7 Reasons You’ll Love the New Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at Walt Disney World

7 Reasons You’ll Love the New Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at Walt Disney World

I will admit, the Snow White ride at Walt Disney World scared me.  (not as much as Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, but that’s another story)  But, I was nostalgic and a bit sad when I heard they had torn it down to make way for a new roller coaster ride, based in the mine where the Seven Dwarfs went off to work every day.  After all, the movie is called Snow White – and I was worried about a ride that was all about the thrill and not about the wonderful charm and artistry that makes Snow White, the film, special.

Well, I’m not worried anymore.  I LOVED this ride (and so did my sister)  – and rode it three times.

7dwarves

Here’s why you will love it too:

1. You won’t be grumpy while you wait because the queue is full of super fun, hands-on experiences while you wait.  Like barrels full of gems that whirl, illuminated water that makes music, and other gem filled games.

2. Fast Pass! Now you can book up to 3 rides ahead of time on mydisneyexperience.com and the my Disney experience app – so don’t get sleepy and forget to book your fast passes ahead of time for this ride and you’ll zip right on through.

3. Don’t be bashful – there are wonderful, whimsical details everywhere you look on this ride.  Take your time so you will notice all of the little magical things inside and out, like these carved woodland creatures…

woodland creatures

and the vultures high above…

vultures in mine ride

4.  There is nothing dopey about it – big kids will love this ride, it’s got just enough oomph to be a fun coaster, and with the new technology that allows the mine cars to have some side to side swing to them it really feels like you’re  whisking through the mine…

5. But, it’s not so intense that you will have to summon Doc to help you out.  It’s comparable to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, without the big drops.

6. The animatronics are nothing to sneeze at.  The Imagineers truly bring the dwarfs to life inside the mine ride (and spoiler alerts from here on out!) they even recreate one of the most iconic images from the film – the dwarfs’ shadows on the mine walls as they sing Heigh Ho! It was the part of the ride that gave me goosebumps.  Like living inside the movie.

7. This ride will make you Happy!!   The ending to this ride is truly perfect, joyful, and captures the essence of the movie.  Snow White is there in the cottage, dancing to The Silly Song with the dwarfs – and the evil Queen in the form of the old crone – is waiting right outside the door,  a basket of apples hanging from her arm.

inside dwarves cottage

old crone

Disclosure: I was invited to Walt Disney World for this press event and received airfare, lodging, park tickets and some meals. The opinions expressed in this post are my own, as always.

 

Top 5 Takeaways from Disney Social Media Moms Celebration 2014

Top 5 Takeaways from Disney Social Media Moms Celebration 2014

When a conference is called a celebration you know there is something else going on.  I was fortunate enough to go to Disney Social Media Moms last year, and this year I went again, but this time to Disneyland in California.  And, since the celebration coordinated perfectly with my daughters’ spring break and Passover we decided to make it a real family trip and stay in Los Angeles to have our seder with all of our family that lives there.  It was Kismet.

I love Disneyland.  I love its charm, its uncomplicated, easy to cover size, and most of all its history.  I believe you can feel Walt Disney’s optimism and desire to build something really special when you’re there.  I hadn’t been to Disneyland since my daughters were 4 years old (8 years ago!)

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And I’m happy to say, my daughters still loved it, even as jaded tweens.

 

One of the things I love about this conference is that they don’t tell you the full agenda and all of the surprises that are in store while you’re there.  And, they include so many different facets of Disney – so there are always unexpected and interesting people and initiatives worth learning about.

Here are my Top 5 Takeaways from this year’s Celebration:

1.  Cars Land is spectacular.  No, really.  Ever wonder what it would be like to step inside an animated film?  Well, this is pretty much as close as you will ever come.  I recommend going at night when the full neon glory of Cars Land is lit up and you can be immersed in the 1950’s vibe.  The Radiator Springs ride is crazy fun – and the backdrop landscape of Route 66 is genius.

Route 66 Neon

 

2.  It’s not the size of the castle that matters…

3. It’s the character of the princess

One of the movies I am most excited about this year is Maleficent – and we got an extra dose of maniacal fabulosity at the celebration – and an extra dose of sweet from Sleeping Beauty herself, Elle Fanning.  She is as adorable as she looks…

Elle-Fanning blows out bday cake

photo by Josh Hallett

There is also royalty of a different kind – a CEO who built a business from scratch and is now using her success for empowering students and teachers.

photo by Josh Hallett

photo by Josh Hallett

That’s Chief Exec Bear, Maxine Clark, founder of Build a Bear Workshop, who spoke to us about teachers – good and bad – and the impact they have on children’s lives.  Hearing from incredibly successful women entrepreneurs is always inspiring, but there’s an even stronger impact when it’s someone like Maxine Clark who is also honest and supportive of other women entrepreneurs.  And I love that she started Build a Bear with an underlying belief that every child should be able to buy a basic bear and fill it with love.

4.  There is magic, everywhere you look.

 Like this unexpected surprise in the headboard at the Disneyland Resort

5. Everyone is creative

When you spend time with the people at Disney you quickly come to realize how incredibly talented everyone who works at Disney is, and how diverse those talents are. But, more importantly is this belief that every cast member has a creative spark that can be brought out.

One of my favorite videos to illustrate that is this one of the janitorial team making art with water:

These things are why this is not a conference, but a celebration.  A celebration of magic, family and inspiration with a big dose of serious fun.  And most importantly for those of us that write, or film, or share our stories, is this quote from Walt Disney…

 

 

Muggles Will Finally Get to Ride the Hogwarts Express!

Muggles Will Finally Get to Ride the Hogwarts Express!

I am so excited about the Diagon Alley expansion of  The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando!  And now, the creative folks at Universal Orlando have unveiled the incredible experience that will join the current Hogsmeade and Hogwarts experience with the new Diagon Alley experience: The Hogwarts Express.

Not just an ordinary train ride (of course not, this is the World of Harry Potter!)  The team at Universal Orlando have recreated Kings Cross, platform 9 3/4 and the Hogwarts Express so guests will actually feel immersed in the journey between Diagon Alley and London to Hogsmeade and Hogwarts.

While on the Hogwarts Express riders will look out their window to see familiar Harry Potter characters whizzing by, and immediately be transported into the Harry Potter experience.

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It’s a brilliant way to connect the two parks at Universal Orlando and recreate an incredibly important part of the Harry Potter story.

I love that J.K. Rowling was consulted every step of the way, and that every fine detail was painstakingly recreated.  The authenticity is what makes the Wizarding World of Harry Potter already so magical and transformative.

Now I can’t wait to see the reveal of Gringotts Bank!  I’ve got my key ready!

gringotts key

Showing off our Disney Side at a Tweentastic Disney Tea Party -

Showing off our Disney Side at a Tweentastic Disney Tea Party -

I don’t think there is any bad age or best age for Disney.  The real magic of Disney is that all ages can find something fun, wonderful and plain ol’ optimistically wonderful to celebrate and explore.  My daughters never went through a Princess phase, but they did go through a fairy phase.  Even when my daughter dressed up like Belle for Halloween at 4 years-old she added a pair of wings…

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As my daughters have gotten older they’ve experienced more and more of the things that make Disney unique, from being able to stay up really late at Walt Disney World to the Broadway world of Disney.  So when we were given the opportunity to host a Disney Side party at our home we immediately brainstormed about what would be special and fun for them and their tween girl friends.  Given that we were throwing this event after school, a tea party made perfect sense – and one that could easily be made supercalifabulous enough for tweens.

The menu:

Cinderella Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

pumpkin chocolate chip bread

Belle Craisins® scones

craisins scones

Mickey Mouse shaped finger sandwiches (cream cheese and cucumber, tuna, and PB&J)

mickey mouse sandwiches

And of course, hot cocoa and tea.

The table was set for an afternoon of Disney fun…

disney side tea party

And then the fun began…

Of course no tween party is complete without some crafting.  The girls went to work on cutting, decorating and styling Hanes T-Shirts into personalized fashion statements…

It was great to get all these girls together and have them express their Disney Side!  Plus, that Mickey Mouse shaped cookie cutter makes every sandwich irresistible!

Want to learn more about Disney Side?   Check out DisneySide.com and DisneySideCelebrations.com and get inspired to show off your Disney Side!

I was provided a suitcase full of great supplies and ideas by Disney to create this fantastic party.  The ideas, opinions, and guests are all my own!

Add Some Hamptonality to Your Holiday – Plus Win a Free Night at Hampton Hotels

exterior When you live in New York City everyone wants to visit you.  With the theater, museums, great restaurants, and all of the fantastic landmarks and sites – and amazing shopping of course – NYC is a fabulous place like no other.  Add in the holiday lights, the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, the Rockettes and all of the magic that makes NYC especially glittery at holiday time, and it’s easy to see why friends and family want to come and stay.  However, there is one other reality about living in NYC, the lack of space.  Stepping over aerobeds and no privacy aren’t exactly the makings of a great visit. I love the idea of putting up family at a reasonably priced hotel instead.  Hampton Hotels has launched a wonderful new Hampton Holiday Program where the central theme is making guests feel taken care of and providing a clean, warm place to call their own.  All of the 1,900 Hampton locations feature:

  • Free, hot breakfast with fresh-baked waffles. (This is ESSENTIAL when traveling with kids!)
  • Free wired or wireless high-speed internet access in all guest rooms, so you can post about your holiday travels while visiting family in other towns.
  • The clean and fresh Hampton bed® – so you can rest up for your big holiday weekends.

GuestRoom_HR[1] I always enjoy staying at the Hampton Inn in Maine when we visit our girls for camp visiting day.  We’ve always been impressed with the service, the breakfast and the clean rooms.  Plus, the free wifi is a must for me!  Now I know all of those little things add up to “Hamptonality.”  Also, I love earning Hilton Honors points! Here in NYC it’s nice to know that even if we can’t squeeze people into our apartment there are ways we can personalize their stay in a hotel.  Hampton has partnered with entertaining expert, Jenny Steffens Hobick, to provide simple tips for making out-of-towners feel at home – especially when they’re staying in a nearby hotel. I love these tips especially:

  • Plan a welcome bag with treats, water, (and my tip in NYC – a metrocard and a list of great NYC apps to download!)
  • Hire a babysitter one night and host the kids at your place so the grown-ups can have a kid-free night out together.
  • Make time for resting.  This is so important especially in NYC!  Set a time where everyone just meets to relax, have a hot drink and snacks and regroup.

Here in NYC the Hampton Inn Times Square North is ideally situated for walking to the theater, Central Park and midtown shopping.  Plus it’s close to every subway imaginable. Everyone could use some time away, whether it’s a quick trip or a longer vacation.  And it’s so nice when everyone has their own space too. So, I’m giving away a one night stay to use at any of the 1,900 US Hampton locations!

How to Enter the Hampton Be My Guest Giveaway:

Follow @beccasara on Twitter and tweet your “Hamptonality” tip.  What’s the thing you do to make your guests feel special?   Be sure to include @beccasara and #HamptonHoliday.  Then leave a comment below with a link to your tweet! You can also follow Hampton throughout the year for great travel ideas and promotions:

One winner will be chosen at random using random.org on December 31st  at 12:00pm Eastern.  Hampton Hotels will mail the winner a “Be My Guest” card, which entitles the bearer to (1) free night stay at a Hampton location.  Winner will be notified via twitter and must respond within 48 hours to claim the prize.  Open to U.S. Residents 18+ only. This is a sponsored post.  Compensation was provided by Hampton Hotel via MomTrends.  The opinions expressed herein are mine and are not indicative of the opinions of Hampton or Momtrends

 

Transformers The Ride- 3D Opens at Universal Studios Florida June 20th

Transformers The Ride- 3D Opens at Universal Studios Florida June 20th

After years of thrilling guests at Universal Studios Singapore and Hollywood, this Thursday Universal Studios Orlando officially opens it much-anticipated Transformers the Ride – 3D.   Working closely with Michael Bay, the award-winning director of the TRANSFORMERS film series and the ride’s creative consultant, the designers and engineers have created a high-tech, hyper-realistic experience that brings the non-stop action of the blockbuster films to life, placing guests in the middle of an intergalactic battle between Autobots and the Decepticons.

Like many of the Universal Studios 4D experience rides such as Harry Potter and Spiderman, Transformers The Ride – 3D transports the rider into the game universe through visual and motion effects that envelop and engross the rider.  According to Thierry Coup, Senior Vice President of the Universal Creative Studio, they built on their experience with previous rides and attractions and added the latest technology and effects to create the most “seamless, immersive environment for riders.”

While Transformers The Ride – 3D has been open in Universal Studios Singapore since 2011 and Universal Studios Hollywood since 2012, the Universal Studios Orlando ride utilizes the most advanced ride technology yet. Coup highlighted the cutting-edge technology employed in Transformers The Ride 3D such as the attraction’s 3-D imagery that uses life-like HD CGI media, the 60 foot, 4K high-definition resolution screens, full 3D surround sound and the latest motion simulator vehicles, which deliver a heart pounding experience.

The original script used for the ride introduces a new character named EVAC, created for Transformers The Ride – 3D.  Guests will move through an immersive and interactive queue experience that gives them the opportunity to prepare for battle in an intergalactic war against the Decepticons, who have come to Earth in search of the powerful energy source, the Allspark.   For those not familiar with the Transformers back story, videos throughout the queue experience recount the story of the alien robots leaving Cybertron, landing on Earth, and as part of the ride, recruiting riders to prepare for the battle ahead.

To ensure that the ride would resonate with Transformers super-fans, the game designers worked closely with Hasbro and Michael Bay to ensure the most accurate, detail-filled experience.  Riders will come face to face with Megatron, dodge explosions and attacks by the Decepticons, fight to save mankind alongside Optimus Prime and the Autobots. The Universal team even worked with the original voice actors from the films to maintain authenticity in the ride experience.  According to Coup, “It’s the ultimate 3-D battle between the forces of good and evil, where you help save the world.”

Transformers the Ride – 3D officially opens on June 20, 2013 at Universal Orlando.

Brave’s Merida – Redefining the Word Princess

There was a lot of uproar about Disney “sexing” up Merida in their lead up to her official induction into the Disney Princess Pantheon.  But, at the Disney coronation ceremony last week, which I attended as part of the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration, she was exactly as you would imagine – wild haired, bold, in her everyday velvet dress and riding a horse.

photo courtesy of Disney

photo courtesy of Disney

My daughters never went through a princess phase, but Merida they relate to.  Archery is one of their favorite sports – and my daughter could easily give Merida a run for her money in the biggest, curly hair category.

archerygirls

The word princess is weighed down with years and years of anti-feminist meaning – damsel in distress, pampered and spoiled, helpless and silly.  And if you’re also Jewish – well that just adds a whole other level of stereotype.   Thanks, Bravo.

But, I will be the first to admit I was all in for Cinderella, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty when I was growing up.  Just like a was all in for Charlie’s Angels, Wonder Woman and Princess Leia – not to mention Sandy in Grease.   The “princesses,” didn’t differ in my mind from any other title and lead female character – they were all important enough to have the story revolve around them, or be key characters that drove the story.  And in the end, that is the most empowering message – you drive the story of your life.

So, I love this new I am a Princess Campaign from Disney.  I’ve written before about the power of owning a word that was used to put you down.  Girls defining what it means to be a princess now, to them, for them – that has the potential to be truly powerful.  Watch the video and tell me what you think.