Newly Re-Imagined Disney Magic Sets Sail @DisneyCruise

Disney is at it again, they’re making magic aboard the Disney Magic cruise ship. We have never been on a cruise, it’s on our family holiday wish-list. When you combine Disney and cruising it seems you can’t go wrong!

Captain Mickey on the Disney Magic

There’s an extra dose of magic aboard the Disney Magic, with new spaces, re-imagined areas and exciting additions for the whole family. Guests can now experience new adventures from bow to stern throughout their journey on the cruise ship that set the standard for oceangoing majesty and family fun.

Marvel’s Avengers Academy

From a new grand atrium lobby and a children’s area of “super hero” proportions to a three-story water thrill slide and a spa to stimulate the “Senses,” there are plenty of new and magical surprises in store for cruise guests. The ship features fun new experiences with Marvel characters—the first time super heroes from the Marvel universe have been introduced on a Disney Cruise Line ship.

MICKEY'S POOL ON THE DISNEY DREAM

The upper ship decks of the Disney Magic have been redesigned for plenty of splashtacular fun, with waterful adventures that include a three-story water slide for thrill-seekers and a Huey, Dewey and Louie-themed toddler splash zone for smaller ducklings.

Disney Magic Animator’s Palate – Drawn to Magic

Animator’s Palate, one of the most popular restaurants on the Disney ships, is updated with all-new, animation-adorned walls and larger high-definition flat-screens to provide the best views of the animation magic that takes place all around. New furnishings all around the interior of the restaurant, including custom-built Mickey Mouse chairs, provide a fun feast for the eyes, while the delectables and dishes provide a feast for the palate.

Disney Magic Upgrades at a Glance

  • A Grand First Impression – When guests board the Disney Magic, they enter the grand atrium lobby that is redesigned to be “elegant art deco, inspired by elements of the sea,”
  • Disney, Disney-Pixar & Marvel Characters Join the Fun – With Marvel now a part of the Walt Disney Company family, this marks the first time the super hero icons of Marvel have been introduced on a Disney Cruise Line ship. Marvel and Walt Disney Imagineers have created a new space for children to enter into the Marvel Universe.
  • Disney’s Oceaneer Lab – 3 to 12-year-old children go on a journey of discovery, exploration and adventures. At this new pirate-themed area, children are encouraged to create, play and explore. An animator’s studio, a pirate workshop and lab lets kids get hands-on to create experiments and art projects, and Navigator Simulators let young buccaneers steer a ship through the mysterious waters of the Caribbean.
  • H2  … OH! – The upper ship decks of the Disney Magic have been redesigned for plenty of splashtacular fun, with waterful adventures that include a three-story water slide for thrill-seekers and a Huey, Dewey and Louie-themed toddler splash zone for smaller ducklings.
  • Disney Dining With an Extra Dash of Pixie Dust – New restaurants and new technology are on the menu for the restaurants aboard Disney Magic.
  • The Fun’s Just Begun When Nighttime Comes – After a day of soaking in the sun on the decks and enjoying activities around the ship, Disney Magic offers big city-style fun in After Hours, the nighttime adult entertainment district. An all-new lineup of clubs includes venues for dancing, comedy, music and variety shows. After Hours replaces Beat Street, formerly on the Disney Magic.
  • Open Up, and Say ‘Spa’ – For the ultimate in relaxation and pampering, the enhanced Senses Spa & Salon offers many indulgences. Redesigned with a sleek and contemporary style, this haven of personal harmony provides an unmatched ocean-view environment. The size of the spa has been expanded by 725 square feet, to a total size of nearly 11,500 square feet.
  • Family Fun in the D Lounge – Another re-imagined area, D Lounge, offers a variety of family-friendly games, shows, dances and activities designed for all ages. Colorful and contemporary, this space encourages creative and kinetic fun. Families can enjoy entertainment, game shows and activities together in D Lounge which replaces Studio Sea, formerly on the Disney Magic.
  • Putting more ‘room’ in staterooms – Disney Cruise Line knows that traveling families always need more space, so features are included in each room to provide more usable space. Bed frames are elevated to provide storage space underneath. The bathrooms include the split-bath feature that Disney introduced to the cruise industry—providing even greater convenience to guests.

 

Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post, all opinions are my own.

 

 

Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party 2013

Each year Walt Disney World is transformed overnight into the ultimate Halloween experience one can see. Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween party takes place on select nights from 7:00 PM to midnight, September 10 to November 1, 2013.

mickeys not so scary halloween party image

In typical Disney style the transformation is magical, it’s more than a few decorations; over 20 truckloads of Halloween regalia is set up to create a magical setting for memories to be made. People leave the park at night and return in the morning to find the entire 30,080 acres has become something different and oh-so beautiful!

Mickeys not so scary halloween party

As we stepped off of the boat at the entrance we actually gasped as we gazed upon the amazing decorations, how could one resist this photo op?

mickeys not so scary halloween family

As you can see my husband was into the mood with Sydney, their “Scary” factor was higher than that at Magic Kingdom.

mickeys not so scary entrance

We arrived in time to catch a good ‘ol fashioned marching band playing down Main Street USA, if you get this chance sit and enjoy, they’re brilliant!

mickeys not so scary halloween main street

We enjoyed the day at Magic Kingdom but we happily headed back to the hotel to get changed into our costumes, the party started at 7pm and we wanted to be ready! Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party entrance is not included in your day pass, it is a separate ticket to purchase but it is one add-on I’d highly recommend. Our Canadian children who attended #HalloweenHaunt were really happy to be dressing in a Halloween costume sans a snowsuit…at home that just never happens.

mickeys-not-so-scary-halloween-party-myorganizedchaos

Image Courtesy of www.myorganizedchaos.net

Mickey’s Not-S0-Scary Halloween Party

When you enter Magic Kingdom for Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween you’re immediately surrounded by fog, lights, decorations and even eerie sounds. The mood is set, the kind Disney folks hand you a bag when you enter so you can also Trick or Treat while partying!

mickeys not so scary halloween dancing main st

Entertainment

The park is filled with sights and sound to entertain but there are also extra special things for everyone to enjoy! We were strolling through Tomorrow Land when we came across a surprise! Sulley and his friends from Monsters Inc. were holding a dance party! The joy on our little Chelsea’s face was palpable and my heart jumped as I watched her overcome her shyness and get into the groove.

party

Even the reserved Miss Sydney got into the dancing spirit once she saw that it was cool by Sulley’s standards! During the Halloween Party there are 2 of these dance parties happening every night so mark it down on your itinerary.

Image Courtesy of www.MyOrganizedChaos.net

Image Courtesy of www.MyOrganizedChaos.net

Disney Villains Dance Mix and Mingle! 
Some of your favorite baddies from Disney films rock you with this thrilling opening number in front of a ghostly Cinderella Castle. When the number is over, the villains veer into the crowds for meet and greets.

Frontierland 
Venture into Frontierland where you might even meet a barbershop quartet of dead cowboys who sing songs in the style of the Dapper Dans. They like “axing” Guests questions and answering with puns as part of their “dead pan” humor.

Mickey’s “Boo-to-You” Halloween Parade 

paradeDuring the party there are 2 Boo-To-You parades you simply must see. It’s a treat to the eyes, with floats, characters music and more!

Happy Halowishes

Image courtesy of www.MyOrganizedChaos.net

Image courtesy of www.MyOrganizedChaos.net

Get ready to be impressed by Walt Disney World’s Happy Halowishes, a special fireworks party to commemorate the haunting season! With music from past spooky Disney films, a fast-paced light show and fireworks to set you on edge this is a MUST SEE!

mickey no so scary halloween fireworks castle

Trick Or Treating

Throughout Magic Kingdom there are locations where you can offer up your bag to receive some treats. When I say you receive treats, I mean HANDFULLS of high-quality treats (Disney didn’t scrimp on this one). Again the children were thrilled as they watched their bags fill quickly. These treat locations are marked on the party maps which you can find throughout the park. If you don’t have a map, just watch out for cast members carrying the tell-tale Halloween Mickey sign.

trick or treat

If you happen to get caught up in all of the Halloween magic and forget to find the treat stations, don’t worry there’s one on the way out and the cast members are generous!

Mickeys not so scary halloween trick or treatMeeting Disney Characters

Another nice thing about Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween party is the lessened size of crowds. This means the lineups to meet Disney characters is much smaller than they normally would be. At different locations in Magic Kingdom you can find your favourite characters waiting to meet you, sign an autography and even get a picture or 2. If you’ve forgotten your camera, no worries check out the PhotoPass feature, Disney will snap photos of your family for you to enjoy later.

buzz

If there was one character I was going to get a photograph with, it had to be BUZZ! To Infinity and Beyond!

soberjulie with buzz

Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween party was a total hit with our family and friends. We all agree it far exceed our expectations and is truly something one must experience to believe. If you’d like to learn more about the party, head over to the Disney website which is stocked with info.

Disclosure: Our stay was provide in exchange for sharing our experience and truthful opinions.

Our Review of Island Grand by TradeWinds Resorts in St Pete Beach

This month our family had the pleasure of heading to Florida for a much needed holiday. We spent part of our trip at Walt Disney World after which we headed further south to the lovely community of St Pete Beach to enjoy some sun and sand.  St Pete Beach has many different accommodation choices, we chose to stay at the Island Grand by TradeWinds Resorts which happens to be smack dab on one of the most gorgeous beaches I’ve ever seen. In an earlier blog post I’ve written all about why we chose the Island Grand, head over to read it HERE.

Photo: TradewindsResort.com

Photo: TradeWindsResort.com

Today’s article is all about  our experience, we fell utterly in love with St Pete Beach and the Island Grand and I can only hope to be able to reflect why. Grab yourself a cup of coffee, sit back and get comfy because this could take a while. The resort is jammed with activities and amenities worthy of telling you about.

Arrival

Arriving at Island Grand we were excited and probably very chatty as we drove up to the gate house. There a friendly man greeted us, checked our names against a list of incoming guests and guided us to the front entrance. As we pulled up near the front door a staff member immediately appeared, greeted us and began joking with the kids. He called over a porter who loaded our bags onto a cart and we headed to the reception desk. Check in was simple, the staff is courteous and thankfully wrote down any and everything we needed to know. This is a large resort so I was thankful for the reception clerk’s notes on the map in the upcoming days.

Our Room at Island Grand by TradeWinds Resorts

Island Grand has 13 different accommodation choices to suite the needs of it’s guests. From your standard hotel room to pet friendly suites you can almost find a room which would suit anyone’s tastes. We stayed in a Tropical One Bedroom Suite which was perfect for our family, it actually surpassed any expectations we had.

Our suite was recently renovated, as we opened the door we immediately found ourselves in the bedroom which was decorated in warm, inviting tones. Each of the queen beds had mattresses which were of excellent quality and provided the perfect amount of support for my bad back. The beds were made with soft linens, a light coverlet and extra bedding was available in the event we needed it.

There was one dresser in the room, along with a full sized closet and one side table which had space for storage. There was a TV in the room which made separating the girls for down time simple, one in the living room and one in the bedroom = everyone happy.

Tradewinds Island Grand Bedroom

At the far end of the bedroom there is a solid door which lead to a hallway. This door allows the bedroom to remain a quiet zone when other family members were talking or watching TV in the living space, further into the suite. Passing through that door you find yourself in a hallway with the doorway to the bathroom on your left.

The bathroom was also recently renovated and we really liked the warm tones chosen. The counters are granite, the towels fluffy and absorbent, the bath products left to use are of higher quality and the space was spotless. The counter space was something which impressed me, far too often we see hotels skimping and it ends up being a hassle to organize all of the products our family needs available. Not an issue here.

Tradewinds Island Grand Bathroom

Leaving the bathroom you continue down a bright hall a few steps and find yourself in the living space. The far wall is completely windows and right now I’m resisting the urge to share the VIEW with you and stay on program describing the living room and kitchen…sigh just like when we were there the view is drawing me in.

This suite has a kitchen which suited our needs. There are all the amenities from home one would need to serve meals as preferred.  There is a microwave, cooktop, toaster, coffee maker, fridge and all the plates, glasses and utensils one would expect. There is also a mini-bar stocked with beverages and snacks which runs on an automated system. The moment you remove something from the mini-fridge it’s billed to your account, this is important to note…worthy of a family meeting to explain to the children.

We had a rental car so it was simple to load up on groceries, we made sure to keep the fridge stocked with water and other drink/snack choices for our days on the beach or poolside.

Tradewinds Island Grand Kitchen

The living room was large enough for all four of us to chill out in together. The couch pulls out into a double bed which surprisingly the kids didn’t insist upon using…guess those beds were just too comfy to resist. With a wall of windows overlooking the beach, the room was consistently bright and fresh feeling.

Tradewinds Island Grand Living Room 2

Tradewinds Island Grand Living room

Here we go…onto the view!

This suite comes with a balcony, it’s narrow but one hardly notices because there are cute little chairs and the VIEW simply captures you. This was a feature of the room which my husband and I especially enjoyed. At night once the kids were sleeping, we’d sit here and enjoy time alone. It’s time which is precious to us as a married couple and as we celebrated our 11th anniversary on that balcony, it’s time we won’t forget.

Tradewinds resort view

Tradewinds Island Grand View

One morning as I sat quietly enjoying the view, Chelsea came out, leaned on the balcony rail and asked “Does every kid in the United States wake up to this mama?”…sigh, she’s so adorable.

tradewinds island grand view in morning

Activities at Island Grand by Tradewinds Resorts

There are simply too many activities for children at Island Grand for me to list. I’m going to choose a few of our favourites to feature here but please do head to their website to see a full list.

There are 7 heated pools within walking distance at TradeWinds which again are designed to suit the needs of everyone. We spent most of our time in one of the deeper pools which also had a toddler pool, perfect for those families with little ones. Right next to this pool is the children’s activity centre “Konk” which holds daily activities for a fee. You can also enrol your child in different supervised programs in Konk if you’d like some time alone with your spouse.

tradewinds pool

The beach front pool is flanked by a restaurant, the adventure centre (where you get free towels and pool/beach toys are available to purchase) and has quick access to the beach. It’s also a lovely spot to relax in the sun on a windy day when the beach winds were a bit too much.

tradewinds beach side pool

Our kids managed to make fast friends with another family during our stay and these kids were enamoured by the meandering river which winds its way under bridges around the resort. They were chuffed when they found out there are FREE paddle boats which they could take out. I’m not sure the lovely swans in the river were quiet ready for this bunch!

paddleboats tradewinds

Who knew that ping-pong would be such a draw for our eldest daughter? Apparently she has a VERY competitive streak (like her Mum) and insisted on daily ping-pong matches with my husband and anyone else who happened to walk by. This was some old fashioned fun which was hilarious to watch….we may have lost some ping pong balls in the river…

tradewinds island grand ping pong

Each day there is something scheduled for the children, from poolside game invasions to campfires our kids were keeping track and having a BLAST! It was a pleasure to be able to attend the activities without ever having to leave the resort to do something different.

Tradewinds Island Grand fire

Food & Drink

When travelling to a resort for a holiday, we often find ourselves bored with the food and drink choices after a few days. This simply didn’t happen at the Island Grand. Between our own meals which we made in our suite and the restaurant choices available we found a variety of foods which was more than acceptable. We enjoyed the breakfast buffet, a pizza party and even some fine dining!

tradewinds food

How could I possibly be on a trip without a Mocktail? There are some fabulous choices available for non-drinkers…like this beauty!

tradewinds island grand mocktail

The Beach

I could easily write an entire article based solely upon the experiences our family had on the beach, honestly it’s left me with such deep-rooted feelings that I am transported back there by simply looking at the photos. Sigh, its white sand, the breeze, the feeling of the sun on my skin…it’s all coming back to me as I light the fireplace here in the ‘burbs.

With your resort amenity fee you are granted access to many things, including these gorgeous cabanas. You simply sign yours out for the day and you can come and go as you like. From the cabana you can order yourselves food and drink whenever you’d like, simply scan a barcode located on the cabana table and you can use the FREE wifi to place your order which will be brought to you beachside. How awesome is that!

tradewinds island grand cabana

The kids simply aren’t going to lounge on the beach all day, thankfully there are games and of course the massive High Tide Water Slide for them to enjoy! This was a hit with my children and even my husband….and I managed to capture some of it on film…

From sun up to sundown we were drawn to the beach, in the evening when the tide came in we found jellyfish along the beach which lead to some learning opportunities with the girls.

tradewinds jellyfish

There were also dolphins which we were able to see both from the beach and our balcony, talk about a sense of awe watching them emerge and play. Unfortunately I didn’t even think to grab my camera with the zoom lens but I did manage to capture this one from our balcony, you can just see the dolphin diving.

dolphin

Now I’ll share some of the amazing images from among the hundreds I snapped during our beach time…

Island Grand by tradewinds resort beach family

Island Grand by tradewinds beach with kids

island grand by tradewinds resort beach

Final Thoughts

Our trip to Island Grand by TradeWinds Resorts in St Pete Beach far surpassed any expectations we may have had. The staff are friendly, professional and courteous, the grounds are well thought-out and maintained. Each day we discovered something new to enjoy and this goes down as one of our BEST family trips in history!

You can find out more by connecting with TradeWinds Resorts on Facebook, Twitter or by visiting their website.

 

Disclosure: We were provided our accommodations in return for sharing our honest opinion.

Big Family or Craving Quiet at Walt Disney World? The Cabins at Fort Wilderness has it all #DisneyHaunt

Travelling with our family of 4 should be a simple thing, a standard room fits a “normal” family of our size easily and it should be a no brainer right? Not so much for our little crew I’m afraid. We just don’t fit into that little box and only realized this by trial and error. We have 2 very different girls who are 7 and 9, we knew this before ever booking a hotel room for the night but we had NO idea how different their sleeping needs are until we were stuck in hotel room at bedtime with one yelling at the other to be QUIET!

You see we have one daughter who chatters herself to sleep while the other seeks utter silence and darkness to drift off to slumber. This has proven to be a HUGE challenge in the past when we’ve had to share accommodations, to the point where we now book rooms which allow them to sleep apart. These little darlings also need downtime, the ability to decompress from the events of the day and to clear their little brains of sights, sounds and just relax.

We recently had the pleasure of being invited to Walt Disney World by Disney Canada to experience #DisneyHaunt. Walt Disney World is one of our favourite vacation spots which I’ve written about in a number of articles which you can find HERE. Cabins at Fort Wilderness at Walt Disney World really hit the mark for our family’s accommodation needs, let me show you in more detail..

Fort Wilderness Cabins

With over 750 acres of forested property, Disney’s Fort Wilderness resort and campground truly makes you feel like you’re escaping the hustle and bustle. Our little cabin set the tone immediately, it was rustic and cozy.

The Cabins

Disney Fort Wilderness Cabin Outside

Chelsea presenting our cabin!

Each cabin is well thought-out, with your own driveway you are assured space for your vehicle which you may want as this resort is quite remote. There is a bus system within the resort but it can take up to 20 mins for a bus to arrive and get you to the point where you transfer to the outer Disney buses to the theme parks. This may not matter to many people, but it’s nice to have the parking available for those who choose to rent a vehicle.

The cabins also have their own decks, we enjoyed this as it was another space for us to rest and enjoy watching the creatures walk through the forest. One evening while sitting on the deck with my husband we had an armadillo walk past our deck which I can honestly say was a first for us.

Disney Fort Wilderness Cabin

The cabin interior

Walking into the cabin you’re greeted with vaulted ceilings, a full kitchen, sleeping accommodations for 6 and a full bathroom. There is daily housekeeping and they even do your dishes! If you don’t feel like shopping you can easily phone over an order for groceries which will be delivered for a small fee.

The Murphy bed in the living room

The Murphy bed in the living room

Our cabin had a Murphy bed which we adored, it allowed us to separate the girls at bedtime and assured each a solid night’s sleep.

cabin at fort wilderness Kitchen

Fully Equipped Kitchen

The well appointed kitchen comes equipped with all of the tools and dish ware we needed. There is even an outdoor BBQ if you are the grilling type.

Fort Wilderness Cabin Bedroom

The Bedroom

The bedroom was lovely, it continued with the rustic flair and had adorable bunk beds, along with one for us adults! The mattresses were comfortable and provided good support for my bad back.

WildLife at Fort Wilderness

Over the entire property we were surrounded by nature and its inhabitants. We saw deer, rabbits, wild turkeys, armadillo, lizards, horses and more. The children especially loved chasing the lizards and even managed to catch a few…thankfully no lizards were harmed in the hunt.

Disney Fort Wilderness Turkey

Wild Turkeys Wandering

Disney Fort Wilderness Lizard Catching

Lizard Catching

Activities

At the Cabins at Fort Wilderness there are a variety of activities for everyone to enjoy. From the white sandy beach to checkers games to horse carriage rides you can find something for everyone.  There is the Meadow Swimmin’ Pool which features a corkscrew waterslide, whirlpool spa and kiddie pool or a fort-themed water play area with tot-friendly slides. Just down our cabin’s road there was a “quiet” pool which we enjoyed.

Disney Fort Wilderness Chess

Enjoying an intense checkers match

The resort has free wifi which you all know I used and loved. There is also TV in the cabin which the girls enjoyed later in the evenings.

If you’re a family who craves quiet time like ours or happen to have more than a few children, you really should check into staying at The Cabins at Fort Wilderness. It is a great option to regroup and rest after spending hectic days at the them parks. We highly recommend it and hope to return soon!

Disclosure: We were given our stay free of charge while attending #DisneyHaunt. All opinions are my own.

Luxury & Character, The King Edward Hotel Toronto by OMNI has it all #Link2013

If you’re looking for a hotel which has both luxury and character, The King Edward Hotel Toronto simply must make your short list. They’ve been honing their skills for over 100 years and have mastered the ability to make a guest feel at home. I had the opportunity to stay in this Toronto landmark for the SheBlogs Link2013 conference and was impressed from the moment my foot hit the front steps. From the friendly greeting of the doorman to the minute details, The King Eddy thought of it all.

Photo: www.omnihotels.com

When I attend these Blogger conferences or am present as a Speaker,  I am always on the lookout for certain amenities during my stay. Because I do live with chronic pain some of my needs may be different than other people’s but I think that everyone would appreciate them. The King Eddy just hit all of the marks for me, making my stay a delight and ensuring that my Speaking gig wasn’t affected by my physical issues.

Location

Getting to the King Edward Hotel was simple for me. I don’t drive on major highways, nor in downtown Toronto so I was breathing a sigh of relief when I saw how close it is to Union Station. I hopped on a train in the suburbs and simply walked a few blocks to the hotel from Union Station.

Room Comfort

There are 301 luxury guest rooms, many of which have been upgraded. I happened to stay in one which hadn’t and was still more than satisfied. The mattresses were comfortable and gave my back the extra support I need to get a good night’s rest. The conversation chairs provided space for my roommate and I to catch up on all things conference-related, I had ample room to work on my presentation and the bathroom was simply lovely.

King Edward Hotel rooms

Amenities

When at a conference I’m interested in the amenities which make my stay easier: free wifi, room size, comfortable seating, quiet areas to rest and access to food and drink make my list. Free WiFi, morning beverage and newspaper delivery were included because I registered Omni Select Guest member. The conference rooms and seating were appropriate and I could easily find quiet corners to recharge during breaks or moments when I needed a breather.

Character

From the gorgeous crown mouldings to the closed off 17th floor this hotel’s character cannot be missed. We were granted a tour of the hotel which had us all in awe as we stepped foot onto the 17th floor which houses the Crystal Ballroom. This entire floor was closed down in the late 1950s as a result of new fire codes and has sat empty for more than 30 years. There was a sense in the air around me of the history which had taken place here, I don’t quite know how to explain it but I felt in awe. The guide spoke of the dignitaries and events which this room had hosted as we strolled through and I was mesmerized.

King Eddy 17th floor

There are stories of hauntings within the 17th floor, I don’t know if they’re true but I did offer to spend a night there to find out! Unfortunately due to regulations this isn’t happening but oh how I’d love to.

King Edward Hotel 17th floor

The views of the city and Lake Ontario were breath taking, the Crystal Ballroom is scheduled to be restored and could be in use as soon as 2015 so watch for it to become the venue of choice. I’ll be first on that list!

I only wish I could have stayed longer, there is so much at The King Edward Hotel to explore, alas I had to move on and can only hope to stay in future.

If you’d like to find out more about The King Edward Hotel you can read all about it on the Omni Hotels website, on their Facebook Page or connect with them on Twitter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heading to St Pete Beach to stay at a Tradewinds Resort in Florida

As a family, each of us has a different wish list when we’re planning a holiday. While I’d enjoy spending all of my time shopping and relaxing in the sun, my family has different interests. As you can imagine it can be quite a challenge to find a vacation which hits everyone’s wants and needs (sleep is a priority!).

In the past few years we have fallen in love with Florida, its warm climate, friendly people and fantastic customer service has never let us down. We are actually here in Orlando now, after spending a few days having our minds blown at Disney we are staying steps from the outlets which pleases me immensely! Tomorrow we are heading down to Island Grand, a Tradewinds Resort on St Pete Beach.

TradeWinds Entrance

We specifically chose Island Grand because it has something for everyone in our family at a resort that is not an all-inclusive located right on the beach.

TradeWinds Island Grand has completed all phases of a $20 million renovation project! Renovations include guest rooms, suites and specialty units; meetings space, lobby, Grand Palm Colonnade, and more!

A 20-acre beachfront playground, TradeWinds Island Grand was created with fun in mind. Bask beside one of five heated pools. Let the kids play at the KONK while you indulge in a massage or a romantic dinner. Explore our impeccably landscaped grounds by paddleboat along the meandering waterway. Give our concierge a call to arrange a fishing, golf or snorkeling excursion. At the Island Grand, your choices are limited only by your imagination. You pack your things, we’ll pack your stay.

Activities & Services at Guy Harvey Outpost

The choices here seem endless but each of us has made a wish list of activities which we can enjoy. Many are provided free of cost, and a few will be special treats.

On my list is the Body Works Spa, I’d love to see about getting a pedicure after doing so much walking. I also plan on making good use of the cabanas on the beach, I’m picturing myself utterly relaxed watching the kids play in the water.

CabanaHero3 (2)

Sydney cannot wait to check out Fish Tales with Captain Tim and the Splash Island Water Park. How amazing that there is fishing themed activities for our little angler, honestly this is rare to find located directly within the resort.

Watersports Hero 3

Chelsea is looking forward to having her hair braided on the beach and swooping down the High Tide Water Slide which is right on the beach.

HTS Hero Volleyball

My husband is easy to please. He wanted our own kitchen to prepare meals using local foods, shopping close by and a gorgeous beach. Guy Harvey Outpost has all of his requests and MORE, I cannot wait to see which activities he’ll choose to try.

You can find out more about Tradewinds Resorts on Twitter @TWResorts or FB on their Tradewinds Island Resorts page.

Keep an eye out for my updates over the next few days as we experience all they have to offer. You can find me on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Disclosure: I was provided a stay at this resort for purposes of review; I was not compensated. All opinions are my own. 

We Are Heading to Walt Disney World! #DisneyHaunt

There’s something BIG on the horizon for our little family! Last week I received an email invitation which made me SQUEAL like a little girl…and believe me it’s been a while since that’s happened! Disney Canada has invited our little family down to Walt Disney World to stay at The Cabins at Fort Wilderness Lodge and experience Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween party and the 18th Epcot International Food & Wine Festival!!! We’re tagging it #DisneyHaunt and hope you’ll all follow along on Twitter and Facebook using the hashtag.

#DisneyHaunt

You know how we adore Walt Disney World, earlier this year I told you all about surprising our daughters with a trip to Walt Disney World for Christmas and shared our trip with you over 4 posts which detailed our favourite attractions at each theme park.

There’s not much time to prepare, we’re busy here with home renovations and normal daily activities but together we’re getting our things in order to be able to jet out of here soon to sunnier weather! We have never experienced the hotel or the festivities which we’re getting to go to but oh man they look awesome online! Here are some things we’re looking forward to!

The Cabins at Wilderness Lodge at Walt Disney World

Image https://disneyworld.disney.go.com

Image https://disneyworld.disney.go.com

“Escape to the rustic majesty of America’s Great Northwest. Inspired by turn-of-the-century National Park lodges, Disney’s Wilderness Lodge celebrates American craftsmanship and honors the beauty of the untamed wilderness. Soak in the splendor of the great outdoors, from nature trails through pine forests to rocking chairs that overlook a murmuring creek. Inside, discover towering totem poles, headdresses and more, and sink into a plush leather armchair in front of the roaring fireplace.”~ https://disneyworld.disney.go.com

We are staying in a cabin which is super exciting, they’re rustic, quaint and private. They have so much to do at this resort; from campfires, archery, pools, movies to visiting Circle D Ranch I know the girls will be having a blast!

Image: https://disneyworld.disney.go.com

Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween

Image: https://disneyworld.disney.go.com

Image: https://disneyworld.disney.go.com

“Don your favorite costume and get ready to trick-or-treat at this Halloween-themed event held in Magic Kingdom theme park.”

This is going to be AWESOME, ok I have to get some costumes together which is a challenge but we’re really looking forward to experiencing Mickey’s Halloween. There is trick or treating and eerie entertainment throughout the park. This event is one that you purchase passes to, it’s on from Sept 10- Nov 1st on select nights from 7:00 PM to 12:00 AM.

18th Annual Epcot Food & Wine Festival

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“The 46-day festival, celebrated for its inspired food-and-beverage marketplaces, high-energy concerts and premium dining events, debuts a Scotland Marketplace and adds fresh flavor to the Brazil Marketplace, returning by popular demand.  Griddled lobster tail with garlic butter sizzles at the Hops & Barley Marketplace by American Adventure, and the aromas of more than 25 ethnic and specialized marketplaces — Africa, France, South Korea and Florida Local included — waft across the World Showcase Promenade. Guests can have their own complimentary “passport” stamped at each location for a fun festival souvenir.”

Oh I’m sure you can guess how much I’m looking forward to this! We will be surrounded by delicious foods from around the world and I’ll have the opportunity to see and learn things I wouldn’t otherwise. With our park admission we’ll get authentic Taste seminars, Ocean Spray Cranberry Bog, special book signings, Eat to the Beat concerts, cultural adventures, Marketplace Discovery Passport and all attractions and park entertainment are included with regular Epcot admission.

Other festival highlights include:

  • More than 270 chefs including Disney chefs and culinary stars from across the country
  • Party for the Senses grand tasting events Oct. 5, 12, 19, 26, and Nov. 2 featuring tempting bites from eminent chefs, more than 50 wines and beers and live entertainment.
  • Premium events including “Scotland: Land of Food & Drink” the new “Parisian Breakfast” on Sundays, ”3D” Disney’s Dessert Discovery on select Fridays, and Cheese Seminars on Saturdays.The

The 18th Epcot International Food & Wine Festival is presented by Chase Sept. 27-Nov. 11, 2013.

We are scrambling to prepare and cannot wait to head out but in the meantime if you’d like to offer your costume ideas I’d love the help! Keep up with the chatter on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #DisneyHaunt

 

Santa's Village Giveaway – A FAB Family Outing in Muskoka

As you may have guessed my family adores Muskoka, Canada. We spend much of our summers here, surrounded by lakes and nature scenery you just cannot find anywhere else. Seems fitting to me that Santa also loves Muskoka and spends his summers here at Santa’s Village in Bracebridge, ON.

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Up until this week we had never had the pleasure of visiting Santa’s Village, but thankfully the fine folks at the magical place offered me some passes to experience my favourite holiday in August!

Santa’s Village is located in Bracebridge, Ontario which is in the heart of Muskoka. It’s a 2 hour drive from Toronto and oh-so worth it. Take a day with your family, head up and perhaps stay at the campground on site. You can pull in your own trailer, tent or rent accommodations on site.

The day of our trip to Santa’s Village arrived and we were excited to check it out with 11 of our friends! Hey, if you’re heading to something this special wouldn’t you want to share it? We had two other families meet us there and the chatter reached excruciating pitches as we made our way into the Village.

Santa's Village entrance

The kids excited to head into Santa’s Village

As we walked into the park, I quickly noticed the absence of high-techery which so often greets us these days. There were no HUGE screens screaming at us, no stores pulling the kids in with large purchase items….there was a simpleness which was oh-so-refreshing. The beautiful Christmas theme was well done, the soft Christmas music played in the background and the essence of innocence surrounded us.

One of the first activities the children were drawn to was the Elf Oath. There they stood wearing their complementary elf hats in the middle of the entry square and recited the oath together….honestly it was adorable.

Saying the Elf Oath

Saying the Elf Oath

Activities at Santa’s Village

Santa’s Village has quite an assortment of activities which all ages can enjoy!

Rides

In our group we had kids from the ages of 4 – 12 and I can honestly say that everyone had FUN! From the beautiful Swan Paddle boats, the Red Baron Airplanes, the Peddlecarts to Santa’s Rollercoaster all of the kids agreed that there was something for everyone.

Rides for All Ages at Santa's Village

Rides for All Ages at Santa’s Village

Animals

The kids were jazzed to meet Santa’s reindeer who were enjoying their time in Muskoka. There is also a petting zoo where you can see sheep, goats, a lama and more!

Kids loved feeding Reindeer

Kids loved feeding Reindeer

Food

We enjoyed a lunch together with pizza, burgers, chicken fingers and fries it was HEAVEN to the kids. We adults especially appreciated the long picnic tables which easily accommodated our large party.

Splash Pad

Summers are HOT here in Muskoka and the Splash pad allows everyone to cool off under candy cane fountains! Bring your suits and enjoy this splash pad which has it’s own beach and watch out for the tipping buckets!

splashpad

Sportsland

On the 60 acre property there is an area called Sportsland which is for the older kids & the adults. Here we were able to pay to play, enjoying batting cages, go-carts, laser tag and bungee trampolines. This was a highlight for the Dads of our group and I suspect I’ll have to listen to a certain man brag about being the laser-ninja for some time….

Bungee Trampoline was a Hit

Bungee Trampoline was a Hit

Thank you to Santa’s Village from all of us, we truly had a wonderful day and plan to return!!

Santas Village Collage

WIN passes to Santa’s Village

How would you like to spend a day at Santa’s Village? I’ve been blessed with tickets to giveaway here to one lucky Canadian reader. The prize is a Family Pass for 4 to be used at Santa’s Village this season. Entry is simple, just fill in the Rafflecopter form below.

This giveaway ends August 15th, winner will have 24 hours to respond before another winner is drawn. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Looking for a Summer Getaway? How about Blue Mountain #BlueMtnSummer

School is OUT and many of us parents are looking for ways to occupy our kids, while making some family memories. This isn’t always a simple thing, I know my own children have very different interests and it takes creativity to find things they’ll both enjoy. If you’re looking around for something that would work, why not check out a summer getaway at Blue Mountain?

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Blue Mountain may be known as the Winter playground of choice but did you know they have impressive Summer Programs? This resort is local to us and I can easily extend my personal recommendation! Blue Mountain is in Ontario, Canada, located near Collingwood – just a 90-minute drive from Toronto.

Blue Mountain is now a full four-season destination, with more than 20 activities for all abilities and interests you’re sure to find something for everyone in your family.

Activities at Blue Mountain

There are too many activities to list so please do head over to their website to see them all. I’ll focus on the ones which I know my own family would enjoy.

Last year, the resort opened new attractions, including the

  • Timber Challenge
  • High Ropes and Woodlot Low Ropes,
  • Two aerial obstacle courses featuring suspended logs and cargo nets
  • Cascade Putting Course
  • Mountaintop Segway Tours.
My girls would LOVE the Woodlot Low Ropes

My girls would LOVE the Woodlot Low Ropes

For my two girls who are very different I’d choose one of the Family Packages. There are 2 different choices which would suit us well, the Plunge package or the Summer Adventure package.

Plunge Package:

Plunge! is an aquatic play centre located in the Village, themed to recreate cottage-styled boathouses.  Plunge has indoor-outdoor pools, indoor water playground, hot tubs, rope swings, docks and slides! They even provide towels and lockers so all we’ll have to bring is our swimsuits!

The Plunge Package includes nightly accommodation and one Family Pass (2 adults and 2 children) to Plunge!

Summer Adventure Package

Blue Mountain has so much to do, the Summer Adventure package makes it simple. With this package you receive nightly accommodation and one Active Pack which allows you to save 25% off of activities like Wind Rider Triple Zips, Ridge Runner Mountain Coaster, Timber Challenge High Ropes and Woodlot Low Ropes, Cascade Putting Course and more.

Ridge Runner Mountain Coaster

The Ridge Runner Mountain Coaster

For someone like myself, I can choose something slower like bike rentals, gondola rides, mill-pond or beach activities. This package would be my first choice, simply because we can modify the activities to suit the kids interests and even split up to enjoy them.

The Blue Mountain Village

If you haven’t visited Blue Mountain Village yet, be prepared to be surprised!

The lively Village is located at the foot of the gorgeous slopes and has a culture which cannot be found anywhere else. You’ll be warmly welcomed and can find food, drinks, shops and entertainment to suit any taste.

Accommodations

There are over 1000 different accommodation units to choose from at Blue Mountain. It isn’t easy to choose between hotel-style rooms, suites, condos or chalet homes but I’m sure you’ll be able to find what your travel party needs.

For those of you travelling without children, don’t worry there is an active Night Life, fabulous food and yes, amazing spas to enjoy!

You can find out more about the amenities at Blue Mountain by clicking HERE…..go on, I know you want to see what there is to experience!