5 Things Friday XXXIV

Hello my lovely friends! It’s September, fall is in the air…wait, no. I live in Florida. Fall is most definitely not in the air, but hurricanes are. More on that later. I wanted to play catch up with another 5 things Friday post for you all before we head into this weekend. I’m traveling all day today but I wanted to make sure I was able to say hello! You can still catch me over on IG stories and Twitter (@HeathersLG)

So here are 5 things for this Friday:

1.) Another cruise post: I’m still enjoying reminiscing about my time onboard the Carnival Horizon earlier in the summer. Bobby and I loved the new ship and had an amazing time in Bermuda. one thing I loved about the Horizon was all the places to sit and relax. This post talks about some of my favorites!

2.) Toy Story Land FAM: Coming up this time next week is a preschooler Toy Story Land media FAM, (as long as there are no hurricanes) and I was pumped to find out we will be staying at Art of Animation! I have toured this resort twice before on other media trips, but never have I actually called it home for a night, so we are pumped to test drive a family suite for two nights!

3.) MNSSHP: As part of the media trip mentioned above, we will be taking Emma Kate to the Halloween party! If there is anything, in particular, you want pictures of videos of, let me know!

4.) EK’s birthday month: September also means Emma Kate’s birthday month! I can’t believe in less than three weeks I will have a 4-year-old. She is SO ready and has been asking when her birthday is for months now. Poor baby just can’t wait to grow up, no matter how many times I tell her adulting is not fun. Wasn’t I just pregnant? Wasn’t she just learning to crawl? All the feels.

5.) Hurricane watch: As previously alluded to, it’s that special time of year (late August/September) when all the hurricanes come out to play. Almost to the date, we were evacuating hurricane Irma last year, and the tropics are getting all fired up once more. Praying we are able to dodge a bullet once again because after the stress of evacuating last year, I highly doubt we would do it again. Say a prayer these bad boys just stay out at sea and dissipate!

Sunset Inn & Cottages for Families of all Sizes

I recently wrote a post about our fabulous stay at Sunset Inn and Cottages in Treasure Island, Florida. We stayed in the Sunkissed cottage which was the perfect size for us. However, I wanted to make sure to also highlight other sizes of accommodations available at this property that may fit your family a little better. First off, The Inn. This is actually attached to the office and all of the rooms are in the same building. This is great if you are more on a budget or only need space for two people and want a more traditional hotel room set up. However, several of the rooms have connecting doors, so you could always rent side by side rooms to sleep more people.

These two rooms are inn rooms but are also connecting. They each have a queen bed as well as fridge and coffee maker. There is storage space in the little back hallway and a TV.

There is also a bathroom in each room, stocked with towels for your stay.

Another option for those with a bit of a larger family would be a cottage such as the MacDill. This cottage has a similar set up to the one we stayed in, except it has an extra bedroom, and sleeps six people. I am also in love with its cute little front porch!

The sofa folds out to a bed just like in our cottage.

The difference is off the master is the second bedroom, with two twin beds.

Just enough space to sleep, and then spend the day enjoying the beach!

How adorable is this little table? This cottage also has a full kitchen just like ours did. Side note, while the sofa bed technically sleeps two, I wouldn’t put two adults on it, as it would be a tight fit, but two kids would do just fine!

I’m so glad we had the opportunity to check out the other accommodations at Sunset Inn and Cottages. Great for families of all sizes and literally just steps from the beautiful beach. Check out the website for availability and pricing.

Relax on the Carnival Horizon

Disclosure: We sailed on a media cruise with Carnival, however, all opinions are my own.

When I think about vacation and cruising, in particular, I think about doing a lot of relaxing. Relaxing to me usually means sitting down, chatting with friends and family, and enjoying each others company. One of my favorite things that I noticed about the Carnival Horizon is that there are so many places to sit and relax throughout the ship. There are of course restaurants and bars, but then there are fun little nooks and places to hang out and enjoy a drink or two…or more. Below are 10 of my favorite places onboard:

  1. Guy’s Pig and Anchor Smokehouse and Brewhouse bar: I love these adorable bar stools and the drinks here are super popular.

2. The Piano Bar: This space is open to the steakhouse until late at night then it gets a little more lively!

3. Alchemy Bar: Best drinks on the ship hands down. Also, a great spot to people watch.

4. Bonsai: Sushi lovers rejoice! This is another great people watching spot and has some awesome views out the windows as well.

5. Lobby atrium: This is where a lot of the action is happening! There are several places to sit amongst the shops and this area is also where you will find guest services as well as computers and printers.

6. Guy’s Pig and Anchor: Only open sometimes, this quick service place has sweeping ocean views and a fun atmosphere (and great food!) Feel free to hang out and take a seat even when they aren’t open for meals.

7. Guy’s Pig and Anchor Smokehouse and Brewhouse seating area. This is next to the bar area and is a fun addition to the ship.

8. Havana pool area: During the day this area is only accessed by those staying in the Havana rooms, but after 7:00 anyone can come back and soak in a gorgeous sunset or a drink at the bar.

9. Havana bar area: This area is super fun and colorful with great music. So many cute little places to sit as well. Very popular spot at night!

10. Serenity adults-only area: This was my favorite. Grabbing one of these shaded couches with a good book and ocean views is where you could find me on sea days. Fair warning, they fill up in the morning so don’t miss out!

There are so many more fun spots not mentioned here, but this is just to show that there are way more places to sit and relax than your stateroom or directly by the pool. I think it’s really fun to find new hidden places on the ship as the cruise goes on. There is so much to explore on the Horizon! 

ESPN WWOS Media FAM Day 4

Disclosure: I was invited to a 3-night media event by Walt Disney World, however, all opinions are my own.

(Check out day 123 and 3 part 2 before reading this one!)

On day 4 of our trip, the media FAM was over, but Disney was kind enough to give us park tickets so we could have one more day of fun before heading home. We decided to go to Toy Story Land for the very first time and I’m so glad we did!

We checked out of the Boardwalk and drove over to Disney’s Hollywood Studios to make our way to the brand new area. It is SO adorable and has so many fun details. We were able to ride Slinky Dog Dash, Alien Swirling Saucers (three times) and Toy Story Mania. We were not able to eat at Woody’s Lunchbox, but that just means we have to go back.

Related: The Walls of Toy Story Land

Emma Kate did NOT want to do Slinky Dog Dash, so Bobby and I took turns riding it and taking her on AlienSwillingg Saucers which she loved.

 

 

She screamed (happy scream) the whole time.

 

I adored all the little hidden nooks and areas with cute theming. Be sure to look for Andy’s footprint on the ground and the backyard fence off in the distance. The exit que of Toy Story Mania is really cute too, so even if you aren’t riding the ride be sure to go check it out (near the giant Pixar ball).

Slinky Dog Dash was a lot of fun and just the right amount of thrill for me. The que was really cute as well, but it was really warm as there isn’t much shade in the longer parts of the line.

A must for photo opps is the giant sign as you enter. There was a photopass photographer hanging around when we went by.

Also, the restroom was really cute, it’s in the back to the left of the land.

We ate lunch at Sci-Fi but I don’t have any pictures since it’s pretty dark in there. It was nice to sit in the air conditioning for a while before going back out again. Before we left we got pictures with Donald which was a great way to cap off the trip. Little miss slept the whole way back to Tampa, so I would say the trip was a success. Thanks so much, Disney!

 

Staycation at Sunset Inn and Cottages

Disclosure: We were provided with a 3 nights stay at Sunset Inn and Cottages, however, all opinions are my own.

One of the great things about living in Florida is being able to vacation in our own backyard. The Tampa Bay area is huge, so even though we only live less than an hour away, we had yet to venture to the Treasure Island area since we have lived here. Now I’m kicking myself for waiting so long! We had an amazing staycation at a hidden gem of a property called Sunset Inn and Cottages.

Sunset Inn and Cottages

Sunset Inn and Cottages is located in a quiet residential area of Treasure Island, FL. There were hardly any cars, and we were just a couple hundred yards from the ocean which was amazing! Right across from the cottages and Inn at the beach access is a pavilion, bathrooms, and a playground (which we visited many times). It’s partially covered which was awesome considering it’s August! I knew I was immediately going to love this place when we walked up to check in and I saw this little free library. How fun and perfect for the beach.

Our home for the next few days was the Sunkissed cottage. It had a queen bedroom, pull out sofa sleeper, one bathroom, and a full kitchen. It was the perfect size for our little family! This particular cottage is also pet-friendly. Another huge bonus is that we had our own covered parking space next to our cottage. Beach parking can be dicey so knowing we always had a place was so nice.

Sunset Inn and Cottages

Our cottage had cozy wood floors, a full refrigerator and freezer, and plenty of lighting.

There were even books and games in the cottage! There was cable TV and free wifi as well.

The kitchen was fully stocked with plates, cups, utensils, and more.

The bathroom wasn’t huge and there was no sink space, but it was just fine for a few days. There was a counter right outside the bathroom in the hall that we used to put our toiletries on instead.

The bedroom had a place to hang and store clothing (not pictured) as well as a little chair.

There was also a dining table and four chairs which was great for lunches in the afternoons. You can see in the left corned of the photo below, the cottage will rent you out beach chairs and an umbrella so you don’t have to bring your own!

Below you can see the extra linens they left for Emma Kate’s pull out sofa sleeper.

We were also provided with towels and washcloths (in the green bin below) to use during our stay.

There are also two adorable courtyards on the property with chairs and tables for your enjoyment. 

Below is the second courtyard. You can see our little orange Sunkissed cottage in the background.

Related: Ultimate Beach packing List

Below you can see just how close we were to the beach. There is a stop sign in the photo, and the beach is just right on the other side of the road. It’s not a busy road at all, and we hardly saw any cars.

The Inn portion is connected to the office and has a courtyard in front of it as you can see below.

 

We had such a fabulous time, and the beach was VERY quiet. Sunday there were a few more people out since the weather wasn’t great on Saturday, but Monday was practically empty. I went for a run on the beach in the morning and it was so serene and just what I needed to start the day.

 

 

We did a lot of sand castle building and shell collecting as well.

 

 

One more thing, Sunset Inn and Cottages is very aptly named, as I was blown away by the amazing evening sunsets. We would take a quick 30-second stroll to the beach from our cottage around 8:15 and were treated to the most gorgeous sky. Emma Kate loved playing in the waves in the evening, and it was a spectacular way to end the day each night.

 

For availability and pricing, be sure to check out the Sunset Inn and Cottages website. There are several cottages to choose from as well as regular Inn rooms (more on those later). You can also host a wedding or event at this property. A huge thanks to them for hosting us and for the hospitality. We will be back!

Tradewinds Beach Day

Recently my family and I had the opportunity to visit Tradewinds Resort on St. Pete Beach for a fun day of play. I had no idea there was so much to do here, or that you could purchase a day pass to enjoy the amenities even if you aren’t staying at the resort! <—-Biggest takeaway of the day for this girl! Below are a few highlights from our day:

We spent most of the day at the beach, although we also had access to the many pools, as well as the giant inflatable water slide, beach cabanas, and much more.

We also were able to snag a front row beach cabana to shade us from the bright sun. Towels and cushions were also provided, score! It was so nice to have a shady spot located so close to the water.

Emma Kate was a little too scared to do the water slide, but everyone who went down looked like theyw ere having so much fun!

The water was the perfect temperature and it wasn’t too crowded at the beach.

I don’t have photos because we were in the water, but Bobby also tried his hand at stand up paddle boarding! It was tough with the waves and current but he did a great job.

Emma Kate played in the water, built sand castles, and looked for seashells.

At lunchtime, we were treated to a beautiful spread in the shade where we chatted with other bloggers.

Emma Kate may or may not have had multiple cookies…

There were also multiple spots to get drinks, and I had this delicious fruity concoction which I enjoyed from my cabana looking out at the water.

I wish we had more time to explore, this resort is huge and there are tons of restaurants, activities, and fun little spots to explore. We will have to go back for a staycation and stay overnight! They often have great deals going on, especially for Florida residents.

Don’t forget locals, you can go get a day pass/wristband and just enjoy a fun day at the beach with your family. I know we will be doing it again!

Disclosure: we were provided with day passes and lunch from Tradewinds, however, all opinions are my own.

Real Life Tips for Disney’s Blizzard Beach

Disclosure: Disney provided me with park tickets and meal cards for the day, however, all opinions and tips for Disney’s Blizzard Beach are my own.

I see a lot of Disney tips posts floating around that have great information, but it’s either things that everyone already knows, or it’s not practical tips to help you make the best of your day at the water park. As a real-life mom with a very real life diva three-year-old, I need the “good stuff” when it comes to tips. With that being said, let’s get down to business:

Tips for Disney's Blizzard Beach

Tips for Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park

1.) Wear water shoes: Florida is hot (and water is wet, I know I know). While Disney does an amazing (seriously, amazing) job of having water sprayers spraying down the sidewalks in a lot of places at the water park, it’s impractical for every square inch of the sidewalk to be wet. This creates very hot pavement for a large portion of the year. Solution: water shoes. Not only will you be thankful for them when you see others frantically running from wet spot to wet spot, but they really come in handy if you or your kids prefer to “walk” in the lazy river.

For instance, my darling three-year-old did not want an intertube in the giant river MADE FOR INTERTUBES, no no, she just wanted to wear her puddle jumper and run along the bottom. Even when her smart mommy told her that she was going to make her feet raw, darling daughter paid no mind and well, you can guess who was crying on the way home (ok, so maybe that was both of us, because her screaming plus traffic on I-4 tends to make me a bit teary.)

Real Life Tip: When you have a 3-year-old, the lazy river isn’t super relaxing, so set the bar low. It IS a ton of fun though, but relaxing…not so much.

2.) Tikes Peak for small kids = a parents dream: When you come into the main area of the park, be sure to hang a right and head into Tike’s Peak if you have a toddler or preschool-aged child. You will thank me later. This adorable area is a scaled-down version of Mt. Gushmore, and not only is this space mostly contained (re: once they go up the top of the “mountain” the only way down is the way they just came walking up, or to go down a slide), but it’s also super adorably themed and has PLENTY for the little Mouseketeers to do. We honestly could have stayed in this area the entire day and never gone to any other parts of the park and my child would have been happy.

Real life tip #2: Keep an eye out for photopass photographers in this area. They tend to hang out in the wading pool area and will snap pics of your kids for you. They can link to your magic band or give you a card to link later. There are usually a lot people vying for these action shot pics, so you may have to wait a minute to grab the photographers attention, but it’s well worth it!

3.) Check all the food options: It’s tempting to think that Blizzard Beach will have standard water park fare on the menu, and while you will find your favorite comfort foods, there is also plenty of vegan and vegetarian options. I had the hot dog with bacon and mac and cheese, and check out some of these other options in my photos below. Doesn’t exactly look like your typical quick service meal, right?

Tips for Disney's Blizzard Beach

Real Life Tip #3: There are several food locations scattered through the park so be sure to check out all the menus beforehand. The lines can get a little long at high noon so eat a little earlier or a later to avoid the rush.

4.) Refillable drinks: If you are familiar with Disney resorts, you may know about rapid refillable mugs. Blizzard Beach has their own version that is good for the entire day for $11.99 on sodas and the like. (Sadly no alcohol.) You can also hang on to it and bring it back another day for a discounted price on your next day of refills. If you plan to stay all day I think this is a great deal. Best to stay hydrated in the sun!

Tips for Disney's Blizzard Beach

Real life tip #4: For those that like adult beverages, there are plenty of places to get them. My favorite is the bar right in front of Melt Away Bay (the wave pool) because it’s a great spot for people watching and has a nice view.

Related: Beyond the Parks Part 1

5.) Arrive before park opening or mid-afternoon: I know I know, this sounds contradictory. Allow me to explain. If you plan to stay all day or prefer the morning hours like we do, arrive early. Every time we have gone we have been allowed in the gates before the advertised opening. While there are PLENTY of chairs at the park, some of the more coveted areas and areas in the shade go more quickly, especially areas along the wave pool and in Tike’s Peak.

Tips for Disney's Blizzard Beach

Real Life Tip #5: Tike’s Peak chairs go super quickly because all the parents want to lounge in them and sit fruity drinks while they “watch” their children play. Or maybe that’s just me? Either way, head there first to put down your stuff if you are wanting to have a seat.

A lot of people leave after lunch or in the early afternoon after there wee ones have had enough (hand raise) so this opens up chairs and spots in line for those willing to come in the afternoon after the initial crowd has gone home.

Tips for Disney's Blizzard Beach

Tips for Disney’s Blizzard Beach

Blizzard Beach is an amazing place to visit while at the Walt Disney World resort. The lines are usually never super long, it boasts an almost mile long lazy river, and most of the slides are family friendly. In fact, only 3 slides have height requirements! Whether you are a local coming in for the day or in the middle of a week-long vacation, be sure not to skip out on this fun opportunity to make some “real life” memories with your family. Be sure to check out my recap video below of our fun-filled day in our happy place and thanks for reading my tips for Disney’s Blizzard Beach.

ESPN WWOS Media FAM Day 3 Part 2

Disclosure: I was invited to a 3-night media event by Walt Disney World, however, all opinions are my own.

(Check out day 1, 2, and 3 before reading this one!)

We left off on day three after our time at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. Disney then provided us with Minnie Vans to go wherever we needed to go! It was so much fun to use this awesome new(ish) service. Since Bobby and Emma Kate were at Animal Kingdom, that’s where I headed in my van to meet up with them.

It. was. hot. We only stayed a little while and Bobby did Flights of Passage while Emma Kate and I did the Navi River Journey.

Our plan was to head back to the Boardwalk and then go to the pool, but it started storming as soon as we got back. So we decided to just take a rest and Bobby would take her later while I was at the final event for the trip.

I met up with the group and we rode over to EPCOT. We were having dinner out on the patio of Spice Road Table. I was excited because I had only ever had drinks here and not a meal. Meanwhile, EK and Bobby hung out on the Boardwalk and went to the pool.

The drinks at Spice Road Table are delicious and we had an amazing view of the water.

I had the filet and it was delicious. (The restaurant also did a great job accommodating allergies in our group!)

We had a great time eating and chatting, and then took a leisurely walk over to our Illuminations dessert party. Due to the threat of rain, they set up the party inside, and then after we had dessert we walked out to our special spot for the fireworks.

The show was great, but then sadly it was time to say goodbye to the new friends I had made on the trip. I learned so much about the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex, and can’t wait until EK is old enough to play there herself.

Don’t go away just yet, the next day we headed to Toy Story Land before going home, and I will do one more post all about it. A huge thanks to Disney for hosting us!

ESPN WWOS Media FAM Day 3 Part 1

Disclosure: I was invited to a 3-night media event by Walt Disney World, however, all opinions are my own.

In case you missed day one and two, go back and read those first!

Day three of the media event was the “big day” where we were busy all day long at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports complex. I went into a lot of details of the events, etc on this post, but I will add in a few more as I talk about this day.

We began the day bright and early at the complex. Thankfully they had breakfast and coffee for us. It was cool to see some of the healthy food options you can purchase for your sports team. In my box was an avocado bagel, apple, orange juice, and yogurt. It hit the spot and is definitely something I would be happy for my child to eat as opposed to sugary on the go cereals or pop tarts.

After breakfast, we toured the entire complex, which took a while but was so much fun! (This place is huge, so we did some touring via golf cart.) After seeing the new arena and all the courts it has, we got to hang out with Goofy and Nick Anderson of Orlando Magic fame. He was so nice and spent a ton of time talking to us (check out my Instagram TV channel to see some of what he said.

He even gave me some pointers on my follow through (I haven’t touched a basketball in about 10 years yall) and it was so great to be on the court again.

We sadly left the arena after hanging out with Nick and Goofy, and made our way over to the VISA Center where we learned about the on the spot tee shirt printing services that are offered. It’s so cool that you can get your name, number, team name, and much more printed on a shirt. We even got our own shirts!

Next we got to see the real live working studio where sports reporting is done. It was so much fun to sit behind the desk and pretend like I was important haha! What’s cool is that they can change the colors of the studio (like the yellow and blue in the below photo) depending on what they are covering. How cool!

Next, we headed into the production studio which was SO COOL. I wrote more about it on the link I posted at the top of this page so won’t go into a ton of detail, but it’s so cool how much video footage these guys have on all the events that go on at the complex. It seems so intricate and detailed.

After learning all about the production side, we hopped on some golf carts and headed out to the soccer fields to catch some of the tournament action. I loved seeing people everywhere anad so many games going on at once.
Next, we headed back inside to take a look at the game day photo options. You can get your picture taken holding your favorite sporting equipment and have it put on balls, blankets, Christmas ornaments, and more. You can even hire a photographer to take action shots of your child during their game so you can just focus on cheering. I love this option!

We all had our pictures taken and happened to be put on the cover of ESPN magazine. 🙂 It was soon time for lunch, and we had a delicious spread and ate while listening to more wonderful cast members talking about the complex and then my favorite…runDisney!

At the end of the day we were surprised with an amazing gift…a race entry into the runDisney Walt Disney World marathon weekend! I was of course super pumped because I was not planning on signing up for any of the races. It was so generous of them, and I can’t wait for you all to follow along in my journey on race weekend.

This post is getting long so I’m going to break this day up into two posts, so stay tuned for more!

ESPN WWOS Media FAM Day 2

On Sunday morning we hung out at the hotel for a little bit and then drove over to Disney Springs for our welcome brunch at Splitsville. It also just so happened to be the day of the World Cup soccer final! We were able to bowl, eat, and watch the game after hearing a few words from Faron Kelley and Darrell Fry about the media event, the ESPN WWOS Complex, and more.

Emma Kate had never bowled before and she had a blast!

I had plenty of delicious food and plenty of mimosas. It was also a lot of fun to be there for the game because lots of other soccer teams were at Splitsville and they were all so into the game. What a cool experience to be in Walt Disney World for a soccer tournament AND getting to watch the World Cup while there.

After brunch we headed to EPCOT for a couple of hours and Emma Kate rode Soarin’ for the first time (she was not a fan haha). It was so incredibly warm so we walked back (so nice to not have to take a bus or car!) to the room because I had another event to attend.

Bobby and EK went to dinner and the pool, and I headed to the Sports Complex to watch the opening ceremonies of the two soccer tournaments I talked about in this post. Thankfully we watched from an air conditioned suite, but it was so cool to see the dedication and love the parents and family members showed to the youth athletes by being at the ceremonies.

Each team had the opportunity to march across the field and sit in the stands with everyone else. Some of these teams came from FAR AWAY. I’m talking Bermuda, Kenya, Europe. What a cool experience. Minnie and Mickey even made an appearance in their adorable soccer outfits.

Meanwhile these two were having their own fun!

After the ceremonies we went back to the resort to change for dinner. We ate at Flying Fish Cafe, which is on the Boardwalk. Again, another perk of staying here is there are so many places to walk. Dinner was amazing and we had a nice private room so we could all get to know each other. I was even surprised with a special birthday treat and song, which was totally unexpected!

It was a late night, so I headed to bed because the next day we would be at the Sports Complex all day, and I couldn’t wait to see some of the new additions and see the soccer tournaments in action.