Mickey and Snowmamas Do Dallas in a Memorable Conference!

I’m back after a whirlwind four-day trip to Dallas and I’ll admit I haven’t been a big fan of Texas. I remember the first Texan I ever met: Amy Lemon. It was our freshman year of college and she was a loud-talking, big-haired, uproarious gal who boasted about Texas at every turn.

“What makes it so great?” I finally asked. “Do you have amazing beaches? The mountains? World-class destinations?” I then proceeded to expound upon the many virtues of the Motherland.

“Naw,” she said finally said. “It’s great because it is TEXAS!”

That was my first lesson that Texans are not lacking in confidence.

I’ve been to Texas a couple of previous times. We got stuck in Dallas en route home from our Costa Rican honeymoon because there was 0.00000003-inch of snow and the entire city shut down. Following a cruise, we over nighted in Houston and the humidity about killed me.

Suffice to to say, Texas has not been on my must-visit list.

My latest stay was by far my best and I caught a glimpse of why not to mess with Texas. I fell in love with our accommodations at the luxurious Omni Hotel. I was in a group fortunate enough to tour the Presidential Suite and most impressive to me was the bathroom. So, why this picture? Because the bathroom was completely ensconced with floor-to-ceiling windows, allowing a killer view.

Apparently presidential types like to let it all hang out.

I also learned a lot about producing videos at the Family Travel Conference. I met a lot of great bloggers and event sponsors that included Disney (I’m now obsessed with their Adventures by Disney Guided Vacations). These are my beloved Denver blogging friends connecting with Mickey in Dallas. It was all a bit confusing.

Park City Mountain Resort’s Snowmamas sponsored a breakfast and PR ace Krista asked each of us to take a few minutes to share a magical moment we’ve had at PCMR. I enthusiastically shared a condensed version of From Injury-faker to Superstar: How Bode Got His Groove Back, during which time one of the attendees tweeted:

For the Twitter-challenged, @TheMileHighMama is my Twitter ID. And yep, being known as The Mile High Mama has been really swell now that Colorado has legalized marijuana.

And what would a Snowmama event be like without snow?

It should be noted the snow totals in the Omni ballroom exceeded those of when my plane was grounded in Dallas.

As I was driving home from the airport later that day, I realized I was ravenous because I had skipped lunch. I have been craving Burger King’s gingerbread shake so I grabbed one. I was tempted to polish it off but opted to wait and share it with the kids.

Upon entering the door, I was greeted with my loving family who jumped out to surprise me, an immaculate home, beautiful flowers and delicious dinner. I handed over my shake and within moments, the kids were hogtying each other for it.

Nothin’ like bringing a bit of Texas home to Denver.

Fear Factor: Disneyland Style

My kids enjoyed most of the thrill rides at Disneyland with the exception of the Matterhorn (it was closed until June 15 for repairs), Indiana Jones Adventure (Bode didn’t meet the 46-inch height requirement) and the California Screamin’ roller-coaster (they wouldn’t go near anything with an upside-down loop-de-loop).

However, there were a few surprising “I’m gonna die moments!”

Splash Mountain

For Hadley, it occurred during Splash Mountain and the prospect of kareening down the waterfall. She kept obsessively chanting, “I’m FREAKING OUT!” and when I pointed out we hadn’t even gone down it yet, she switched her lament to “I’m FREAKING OUT FOR THE FUTURE!

What a great planner she is.

Mickey’s Fun Wheel

Doesn’t Mickey just look so happy and welcoming on that Ferris wheel?

Do not be deceived.

This time, it was Bode who was traumatized. You can ride one of the traditional gondolas mounted to the outer rim -or- board one of the 16-inch “free-mounted” gondolas that slip and slide back and forth along the inside spokes.

We, of course, chose the most adventurous free-sliding gondolas and oh, the look on Bode’s face when that thing started rocking.

Holy Crap!

When that didn’t work to calm his fears, he tried another coping method:

.And there he stayed for the duration of the ride.

Golden Zephyr

Hadley is a complicated little thing. Though she thrived on Space Mountain (which absolutely terrorizes me in the dark), she also freaked out about riding the Golden Zephyr in California Adventure Park. She hates swinging things but really? This tame spaceship that is geared to preschoolers?

I made her go on it, just so she could save face.

“What is the worst that could happen?” I queried.

“I could fall out and die,” she countered.

Note to self: don’t ask that question at an amusement park.

The No. 2 Coolest Thing I Have Ever Done!

Cars Land was phenomenal and Radiator Springs Racers is my favorite ride at Disneyland. Truly. (Go here if you missed my original post).

But do you know what else was so astounding that it made my Top 2 List of Coolest Things I Have Ever Done?

OK, so I just made up the list but the following experience I had at Disneyland ranks right behind my amazing opportunity to be Microsoft’s accredited blogger at the 2010 Vancouver Games.

Following our preview of Cars Land, the media was set loose with their families in California Adventure Park for the entire day. What’s so cool about that? The park was closed to the public in preparation for its grand re-opening the next morning. That’s right, people. About 1,000 media and their families had California Adventure Park to themselves. Don’t believe me?

It was like a dream come true to visit Disneyland without the crowds and worth every penny we spent to get there. Oh, and did I mention the weather was a moderate 70-degrees?

I could not have picked a more perfect day.

Our craziest moment was during one of our first rides on Grizzly River Run. Last spring, I waited 1.5 hours for the thrill of doing this white-water rafting adventure.

At the end of getting tossed around by Grizzly River’s rapids, we prepared to get out when the ride operator glanced over at the line (or lack thereof; we were the only ones there) and asked the golden question: “Do you want to do it again?”

And for the first time in my history of Disneyland, we went around yet again without even unbuckling.

The novelty didn’t even wear off when we emerged soaking wet.

That night, our big Disneyland sendoff was a private showing of Worlds of Color–a water spectacular that wove water, color, fire and light into a kaleidoscope of fantasy.


Of course my pictures don’t do it justice so check-out Disneyland’s official ones:

Do you know what was mind-blowing? We were each given our own light-up Mickey ears and once the show started, we realized they were perfectly synced to whatever colors were on display.

At least it was the coolest thing ever once I decided Disneyland wasn’t trying to control our minds and take over the world.

There was only one drawback to the entire experience. When you’re a Disneyland newbie like Jamie, the bar has been set waaaaaaay too high.

Cars Land’s Luigi’s Flying Tires

But we’re happy to just do the limbo the next time we visit Disneyland.

My night as a celebutante (or not)

I’m not a fan of celebrities and can count on one hand how many I’d really like to meet, Matt Lauer, Jon Stewart and Anderson Cooper being among them.

I’ve had a thing for news anchors since my broadcast journalism college days and they kinda count, right?

So when the media attending the Cars Land preview were invited to cover the Red Carpet festivities, I opted for a back-row seat. Or rather, square of carpet.

It was standing-room only.

When I checked in, I was assigned No. 50. If you’ve ever wondered how the Red Carpet organization works, each media outlet is assigned a number and that is where they are stationed (often with a bunch of other journalists). I was originally supposed to be with some Utah outlets but migrated over to where my posse–a fun group of bloggers–was hanging out.

There were some bloggers on the front lines battling it out for the interviews while the rest of us had a lot of fun sitting back and pretending to know who half of the people were.

Fortunately LeAnn Jakubowski, Disney’s Director of Social Media, had a cheat-sheet of all the celebrities who’d be attending. This is just one page of many.

Normally I’d feel really awkward about sticking a camera in a celebrity’s face but that is what the Red Carpet is all about.

Cheers’ John Ratzenberger, the voice of Cars’ Mack the truck. Hot blonde included.
Everybody Loves Raymond’s Brad Garrett

Brad was h-i-l-a-r-i-o-u-s and hammed it up for the bloggers. Let’s just say he’s not an introvert.

Larry the Cable Guy (voice of Mater) made several appearances during the grand opening. Dude is down-to-earth and funny.

Here’s someone who blew me away. Recognize her? I didn’t either, though she’s from my favorite comedy, Modern Family. A glammed up Arial Winter plays the brainy Alex Dumphy.

Speaking of Modern Family, who doesn’t love Manny?

There were plenty of other celebrities but I was often too late or my camera was too slow to capture the moment.

I got a lot of good backside shots, though.

Don’t ask me who this was.

I wouldn’t cut it as a paparazzo. Though it was fun to have caught a glimpse, I’ll gladly stick with my day job.

Disneyland at last!

If you’re not a fan of Disneyland, come back next week because I’ll be singing the praises of the Happiest Place on Earth the next several days.

When I got invited to the media preview of Cars Land, I asked Jamie if he’d finally like to go (he has been threatening to sue his parents for years re: never taking him). It took him only a moment to decide “YES” and so we bit the bullet and bought tickets for the entire family.

And I’m so glad we did.

I mean, just look at this dude.

I’m glad I had a do-over, too. The kids and I went for one frenzied day last spring break and between the crowds, the heat and the zero research I had done (my tour guide friend had to pull out at the last minute), it was stressful.

Not this time. A friend told me January and early-June are great times to visit Disneyland and she was correct. A lot of schools weren’t on summer break yet so the lines were more manageable–we never waited more than a half-hour for a ride.

Once upon a time, I would have thought waiting that long was dreadful. Now I know that’s a good thing! We stayed at the gorgeous Grand Californian Hotel and you pay for what you get. Namely, it’s pricy (particularly on the weekend) but being located inside the park made for easy access and frequent breaks and dips in the pool.

We also had NO IDEA about the Downtown Disney District, a 20-acre admission-free area right outside our hotel that consisted of about 50 restaurants and shops.

We were a wee bit excited to be there!

We started out at Space Mountain which, if we’re being honest here, scares the bejeebers out of me. I’m fine with rollercoasters but not in the dark. We then spent a truly fabulous day exploring the best of what Disneyland has to offer.

Star Tours
Thunder Mountain
Hadley freaking out before Splash Mountain’s Big Plunge
Bode, our very serious navigator with the map
Jambalaya, clam chowder, beignets & mint juleps to drink at French Market


Did we overdo it? You betcha! I literally could not drag the kids out of bed the next morning but a brisk breakfast on our balcony helped wake them up a bit.

I won’t point out sleepy Bode actually put his coat on upside down if you don’t.

It’s called opportunity-cost.

And the sleep deprivation for our first day at play was so very worth it.

Next time: tune in for details from the red carpet!

Why Disney California Adventure Park’s billion-dollar overhaul and Cars Land will send you into overdrive

As the early-morning rays oozed through the blinds, my husband Jamie rolled over toward me in bed and sang, “When you wish upon a star.”

That’s when two things hit me. 1) We were going to Disneyland in a few hours and 2) He sings really off-key in the morning.

This wasn’t just any trip to the Happiest Place on Earth but Jamie’s first visit ever. We planned our trip around the opening of Cars Land, the culmination of a five-year, billion-dollar expansion of Disney California Adventure Park.

I’d only visited California Adventure Park for a few hours last spring and though the attractions were fun (favorites include Grizzly River Run and Soarin’) it lacked the magic of nearby Disneyland.

That is no more.

Cars Land’s new 12-acre spread makes you swear you were plopped onto Route 66 during its heyday. In addition, the premiere of the many shops and entertainment on Buena Vista Street (California Adventure’s equivalent to Disneyland’s Main Street U.S.A.), offers a nostalgic step back in time to 1920s Los Angeles when Walt Disney arrived.

Cars Land First Glimpse

Though Jamie kicked off our trip with Disney’s iconic song, he would have been more accurate in belting out “Get Your Kicks on Route 66” because that’s what happens in the re-creation of Radiator Springs.

The 300,000-square-foot Cadillac Mountain Range in Ornament Valley is the awe-inspiring backdrop (4,000 tons of steel were used to erect it). From the moment you step onto the property, you’re on sensory high-drive with 16 neon signs in luminous colors, three new rides and a number of eclectic food and merchandise locations. (Click to enlarge)

We gobbled up the lip-smacking food from the Cozy Cone Motel’s cone-shaped huts. Choices included ice cream, popcorn, churros and I was delighted when, as the staffer handed me my chile “cone” caso, he proclaimed, “That cone-pletes your order.”

I’m a sucker for corny puns…and great food.

The Rides

Radiator Springs Racers, 40-inch height requirement

I predict this will become one of the most popular attractions at the park (the six-hour wait on opening day confirmed it). Six people pile into a convertible cars and start on a leisurely road trip through Radiator Springs.

Prior to our trip, my kids were not huge fans of Cars and I made them do their research by re-watching the movie. As we wound around on a leisurely road trip through scenes like Luigi’s Casa Della Tires, they fell in love with the characters as they came to life.

But then the real fun began.

We pulled up beside another car on a parallel track, engines were revved and we zoomed nose-to-nose through the desert as if vying for our own Piston Cup. Speeds reached as fast as 45 mph as we squealed around corners and over bumps in a thrilling finish that is different every time.

Except for us—we lost all three runs.

But that didn’t stop us from sprinting to the back of the line to do it all over again.

Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree—32-inch height requirement

Cars tow truck Mater has his very own herd of 22 runaway baby tractors in his junkyard and they “tow-si-do” around in a figure eight.

I had high hopes Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree would play out like a tilt-a-whirl but it was much tamer and geared to the younger set. Though you have a safety bar, you’ll do a lot of sliding around so make sure to hold onto your little ones—my 5-year-old got a nice goose egg when his head hit the side of the tractor.

Larry the Cable Guy (the voice of Mater) recorded seven hillbilly songs for the attraction.

As we hee-hawed along to the music, I wasn’t quite sure if that was a selling point or a drawback. :-)

Luigi’s Flying Tires, 32-inch height requirement

The concept of this ride is cool: Huge tires double as hovercraft bumper cars as you float two inches above ground on what seems like a giant air hockey table. To move, we shifted our weight to guide the direction and bump into other tires.

Over-sized beach balls were thrown into the mix because there’s nothing quite like bumping into and bopping complete strangers on the head.

Here’s a word of caution: don’t wear a skirt like I did. When you’re walking to your tire, those 6,714 air vents will make you feel like that famous picture of Marilyn Monroe when her skirt was blown up by the subway vent.

And not in a good way.
(What a giant beach balls looks like before hitting your face.)

But you’d better believe with the panoramic views of Ornament Valley, the three new attractions and immersive interactions with your favorite fuel-driven friends, life at Cars Land is all good.

Photos: Disneyland and Yours Truly

The Big Reveal

Despite the fact Jamie lived in California once upon a time, he has never been to Disneyland.

His lawsuit against his parents is still pending.

The kids and I spent one whirlwind day there last year over Spring Break but were ill-prepared when our guide (my friend Steph) had to bail at the last minute. I’m still recovering from the trauma of being sent up the creek without a paddle.

A few weeks ago, I received a press release that Disney California Adventure will be celebrating the completion of a five-year major expansion with the opening of Cars Land in mid-June. I’m a firm believer everyone should go to Disneyland at least once in their lifetime so I turned to Jamie and half-jokingly queried: “Wanna go?”

$1,000 later (the cost of our airfare), it would appear we’re in.

The next step was telling the kids. I can’t tell you how many friends I’ve had who have woken their kids up early on the day of departure to reveal they’re flying out to Disneyland…and were let down by their less-than ecstatic reaction. I can’t say I blame them. I wouldn’t be thrilled to be woken up at 5 a.m.

Plus, I can’t keep a secret that long.

For FHE last night, Jamie and I planted clues around the house i.e. “Where Fat Kitty likes his privacy” (kitty litter box), with the final clue “Daddy’s ‘Happy Place’” (the pumpkin patch, of course).

It would have gone smoothly if the kids could actually find the clues. One time Hadley had her hand right on it and still couldn’t track it down; in another instance, Bode had his leg pressed up against the clue.

I’m no longer partnering with them for the Amazing Race.

They weren’t the only ones with mishaps along the way. When we raced to the patch for the big reveal (where we had a picture of Mickey at Disneyland), the picture had blown down.

Mickey was windblown and crumpled but nonetheless received a thrilled reaction.

But from none greater than The Pumpkin Man.

How to Feel Disneyland’s Magic?!

I have figured out the “Magic of Disney.”

It has nothing to do with Disneyland’s characters, rides, parades, shops or food. That magic has to do with how two children–completely overwhelmed, overheated and exhausted–can whine for hours about the conditions….

….and yet at day’s end forget it all and attest they had the most fun of their entire lives.

Hadley, Bode and I had just one day to spend at Disneyland over Spring Break. My friend Stephanie (a local) was going to be our tour guide but had to bail at the last-minute. I had foolishly planned on blindly following her around but instead was thrown into the lake without a paddle.

Or a boat.

My kids and I initially failed at navigating the crowds but by day’s end we had started to figure out the system (and I would love to hear your insightsas well.)

Planning Ahead
Pre-planning is, of course, a no-brainer (unless you’re me). If you have specific questions that are not addressed on their thorough Web site, be sure to check out the Walt Disney World Moms Panel (moms head up this online question-and-answer forum). Also, order a complimentary Disney Vacation Planning CD with oodles of tips to your get familiar with the Resort before arriving.

For the most popular rides, a FASTPASS can cut your time in line from over an hour to just a few minutes.
One of the few things we did right was identify one must-do ride (Space Mountain) and went there immediately. We inserted our Park admission ticket into the FASTPASS machine outside Space Mountain and received a pre-assigned time slot for faster boarding (we discovered it can be used anytime after that point). It’s free, but you can only have one FASTPASS active at a time. Instead of waiting for over an hour for the ride, we came back a few hours later and boarded in less than 15 minutes. Despite having the bejeeters scared out of us (OK, me), this was our favorite ride.

I posted a desperate message on Facebook about the long lines and my friend came to the rescue by recommending the FREE iPhone app, Mousewait. It gives wait times for rides, tells you the nearest place to get food, find a bathroom or even an iPhone charging station. The Park also has official apps for a nominal charge.

Parent “Rider Switch”
A theme-park “rider switch” policy gives both parents a chance to enjoy the latest attractions without the double wait. A parent who waits with a young child while the other parent rides the attraction can get on the ride with minimal wait time once the first parent comes off. Because I was a single mom, this option didn’t work for me but you’d better believe I would have taken advantage of it if my husband was with us.

Baby Care Centers and Strollers
My friend Stephanie recommended I take her stroller for 4-year-old Bode and after a 12-hour day, I was counting my blessings for it (note: strollers are not allowed in line). If you don’t want to bring your own, each park has a Baby Care center and baby stroller rental stations ($15/day). The Baby Care Centers have toddler-size toilets, diaper-changing rooms and private rooms with rocking chairs for nursing mothers. (You will also find baby-changing stations in the restrooms.)

We bunked at Stephanie’s house but I’m debating staying on-site next time.
Pros: Guests of the Disneyland Resort Hotels are allowed to enter the park about an hour and a half before the general public is permitted access (valid only Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday). The Resort also offers special packages that often include hotels and tickets, as well as savings on multi-day stays and multi-park visits. Store purchases in the park can be sent over to the hotel so you don’t have to haul your treasures around.
Cons: Disneyland Resort Hotels are expensive and with the exception of Grand Californian, the Disneyland Resort Hotels are not themed as they are at Walt Disney World. There are also several non-Disney hotels that are much less expensive and within walking distance.

Healthful Dining Options
I did not have the foresight to make reservations at the Park’s restaurants and to avoid the chaos, we ate during non-peak times. While we had our share of Disney-esque treats, I was delighted to buy mangoes from one of the nutritious snack stands that offered such things as nuts, trail mix and items on the fresh fruit carts. Kids meals come with fruit or vegetables on the side, along with juice, water or low-fat milk to drink. Fries and soda are available upon request, at no additional cost.

Toddler-friendly attractions
While children are typically captivated by all of Disneyland Resort, be sure to seek out attractions and activities that are appropriate for little ones. Sure hits at Disneyland: Mickey’s Toontown, where they can visit Mickey at his house; Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage; The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, “it’s a small world” and Dumbo, the Flying Elephant. At Disney’s California Adventure park, a few of the special attractions for children are Playhouse Disney-Live on Stage, A Bug’s Land with its kiddie attractions, and King Triton’s Carrousel.

New Attractions
On May 27, Mickey’s Soundsational Parade will premier with whimsical float units, live musicians and some of your favorite characters including (duh) Mickey Mouse and his pals.

On June 3, Ariel’s Undersea Adventure will debut At Disney California Adventure park. My kids tried (and failed) at catching a glimpse behind the barriers of this journey under the sea. From the great songs to state-of-the-art animatronics and special effects, guests will become a part of her world in a way that’s never happened before. A must for Little Mermaid lovers!


The biggest thing I learned during our first visit to Disneyland was to stop going commando by trying to see and do everything. We made a small list of our must-visit attractions (favorites were Thunder Mountain, Space Mountain, Soarin’, Grizzly River Run water rafting, and Pirates of the Caribbean). Next time, I feel better equipped to conquer the park.

And feel even more of that Disney magic.

What are your tried and true tips for getting the most out of Disneyland?


Disney Wonder Day 7: Farewells & Our Favorite Moment

Our final day at sea aboard the Disney Wonder was overcast and chilly but no one complained. After six days of fun in the sun, we were more than happy to leisurely hang out in our PJs in our stateroom.

Though my kids’ shell-shocked expressions in this photo may testify otherwise.

It was probably because I had told them their endless gourmet food supply was soon coming to an end.

When we finally emerged to civilization, we played board games in the Promenade Lounge, leisurely enjoying ocean views out of the large porthole windows.

That afternoon, we attended the matinee of Disney Dreams – An Enchanted Classic, a live musical show at the Walt Disney Theatre. We loved the story of Anne Marie, a little girl who couldn’t find it in her heart to believe, with special appearances from the Blue Fairy, Peter Pan and many of our favorite Disney characters. Thousands of bubbles were blown into the audience and whimsical snow swirled around us in the perfect sendoff.

Magical Moments

But my favorite moment of the entire trip happened almost by accident. Later that evening, Linda and I had dinner reservations at Palo’s (memorable details here) while the kids partied away at the Oceaneer Club. Around 6 p.m., we tried to grab Haddie and Bode some dinner at Beach Blanket Buffet but it was closed.

We wandered out to Pluto’s Dog House, a quick-service grill, adjacent to Mickey’s Pool and ordered the kids some hot dogs and fries. With most people either at dinner or the show, along with the chilly temperatures, the area was a ghost town.

“We want to go swimming!” Hadley announced.
“Now? Isn’t it too cold?”
“There’s nobody here. Pleeeeease can we do it?”

The girl is half-Canadian so cold weather ain’t exactly a diversion.

And because I’m full-blooded Canadian, I grabbed their swim suits.

Hadley and Bode had the time of their lives in that pool all their own. They laughed, played, splashed and jumped the waves of the rocking boat.

Our entire family vacation was fun but those final moments were sheer magic.

Or rather, Wonderful. Because you wouldn’t expect anything less aboard The Disney Wonder.


If you missed it:
*It’s a Wonder Cruising with Disney: A Day-by-day Guide
*Day 0.5: If Getting There is Half the Fun Then I’m in Trouble
*Day 1: Kids Club, Sail Away Party and Fat Kitty Stowaway
*Day 2: Stateroom, Oceaneer Club, Pools, Entertainment & Pyrotechnics, Oh My!
*Day 3: Our Slacker Character Breakfast, Oceaneer Lab’s Little Red Hen and the Magic of Animator’s Palate
*Day 4: Puerto Vallarta, Boogie Boarding and Not-nude Beaches
*Days 5 & 6: Cabo, Lands End, A Brush with Death and a Newfound Love

Days 5 & 6: Cabo, Lands End, A Brush With Death & a Newfound Love

I’ve been to several Mexican towns but Cabo San Lucas is honestly the only place I can say I fell in love with.

My affair crept up on me as my mother-in-law Linda and I were teaching the kids to play shuffleboard on deck 4. As the Disney Wonder approached the southern tip of Cabo San Lucas where the Sea of Cortez meets the Pacific Ocean, Lands End came into view. We stopped in our tracks and marveled at these famously tall and stoic landmarks at the tip of the Baja Peninsula.

A colony of sea lions bathed on the rocks, sun-worshippers laid out on remote Lover’s Beach (only accessible via water taxi) and kayaks wove around Arch Rock. Cabo San Lucas impressively loomed with its mansion-dotted hilltops, testifying of Cabo’s reputation as Mexico’s most elite destination.

Lands End Coastal Cruise

I had foolishly signed up for the 40-minute Lands End Coastal Cruise ($33 adults, $19 kids) in a motorized catamaran. I say foolishly because I had wrongfully assumed we would be unable to see Lands End from the cruise ship and was disappointed we would not be experiencing anything new.

However, the excursion was not a total waste of time. We enjoyed getting up-close-and-personal with the landmarks and the informative narrative by J.M. Cousteau. But during my next visit, I’m renting a water taxi or kayaking to Lover’s Beach.

Because there will be a next time.

Cabo San Lucas’ Beaches

I had thoroughly researched Cabo’s beaches (a great resource is 10 Best Beaches in Cabo San Lucas) and had narrowed it down to Chileno Beach. Perfect for families, this beach skips the local party scene, has bathrooms, palapas for shade, snorkeling equipment and tide pools for exploration that I knew my kids would love.

The problem is Chileno Beach is located on what is called “The Corridor”–an 18-mile four-lane highway that follows a stunning coastline past championship golf courses, world-class beaches and luxury resorts.

OK, that wasn’t the problem because that sounds pretty darn idyllic. The quandary was the cab ride cost around $80 round-trip. Renting a car for $47 was another option, but one I was unwilling to take with self-professed map dementia, unfamiliar roads, a foreign country and no car seats.

It was my way of preserving my children’s lives.

Playa El Médona and My Baywatch Moment

People repeatedly recommended the very beach I wanted to avoid: El Médona. Sure, ithas a convenient location (just around the pier), a variety of restaurants and stellar views of Lands End but it’s also the crowded party beach.

In the end, the price was right. For $2/person, we rode in a glass-bottomed water taxi with a glass floor to our very own cut of paradise on Medona where we could rent boogie boards, jet skis, snorkel gear and anything our heart desired.

When we arrived at Medona, a cool Mexican dude offered us boogie boards but after taking one look at the relatively steep drop and undertow of the beach, turned him down. I did take him up on his offer to rent an umbrella for $10 for the day.

I didn’t tell him that I would have paid double that for shade.

Despite several annoyances that included locals toting their wares no less than every 30 seconds (not an exaggeration), we had a nice time. The temperatures were mild, Haddie got her hair braided by a local merchant and another made her a bracelet. The kids never tired of chasing the waves and it was a chaotic form of paradise.

After a couple of hours, I left to explore the shops along Marina Boulevard, the main artery that curves around the waterfront. When I came back, the tide was starting to come in and the waves looked more dangerous. Linda and I moved closer to the kids and not even two minutes after making this decision, Bode (who was body surfing) got caught in an undertow and gobbled by a following wave.

In a scene out of Baywatch, I surged forward into the water, surf splashing everywhere and snatched him from his death.

OK, more like instead of the sexy red bathing suit I was fully clothed after my walk and though scary, his situation was not life-and-death.

But for drama’s sake just work with me here.

That was our sign to call it a day. Despite our less-than-optimal beach conditions, we were reluctant to leave. As we rode our tender boat back to the cruise ship, sea lions and pelicans escorted us as a final, memorable farewell to glorious Cabo San Lucas.

Pirates IN the Caribbean Soiree

The “Pirate IN the Caribbean” deck party is the Disney Wonder’s most highly anticipated event. The evening starts with a pirate-themed dinner where everyone receives a pirate special bandanna and orders from a menu resembling the parchment of an age old treasure map. It ends with a buccaneer bash starring Mickey Mouse, games, a huge spread of food and the only fireworks display at sea.

Despite being worn out from our day at the beach, my kids insisted upon waiting up until 9:30 p.m. for the party. When we arrived, it was in full swing with interactive games on the big screen, a pirate-style line dance, black lighting, raucous music and Captain Hook.

Exhausted Bode and Linda bailed at 10 p.m. but Hadley was committed to wait up for the fireworks display and more importantly: the pirate-themed buffet at 10:30 p.m.Families huddled together in wonderment as the pirate pyrotechnics lit up the Mexican Riviera’s ebony sky. Haddie then raced over to score the very first spot in line for the buffet and indulged in treasures like The Black Pearls’ Beef Tenderloin and the Treasure Chest Meringue filled with tropical fruit, berries and vanilla sauce.

Because we hadn’t eaten enough food on the cruise already. But it was all worth the wait.


If you missed it:

*It’s a Wonder Cruising with Disney: A Day-by-day Guide
*Day 0.5: If Getting There is Half the Fun Then I’m in Trouble
*Day 1: Kids Club, Sail Away Party and Fat Kitty Stowaway
*Day 2: Stateroom, Oceaneer Club, Pools, Entertainment & Pyrotechnics, Oh My!
*Day 3: Our Slacker Character Breakfast, Oceaneer Lab’s Little Red Hen and the Magic of Animator’s Palate
*Day 4: Puerto Vallarta, Boogie Boarding and Not-nude Beaches
*Days 5 & 6: Cabo, Lands End, A Brush with Death and a Newfound Love
*Day 7: Farewells & Our Favorite Moment of the Trip