Monthly Archives: October 2014

Never bored at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

There’s a certain allure of roller coasters, a fair atmosphere and an ocean backdrop. OK, it may not be for everyone but when you hail from the Midwest, it’s certainly a novelty.

Waves in Santa Cruz

Jumping waves in Santa Cruz

After moving to San Jose, our first day trip was to Santa Cruz. I was able to get discount tickets ahead of time through Costco and we were on our way.

I’ve been told that the drive can be a bear during popular hours on weekends when everyone wants to head to the ocean, so we planned our day when the kids had a day off of school. The traffic was smooth sailing and there were very few cars in the parking lot when we arrived just before the boardwalk opened.

The draw of the ocean temporarily outweighed the thrill of the rides so we headed to the water first. Even though the water was cold, my kids jumped wave after wave after wave. After they tired out a bit, we checked out the arcade and used the tokens that came with our Boardwalk admission.

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

Then it was on to the rides. There are still a couple of them that my kids are weary of, but there are many more that they love or wanted to try. The gondola across the boardwalk was a great way to see what was available before we decided where to start.

Ferris Wheel Selfie

Ferris Wheel Selfie

My daughter says that her favorite was WipeOut where it looked like a regular circular fair ride underground. However, when it gets going, the lights go out, flashing lights come on and off and the room erupts with glee-filled screams.

My son enjoyed the log ride the most, and especially enjoyed hiding behind me on the way down so I would get wet and he wouldn’t.

On our way home, I was told that it was a must-do to get Marianne’s ice cream. It is heavenly ice cream and I’m glad to have found that it’s available near my house, too.

We had a great day at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, and we capped it off by checking out the ocean one more time, where some dolphins came by and wished us good evening.

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Star Wars weekend at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Yes, girls like Star Wars, but bringing two little girls who don’t have a passion for all things Tattoine to Disney’s Hollywood Studios didn’t seem like the best idea. But here we were so we made an adventure of it.

Chewbacca signs an autograph

Chewbacca signs an autograph

I had planned our Disney dining ahead of time and was dismayed to find out that our reservation was changed just a few weeks before arrival from one meal credit to two, due to a new Star Wars-themed dining event. But we were determined to have our passes to Fantasmic so we kept the reservation.

I’m sure that if you are a dedicated Star Wars fan, you’d see more of the themed weekend. However, as visitors wandering around the park, we only saw a few things that gave us a clue that it was a different kind of weekend.

Star Wars weekend at Disney

Star Wars weekend at Disney

Besides the themed dining event, which included Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Goofy dressed up as Star Wars characters, we were able to get in line and have our photo taken with Chewbacca.

Of course, we rode on Star Tours but that’s always a part of the Studios experience. We also had our first experience with Disney’s magic bands and the new fast pass system. It was certainly easy to have our park tickets, dining reservations, fast passes, photo passes and charge cards all on our wrist without needing to carry around any extra items.

Star Wars cookies

Star Wars cookies

The highlight of our visit and the best way to cap off a day at this particular park is definitely Fantasmic. The music, build-up and excitement of the show get me every time, and we always leave the park re-energized and happy.

So if you have any hesitation about coming to Star Wars weekend as a casual movie fan, it’s completely doable and accessible as a “regular” visit to the park on any other day.

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Mixing veterans and newbies at Disney World

We have something of a routine when it comes to a visit to Disney World. It involves at least two days at the Magic Kingdom, one day at each of the other parks and depending on the length of the trip, a second day at another park or a hotel (non-park) day.

ARtAnimation2We’ve seen the parades and fireworks many times, so now we head to the rides and attractions while the hoards of people stop to watch the entertainment. We know to stay at the park if it rains because the crowds are much better when it’s done. If there’s extra magic hours at night, it’s a good bet you’ll have shorter lines.

So when my sister-in-law asked my daughter and I to go to Disney World with her and her daughter, I went into planning mode. They had never been before, and my daughter and I have been several times. I cautioned my daughter early on that we might have to alter our usual routine if her cousin really wanted to see our experience something – it was, after all, a trip for her cousin’s birthday.

Disney's Art of Animation Mermaid pool

Disney’s Art of Animation Mermaid pool

But Disney being Disney, us veterans had our new experiences, as well. We stayed at the Art of Animation in the Little Mermaid area. If you have trouble walking, I don’t recommend it. We were in the building furthest from the check-in and dining area and it was a good hike.

We stayed at the Art of Animation during Memorial Day weekend, and my biggest complaint would have to be with the dining area. Half of it was roped off under construction, making the other half pretty crowded. Near the end of our visit, we arrived one morning to find that everything had been switched overnight – the closed area was open and the other area was now roped off, causing even more chaos and confusion.

Enchanted Tales with Belle

Enchanted Tales with Belle

The refillable mugs with electronic sensors are a good idea in theory, except when you are traveling with an independent child who wants to do it herself. When she pushes the button and stops because she slipped, you have to wait two full minutes before she can attempt to fill her mug again.

But those were the only downsides of the trip. The highlight was the new Fantasyland area, where we enjoyed the new rides and attractions. We were thrilled to find the Enchanted Tales with Belle open during late-night extra magic hours. We had a small group of people and my daughter and her cousin were both able to participate. We also had a surprise – the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train was not officially open but they started testing it so we ran to the line. My daughter deemed it her favorite new ride.

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

We included the dining plan and the photo plan on this trip so our new visitors would be able to make the most of their first visit. We had a ball playing with the various poses and loved the ease of having reservations for Cinderella’s castle.

Maybe because they are the same age and gender, but we really didn’t run into many instances where our group wanted to do separate things. Just a couple of times when the newbies wanted to go on a bigger coaster that my daughter wasn’t sure of, we just wandered nearby to another ride and met up again shortly after.

 

It’s always a good time to go to Disney World, but we had the most fun being able to show and share “our” world with those who have never experienced it before.

 

Categories: Family Friendly Resorts, Travel with kids | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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