Big Top Souvenirs

 

We had a blast at Disney last week and I can’t wait to share all of our adventures, treats, and eats with you! First up, I had to share the boys’ favorite store/candy shop in Magic Kingdom. Storybook Circus is tucked away behind new Fantasyland and it houses a splash pad, the Dumbo ride, several circus themed character meet and greets, and the Barnstormer ride. The only time we entered Storybook Circus before this trip was when we were collecting candy at Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party last year. Friends, we were missing out! We entered Storybook Circus on a whim this year, and we were able to walk on to the Barnstormer ride. We also headed into Big Top Souvenirs, and found a treasure trove of unique items.

First, in addition to many adorable plushies (Dumbo and his Mom!) there were more Tsum Tsums than any other shop we’d seen…

Including Wreck it Ralph Tsum Tsums that are currently not available elsewhere:

 

 

Then they also have a candy counter in the center that you can watch the cast members make the candy:

And they have a variety of sweets, including cake pops, candy apples, and rice crispy Mickey ears:

 

 

After much deliberation the boys settled on m&m coated Mickey ears:

And they tasted as good as they looked!

Big Top Souvenirs is now a must stop on our next trip! And speaking of the perfect treat, this kid here:

Is a perfect ten today! We were so glad to celebrate his birthday last week at Disney! He is kind, smart, funny, and my forever snack connoisseur and shopping buddy. He’s the best and we love him to pieces!

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Five new things for our Disney trip

We’ve learned a few things over our past two trips to Disney, so I thought I’d share five new things that we are either bringing on our next trip!

First up is new raincoats for the boys. Their raincoats from the last trip worked fine, but they complained about how sticky they were with the humidity, so I’ve purchased some sturdier coats that still fold up well.

 

Second, is Teva sandals. On our past two trips they’ve worn closed toe shoes, like these, but now that they are older, they wanted to wear flip flops, and Teva sandals were our compromise.

 

Third, is Disney gift cards. If you have a Target Card you can get Disney gift cards at a five percent discount. This means a set limit for souvenirs for the boys and hopefully a lot less complaining.

 

Fourth, is new cushioned flip flops for me because I wore out the soles on my old reef flip flops on our last trip:

Fifth, is AT LEAST four extra outfits for each person beyond outfits for everyday. There are some days that it is so hot, or you get soaked on a ride that you need to change back at the hotel. Both of our previous trips I have run out of clothes for everyone by the end of the trip.

This day was the hottest day of any of the trips we’ve been on. We went back to the hotel, changed, and went back out on this day.

And that’s our top five new things we’re bringing to Disney this year! We’re counting down the weeks!!

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This and that

I would love to say everyone on our house is on the mend, but I’m really afraid of jinxing it at this point, so I’m just going to say nothing and continue on with some happenings around here.

First up, B and I are officially the same age again:

We didn’t celebrate like we had intended since A caught J’s croup by the end of the week, but the four of us had fun nonetheless:

I made Halloween candied popcorn, mainly so we could drown our Auburn loss sorrows in it…ha!

I can’t say enough how much I love my work. In part because my hybrid courses have given me the flexibility to join the boys on field trips that aren’t on Fridays. I went with J’s class to learn about animals and plants:

And we saw a goat that was the GOAT:

I went to pick up some items from Target and came upon this:

The only time a Target worker hasn’t asked if I need help with anything.

And the boys got to have donuts with Granna that they were very excited about:

The boys love that Granna teaches at their school and so do we!

Lastly, our final countdown to Disney is on now that our magic bands arrived:

I’m so ready for this trip!! We are praying for everyone to be healthy and for good weather!!

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Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party

On our Disney trip last year we went to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party for the first time. If you are a Disney fan it is definitely an event that you’ll want to experience at least once. There were some things that we learned from our event, so I wanted to share it with you!

The first is that this event is not one that I would recommend for little kids that are easily scared. You know your kid and although it is very family friendly, it does have some spooky elements to it. Our youngest REFUSED to ride the Haunted Mansion, even though he’s ridden it before.

The second is that I would recommend setting aside a ticket day for it. You can typically enter in the park around 6 p.m. (this changes) for the event, and you’ll most likely end up staying until around midnight. If you’ve already been in the park all day this can make for a very late night, especially with younger kids.

Pick one or two chosen character meet and greets and head there to get in line as soon as you get in the park. The costumed characters take breaks, so what may be a thirty minute line, may turn into a much longer line if the characters are taking breaks ever so often.

Plan ahead and pick what you think are your key events. We picked the parade, a treat at Storybook Treats and watched the fireworks from that area. Then we went trick or treating as we walked through the park.

Get the magic pictures! You can only get them at the event, and we found that most of these lines were not long.

Ride the rides! Especially this year, some rides have special experiences, and there were rides that we walked on to, that you can’t always do that.

And lastly, have fun! There are so many different things to do at these events that sometimes you forget to actually enjoy it.

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Trying something new at Disney

For our past two Disney trips, we’ve always started with Disney Springs. ALWAYS. Part of it was because we were staying at the French Quarter and it was a quick boat ride away. Part of it was because I wanted to do some shopping before the boys got Disneyed out at the end of the week. And both times, we found that the boys wanted to buy all the souvenirs before we had even hit a park. And then at the parks they’d see more souvenirs that they’d want to buy, leading to whining, pouting, and complaining. Also, occasionally tears. Some may have been mine. Ha!

As we were planning our Disney trip this year, I told B, you know, I don’t know if I want to go to Disney Springs. At all. I’ll pause while you get over your shock. Now, if you’ve never been to Disney World or if it’s been awhile, I highly recommend Disney Springs. They have awesome restaurants, fabulous shopping, etc. However, for us I felt like we needed a change. So our plan to deal with the souvenir issue has been two-fold. First, I’m getting the boys each a Disney Gift Card for their souvenirs. It’s something tangible that once it’s gone, it’s gone.

Second, instead of heading straight to Disney Springs when we get there, we are going to the Animal Kingdom Lodge. B and I stayed there on our honeymoon about thirteen years ago and every time we go to Disney we talk about going back to Animal Kingdom Lodge to visit. And if you’re thinking, what can you do at a hotel all day…check out Disney Food Blog’s post on Animal Kingdom Lodge. There are great restaurants, play areas, plenty of kid activities, and lots of animal viewing spots. It’s something that the kids will be excited about without having the urge to buy, buy, buy right away. It’ll also be cooler, as Disney Springs has large areas with no shade if you aren’t in a store.

We’re looking forward to trying this out! I’ll be sure to share our experience when we return!

 

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Port Orleans: French Quarter

As I was going through past Disney posts, I realized I’ve never done a review of our favorite moderate resort at Disneyworld. Two years ago, we were planning to take the boys to Disney for the first time, so I turned to a friend of mine who knows a thing or two about Disney stays (she’s the original creator of the Disney Diva site). When I was a kid we always stayed at deluxe resorts, but I wanted to try out a moderate (for cost purposes). She immediately said “Port Orleans: French Quarter, you’ll love it”. We booked it, and have stayed there another time since. It is indeed our favorite moderate resort and one of our overall favorite resorts at Disneyworld, so let me tell you why!

First, ambience. This resort never seems crowded (we’ve stayed in both June and October, which are high crowd times at Disney), it is quaint, with beautiful gardens and views. We always pick a garden view room, and both times have been located close to both the quick service dining area and the transportation area. It is tree covered, so there are cool places to sit and you can get almost all the way to the quick service area under cover (helpful for when it’s raining).

Second, rooms. Unlike every other moderate (at this time, as far as I know) on property, they have queen beds. Now moving from a double to a queen bed may not seem like a big deal, but my husband is 6 foot tall, and my boys argue when they are in close proximity to each other in a bed. This saves us a lot of headaches. In addition the rooms have always been clean, and they’ve been quiet.

Third, transportation. You can take a boat to Disney Springs, and while every where else you’ll have to take a bus, there is bus specific for French Quarter. You can’t even get that at some of the deluxe resorts. We have only had one issue waiting for a bus, and it was at park close at Epcot. The cast members at transportation ended up calling us a separate bus after we waited for almost an hour. However, I’ve had that happen while staying at both Animal Kingdom Lodge And The Boardwalk, so it can happen anywhere.

Fourth, cast members. This is true of many Disney resorts, but we’ve always had great experiences with the cast members here. The door greeter is always humorous, they took us to our car with our luggage when we left on our first trip, and gave us lots of advice for places to go on our trip that everyone got sick.

Fifth, the pool and the playground. The pool is awesome. Water slide, splash pad area, on going kid activities. There is also a shaded playground. I know this sounds basic, so often you think, I didn’t take my kids to Disney to play on a playground! Believe me, I thought that too. However, I realized that when you over plan you end up creating so much structure, and my kids need to run. And you cannot always just run around in Disney World, but you can at the playground.

On the flip side, there is no table service dining at French Quarter. It’s only quick service. The quick service does have lots of options, like shrimp and grits, and our favorite…beignets.

A few other downsides are you can’t walk into any of the parks, and sometimes the boat for Disney Springs can take awhile. Also, the French Quarter doesn’t typically participate in special offers from Disney World (Port Orleans: Riverside does), so the standard rate is typically what you’re going to get. However, I really think it’s one of the best resorts on property. The rate, to me, is reasonable and it’s going to be a closer bus ride to the parks than the value resorts. This year we’re staying at The Beach Club for A’s tenth birthday, so we’re taking a break from The French Quarter. I haven’t stayed at The Beach Club in probably twenty years, so I’m interested to compare it to our experience at French Quarter. I’ll be sure to share when we return!

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Akershus Royal Banquet Hall

To be honest I was unsure how this dinner was going to go. Five princesses, three boys, and on the last night of our trip. However, despite A’s face above, the boys loved it. Let me preface, as other reviews have stated, this meal is really all about the princess experience. Our dinner meal was fine, but both B and I agreed that the appetizer buffet and desserts were the highlight. The appetizer buffet was mainly crudités, cheeses (the smoked Norwegian goat cheese was so good we are trying to find it at home), and rolls and honestly I could’ve just eaten that.

As for the desserts (my picture was blurry because the lighting was low):

They were very good, but my very favorite was the little apple brown butter cake in the middle. It was so good!

Other highlights besides food were the princess meetings:


And the Royal processional that all the girls seemed to know what it was about, but my boys were quite confused:

Overall, I was glad that we decided to go! I don’t know if we’d go there again because princesses aren’t high on the boys’ lists of characters to meet, but it was definitely worth it to at least experience it once.

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The polite pig

In a little corner of Disney Springs, is a bustling BBQ joint, with exposed pipe work, craft beers, and a guy literally making the brisket right in front of your eyes. This was our first eating stop (a quick service credit on the dining plan) at Disney, and despite it being very busy we quickly ordered and found a table.

J was slightly excited to be at Disney, if you couldn’t tell. We ordered pulled pork, brisket, Mac and Cheese, and chicken strips:


The kids’ meals were okay. The mac and cheese was okay (a little over sauced), and the chicken strips were what you expect from a kids’ meal. I have to say my favorite of everything was the sides (sweet potato tater totes and fried cauliflower). The pork was super tender, and I would rate the brisket as “fine”, but I’m biased because B’s brisket is so amazing.

Overall, I like the style of the restaurant, the food is kid friendly and it’s a good expenditure of quick service credits if you are on the dining plan!

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Wilderness Explorers

Hidden among the rides and animals:

Is a lesser advertised adventure full of animal information:

The Wilderness Explorers!

The boys picked up a Wilderness Explorers guide on the way in the park and they literally took us through the entire park. The only stops we made were for lunch and our fast passes, but other than that they were collecting “badges” (stickers) learning about all the different wildlife.

They found each of the guides and learned about animal habitats, conservation, and how animals help us every day:

In addition to all the information, I think they enjoyed that they were taking us through the park, instead of us leading the, from place to place. We really enjoyed it because we were able to sit! And chat with each other off to the side while the boys worked on their badges.

This to me is the true uniqueness of Disney, that you can be among all these rides and attractions, but also have a calmer more laid back experience. Which truly makes it more of a vacation, rather than a trip you need a vacation from after you get home!

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