Category - Adventures

Places we’ve been, things we’ve seen as we travel through life.

Faux Disney Day
Stormtrooper Photo Op at Disneyland
Disney Dream – ing
The Tastiest Foods at Disneyland
Manitou Cliff Dwellings
Disneyland Popcorn Guys
Passporter’s Walt Disney World guidebook and giveaway
A New Era
Llama Trek
Hidden Places in Disneyland

Faux Disney Day

Warning:  This post contains some highly skilled iphone photography.  Brace yourself.

I had to get up early last weekend and take Pumpkin Girl to dance at the mall.  Usually, this is not that noteworthy, nor does it require any special effort on my part. However, that day was not just window shopping with her dancing along instead of walking.  She was actually in a show, with costumes and makeup and music.

When we arrived, the mall was unlocked but not really open.  All of the stores were closed and the only people around were those associated with the day’s festivities.  I had Pipsqueak in tow because Boo was hiking up Pikes Peak, as he does, and Bip and Phil were having fun at Pinewood Derby.

The mall is actually a very cool place first thing in the morning, but really, there is no call for being up that early unless you’re going to Disneyland.

I thought maybe I could make the best of it and pretend that Pumpkin’s performance was the rope drop show and later we could ride the kiddie train around the mall to complete the effect.

And then this happened…
MickeyAtMallWe spotted Mickey!  Really and truly, there was Mickey Mouse (or a somewhat close facsimile).  In this picture, he’s chatting it up with Tchaikovsky.  I don’t know why, I didn’t ask.

So Pipsqueak and I watched Pumpkin’s show and I got this high quality picture.

Her dance is hip hop and she’s quite cute in it, though it amuses me muchly to see my graceful ballerina of a daughter hip-hopping. But when you’re in a dance company, you dance what you’re cast.  And you work it.

Later, we tracked down Mickey for a little character meet and greet.


Then Pumpkin got ears.


I decided against the train ride because it would have set us back $12 and I was saving up for a Dole Whip, which we never did find. If only we could have found one, or at least a churro, our fake Disney day would have been complete.

When there is no planned Disney vacation in sight, you have to do what you can.

Stormtrooper Photo Op at Disneyland

How to get your picture taken with a Stormtrooper

Stormtroopers at Disneyland are a bit elusive and if you do find them, getting a posed picture is even harder.  But it can be done!

Timing is everything. The Stormtroopers are part of the Jedi Training Academy, and unlike the other characters there, they sort of wander off towards the end of the show.  If you don’t have a child in the Academy at the time, you want to be waiting directly behind the stage or in the area of Star Traders.  StormtrooperAtDisneyland

They will head off towards Star Tours and hang out there for awhile.  However, being Stormtroopers, they aren’t exactly friendly and are more concerned with security than with taking pictures.  Don’t take offense if they turn down your request for a photo!  Try a little Jedi mind trick  – with a slight wave of the hand and a comment like, “I really want to take a picture with you”, you might get lucky. Or you might have to position yourself or your child right in front of them and they will comply.  Just be quick with the camera and know that you will probably only have one chance.

StormtrooperLookingAtMe I was able to get a picture of a Stormtrooper with Bip.  Even though our Stormtooper agreed to the picture, he kept sort of moving off.  I had to get out my Mom Voice, complete with Stern Face, and tell him to stop moving around!  He obeyed my order and held still long enough for a good picture.StormtrooperWithBip

Disney Dream – ing

Ok, I admit it.  Part of the reason blogging has been light around here is that we took off on a Disney Cruise at the end of September.  It was Disney Vacation Club members-only cruise on the Dream, with two stops at Castaway Cay and a day at sea.

Saying it was fun is an understatement.  To sum it up, I’ve been having to make my own bed and cook my own food since we got back and I’m very sad about that.  Boo had a blast in the teen clubs.  Pumpkin Girl critiqued all the dancing in the shows (nicely).  Crush (the turtle from “Finding Nemo”) nicknamed Bip “Niko”.  Pipsqueak wandered off with Stitch.  We snorkled with sting rays and sang “It’s a Small World” with Richard Sherman.  We got to preview “Toy Story of Terror” and see a presentation on the making of “Saving Mr. Banks”.  I think “amazing” might just cover it.


Castaway Cay

AquaDuck BooBirthday  BirthdayPinInnerTubeBoys InnerTubes SandCastle SplashZone WalkingOffWithStitchWaterTrikes


The Tastiest Foods at Disneyland

The Tastiest Foods in Disneyland

Disneyland food is not cheap, so if you’re going to be spending a lot of money, it better be worth it, right? People are always asking me about my favorite restaurants and food at Disneyland.  They’re not stopping me in the streets or anything, but if someone I know is planning a trip, they ask me about food.  Now, I’m not a foodie or a gourmet or anything fancy like that. I’m pretty easy to please, food wise.  So all that being said, these are my Disneyland food favorites.

1.  Mickey Bars, of course.  You can go for the ice cream dipped in chocolate or the ice cream sandwich, but both are shaped like Mickeys.  No trip to Disneyland (or Disney World or the Disney cruises) is complete without a Mickey Bar.

Mickey Barphoto courtesy of K!ngrum

2. Dole Whips.  If you haven’t had a Dole Whip, you really haven’t lived.  You can buy these at only one place in Disneyland, and that is at the Tiki Juice Bar at the entrance to the Enchanted Tiki Room.  You can stand in a long line outside the ride if you want.  But it is far better to go through the turnstyle to the shaded waiting area for the show.  You can order your Dole Whips from inside the waiting area, eat while you wait and *you can bring your treat into the show*.  Just be nice and throw your trash away on your way out.

Disneyland Dole Whip

3.  Kabobs at the Bengal BBQ.  This counter service restaurant is in Adventureland, approximately across from the Indiana Jones ride.   The kabobs are tasty and filling and not what you’d consider your average park fare.

Disneyland chicken skewers Bengal BBQ

4. Cream cheese filled pretzels.  You’ll either love these or hate them.  I happen to love them.  They are ooey-gooey, sweetness in a carb.  What’s not to love?  You can find them in a pretzel cart near Star Traders in Tomorrowland, across from the AstroBlaster ride, or in California Adventure, over by Goofy’s Sky School, in a little food hut.  You can also get plain, Mickey shaped pretzels, if that’s more your style.

5.  Churros.  Yes, you can get these anywhere now, even Costco and Sam’s Club for much cheaper and much bigger.  But they taste better at Disneyland.  Trust me on this.  I did extensive research, just for the blog.  See how much I love you?  Churro carts can be found all over Disneyland.

Disneyland churro

6.  Chicken sausage in a pretzel bun at the Village Haus in Fantasyland.  Mmmmm. Chicken sausage, pretzel bun, add some sauerkraut and mustard.  Almost good enough to make me wear leiderhosen and play an accordian.  Almost.


7. Monte Cristo sandwich at the Blue Bayou.  First off, this is our favorite resturant, in or out of Disneyland.  The atmosphere is amazing.  You are indoors (with air conditioning!), but it looks like you are actually outside, dining next to a Louisiana bayou. But the bayou is actually the water of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride and the boats are floating right by!

Blue Bayou Restaurantphoto courtesy of

 All of the food is good at the Blue Bayou but my favorite is the Monte Cristo sandwich.  The first time I ordered it, I thought I was getting a croque monsieur, which is a grilled ham and cheese sandwich.  Turns out, I had the name wrong.  So when I got a ham, turkey and cheese sandwich, dipped in batter and fried, dusted with powdered sugar and served with jelly on the side…you can say I was a bit surprised.  And delighted!  It was delicious.  Don’t even think about the calories on this.  Think instead about how much exercise you’re getting walking around all day.  Oh, and you can also get this sandwich at Cafe Orleans.  Both restaurants are in New Orleans Square.

Monte Cristo sandwich at the Blue Bayou

8.  Clam chowder in a sour dough bowl at the Royal Street Verandah, New Orleans Square.  My mouth waters just thinking about this!  I haven’t actually had one in a long time, but hopefully they are as good as I remember.

clam chowder sourdough bread bowl Disneyland

 9. Anything at the Napa Rose in the Grand Californian Hotel in Downtown Disney (and connected to California Adventure).  My friend Shanti is a self-described food snob and this is her favorite restaurant in the Disneyland Resort. In her own words, Napa Rose has “good food, good wine, and really good service.”  They change the menu all the time, so she couldn’t tell me her favorite meal. She does say they are good with kids there, too.  We might just have to check it out soon.

So what do you think?  Did I miss your favorite Disneyland food?

Manitou Cliff Dwellings

Not too long ago we went to see the Manitou Cliff Dwellings.  Philip and I have been to Mesa Verde…a very long time ago, way back before we were married. We were kind of surprised to find out that there are cliff dwellings not to far from us.  It turns out, these particular cliff dwellings were moved from somewhere else and carefully reconstructed in a way that lets visitors climb in and around them.  How fun!

Here’s the family right out front.  I would never have known those cliff dwellings weren’t built right there by the Anasazi if I hadn’t read up on them beforehand.


Right before you get to the actual ruins, you’ll see this Pueblo style building.  It is the museum and gift shop.  I think it’s kind of cute.  The kids liked the museum, especially Boo, who is really into history.  It’s definitely worth stopping in and taking a look.  They’ve got lots of nice displays which help you get a feel for the Anasazi.

cliff dwellings museum

The gift shop is really big! Another reason to stop there first is try to get your kids to forget about all the souvenirs they see and want!  Actually, I really liked the gift shop, though we only bought the usual postcards, magnets and key chains.  One especially cool thing in there was this model of the cliff dwellings built right into the wall.  I wonder if I can get someone to do that in my house?

cliff dwellings gift shop

And being the tasteful, cultural sensitive place that Colorado is, there were fun, appropriate displays like this one.candy headdress

Yeah, no words, really.  Does it make me a bad person that I think this is pretty funny?

Ok, so onward to the cliff dwellings themselves.cliff dwellings inside

These may be somewhat smaller than the ones at Mesa Verde, but you can walk around inside these.

cliff dwellings outside (2)

I think the kids really exploring the cliff dwellings, peering inside window holes and climbing into rooms.  It made the whole experience much more fun than just looking and taking pictures.cliff dwellings outside

I don’t think Pipsqueak cared one way or another.

cliff dwellings outside (3)

If you go – make sure you check their hours, which are seasonal and based on the weather.  Call ahead of time to double check.  Admission is kind of pricey: $9.50 for ages 12 and up, $7.50 for ages 7 and up.  Check out this site for a coupon: Pikes Peak’s  Area Attractions.  They have picnic tables for you to use and you can either bring your own food or buy some there.  We did neither, so I can’t really comment on comfort or food availability or price.  Wear comfy shoes and dress appropriately for the weather!  For more information, you can visit the website here: Manitou Cliff Dwellings

Disneyland Popcorn Guys

A little while ago I told you about some of our favorite lesser-known spots at Disneyland. Those are the little details that I love! Another detail I make sure not to miss are the little characters that turn the popcorn in the popcorn cart.What would you call them, anyway? Popcorn crankers? Popcorn turners? I’ve always been fond of them. When I was younger I would try to figure out how the popcorn got out of their little machine and into the warming area.  (I will neither confirm nor deny that I was over 18 when I figured out that those little guys weren’t actually making the popcorn.)

Each Disneyland popcorn cart has a different theme to coordinate with the land they are in, and the popcorn cranker is different in each one.

This is the Rocketeer from the movie of the same name.  He is the first one I ever noticed as being different from the others.  You can find him in Tomorrowland.  I love his little boots!

Check out the creepy undertaker!  He is found in New Orleans square, next to the Haunted Mansion (of course), in front of the train stop.

During Halloween, the undertaker is replaced by…the Oogie Boogie!  He might just cook a special batch of snake and spider stew!


This guy can be found in Toon Town.

The clowns are usually found near It’s a Small World.

Scary Yeti is next to the Matterhorn.  Just take your popcorn and back away slowly…

Dapper Dans can be found around Main Street, USA.

But during Christmas, Santa takes at turn at the popcorn!

As far as I know, the popcorn turners are unique to Disneyland.  Have you ever noticed them?

Passporter’s Walt Disney World guidebook and giveaway

*note: The giveaway is over and the winners have been notified*

So…you’re going to Walt Disney World! A trip of a lifetime, right? An expensive trip of a lifetime! You want to get the most out of this vacation, spending your money wisely while enjoying all that Disney has to offer.

You do a search for Disney planning and you are instantly overwhelmed by the choices. What the heck is an ADR? What is a touring plan? Are these paid planning sites worth it? Who has the time to cull all of the tips out there into one cohesive document?

You slowly step away from the computer and wonder if this whole Disney vacation is going to be entirely too stressful even just to plan.

I get that. PassPorterCoverIt can be stressful. Disney is expensive. And crowded. And hot. But there is help. (Well, not so much for the heat.) Let me introduce to you Passporter. Passporter is the Ultimate Disney Planning Guide. If you’re like me and prefer to sit down with a book, highlighter and sticky-note flags, you will love Passporter. Passporter has planning guides for Walt Disney World, the Disney Cruise Line and Disneyland. This week I am focusing on their WDW guide.

Passporter’s Walt Disney World guide takes you through everything you need to know to plan this trip of a lifetime. They review all of the on-site hotels and resorts, all the rides, all the restaurants. They walk you through all the dining reservations you may need. They include touring plans of all the parks and explain why you even need them. If you are still in the pre-planning stages of your trip, they have a crowd chart to help you decide when you might want to go. (And you know what, I take it back about the heat.  There is a chart of average temps in Orlando by month.)PassPorterResort

We are Disney People, but we go mostly to Disneyland. So when we were started planning our first trip to WDW in 2007, I was pretty clueless. I turned to Passporter’s Walt Disney World to plan our whole trip. We went with my cousin and his family – four adults and 5 children who ranged in age from 2 to 9. Using the advice in the Passporter guide, we were able to plan an enjoyable vacation for everyone.  Even after we had arrived, we decided to try a character meal and out came my Passporter to help us decide which one.

What else can you possibly need? Full color pages? Got ’em. Worksheets for your notes and travel details? Yep. Fold-out maps of each park? Oh yeah! Tips for teens? Tips for tweens? Tips for kids and toddlers? But of course! Not only that, these tips are for kids, by kids!

It really can’t get any better, can it? How about built-in folders (called PassPockets) for you to store tickets, receipts and other paper souvenirs! And each folder has space for you to log your day, confirmation numbers, money spent and thoughts for your next trip.

Can you see why I love Passporter guides?

I have 3, count them THREE, WDW Passporter guides (spiral bound) to give away. These guides are the 2013 version, which have been expanded for use all through 2014.  There will be 3 winners, each will receive one book.

You can find the easy to use entry form at the bottom of this post.

Contest will run from June 20, 2013 until June 26, 2013 at 11:59 PM, MDT.  Winners will be notified by email and have until June 30 to provide me with a mailing address or an alternate winner will be chosen.

Oh, and Passporter provided me three free copies of their Walt Disney World guide book in return for this review.

You can visit the site where you will find a whole community of  friendly people who can answer your questions as you plan your trip.  You can also check out all the other books that PassPorter publishes, most of which are also available as e-books.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

A New Era

We went to Disnyland last year as our big vacation. Boo was 13 and Pumpkin Girl was 11, so we did something a little different. We let them go off on their own. We had rules they needed to follow, including not leaving the park and checking in either physically or by phone. We gave them gift cards to use as spending money, but if they wanted us to pay for food, they needed to link up with us for meals.

For several months beforehand, they studied a Disneyland guidebook and made their plans. They had some sort of scheme for riding all their favorite rides and when the day came, off they went!

Now, you have to know that the two of them get along very well. They also behave well in public and have thus far proven to be trustworthy and reliable. They also understood that no matter what, they were to stay together. Even if they got angry, they both needed to come find us together. As it turned out, they had a grand ol’ time.

And they came back with funny stories.

They rode the Jungle Cruise with a mom who was very concerned about them. When the ride was over, she held back her husband so Boo and Pumpkin could get off the boat first. Her husband asked her, “So,why are we waiting for them?” And she replied, “well, I just don’t know where their parents are!” Boo and Pumpkin Girl, to their credit, were polite to her.

For the record, Disney’s own policy is that you must be 7 years old to ride alone and to escort someone younger, you must be 14.

Another time they were walking along wearing these hats:

Who should come walking up behind them, but the Mad Hatter and Alice. The Mad Hatter said to them, “Congratulations”. And turning to Alice he says, “They got married, you know!” Which of course, set Boo off, sputtering indignantly, just like Donald Duck.

Meanwhile, Phil and I enjoyed spending time with just Bip and Pipqueak, riding the slower rides and taking a more leisurely pace. We don’t often spend time with just our younger boys and we enjoyed it very much.

This was Pipsqueak’s first visit to Disneyland.  He wasn’t quite sure what to think of the whole thing.

We were happy to give the older two kids a chance to spread their wings, make their own decisions and act like young adults. They appreciated the opportunity, too.  It’s a whole new era in Disneyland adventures!

Llama Trek

Boo went on another fun adventure with his Boy Scout troop over the summer.  This time the hike involved llamas.  One of the scout dads has llamas that he rents out and he led the boys a two-night excursion.  Boo wasn’t going to go at first, but I talked him into it.  Because seriously, how can you pass up a llama trek?

Here’s Boo with Marshall the Llama right before heading off on the trail.  Apparently, there is quite a bit more to leading llamas than you’d think.  You need to keep them close, but not too close and hope they don’t sit down. You’ve got to keep them away from the other llamas or they’ll spit.  Going uphill was the hardest because the llamas didn’t want to cooperate, so the boys had to tug them.

Malcolm is the white llama with the dark eyes.  Somebody brought him too close to Boo while he was holding Marshall and Boo got spat on.  Took it right in the eye!  The other scouts said it smelled terrible, but fortunately for Boo, he couldn’t smell it.  Their owner told the boys to put their cameras away and got Boo all cleaned up.

This all white llama is Copi, who is Boo’s favorite.  He was the most gentle and patient of all the llamas, even though he was carrying quite a load.  The whole expedition got caught in a hail storm and Copi just kept going, even though he didn’t have any rain gear.  Boo says Copi likes to smell people’s hair.  You’ll just be standing there and you’ll feel something around your ear and it’s a llama nose.  Copi’s nose, specifically.  He and Boo were the first ones up the hill and Copi kept turning around and humming to his friends to catch up.

This is the campsite.  Lots of room for boys and llamas.  Boo said they ate better on this trip than they usually get to  – hamburgers and pancakes and lots of snacks!  Usually they have to carry in all their own food and the means to cook it, but with the llamas doing all the carrying, they were able to bring up a grill! Something spooked the llamas the first night and they managed to escape, despite being tied to nets filled with 5 or 6 very large rocks.  The owner was able to track them all down and return them safely to camp.  The next night they were tied to trees.

Despite the hail and the llama spit, Boo had a good time and said he’d go again.  I call that a success!

Hidden Places in Disneyland

Hidden Places in Disneyland that you don't want to miss!It’s no secret that we love Disneyland. I can’t even begin to count the number of times we’ve been.  We even went last January.  Over the years we’ve come up with a list of our favorite things. You can look anywhere for the best rides to go on for different ages, how to beat the crowds, and where are the best places to eat. But want to share my family’s top 10 out-of-the-way places and things to see. These are lesser known things to experience, the kinds of things left out of guide books, or overlooked by park goers. Enjoy!

1.Storybook Land Canals after dark. What sets Disneyland apart from other theme parks? The ambiance. They create a scene so beautifully that it can take your breath away. For a truly magical experience, ride the Storybook Land Canals after dark. The ride is lit with little fairy lights, probably by Tinker Bell herself. If you can manage it, ride without the kids and hold hands with your honey.

2. The Sleeping Beauty Castle walk-through. This is overlooked by most people, but fun. The entrance is to the right, as you are leaving Fantasyland, just before you go under the castle. Dioramas tell the story of Aurora and her Prince as you walk up and through the castle. Don’t be too surprised if something jumps out and startles you! And watch for Malificent’s shadow moving across the wall…SleepingBeautyCastleEntrance

3. When You Wish Upon a Star. As you pass under the castle arch, pause for a moment and listen carefully. You will hear Jiminy Cricket singing “When You Wish Upon a Star”. I’m such a sap, hearing that brings a tear to my eye every time.

4. The Wicked Queen is watching! While you’re in line for the Peter Pan ride, look over at the Snow White ride. Up in the castle window, Snow White’s wicked step-mother will open the curtain and glower down at the crowd!WickedQueen

5. Poisoned Apple. Right at the entrance to Snow White’s Scary Adventures is a brass poisoned apple. Touch it…if you dare. PoisonApple

6. Now you see him…In the Mad Hatter hat shop, take a look at the mirror on the wall. The Cheshire Cat will appear and disappear. But if you want a good picture of him, go around to the left of the Alice ride. He’s sitting in a niche in the rock.

7. Square trees? Check out the trees in Fantasyland. They are cut into squares. This is to go along with the artwork in the Sleeping Beauty movie, which is all straight up and down and angular, reflecting the tapestries of the time the movie is set.

8. Photo op. Trying to get a picture of your kids on the Dumbo ride is difficult. Instead, look for the Dumbo set up just for pictures to the left of the ride.

9. South of the Border. A fun Mexican restaurant hides between the entrance to Big Thunder Mountain and the Castle. Even if you don’t eat there, take a stroll through the quiet passageway next to the restaurant for a change of pace.RanchoDelZolcaloPassage

10. Stroll through NOLA. Don’t miss the streets of New Orleans Square! Pay attention to all the details that Disney does so well. Rest your feet in the shade while sipping a soda on a curving staircase.


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