BoardWalk with a contemporary, sophisticated interior that pays homage to the golden era of seaside boardwalk dining. Flying Fish is a signature restaurant at Walt Disney World Resort and is open for dinner daily. (Matt Stroshane, photographer)

Moving across the lush lawn and past the surrey bike rentals <—one day I will do this, you will find more than 9000 square feet of shopping opportunities that range from exquisite pieces of art to Mickey ears to groceries. This is also where package pickup is for resort guests, and where you can get a bottle of wine for your room!

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Big River Grill and Brewing Works is next door and features handcrafted specialty beers. It has some nice outdoor seating so you can enjoy the sights and sounds of the Boardwalk, too.

At night, the Boardwalk comes alive with plenty of entertainment opportunities. Not only are there carnival games and magicians up and down the Boardwalk, but there are two great places to hang out: Jellyrolls and the Atlantic Dance Hall.

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Jellyrolls is a dueling piano bar where the audience picks the music, and lots of singing along with ensue. (I may or may not know from experience.) Pick from the specialty drink menu or order your favorite beer, while snacking on baskets of popcorn instead of peanuts. The pianists are quick witted and are sure to keep you laughing all night at this 21 and up location after 7:00 (Please note the $12 cover charge.) The Atlantic Dance hall is steps away next door, and is just what it sounds like. A great place to dance the night away (if you are 21+) and have a drink with friends.

In addition to all of these amazing places, there are other hidden relaxing spots, fun drink stands, and boat transportation to Disney’s Hollywood Studios and EPCOT. No longer should you wonder what there is to do outside of the theme parks, but it’s a matter of “what will you choose to do with so many options!” While I highly recommending staying at this resort (for many reasons, but that’s for another post!) the great thing is you can enjoy the Boardwalk without being a guest of the hotel, and without having a park ticket.

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An attraction all in itself, the beautiful Boardwalk sits tucked away on the shores of Crescent Lake waiting for you to come and experience it. Go for a visit, you won’t be disappointed. When you do, be sure to take a deep breathe as you step back in time. Welcome to your vacation.

QOTD: What is your favorite thing to Do on the Boardwalk?

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?

runDisney Star Wars Half Marathon 2017 Race Recap

My husband and I recently ran the second annual Star Wars Dark Side half marathon at Walt Disney World. Check out my recap of the race below and email [email protected] if you have any questions about the race.

My alarm went off at 2:45 am, and I was actually oddly enough already awake. I knew just laying there would make it even harder to get up, so I begrudgingly did it and got ready for the race, taping my knee, and psyching myself up. I scarfed down a Quest bar and Bobby made eggs (seriously, who makes eggs at 2:45 in the morning?) and soon we were off to the buses. It was slightly chilly (for me, but I’m always cold) but not “cold” by any means. I could tell it was going to be a humid race though.

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The bus pickup for Bay Lake Tower and the Contemporary was on the far side of the convention center, so we had quite a hike to get where we were going. However a bus was there waiting and we snagged the front row. We made it to the star very quickly since it was in the Magic Kingdom parking lot, and we got in line for the bathrooms then made it into our corals with an hour left to spare. I know runDisney wants to make sure everyone gets there on time, but we got on a bus right before 4 am (which is when they say the last buses leave for runners) and we had WAY more than enough time to spare. We sat down in coral C and waited…and waited…and waited. When you are sitting there waiting to run 13.1 miles you begin to contemplate why you spent money to be tortured in this way. Anyway, soon it was time for the National Anthem and then coral A got their fireworks and start, and we were moving up to the front.

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Then we were running…and it was dark. Like REALLY dark. A lot of the street lights weren’t on/working and I was concerned about tripping on something it was so dark. We made a huge loop and ended up almost next to the start line. We were in the 3rd of 19 waves, so we kept hearing fireworks for a very long time. We then turned onto Bear Island road, which reminded me of running the marathon around into the back of Animal Kingdom, which is exactly where we were headed. But not before running into some storm troopers!

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My knee began to bother me a little bit so we did run walk intervals, which I was fine with since I had not been running since the Princess half eight weeks ago.

There were a few photo op’s that didn’t involve characters which I thought was a nice touch. Since I don’t know a ton about Star Wars (don’t hate me) I had to get Bobby to explain several things to me.

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We made it into Animal Kingdom, hit the bathrooms, and made it around the park. I was actually shooting an Instagram story in the below photo. Gotta work while I run!

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On the other side of Animal Kingdom we ran into these guys. Bobby told me to do this with my hands but I still have no idea why.

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Dark Maul was next. Clearly I am impressed with Star Wars characters. However, Bobby was in his element.

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At about mile eight, Bobby’s lack of training began to show. Poor guy doesn’t have time to run, and he ran one six mile run and a few short runs before the race, but that’s it. His hamstrings began to cramp up and his knees were aching pretty badly, so we did more walking the last few miles of the race, and stopped some so he could stretch.

I really enjoyed running a different course than the same ones I have done over and over, and in particular I loved going through Hollywood Studios an dover the Boardwalk.

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But what I did NOT like is the path going from DHS to the Boardwalk. It’s super narrow and was really congested. You can’t get around people so it was slow going the whole way. Oh well!

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I kinda like him.

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On the Boardwalk there were more fun characters to pose with.

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Selfie with a Storm Trooper? Why not!

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As we came down towards the International gateway area, we saw Chewie but didn’t see a clear path to get to him from the road, so we hopped in the grass to get over to the line and a cast member yelled at us in a not so magical voice to get off the grass. Oy.

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We made the turn into EPCOT and started around the World Showcase.

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My attempt at getting Spaceship Earth in the background.
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Near where the gospel choir is at other runDisney races, we saw these two and of course had to stop. Leia’s face cracks me up.

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We made one final turn past the mile 13 marker, and were in the home stretch. Across the finish line we went and another half marathon was now complete.

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We didn’t stick around because my parents were watching Emma Kate, and we had fastpasses at Animal Kingdom so we hopped on a bus and headed back to the resort, eating snacks from our boxes on the way. Another race to check off my list!

QOTD: Are you a Star Wars fan? Would you ever run this race?

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?

EPCOT International Flower and Garden Festival

Last week, Amanda and I visited Walt Disney World to wander around at EPCOT’S International Flower and Garden Festival. This yearly festival runs from March 1st until May 29th, and has food, fun, and of course…flowers!

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A few years ago, the festival introduced “outdoor kitchens” taking advantage of the popularity of vacationers loving to try snack sized portions of food, which is a genius idea. There are 15 kitchens spread around the world showcase, two of them being newcomers this spring for the 24th year of the festival. You can use snack credits for many items as part of the Disney dining plan, and you can even pre purchase an adorable gift card that can be used as you eat around the world.

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Don’t forget about the Garden Rocks concert series. These mini concerts will get you movin’ and shakin’ along with the music at the America Gardens Theatre. You can check out the full concert lineup here, as well as information on dining packages.

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There are also tons of adorable topiaries, exhibits, and gardens to see during your visit to EPCOT. With 13 topiaries sprinkled around the park, you are bound to get a few great photos with some of your favorite Disney characters in plant and flower form.

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A favorite of mine were the kid play areas. I know my daughter is going to flip when she sees these when we go back in April.

Be sure you don’t miss the bonsai and butterfly exhibits either, they are great for learning and teaching your kids, as well as just plain cool.

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The festival center also has special weekend events for you to check out, and you can also sign up for special tours and events going on during this time, like the like the Royal tea garden tour. It looks super fun! Of course there is also tons of fun merchandise to purchase as well to commemorate this special occasion. You can find several booths selling everything from t-shirts to  mugs to garden essentials.

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Spring time is a great time to visit the Walt Disney World Resort, so be sure when you do, that you block off plenty of time to spend in beautiful EPCOT at the International Flower and Garden Festival.

QOTD: Have you ever visited Walt Disney World during this time? What is your favorite thing about the festival?

runDisney Princess Half Marathon Race Recap 2017

A couple of weeks ago I have the privilege of running in my 6th runDisney Princess half marathon. I ran the Glass Slipper Challenge last year and in 2014, but this year my friend Jen and I decided to save some money (and some sleep!) and just run the half marathon. (Pssst. There is a video at the end of the post so hang tight to watch a recap from my Instagram Stories!)

Every year we dress up, and this year was a bit crazy for both of us and we didn’t have time to create elaborate matching costumes like we have done in the past. However, we still dressed up and per usual kept our costumes a secret until the night before the race. We went to bed early, and my 2:45 am alarm came way too soon.

We got dressed, put on our traditional fake eyelashes like we do every year (you would THINK we would be better at this by now!) and headed to the bus.

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(Coming soon: A tutorial on how I created my costume, the easy/I’m terrible at sewing kind of tutorial!)

We got to the bus stop in front of the Yacht Club, and were the last people loaded before we left. What was interesting was we were on a park bus, not a regular greyhound which was a first for me with runDisney. There was a lot of traffic, but we made it to EPCOT by about 4:15 and walked to the family reunion area where we met up with a friend before checking Jen’s bag. It was chillier than I expected, and I was thankful for my throw away sweatshirt I remembered to bring.

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We had never gotten to the corrals this early before, and they were pretty empty! runDisney got smart and put a row of port-o-potties close to the front corrals so we were able to go to the bathroom with no line and then jump in D corral. Karen was also in our corral, so she hung out with us and started the race with us, too. Our plan was to just have fun and take walk breaks. I was super undertrained and this was just a “for fun” race.

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The race started a few minutes late because the traffic was so bad, but finally we made it up to the start line with the rest of our corral.

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After a quick hi to Rudy and Carissa, we were off on our 13.1 mile journey!

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The first couple of miles are always so uneventful. It’s dark, there is nothing to look at, and you start thinking about all the miles ahead! Thankfully we just all chatted together until around mile 2 when Karen decided to stop for a character photo that we decided to skip (lines were already so long! I can’t imagine how bad they were for the corrals behind us.) We made it to the Magic Kingdom gates and I was excited we were getting closer to the more exciting parts of the course.

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After a quick stop at the med tent for body glide, we were on our way towards the TTC. I have to admit, I was a little bummed at the low crows at this spot. Traditionally this is my second favorite spot in the race because of all the energy from wall to wall people screaming and cheering, but this year there was hardly anyone and it made me sad. Did anyone else notice this? It wasn’t very cold outside so I’m not sure what the deal was. We passed my favorite drummers and kept going towards the big hill.

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When we made the turn to get to the Magic Kingdom, we thought it was odd that the 5 mile marker wasn’t in it’s usual place. (The things you notice when you have run this course over a dozen times!) We would later find out the course through the Magic Kingdom was slightly altered which is why the markers were in a different place.

We made the turn onto Main Street, my favorite part, and again it just didn’t have the same crowd and energy I am used to seeing, but it’s still my favorite part.

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We stopped and found a girl by herself trying to take a photo and we took turns getting pics for each other. I love runners!

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Next stop was the bathroom in Tomorrowland. We used to stop at the ones at the TTC, but a couple years ago they started locking those for us for some reason, which means even more princesses waiting in line in Tomorrowland. We had a several minute delay, and then were on our way again.

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We made it out of the Magic Kingdom (sad times) and made another bathroom stop at the next water station (too much coffee!) We arrived at the long stretch of single lane road, and Jen and I can’t figure out why its always so COLD on this part of the course! Any ideas? Before long we were at mile seven by the Grand Floridian. I took a picture with Snow White, since the line for her in the Magic Kingdom was dozens of people long. This is as close as I was going to get.

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The next few miles were uneventful again, just running out on the road. We saw the race going the other way towards the Magic Kingdom around mile 2.5 I guess, and I saw the balloon ladies! I yelled for the princesses to run faster! We grabbed a CLIF shot at the free station around mile nine, and took a walk break to eat those (I am not coordinated enough to run and eat at the same time). Next we were making the turn on the loop of death at mile 10 (it KILLS my IT bands) and had a 5k to go. At this point we had gotten to the length of my longest and one and only really long run from this training cycle of 10 miles, and I was getting tight even though we weren’t running fast at all. My right thigh/quad up near my hip flexor started to hurt, but we only had a couple miles to go so I just pushed through.

Soon we hit mile 11, and looped around and up the overpass and down into EPCOT and mile 12. A photographer caught me doing an Insta story on my phone. Oops. But seriously, if this doesn’t sum up my life I don’t know what does.

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We looped around the small part of the course that goes through the park, and then I could hear the gospel choir singing! Miles 13 came and went, and we were in the home stretch of the finish line.

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Can I just say that I love getting race pictures free as an annual passholder?!?

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We made it! After crossing the finish line in 2:32, we had to get pixie dusted of course.

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We got our medals, and headed over to the Media/VIP tent for some much deserved food and of course, mimosas.

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Now I was able to do my favorite thing, cheer other runners on as they came through the finish. I LOVE seeing runners tearing up, holding hands with loved ones, and just getting to experience the looks on their faces as they are mere steps from the finish line. There is just nothing like it, and it makes me so happy.

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Mimosas make me happy, too.

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So does this guy. Always takes time to talk to runners and makes us all feel so special. Jeff Galloway is the best!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carissa came into the tent for some food and we were able to say hello for a minute and grab a picture.

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We hung out and ate some more, met with a couple of people, and then headed back to the resort. I am so thankful to have a friend like Jen who gifted me with the opportunity to run in another Princess half marathon. I also love our little tradition of running the Princess half!

If you want to see a video I took during the race as a recap, and also see what Jen and I did for the rest of the day after the race, be sure to check out the video below. Please note this video is my Instagram story from the day, and apparently it doesn’t like when you have still shots mixed in with your videos, so there are about 5 times during the video where you will see it “Freeze up” for a couple of seconds. These are the places where I had still shots that won’t come up, so just ignore it, it will keep playing!

 

For more race recaps and general runDisney information, photos, and posts, check out my runDisney page!