Friday, October 31, 2014

Fun Fact Friday: The Goats of Big Thunder Ranch

Evan, Emma, and Penny the goat
Did you know that Big Thunder Ranch is home to some of the cutest lil' critters in the West?!  The only petting zoo at the Disneyland Resort Big Thunder Ranch allows guests the opportunity to meet, pet, and take photos with horses, sheep, donkeys, and my personal favorite- goats!    

Most days the Pygmy goats can be found lounging atop the wooden boxes and barrels in their pen, stopping alongside the fence for a visit, and/ or "smiling" for photos.  Each of the goats are named after popular Disney cartoon characters and have a unique personality all their own.  

Selfie with Barrel the goat
For me and my family no trip to Disneyland is complete without a visit to Big Thunder Ranch and several goat selfies.  Be sure to stop by and visit the Happiest Goats on Earth when next you visit the Disneyland Resort!

Be sure to follow Kendra on Twitter and on Instagram @kendrakuske for more updates and photos.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Top 10: Things To Do with a Toddler While Waiting for Rider Switch

I recently went to the Disneyland Resort with my 5 and 3-year-old kids. This was the first time since we've had kids that we didn't have a baby with us at Disneyland! Where we would typically be pushing a sleeping baby around in a stroller around a store or some such thing while waiting for Rider Switch / Child Swap / Baby Swap* - this time we had wide-awake and raring-to-go toddler/little kid who didn't so much like being left out of the big kid fun (she was only 1 inch too short to go on the bulk of the height restricted rides!). So with that new experience under my belt, here are my Top 10 favorite things to do with my toddler while we were waiting for Rider Switch!


1. Head to Fantasyland. Depending on what attraction the big "kids" were going on, if we were close to Fantasyland my daughter and I would head there and more times than not, we would end up on the Carousel. The line was always quite short, and she loved it. But she also enjoyed watching Olaf on the roof of the Anna & Elsa meet and greet location, and walking through the castle.

2. Play with the Tomorrowland Water Ball. It's such a simple thing - a giant granite ball on a water fountain - but it's so fun for kids (and adults) to try to turn it and play in the water. It's little things like this, that Disneyland has, that make wait times easy and  fun. 

3. Find a snack to share. Sometimes my daughter was really upset that she couldn't go on something with her dad and brother, and I felt like a treat was in order. She was particularly pleased with the Premium Mickey Ice Cream Bar we shared. She ate the chocolate, and I ate the ice cream - per her instructions.

4. Seek out a character. If we were wandering on our own, during swap time, I tried to keep my eyes peeled for characters walking through, or would guide us in the direction of common character meeting spots. Character hugs and waves seriously made her day!

5. Pet some goats at Big Thunder Ranch. Goats are the best! Especially if you are little, and you looooove animals. I don't think she stopped talking about the goats until she fell asleep!

Disney California Adventure:
She LOVED Heimlich's Chew Chew Train
6. Head to A Bug's Land. The lines here are generally very short (as are the rides themselves), and are all for the younger / shorter set. There's plenty of tame rides to do while the bigger kids are next door on Tower of Terror.

7. Check out the Animation Building. One of my all-time favorite places to chill out in the park, also happens to be perfect for taking little ones while you are waiting. The  zoetrope, walking through the Sorcerer's Workshop, and best of all the movie montages in the animation courtyard - you can sit on the couches, spread out on the carpet, and the kids love to chase the spotlights that dance across the floor to the music.

8. Walk along the Midway / Boardwalk area.  There are many things to do right at the base of California Screamin' - first of all, you can stand at the launching spot for the Screamin' coasters, count-down, and watch them take off! Or next door you can take a spin on King Triton's Carousel - super short line, and lets you ride cute sea creatures. You can  also watch and play the Midway Games along the way.

9. See the sights in CarsLand. During daylight, we enjoyed hanging out at the Cozy Cone, getting a cool drink and watching Lightning McQueen or Mater out front. But in the evening it's magical to your little one to watch the neon come on at nightfall and join in the fun at DJs Dance and Drive! 

10. Let them loose at the Redwook Creek Challenge Trail. All kids love this one, it's super fun, active and in just the right spot for folks waiting for the rest of their party on Grizzly River Run. 

Spending all of this "Baby Swap" (what we call it) time with my daughter was actually one of my FAVORITE parts of our trip! I loved being with her one-on-one and sneaking in fun little activities instead of just waiting around. I feel like we shared many special and memorable moments, just the two of us. A week after we had returned, Carolina was still asking "Are we going to do Baby Swap?" So I think she liked it too :)

*Rider Switch / Baby Swap / Child Swap (commonly called one of these three names) -  When you have a baby/child that cannot ride a certain attraction due to a height restriction, you are able to get a "baby swap" pass from the attending Cast Member that allows part of your party to wait in line for the attraction and ride it, and once off swap the child, and use the pass for the rest of the party to go to the front of the line - similar to a fast pass. Click here for more information.

Read more from Jessica on her blog, Idahome. You can also find her on FacebookTwitter, or on Instagram.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: Loving Big Thunder Ranch and the Halloween Carnival at #HalloweenTime

If you haven't experienced Halloween Time at Big Thunder Ranch and the Halloween Carnival at Disneyland, you don't know what you are missing! Our kids loved spending time there during our recent trip. 
Want to know more about the Halloween Carnival? Click here for all the news you can use about the Halloween Carnival and click here for amazing photos of the pumpkin carvers handiwork.

The goats at Big Thunder Ranch are always one of my kids' favorites. Read lots of fun facts all about Disneyland's goats by clicking here.

Our kids loved the easy access to photos with the characters at the Halloween Carnival. And those crafts are FREE souvenirs! 

And speaking of crafts, if you are looking for a last-minute Halloween decoration, don't forget to checkout my FREE Disney-inspired printable by clicking here.

Read more from Jessica on her blog, Idahome. You can also find her on FacebookTwitter, or on Instagram.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

What if you were robbed of your memories? Please help us find a cure for Alzheimer's disease.

All of my family's Disneyland memories are some of the most precious times we have ever spent together. Through the years, I have watched my children grow up enjoying the magic and believing in the power of imagination. Thinking about those times brings me happiness during tough times, and I know they will be moments I look back on fondly when my boys are grown.

I am pretty sure that these same sentiments are felt by every Disney Parks-loving parent like me. Disney memories are pieces of us and part of the fabric of our parental experience. But just imagine if those memories were taken away from you. Slowly over time. And the knowledge of who your children even are were stripped away and replaced with fear. And then the understanding of your basic functions as a human were robbed from you--turning you into a shell of a human. This is the reality of Alzheimer's disease. It ain't like The Notebook, folks. Not by a long shot.

My mother-in-law has Alzheimer's disease. I knew nothing about it when she was diagnosed, and assumed it just meant she would become forgetful. I never, in my wildest dreams, imagined she would become who she is now. She was a robust woman with opinions and feistiness. She had feelings and emotions. She worked with numbers in her career and enjoyed spending time with friends. Today she is a shell of a woman who cannot dress or feed herself or tend to her most basic and intimate needs. She not only has no memories left but she has no idea who anyone is--her children, grandchildren or even her husband. She can hardly speak--she mutters words every now and then. Eventually the disease will kill her but in the meantime she will continue wasting away until the day her suffering ends.

This weekend, my son and husband are walking in the Walk to End Alzheimer's event in Los Angeles. As my husband and children get older, we feel an urgency to find treatment and a cure for this horrible disease that robs those who have it with their most basic human dignities, sensibilities, cherished memories and past. 

Please consider donating whatever you can toward my son Aidan's fundraising goal. 

He will be trick-or-treating for Alzheimer's this year but can use your help to reach his goal. I made this image to pin onto his trick-or-treating bag. Please feel free to print out your own copy if you would like your kids to trick-or-treat for Alzheimer's too.

Thank you for your support!

*Free* HalloweenTime Printable - last minute decoration!

We are only a few days away from Halloween, and to celebrate we have a last minute decoration for you - a cute FREE Disney themed Halloween Printable! 

There are 3 options for a "This Is Halloween" Disney themed printable - the above is just one - take a peek, choose, download, and print your favorite one (they are made for standard 8x11 paper)! 

Click here to download the PDF. 

Enjoy, and have a Happy Halloween!

Read more from Jessica on her blog, Idahome. You can also find her on FacebookTwitter, or on Instagram.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Ask the Disney Experts: Favorite Savory Snack in the Disneyland Resort

It's time to talk snacks! As with our last Ask the Experts on favorite sweet treats, we have reached out to some of our favorite fellow Disneyland experts to get their opinions. For this edition we asked them about their favorite savory snack and here are their answers:

Depending on how hungry I am, it's either a Banyan Beef skewer (most hungry) from Bengal BBQ, or a jalapeno cheese filled pretzel (medium hungry), or a pickle (basically not hungry, just want to be eating something delicious). Click here to get the recipe for Banyan Beef Skewers to make at home!

My pick for a savory snack at the Disneyland Resort is the dill pickle popcorn at Cars Land's Cozy Cone Motel. Two specialty popcorn flavors are featured daily, and although the pickle flavor is my absolute favorite, when it's not available I'll go for one of the others, like nacho cheese or salt and vinegar.

Heather, a Disney food expert for The Disney Food Blog loves the garlic cheddar bagel twists at Maurice's Treats in Fantasyland.

My favorite savory snack at the Disneyland Resort is the popcorn.  Disneyland's popcorn is the perfect blend of buttery and salty and popped fresh all day long.  We've made a family tradition out of buying a bucket of popcorn and enjoying a snack while waiting for the Soundsational Parade.  I also love the souvenir buckets that are released from time to time- somehow the popcorn just tastes better in a Dumbo container.  ;)

My favorite savory Disneyland snack is the always popular chimichanga. These crispy fried burritos might not look like anything special but that is far from true. I love the mild combo of beef and beans and the crispness of the tortilla shell. This park favorite can be found at several locations and throughout both parks. $5.49 Beth blogs over at

The garlic chedder bagel twist from Maurice's Treats in Princess Fantasy Faire near Sleeping Beauty Castle has become a favorite savory snack of mine.  It's portable, filling, and packed full of flavor and has become a must-have when I visit the Disneyland Resort.

 I would like to say a Cream Cheesed Filled Pretzel please... any day and every day! Yes, it has a bit of the sweetness as well but it is such a wonderful mix of texture and taste. Mr. Daps is the publisher of DAPS Magic, Geeks' Corner and much, much more. Check him out by clicking here.

It's hard to pick one favorite savory snack, but if I had to select just one, I would have to pick the jalapeno cheese-filled pretzels. It's so bad for you but soooo, so good and under $5!

What is your favorite savory snack? What do you think of our picks? Please leave us a comment below and let us know. 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Star Was Rebels Family Fun (and my kids in a Disney Channel commercial)

Starting this blog is one of the best decisions I've ever made. What started as a website that I typed out while I was home on maternity leave with my middle son has turned into something more than I could have ever imagined. This blog has introduced me to many wonderful people and offered my family some truly unbelievable experiences. 

Recently, my husband and three boys went to a preview screening of the new Disney XD show Star Wars Rebels. (Read my husband's review by clicking here.) They had a great time seeing the show, and as Star Wars fan, a sneak peek was a really pleasure and honor. The screening was about three or four weeks ago and much to our surprise, when our boys arrived at school last Monday, their teachers and friends they were buzzing about the fact that they had seen them in a Disney Channel commercial for Star Wars Rebels. 

We finally saw it and have probably watched it 20 times. If you missed it, here it is:

If you are a Star Wars fan and you aren't watching Star Wars Rebels, you don't know what you are missing! Here are some upcoming episodes you don't want to miss:

  • Tonight Star Wars Rebels: Spark of the Rebellion (featuring a cameo with Darth Vader) is airing on ABC.
  • Monday, October 27, the highly anticipated episode Rise of the Old Masters will air on Disney XD and feature Jason Isaacs as The Inquisitor!

Want to take the Star Wars Rebels fun to the next level? Check out these way cool activities you can do with your kids at home! (Click on them to make them big and save them to your computer to print out.)

Saturday, October 25, 2014

3 ways to turn tomorrow into a Disney Sunday Fun Day away from Disney Parks and Resort!

Looking to add a bit of Disney magic to your weekend? Here are three things you can do to add some family fun and smiles to the "same old" weekend routine.

1. Go see Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day! This is by far the funniest movie my family has seen in the longest time. My kids and husband have NOT stopped talking about it since seeing it a couple of weeks ago in a special preview. It is in theaters nationwide and it is the perfect way to bring a lot of laughter into your weekend.

2. Watch "Jake and the Never Land Pirates: Battle for the Book!" premiering this Sunday October 26 at 6:00 p.m. ET/PT on Disney Channel and Disney Junior.

If you thought I got excited when Peter Pan made his first appearance on Jake and the Never Land Pirates, you should see my excitement over the fact that Wendy, John and Michael Darling are making their series debut. Peter, Tink and even Nana are in the episode!

In this very special episode, Jake and his crew take flight over beautiful London to help Wendy get her storybook back from Captain Hook.

3. Want to get creative? Create a Disneyland-inspired pumpkin! No one, and I mean no one, decorates for Halloween like Disney Parks and Resorts and this video includes tips on how you can bring Disney Halloween magic to your home!

How are you incorporating Disney magic into your weekend?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

12 tips for taking babies, toddlers and preschoolers to Mickey's Halloween Party at Disneyland

Mickey's Halloween Party is a premium ticketed event held after Disneyland's regular operating hours. The party offers children and adults the opportunity to enjoy the fun of trick-or-treating and Halloween-themed entertainment and activities not offered during regular operation. Here are some things to keep in mind if you will be attending with babies, toddlers and preschoolers.

If you and your family will be heading to Mickey's Halloween Party, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
  1. Get there early: You can enter Disneyland three hours before the party starts as a "mix-in."
  2. Deal with dinner before the party: When the party starts only some, not all, of the restaurants will be open for dining, which means you may experience longer lines or not be able to get what you've been craving. If you will be eating during the party, I recommend heading over to the Hungry Bear Restaurant in Critter Country where the lines are short and the seating is plentiful. Lines at restaurants like the Stage Door Cafe that are right along the flow of guests entering the party tend to be really crowded. If at all possible, I recommend eating during the mix-in portion of your visit or on your way to the resort so that you can enjoy as much time as possible out in the park.
  3. Stroll in comfort: Be sure to wear comfortable shoes and bring a stroller for little ones. If your children aren't used to staying up late, the stroller may buy you a little extra time at the party.
  4. Get a map: This may sound basic, but even for seasoned vets, a map is helpful for finding all of the trick-or-treat locations.
  5. Do everything in one area before moving on: With such limited time in the park, be sure to do everything in one area so that you don't waste time backtracking.
  6. Prioritize: There are a lot of things to do at the party and some of the lines can be long. Discuss with your family ahead of time the things you really want to do--i.e. see the fireworks, take a picture with the characters, etc. Trick-or-treating is great, but with so many other fun things to do, keep in mind that the candy is just candy you can get anywhere but the experiences are only available at Disneyland. (Learn more about the trick-or-treating part by clicking here.)
  7. Dress up and have fun: I dress up my kids on many of our visits to the resort. As an adult, this is your time to live out your (secret) dream of dressing up and walking around Disneyland. Sitting on the ground at Central Plaza in my Snow White dress and huge puffy skirt was so surreal!
  8. Bring layers: Come in your costume but bring jackets or sweaters.
  9. Bring a camera that takes good pictures at night.
  10. Know your limits: If you have a child who turns into a monster if they aren't in bed by 8p.m., it's important to know his or her limits and yours as well. Have a plan for how you will deal with a child who just can't "take it" anymore or consider whether you should put off attending the party until your child is a little older.
  11. Beware of the smear: If your child will be wearing any makeup with his or her costume, I highly recommend bringing makeup remover wipes because they WILL get sick of it or smear it everywhere about halfway through the night. 
  12. Don't forget the jammies: Consider bringing your child's jammies so that you can slip them straight into bed when you get back to the hotel or back home.

Want to know more about Mickey's Halloween Party?

**This post has been significantly updated since it was originally published in 2011.**

    Tuesday, October 21, 2014

    An exclusive and spooky look inside the lobby of the Hollywood Tower Hotel (Twilight Zone Tower of Terror) at Disney California Adventure

    According to Disney legend, the Hollywood Tower Hotel first opened its doors in 1928 and quickly became the place to be seen in the Hollywood film community. At the height of its popularity in 1939, a mysterious occurrence forced it to close when one stormy night, as the hotel elevator ascended, lightning struck the tower. The elevator plunged, carrying five unlucky hotel guests to certain doom. But this was no ordinary storm or stroke of lighting. Before it reached the bottom of the shaft, the elevator and its passengers vanished. 

    Today, guests to Disney California Adventure Park can venture to Hollywood Land and chose to brave the hotel’s remaining service elevators. Once in the elevators, they may even take a detour into the fifth dimension, where they spot those ghostly passengers…and even experience their terrifying plunge.

    Brave visitors who explore the hotel see a lobby that appears to have been hastily vacated decades ago, along with an “Out of Order” elevator with bent and damaged doors, and a dark and spooky library where the old-fashioned television suddenly comes alive with the voice and image of “The Twilight Zone” host Rod Serling.  They’ve just crossed over into The Twilight Zone™ Tower of Terror.

    While in the lobby area, however, guests are able to see those the items left behind from afar while waiting in the queue to experience those fabled service elevators. Recently, however, I was granted exclusive access in the lobby to photograph the fine details of the articles hastily left behind by the hotel's guests more than 70 years ago.

    A variety of artifacts fill the hotel lobby, all items “left behind”
    by guests who suddenly disappeared on that fateful Halloween
     day in 1939, including this doll and copy of the
    "Wizard of Oz."

    Guest must have left the hotel quickly! Left
    behind at the registration desk are a number
    of personal items, including an umbrella
    luggage, cigar case and more.

    Guests in the lobby's seating area left their needle work, reading materials, and much more behind on that fateful day in 1939.

    Typically out of sight of guests is this table where two hotel guests were enjoying tea and left immediately everything behind when the elevator "incident" took place--including a half-written postcard! This is a very small detail that is rarely seen!