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!

    Review: Ayres Hotel in Orange, California

    Figuring out the right hotel for a Disneyland Resort vacation can be tough. With a dizzying amount of hotels in the vicinity, it is easy to get a headache while weighing all of the pros and cons of each lodging establishment. Recently, I had the opportunity to stay at the new Ayres Hotel in Orange, California, just two miles from the Disneyland Resort.

    About the hotel:

    The Ayres Hotel is in the city of Orange, close to the Disneyland Resort. From the hotel, it is about a five-minute drive (with no traffic) to the Resort. Access is also available via the ART busses. 

    The hotel opened in August 2014 and provides families with spacious accommodations much larger than rooms at the Disneyland Hotel. There are two types of rooms: King Studio Suites have a king bed, pull-out sofa sleeper and shower (as pictured here) and Queen Studio Suites have two queen beds and jetted tub and shower. All rooms come with a mini fridge, microwave and coffee maker.

    The common areas are lovely and inviting with a large dining area used for the complimentary daily breakfast or for your own snacks and meals (perhaps a little something you may whip up in the microwave in your room).

    What makes the Ayres Hotel in Orange unique:
    There are a lot of things to like about this hotel--from its beautiful styling to how incredibly clean and spacious the common spaces and rooms are. 

    What I really like about this hotel is the convenience and piece of mind it offers to families who may be traveling to the Disneyland Resort with children or other family members who are medically fragile or have special needs. The hotel is located in close proximity to two world-class medical institutions. The Ayres Hotel is located across the street from the UCI Medical Center, the only university-based hospital in Orange County and only Level 1 trauma center in the county. The hotel is less than 2.5 miles from CHOC Children's Hospital, one of the country's leading pediatric hospitals. CHOC Children's offers the only pediatrics-specific emergency room in Orange County and features extras like child life specialists, spacious triage and exam rooms to accommodate the entire family and on-call pediatric specialists. 

    If you are a shop-o-holic or just like to breakaway from the kids to shop every once in a while, the Ayres Hotel is located next to Outlets at Orange, which features stores and outlets including Ann Taylor, Bath and Body Works, Asics, Banana Republic, Nordstrom Rack and much, much more. The Outlets at Orange also boasts an AMC movie theater complex, as well as Corner Bakery, Johnny Rockets, Market Broiler and many other restaurants. It's great to have such an incredible selection of stores and restaurants (with a variety of price points) so close to your hotel.

    What families need to know:
    • All rooms are very spacious and very clean. If you need a bathtub for bathing your little ones, you will need to book a Queen Studio Suite. ADA compliant rooms are also Queen Studio Suites. It is important to note which type of room you are booking when you make your reservation.
    • All overnight guests can enjoy a cooked-to-order breakfast daily.
    • Complimentary newspapers are available during the week.
    • Complimentary WiFi is available to all guests.
    • The hotel has taken on green initiatives to conserve energy and reduce waste. That just makes me happy.
    • Light refreshments are available in the lobby and there is a small store for sundries and snacks.
    • Ayres Hotels are a family-owned and operated chain of upscale boutique hotels throughout Southern California. I encourage you to learn more about their hotels in Orange, Los Angeles and San Diego counties by clicking here.
    • You can learn more about UCI Medical Center by clicking here, about CHOC Children's by clicking here and the Outlets at Orange by clicking here.

    I received a complimentary room at the Ayres Hotel in Orange in order to do this review. All opinions are my own.

    Monday, October 20, 2014

    If you haven't visited Disneyland at #HalloweenTime, here's what you're missing!

    If you haven't visited the Disneyland Resort at Halloween Time, you are definitely missing out on a one-of-a-kind Halloween experience. During this special time of year, the Disney folks pull-out all the stops and offer re-themed attractions, special events and experiences and even special foods. 


    The Disneyland Resort redresses Space Mountain and the Haunted Mansion, especially for the Halloween season each year. Space Mountain becomes Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy--a spooky, scary trip through space. Haunted Mansion is taken over by Jack Skellington, Sally and all of their friends to become Haunted Mansion Holiday. (There is much more on this attraction in the video above and more about all of the spooky attractions below, including the spookiest of all attractions, the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.)

    Special Events, Experiences and Entertainment

    It is impossible to talk about Halloween Time at the Disneyland Resort and not talk about Mickey's Halloween Party. This is a separate-ticket event that takes place after Disneyland's regular operating hours in which guests can trick-or-treat and enjoy special Halloween entertainment. Although tickets sell out very quickly for this event, there are still some left for this year. Click here to learn more about Mickey's Halloween Party and here to learn my go-to, must-do tips for families heading to the party.

    The Halloween Carnival at Disneyland is a must-do for families, as it provides kids of all ages unique opportunities to interact with characters, make crafts and play games, see a magic show and much more. Two of the most notable things going on at the carnival are the famous Disneyland pumpkin carvers and Pirates League--a makeover experience for children who love pirates. Learn much, much more about the Halloween Carnival and see our exclusive video by clicking here. You can see more of this year's pumpkin creations by the Disneyland pumpkin carvers by clicking here.

    Food, Merchandise and Food Merchandise

    Ask your foodie friends who frequent the Disneyland Resort their favorite time of year, and they will likely tell you it's Halloween Time. The Resort goes to great lengths to develop innovative and delicious food offerings for this time of year and they can be found virtually everywhere... and they aren't just sweets.

    The "Muenster" Chicken Sausage Sandwich at Carnation Cafe have been a big hit with park guests this year.

    Even the cotton candy gets a Halloween makeover. It becomes candy corn cotton candy and I am here to tell you that it is DELICIOUS!

    When it comes to special merchandise, Disneyland and Disney California Adventure are both LOADED with special offerings ranging from pins to coffee mugs to clothing and more. The best places to shop for Halloween-themed merchandise in Disneyland Park include the Emporium and Disney Showcase on Main Street.

    A unique area of Disney theming comes by way of food merchandise--the special containers and purchases available with the purchase of certain food items throughout the year. At Halloween Time there is certainly no shortage of special purchase opportunities. I always recommend the travel mugs and popcorn buckets. The mugs are cheaper than the "real" travel mugs Disney sells in the shops and unlike many of those, they are dishwasher safe AND fit under my Keurig. The popcorn buckets are great for storing Legos and other small toys and perfect for taking toys in the car, etc.

    Have a question about Halloween Time at the Disneyland Resort? Leave it in the comments or head over to our Facebook page and leave a message on our wall!

    Monday, October 13, 2014

    Merchandise Monday: October 2014

    There's not as much to share this month as I would've thought after seeing loads of fantastic new items in stores at the Disneyland Resort lately (I think they're just waiting to share all of the good stuff with us at Christmas! ) - here we go!


    Mickey's Halloween Party Merchandise - Right now, you can find Mickey's Halloween Party t-shirts, fleece jackets, and lots and lots of pins! Look for merchandise at Disney Showcase, Emporium, Pieces of Eight, Pioneer Mercantile, and The Star Trader.

    Featured Treat: Dirt and Worms Caramel Apple - With an appropriately creepy theme, this month you can find this unique caramel apple - covered in caramel, dark chocolate, chocolate cookie crumbs, then topped with white and dark chocolate "webs" and gummy worms. There are also many other special, holiday themed treats around the resort. 

    Artist Sketch of the Month The October 2014 Disneyland Resort sketch is "Hercules and Meg" which is available at Disneyana and Off the Page at the Disneyland Resort.

    October Merchandise Events - 

    • Artist in Residence - Miss Mindy at WonderGround Gallery in Downtown Disney. Oct. 17, 18, 24-26, from 6:30-9:30 p.m.
    • Precious Moments Dolls with Linda Rick at China Closet in the Disneyland Park. Oct. 17-19 & 24-26, from noon-10 p.m.
    • Marc Davis: Walt Disney's Renaissance Man book signing at Disneyana in the Disneyland Park. Oct. 18, from 9-11 a.m.
    • Noah at WonderGround Gallery in Downtown Disney. Oct. 25  from 11 a.m -1 p.m.
    • Haunted Memories (Eddie Allen) at WonderGround Gallery in Downtown Disney. Oct. 25 & 26, from 1-4 p.m.
    Miss Mindy

    Friday, October 10, 2014

    Fun Fact Friday: Fowler's Harbor in Disneyland

    Fowler's Harbor is one of my favorite spots inside Disneyland.  Located just across the walkway from the Haunted Mansion along the Rivers of America, it is home to the Harbor Galley restaurant and dry dock for the Sailing Ship Columbia.

    I love Fowler's Harbor because of its history and great quiet space away from the hustle and bustle of Disneyland.  Back when Disneyland was being built, Walt Disney hired a retired Navy Admiral, Joe Fowler to be his construction boss.  Mr. Fowler must have done something right considering Disneyland opened a year and a day after they broke ground to construct Walt's dream park.  In honor of Joe Fowler's hard work, the dry dock area where the Columbia parks when not in use was name Fowler's Harbor.

    Joe Fowler led a pretty amazing life.  Born 1894, he graduated second in his class at the U.S. Naval Academy in 1917.  A veteran of both world wars, Joe designed and supervised the building of gunboats, built naval aircraft carriers, and was in charge of all U.S. Navy work conducted in the West Coast shipyards during WWII.  During his military career, he rubbed shoulders with the likes of Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, and Lyndon Johnson.

    Fowler met Walt Disney shortly after his 60th birthday and soon began is 25-year career with the Disney.  He not only oversaw Disneyland's construction, but was a technical advisor on the movie "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea."  In the '60s and '70s, Fowler took on the massive project of building Walt Disney World and at one point held the posts senior vice president for engineering and construction for Walt Disney Productions, chairman of the board of WED (Walter Elias Disney) Enterprises, and director of construction for Disney's Buena Vista Construction Company.  Fowler retired from Disney in 1978 and was named a Disney Legend in 1990, three years before he passed away at the age of 99.  What an amazing life.
    This street sign is taken from Joe Fowler's actual address.

    Joe Fowler with Walt Disney

    While enjoying this historical area of Disneyland, guests can enjoy a quick bite from the Harbor Galley restaurant which rarely has long lines and provides guests with a peaceful place to rest and eat.  It's one of our favorite spots to stop down with the family, get a snack (chowder in a bread bowl!) or... better yet... a shrimp po' boy or delicious stuffed baked potato. The unique menu and this tiny restaurant may just be the best kept secret at the Disneyland Resort. Keep in mind that seating can be scarce, so if there isn't enough room to eat, you can take your food to the dining area of the French Market (next to the Haunted Mansion).

    Thank you to the blog Stuff From the Park (Matterhorn1959) for the picture of Joe Fowler and Walt Disney.  This is a great blog with amazing vintage Disneyland photography!

    The post has been updated since it was originally published.

    Wednesday, October 8, 2014

    6 reasons to walk in the CHOC "Walk in the Park" at the Disneyland Resort

    The CHOC "Walk in the Park" is a very special event happening at the Disneyland Resort this Sunday. This annual event has become an Orange County institution that brings more than 12,000 CHOC Walkers to the Disneyland Resort as the sunrises to participate in a 5K walk through Disneyland, Disney California Adventure and Downtown Disney. It is a one-of-a-kind event and I have five great reasons why you should sign up to walk.

    1. It feels good to help kids. 
    All Walkers raise $50 or more to participate in the Walk. That money goes to fund the amazing treatment programs and research at CHOC Children's--a hospital that has been ranked among the nation's very best children's hospitals in seven specialties and leads the way in pioneering the future of pediatric care. Among the hospitals notable programs including the very first use of radiation-free electrophysiology to cure heart rhythm disturbances. This video shows this incredible breakthrough. 

    Monies raised by Walkers go to fund the hospital's greatest needs, including the care of patients who cannot afford treatment AND it is a tax write-off!

    2. Go "backstage"at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure.
    For Disney fans, going "backstage" is can be a dream come true. The CHOC Walk route gives Walkers a rare glimpse into what goes on behind the fun and fantasy of the Disneyland Resort.

    3. Earn prizes!
    Walkers who raise money for the CHOC Walk are eligible to earn prizes for their fundraising efforts. The more they raise, the more prizes they earn! Prizes vary from milkshakes at Chik-fil-a to Disneyland tickets and Vera Bradley bags! Learn more about the prizes by clicking here.

    4. Get photos with characters and see parade floats up-close.
    One of the great things about the CHOC Walk is that even though it takes place before Disneyland and Disney California Adventure open (the Walk starts at 6:30a.m. and does not include regular park admission for when the parks open), Walkers still get an authentic Disneyland Resort experience complete with characters and parade floats on the parade route! 

    5. You can purchase discounted Disneyland tickets.
    For many people, one of the most attractive parts of the CHOC Walk is the ability to purchase discounted admission tickets. If you are considering going to Disneyland, this is a great way to get discounted tickets--even if it means you are making a tax deductible donation to CHOC in order to be eligible to purchase the tickets!

    Sunday only Walker can present their CHOC "Walk In the Park" wristbands at a Disneyland Ticket Booth to purchase a special CHOC-Tober Disneyland Resort 1-Day Park Hopper ticket for $78 or a 1-Day 1-Park Ticket for $50 for use on Sunday or another trip to the Resort. A maximum of five tickets may be purchased per wristband and the tickets must be used by 11/7/2014.

    6. You'll never experience anything like it anywhere else.
    I have walked as a Walker in the CHOC Walk twice and I can honestly tell you it is a life-changing experience. To see all of the grateful families--some who have triumphed over illness and some who walk in remembrance is truly one of the most moving experiences I have ever had. I created this video back at my first CHOC Walk and I think it really captures the essence of the Walk and how people feel about the amazing care provided at CHOC Children's. Plus, it is the ONLY charity walk that goes through the Disneyland Resort!

    If you are thinking about walking this year, you can walk on your own, with your family and friends or join a team. Although we won't have a Babes In Disneyland team this year, if you are looking for a Disneyland-fan team to join (and have a great morning with), I highly recommend Team DAPs Magic or Team MousePlanet.

    Can't participate in the Walk, but want to contribute to CHOC? My husband Will is walking in the Walk for the first time and you can sponsor him! Click here to donate! Every dollar helps.

    (Almost) Wordless Wednesday- Disneyland's Incredible Pumpkin Carvers 2014

    Emma and Jack Skellington
    For me one of the highlights of the Halloween Time festivities at the Disneyland Resort is the Halloween Carnival at Big Thunder Ranch

    Seeing Disneyland's Incredible Pumpkin Carvers create their one of a kind masterpieces is truly the highlight of my annual Mickey's Halloween Party trip.

    Using tools such as carving knives, wood gouges, skewers, scrapers, ribbon, and paint the Disneyland pumpkin carvers spend hours and hours transforming pumpkins of all shapes, sizes, and colors into amazing works of Disney art.

    We thoroughly enjoyed walking around and seeing all of the wonderful pumpkins and I'm so excited to share them with you.

    it's a small world themed pumpkin

    Haunted Mansion Traveling Ghost

    Jack Skellington


    Mickey Mouse- this one could probably be easily duplicated at home!

    Elsa and Anna

    The Doorknob from Alice in Wonderland

    Alice in the White Rabbit's House 

    Flik and Dot from A Bug's Life

    Mary Poppins Pearly Band themed pumpkin-
    painted and adorned with pearls

    This year Pumpkin Carvers Bob and Bridget were hard at work on Oswald and Nightmare Before Christmas pumpkins. It just so happened that Bridget's pumpkin was a celebration of Jeff Reitz's 1000th consecutive visit to Disneyland- an incredible feat in and of itself.  

    Click here to my post featuring last year's incredible pumpkin creations.

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