Elsa + Amber = BFFs

If there was a new celebrity on the block at Disneyland, it was Elsa. This “star” has kids lining up for hours to pose with her Frozen magnificence. Fortunately my kids have never been character-obsessed enough to beg me to do that (nor would I) but at the end of one of our Disney Social Media Mom Celebration sessions they announced Elsa and Anna would be posing for pictures with attendees.

Without the long wait.

You’d better believe I high-tailed it outta there as if Marshmallow, Frozen’s icy snowbeast, was chasing me down North Mountain.

I called my husband on my cell. “Get Hadley down here, PRONTO.” Hadley adored the movie and she was thrilled to meet Elsa and Anna.

And apparently underdressed for the sub-zero temperatures.

As I awaited my turn, I carefully analyzed the two characters and thought of my wedding. After a full day of smiling for photographers, I had reached my limit and couldn’t crack even one more smile. How do these beauties embrace enthusiastic kids all day long without cracking their perfect veneer?

Finally, it was my moment. I nestled in between the two of them. Elsa looked at my Soybu outfit and sweetly raved, “I just love the color of your dress.”

Which pretty much means we’re BFFs now.


Just tuning in? Be sure to read my introductory post Disney Social Media Moms Celebration: A Glimpse Behind Mickey’s Magic Curtain

Disneyland: The Old, New, Tried and True Favorites!

Run Forest…errr..Amber, RunDisney!

Disclaimer: I was invited to attend the 2014 Disney Social Media Moms Celebration. The conference fee I paid included discounted lodging and park tickets for my family and sponsor swag. 

Run Forest…errr…Amber, RunDisney!

Once upon a time, I was a runner and a pretty good one. I was the fastest on the soccer field, kicked butt in track and cross-country and ran up mountains for fun. Then I got old and my body started hurting so I stopped running more than a few miles at a time.

But deep within me, I’ve yearned to do a runDisney event. Several times a year, my Instagram feed is filled with fun friends decked out in darling running costumes at these endurance events at Walt Disney World and Disneyland. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-miler. Tinker Bell Half Marathon.

Too bad I no longer do endurance, I just endure.

However, runDisney also does plenty of less extreme events such as children’s races and the 5K Expedition Everest Challenge obstacle course in Disney World. I was thrilled when the Disney Social Media Mom Celebration also offered an optional 2-mile fun run for the first 100 people to sign up. As a bonus, New Balance shoes was the sponsor and gave each runner our own pair of shoes.
Sadly, they weren’t these ultra-cool limited edition New Balance runDisney running shoes. But I wasn’t complaining about my new pair that I wore around Disneyland all weekend that took zero time to break-in.

My friend Kelly just completed the Boston Marathon and is an overachiever when it comes to dressing up for these runDisney events (you should totally check-out her company Sparkle Athletic‘s darling and comfy running skirts). But I’m domestically challenged and knew there was no way I could sew an outfit like her. So, I tapped into my goddess neighbor Meredith for some crafting inspiration and she was able to help me whip up a quick and easy Snow White costume.

I didn’t sweat my training too much. I can hike for miles and though I’m no longer fast, boot camp has made me strong. It was only 2 miles so what could go wrong?

Getting ill could go very, very wrong.

The night before the race, I started feeling really sick in the head (think: sinusitis, not mental illness). I debated canceling but decided to just wait and see how I was feeling the next day. And so I tossed and turned all night long fretting that I’d feel crummy in the morning so not only was I sick, I was exhausted.

But I went anyway.

Colorado girls representin’

“Elsa” Kelly on the right, with Julie a.k.a. “Anna”

We met in Downtown Disney at 5:30 a.m. for check-in and for a New Balance pep talk. They walked the moms (most of whom were not seasoned runners) through running form and basics. I fully expected them to do a group stretch but before I knew it, we were getting divided into two groups: those who wanted to run the entire time and the second group who would alternately walk and run.

I debated my fate. I was perfectly capable of running two miles straight so for me, the walk-run seemed like a cop-out. But would my body be able to handle it?

Snow White is nothing if not resilient (think: jealous queen and juggling 7 silly dwarfs) so I went for it.

I’m really glad I did. The running group kept a mild 9-minute-mile pace so I was easily able to keep up. And let me tell you, running through Disneyland and then California Adventure before the park’s opening was exhilarating and surreal.

Running through Sleeping Beauty’s Castle

I felt fairly strong through most of it, likely in part because running at sea level is exponentially easier than running at 5,280 feet (Denver’s elevation). Around the last 1/2-mile, my sick body started feeling it but was I fortunate to run beside three fabulous ladies “The Fab 4″ and we ecstatically crossed the finish line in Cars Land together. We finished closely behind the lead group and flush with excitement, we celebrated with our friends and families.

The conference organizers had closed off Cars Land until 9 a.m., giving us the unprecedented opportunity to ride the popular attractions over and over again.

Zero lines at the popular Radiator Springs Racers

Competitive much? Taking me out on Luigi’s Flying Tires

Cars Land Cuties

We had a fantastic morning and here’s the photograph to prove it. Kind of. Can’t spot me? It’s because I was in the bathroom when they shot it. You win some, you lose some.

Photo: Josh Hallett

Better luck (on many levels) next year.

Just tuning in? Be sure to read my introductory post Disney Social Media Moms Celebration: A Glimpse Behind Mickey’s Magic Curtain and also Disneyland: The Old, New, Tried and True Favorites and Elsa + Amber = BFFs “Frozen” in Time.

Disclaimer: I was invited to attend the 2014 Disney Social Media Moms Celebration. The conference fee I paid included discounted lodging and park tickets for my family and sponsor swag. The runDisney fun run was included as a part of the conference and I was not required to blog about it or any sponsors.

Disneyland: The Old, New, Tried and True Favorites!

Just tuning in? Be sure to read my introductory post Disney Social Media Moms Celebration: A Glimpse Behind Mickey’s Magic Curtain.

During my kids’ future therapy sessions, there is one thing they’ll never be able to accuse me: “we didn’t travel very much.”

Jamie and I kept our trip to the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration a secret from them, which is tough when you’re a blabbermouth like me. But there is nothing more awesome than waking them up at 4:30 a.m. for school, only to announce in the dark–while wearing your Mickey ears–that “we’re going to Disneyland today!”

And also just a wee bit creepy.

Requisite family photo in front of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle

Disneyland Hotel

This is my third time to Disneyland with the kids and one of my favorites, primarily because we had four days in the park. Usually we’re rushing from ride to ride but this gave us the opportunity to visit our favorite attractions at a more leisurely pace, take breaks and keep going back for more.

There were our old favorites:

Radiator Springs Racers and big hair do not mix

Flying on Silly Symphony Swings

Minnie and Mini-Minnie

Gadget Go Coaster by day

Our favorite Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at night

California Adventure’s charming Buena Vista Street

There were some not-so favorites:

Terrified Bode on Splash Mountain

Bode will also attest there is nothing fun about Mickey’s Fun Wheel.

Mickey’s Fun Wheel

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. A couple of years ago, we chose the more adventurous free-sliding gondolas and oh, the look on Bode’s face when that thing started rocking. We figured we’d give it another try and his coping mechanism (or lack thereof) was about the same. Think: spread eagle on the bench.

Do you see my smile below? I am faking it and have vowed never to teach my daughter how to drive. I had just endured her taking the wheel of a gas-powered car and speeding her way through a winding track, knocking into the guide rail hundreds of times.


Autopia does not equal utopia for nervous parents but she sure had a blast!

Also not pictured: Me on Space Mountain. Any roller-coaster that races through the cosmos to the edge of the galaxy and back–in the DARK–is no friend of mine.

There were some new-to-us favorites:

Dole Whip Virgins no more

The Jungle Cruise’s tour of rivers in Asia, Africa and South America

Riding the Matterhorn

Disneyland Hotel’s headboards that magically lit up

Making and racing cars at The LEGO Store in Downtown Disney

The kids listened to a celebrity storytime by Disney Junior stars Ariel Winter and Tim Gunn (of “Sofia the First”) and David Arquette (of “Jake and the Never Land Pirates”) following the announcement of their “Give a Book, Get a Book” where Disney Junior will donate up to one million books to U.S. communities in need (see how you can donate a book).

Celebrity storytime

Yes, she is chomping at his knee.

Because nothing helps you wait for celebrity storytime quite like a bean bag mosh pit in the Disneyland Hotel ballroom.

Tomorrow: Stay tuned tomorrow for the sordid details of my runDisney. Think sick deathbed but it was very much worth it. Note: I was invited to attend the 2014 Disney Social Media Moms Celebration. The conference fee I paid included discounted lodging and park tickets for my family and sponsor swag.

Let’s get this (Disney Social Media Moms Celebration) party started!

The Disney Social Media Moms Celebration is undeniably one of the most sought-after conferences in the mom blogger world. And for good reason.  This invitation-only event pulls in some of the blogosphere’s most influential moms and offers three days of inspiring world-class speakers, exclusive access to Disneyland and celebrity encounters that will make you feel like a crazed groupie.

In 2013, I was honored to be invited and I did the unthinkable: reluctantly turned it down due to finances. In my (insanity) defense, though there are amazing sponsors, you still need to pay airfare and for the conference.

I was delighted to be invited this year but we had just returned from Maui and once again, our budget was stretched. “You won’t be invited back if we don’t do it,” my husband begged and I suspected he was right. So, I put the question out to a man with far great influence and wisdom and asked WWMD (What Would Mickey Do?)



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.