Sea World for Beginners

I haven’t had the opportunity to visit Sea World since I was young,  so I decided it was time to take a stroll down memory lane and visit one of my favorite childhood parks. It was definitely a good decision! Sea World  is a beautiful park that is more of a destination than a place to see a “whale show”!

I’ll be posting more about the shows, experiences, and rides that Sea World has to offer in the upcoming week. But right now I want to talk about a few things that you should take into consideration when planning your trip to Sea World, from someone who didn’t plan anything! 🙂

When you arrive at Sea World, the first shocker for me was the photographers jumping in front of you trying to take your photo. I know it is their job, but seriously! If I don’t look interested in stopping, please don’t even try!

But I did find one photo op that I couldn’t pass up…

 

The Shamu character photo op as you enter the park.

 

 

Zoe and Shamu!

 

Now for the awesome news….They have a Starbucks in the Park! Now lines in here can be just as long as some of the attractions, but the rides don’t taste this good!

The most important thing to consider while you are at Sea World is their “loose items” policy. Now while you can bring your backpack or purse onto most rides at Walt Disney World, this is DEFINITELY not the case here. They will not allow you on any ride with a “loose item”, but they do provide lockers throughout the park for you leave your items in. For us it was an issue, since we don’t typically use a stroller in smaller parks and I am so used to carrying snacks and drinks in for Zoe.

 

When they mean loose articles, they mean NO LOOSE ARTICLES!

 

The shows are amazing, and you really need to show up about 30 minutes in advance to avoid the “Splash Zones”! Now while there have been a lot of tragedies lately, you can definitely tell that the trainers at Sea World have a true love for what they do and the animals that they work with.

 

Zoe and one of the trainers from "Believe"

 

Sea World had definitely earned a spot in our theme park rotation! They offer great & unique animal experiences, have some great coasters, and have show that capture the magic and love that we all have for nature and its inhabitants.

If you haven’t considered a visit…you might want to!

Put the Twitter Down and Walk Away…

It seems like I am ALWAYS on my phone in the park checking into foursquare or tweeting and while I love twitter my family doesn’t!

So this Saturday, during our family trip to EPCOT I tried my best not to tweet or check in. While I wasn’t totally successful (and I got the shakes a few times), it definitely was an eye opening experience.

Usually when I am in the parks, I am scouring for details, new tweaks, merchandise, and general news. But on this trip I took a step back and focused more on why I love the parks!

We rode rides we hadn’t done in a long time, ate at Biergarten with friends (usually this is a no go, since we have a tendency to camp out!), and just watched everything around us. We had such an amazing day!!!

Now I know that I am extremely fortunate in that I get to go to the parks often, but I really have started to take it for granted! So from now on, one day a weekend will be twitter/foursquare/phone free…and I am okay with that!

What about you? Are you guilty of getting caught up in your cell phone, too?

Duffy, It’s what makes the world go round!

Love him or hate him Duffy has arrived to the Walt Disney World Resort! If you missed today’s arrival, I have a ton of info and pictures in my twitter stream (@shelleycaran).

I am a Duffy fan. There I said it! But it appears as if I am not the only one, because as of noon they were sold out of several costumes and tonight all I could find were a handful of the baseball & sailor outfits.

Now while I am a Duffy fan, there is one thing that is REALLY bothering me…

The world showcase masks, tags, and stamps have all been Duff-ified!!!!

The masks have been replaced with a picture of the lovable bear, and the stamps have also had a makeover to resemble the bear of the hour.

However, the most heinous crime has been committed…the tags for each country are GONE! It makes it all so super vanilla now!!! Most of the cast members manning the spots all said that they are getting a number of complaints from guests about the loss of the tags, so I am keeping my fingers crossed for their return!

I only had the chance to visit a few of the countries tonight, but it was definitely a lot of fun. We got stamps in Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Morocco, France, and the United Kingdom.

We are really excited to go back to the World Showcase to get all of the stamps and to visit with Duffy!

If you love Duffy, these are good times in deed. If you are not a fan, prepared to be Duffy-rolled!!! 😀

I hope that you enjoy the pics!!!

Thanks, but no thanks

Hi everyone!!!

While I am busy working on today’s post, I wanted to take a second to talk about the Mom’s Panel.

First of all, I would love to congratulate those who are going onto the second round of interviews! I can’t imagine all of the emotions you’re experiencing. I am so genuinely excited and happy for all of you!!!

For those of you who did not get into the second round (yours truly included), I offer these words from Sir Winston Churchill…

Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.

Personally, I look at my “Thanks, but no thanks” as a challenge to achieve my dreams on my own terms!

While I would love to one day have a pink jacket of my own and I am proud to call many of those that do my friends, I am going to turn my focus to finding my own way with a song in my heart and a spring in my step! (Hopefully that song won’t be “It’s a Small World”!!!)

Care to join me???? 🙂

It’s a Walled World After All…

I decided to take a walk around the Magic Kingdom to take a look at all the construction going on in the Magic Kingdom.

I even rode Dumbo! 😀

The last few pictures are of the Haunted Mansion construction are from the bottom deck of the Liberty Belle.

Also, I got a few cool shots of Big Thunder…which NEVER happens.

Enjoy!

 

10-7-10 MK Update

Let the Parade Debate Begin

With Block Party Bash coming to a close in January 2011, I thought that I would swing by and check it out since I absolutely love this parade!

Now while I totally understand the point of view of those that wish that they could see the whole parade, I absolutely love the energy of the show and the life that it pumps into the Studios.

A look down the Hollywood Boulevard.

There is just something about seeing the Hollywood Boulevard area lined with people who are tapping their feet, clapping, and movin’ it with the performers.

Now I am not knocking the parade before I see it, but I feel like a more traditional parade would absolutely juxtapose the whole vibe of Hollywood Studios. I know that the whole “working studio” thing has been long abandoned and cut away over the years, but the Citizens of Hollywood that populate that area make it a real and tangible place.

I always love that at the beginning of the parade there are always older dudes with their arms crossed, leaning on the trashcans that are shaking what their Mama gave them by the end of the parade!

All of that lovefest aside, I feel like the weakest link of the parade is the “Bug’s Life” float. The performers definitely do their thing, but most kids don’t know or recognize those characters…or at least all of the ones that I am always around.

What makes me the most excited? Having the characters from “Ratatouille” and “Up” returning to the parade!

While I will be excited to see what the new Hollywood Studio’s parade has to offer, I can only hope that it captures the same sense of movement and life that Block Party Bash brings to the Boulevard!

Zoe the Dancing Queen

Illuminated by Illuminations!

I have to absolutely admit that when my Sister-in-law invited us to tag along on their Illuminations cruise I geeked out for a minute. It is my absolute favorite nighttime show in my favorite park!!!

We met at the Yacht Club Marina at 8 pm to board our boat, and we were greeted by Captain Michael. He was super funny and awesome! Zoe had to wear a life jacket, and at first she was nervous. The good Captain was quick to reassure our little lady, and soon enough she was walking down the dock showing off her “magic vest”.

The cruise began with a tour around the Swan and Dolphin Hotels, followed by the area in front of Hollywood Studios, and then back again to tool around in front of the Yacht Club and Boardwalk Resorts.

Then it was time…

We pulled under the bridge near the International Gateway between two other boats, and we got settled in for the show.

Now while the view from this area was absolutely beautiful and spectacular, it was by far not the shining star of the cruise. That spot alone goes to our fearless Captain.

As the show was about to start, up crept Michael to walk us through the show. He talked us through each image on the globe, explosion of each firework/gas/water effect, and the lighting of the torches. It was amazing! I never noticed a quarter of the images that he pointed out, and I have Goosebumps just thinking about it now.

From the bubbles as the land of the earth was rising from the sea, to the journey through the cave, the creativity of man, the many faces that grace the globe (equal parts women and men), to the fact that the Tapestry of Nations parade is shown so close to the finale you easily miss it…

I absolutely apologize for the total lack of photos, but I wasn’t going to let myself get distracted from Captain Mike for too long. 🙂

If you haven’t had the chance to take an Illuminations cruise, I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Also, I can’t thank Elizabeth enough for inviting us to join her and letting us in on this crazy and amazing experience!

I am afraid that I may be hooked, and will HAVE to do this again!!!

Don’t Let it Rain on Your 3 O’Clock Parade!

While I may sound a little crazy…I LOVE going to the parks in the rain! We’re always a bit sillier and open to going and doing different things that we would normally do in the parks.

Now while saying that, I always try to go in prepared so I can mitigate any crabbiness from others who don’t enjoy the rain as much as I do. So here are my top 7 must do rain do’s! (Sorry, I can’t resist a good Stacey reference…event though I try…):

1. Go With It!

How many of us have nervously and often checked the weather SEVERAL times to see what the chance of rain during our vacation would be? I am absolutely guilty of seeing the chance of rain increasing and getting the feeling of impending doom in the pit of my stomach! I have found the best thing to do is to let everyone know that there is a good chance that it is going rain during the visit, and then to listen to their concerns so you can be prepared for how to make them a non-issue when they arise. AND if it doesn’t rain, your rain dance will be praised as effective and not crazy! J

2. Game Plan

I like to take a look at the park maps for a few things to consider in the rain. I take into consideration the proximity of attractions, the number of attractions that are our favorites, the amount of covered spaces,  our ADRs /Counter Service plan for the day, and size of the park. With all that being said, I usually opt for Hollywood Studios since there are tons of shows and options for indoor activities that you might easily skip (like the Animation Academy – http://t.co/haEsDHu ) that take up a good amount of time.

3. Rain jackets and Umbrellas

While ponchos are great, I opt for something that provides us with a little more protection! Last year we invested in folding rain jackets, and they have come in handy both in and out of the parks. After our trip in what we thought was a monsoon last May, I invested in a super compact umbrella that easily fit into our bag and opened up quickly. If you do opt for ponchos, make sure that your child is tall enough to wear the poncho without  it dragging through the puddles. I have seen too many kids step on their poncho and fall in the rain.

4. Shoes

Now this one may sound weird, but just go with me on this one! You want to make sure that you bring a shoe that dries easily and has a lot of grip for traction in the rain. Sounds like common since, right? But this is more for the little princesses out there. My darling little lady, Zoe, LOVES wearing her princess shoes in the park, but we learned the hard way that they are not very safe to wear in the rain. Our compromise is a pair of sparkly tennis shoes. I have bought the majority of ours from Target, since they are rather inexpensive and easy to replace.

5. Protection

I always over plan for an abundance of craziness during our vacation, and I always pack a variety of plastic zip top bags. When I see that it may rain, I always try to put my phone and camera in a baggie. While I am the main sherpa of the trip, I give my husband one as well for his wallet and phone since he is usually the fast pass and ticket holder.  He thought that I was crazy, until he had to lay the contents of his wallet out to dry and could not use his Midway Mania fast passes!

6. Kiddies

All kids are different, but I try to be especially prepared to dealing with and waiting in the rain with Zoe. I always have a jacket for her, an extra little something for her to play with in case we have to wait a little longer, and additional “special” snacks. Also be realistic about how they react to the rain. If they don’t like getting wet or there are things they MUST have to cope with the rain, be prepared! For awhile she wouldn’t go out in a sprinkle without her favorite umbrella, so that sucker went with us everywhere!

7. HAVE FUN WITH IT!

Have fun! Our rule is that the only place that we can jump in a puddle is at Walt Disney World. Also duing our monsoon trip, we got “cast” for a hurrincane scene shooting later in the day by a “director” in Hollywood Studios.

Don’t let a little rain ruin your parade or vacation!!! Be prepared and have fun!!!

TSMM Ricky Bobby moment... If you ain't first, you're last!

What is your favorite tip or trick for dealing with the rain at Walt Disney World?

Hidden Gem of Disney’s Hollywood Studios

I decided that I would do something a little different today on my trip to Hollywood Studios, so I ducked into The Magic of Disney’s Animation to visit my friend Mushu and the creative process.

While the film is definitely dated and offerings greatly reduced from what they once were, I always seem to laugh and enjoy the sneak peek at the upcoming release by Disney Animation.

Right now they are featuring “Tangled”, and the teaser gives a great glimpse of the film and the artwork that is on display outside is amazing.

The "Tangled" mural that is located just outside of The Magic of Disney's Animation

But just around the corner is my favorite hidden gem of Hollywood Studios, and the real reason for my diversion, the Animation Academy.

The column outside of the waiting area for the Animation Academy

This 22 minute lesson in drawing a character, usually chosen by the artist, is a great chance to try your hand at being an animator. The classes are usually pretty packed, so it is best to wait and enjoy a nice break when you get the chance!

Once you enter the room everyone sits at a station, and gets led through the creation of a character through easy to follow directions and encouraging words. Today Ryan let us vote on who we’d draw…and Minnie Mouse won!

Ryan during our lesson drawing Minnie Mouse

While you may not leave with a perfect drawing, you definitely get a unique and free souvenir from your short time at the Animation Academy.

My Minnie Mouse

I don’t think I have a future in drawing, but it sure was a lot of fun!

What is your favorite Hidden Gem at Disney’s Hollywood Studios?

My thoughts on Memories and Projectors…

The goal of this blog is to help consolidate information and to record what I see on my almost daily visits to the parks and venues in and around Orlando with a mix of humor and information.

That being said, I wanted to take a moment to react to the newest Disney Ad campaign that was announced by the Walt Disney Company in New York City earlier today.

Now while it wasn’t what the on-line community of Disney fans expected and hoped for, I believe it was an interesting decision.

What I am interested in is what emotions they are tapping into with the “Let the Memories Begin” promotion.

First off they are relying on something that other vacation spots can’t offer, which is the emotional ties that most Americans have to both Walt Disney World and Disneyland. We all have memories of our first walk down Main Street, and who doesn’t want to give that same experience to their child. What about the countless television programs that show a couple sharing a smooch during a fireworks spectacular, and who wouldn’t want to have that same romantic exchange?

Secondly they are tapping into a more recent desire of most people, the want/need for 5 minutes of fame. Who amongst us, even the most die hard, who wouldn’t just love to see our family, projected for the entire park to see? And with so many photos being chosen daily, the odds of “your” picture being show on either Cinderella’s Castle at the Walt Disney World Resort or It’s a Small World in Disneyland.

Is this the announcement that I personally wanted? No.

Does this tap into and add an intangible amount of value to a vacation choice when we are all facing very difficult times and Decisions? Yes.

Seems (unfortunately) pretty smart from my point of view…

Get Ready…Cause here I come!

That is pretty much how I have approached our move from Virginia to Orlando!
While I am a huge Disney nut, I am learning that Orlando is a lot more than just the Walt Disney World Resort!
I am really looking forward to sharing all of my adventures, discoveries, and thoughts with you.
Until then, you can check out a little more about me and see some of  what I’ll be writing about at www.zannaland.com!
I can’t wait to see you again, so we can start talking about this fabulous city and all it has to offer!
Shelley