Friday, May 28, 2010

Friday's Favorites: Oscar Martinez

As you know, I spent the middle part of May in Los Angeles and was lucky enough to spend 2 very full days at Disneyland, California Adventure and Downtown Disney. So today's "Friday's Favorites" will be about Disneyland.

On our first day in Anaheim, we arrived at the park an hour before it opened. We actually had to wait for 25 minutes to get into the parking lot/ deck. We turned off the car and sat while we watched the cast members arrange the cones, open the "toll booths" and get ready for the day. We were third in line. We rode the tram to DTD and purchased our 2 day park hopper tickets. We then waited for about 15 minutes for the main gate to Disneyland to open. They chose a group of 8-10 youth to "open the park." It was fun as the cast member announced who they were and where they were from, but it was very boring compared to the opening ceremony at the Magic Kingdom in WDW!

Finally the gates were open and we were on our way to the original Disney Park! We took our time going under the train tracks and into Main Street USA. We looked around, took pictures, got our 1st trip buttons and started making our way down Main Street. We were hungry since we didn't have a chance to eat at the hotel so we stopped at Carnation Cafe for breakfast. We had a great breakfast!!

While we were finishing our meal, a man (cast member) approached our table wearing a chef's hat. He asked how the meal was and if he could get anything for us. We told him it was delicious and we were doing fine. He asked where we were from and the conversation started. This was my favorite part of the trip! Oscar Martinez has been working at Disneyland since 1956. He didn't know Walt personally, but had some stories to share. Sadly, between his accent, the crowd noise and his soft spoken voice, neither Jonathan nor I understood the stories. It almost seemed he was trying to keep quiet so others wouldn't be able to hear what he was saying. He did sign my Disney autograph book and took a picture with me! When he signed, he included the date he started working (12-29-1956) and he wrote "54 years" because that's how long he's worked at Disneyland. A few minutes later he came back and gave me a copy of the "Disneyland Line." I believe this is a publication for cast members only. He showed it to me, signed the page where his photo appeared and told me to hide it in my backpack so other guests wouldn't see it. So, I did! He was pictured with Tom Staggs (WD Parks and Resorts chairman) and some other Disneyland cast members.

My advice is, while you are on your Disney vacation, whether it's in Disneyland or Disney World, take time to slow down and enjoy everything! Talk to the cast members, ask questions, look at the architecture, take pictures, learn about the history of the attractions... there is so much more to a Disney vacation than rushing from ride to ride, show to show, park to park and parade to parade!

have a magical day! :)

Thursday, May 27, 2010


or is it EPCOT center... or Epcot 94... or Epcot 95... or Epcot Center... or Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow?

Epcot is now just Epcot. No "center", no date. In 2000 they added the wand being held by Mickey and "2000." Later they changed the "2000" to "Epcot." In 2007, they removed both the wand and "Epcot." (I need to find a picture of the Epcot wand.)

I really love Epcot. It's my favorite- along with Magic Kingdom! If I only had 2 days in Orlando, I would do those 2 parks. At Epcot, I love the diversity of the rides, the pace of the crowds, the educational aspect of the park and the shows. Illuminations is a great way to end the day! Epcot is also close to my heart as it is the end of both the half and full marathons! I remember in both races running through Epcot to the finish line- I didn't think I'd ever get there. The sight of Spaceship Earth let me know I was almost through!

One of my favorite rides at Magic Kingdom is the Tomorrowland Transit Authority. I love the part when you pass by Walt's original idea for EPCOT. Seeing that, seeing Celebration City and being in Epcot make me appreciate Walt even more and all the imagineers hard work to keep his dreams alive!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Back from the land

We spent all last week in Los Angeles and used two days to explore all of Disneyland, Downtown Disney and California Adventure. This week, I've tried to play catch up at work and home. I'm still behind in both areas, but felt I had to catch up a bit on my blogging!

I'm so glad I had the opportunity to go to Disneyland- the original Disney park. There were so many emotions to experience! Excitement, disappointment, exhaustion, claustrophobia, silliness, frustration, happiness, love, nostalgia... so many! There are so many similarities and so many differences between DL and WDW. First, the castle. Poor Sleeping Beauty. She got the wrong end of the deal when it comes to castles. Cinderella's is so much bigger, beautiful and majestic. I guess Walt did the best he could in 1955 with the money he had! The layout of Magic Kingdom and DL are similar. However, you can tell the imagineers made some changes in Orlando to help with flow and crowds. The walkways and paths in DL were smaller and it was harder to get around the park. It seemed like several areas at DL were "afterthoughts" because of the layout. I guess there's a good chance that they were "afterthoughts" as Disney acquired more land to build additional lands, and attractions. The queues in WDW are much better themed to help tell the story of the attraction. However, several of the rides at DL are better than those at WDW: Space Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, It's a Small World, California Screamin (better than Rockin Roller Coaster at DHS) and Toontown.

I'll continue my thoughts about Disneyland over the next few weeks and share some of my photos. I just wanted to post something tonight!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Wordless Wednesday at MK

Wordless? Nah. I just can't do it!

This particular trip was in December of 2001. My older brother, Paul, had injured his foot the night before we left and was on crutches. With the difficulty walking through the parks, we decided to get a wheelchair for him to use. Dad, in the wheelchair, has outgrown Space Mountain. His equilibrium can't take it anymore, so he sat out while the rest of the group rode. With him not riding, we put him in charge of watching all our bags and belongings. A while later when we exited the attraction, we found him asleep in the wheelchair "watching" all our stuff outside the entrance to Space Mountain! My brothers and friend, Heath, snuck up to get a quick photo with sleeping dad! This is one of my favorite Disney World memories and photos!

Dieting at Walt Disney World

Here is great advice from Hungry Girl about watching what you eat while at Walt Disney World or any theme park.

Dear Hungry Girl,

I'm going to Disney World in a few weeks, and I'm wondering if you have any tips on eating there. As far as I know, the restaurants don't provide nutritional information, so I am at a loss. Help! How do I not gain weight while I'm there?

Amusement Confusement

Dear Amusement Confusement,

You're not alone! Now that the warm weather is here, many of us will be spending time at fairs and amusement parks, spots that can be pretty scary when it comes to meals and snacks. I have a few rules for day trips to these types of places...

1. Bring emergency snacks. These are things you can keep in your bag to help you avoid eating the crazy-high-calorie snacks that pop up at parks. I like to have sweet stuff, minty things, and protein-packed options handy: Tootsie Pops, sugar-free hard candies, sugar-free mints, sugar-free gum, jerky, light cheese snacks that don't need refrigeration, 100-calorie packs of almonds -- all GREAT. Click here for a huge list of travel-friendly treats.

2. If you find yourself at the park without emergency snacks, seek out treats that aren't too bad for you. At Disney, there are 100-calorie packs of Minnie Mouse cookies all over the place. Typically, you can also find fresh fruit. And at any amusement park, you're better off with a few bites of cotton candy or a soft pretzel than with greasy, fatty funnel cakes or churros!

3. Check out menus online ahead of time. Even if the restaurants don't have nutritionals posted, you can usually find out what's on the menu before you get there. Then at least you will be prepared for what to expect and can make the best choices. In fact, check out this unofficial guide we found for dining at Disney!

4. In general, when it comes to meals, stick with deli meats or grilled lean protein (like chicken), rather than hot dogs, pizza, or hamburgers. And if you're going for a salad, pay close attention to the dressing, 'cuz there's a good chance it will have more calories than the salad itself! Your best bet with salads is to order the dressing on the side, and then dip (don't pour!).

Click here for an overall guide to menu reading and dining out. And click here for more info on surviving theme parks. Good luck and have fun!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Tuesday's Tip: Missing School??

The best time to go to Walt Disney World, in my opinion, is when school is in session. You'll have the lowest crowds and most likely you'll get the lowest cost on lodging if you stay on property with some sort of dining deal or discount. Now, we always try to plan our trips when kids are in school.

Being a former teacher, I had some reservations about taking our son out of school when we took him on his second trip. After looking at our schedules, calendars and finances, it just made sense to go during the school year and have him miss a week of school. Did I mention I was a former teacher? First grade. This particular trip, JAG was in first grade. After scouring the Alabama State Board of Education web site, I was able to find and print all of the current State Course of Study's for first grade. Once these were all printed, I started looking to see what attractions, activities and events at WDW would fit into the course of study. I highlighted all the areas we would cover during a week at the world. Then I went back with a red pen and wrote specific details about how he would reach these objectives while "playing in the parks." After several hours of research and note taking, I realized that JAG would benefit more from being at WDW than he would be in school for a week! My mind was at ease!

When we went to visit his principal to get the trip excused, I presented him with my findings. I know he thought I was a total nerd because he asked if my resume was up to date! He quickly excused our trip and asked if he could have a copy of what we were going to do with JAG because he was taking his two boys to WDW during fall break! I didn't even finish showing him all I had planned for our son while we were on our trip!

Here is a sample of the course of study print outs:

If your children are in public school, they follow a course of study that is set by your state. Visit your state's board of education web site and search for "course of study." You may have to look through quite a few to find the specifics for your grade level, but it'll be worth it! You'll be able to see just how easy a trip to WDW will fit into your child's educational experience!

I'll talk more later about other things we did with JAG on our trip to make it even more educational!!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Monday's Memories: The Monorail

First, thanks to Jack Spence at for the photo of one of my favorite Disney World tshirts! I saw this photo after a trip to the world and had to find it! I called Walt Disney World and spoke to someone who could help me find and order this shirt. Success!

The Monorail is a "must do" while at Walt Disney World. If not for anything else, ride it so you can hear the Spanish version of "Please stand clear of the doors." While we were on our trip in December of 2001 to ring in 2002, my friend Heath and I rode the Monorail quite a bit together. Our favorite trip was when we got to ride in the front with Dan, get our official monorail co-pilot licenses and even DRIVE the monorail!! This is a favorite of mine and I've heard you can no longer ride up front with the driver. Too bad. I'll miss ole Dan.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Celebrations Magazine

If you need a little Disney Magic every other month, a great resource is Celebrations Magazine by Tim Foster. I found out about this magazine soon after it was announced that it was going to be in publication. I quickly got on line and ordered a subscription. I couldn't be more happy!! I love when the magazine comes and I can go in a quiet room and read all about the destination I love, Walt Disney World!

Each magazine has great information on resorts, parks, rides, history, and trivia! Plus, the photos are TO DIE FOR!!

Order your subscription to Celebration Magazine today!