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Posts Tagged ‘Disneyland’

Happy Trails, 2009!

December 31st, 2009 by bsmith | 4 Comments | Filed in Disneyland, Family Adventure Guidebooks, Family Travel

Fireworks Over Disneyland, 2009

Can it really be New Year’s Eve already?  Hard to believe that it has flown by so fast!  I’m thankful for this year filled with Smith Family Adventures and for you my faithful readers.  One of my resolutions for next year is to go back to bi-weekly posts.  This fall I returned to life as a college student, and it has taken some adjustment to discover a work/school/life balance.  Well actually I’m still searching…

The above picture is one of my favorites of 2009.  I captured it while leaving Disneyland before the end of the fireworks show to beat the crowds.  It was a magical moment and a small miracle to catch the shuttle without the lines.

This year I hope to develop another Family Adventure Guidebook, perhaps take an international trip with the kids, and enjoy some family camping adventures.  I hope you’ll join me!

Happy Trails,



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Photo Friday: My Favorite Disney Parade

September 4th, 2009 by bsmith | 7 Comments | Filed in Disneyland

Tinker Bell at the Electric Parade

Although Disney Parades are the hallmark of the Disney theme park I am not a huge fan.  You need to find a spot and stake it out well before the parade begins.  This means lots of waiting with wiggly and whiny children.  Adults seem to forget that little people also need to see and end up standing up for the big event blocking everyone’s view.  Although the final result is pretty fun, the music is catchy and the costumes are great, your kids’ favorite part is over all too quickly. 

One the parade is finished leaving the park or moving somewhere else is very difficult.  You are caught in a wave of humanity.  Your kids find themselves surrounded by giant strangers and it’s a battle to keep track of everyone.

We often stop by Disneyland at odd hours and get caught in a parade at the entrance.  By then, all the spectators are lined up and you may find yourself trapped in some small area of the park until the parade moves on.  If we are in the park during a parade you will often find us, taking advantage of the shorter lines at some other area of the park.

Minnie @ Electrical Parade

During my last visit to California Adventure, however, I found a parade that’s worth waiting for.  Disney’s Electrical Parade lights up  the night sky.  It is full of lively music and sparkling electric lights.  The kids are mesmorized by all the great classic Disney characters.  Because it’s located in California Adventure and held at night, it is less crowded than other Disney Parades I’ve experienced.  If you’re lucky one of the light bulb holders will fall off the float and you’ll have a ready made souvenir!  My ten year old cherishes his.

Peter Pan

We headed to line up about 1/2 hour before the parade, and that was on the late side.  Next time we will shoot for 45 minutes.  We managed to find a spot in the back of the park by the SS Rustworthy. (By the way this one of my favorite attractions at California Adventure.  It  is interactive, you don’t need to wait in line, and there is plenty of space to run around.  My kids particularly like “surfing” on the surfboards.)   The parade started just a few feet away so the cast was fresh and spirited. 

After the Parade was over, we headed over to Toy Story Mania.  The line is long, but it is fun and interactive.  The kids and I decided that it was worth the wait.  I appreciated that by the time we had finished, the parade traffic had cleared and it was easy catch a shuttle back to our parking lot.

Honor America, Electrical Parade

Family Adventure Guidebooks participates in Delicious Baby’s Photo Friday  including a different perspect on Disney parades and other Disney tips from Tripping With Kids.

Happy Trails,



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Family Travel Tip Tuesday: Theme Park Membership Has Its Privileges

May 19th, 2009 by bsmith | 2 Comments | Filed in Disneyland, Family Travel, Legoland, San Diego Day Trips, Sea World, theme parks, Travel Discounts
Jared Makes A Camel Friend, Legoland California

Jared Makes A Camel Friend, Legoland California

If you are thinking about purchasing a theme park pass, be sure to investigate the extra benefits and privileges that the theme park may offer passholders.  Although these vary from park to park, many times these extras will almost pay for your entire membership.

Since my two youngest were born less than a year apart, our family has become experts at the “staycation”.  Traveling far from home with two preschoolers seems a bit too crazy for us at this point.  Our location here in Carlsbad gives us many options for family fun.  Visiting theme parks and zoos is one of the things that we enjoy doing together as a family.  In the past three years we have held passes for the San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park, Legoland, and Disneyland.


If you live in Southern California or visit frequently throughout the year, a Legoland membership offers many opportunities for family adventure.  In addition to the great special events and members only activities that Legoland holds throughout the year,  Legoland offers excellent deals and discounts to its members.  Twice a year, members receive coupons for free entrance with a passholder.  This gives your family opportunities to bring friends and grandparents along to enjoy a Legoland adventure.  Also, if there is a Dad or teenager in your family who won’t be making it to Legoland very often this can be a great way to bring them along to enjoy the fun.

Legoland pass holders also receive free entrance to The Wave in Vista and Wild Rivers in Irvine.  In addition to the regular member dining and shopping discounts, Legoland’s quarterly newsletters contain coupons for additional savings.  This month I have a $10 voucher for the Ocean Journey Cafe, a free bucket of water balloons at the Raptor Splash, and other discount coupons.

Members benefit from Legoland’s efforts to promote the new Sea Life Aquarium.  Legoland is continuing to offer special visitor rates to Legoland members and friends and family.  Come enjoy the aquarium for as little as $5 per person!  Note that a coupon is required.  The curent coupon says that it expires 5/31/09, but keep checking the site.  So far they have extended this offer several times.

The Unauthorized Legoland Guidebook  will help your choose the combination of  memberships that will save you money and work for your family.


When we were planning a three day trip to Disneyland, I decided to investigate the price of membership.  I knew that we wouldn’t be visiting too often, but since we live only an hour away a few return visits would be fun.  After doing my research I decided that the Southern California Select passes offered the best value four our budget.  Unlike Legoland, non premium Disney Passholders do not receive many benefits.  However, they do receive some limited dining discounts in the parks and shopping discounts at Downtown Disney.  Still, with prices that can be less than a multi-day visit, an annual Disneyland pass is worth considering.

San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park

Membership at these attractions is extremely affordable.  (Kids passes are only $2 more than the one day Best Value Ticket).  Adult members receive two free guest passes which come in handy for out of town guests.  Pass holders also receive free admission to the Journey into Africa Tour at the Wild Animal Park…this is a must see!   In addition, they receive unlimited Skyfari aerial tram rides at the zoo.  These are important since, kids have to do alot of walking at the San Diego Zoo.  Membership covers both attractions so your family has plenty to explore.

Members also receive a monthly zoo magazine that contains interesting articles about the animals and great coupons including more free admission tickets for passholder guests.   All pass members also receive discounts on Wild Animal Park parking.

Sea World San Diego

We have had the opportunities to obtain discounted entrance to Sea World with our preschool, so I haven’t gone the pass route yet.  I am dreaming of an  Unauthorized Sea World Guidebook some day, so we may be getting passes next summer. 

In the mean time, be aware that Sea World offers the Fun Card which is a great deal.  You get a pass good for admission throughout the entire calendar year for the price of a single admission.


Make sure you factor the price of parking into your membership decisions.  Sometimes it pays to buy a more premium membership for at least one member of your family in order to get free parking.  Be sure to investigate whether the person needs to be the driver or just in the car.  Premium child memberships are often cheaper and  also offer free parking.

If you don’t live in Southern California, I encourage you to research theme park memberships in your area.  You may just discover the ticket to a whole year of family fun.

Happy Trails,




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Adventures in Motherhood

May 9th, 2009 by bsmith | 2 Comments | Filed in Smith Family Adventures, Traveling with the Dog
Smith Family's First Yosemite Adventure

Smith Family's First Yosemite Adventure

My journey to motherhood, was not a flat country road.  It was more like the treacherous path up to a Yosemite waterfall.  Justin was conceived without much effort, but as the years passed no little brothers or sisters followed. 

Deep down we knew that God had a plan for our family. After much reflection Ken and I decided to start the adoption process.  Four months after we completed our home study, we found ourselves the parents of a beautiful baby girl. 

Since the process was unexpectedly quick,   a newborn Destiny enjoyed several adventures that had been planned before she joined our family.  When Destiny was just a few weeks old, we headed up to the Bear Valley to go skiing and sledding with friends.  The grownups took turns staying home to cuddle the baby while the others hit the slopes.

 A few months later, the Smith Family headed to Disneyland.   By the Disneyland trip, I had discovered that I was pregnant with Jared.  It was before my first ultrasound, however, so we didn’t tell Ken’s family.  I hid out in my room at my brother and sister in law’s house and snuck crackers to keep the morning sickness at bay.

That spring we joined my brother and sister in law  and their friends for a camping trip to Yosemite.  It was quite a time. Several families had multiple little ones.   My brother in law got the brillant idea to hike up to Vernal Falls.  Most of the adults were carrying babies on their backs.  Justin, age 5 was doing an amazing job hiking on his own.  I was several months pregnant and trying to keep up with the steep climb.  By the time we reached Vernal Falls, I was absolutely exhausted.  At the top, I decided to fess up about my pregnancy.  I wanted to make sure that my brother in law didn’t make us climb any higher! I think that this was the first time Justin learned he was having a new sibling.  We didn’t want him to share the secret before we were ready. The climb down was a bit of a nightmare. We got very lost.

As you look at the picture above, note that there are actually five people plus one crazy puppy.  We were all having a wonderful time!

Like all best stories, this one continued to be filled with suspense.  After I returned from Yosemite,  an ultrasound suggested  that the baby was not a baby, but rather a molar pregnancy.  A few weeks later, as the doctor prepared to perform an operation to resolve this issue, she discovered that I was indeed pregnant.  Apparently that was the moment Dr. Muir started believing in a higher power!   Six months later our third little adventurer was born.

I share this story with you to remind you that motherhood is an adventure. It is filled with tears, laughter, surprises…and yes even miracles.  Enjoy every minute of it! 

Our Happy Ending!

Our Happy Ending!

Happy Trails,


PS  Hugs and prayers going out to my friend Deana who is fighting Burkitt’s Lymphoma.  Please join me in praying that next  Mother’s Day will be all about breakfast in bed with her boyz.


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Family Travel Tip Tuesday: Snacks to Pack for Theme Park Adventures

May 4th, 2009 by bsmith | 2 Comments | Filed in Legoland, theme parks, Travel Tips

Many theme parks like  Disneyland let you bring your own food into the park.   Others request that you don’t bring food, but do not search your bag or otherwise stop you from bring food into the park.  Bring lunch or a few snacks can be crucial in order to keep costs low and ensure that you have something that a picky kidd will eat..  So go ahead and pack a backpack or insulated lunch box when you’re getting ready for a  theme park visit.

 Here are some of my favorite lunch items and snacks to pack for your day at the themepark.  I don’t necessarily limit my kids to healthy food on our visits.  To me, a day at a theme park is a time to indulge a little and it prevents my kids from constantly begging for treats:

  • Fruit Leather (These are great to slip in your pocket when you aren’t bringing a backpack or stroller)
  • A can of squeezie cheese and crackers (Easy to carry, fun, and doesn’t spoil)
  • Salami alone or with crackers
  • Apples
  • Home made cookies (Pack these in a container so they don’t crumble.  I’ve learned the hard way)
  • String Cheese
  • Water Bottles
  • Water or juice pouches (These are not welcome at zoos and other places that have animals due to the straws.)
  • Strawberries or melon slices in a container.
  • Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
  • Carrot or celery sticks
  • Grapes
  • Nuts like peanuts or pistachios
  • Chips
  • Pretzels
  • Orange Slices

What are your favorite foods for a theme park picnic?

Happy Trails,


P.S. Thanks to Stacey at San Diego Bargain Mama for featuring The Unauthorized Legoland Guidebook in her Made for Moms section.  If you live in the San Diego be sure to check out her blog for the latest bargains.


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Family Travel Tip Tuesday: Make Custom CD’s with Your Kids

April 27th, 2009 by bsmith | 4 Comments | Filed in Family Travel, Road Trips, Travel Tips

The Smith Family makes at least two eight hour roadtrips per year.  Sometimes Dad tags along sometimes I travel solo with kids in tow.  I have even carpooled all the way from Carlsbad to Santa Cruz with my former neighbor and his 11 year old son.  Pre-tricked out SUV, we did not have much success with DVD’s.  We have a little portable DVD player, but it was too small and there was no place to mount it.  Even today, I prefer listening to music.  It’s more fun for the driver and the kids seem to get less bored.

Here are my tips for the perfect road trip CD:

  1. Keep the songs loud and lively.  I love the sweet folk ballads of Kate Wolf, but they bug my kids and make me sleepy on the long drive.  Perhaps bring the slow songs along to listen to on your ipod at the beach.
  2. Include something for everyone.  We usually make at least 3-5 CD’s they are all an eclectic mix, but each usually slants to a particular age group in our family. The more CD’s the better, it is always nice to have something fresh to listen to on the way home.
  3. Give each CD a distinctive title using  genre, family member,  trip etc.  For example, Country Music/Santa Barbara, or Justin’s CD/ Disneyland.
  4. Involve your kids in the process.  We have taught my ten year old how to select his own songs and burn his own CD’s.  I also make some mixes because his tastes tend to run toward heavy metal, but I have also really enjoyed some of his choices.  He does surprising things like include Christmas carols in the middle of a summer road trip CD.
  5. Driver has the final say in choosing the CD.  If there is a particular track that bugs you, feel free to skip it.  You can also select CD’s by mood.  Be sure to override your kids if there is something that you can’t drive to at that particular moment.

Here is a Top 10 Hit List from the Smith Family Travels:

  1. “We Will Rock You”, Queen
  2. “I Get Around” , Beach Boys
  3. “Who Let The Dogs Out”, Baja Men
  4. “Schools Out for Summer”, AC/DC
  5. “Taking Care of Business”, Bachman Turner Overdrive
  6. “Dancing Queen”, Abba
  7. “California Girls” Beach Boys
  8. “Star Wars American Pie Parody” Weird Al Yankovic
  9. “Hamster Dance”,  Hampton the Hamster?
  10. “We Are the Champions” , Queen


Off course for a multi hour road trip, you need more than 10 songs.  Feel free to comment with some of your road trip favorites.   I would love to add to my list!

Happy Trails,



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Family Travel Tip Tuesday: Find a Food Court

April 14th, 2009 by bsmith | No Comments | Filed in Family Travel, Road Trips, Travel Tips

Sit down restaurants are one of the hardest things to tackle when traveling with kids.  No matter how hard we work on manners, my preschoolers find it difficult to wait for the food to arrive then have good enough to eat in public manners to finish up the meal.  On our trip to Disneyland, we stayed at a The Marriot Newport Coast Villas.  After enduring a time share presentation with two tired preschoolers and a very embarrassed grade schooler, we were rewarded with a gift card to the upscale Fashion Island Mall in Newport Beach.

After a long day at Disneyland, we decided to use the gift card to buy dinner before returning to the hotel.  We weren’t ready to shell out more money for overpriced Disney food!  The kids were tired and grouchy.  Ken and I were at the end of our collective ropes. 

We considered the Cheesecake Factory and other semi kid friendly alternatives at Fashion Valley, but ended up going to the food court.  Good choice!  Everyone feasted on what they wanted to eat.  I was tickled when Justin ordered a salad with his pizza.  The kids got their food right way, then had a chance to walk around nearby while the grownups finished their meal.  The one challenge was keeping Jared away from the fun escalators!  We were able to choose a table away from the other diners, so they could watch my children’s antics from afar with amused looks on their faces rather than scowls.  The food was somewhat healthier than fast food.  We topped off our meal with delicious gelato (unfortunately we discovered that the gelato place does not take Fashion Island gift cards!) 

Even if we had paid full price for our food, it still would have been a good deal.  The food court offered affordable prices on a wide variety of foods, and there was no waste from leftover bags of french fries etc, that I find when we rely on fast food restaurants.

So next time you are traveling with tired hungry kids, find a food court.  It can be an affordable relaxing way to wrap up your day.

Happy Trails,



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Solo Theme Park Adventures

February 19th, 2009 by bsmith | 4 Comments | Filed in Legoland, theme parks, Travel Tips
Jared became a big Pluto Fan on this Visit to Disneyland

Jared became a big Pluto Fan on this Visit to Disneyland

The idea for the Unauthorized Legoland Guidebook came from a series of Legoland visits with three kids and no husband.  Ken works very hard and is also not the biggest fan of themeparks without humongous rollercoasters.  In order to make the most of our Legoland membership, more often than not, I needed to go it alone.  This situation created some limitations.  Several rides at Legoland, had a one adult per child rule, so my preschooler could not ride with my nine year old.  Even bathroom runs take a bit more planning without an extra adult along. 

Since then I’ve also tackled Disneyland, Seaworld, and the zoo on my own.  Each trip  presented some challenges, but also offered plenty of fun.

I  discovered that knowing the park and planning ahead made a huge difference in our Legoland adventures.  Here are a few tips to make your solo theme park visit a little easier.

  • Plan ahead.  Know the age and height restrictions for the various rides.  Try to have some rides and attractions in mind that the whole family will enjoy.  My book, The Unauthorized Legoland Guidebook includes pull out sections that give detailed ride suggestions for every age group.  There are many great web resources for other themeparks.  If you do some digging, theme park websites also have this information.
  • Prep your kids.  When I am going solo, I make sure that my nine year old knows that there will be some activities that we won’t be able to enjoy due to our parent kid ratio.  I make sure that everyone knows that the goal for this trip is to have fun as a family.  I try to have a future “Mom date” visit planned, so Justin can look forward to enjoying a few more thrills at some point.
  • Take a picture of your kids using your digital camera before entering the park.  That way if they get lost, you have an up to date picture to share with the theme park staff.
  • Have a family motto.  Ours is “The Smith Family Stays Together” .  This is our travel mantra.  We repeat it often throughout the day.
  • Enlist your older children’s help in keeping an eye on the little guys.
  • Bring a stroller.  It’s a great place to store your stuff and make a quick exit during that end of the day tantrum.
  • Bring a friend if possible.  A theme park is actually a great place to have a playdate, and you can switch kids, if your family is like mine half timid/half brave.
  • Bring a big kid buddy.  Believe or not some of my most fun adventures came with bringing four kids to Legoland.  Since Justin had a buddy he could ride some of the big kid rides, and both boys were helpful in wrangling the little ones.
  • Pack lots of snacks.  You never know when a break or a bribe will come in handy.

Most of all, be brave. Go solo.  Don’t miss out on fun family adventures just because you are outnumbered.  The day won’t be perfect, but the kids will bring home some funny stories, you will have some cute pictures, and everyone will sleep well after all that adventure!


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Rainy Adventures at Legoland, Disneyland, and San Diego Museums

February 12th, 2009 by bsmith | 2 Comments | Filed in Legoland, theme parks

The four day weekend looms ahead for many parents.  Here in San Diego there is rain in the forecast.  Not good news for the Mom of three active kids.  We will probably spend alot of time at home at play,  but will also make some time for adventure.

Tommorrow I will be using our Southern California pass to take Jared and Justin to Disneyland. (Destiny has opted to stay with Grandma.)  It may be sprinkling a bit, but we’ll be putting on our rain clothes, packing a lunch, and braving the sprinkles.  Justin and I headed to Disneyland on a rainy day last month for semester break.  I learned a few things: it pays to come prepared (rain ponchos are $8),  make sure you hit the rides as soon as the rain clears, and expect some of the rides and activities to be closed.  If you willing to be soggy,  a rainy day at Disneyland is less crowded fun.

Legoland can also be a source of rainy day adventure.  If you venture out, go left as you enter the park.  You can enjoy the Build and Test, manipulate, a mindstorm, or try out the latest Lego video game.  The Duplo building area is a fun place to wait out a storm with the little ones.  You can also catch the latest Lego musical or a 3-D movie.  See my guidebook for more Legoland rainy day ideas.

Another item on my “may do” list is head to a San Diego Museum.  It’s museum month here in San Diego.  Stop by your local Macy’s and pick up a San Diego Museum good for half off admission to many local museums.  I’m hoping to get to the Children’s Museum by the end of the month.  Check out the museum month website for more information


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Disneyland Destroys Small World and SD Zoo Bans Food for Hungry Toddlers

February 5th, 2009 by bsmith | 5 Comments | Filed in theme parks, Uncategorized

Sorry for the headline.  I am feeling a little bit melodramatic today!  I have decided to blog less to concentrate on my business ventures for a while, but couldn’t stay silent about two articles I read today in the Union Tribune.  As a mom, Small World Fan, and theme park lover I had to weigh in on thse important changes to two of my favorite attractions.

Apparently the “renovation” of the Small World ride has resulted in its “Disneyfication”.  Disney characters  (think, Arial, Stitch, and Alladin) can now be found strategically placed throughout the Small World ride.  The music has even been altered to reflect Disney movie soundtracks.  Some may consider me a “Disneyland Purist” who is behind the times, but this is completely unacceptable.  The Small World Ride was a beautiful albeit stereotypical celebration of all the world’s cultures.  It seems disrespectful to alter it by injecting the Disney brand through what essentially amounts to “product placement.”  It was a fantastical version of reality-everyone happy and harmonious, and that is what I loved about it.  It makes me cry every time I sail through.  Disney claims that is implementing these steps to appeal to a broader demographic.  I would say that the ride is packed every time we go, and it attracts riders with its history and charm.  What makes Disneyland special is that some of the best “historic” rides have stayed the same.  What’s next, Tarzan visits the Tiki Lounge?

Further south ,the San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park has banned outside food.  This is not a new concept, most themeparks have a policy in place.  It will remain to be seen who strictly it will be enforced.  So far I haven’t found a theme park that make you throw away outside food as you enter.  I had heard Disneyland once had stricter policies, but now they do not stop you from bringing a picnic.  Legoland seems to be the same way, thank goodness.  I’ve heard that Sea World is also somewhat lax about this.  The Zoo folks said that people’s coolers were getting in the way during busy summer months.  If so I think it would be more prudent to ban coolers.  In this economy you are not going to get many new passholders if you don’t let them bring their own food.  Most of us can not afford to spend $30 or more to feed our family every time we head to the zoo.

I was considering purchasing a zoo membership this year, but am now rethinking this.  Zoo food is yucky and overpriced.  We will not be visiting  very often if we can’t pack a few snacks to keep the grouchies away.  A picnic area outside works for the big folks, but we all know those preschoolers need to eat, when they need to eat.  They’re not always up to a trek out the gate.

On a more postive note,  a Harlem Globe Trotter will be visiting Legoland on February 6th between 4 and 5 pm.  Hopefully he will show off some moves.  Legoland Members get discounts to the Harlem Globe Trotters Show here in San Diego as well as to the Wild Ocean IMAX Movie at the Ruben Fleet Science Museum.    I love Legoland’s cross promotions, don’t you?

Well so long for a while my friends.  I’ll miss you and try to start up again as soon as I can.

Happy Trails,


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