How to Make the Most of Your Disneyland Getaway

While it may not be as big as Orlando’s Disney World, the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim is just as packed with rides and attractions for both the young and the young-at-heart. Before you go, expect that you won’t be able to see the entire park, let alone go on every single ride there, in a day. However, you would want to get your money’s worth and experience as much of what the park has to offer.

Here are our ten tried and tested tips on how families with kids can make the most of their Disneyland getaway:

 

Come Early. Depending on the season, both Disneyland and Disney California Adventure usually open around 9 or 10 am Monday thru Thursday, and Disneyland opens around 8 am Friday thru Sunday. One great way to make the most of your visit is simply to come early – not only will you have more hours to spend there, you’d also beat the crowds to the ride lines!

Jungle Cruise is one of the many attractions at the park with a FASTPASS.Jungle Cruise is one of the many attractions at the park with a FASTPASS. (Courtesy Michelle Rae Uy)

Don’t Underestimate the Power of the FASTPASS. It’s completely FREE with your ticket purchase and super easy to obtain. A FASTPASS will help you bypass the long lines at some of the popular attractions, so you won’t have to spend 45 or so minutes of the time you could be spending on other attractions at the park. Simply go to a FASTPASS distribution station, insert your ticket and you will get a FASTPASS ticket with your Return Time to skip ahead. In the meantime, you can enjoy other attractions (ones with shorter wait times), grab a snack, visit the shops or just explore the park in general. Note that sometimes there’s a wait period before you can pull another FASTPASS, so use it wisely!

Start with the Attractions You Really Want. Don’t just go from one ride to the next, without a plan. Before you go, do your research and find out which attractions you want to see and rides you want to go on the most. Save the rest for later when you have some time to spare!

Family getting on the Little Mermaid Ride.Family getting on the Little Mermaid Ride. (Courtesy Michelle Rae Uy)

Don’t Ignore the Less Popular Ones. Especially when you have some time before your FASTPASS Return Time, don’t hesitate to go on the less popular rides. They might not be big hits, but you might just enjoy them. Consider attractions like Ariel’s Undersea Adventure, where your little mermaids get to ride on colorful clamshells and sing along Part of Your World with Ariel, and Pirate’s Lair on Tom Sawyer Island, where you and your little ones can explore caves and tunnels and cross a rope bridge.

Wear Comfortable Shoes. Think about it – if you’re not wearing comfortable shoes, your feet will hurt after a few hours of walking, and chances are, when your feet hurt you’d want to take a lot of breaks – which cuts into your fun time – and you won’t enjoy the rides as much since you’re in pain.

Just Avoid the Crowds. Skip the crowds and go on a weekday instead of a weekend, visit between holidays, or before and after school breaks.

California Adventure ParkCalifornia Adventure Park (Courtesy Michelle Rae Uy)

Buy a Park Hopper. While Disneyland is full to the brim with attractions, there will some rides you’d want skip if the thrill factor is too high or if the ride is too age-specific. If you have a park hopper, then you’d be able to hop on over to California Adventure next door, where there are more exciting, adrenaline-pumping rides that even the younger kids can appreciate. Kids 44 inches and up can take on California Screaming while kids 40 inches and up will enjoy the floating sensation going down The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. Later, the whole family can cool down in the rapids on Grizzly River Run.

See the Parade. It’s normal for the little ones to start getting tired and grumpy, especially after all that exploring, so pick a nice spot on Main Street, USA where you can sit down and rest. Make sure that you have a good clear view of the parade – the festivities will perk your grumpy ones right up!

Wait for the Fireworks. It’s the perfect and most magical way to end your magical day at Disneyland – to watch the spectacular fireworks over Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. In fact, it never seems like a complete Disneyland experience without it.

Grizzly River Run at California Adventure ParkGrizzly River Run at California Adventure Park (Courtesy Michelle Rae Uy)

Stay Another Day. A single day just isn’t enough to explore the park completely, and we bet your little princes and princesses haven’t had their fill yet. So why not book a family-friendly hotel nearby (and there’s a lot, on-site and off-site) and stay another day? You are on vacation so make the most of it. After all, if you’re going to spend your hard-earned money on something, it might as well be on experiences for you and the kids. And Disneyland is definitely an experience.

 

(Originally published on MiniTime.com)

all rights reserved. no part of this blog post may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission from the author.

First Look: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood

I was lucky enough to be one of the journalists invited to preview the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood before it officially opened the next day. Here are some of the photos I took during the special Media Preview.

Hogwarts at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Hogwarts at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Warwick Davis, Evanna Lynch, James Phelps, and Oliver Phelps during panel discussion with media. (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Warwick Davis, Evanna Lynch, James Phelps, and Oliver Phelps during panel discussion with media. (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Evanna Lynch, James Phelps, Oliver Phelps and Tom Felton during panel discussion with media. (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Evanna Lynch, James Phelps, Oliver Phelps and Tom Felton during panel discussion with media. (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Hogsmeade (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Hogsmeade (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Yay for Butterbeer (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Yay for Butterbeer (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Hogsmeade (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Hogsmeade (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Hogwarts students (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Hogwarts students (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Ollivanders (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Ollivanders (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Hogsmeade (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Hogsmeade (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Honeyduke's (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Honeyduke’s (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Wand Selection Ceremony (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Wand Selection Ceremony (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Wand selection ceremony (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Wand selection ceremony (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Inside Ollivander's (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Inside Ollivander’s (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Travel writer Ashley Burnett tries her hand at magic (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Travel writer Ashley Burnett tries her hand at magic (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Frog Choir Performance (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Frog Choir Performance (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Even the bathrooms were designed like the bathrooms at Hogwarts (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Even the bathrooms were designed like the bathrooms at Hogwarts (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
More of the stars from the movies (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
More of the stars from the movies (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
The Monster Book Of Monsters (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
The Monster Book Of Monsters (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Entrance to Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Entrance to Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Sirius' motorcycle (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Sirius’ motorcycle (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Shop at Hogsmeade (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Shop at Hogsmeade (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)

 

Hotel Review: Cabana Bay Beach Resort

Why Go: Go back in time and find out what it was like living in the 60s at Universal Resort Orlando’s family-friendly Cabana Bay Beach Resort, where the retro cool style of Mad Men meets the fun, futuristic utopia of The Jetsons.

The latest onsite hotel addition to one of the most popular theme park resorts in the world is perfect for families with a penchant for bright colors and vintage design. And as Universal Orlando’s first value-to-moderate hotel, Cabana Bay Beach Resort treats guests, young and old, to pretty, candy-colored aesthetics, great kid-friendly pools, plush beddings and easy access to the theme parks at super affordable rates.

Cabana Bay Beach ResortCabana Bay Beach Resort (Courtesy Universal Orlando)

Getting There: Situated next to Interstate 4, Cabana Bay Beach Resort is easily accessible whether you’re driving from another city or taking the shuttle from the Orlando International Airport 20 minutes away. A complimentary shuttle is available to and from the theme parks.

Getting Oriented: The retro-themed hotel sits on the Southwestern corner of the Universal Orlando complex, with Universal’s Islands of Adventure directly to the North and Loews Royal Pacific Resort to the East.

Family suite at the Cabana Bay Beach ResortFamily suite at the Cabana Bay Beach Resort (Courtesy Universal Orlando)

Room Options: Families large and small will find the rooms at Cabana Bay pleasantly comfortable and roomy. A family of four will enjoy spacious accommodations in a standard room with two queen beds while a family of six will find a family suite with a kitchenette, an additional full-size sofa bed and extra large bathroom to their liking. Large and multi-generational families will love the connecting rooms and suites perfect for spreading out while still having easy access to one another.

For the Whole Family: Picnic tables, a lawn, a pool table, and a bean bag toss give families plenty of fun things to do together at the resort. However, water fun is never far away on days when you want a break from the theme parks and need to cool down and relax.

Pool at the Cabana CourtyardPool at the Cabana Courtyard (Courtesy Universal Orlando)

Separated into two courtyards – Cabana Courtyard and Lazy River Courtyard, Cabana Bay’s huge recreation area boasts two big, zero-entry pools (open from 8 am to 11 pm) with plenty of umbrellas and lounge chairs, a lazy river, a waterslide, a hot tub, a small sand beach, and several cabanas to rent for privacy. The Cabana Courtyard features one pool, the waterslide, the cabanas and Atomic Tonic for refreshments. The Lazy River Courtyard, on the other hand, is home to the lazy river, the second pool, the sand beach and The Hideaway Bar & Grill.

Indoors, the resort’s 10-lane bowling alley and restaurant, Galaxy Bowl, give families the option to hit the lanes while having casual dinner. There are also several shopping and dining opportunities, including a Starbucks and a Universal Gift Shop.

Just for Kids: Little ones will love the kids’ splash pad located next to the waterslide at the Cabana Courtyard. Big kids, tweens and teens will enjoy the arcade games at Game-O-Rama, which features old school classics like skeeball.

Galaxy BowlGalaxy Bowl (Courtesy Universal Orlando)

Where to Eat: The full-service hotel offers six gastronomic opportunities. Poolside eats and drinks available at The Hideaway Bar & Grill, which serves burgers, sandwiches, wraps, chicken wings, hot dogs, fries, salads and deserts. Bayliner Diner, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, is great for quick, indoor dining with their burgers, pizza, pasta and grab-and-go items. Galaxy Bowl serves nachos, spring rolls and wings, salads, sandwiches, burgers and pizza for lunch and dinner.

Atomic Tonic is a great stop for refreshing drinks, while Swizzle Lounge has the perfect nightcap for parents after the kids have gone to bed.

Coffee-drinkers can start their day with a morning boost from the onsite Starbucks.

Insider Tips:

  • If you’re planning on shopping at the parks using your room keycard, make sure to stop at the front desk and have them increase your spending limit so you won’t have to call in every time you spend past the $150 default limit.
  • Don’t carry your shopping bags around the park. Arrange for them to be sent directly to the hotel.
  • The Tube Shack in the Lazy River Courtyard sells tubes at $20, but if you’re looking to save money, bring your own or go on the lazy river without them!
  • Keep an eye out for poolside contests and movies.
  • Remember that you have early park admission to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter one hour before the park opens to the public, a perk that comes very handy as Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade are two of the busiest and most popular areas of the parks.

 

(Originally published on MiniTime.com)

all rights reserved. no part of this blog post may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission from the author.

Insider’s Guide: Universal Orlando Resort

Orlando, Florida, theme park capital of the world, has over 10 amusement parks catering to theme park lovers and Florida vacationers in its huge metropolitan limits. But none of these are more centered on the magic and adventure of the motion pictures than Universal Orlando Resort and its two theme parks.

Less than 10 miles from Downtown Orlando, the family-friendly theme park resort, currently celebrating its 25th anniversary, gives visitors unique opportunities to relive their favorite movies and TV shows, and has rightly earned a top spot as a vacation destination for families and movie lovers everywhere, attracting millions from all over the globe each year.

From Jurassic Park island and the Revenge of the Mummy adventure to the two Wizarding Worlds of Harry Potter and the Minion Mayhem ride, the resort certainly lives up to its catchphrase, “Ride the Movies.”

 

Sleep

Whether you are on the budget, planning to splurge or traveling with a large group, Universal Orlando is more than ready to accommodate your family with its four onsite hotels, three of which are deluxe. These kid-friendly hotels provide fantastic, themed accommodations for its guests, not to mention convenient access to the parks and other exclusive perks like Unlimited Express Passes (deluxe hotels only), complimentary shuttle to/from the parks, and complimentary early access to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Universal’s Cabana Bay ResortUniversal’s Cabana Bay Resort (Courtesy Universal Orlando)

Universal’s Cabana Bay Resort. As the resort’s value/moderate hotel and most recent addition, Cabana Bay is a bright and vibrant hotel that will appeal to guests’ retro sensibilities with its gorgeous design that combines Mad Men’s coolness with The Jetsons’s groovy fun factor. The hotel features two kid-friendly pools, a lazy river, a waterslide, and a bowling alley for unlimited fun, as well as connecting rooms, family suites with kitchenettes, restaurants, and a Starbucks.

Loews Royal Pacific Resort. If tropical paradise is more your family’s taste, then the Royal Pacific Resort should be the base for your Universal Orlando vacation. This award-winning deluxe resort delivers an island getaway in the middle of Central Florida with its exotic, tropical island theme complete with three pools, a stunning lagoon with a seaplane, and fantastic island cuisine. The guest rooms and suites offer family-friendly amenities such as high definition cable TVs, refreshment pantry, WiFi, and evening turndown service upon request.

Hard Rock Hotel. While Royal Pacific takes guests to a tropical island getaway, family-friendly Hard Rock Hotel transports guests to sunny California for a fancy celebrity treatment, with its Spanish Mission architecture and rock star lifestyle. Its popular rock ‘n roll memorabilia and its free all-encompassing music amenity program, The Sound of Your Stay, attract music fans, while its four pools give kids plenty of space to splash around in. Music-inspired rooms and suites feature the same amenities as Royal Pacific, but with an A-lister twist.

Loews Portofino Bay Hotel. The most luxurious of Universal Orlando’s hotels, Portofino Bay features a charming Mediterranean theme and design reminiscent of the seaside Italian resort village it is named after, from its waterfront pastel facades down to its piazza. Its two pools, waterslide, character dining and Despicable Me suites are most appealing to the kids, while its Harbor Nights, spa, nightly serenades are appeal to the older guests. Along with its standard rooms and suites that come with luxurious cotton bathrobes are Club rooms that feature a personal concierge service, complimentary breakfast, and afternoon hors d’oeuvres and refreshments.

Loews Sapphire Falls. Coming in the summer of 2016 is the latest full-service Universal Orlando hotel, which will feature 1,000 rooms and suites, a tropical lagoon, a waterfall, and a pool with a waterslide, sand beach and fire pit.

 

Get Your Bearings

Located southwest of Orlando, around 16 miles north of Kissimmee and 13 miles west of the Orlando International Airport, Universal Orlando Resort is separated into 3 main areas – Universal CityWalk, Islands of Adventure, and Universal Studios Florida.

 

Transportation

The resort has an extensive transportation network for its guests that include water taxis, shuttle buses, a Super Star Shuttle to/from the airport and partner hotels, and the Hogwarts Express ride that provides an easy and entertaining access between the two parks.

 

Theme Parks and Water Parks

Universal Studios Florida. Universal Studios Florida, like the original Universal Studios Hollywood in Los Angeles, revolves around the big and small screens, with its attractions based on some of Hollywood’s biggest blockbusters and TV shows like The Mummy, Transformers, Twister, The Simpsons and Harry Potter. It is home to the resort’s most recent attraction addition, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley. Find out what it’s like when a tornado strikes on Twister, become a Minion on Minion Mayhem, and explore the vast underground of Gringotts on Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts.

Universal’s Islands of AdventureUniversal’s Islands of Adventure (Courtesy Universal Orlando)

Universal’s Islands of Adventure. The smaller of the two parks and home to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade, Islands of Adventure takes guests on an adventurous journey through thrilling superhero feats, a prehistoric land, a village in the magical world, and many more. Cool down on Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls and Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges, get a rush of adrenaline on the Incredible Hulk and Doctor Doom’s Freefall, and go on a magical ride on Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.

Wet ‘n Wild Orlando. Located off-site is the popular waterpark acquired by the resort in the early 2000s, featuring water-based attractions that include a lazy river, exciting tube slides, body slides, a surf lagoon, and a water play area for the younger crowd.

Universal’s Volcano Bay. Coming in 2017 is the resort’s first on-site waterpark set to feature a tropical island theme.

 

Tickets

Universal Studios Orlando tickets vary, depending on the length of visit and park access. One-day, single park admissions are at $102 for adults and $97 for kids, while one-day park-to-park admissions are at $147 for adults and $142 for kids, offering a whopping $57 discount. Note that the Hogwarts Express is only accessible to guests with park-to-park tickets.

During peak season, lines are exceedingly long especially for the most popular attractions. If you only have a day or two to spend at the resort, the Universal Express Pass comes in very handy! It gives guests front-of-the-line access to many of the rides, cutting waiting times down to more than half, which will give guests more time to explore other areas of the parks. Express Passes start at $84.99 (in addition to your Universal Studios Orlando tickets), but come complimentary for guests staying at one of the onsite deluxe hotels.

Take a break from the parks and enjoy show night fun with the kids. The very cool, wildly hilarious and super interactive Blue Man Group, a stirring show that combines art, technology and music, inspires creativity in its captive audience. Blue Man Group tickets start at $60 per adult and $30 per child.

 

Beyond the Parks

Universal CityWalkUniversal CityWalk (Courtesy Universal Orlando)

A plethora of shopping, fun and entertainment opportunities are available at the Universal CityWalk, from the Universal Studios Store and a number of retail kiosks that sell park merchandise to its IMAX theater and mini golf.

Perhaps the best thing about Universal CityWalk, however, is the terrific dining experience it offers visitors. While this free area of the resort has the usual chains like Bubba Gump and Hard Rock Café, it’s also home to wonderful unique restaurants like the new Vivo Italian Kitchen and The Cowfish.

 

Peak and Off-Peak Seasons

As a popular vacation destination, Universal Orlando Florida is never not busy, but it’s especially crowded during spring break, from late May to Labor Day, and during the winter holidays.

Off-peak times include the week after Labor Day until just before Thanksgiving, before spring break, and the weeks following Thanksgiving until before the Christmas holidays.

 

Dining

Vivo Italian KitchenVivo Italian Kitchen (Courtesy Universal Orlando)

Vivo Italian Kitchen. Authentic Italian isn’t easy to find, especially at a theme park. That’s what makes Vivo – and its delectable dishes – an unexpected and delightful surprise. A new addition to CityWalk, the modern Italian restaurant prides itself on its flavorful creations, a diverse menu and the friendly, welcoming staff, making it the perfect dining choice for families with kids. Their addictive Risotto with mushrooms and tender short ribs are perfect for a hearty meal after a long, active day at the parks, while their perfectly cooked salmon is great for those looking for a lighter meal. Kids will love the pizza and pasta selections. Start your meal off with the Warm Caprese and its delicious balsamic-tomato jam, and cap it off with a nice cup of Lavazza coffee with hints of chocolate.

The Cowfish. A fusion of burgers and sushi might sound slightly weird, but this new CityWalk restaurant makes it work. The burger bar offers delicious specialty rolls with awesome names like Dion’s OMG! and Firecraker as well as burgers like the Black Truffle Cheese Burger and the Boursin Bacon Burger. Want the best of both worlds? Order a bento box. The kids will love their selection of milkshakes.

Three Broomsticks and Leaky Cauldron. Whether or not you and your family are big Harry Potter fans, dining at these two restaurants legendary in JK Rowling’s world is a must. Enjoy a traditional English breakfast at Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade before the rest of the park opens, and re-nourish at the Leaky Cauldron in Diagon Alley for lunch. Don’t forget to get everyone his or her own “pint” of frozen Butterbeer, a must to complete the Harry Potter experience.

 

Child Swap

Child Swap is a fantastic amenity that will give parents a chance to fully enjoy the Universal Orlando parks without sacrificing their kids’ safety and well-being.

When your kids aren’t tall enough or brave enough one of the more exhilarating rides, be sure to take full advantage of the Child Swap option at Universal Orlando so you and your spouse/partner can go on the rides without waiting in line twice for the same ride. When it’s your turn in line, your spouse/partner waits with your little one in an air-conditioned room furnished with seats and a television while you get on the ride. Once you’re finished, you just switch places with him or her at the Child Swap area so he or she can bypass the lines and simply take his or her turn on the ride.

This feature is available at several thrill rides, including (but not limited to) Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, Revenge of the Mummy, Jurassic Park River Adventure, and the Incredible Hulk.

 

Insider Tips

  • Get the kids their own interactive wands at Ollivanders and let your little witches and wizards perform underage magic at more than 20 spots around Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade.
  • Planning to get wet? Make sure to bring extra clothes for you and the kids. Or pay $5 to dry off inside one of the gigantic People Dryers near Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls.
  • A future archeologist in the family? Visit the Jurassic Park Discovery Center for an educational and interactive experience.
  • Universal offers different dining plans (including character breakfasts) that start at $12.99 for your family’s nutrition needs.

 

(Originally published on MiniTime.com)

all rights reserved. no part of this blog post may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission from the author.

Things We Enjoyed at This Year’s Knott’s Scary Farm

Monsters lurk in dark corners, awaiting unsuspecting guests as they enter the usually very wholesome theme park. For 24 nights a year from now through October 31, 2015, Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park, CA transforms into Knott’s Scary Farm, a spookfest for folks who enjoy a good scare. But fear not! You’ll will be happy to know that the separate-ticket event isn’t too scary for the not so brave.

Here are five of the things we enjoyed at Knott’s Scary Farm:

 

Paranormal, Inc.

Knott's Scary Farm Paranormal, Inc. (Courtesy Knott's Scary Farm)
Knott’s Scary Farm Paranormal, Inc. (Courtesy Knott’s Scary Farm)

Debuting this year, this new ghost-hunting maze will take you to a “filmed” paranormal investigation of an abandoned and haunted hospital that hides a morbid past. If you think this is too intense for you, don’t worry – the investigative team will be with you to guide you through the fiend fest. But do keep an eye out for those demons from hell, and don’t panic when the lights go out!

The Dead of Winter

Knott's Scary Farm The Dead Of Winter (Courtesy Knott's Scary Farm)
Knott’s Scary Farm The Dead Of Winter (Courtesy Knott’s Scary Farm)

Ever wondered how Jon Snow felt, facing an army of icy monsters descending down on him and the Free Folk? Dare to walk into the Dead of Winter maze, and the vengeful Snow Queen might just give you a small dose of that. This freezing maze of ice and snow is not only teeming with ice Viking warriors, it’s walls can also get uncomfortably disorienting so careful where you tread.

Voodoo – Order of the Serpent

Knott's Scary Farm Voodoo (Courtesy Knott's Scary Farm)
Knott’s Scary Farm Voodoo (Courtesy Knott’s Scary Farm)

Definitely one of the most intricate mazes at Knott’s Scary Farm this year, Voodoo takes the braver ones through the muggy swamps of New Orleans where swamp creatures dwell and Voodoo demons prey on the unsuspecting. As you keep a sharp eye on them, take time to appreciate the attention to detail they’ve put into creating this awesome maze. Get your Skeleton Key for access to a secret room where a freaky Voodoo Ritual awaits.

Ghost Town Streets

Knott's Scary Farm Ghost Fog Alley (Courtesy Knott's Scary Farm)
Knott’s Scary Farm Ghost Fog Alley (Courtesy Knott’s Scary Farm)

It makes sense that the streets where it all began hold the spot for the coolest scare zone in the park. Eerie lighting and thick fog envelops the streets of Ghost Town, so much so that it’s hard to see what’s creeping two feet in front of you, making it easy for monsters lurking about to take you by surprise. Both big kids and adults will get a kick out of exploring (or simply walking through) this area, and just bear in mind that nobody will judge you if you let out a little squeal.

Special Ops: Infected – Patient Zero

Knott's Scary Farm Special Ops Infected-Patient Zero (Courtesy Knott's Scary Farm)
Knott’s Scary Farm Special Ops Infected-Patient Zero (Courtesy Knott’s Scary Farm)

Sure, surviving a maze full of the undead is fun and exciting, but wouldn’t it be cooler if you can actually fight back? Last but certainly not the least is Special Ops, Knott’s Scary Farm’s most interactive maze yet – integrating gaming technology with the thrill of actually on a mission in person. You and your teens will definitely enjoy this attraction, which takes you through intense landscape to complete several missions whilst fending off flesh-eating zombies with your high-tech laser guns. Get ready to shoot the infected; the fate of humanity is in your hands!

 

(Originally published on MiniTime.com)

all rights reserved. no part of this blog post may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission from the author.

Things We Love Most About Mickey’s Halloween Party at Disneyland

One of the many things that we can all agree on is this: that Disney knows how to throw a party. It’s practically an irrefutable truth – Disney is a genius when it comes to showing everyone a good time, and Disney knows how to leave its guests feeling just a tad happier.

This year’s Mickey’s Halloween Party is no different. And Mickey-shaped pumpkins, festive decorations and scarecrows engaging passers-by are just the beginning. Dive in to see the things we love most about this year’s kid-favorite Halloween spectacular at Disneyland Anaheim.

“Halloween Screams” Fireworks

“Halloween Screams” Fireworks (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
“Halloween Screams” Fireworks (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)

The good guys take a break this Halloween and let our favorite Disney villains take center stage for once. Mischief over Sleeping Beauty’s Castle abounds during this Mickey’s Halloween Party exclusive, and the castle itself joins in, lighting up for the spooky festivities. Led by Jack Skellington, Maleficent, Ursula, Cruella DeVille and many others cause ruckus and mayhem as fireworks dance in the full moon-illuminated sky to the greatest Disney villain songs. Keep an eye out for a ghostly apparition.

Tip: Best spot to watch the spectacular display is on Main Street U.S.A. Bring a compact tripod if you plan on taking photos.

Haunted Mansion Holiday

Haunted Mansion Holiday (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Haunted Mansion Holiday (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)

A Christmas-y Halloween awaits guests of the Haunted Mansion for Halloween Time. Jack Skellington is, again, at the helm, leading his band of merrymakers to treat guests to a colorful Nightmare Before Christmas-themed celebration, where Christmas trees are lit up with pumpkins, ghosts are having a merry feast, and even gravestones are enjoying the holiday spirit. The Hatbox Ghost also makes an appearance, and Jack Skellington himself.

Tip: Lines are long so make sure to get your FASTPASSes early.

The Cadaver Dans Quartet

The Cadaver Dans Quartet (Courtesy Disney)
The Cadaver Dans Quartet (Courtesy Disney)

Have you ever had a hunger of ghouls serenade you? At Disneyland’s Halloween Time, you will, and it’s eerily entertaining. Aboard a graveyard-themed river raft drifting along a foggy Rivers of America in New Orleans Square, the Cadaver Dans quartet are dressed in their Sunday’s best, singing catchy tunes to both spectators and trick-or-treaters, getting everyone into the spooky holiday spirit.

Tip: Get your candy bags ready as a Treat Trail is nearby.

Space Mountain Galaxy

A ride on Space Mountain in Tomorrowland is always a win. This dark and exciting roller coaster of a ride through the depths of space is made stunning by the stars, galaxies and nebulas that bedeck the space around you as you zip past. But for Halloweeen, this top ride through hyperspace suffers the presence of a few ghostly fiends, so watch out!

Tip: Lines are long, much like at the Haunted Mansion, so get FASTPASSes if you can.

Paint the Night Parade

Belle at the Paint the Night Parade (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)
Belle at the Paint the Night Parade (Photo: Michelle Rae Uy)

There are no Halloween-themed improvements to this new, 60th anniversary ride. But who cares? It’s still one of the best attractions at Disneyland today – vibrant, festive and all around spectacular – and must not be missed. Led by Tinker Bell and parading to the tune of Owl City’s super catchy “When Can I See You Again?” (by now, I’m sure most of us and our kids have memorized it!) are Disney’s most beloved characters like Ariel, Belle, Rapunzel, Elsa and Anna, Buzz Lightyear, Lighting McQueen, Mike and Sulley and more on amazing floats dressed in thousands of LED lights. This attraction truly lives up to its name, and has since become a top fan favorite.

Tips: Viewing spots along Main Street U.S.A fills up rather quickly so secure a spot early on. And do get your cameras charged and ready.

Halloween Time at the Disneyland Resort runs through November 1, 2015.

Mickey’s Halloween Party is a separate-ticket, nighttime event at the Disneyland Resort. It runs on select nights for 17 nights through October 31, 2015.

(Originally published on MiniTime.)

all rights reserved. no part of this blog post may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission from the author.

Four Reasons to Take the Kids to Disneyland This Summer

When the days are longer and the temperatures are higher, many families make that journey out west to Southern California where the weather is always perfect, the beaches are glorious, and there’s unforgettable, assorted fun to be had everywhere you turn. This summer, spend a day or two at the Disneyland Resort with the kids during your family vacation to complete the experience. Here are a few great reasons why.

1) The Fun Doesn’t Stop at Nightfall

Just because the sun has set, it doesn’t mean the fun has to end. In fact, at Disneyland, family fun’s only beginning. After spending the entire day running around from ride to ride, it’s time to set-up shop on Main Street U.S.A. (or in front of the Ferris Wheel at California Adventure) to see the three new spectaculars that will dazzle both kids and adults.

Courtesy Disney
Courtesy Disney

Paint the Night. Disneyland lights up with a river of some 1.5 million LED lights streaming down Main Street U.S.A from the new Paint the Night Parade. As part of the park’s 60th anniversary celebration, this parade of colors and lights is a one big moving musical party, featuring our favorite Disney characters – including Lightning McQueen, Ariel, Belle, Anna and Elsa, and Mickey – glittering and glowing from atop their illuminated floats. Kids aren’t likely to forget when a Disney princess blows them a kiss and will wonder how the performers seemingly control the lights on their costumes with their dance movements.

Courtesy Disney
Courtesy Disney

Disneyland Forever Fireworks. A visit to Disneyland is never complete without the fireworks over Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, but with the Disneyland Forever Fireworks, you’ll go beyond just watching the sky light up. Also a part of the Diamond Celebration, this nighttime spectacular transports you and your kids to familiar but faraway worlds without having to leave the park. One minute you’re standing on Main Street U.S.A. watching Tinker Bell start off the firework show, the next you’re in Ariel’s colorful world under the sea, in the middle of an animal migration in Africa, and in Arendelle with snow falling on your heads. After your magical journey, you’re transported back on Main Street for a perfect kiss goodnight.

World of Color – Celebrate! The Diamond Celebration extends to California Adventure and to one of its most popular attractions. During your visit, make sure to grab a FASTPASS for the nighttime showing of the bigger and better World of Color, hosted by Neil Patrick Harris and Mickey Mouse. The new and improved attraction will take you on a nostalgic experience as it showcases Walt Disney’s artistic journey, featuring his early creations and his very first visions for the Happiest Place on Earth.

2) Your Favorite Rides Have Reopened… With Swanky Upgrades

Courtesy Disney
Courtesy Disney

Haunted Mansion. Over in New Orleans Square, the kids’ favorite “scary” ride has reopened so families can once again experience the supernatural happenings in this ghoulish mansion. During your haunted tour, keep an eye out for the Hatbox Ghost as rumor has it that he’s back with a vengeance after a long absence!

Soarin’ Over California. Who doesn’t enjoy seeing California’s beautiful lands from up above? This family-favorite ride showcases everything the Golden State has to offer, from its irresistible Pacific coast to its rolling vineyards to its awe-inspiring High Sierra forests. And with updates to its screen and projection system, the ride feels even more real than before.

Matterhorn Bobsleds. Go on a bumpy ride, staggering down the famous Alps mountain, at the Matterhorn Bobsleds, which has also reopened for the Diamond Celebration. Watch out for the Abominable Snowman – he’s more ferocious than ever, especially after you come upon his stolen treasure.

3) Star in a Disney Musical

Courtesy Disney
Courtesy Disney

We all love to sing and dance along our favorite Disney movies, and secretly, we all want to part of those movies. At both Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Park, you can let go of your inhibitions and just let your inner princes and princesses take over. Kids and kids at heart will have plenty of opportunities to partake in a Disney musical with events like the Diamond March-Along, which lets guests join a Disney parade, the Diamond Sing-Alongs, the Diamond Dance-Alongs,Dream-Along and the Diamond Mad T Party.

4) There Are New Collectibles to Be Had

One of the best things about visiting a Disney park is you can take home that magic with you in the form of Disney merchandise. Whether you love collecting Disney pins, ear hats or shirts, enjoy decorating your home with Disney home accessories, or the kids want to spend their “park allowance” on a huggable plush toy, there are Diamond Celebration merchandise and souvenirs all over the park to splurge on and remember your visit by. Additionally, you also grab some Diamond Celebration cupcakes at both parks to satisfy your sweet craving during your visit.

For a family-friendly hotel on-site, consider staying at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, which features that famous Californian rustic and outdoorsy décor, themed pools with waterslide, special direct access to the California Adventure park, and early admission to the parks. For an off-site luxurious option, splurge at the beautiful and kid-friendly St. Regis Monarch Beach, which currently offers the “Monarch Magic” Disney package that includes chauffeured transportation to and from the Disney parks, four 1-day base tickets, a Mickey Mouse pancake breakfast for four and two 60th anniversary ear hats, as well as easy access to the beach for a taste of that irresistable California coast.

(Originally published on MiniTime.)

all rights reserved. no part of this blog post may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission from the author.

“Fast & Furious – Supercharged” Sets Universal Studios Hollywood Ablaze

Sizzling celebrities. High speeds. Explosions. A car flying in the air and through a billboard. Universal Studios Hollywood certainly welcomed the latest family-friendly addition to Los Angeles’ favorite theme park with a bang!

Tuesday, June 23, saw the launch of the new Universal Studios ride, “Fast & Furious – Supercharged,” and fans of the movies as well as families with kids are in for the ride of their lives.

Photo by David Sprague | Courtesy Universal Studios Hollywood
Photo by David Sprague | Courtesy Universal Studios Hollywood

The high-octane but very kid-friendly adventure is an exciting hydraulic motion-based ride pumped with adrenaline, state-of-the-art 3D audio and 3D-HD imagery systems, other sensory special effects, and the world’s longest and most expansive 360-degree screen. The ride features some of the stars from one of the biggest movie franchises in history, including Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, and Tyrese Gibson, who all reprise their roles to fight the bad guys in an exhilarating car chase!

Expect rockets, debris, bullets flying and explosions as you get caught in the midst of all the action. And get ready to get a little wet. The best part? Dwayne Johnson, who plays DSS agent Luke Hobbs in the franchise, joins them with big guns blazing!

Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae

Kids, teens and adults will truly be impressed with this new ride that Vin Diesel himself called, “…incredible, ….really remarkable. It’s not like anything I’ve ever seen.”

“Fast & Furious – Supercharged” is expected to become a mega-hit like its big screen counterparts. It joins the ranks of War of the Worlds, Desperate Housewives, Psycho, Jaws, and other Universal Pictures hits as it now serves as the epic conclusion to the park’s popular Studio Tour, which attracts people young and old from all parts of the world. It is set to open to the park goers on June 24, 2015.

So what are you waiting for? Rev your engines, fasten your seatbelts, and race to Universal Studios Hollywood now for this thrilling ride!

(Originally published on MiniTime.)

all rights reserved. no part of this blog post may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission from the author.

“Fast & Furious – Supercharged” Ride Premiers at Universal Studios Hollywood

fastfuriousride (5 of 1)-2
Photo: Michelle Rae
fastfuriousride (13 of 12)
Photo: Michelle Rae
fastfuriousride (14 of 12)
Photo: Michelle Rae
fastfuriousride (5 of 1)-3
Photo: Michelle Rae
fastfuriousride (5 of 1)-4
Photo: Michelle Rae
fastfuriousride (5 of 1)-5
Photo: Michelle Rae
fastfuriousride (5 of 1)
Photo: Michelle Rae
fastfuriousride (15 of 12)
Photo: Michelle Rae
fastfuriousride (12 of 12)
Photo: Michelle Rae
fastfuriousride (11 of 12)
Photo: Michelle Rae
fastfuriousride (6 of 12)
Photo: Michelle Rae
fastfuriousride (7 of 12)
Photo: Michelle Rae
fastfuriousride (8 of 12)
Photo: Michelle Rae
fastfuriousride (9 of 12)
Photo: Michelle Rae
fastfuriousride (5 of 1)-10
Photo: Michelle Rae
fastfuriousride (5 of 1)-9
Photo: Michelle Rae
fastfuriousride (16 of 12)
Photo: Michelle Rae
fastfuriousride (5 of 1)-6
Photo: Michelle Rae
fastfuriousride (5 of 1)-7
Photo: Michelle Rae
fastfuriousride (5 of 1)-8
Photo: Michelle Rae

First Look at Disneyland’s “Paint the Night” Parade

Colors, lights, and sparkling Disney characters abound, reveling in an magnificent soundtrack featuring Tangled, Little Mermaid and Frozen (to name a few). It was a magical night, from the beautiful premiere party that offered a lovely dinner, plenty of drinks, wonderful Southern music and a Pirates of the Caribbean ride that did not entail waiting in line to the dazzling previews of Disneyland’s new “Paint the Night” parade and “Disneyland Forever” fireworks. It was an endlessly dazzling and unforgettable night.

Here’s a sneak peek of the original Disney park’s first LED parade:

Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae
Photo: Michelle Rae

Going Beyond the Magic: Disneyland Exceeds All Expectations with 24-Hour Diamond Celebration

One of the really cool things about my job is getting invites to fantastic events and awesome trips that I probably wouldn’t have access to if  I weren’t working in the travel publishing world. It’s one of the many perks of the job that I’m truly grateful for as it definitely opens doors to new experiences for me.

This week, I’m headed to Disneyland – along with many bloggers and members of the press – to help the original Disney park usher in their 60th anniversary with their Diamond Celebration extravaganza and 24-hour event, which I am super excited about. They’ve got a lot of awesome things planned for the celebration and it’s going to be epic.

I’ll be sharing the latest updates before and during the Diamond Celebration event through the MiniTime website and social media as well as on my Twitter and Instagram accounts, but for now read on after the jump to find out more about what Disney has in store for the festivities.

'DISNEYLAND FOREVER' TAKES GUESTS UNDER THE SEA (Courtesy Disney)
‘DISNEYLAND FOREVER’ TAKES GUESTS UNDER THE SEA (Courtesy Disney)

Something simply amazing is happening at Disneyland this May.

With July 17, 2015 marking the 60th anniversary of the “Happiest Place on Earth,” Disneyland in Anaheim, CA, is beckoning Disney lovers everywhere to take part in theDisneyland Diamond Celebration festivities that starts on May 22, 2015. And as is Disney tradition, the resort is going all out!

Going beyond bedazzling Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park and their iconic landmarks and locations – including the Sleeping Beauty Castle, Main Street, U.S.A, and Carthay Circle Theater – to usher in the new era, Disney has prepared a multitude of incredible events, attractions and surprises that kicks off with a 24-hour event, starting at 6am on May 22nd.

MACK AND THE CARS CREW PREVIEW "PAINT THE NIGHT" (Courtesy Disney)
MACK AND THE CARS CREW PREVIEW “PAINT THE NIGHT” (Courtesy Disney)

With this all day/all night party comes an array of entertainment, new attractions, and commemorative merchandise, including the debut of three nighttime spectaculars:

  • “Disneyland Forever” Fireworks – Disneyland ups the ante of their traditional pyrotechnic display by using Main Street, U.S.A, the Matterhorn, Rivers of America, and “it’s a small world” and featuring some of Disney’s most beloved fairy tales like Lion King, Finding Nemo, and of course, Frozen, to take their guests in a spectacular, full-on magical experience from the street to the sky.
  • “Paint the Night” Parade – Dazzling lights and music will excite and astound guests, especially the little ones, with this new after dark parade at the Disneyland Park. “Paint the Night” will showcase favorite Disney characters like Tinker Bell, Lightning McQueen, Ariel, Buzz Lightyear, Belle, and Anna & Elsa like you’ve never seen them before – magically illuminated as the revelry shimmies and shimmers down Main Street, U.S.A.
  • “World of Color – Celebrate! The Wonderful World of Walt Disney” – An even more impressive version of World of Color, this outdoor nighttime display, hosted by Neil Patrick Harris and Mickey, will showcase the best Disney moments – from Walt’s earliest creations to the newest feature, presented in an breathtaking package topped with a water, fire and laser show that will leave spectators in awe.

It’s going to be an unforgettable Disney visit for you and your kids and a wonderful way to welcome the warm days of summer. So buy your park hopper tickets, book that hotel room, and get ready to celebrate!

See you all there!

(Originally published on MiniTime.com.)

all rights reserved. no part of this blog post may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission from the author.

Fun Facts About The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley

We are heading to Universal Orlando this June for a quick visit. As a huge Harry Potter fan who obsessed about the books in her youth, there’s nothing I’m more excited about than the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I simply can’t wait to get my very first wand at Ollivanders, drink Butterbeer, and get fitted for a school robe – yes, I am still a child inside.

In anticipation for our trip, I thought I’d share some of the fun facts about the newly opened Diagon Alley. 

It was the biggest and most elaborate theme park addition of 2014. And since then, Universal Orlando’s The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley has, not surpringly, attracted millions of Harry Potter fans (and non-fans) from all over the world itching to step into J.K. Rowling’s magical world they’ve only read, watched and dreamed about… and maybe have a pint or two of that famous Butterbeer on the side and get fitted for school robes.

Diagon Alley Entrance (Courtesy Universal Orlando)
Diagon Alley Entrance (Courtesy Universal Orlando)

With its one-year anniversary approaching (time sure does fly, especially on a broomstick), here are some fun facts to help us celebrate this fantastical place!

  1. Remember that brick wall behind The Leaky Cauldron that first welcomed Harry into a world he never even imagined existed? The Universal Orlando reproduction weighs more than 37,000 pounds and is made up of 7,456 bricks total. That’s a lot of bricks!
  2. The Ukrainian Ironbelly dragon perched atop Gringotts to guard it from malcontents has breathed fire more than 15,000 times since Diagon Alley officially opened in July 2014.
  3. And no, that fire is not a special effect. That’s 3,560 degrees Fahrenheit of real combustion, 16 times hotter than boiling water. No wonder thieves think twice before robbing this bank.
  4. With their fire-breathing dragon guarding the place, it’s no wonder the goblins that run the place feel pretty confident to hang four elegant (and probably not cheap) crystal chandeliers, made up of nearly 62,000 crystals total, on display in the lobby.
  5. The Magical Menagerie is home to 13 different types of magical creatures, including Kneazles, Demiguises and Graphorns. Stop by if you have animal lovers in the family.
  6. Last, but definitely not the least, is the grand Hogwarts Express. It’s one of the biggest attractions in the Harry Potter world, transporting both kids and adults from King’s Cross Station in London (like it did Harry) to the village of Hogsmeade and back. To date, more than 5 million people have traveled aboard this awesome train.
Hogwarts Express (Courtesy Universal Orlando)
Hogwarts Express (Courtesy Universal Orlando)

(Source: Universal Orlando Resort Blog. Originally published on MiniTime.com.)

all rights reserved. no part of this blog post may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission from the author.