Walt Disney World – A First Family Vacation

Seven and a half years ago, my husband and I traveled to Walt Disney World to celebrate our one-year wedding anniversary.  We meshed together memories of our own childhood Disney vacations and imagined a distant trip with our future children.

disney_edited-1Celebrating one year of marriage in June 2006

Bringing Lucia and Adrian to Walt Disney World has been a family dream, and this past December our wishes came true.  We managed to contain the big surprise by using a code word, and I burned the midnight oil designing and sewing a Queen Elsa costume, and packing while little ones were sleeping.  We will forever cherish the video of letting the kids in on our immediate travel plans.  After presenting Lucia with her mama-made Elsa dress and giving the boy a set of Mickey ears, we were off to collect more memories than we could possibly imagine.

traveling to Walt Disney World

I don’t think that there’s a way to accurately describe the sort of palpable magic that exists at Walt Disney World – or the incomparable feeling of seeing your children burst with excitement.

At ages 3 and 6, Adrian and Lucia are in the height of character adoration and the amount of attention that the cast members gave to each child was unbelievable.

In lieu of a birthday party back home in NYC, we surprised the kids with a special character lunch at Cinderella’s Royal Table at the Magic Kingdom to celebrate Lucia’s upcoming sixth birthday.  The experience was absolutely unforgettable, as the beloved Disney Princesses master being present with each child in a way that makes them feel incredibly special.   It was truly childhood enchantment at its finest – described by Lucia as the best day of her life.

disneydisney 1disney 2Cinderella's Royal Table Disney World

Venturing to Epcot to find Queen Elsa and Anna at Norway Pavilion was also a top priority!  The children have been Frozen obsessed ever since we were lucky enough to attend a Frozen Movie screening with Idina Menzel.   Meeting Elsa and Anna was an absolute dream moment for Lucia and Adrian.

frozen Epcot Centerfrozen at epcotphoto(14)visiting Elsa and Anna at Epcot Center

There was so much joy in exploring The Magic Kingdom and Epcot.  Adrian loved Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin and driving a car around the race track at Tomorrowland Speedway in the Magic KingdomLucia’s Magic Kingdom favorites were Under The Sea Journey of the Little Mermaid, and dancing with Stitch at Club 626 Stitch’s Dance Party.  The kids met Mickey and friends at the Epcot Character Spot in Epcot, and we all loved venturing through Epcot’s enchanting international pavilions.

dumbo disney worlddriving disneyWalt Disney World Magic Kingdom Cinderella's Casltemeet minnie mouse at epcot centerariel's grotto disney world

Even stolen moments of parental rest and recharge time were memorable.

disney 6dinsey 5

We experienced many acts of over the top kindness – that exemplified the kind of beauty that is inherent with being a part of Disney.  Amidst an incredible line to visit Merida at Fairytale Gardens – we watched staff members direct visitors to clear a path for Merida to escort a child all the way out of Fairytale Gardens.  Merida chatted with the little girl the entire time and her parents had tears streaming down their faces.  These sorts of magical moments are not few and far between at Disney.

merida at magic kindgdom brave merida at disney

I’ll forever remember my children’s wide-eyed wonder in experiencing the beauty of Cinderella’s illuminated castle and seeing Tinkerbell fly through the night sky.  Our long list of treasured moments is filled with holding hands through elaborate parades, sensational performances and spectacular fireworks.  I shed tons of happy tears.  We were pleasantly surprised by the unexpected perspective that Walt Disney World gave us.  In a place of lines and business, every single Disney team member was incredibly kind, patient and welcoming. From Kathy P. at Cinderella’s Royal Table to the present and gracious cast members – Walt Disney World treated us in ways that we want to emulate.

Cinderella's Castle-Disney-World Magic Kindgdom Fireworksdisney parademickey mouse epcotwalt disney world magic kingdom

There isn’t a day that has since passed when the children don’t speak of Disney.  Adrian repeatedly asks if he’s woken up tall enough to go on the rocket ship ride and Lucia greatest hope is to return again someday.  In a few whirlwind days, we stored up an incredible amount of cherished family memories.

Memories of enchantment and real life magic that are a treasured piece of our family story.

photo 2(3)

Special thanks to Walt Disney World for providing two one-day park-hopper tickets for review purposes.  Opinions, as always, are strictly my own.


Blue Man Group at Universal Orlando

After an incredibly exciting day at Universal Studios Orlando, we had the opportunity to see the Blue Man Group perform at the Sharp-Aquos Theatre located at Universal CityWalk.  My husband and I have always wanted to see the production – and we love experiencing live theater as a family.

universal studios orlando blue man group

As soon as the blue-skinned trio appeared on stage, we were all intrigued by the highly creative, playfully peculiar and interactive events that unfolded.  That being said, I anticipated both kids to conk out (or at least show clear signs of overstimulation/tiredness) after a full day at Universal Studios.  Much to my surprise Lucia and Adrian were mesmerized for the show duration.  The kids went wild for the colorful effects, paint explosions and audience interactions including flying toilet paper.  Front row patrons donned protective paint splatter plastic-wear and latecomers arrived to an unexpected surprise.   Adrian (3.5 years) played the air-drums in his seat for a great portion of the show, and was especially intrigued with a percussion instrument that looked like a vibraphone fashioned out of plumbing parts.

While the kiddos related to the messy cereal stuffing, flying marshmallows and of course the references to their current favorite word: butt – the Blue Man Group’s deeper premise really spoke to me.  Through the use of GiPads (giant size tablets) and 2D/3D technology – the blue men comically uncover how modern devices and social media create an inherent disconnect in today’s society.  The production aims to bring people together to examine their own use of technology and collectively create something much larger through interactive theater.  They absolutely accomplish that.  My family’s experience was incredibly entertaining and unlike any other  – right down to the final moments of my husband lifting each child into giant color-changing air balloons released from the ceiling during the audience dance party.

Blue Man Group Universal Orlando, Blue Man Group, Univeral Studios Orlando Blue Man Group,

Special thanks to Blue Man Group for providing tickets for review purposes.  As always, opinions are strictly my own.


Universal Studios Orlando {Review}

Last month, Lucia and Adrian awoke to a monstrous surprise upon hearing that we were heading to the airport to take our first family vacation to Orlando, Florida.  If only I could freeze that moment in time.  Amidst screams of joy and serious bed jumping, I managed to share a bit of info about our destinations.  Adrian’s first questions were: “Can I come?” and “Can  I meet a minion?”.  We were beyond excited to spend our first full vacation day at Universal Studios Orlando.

Universal Studios Orlando review

We entered the gates armed with express passes and quickly spotted the Despicable Me Minion Mayhem ride.  Lucia and Adrian studied the structure in wide-eyed amazement and were quite content staring at their favorite Despicable Me characters plastered everywhere in gargantuan size.  When we finally convinced the kids to make our way over to the line, we moved rather quickly thanks to our express passes.  Although Adrian (3.5 years) didn’t make the height requirement of 40″ – Universal Studios makes the ride accessible to everyone – with a stationary seating option.  After receiving some pretty spiffy glasses, we found ourselves in “minion training” entranced on a 3-D adventure alongside Minions, Gru and his beloved daughters.  My almost six-year-old enjoyed the action-packed motion, and I appreciated my stationary seating next to my son (as I’m prone to motion sickness!).  Adrian loved going to Gru’s house to help save Margo, Edith and Agnes, and best of all his dream came true – he met a real Minion!

minions universal orlando Despicable Me Minion Mayhemmeeting a minionmeeting a minion universal orlando

After another round on Minion Mayhem, Adrian took a massive stroller nap, and we had to time to focus on the big girl. She asked to go on the Transformers: The Ride 3D – which her father described as a high speed battle zone featuring well know Transformers including Optimus Prime and the Decepticons.  My husband had Lucia close her eyes several times when he perceived the battle scenes to be too much for her. She was a bit scared (although it was my husband’s favorite ride!), and we imagine that it will be a huge hit when our kiddos are a bit older.

Transformers The Ride 3D Universal Studios

I explored the park with my napping boy and enjoyed spotting the Blues Brothers before catching their performance.  I experienced a touch of home while strolling around the (meticulously clean!) New York City, and the extravagant Holiday decorations injected our vacation with a special Christmas spirit.  When I caught up with my other two companions, I even climbed a wall (just to show my big girl that I could!).  And unbeknownst to Adrian, the adventures continued in the Springfield area – even while he was sleeping.

Blues Brothers Universal OrlandoNew YorkUniversal Studios Orlando Florida Review

When Adrian woke we ventured to Krusty Burger and Moe’s Tavern to dine Simpson’s style.  The Simpson’s themed restaurants and decor truly look like replicas from the animated television series.  My husband enjoyed their specially brewed Duff Beer, and I was pleased with the healthy food options (I had a salad, the kids had fish, fruit and hummus).

simpsons universal orlando

After meeting a bunch of Simpson’s characters, the kids’ energy levels seemed to skyrocket, so off we went to Fievel’s Playland to run around. They jumped, climbed and ran through ball pits, netted climbing structures and gigantic props from the films American Tale and Fievel Goes West.  Although Bob and I were intently watching Lucia and Adrian, it gave us a bit of a break to converse alone about the day’s adventures.  We literally had to carry our kids out of the play area to pack in more rides.

Fievel's Playland Universal OrlandoUniversal Studios Orlando with Little Kids Universal Studios Orlando for young kids

We finally made our way over to E.T. Adventure –  a ride that is incredibly nostalgic of my own (and Bob’s) 80’s childhood.  I loved that the ride didn’t feel modernized (there are no advanced motion-simulation elements) and transported us back a few decades with real props and magnificent scenery.  After handing in our Interplanetary Passports, we all enjoyed riding side by side bikes on a truly magical adventure.

ET Universal Orlando

The express passes cut down on our wait times considerably, allowing us to enjoy rides without wasting time in lengthy lines.  We found the park to be incredibly clean, and the staff was warm and welcoming.  We packed so many adventures into one day, and there were still things that we didn’t have the chance to squeeze in.  Our entire vacation was made much easier by renting a double stroller via Kingdom strollers. Although I had qualms about giving my near six year old the option of sitting in a stroller, she absolutely needed it during lengthy days at the parks.  Kingdom strollers gave us a seamless experience with an on-location drop-off and pick-up.  Furthermore, our City Mini Double had ample storage space to haul all of our gear and the single hand fold made for easy transports.

Kingdom Strollers Review Florida

We ended our memory-filled day by taking in an intensely creative Blue Man Group performance (catch my full review within the next few day).  I’m hanging on to memories of my kids excitement during the Minion ride and while spotting their favorite characters in the parade.  I don’t think I’ll ever forget riding  bicycles into the moonlit sky with my family on E.T’s Adventure, and we hope to return with plans to spend a few more days at both of Universal Orlando’s parks.  We left with an incredible amount of memories packed into one day and can’t recommend Universal Orlando enough – It is truly a memory making destination full of endless family adventures.

Despicable Me Minions Universal Studios despicable me minionsponge bob square pants universal studios orlando parade universal orlandoFamily vacation at Universal Orlando

Special thanks to Universal Orlando for providing my family with park tickets/express passes for review purposes – our family experiences were incredible.  And thank you to Kingdom Strollers for providing a stroller for review as well.  As always, opinions are strictly my own.



NYC Cruise

My husband and I met during our first year of college when we were 19 years old.  We often talk about our early years.  Together, our meshed memories become crystal clear, but in many ways they feel like a lifetime ago.  It’s important to give time and attention to marriage, and we were both feeling in need of quality time together.  I’m so excited to share our Sunday date because we had the chance to take in New York City unlike we ever had before.  We boarded Entertainment Cruises, Bateaux New York, a European-inspired, glass enclosed vessel for a gourmet brunch cruise along New York’s harbor.

NYC gourment cruisegourmet lunch cruise nycBrooklyn BridgeJane's CarouselStatue of Liberty NYC cruise hudson river_edited-1NYC Cruisehudson river cruiseNYC Gourment Lunch CruiseNYC Cruise Xperience Days

This unparalleled experience was set up via Xperience Days, a company that makes booking dates and gifting unique experiences simple as they cater to a variety of price ranges and experiences.  Although I was tempted to arrange something more adventurous, our date gave us the sort of  respite that we were looking for – time together.  We spent a great deal of time outside on the deck as we cruised the Hudson and East Rivers, past the Brooklyn Bridge, Battery Park City, The South Street Seaport, The Verrazano Bridge, Governor’s Island and Ellis Island.  We cruised passed skyscrapers, enjoyed champagne, a delicious meal and stunning views.  So many of our memory-making locations were incredibly different from our perspective on the water.  I couldn’t help but tear up (which I pretty much do all the time) when we pulled right up to the Statue of Liberty.  I hadn’t been that close to Lady Liberty since the 8o’s, and the sun was shinning on her in a way that felt purposeful.  I’m happy to report that I didn’t once feel like I was going to get sick (I’m ridiculously prone to motion sickness) and the two hour excursion felt like the perfect time allotment.  I don’t think that we would have considered a harbor cruise for a date on our own accord and are grateful to have had what now feels like a lasting memory.

Tickets were provided via Xperience Days. As always, opinions are solely my own.


Family Travel With JetBlue Family Pooling

A few years ago I took my husband and Lucia to meet my mother’s (huge) family in Medellin, Colombia.  It was an amazing experience to be surrounded by loving family that I’ve lived so far away from for my entire life.  Although we hoped to return again soon, we haven’t been back since.

Medelllin Colombia

Me and baby LP in the house my mother grew up in.

JetBlue just made that trip to Colombia (or anywhere else) much easier with the introduction of their new “Family Pooling” feature for their TrueBlue rewards program members.  With “Family Pooling”, up to seven people (two adults and five children) can actually pool their miles into one single account.  JetBlue is the first airline to offer this consolidation of points feature among “family” (defined as a group of people united by a common affiliation), allowing members to accumulate and redeem points easier and faster.

I had the chance to meet with the JetBlue team at their headquarters in Long Island City last week.  As the daughter of a mechanical engineer (my father designed airplane engines), I found the behind the scenes walk through incredibly interesting.  I grew up attending air shows and last week I had the opportunity to learn about the intricate details that go into operating an airline. I also learned that the “Family Pooling” program was implemented as a response to customer feedback.  It quickly became clear that JetBlue wanted a sound system for members to easily redeem their points.

My family is incredibly excited about JetBlue’s Family Pooling (no transfer fees, no expiration dates, no blackout dates and no wasted miles!).  To learn more about program details visit the JetBlue website.

I received TrueBlue miles during my visit to JetBlue HQ, however, all opinions are strictly my own.


Sesame Place Visitor Tips

I often wonder what specific pieces of early childhood my children will remember most.  Undoubtedly, they’re likely to remember my responses, actions and displays of love (one can hope!).  I’m also pretty sure that some of our adventures will become stand out memories.

We haven’t yet been to Disney World, but we do have a place of childhood magic just ninety minutes away from NYC at Sesame Place.  The kids go absolutely bananas at the prospect of visiting, and we’ve been lucky enough to have attended a handful of media events at Sesame Place.

Sesame Place recently opened for their 2013 Season and we decided to surprise the kids by not filling them in on our plans to visit on opening day.  We arrived to a bambini parking lot freak out (the good kind!) and thoroughly enjoyed watching the immense joy through excited eyes.  Each trip has been incredibly memorable with fun filled experiences.  This time Lucia was big enough to ride her first roller coaster (the vapor trail) and Adrian had plenty of running hugs to give to his favorite furry friends. I even had my own moment of massive public embarrassment when the staff was kind enough to shut down a kiddie ride on my behalf when motion sickness nearly got the best of me (memorable indeed!).

Here are a few of my visitor tips:

Book A Character Meal 
If your children love character interaction than a character meal is the way to go.  You will not be paying for the experience of amazing food, but for the experience of watching your child/children interact with every single one of the characters. The characters also make their way to the tables during the meal, and a Conga line and dance party take place in the end.  It is hands down a worthwhile (and photo worthy) experience.  If character meals don’t fit into the budget, there are still plenty of opportunities to catch characters around the park and at the designated Smile With Me photo stations (just be prepared to wait in a line).

Plan Food and Drinks ahead of Time
For some families, dinning at Sesame Place is part of the experience. You can leave with the BPA-free Elmo plates and character cups to reuse at home as a memory from your trip.  Although Sesame Place has made great efforts to become more healthy with salad options and substitutions of apples for french fries – I find it helpful to pack a small cooler of snacks and water for the entire family.  It’s especially important to hydrate as the day will most likely involve a lot of walking and sun exposure!

Rent a Locker
Lockers are available to rent in the front of the park and renters can visit them as many times as needed.  Locker are a great place to stash an extra set of clothes, towels, and things that would generally weigh you down during your day at the park.

Stay in a nearby Hotel
There are so many affordable near by hotels, and it’s fun to turn the Sesame Place experience into an entire weekend.  In addition, second day admission is FREE with the purchase of one ticket.  I also think that it is exhausting to drive home after a full day in the park. 

Give Proper Warning
As in many aspects of parenting, it’s important to give kids proper warning about when the day will come to an end.  We always leave after the magical parade experience and sort of assumed that our children would remember our arrangement.  On our recent trip, I only mentioned our exit plans once to the little guy, and he had a serious meltdown when it was time to go.  Make sure to give the little ones warning to keep the excursion fun for all!

As a Sesame Place Sunny Day Blogger, Sesame Place provided Media Tickets and an invitation to a media day happy hour event.  All opinions in this post are strictly my own.