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Theme Parks

Disney California Adventure Tips for Little Ones

Okay, mamas – get ready for my Disney-theme follow-up – this one is all about my tips for visiting Disney California Adventure, a fabulous park that has LOTS of toddler-friendly, fun rides and activities. In case you missed my last post, here are my top 10 tips for visiting Disneyland with toddlers.

Here they are in no particular order…I hope these tips and tricks for visiting Disney California Adventure (or DCA) in Disney lingo!

Don’t Miss These Rides!

1.  “A bug’s land” is a great area for toddlers.  The rides are similar to “Fantasyland” at Disneyland – the Francis’ Ladybug Boogie is like the teacups, the Flik’s Flyers are like Dumbo, and so forth.  My munchkins love this area, and can easily spend awhile here.

Bonus?  There is a small splash pad to let the kids cool off on hot days, so make sure to pack a swimsuit, towels, sunscreen, etc. if you plan on getting wet

Note to mamas – the bug’s It’s Tough to be a Bug “live show” can be scary for little ones – it’s a cute show, but is “underground” and the majority of it is in the dark with…well…bugs.

2.  Cars LandA super fun “land” that tends to be one of the busiest places in the park to visit since its grand opening.  A word of advice – if you know that the Cars “Radiator Springs Racers” ride is really important to you and your kids, go straight to the FastPass line, like first thing when you enter the park (walk straight in, pass the Carthay Circle Restaurant on your left, and it is tucked in on the left). The ride is pretty awesome, but is typically a 90-minute+ wait.  FastPass is the only way to go, but they run out quickly.

I also have to give a shout-out to Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree.  Super cute ride, cute music and cute things to look at in line.

Note to mamas- most of the line is covered – important in warm weather!

If you can, try to be walking along the Cars Land “main drag” at dusk…they light up the streets and play music like they do in the movie (you know what I’m talking about if you’ve seen the movie 83 times, like I have).  Super cool and super cute.

3.  Take a ride with the Little MermaidI have never waited more than 10 minutes for this ride (usually five minutes!).  It is air conditioned, adorable, and my kiddos want to go on it multiple times.  Works for me!

Note to mamas – if your kids are uncomfortable in the dark, this ride is not for you.  I wouldn’t consider it scary at all, but you are “under the sea,” and there are pockets of darkness in between the singing and character displays.

4.  Love Toy Story?  My kids do.  The 4-D “Toy Story Mania!” is a must, but always has really long lines…with no FastPass option.  So if you know you want to do this, head over after you pick up your Cars Land “Radiator Springs Racers” FastPass and try to avoid the crowds.

Need a Break?

5.  Disney Junior – Live on Stage.  THE show to be at, according to my kids.  Yes, mamas.  There is an actual “live” show that  features Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Jake and the Never Land Pirates, Doc McStuffins and Sofia the First – interactive, air conditioned, and lots of room to squeeze in people (you sit on the floor…lots of room and I’ve never actually been turned away from a show…there always seems to be enough places to sit).  This show is so cute…and such a fun way to get off your feet, cool off, and enjoy seeing your kids go nuts over their favorite Disney Junior characters!

6.  The Redwood Creek Challenge Trail.  This is a cute play area next to the Grand Californian Hotel and Spa and is a GREAT place to let your kids run around and burn off some excited energy.  There is an obstacle course for the kids, caves to walk through, slides for little ones, a “zip line” for older kiddos, and even a chance to earn a “Wilderness Explorer badge,” by searching for clues (on a guided map).

Note to mamas – no strollers allowed, they must be parked outside of this area.

7.  The Grand Californian Hotel and Spa has cute little rocking chairs with fun, black and white Disney cartoons on televisions in their lobby, if you and your kids need a break to cool off.  You can enter from the DCA park, but remember – make sure to get your hand stamped for re-entry!  Also, the entrance to DCA from the hotel is reserved for hotel guests, so beware that you may have to re-enter the park from the main entrance if you plan to return.

Rumbly in our Tumblies

8.  We took our daughter to Ariel’s Grotto for a “princess lunch” on her birthday (they also do breakfast).  This was SUCH a cool experience for both of my kids.  The food is fabulous (several courses from a fixed menu), the atmosphere is beautiful and Ariel and her princess friends are announced to the room, enter, and actually walk to each table to chat with you and take as many pictures as you want.

My little girl was in heaven.  When we were there, Sleeping Beauty, Belle, Cinderella, and Snow White were part of this experience (in addition to Ariel greeting each family as we walked down the staircase and into the dining room).  Make sure to call ahead for reservations (I would make them as far in advance as you can) – (714) 781-DINE or (714) 781-3463.  It’s a little pricey, but it is WORTH it!

9.  Disney California Adventure has lots of yummy places to eat, so you really can’t go wrong.  My personal favorite is the Pacific Wharf Cafe on the “Wharf” – they have great salads, fresh bread bowl soups, fruit, nice, plump sandwiches…yum! (Note to mamas – seating is outside on the wharf).

Keep an Eye Out for Characters

10.   On “Hollywood Lane,” we typically find the Disney Junior characters right outside of the Disney Junior – Live on Stage area.  Toy Story characters are usually on the Paradise Pier in the little gazebo across from the carousel.  We’ve seen Buzz Lightyear, Jesse the Cowgirl and Woody – super cute and rarely long lines.

Who else loves Disney California Adventure as much as my family does?  What tips and tricks do you have?  Please comment below and share your ideas!


Hyatt Regency Mission Bay San Diego

[Photo credit: Hyatt]

Recently I was contacted by a PR representative for the Hyatt Regency Mission Bay San Diego to tell me about their brand new, one-of-a-kind SeaWorld Suites. Does that sound fun for kids or what?!

As luck would have it, my family was planning a trip to San Diego at the same time to celebrate my father-in-law’s 80th birthday, so the resort was kind enough to put us up at their lovely property while we were in town so I could check it out first hand.

Located near SeaWorld in San Diego’s beautiful Mission Bay, the property consists of one main tower with views of the marina, Mission Bay or gardens, and then an adjacent three story suite building facing the marina, which has Waterfront Suites.

It is also the only resort hotel in San Diego with multiple waterslides! 

First let me tell you about the SeaWorld Suites. We were not able to stay in one (boo hoo), there are only four total so far in the hotel, but I was able to get a tour of one that had been vacated on the morning we left. A-MAZING!!

These two-bedroom LARGE suites feature a twin over full sized bunk bed decked out in sealife decor.  This room also had a large conference table and chairs for coloring, dining, snacks, etc.

Two of the four suites feature kitchenettes, and the other two have a second bathroom. I got a tour of the kitchenette room. Gotta love a kitchenette for all the necessary snacks when traveling with small kids!

Located on the second floor, they are close to the pool and the suites each feature two separate balconies off each room.

I love the fact you can put the kids to bed in their fun bunk bed room, then enjoy a little quiet time with your husband in your king-sized sleeping room with private balcony.The room was off-the-charts awesome.

Plus, because Hyatt Mission Bay is a preferred partner with SeaWorld, if you buy your SeaWorld tickets through the concierge desk, you will receive 10% off the ticket price, plus, get this ->  your one day ticket will be good for 7 DAYS So during your stay you can go to SeaWorld for a few hours each day. I LOVE THIS. I understand this is an ongoing offer, but make sure to check prior to traveling to ensure this deal is still valid!

The concierge also offers 10% off tickets to the San Diego Zoo, Safari Park and LEGOLAND. However, these are just one day tickets.

Now a little about our tower room.  We got a marina view room on the 12th floor with two Queen beds and the view was beautiful! The girls also got a kick out of hearing the barking sea lions below.

The second morning I walked out onto the balcony and saw an OWL sitting two balconies down! So cool! And he hung out there for quite awhile just basking in the morning sun. At least we were pretty sure it was an owl.  If there are any bird watchers reading this who want to correct me if wrong, please do! Here he is just hanging out…

Our room was very comfortable.  Adequate size, comfy beds, and my husband and I were able to put the girls down to bed at night and sit out on the balcony and enjoy the view for awhile. We also found the room to be very quiet.

As we also came to find out, one of the benefits of a marina side room facing SeaWorld in summer time was the fact that we were able to watch the SeaWorld fireworks show from our balcony each night!

The girls went CRAZY! Click here for the fireworks schedule. Snuggling up with blankets and watching the fireworks on our balcony in jammies was one of my favorite memories from this summer.

Now let me tell you about the pools! With big corkscrew waterslides for older kids (and adults – I even went on them - FAST and fun!) along with a mini waterslide for littler ones, the family friendly pool was a kid’s paradise.

Here is a view from my parent’s room, who were also able to join us for this trip. They had a room in the tower facing Mission Bay and the pools. So beautiful!

My husband and Emma had a lot of waterslide races. I can’t remember who won this one!

The second day my dad rented us a poolside cabana so we could have a comfortable place to lounge with the family with some shade.

In addition to time by the pools, it was also fun to be able to take walks along the marina, which also offers a plethora of water sports, every kind you can imagine. Each morning we walked down to Einstein Bros. Bagels on the marina for a bagel and coffee and at night after dinner we made our own s’mores by the outdoor firepits.

I can’t say enough about this property. My family had the best time! We will definitely be back. This is the perfect spot for a summer SoCalCation, as they have lots of fun summer activities for kids at the pool, including Camp Hyatt, and water taxi service to SeaWorld. I understand many of the family attractions and activities are also available around Spring Break.  Check with the property ahead of time to see what might be offered during your desired dates.

We loved the Hyatt Mission Bay! Thank you for the wonderful memories! ~ Hyatt Mission Bay on Facebook ~ Hyatt Mission Bay on Twitter

[Disclosure: My family received a special media rate and one complimentary night stay to facilitate this review. Thank you Hyatt Mission Bay!]

Camp Spooky at Knott’s Berry Farm

On Saturday my family and I had the opportunity to attend “Snoopy’s Costume Party” in Camp Spooky at Knott’s Berry Farm.

I hadn’t been to Knott’s Berry Farm since probably my sophomore year in high school, which was, um, quite some time ago so I was excited to visit again and take my girls for the first time.

During the weekends in October, Camp Snoopy, the area in Knott’s dedicated to rides for little ones, is transformed into Camp Spooky, a knott so scary way to celebrate Halloween!

Geared towards little ones ages 3 – 11, your little ghosts and goblins (or in my case matching cheerleaders) can dress up in their costumes and enjoy Halloween festivities like trick-or-treating, a “Haunted Harvest” corn maze, Linus’ Foam-tastic Pumpkin Patch, a costume parade, Monster Mash Dance Party and more.



My family was recently invited to preview “A Clutch Powers 4-D Adventure” at Legoland a couple weeks ago and we HAD A BLAST!   My mom took the day off work and my husband stayed home with our baby so we could do a girls’ only trip to the park and take Emma, just the 3 of us.  Such a special day!

Clutch Powers is a brand new LEGO character and this 4-D movie brings LEGO to life with daily shows in LEGO Show Place.  Seeing all the kids in those 4-D glasses and watching them all squeal and try to grab the air was hilarious.   It was about 10 minutes long, perfect length for young attention spans, and included nonstop action and special effects like wind.   When I asked my daughter at the end of our visit what her favorite part was, she said, “the movie!”  She absolutely loved it!

It was our first time to Legoland and judging by how much fun we had, it definitely won’t be our last!  The park was about a million times more fun than I even expected.  I had NO IDEA.

It’s easy to get to right off the freeway, parking was a breeze, and there was SO much to do for a kid in her age group. She is now 3 years 9 months and it was a total wonderland for her.  Lots of rides for her age and hands-on sort of things.

Many of the rides did have a height restriction though, and required an accompanying adult, so something to keep in mind as 1:1 adult to kid ratio would be pretty important if you go with little ones.

I am seriously considering getting our family a Membership.  You could really go and just focus on one area and be entertained for hours.   And, a brand new Legoland Water Park is opening this summer!

It was super clean, easy to get around, and for being seemingly pretty crowded we didn’t have to wait long for hardly any of the young kid rides.

On the way out we walked through and explored Sea Life, the family aquarium located next door.  Boy oh boy, so much to see and do!

Here is a little slide show of our time at Legoland.  If you do end up going, do yourself a favor and MAKE SURE to get some Granny’s Apple Fries in Castle Hill.  I am still dreaming of those cinnamon-y whipped cream topped goodies!

Make photo slide shows at

{We received free admission to Legoland for this special preview event – lucky us!!!!  And especially lucky Emma!}

Making the Most Out of Your Theme Park Visit!

Aracely, creator of the fabulous blog, and mother to two little ones ages 4 and 2, sent me some great tips on making the most out of your theme park visit!  She writes…

“With summer upon us and kids out of school- one thing is certain – It’s theme park time. Our family usually pays a visit to one of our local theme parks at least once a week. Through trial and error , I have learned what it takes to have a fun and stress free day at any theme park. I wanted to share with you the two most popular questions that I’m asked about theme park visits.

I’m usually asked- What do I bring with me? followed by – How can I make my visit go as smooth as possible?

What do I bring with me??

1.   You need a good backpack – I’m usually prepared with a great backpack- I never leave home without one .
2.   Bring a stroller if you have small children. If you can, make sure to bring a light or umbrella stroller. They are easier to fold up and store- and this is always a plus if you have to take some sort of tram to the theme park entrance. Make sure to have some kind of labeling on your stroller to help yours stand out in the sea of strollers.
3.   Make sure to pack a jacket /sweater/blanket. – I’ve left home without one thinking that there was no possible way that I would be cold on a summer day. Boy was I wrong!! The nights cool off and there is nothing worse than shelling out $50.00 for a cheesy sweatshirt because your three year old is cold. Trust me on this one!!
4.   Pack a swimsuit. Many theme parks have water fountains or water play areas. Your kids will want to dive in and there is nothing worse than having to say no because you are not prepared. I always pack an extra set of clothes and a swimsuit.
5.   Make sure to bring cash. While most theme park restaurants accept credit cards- some of their vending carts do not. I hate paying for ATM Fees – I always bring cash in hand.
6.   If you have little ones make sure to pack a couple of snacks. I usually bring a baggie or two of
goldfish and fruit snacks. Just keep it simple.
7.   If you can bring a bottle or two of water. I usually freeze mine the night before and throw them in a Ziploc bag- I pack them in at the bottom of my bag and they have been a lifesaver!!
8.   Bring baby wipes. I always carry them even if I don’t have my youngest with me. They are great for sticky hands and clean ups. I think they are a necessity !!
8.   Last but not least – Bring your camera. You want to make sure to capture your fun filled day.

Now on to the other question- How can I make my visit stress free and as smooth as possible?

1.   I think the most important thing to do is to be prepared and do a little research- Make sure to visit the theme park’s website or blog. They usually have useful tips and some blogs can tell you about the the crowds the day before your visit. This is usually a good indicator of the crowds on the day of your visit.
2.  Get there as early as possible. You’ve heard the saying “the early bird catches the worm” and this holds quite true with theme parks. You will be able to make the most out of your day this way.  In my opinion it’s the best time of day to ride your favorite attraction-you usually won’t have to wait in line and if you do- you won’t usually mind because it will be nice and cool.
3.   Pick up a map/event guide at the front entrance- The first thing I do is try to plan out my day as soon as I have the map in my hands. Head to the most popular attractions first and plan out your day with the help of your map/event guide.
4.   Avoid the lunch time rush. I would try to stay away from eating between 11am to 2pm. Usually the lines to attractions are shorter at this time because everyone is heading out to lunch. If you can , try to eat before 11 am and after 2pm.
5.   Avoid attractions between 2 to 4 pm. This is usually peak time at a theme park. We usually use this time to grab a bite to eat and catch a couple of shows. Most restaurants and shows are air conditioned and it’s a great time to take a break. If you have little ones- it’s the perfect time to catch a snooze in the stroller.
6.  If you can, splurge on a VIP or front of the line pass – They are usually more expensive but well worth every penny. If you are at any of the Disney Theme Parks take advantage of their Fastpass system.
7.   Keep hydrated. Most theme parks have a souvenir cup deal- where you can buy a souvenir cup and either get free refills or very inexpensive refills throughout the day.
8.  Make sure your family is well rested the night before and also well fed before you arrive at the your park of choice. There is nothing worse than dealing with cranky and hungry kids.
9.   Last but not least- Enjoy yourself- Don’t feel rushed. If you’re visiting on a super busy day- odds are you probably won’t be able to take everything in one day and that’s fine. It will give you the perfect reason to come back- or even better- upgrade your pass to an annual pass and come back as often as you like.”