Wednesday, October 1, 2014

5 tips you must read before going to Mickey's Halloween Party at Disneyland #HalloweenTime

Last week the family and I made the trek to Disneyland for the first night of Mickey's Halloween Party. Just as in years gone by, the kids had a blast trick-or-treating and seeing all of the other guests in their costumes. 

Kendra recently wrote a list of tips and information for families going to Mickey's Halloween Party and if you are thinking about going, I definitely recommend reading her post as a primer on what to know. (The post will be updated yearly with the most updated information. Click here to go to her post.) Building upon her post, I thought I would put together a list of 5 things you may not know about Mickey's Halloween Party that I have discovered during my many years going.

1. Trick-or-treat requests.
Our little guy quickly learned how to nicely
request "no peanuts" at each trick-or-treat
Trick-or-treat locations are located throughout the park. Each "location" is actually a "trail" of several stations. Each station has regular Halloween candy--fun-size Milky Ways, Twix, Snickers, etc. If you have a child with a peanut allergy like we do, you can have your children nicely request, "No peanuts, please" at each location and Cast Members will happily dig through the treats to provide the children with peanut-free candy. Be forewarned that if you do not ask, you will get A LOT of candy with peanuts because those bins are filled with a lot of Snickers, Peanut Chews, Peanut M&Ms and Reece's Peanut Butter Cups.

You can also request sugar-free candy. My husband asked for it at two stations and they gave him a hard sugar-free candy. Healthier treat options are also available at each station. Those options vary but can include Cheese-Its, apple chips, Goldfish, carrots, apples and chocolate-covered Craisins (my husband's FAVORITE treat of the night).

2. Character photos.
Pirate Donald at Rancho Del Zocalo during Mickey's Halloween Party.
Usually, my family isn't big on waiting in (long) lines for character photos, but this year, we went for it and got some great shots with the characters in some very unique locations. Some of the lines can be crazy long, while others, like the photo location inside Rancho Del Zocalo was very short and getting pics with Goofy and Donald dressed as pirates was priceless. Because the characters at the party are so unique, be sure to ask at each location which other characters will be available, so that you don't miss your favorite. For example, we also took photos at the Mark Twain/Columbia dock with Peter Pan, Wendy and Captain Hook and the Host at the dock told us that later in the evening Jack Sparrow would come out to take photos as well.

3. Short waits for a lot of attractions.
In my opinion, the short lines at a lot of the attractions is one of the best things about Mickey's Halloween Party. Most people (as you can see in this photo of New Orleans Square) are trick-or-treating or out enjoying the Halloween parade or fireworks, and not a lot of people are riding the rides. 

Guests in New Orleans Square during Mickey's Halloween Party. 
My family went on Splash Mountain TWICE without having to get off and there was NO line at all. The same could be said for a lot of the attractions (except for the newly reopened Alice in Wonderland and special Halloween attractions Haunted Mansion Holiday and Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy). If your family is looking for an opportunity to go to Disneyland and just ride attractions, this is a pretty good time to go. Just be forewarned that around parade and firework time we found it impossible (literally) to go from the west side of the park (New Orleans Square, Frontierland, etc.) to the east side of the park (Tomorrowland, Fantasyland, etc.), so it is important to plan accordingly.
There was NO line for Splash Mountain during Mickey's Halloween Party,
and my family got to go on TWICE!

You haven't lived until you've tried the fried
pickles at Carnation Cafe on Main Street.

4. Eat dinner before the party. 
Admission to Mickey's Halloween Party allows guests to enter Disneyland before the party actually starts. If you will be eating dinner at the park, be certain to do so before the party starts, as all restaurants are not open during the party and your time for the Halloween festivities is so limited, you don't want to be eating during the party. All that being said, it is important to note that the restaurants are VERY busy at dinner time with the day guests grabbing a meal before leaving the park and the Mickey's Halloween Party guests trying to have dinner before the party starts, so you may want to plan accordingly with extra snacks or a really early dinner.

5. Don't forget your annual pass (if you have one).
This year, Disneyland stepped it up a notch and offered a special trick-or-treat surprise for annual passholders attending Mickey's Halloween Party. The trick-or-treat station located at the Opera House on Main Street hands out YUMMY rice crispy treats. And just for passholders! So, since you don't NEED your pass to get into Mickey's Halloween Party because it is a separate-ticket event, definitely still bring it to get your rice crispy treat and continue getting your discounts at the stores and restaurants.

Disclaimer: I received complimentary admission to Mickey's Halloween Party, as I do from time to time, in order to provide readers with the most current Disneyland Resort coverage. (We also buy annual passes, as well.) All opinions stated in this blog post are my own and were not influenced by the Disneyland Resort. They never are.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

6 tips for getting picked for the Jedi Training Academy at Disneyland

The Jedi Training Academy, held at the Tomorrowland Terrace stage, is the ultimate Star Wars fantasy come true for little boys who are yearning to become one with the force.  Selected children get to learn the ways of the Jedi Knights and then test those skills against Darth Maul or Darth Vader.  (Disneyland supplies the robes and lightsabers.) 

Sorry dads. Jedi Training Academy is only for kiddos ages 4 to 12.
If you have a potential Padawan who really wants to train to be a Jedi Knight, it's important to know that there's a few tricks and tips you can use to get selected for the Jedi Training Academy.  Here's the Babes in Disneyland "How to get selected for the Jedi Training Academy" Guide.
  • Wear a Star Wars-themed shirt Kids in Star Wars shirts stand out to the Jedi selecting the participants.  If your child doesn't have a Star Wars-themed shirt, wear a Disney one.
  • Make a sign
    Now, I'm not positive, but I don't think Disneyland really wants you to bring in big obnoxious signs.  In fact, I saw them confiscate a poster board sign that said, "I love Tiffany" at the security check point this last weekend.  With that in mind, I would recommend making a sign on a huge sheet of paper so that you can discretely bring it in in your bag, backpack, etc.  Put something on your sign like, "Please pick Alex!" or "Jake is the ultimate Jedi!".  Folks with signs often get picked.

  • Encourage your child to be enthusiastic!
    I know this goes without saying, but for some shy kids,
    this isn't always easy.    When the Jedi are looking for children to select, they are keeping an eye out for kids who are jumping up and down and excited to participate in the academy.  My son was really enthusiastic to participate but isn't a natural born cheerleader.  It would have been helpful if I had coached him a bit beforehand.
  • Encourage everyone else in the family to be enthusiastic!
    When our youngest son became old enough to go through Jedi training, we brought lightsabers from home and my other two sons stood next to him, pointing at him with their lightsabers as our little guy jumped out and down. It worked.
  • Get to the show early.
    Families start waiting for the show at least 30 minutes before show time.  On really busy days, you may need to get there 45 minutes to an hour before show time.  Encourage your child to sit close to the front of the selection area. (The sections are marked by tape on the ground.)

  • Prepare your child for what to expect.
    If you have never taken your child to see the show, it's a good idea that they see the show ahead of time so they know what to expect. Guests can watch the show from the Tomorrowland Terrace dining area. We love eating lunch and watching the show; it's really great family time.  If you want your child to see the show before your visit, you can check out my son below.
    If your kiddos hit it really lucky, they may even get selected to Force Push the Storm Troopers.  As luck would have it, TWO of my three kids have gotten to Force Push. What luck! Watch Darth Vader in the video below very carefully. If you are a Star Wars fan, you will definitely laugh.

    Kids who participate in the Jedi Training Academy feel a huge sense of accomplishment afterward. It is truly an amazing opportunity.

    Do you have an additional tip for getting selected at the Jedi Training Academy? Share it below or on our Facebook page!

    Monday, September 29, 2014

    Dad review of the new Disney XD series Star Wars Rebels

    Star Wars Rebels in the "Ghost."
    Premieres this week on DisneyXD & Disney Channel.
    Image used with permission.
    Last weekend we were treated to a sneak peak of two episodes of the new Disney XD series, “Star Wars Rebels”. I took my three boys who not only love ALL of the Star Wars films, (yes even the Jar Jar scenes) they, along with me, were huge fans of the old series “Star Wars Clone Wars.”

    "Clone Wars was amazing because it showed us everything we did not see in the films. The Clone Wars were always mentioned, and we got to see a few minutes of them in “Attack of the Clones,” but the films only left us wanting more. The series and the animation were great and clearly done by a team of fans of the source material. The only thing we didn’t know about after that series was how the Rebellion started. Well now we will.

    Star Wars Rebels pilot Hera. Image used with permission.
    The new series, "Star Wars Rebels," continues on with the same quality of "Star Wars Clone Wars," and will finally answer all of the questions on how Luke, Leia and the rest of the Rebels came to be. The animation is slightly more refined, and you cannot tell the difference between this series and the other. The new characters hit all of the key groups to make kids able to identify with someone on the show, while covering the basics of Star Wars lore. You have the orphan loner that is more than he appears, the frustrated Jedi mixed with Han Solo, the big crazy Chewbacca-like monster who is menacing only to the Empire and the droid who takes the silliness and attitude of R2D2 to the next level. There are also two female characters on the team, a pilot and weapons expert which is great to see since we got a glimpse of that direction in "Star Wars Clone Wars" with Ahsoka Tano.

    Images used with permission of the Walt Disney Company.

    Jedi Kana and the Inquisitor from Star Wars Rebels.
    Image used with permission.
    The story unfolds during a dark time when the evil Galactic Empire is tightening its grip of power on the galaxy. Imperial forces have occupied a remote planet and are ruining the lives of its people. The crew of the starship Ghost -- cowboy Jedi Kanan, ace pilot Hera, street-smart teenager Ezra, the "muscle" Zeb, warrior Sabine, and cantankerous old astromech droid Chopper -- are among a select few who are brave enough to stand against the Empire. Together, they will face threatening new villains, encounter colorful adversaries, embark on thrilling adventures and become heroes with the power to ignite a rebellion. Although none of the characters are familiar to us yet, they are all familiar in what they do and say. 

    Behind the scenes:
    "Star Wars Rebels" concept art. Images used
    with permission of the Walt Disney Company.

    • "Star Wars Rebels" was created by Dave Filoni (Star Wars: The Clone Wars), Simon Kinberg (X-Men: Days of Future Past, Sherlock Holmes), and Carrie Beck. The Lucasfilm Animation production is also executive-produced by Filoni and Kinberg as well as Greg Weisman (Gargoyles).
    • The talented voice cast includes Freddie Prinze Jr. as Kanan, Vanessa Marshall as Hera, Steve Blum as Zeb, Tiya Sircar as Sabine, Taylor Gray as Ezra, David Oyelowo as Agent Kallus and Jason Isaacs as the Inquisitor.
    Concept art for Zeb. Images used with permission of the Walt Disney Company.

    Concept art for Jedi Kanan. Images used with permission of the Walt Disney Company.

    What we love most (so far):
    The Ghost from Star Wars Rebels. Image used
    with permission.

    • We love seeing the beginning of the Rebellion, glimpses of spacecraft, and hints of people that we are familiar with from "A New Hope" and the rest of the original trilogy.
    • I also really like that any adult fan of Star Wars can get "into" this show with their kids and know that the quality from the "Clone Wars" and expanded universe is still intact. 

    Don't miss out on the first episodes:
    Sabine from Star Wars Rebels. Image used with
    After the screening, we all agreed that we could not wait to continue on with this journey. The Clone Wars are a great memory, but now we have something new to look forward to. From what we saw, we will be upgrading to Disney XD, buying the merchandise, and gathered on the couch for seasons to come to see it all end just where Episode 4 takes off. 

    Star Wars Rebels pilot Hera. Image used with permission.
    The series premiere one-hour movie "Star  Wars  Rebels: Spark of the Rebellion"  will begin airing on television  Monday, October 13 (9:00 p.m., ET/PT) on Disney XD. In case you miss it, the premiere movie will run Saturday, October 4 (9:00 p.m., ET/PT) on Disney Channel and will be  available on Disney XD VOD and for purchase through Apple iTunes, Amazon Instant Video and Google Play starting Monday, October 6. The regular season episode premiere will take place on Monday, October 13 on Disney XD.

    The Inquisitor and Storm Troopers from Star Wars Rebels. Image used with permission. 

    As a family of three Star Wars-loving boys (and a dad who has read almost everything there is to know about the movies), we are pretty excited about this series. Leave us a comment below or on Facebook page and tell us who is excited to watch the show at your house!

    Disclaimer: My kids and I attended a free screening in which we received free popcorn, drinks and some small Star Wars giveaways. All of the opinions here are my own. We have a serious Star Wars obsession.

    Sunday, September 28, 2014

    "Frozen: The Songs" CD Review and Giveaway #disneymusic

    There are a lot of Disney moments that I frequently recall in my mind's eye, and I can honestly say that one such moment is when the credits started to roll at the end of the movie Frozen. It had been quite some time since I had become totally engaged and engrossed in an animated film, but as the lights started to come back up in the Frank G. Wells Theater on the Walt Disney Studios Lot that night, I couldn't help but think I had just witnessed something very special. And then came the boys' reactions. They loved it and couldn't stop talking about it. The long (five-minute) drive home was constant chatter and they were quoting the movie and trying to sing the songs from that moment on.

    It's almost been a year since we saw Frozen and it's hard to remember life before it came out. My kids watch the movie all the time. We've downloaded the incredible Frozen karaoke app, which gets used... a lot. (If you don't have it, you can download it here.) The DVD is in heavy rotation at our house. It comes along with us on long car trips, frequently gets chosen as the Friday night movie and is a go-to flick when the kids visit my parents.
    And starting on September 30, there will be one more piece of Frozen media to add to the mix:  Frozen:The Songs.  This CD features all 10 songs from the Oscar-winning movie, and if your kids are anything like mine they will want it on a loop in the car. In addition to Frozen: The Songs CD, Disney Records is also releasing a vinyl edition and a Spanish language version Frozen Canciones de Una Aventura Congelada, plus the digital score album from composer Christophe Beck. 

    The specially priced Songs CD also includes a fold-out poster and stickers and includes these songs:

    1. Frozen Heart 

    Performed by the cast
    2. Do You Want to Build a Snowman?
    Performed by Kristen Bell, Agatha Lee Monnand and Katie Lopez
    3. For the First Time in Forever
    Performed by Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel
    4. Love Is an Open Door
    Performed by Kristen Bell and Santino Fontana
    5. Let It Go
    Performed by Idina Menzel
    6. Reindeer(s) Are Better Than People
    Performed by Jonathan Groff
    7. In Summer
    Performed by Josh Gad
    8. For the First Time in Forever (Reprise)
    Performed by Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel
    9. Fixer Upper
    Performed by Maia Wilson and Cast
    10. Let It Go (Demi Lovato Version)

    Performed by Demi Lovato

    You can preorder all three versions on Amazon now! You can also try your luck at winning one of two I am giving away! It's super easy to win using the Rafflecopter entry form below. It is perfect for birthday and a great stocking stuffer if you are already thinking ahead to the holidays!

    a Rafflecopter giveaway

    US entries only. I was supplied a CD in order to do this review. All opinions are my own. (My kids really love "Frozen!" If it come to my attention that the winner of this giveaway has won this same prize on a additional blog, I reserve the right to choose another winner. With multiple blogs holding the same giveaway, I think everyone needs to have a shot at winning.

    Wednesday, September 24, 2014

    Fall 2014 Dapper Day at the Disneyland Resort through the eyes of a family

    Two weeks ago, my family spent one of the hottest weekends on record (or, at least it felt like one of
    the hottest weekends on record) at the Disneyland Resort for Dapper Day. Let me tell you that it was so HOT I really thought we were going to melt. But, since we had booked a hotel ahead of time and had invested so much time and effort into our Dapper Day attire, we made our way into the parks, as planned... sort of.

    In my head, I had grand plans for Dapper Day. I imagined Thursday hanging out in the parks in on of our outfits--just a little "dapper warm up," if you will. Followed by the fashion parade of Dapper Day on Friday and then heading to the Dapper Day Expo on Saturday in a third outfit after a day at the pool. Give the heat, I really bit off/planned way more than I could handle and never even made it to that third outfit on Sunday before packing up and heading home a bit earlier than I had planned.

    I will admit, this Dapper Day was a little different than the one I attended in the spring a couple of years ago. It wasn't as friendly of a crowd and I didn't feel that same happy vibe. Again, it was a million degrees out, and I am guessing that everyone else felt just as hot and sticky as we did. Anyway, without further ado... here are some photos from our Dapper Day experience.

    Even though it technically wasn't Dapper Day on Thursday, we went into Disney California Adventure all dressed up anyway.
    My dad, Aidan, Brandon and I stopped for a photo right outside the Chamber of Commerce

    Aidan looked is really into the whole "dapper" movement. 
    And Brandon couldn't get enough of his new driving cap.
    I went for a Minnie Mouse DisneyBound, complete with yellow flats and vintage bag.
    My mom with Minnie
    Connor was such a Dapper
    Day cutie!

    Friday was THE day to be seen for Dapper Day. I chose to wear a tiki-inspired dress from Pinup Girl Boutique. The boys all wore white shirts, bow ties and hats from Target. (The bow ties I ended up getting from a children's second-hand store. They were still new, in the box for $5 each!)

    My beautiful family in one of my favorite photo spots. You never have to fight the crowds if you take pics on the east side of Sleeping Beauty Castle.

    My bow tie guys--my dad and my three boys.

    In the evening, Dapper Day attendees flocked to King Arthur's Carousel for the Dapper Day Derby and to "be seen."

    My parents got a kick out of the Dapper Day Derby.

    Like I said, by the time Saturday rolled around, we were EXHAUSTED and headed home before I could get to my third outfit and head to the Dapper Day Expo.

    If you are a family with little ones thinking about doing the next Dapper Day with your family, I highly recommend it. Getting dressed up is a really fun and unique way to experience Disneyland and the kids really got a kick out of it. And personally, I LOVE getting photos of my boys in their bow ties. If the cost of getting the kids (or yourself) dressed for the occasion is holding you back, there are a lot of really inexpensive options when it comes to going dapper, and I will share some of my Dapper Day on a Budget ideas in an upcoming post. Until then, mark Sunday, March 1 on your calendar. If enough Babes In Disneyland readers are interested, we can even do a meet-up and get a photo of all of the Babes families and kiddos together!

    Oh, and one last thing: if you are thinking about getting a hotel room at the Disneyland Resort the weekend of the next Dapper Day, I highly recommend checking out the Dapper Day website. Their discounts on on-property hotel rooms (and tickets) CANNOT BE BEAT!!!

    Tuesday, September 23, 2014

    Ask the Disney Experts: Favorite Sweet Treat in the Disneyland Resort

    Everyone loves the sweet treats at the Disneyland Resort, but sometimes it can be so hard to choose which one with so many wonderful choices. This week, we expanded our panel of experts to other Disney bloggers in order to get to the bottom of which sweet treats are the best at the Disneyland Resort. 

    We love getting the marshmallow wands as a sweet Disneyland treat. Not only are they a perfect blend of chocolate, marshmallow, caramel, sugar sprinkles and candies, they also come in a wide variety of sugary sweet designs. My favorite wand design is the classic Minnie marshmallow wand with red sugar coating and white M&M polka dots. My son's favorite design is the new Olaf design complete with a specially decorated candy corn nose. You can buy marshmallow wands the Candy Palace, Trolley Treats, Pooh Corner and Marceline's Confectionery in Downtown Disney. $4.99 Beth is the owner of the blog My Adventures in Disneyland. Read her blog by clicking here.

    My favorite sweet treat at the Disneyland Resort is an order of Mickey-shaped beignets at the Mint Julep Bar in New Orleans Square. Nothing goes better with these powdered sugar-covered, doughnut-like delights than a Mint Julep, the signature drink of New Orleans Square!

    I'm a sucker for cake pops, especially the themed ones AND churros... I also love Matterhorn Macaroons, and Mickey Beignets, and Chocolate/Caramel Covered Pretzel Wands!  Too many good things; it's way too hard to choose just one! Heather is a Disney food experts and blogs for The Disney Food Blog.

    Churros, Dole Whips, cookies, pretzels, they are all SO good. But - if I could only pick one thing, it would be a big ol' bag of cotton candy - the blue and white kind they sell at Mickey and the Magical Map. I know it's not unique or particularly special - but I grew up for the most part only eating cotton candy at Disney and to me it's just synonymous with the Happiest Place on Earth!

    This cotton candy looks like a cloud!

    Hands down my favorite sweet treat at the Disneyland Resort is the churro.  The Disneyland Resort's churros are warm, crispy, and cinnamon-sugary sweet.  Churros are a great on the go snack and lately we've also been enjoying them as a light breakfast during Extra Magic Hours.  

    Kids + churros = smiles

    There are few things in life better than a Dole Whip or Dole Whip Float. Depending on the day (and the heat), I would choose one of these two as my favorite sweet treats at the Disneyland Resort. They are unique, refreshing, and complete the Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room experience. Mr. Daps is the publisher of DAPS Magic, Geeks' Corner and much, much more. Check him out by clicking here.

    My go-to sweet treat is actually a combination of sweet and savory - the Cream Cheese Pretzel.  I love the balance of sweet cream cheese inside the doughy pretzel.  You can find this pretzel at a cart outside Star Traders in Tomorrowland, Refreshment Corner on Main Street, or at multiple locations in Disney California Adventure.  However, on an extremely hot day - Dole Whip Floats win, hands down!

    What is your go-to favorite sweet treat? Is it one of our favorites? Please leave us a comment below and let us know.