This is How We Disney – All the Food!

When you’re going to Disney, ya gotta eat. All that walking you do, you have to refuel. Once we had our resort picked out and figured out which parks we wanted to do and when, we had to decided on meals. If you are staying at Disney you can book your meals 180 days in advance of your arrival.That sounded so crazy to me. Who makes dining reservations 180 days advance? You do, if you want to actually be able to get in to the restaurant of your choice, especially if you want to go on a specific day and around a specific time.

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Let me start with Dining at Port Orleans Riverside. I will tell you that we have no idea what table service food there is like. We seriously only at quick service food there, and it was good. There were burgers, pizza, fried seafood, an awesome little salad spot, and a sandwich area. There was also an area with just treats.We don’t have any regrets.

We knew we wanted to make Johanna’s 6th birthday extra special, so picking the right restaurant was key. Based upon her love for princesses, we narrowed down our options to Akershus at Epcot and Cinderella’s Royal Table (CRT) at Magic Kingdom. After much thought we chose CRT because at the time we were not sure if we were going to Epcot, but we knew that Magic Kingdom would be, well, magical, for her birthday.

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CRT is expensive. When I called to book I didn’t have the dining plan yet. I had pay (yes pay in advance) $200 for 3 of us to eat. While that did include the tip, It was still a very expensive meal for such a little person. The plus was that she was guaranteed to meet 5 princesses, including the Princess of all Princesses, Cinderella (who she doesn’t care about at all mind you) and she would get to eat in the castle. What little girl wouldn’t love that? Once we found out we were going to Epcot I did make a reservation at Akershus, but we ended up cancelling it and here’s why. There is no guarantee of which princesses will be where for either restaurant. I believe the only given is that Cinderella will be at CRT and not at Akershus. In hindsight, I would’ve chosen Akershus for the princess experience because the food choices are much better than at CRT and Johanna could care less that she was eating inside the castle. Also, if you get the dining plan, CRT is 2 table credits. Not worth it. We went to CRT on Thursday and found out taht the exact same princesses minus Cinederella were going to be at Akershus on Friday, when we had our reservation. Because of that, we switched our reservation to Via Napoli.

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I had heard wonderful things about the pizza at Via Napoli, but wouldn’t you know, pizza isn’t what I ordered. My husband and Johanna got pizza and raved about it. I got Candele, which is stick pasta, sausage ragu, polpettine meathballs, mozzarella, and ricotta. It was so friggin good. So good! But it wasn’t the best meal I had while there.

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The best meal goes to 50’s Prime Time Cafe at Hollywood Studios. Oh my goodness! 50’s Prime Time is American comfort food in a 50’s kitchen/dining room. Johanna stayed boring and ordered chicken nuggets, but my husband and I ordered A Sampling of Mom’s Favorite Recipes which includes fried Chicken, Pot Roast, and meatloaf. When I tell you that is some of the best fried chicken I ever had! And that pot roast was super tender and flavorful. Even the meatloaf was yummy. And our waiter? Was super awesome. He not only had our area of the dining room sing happy birthday to Johanna, but he also has another family he was serving do the same. And although the specialty drinks are not a part of the dining plan, he brought Johanna one anyway and gave her an extra dessert for her birthday. He made it so special for her and we were so thankful. Also, when they call you to seat you, they call your name out like your mom would when she’s calling you to dinner. Love it!


Another fave of ours was Crystal Palace at Magic Kingdom. Crystal Palace almost didn’t make it on our list because Johanna isn’t a big Pooh fan at all, but hubby and I are! We love him! And I’m so happy we did it because it was our best character interaction experience. She even got to hold Piglets hand in a parade around our side of the dining room! All of the characters were as sweet as you would imagine they would be, and the food. The FOOD! We went just in time to experience breakfast AND lunch (11:15 reservation), but we only ate breakfast because it was plentiful and we were still full from the day before. My husband loved the breakfast lasagna and I loved this egg-sausage combo thing they had going on.

We at at Cosmic Ray’s one night for a quick service meal and it brought back great memories from the last time I was there in my early 20s! The burgers are still as yummy as they were back then.

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I must mention that we LOVED the pizza at Blaze in Disney Springs and were over the moon when we learned that they have a few in our state. Can’t wait to visit them again!

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Also, my favorite snack credit was that gigantic cinnamon roll from Gaston’s Tavern at Magic Kingdom. Not only was it hot and tasty, but all 3 of us were able to eat off of it.

Here are more restaurants that were recommended to me (QS – Quick Service/SC – Snack Credit/TS – Table Service):

Magic Kingdom

  • Mini kitchen sink dessert in MK (sc)
  • The Plaza Ice Cream Parlor (sc)
  • Liberty Tree (ts)
  • Columbia Harbour House (qs)
  • Skipper Canteen (MK)

Epcot

  • Electric Umbrella (qs) – Epcot
  • Lotus Blossom Eggrolls or potstickers (sc)
  • Chips and guacamole in Mexico (sc)
  • Anything from the bakeries in France and Norway (sc)
  • The Caramel Shop in Germany (sc)
  •  Garden Grill (ts and character meal – Mickey, Pluto, Chip and Dale)
  • Rose and Crown (ts). Get a 7:30-7:45 reservation so you can watch Illuminations after your meal

Hollywood Studios

  • Hollywood and Vine only because you can meet Doc, Sofia the First, Jake, and Handy (ts)
  • Sci Fi Dine In for good burgers (ts)
  • Starring Rolls (sn)
  • ABC Commissary (qs)

Animal Kingdom

  • Tusker House (ts)
  • Rum Dole Whip (sc)
  • Flametree (qs)
  • Yak & Yeti (qs)
  • Boma (ts)

Outside the Parks

  • 1900 Park Faire (ts – character dining: evil stepsisters) – Grand Floridian Resort
  • Chef Mickey for the character interaction (ts – the fab five) – Contemporary Resort
  • Ohana (ts – Lilo and Stitch and friends) – Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort
  • Whispering Canyon Cafe (ts) – Disney’s Wilderness Lodge

My advice:

If you’re on the dining plan, order the most expensive item on the menu for your meal. Get the biggest bang for your buck. That’s the only thing that will make the dining plan worth it.

Use the dining plan calculator to see if it is really worth it for you to get the plan. It wouldn’t have been for us because we just don’t eat enough for it. In fact, we had to spend $170 more to make it worth it. However, with the stay, play, dine package , we ended up paying $20 less for the trip in total with the plan, so it worked out.

Double check that all of your dining reservations are actually listed on your account. Crystal Palace somehow fell off of ours and they had to go through some backdoor server to find it. It was a mess.If you don’t see your reservation call in to make sure they link it and follow up within 24 hours to make sure it was done!

Typcially the food at Character dining is not amazing, but the pay off is that you get to meet many characters at once, which is important if you plan on getting autographs or photos. Decide earlier which ones you are willing to stand in line to see, which ones you want to skip, and which ones you would like to get close and personal with in a dining situation.

Figure out where you may want to use your snack credits ahead of time (you can go here for more suggestions). You don’t have to have a schedule, but just have it in the back of your head so you don’t wander around aimlessly and just keep getting popcorn or nuts because you’re not sure where you can use your snack credit.

Figure out your reservations at least a week before your 180 days. It’ll make things go super smooth when you can make your reservations.

You have to call to make Cinderella’s Royal Table Reservations ((407) 939-3463). You cannot make them from your disney account.

Again, you can make reservations 180 days before your stay. Go to the Disney dining website  at 6 a.m. Eastern time, ordo phone reservations at 7 a.m.

For more information on dining, go here.

What is your absolute favorite thing to eat at Disney?

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This is How We Disney -The Theme Parks

After choosing where to stay, next up on our agenda was deciding which parks we would visit and on what days, because that would affect where we would make dining reservations while there. After hours and hours of research, I got the hint – You could spend days at Magic Kingdom and still possibly not do everything! Since we were only going to be there for 4 park days and 2 travel days, and we didn’t want to have anything scheduled for our arrival day, we had to choose wisely.

Magic Kingdom was a given. The dilemma was choosing between Epcot and Animal Kingdom. We did not want to get park hoppers this go round. Park hoppers let you do just that, hop between that parks whenever you please. Being that this was my husbands first time back at disney since he was a kid, my first time since I was 22, and the first time ever for Johanna, we wanted to take it easy and just do 1 park a day.

Epcot seemed like a really grown up park. There are countries, and lots of food and drinks to try. Limited on the rides. On the other hand, animal kingdom seemed *to us* like more of a safari or really big zoo with entertainment and attractions. I know people love animal kingdom, but personally, I couldn’t imagine wanting to spend a whole day there. Don’t get me wrong, Johanna loves animals! But we have a fantastic free national zoo in our backyard, and an animal park. I know for a fact that she would’ve been over the animals and just want to get on rides. I had read very mixed reviews about the rides there, so we scratched animal kingdom off of our list. Finally we had ours days figured out

  • Monday –  Travel Day/Disney Springs
  • Tuesday – Magic Kingdom
  • Wednesday – Hollywood Studios
  • Thursday – Back to Magic Kingdom for the Princesses birthday!
  • Friday – Epcot
  • Saturday – Early Travel Day

In Hindsight, we would’ve done 4 park days, and 3 resort days tacked on 2 more days to our trip, and our schedule would’ve looked more like this:

  • Monday – Travel Day/Resort Day
  • Tuesday Magic Kingdom
  • Wednesday – Resort Day/Disney Springs
  • Thursday – Magic Kingdom
  • Friday – Epcot
  • Saturday – Hollywood Studios
  • Sunday – Late Travel Day/Resort Day

So here’s how it went. First up, Magic Kingdom!

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Magic Kingdom (MK) was our absolute favorite park! We actually could’ve used a 3rd day there! The first day was all about trying to see what kind of rides Johanna liked. She had never been to an amusement park before, so this was her first time getting on real rides. Our first ride, and worse ride, was the tea cup ride. Man, let me tell you! If you are no longer in your 20s, you should probably skip the ride lol. I was absolutely miserable coming off of that thing! But Johanna of course loved it. Oh to be a kid again.


I won’t make this longer than it has to be by telling you every single ride that we went on, but I will tell you our favorites, and favorite activities.

Favorite Rides/Attractions/Entertainment:

  • 7 Dwarfs Mine Train: This wasn’t Johanna’s favorite rollercoaster, but it was her favorite! She went on Tuesday and then twice on Thursday!
  • Enchanted Tales with Belle: This is a MUST do for your princess loving ladies. Not only do they get to see Belle, but they get to play a part in her story time by being a cast member! Even my husband got a part. And they offer a part to anyone that wants to be apart of it. Johanna was too scared of the talking Wardrobe to go up and get a part, but since her daddy was chosen for one, they let her go up with him at the end of the performance to meet Belle!
  • The Magic Carpets of Aladdin
  • Peter Pan’s Flight – Surprisingly amazing. We were flying! In the dark with great scenes. Awesome!
  • Astro Orbiter
  • People Mover – It’s actually a very cool, laid back ride. Especially go if you are tired and need a break.
  • Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
  • Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique – More on this later this week, but if you have a princess, just do it! No regrets.
  • Crystal Palace – I’ll talk about this in my dining post, but evenif you don’t fancy Pooh and friends, go, at least for breakfast!
  • Talking Mickey – you can find him just as you come in at the Town Square Theatre on Main Street
  • Incredibles Super Dance Party
  • Move it, shake it, dance and play it street party
  • Festival of fantasy parade
  • Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire
  • Once Upon a Time – Stay for this, even if you don’t want to stick around for wishes (fireworks). It was Amazing! And felt downright magical!

We were there 2 days and Still only did maybe half the things you can do at MK. Johanna road her first rollercoaster at Magic Kingdom (The Barnstormer) and fell in love. I’m so proud of her. She is so cautious and reserved, it was quite pleasant to see her so free. I on the other hand am not a rollercoaster rider at all. I’ve never been on one because I don’t need that kind of excitement in my life, so I had a lot of time hanging out with Isabella.

While at Magic Kingdom, don’t write off the shows if you aren’t a show person. They really are magical. You honestly feel like you’re going to have the best day ever because you’re walking down the street with Pooh and Tigger, or have a moment to chat with Cinderella’s step-sisters. Magic Kingdom is just that – Pure MAGIC!

hollywood-studios

Johanna’s Second favorite Park was Hollywood Studios (HS), but even while there she was still dreaming of Magic Kingdom, and I don’t blame her.

One of my favorite things at HS was everything Star Wars. I’m not even a Star Wars fan. Like, I’ll watch it if it’s on, but I know it has a cult like following and that’s just not me. But I’ll be darned if I didn’t totally get wrapped up in it while I was there. from March of the First Order up Hollywood Boulevard to meeting Chewbacca, I was thrilled!

Johanna’s favorite area was Disney Jr. of course! She got to sing along with her Disney Jr. friends, and meet her faves, Doc McStuffin and Jake from Jake and the Neverland Pirates. And she was so excited that he was 6, just like her!

While those were pretty fun, I think all of us, even baby Isabella, can agree that the Frozen Sing-a-long gave us life! OMG. I got so wrapped up in it. It was just yummy. The two comedians (historians of Arendelle) that helped tell the story were hilarious! Some of the humor goes over the kids heads, but it’s great for the adults. It is certainly a show for everyone. It was hilarious to see men trying not to sing along, but it’s basically impossible. Even my husband wanted to experience it again!

This isn’t the lady from our performance, so it’s not quite as funny, but it’s still very enjoyable.

While we had a lot of good moments at Hollywood Studios, it was a downer after going to Magic Kingdom. There simply isn’t as much to do. In fact, I believe you could get a hopper and do a half day of Hollywood studios and a half day of Animal Kingdom easily.My only regret was not experiencing Indiana Jones, but Johanna didn’t want to do it and this trip was all about her.

Favorite Rides/Attractions/Entertainment:

  • Frozen Sing Along
  • Toy Story Mania
  • Star Tours – The Adventures Continue
  • Star Wars Launch Bay
  • Disney Junior Live on Stage!
  • March of the First Order
  • 50s Prime Time – More about this in my upcoming dining post!

Don’t forget to sign your little one’s up for Jedi training while you’re there. In fact, do that first before you do anything else. It gets full pretty quick.

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Our final park of our trip was Epcot. It was Johanna’s least favorite of the 3, but as adults her dad and I really enjoyed it and want to go back, just the two of us! As  you know, Epcot takes you around the world! There is plenty to see and do, but not much to ride. That was the bummer for Johanna. I think that when she is older, a preteen, she will definitely love Epcot. It is absolutely gorgeous there and if you are doing the dining plan, seriously save most of your snack credits to eat at as many countries as possible. Because it was raining while we were there, our schedule got completely messed up, so we were literally walking back and forth around the world trying to make all of our fastpasses. It was exhausting. We didn’t get to stop at each country like we really wanted to. My advice – if you go, try to schedule all of your fast passes back to back, inching your way closer and closer to the various countries, then take your time enjoying the top countries on your list. That’s what I wish we would’ve done. Also, don’t go on the last day if you don’t have resort days built into your schedule. By Friday we were all a little cranky and worn down.

Did I mention that I was stupid happy to meet Joy and Sadness from Inside Out? Like I was bubbling over with excitement. Johanna was geeked to meet Minnie and we’re all sad that we missed every ethnic Princess except Jasmine. Like, how? At Epcot there was Pocahontas, Mulan, and Jasmine. We even missed Anna and Elsa, but that was more so on purpose. Johanna didn’t really seem excited to meet them and I thought she would. We did meet Moana at Hollywood studios, but totally missed Tiana at Magic Kingdom. We’ve gotta do better.

Favorite Rides/Attractions/Entertainment:

  • Frozen Ever After – Sit in the middle if you don’t want to get a little wet!
  • Journey Into Imagination with Figment
  • The Seas with Nemo and Friends
  • Disney Animals
  • Test Track

Just a warning, Mission: Space made my husband feel unwell, and he and Johanna were on the less intense side (the orange is intense, while the green side is less intense). My husband is young and in shape, so just take that into consideration. I’m super happy that I didn’t ride!

Overall we found the fast passes to be most useful for these rides:

Magic Kingdom

  • Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
  • Peter Pan
  • Space Mountain (she hated Space Mountain because it is super dark and super fast, but didn’t have to wait long to ride it)

Epcot

  • Frozen Ever After
  • Seas with Nemo
  • Figment
  • Any of the characters

Hollywood Studios

  • Toy Story Mania
  • Frozen Sing Along
  • Star Tours- The adventures continue
  • Disney Jr. Live

When Isabella was born we said we would go to Disney for Johanna’s birthday, then not go again until Isabella is 6. Now we are thinking of taking another trip in a year or two. If we do we will make it a short trip (3 park days, 2 resort days) and definitely do Magic Kingdom again, try out Animal Kingdom, and head over to Universal Studios. We really wanted to go to Universal, but we didn’t know if Johanna was a thrill seeker yet, and it kind of seemed ridiculous to go if she wasn’t going to get on any rides. Well now we know our child is definitely a thrill seeker! If we can get a babysitter to come along, we’ll take a date night trip to Epcot.

What is your favorite park at Disney? Favorite ride? I’d love to hear!

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This is How We Disney – Port Orleans Riverside Resort

When planning a Disney vacation, one of the first questions that comes to mind is where will we stay? Can we actually afford to stay on Disney property? That’s the question my family and I were faced with 9 months before going to Disney. My husband was totally sold on staying at Disney, so that made things a bit easier. However, being that we are a one income family, I knew we weren’t going to be able to spend a ton. That’s when I learned about Disney’s moderate resorts.

Disney has deluxe, moderate, and value resorts. The moderate resorts consist of Caribbean Beach Resort (CBR), Port Orleans Riverside (POR), Port Orleans French Quarter (POFQ), Coronado Springs (CS), The Cabins at Fort Wilderness Resort. We knew we didn’t want to stay in the cabins, that was completely out. The reviews for Coronado Springs were all over the place, and although beautiful, I kept reading that Caribbean Beach Resort was huge, very spread out, and took a long time to get off the property to the parks. So that left us with Either Port Orleans Riverside or Port Orleans French Quarter. In the end we chose Port Orleans Riverside.

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Let me start off by saying that to me, the moderate resorts definitely do not scream Disney. They are very relaxed on Disney decor, much more than the value resorts. If you want your child to be wowed by the room and you don’t have a very big family, the value resorts will probably be right up your alley. They have over the top theming (my favorite is Art of Animation), and really appeal to kids. However, POR is very relaxed. It’s very New Orleans with it’s antebellum feel and it’s on a river. It’s simply gorgeous! You can either stay at a building in the Magnolia Bend (The Oak and Parterre Buildings), or Alligator Bayou. We were going specifically for Johanna’s 6th birthday, so we chose Magnolia Bend. We requested a room in The Oak building (a 3 story plantation style building) because Johanna is a princess fan and they contain princess -themed rooms. The rooms are decorated with pictures of the princesses on the walls and theres a larger picture showcasing the Bayou Princess herself, Princess Tiana! All throughout the room you can find touches from every princess from Aladdin’s carpet on the floor, to the Beauty and the Beast teacups on the borders of the walls. The touches are light, you won’t be beat over your head with them, but they’re elegant. And did I mention that the head boards light up with fireworks? It is amazing! Johanna could not get enough of pushing the buttons to make both headboards light up so that she and her sister could enjoy them.

Port Orleans Riverside, Magnolia Bend

image courtesy of portorleans.com

As far as recreation and activities are concerned, Magnolia Bend has 2 pools, but Alligator Bayou has 3, bringing the resort total to 5! I think that’s pretty amazing. Honestly, because we were super busy the whole time we were there we only saw the two in Magnolia Bend. One of the other features of the hotel that we really enjoyed was movie night under the stars. We were never able to stay for more than 15 minutes, but it was a great option and next time we are definitely planning more resort days and taking advantage. There are also carriage rides, campfires, the riverboat that takes you to Disney Springs where you can go shopping and grab a bite to eat, and surrey bike rentals.

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When it comes to food, POR has 2 table service restaurants, Boatwright’s Dining Hall, and the River Roost lounge. You can get quick service meals at the Muddy rivers lounge and inside of the Riverside Mill Food Court. We did not eat a table service meal at the resort, but we did frequent the Riverside Mill Food Court quite a bit, and I’ll review that in an upcoming post later this week.

There is also a store called Fultons General Store. You can get snacks and drinks, but also apparel and souvenirs.

One of the biggest concerns we had when finding a place to stay was the efficiency of the bus services. We didn’t want to have to wait around for a long time waiting for a bus, or have them consistently be so overcrowded that we would have to skip getting on one until the crowd thinned.We also did not want to be far from the bus depot being that we had a baby and 6 year old with us. The wonderful thing about the Oak building is that it was a quick 7 minute walk to the main building and the bus depot.The longest we waited for a bus was 20 minutes, and that was only once. Other than that our wait was always under 5 minutes heading to the parks. However, January is the slowest month for Disney, and I can imagine that during the more crowded months the bus depot could be overly crowded. Since there’s no line for getting on the bus, I can also assume that there’s a bit of pushing and jumping in front of others to ensure that you have a spot on the bus and if you have a double stroller like we did, I’ll pray for you.

So why Port Orleans Riverside over Port Orleans French Quarter? Only a few reasons as I think they are both nice properties. The first is that POFQ is smaller. While that can definitely have it’s advantages (fewer people and it only has one bus stop),it felt a little too much like the POP resorts, and we could stay at one of those resorts for cheaper. Also, the pool area leaves much to be desired for me, and we just really liked the royal rooms. The food court is smaller at POFQ, and my family likes to have options. The atmosphere at POR makes you relaxed. You just want to take a stroll and enjoy the magnolias. I’m not opposed in any way to staying at POFQ, but when making our decision, we factored in all of these things.

This is normally the part where I would wrap up this already too long post, but I have to say this. We had a huge issue at POR. One of our neighbors decided a Disney vacation was the best place to smoke marijuana. I detest smoking of any kind, but the smell of weed is just straight up horrid. I was horrified that a resort full of kids is where this person wanted to smoke. He was of course there with his family, and as my husband confronted him early in our week as he sat outside smoking it, his attitude was pretty much like eh, I’m from Colorado, that’s what we do. Welp, you’re not in Colorado anymore dear. As the week went on more and more neighbors were complaining about the smell of marijuana. The guy would smoke starting at midnight, just as we were settling in to sleep, and again around 7am.The smell was heavy! My husband found himself calling the front desk and security many times while we were there and one night, fed up, he even called the police. I’m going to be very honest, we were not happy with the response we got at first.On tuesday night they said they couldn’t find the person doing it. Wednesday they apologized and offered us a chance to switch rooms. If this were any other vacation that would’ve been fine, but this was Disney. You are legit busy from the time you open your eyes until late at night. We would leave the room in the morning and return after 10 with a 6 year old and a 4 month old. We had reservations for various things throughout the park meaning we didn’t have any time to repack and move to another room. Why inconvenience us instead of finding the guy that was doing the smoking? At this point they had a description and a state. I just couldn’t understand why they were having such a hard time finding this individual!

I’m happy to say that in the end, they did find him. I don’t know if they kicked him out or just gave him a strong warning, but they did give us free fast passes for rides for two days, and they refunded us for two nights of our stay and I thought that was pretty great. The manager that we kept in contact with definitely did not want us to leave thinking that Disney didn’t care, and I’m very thankful for her for continuously checking in on us and working with us.

Would we choose Port Orleans Riverside again? Absolutely. It’s stunning, relaxing, small enough that we didn’t feel lost, and big enough that we still felt like we were at a resort. One day I would love to stay at a suite at Art of Animation, or experience one of the deluxe resorts, but for our budget at this time, POR is perfect.

Have you stayed at POR before? Have any tips for other readers? Please post them in the comments. If you have any questions for me please feel free to leave them below. I will love to help answer them as best as possible. For more information on Port Orleans Riverside, and all other resorts, you can visit the Disney website, or my favorite planning website Touring Plans.

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New Blog Series – This is How We Disney

Spring 2016 my husband decided he wanted us to take the family vacation since we had a 5 year old. He thought it was time. You know the one I’m talking about. The one that seems like it could be fun, but it could also be incredibly exhausting and daunting to plan. It can eat away at all of your vacation days and your retirement plan. That’s right, I’m talking Disney World here.

So starting in June I threw myself into planning like our lives depended on it. I learned everything Disney. I can answer questions for anyone at any time now about planning a Disney vacation. You all know that I’m a planner. It’s in my blood, it’s what I do. So when he said Disney, I ferociously read everything single thing I could. I pinterest, googled, and facebooked the heck out of it. And it all paid off. Earlier this month we took our first family trip to Disney and I’m here to tell you all about it. Each day This week in a series called This is How We Disney I’ll do a post dedicated to our Disney trip. From lodging, to food, to the must do’s, I’ll discuss it all. At the end of the week I’ll list all the tools that were helpful for me and post a vlog to our youtube channel to showcase our trip! I hope you’ll join me for the ride, and more than anything, I really hope these posts will be helpful to you on your planning journey. First up tomorrow, our resort choice. See you then!

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Top 5 Favorite Christmas Events in the DMV Area

Do you smell it? Do you feel it? Can you sense the buzz all around you? My senses are alive with the presence of all things CHRISTmas! As soon as thanksgiving is over in my house we ease right into the Christmas mode. Suddenly we’re humming Christmas tunes and watching Christmas movies. I’m scanning pinterest for new Christmas treat ideas, and checking out local websites for fun adventures to go on during this wonderful season. I try very hard every year to stick to the traditions I started with Johanna and to expand upon them in little ways. No matter what, we have our outings around the area that we simply adore and must do every year. Some of you may have a new family and are looking for traditions, while others may already have your traditions, but are wondering if you’re missing something. For that reason I wanted to compile our top 5 favorite events in the DMV area during the Christmas season.

The Wharf’s Annual Parade of Lights

December 3, 6p.m. – 8p.m.
50+ Decorated Vessels Set to Sail Across the Potomac River to The Wharf from Old Town Alexandria in Grand Holiday Tradition

The annual holiday Parade will feature more than 50 decorated boats sailing across the Potomac River to Washington, DC, from Old Town Alexandria, and will include FREE landside events along The Wharf, including the first snow fall of the holiday season; lighting of the Gangplank Marina Christmas Tree; photos with Santa Claus; live holiday music; a roaring s’mores fire pit; gingerbread cooking tasting; holiday sailboat making; a hot chocolate toast to the season; the illumination of vessels docked at Gangplank Marina and the Capital Yacht Club; and enjoy holiday brews in the Corona Beer Garden. For more information, checkout the website here.

Watkins Park Festival of Lights

Now thru January 1, 2017
5-9:30pm
$5 per car
This spectacular holiday drive-through event features more than one million twinkling lights, wonderful themed displays, and one of the tallest tree displays in the state! Visit the pg parks website for more information.

Winternational

December 7, 11a.m.-2p.m.
Winternational is an exciting celebration showcasing the cultural and culinary traditions of Washington’s diplomatic community. This festival has the atmosphere of a bustling global marketplace with each embassy promoting their country through vibrant displays of visual art, food, handcrafts as well as travel and tourism exhibits. Free and open to the public, guests have the opportunity to travel the world and do some holiday shopping — all during the lunch hour!

Zoolights

Now thru January 1, 2017
5-9p.m.
Zoolights is a free event, featuring live music performances, tasty winter treats, and plenty of opportunities for holiday shopping. More than 500,000 environmentally-friendly LED lights transform the Zoo into a winter wonderland complete with a dazzling light show set to music!

Holy Trinity Student Association Presents A Dr. Seuss Christmas

December 10, 2016
8am-noon
Adults – $10/Kid’s – $8. $5 for Paint and Sip Session

Join the Holy Trinity family for their annual Breakfast with Santa!  It’s a pancake breakfast, picture session with Santa and Mrs.Claus, a concert featuring young carolers, a wonderful gift raffle, sip & paint, face painting, Christmas Bazaar and much, much more! Visit eventbrite to purchase your tickets.

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Free Magic School Bus Lesson Plans

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Johanna loves science. I mean LOVES science. She even loves watching science shows, particularly ones that involve surgery. I don’t exactly adore science. I don’t hate it, but meh. I was always more of a literature and math kind of girl. So when it came to finding a science curriculum that we both could enjoy I struggled. That is until I came across this free Magic School Bus curriculum.

This curriculum allows us to watch the show, then do simple, easy, yet fun experiments that don’t cost a ton of money in supplies. We just finished the Air episode and did the experiment that accompanies it. The best part is that if you are having a rough or busy day and don’t have time for an experiment that is going to take an hour, there are experiments that literally take 5 minutes tops. This is perfect for us considering we have a new addition to our family that takes up a lot of our time. The fact that I can broadcast the episodes onto the tv with my chromecast is awesome!

Recently I discovered that you can also buy The Magic School Bus experiments. They are available on amazon individually for a great price. You can also buy the complete set  on Educents! We have not gotten the set yet, but we are seriously considering it. I’m all about doing what’s easy, and is easier than having all the materials right at your fingertips?

Does your little one love science? What do you do to fulfill their science requirement that is mentally stimulating yet easy for mom?

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Hey, Look, I Made This!

On September 7th in the late evening, after a month stay in the hospital, I gave birth to another beautiful baby girl. My birth story will come some day. Some day when I’m not still in the throws of wrapping my mind around it, some day when I’m not lost in the sea of newborn happiness and exhaustion; someday when I’m ready to relive the ups and downs of it, able to tell the story compactly and neatly, able to let the glory of God shine in what felt like a sea of disappointment, guilt, and confusion.

I love her so much. Having a baby is everything! I’ve left you all out of so much of this journey already that I had to come back to let you know she’s here and I’m in love. More importantly, Johanna is in love. She is the absolute best big sister ever! She lives to help out and love on her real, live doll. I’m so happy God answered her prayer for a sister. Apparently it was just what she needed. And maybe it was just what I needed too.

Presenting…Isabella

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