Lake Tahoe, CA/NV

Top 10 Things to do in Lake Tahoe in the SPRING & FALL

Lake Tahoe
View from Lake Tahoe Scenic Drive, Emerald Bay

The beautiful, stunningly clear water of Lake Tahoe, a freshwater lake, straddles the states of California and Nevada, and is an absolutely stunning destination. Most people visit Lake Tahoe as a winter ski destination visiting the areas of Heavenly, Northstar, Tahoe Donner, Homewood, etc. This is definitely on our list, and we are actually planning a Lake Tahoe skiing trip this December 2018 with my family!

However, we visited Lake Tahoe in the fall before all of the snow fell, and it was beautiful weather and such a lovely time for our 2 year old! These are our top 10 things to enjoy in Tahoe during fall that could also be enjoyed in the spring/summer months:

Travel: The closest airport is Reno and the drive will take you appx 1 hour to Heavenly Village, less or more depending on where you are staying along the lake. We usually rent a car to have our own transportation, but shuttle service is available from Reno to Lake Tahoe to 6 main resort areas (Lakeside Inn, Horizon, Harvey’s, Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel, Harrah’s, and Mt. Bleu Resort) via South Tahoe Airporter. If staying elsewhere you can then continue on via public transport.

1.) Emerald Bay Cruise: Emerald Bay is the most photographed place in Lake Tahoe and with good reason. It hosts gorgeous landscapes with peaks reaching 3000 feet starkly rising from the water and is a National Natural Landmark. Cruising Emerald Bay allows you to see the stunning scenery of Emerald Bay State Park from the water. You get a glimpse of Vikingsholm, the Scandinavian castle and Fannette Island, the only island in Lake Tahoe. We cruised on the Tahoe Blue Wave which departs daily from the Tahoe Keys Marina and includes a buffet lunch. I researched lots of cruises beforehand, and we settled on this 70 foot yacht because the max passenger load is 49, and we wanted a more intimate feel especially with the 2 year old. We really LOVED this cruise. The crew was fantastic and offered lots of 1 on 1 attention. We really had wonderful views from aboard the yacht, and the cookies are pretty great too!

2.) Ice Skating: There are lots of opportunities for ice skating in Lake Tahoe. Heavenly and Northstar Villages both offer outdoor seasonal skating rinks in the villages. These ice skating rinks open seasonally usually at the beginning of November. And in March Northstar turns their ice skating rink into a roller rink in time for Spring! For year round ice skating; however, you can visit the South Lake Tahoe ice arena. There are daily public skate sessions, and lessons offered. My daughter loved this experience. There is also an outdoor playground located on the premises of the sports complex that we visited after skating which is wonderful!

South Lake Tahoe Ice Arena

3.) Heavenly Village: We love Heavenly Village. My daughter loved the fountain and throwing coins into it. Village Toy Store is a great stop off with little ones. We love Base Camp Pizza as well. They have outdoor seating with lawn games for kids plus the pizza is great and affordable. You can take the gondola up to the mountain from the village for a scenic tour at different times throughout the year.

4.) Lakeside Beach: Located in South Lake Tahoe this is a brilliant beach. There is playground equipment on the beach with stunning views of the lake and mountains. And the great thing about visiting Lakeside Beach in fall is that it is free and open to the public without a pass!

5.) Kings Beach: Located in North Lake Tahoe is Kings Beach which is a great destination for families. It offers a playground on the beach, a cute little strip of shops and eateries as well as paddle board rentals etc beach side. A visit to the Sweet Tahoe Time Ice Cream Shop is also a must with little ones!

6.) Visit the original & new Red Hut Restaurant: My favorite breakfast spot is the ORIGINAL Red Hut Waffle Shop! It is a small dinner with amazing food, and has preserved the intimate diner atmosphere, and they make Mickey pancakes for kids 🙂 We also enjoyed the new Red Hut location for the soda bar! We enjoyed the ice cream and little store inside.

7.) Drive the Lake, Hike, & Picnic: The Lake Tahoe Scenic Drive is stunning and makes a 68 mile loop around Lake Tahoe, CA and NV. The loop passes thru some lovely little Tahoe villages such as Incline Village, King’s Beach, Tahoe City, etc. Some sections of the road are closed during the winter months so visiting during other times of the year is a fantastic way to enjoy the full loop. There are several spots to pull off and admire the scenery as well as hiking trails and picnic spots! Sand Harbor in Incline Village is a great place to stop!

8.) Smores & Drinks at The Ritz Carlton Northstar: We decided to drive to Northstar and visit the Ritz Carlton for drinks and appetizers. They have an outdoor bar/dining/sitting area that is perfect for children. They have lots of lawn games and activities set up which our daughter enjoyed, and she made little friends playing. In addition they bring out the smores cart daily, and you can enjoy roasting smores in the open fire pits with little ones! This is a stunning property!

9.) A day trip to Virginia City: Virginia City is the United States’ largest National Historic Landmark, and visiting the city is like taking a step back in time. The drive from Lake Tahoe will take you appx 1 hour to Virginia City. Read my full review of Virginia City here!

10.) A weekend trip to Yosemite: Before winter, The Tioga Pass is usually open which is a great convenient way to visit Yosemite. The drive will take you appx 2.5 hours from Tahoe and will take you to the Eastern Entrance of the park. Yosemite is one of those places that is mostly indescribable unless you have been there to see its beauty, but still I have tried to catalog our experience with a toddler here!


Uniquely Kiwi

My list of 52 Kiwi Things

(Why 52? 52 weeks in a year, 1 for each week 🙂

Milford Sound, Fiordland National Park, New Zealand
Milford Sound, New Zealand

I have a love affair with New Zealand. Some of my closest friends live there which will always make it special! My husband and I lived there on a working holiday shortly after we were married for 6 months+, and those experiences and memories are deeply ingrained in our relationship. We will start laughing randomly sometimes when we think of the fun we had. New Zealand was also the first international destination we took our daughter when she was 18 months old which adds to its sentimental value. I have made several entry posts about visiting New Zealand that can be found here, (Queenstown, Wanaka, Cambridge, Waiheke Island, Bay of Islands) but today I wanted to take a moment to write a list of things that are unique kiwi and take a trip down memory lane. And take the opportunity to announce that I will feature a guest blog post by my beautiful Kiwi friend, Erin, in a few weeks! She has a little boy and has been jet setting with him!

New Zealander’s have such a beautiful culture! The Maori history of NZ shapes the countries’ culture, and is deeply intertwined with many ideas and practices being borrowed across ethnicities. The culture is worry free, vibrant, and hospitable!

1.) Sweet As: The kiwi slogan that sums up kiwi lifestyle, and that I have heard every kiwi person I know say. Plus you can find sweet as printed on tons of tourist T shirts. 🙂 My daughter and husband have matching ones 🙂 The T shirt defines it as “I am confirming that what you are proposing is good by me” but I find kiwis also use this phrase interchangeably with how we use the word awesome.

2.) Kumara: The kiwi word for sweet potatoes. It took me forever to figure this out in the grocery store. 🙂

3.) Trundle: The kiwi word for a shopping cart or buggy!

4.) ButterNew Zealand butter is sold in block form not sticks like Americans are used to. I didn’t really realize why this would be confusing for Kiwis until my friend, Erin and I were sitting in the movie theater. The American movie “The Women” was showing in the theater, and there is a scene where Meg Ryan takes a stick of butter out of the refrigerator and starts eating it. Erin leaned over and asked what it was. She didn’t recognize it was butter! But let me just say their butter is amazing! All of their cows are grass fed, and they make amazing butter!

5.) The Buzzy Bee: This native New Zealand toy is iconic! It is a pull toy on a string, and the little bee’s wings rotate and click. A picture of my daughter’s buzzy bee:


5.) Hangi: Maoris traditionally cooked in the ground in dug out holes called hangis. Hot stones are placed in the dug out oven, and food is wrapped in cabbage leaves or cloth and placed in wire baskets then covered with wet cloths and covered in the earth and steamed for hours! When our friends hosted a hangi for us it was an all day event. Vegetables had to be cleaned, peeled, wrapped. The hole dug, stones heated, food cooked, etc. It was quite the honor to have this hosted for us, and a very special memory we cherish!

New Zealand Hangi
New Zealand Hangi prepared by our friends! 🙂

6.) No tipping: You don’t tip in New Zealand. I was a waitress while I was in New Zealand as well for a fantastic award winning restaurant called FOOD at Wharepuke!

7.) Tax is included: New Zealand has GST which is a goods & service tax, but it is already included in the price. The price on the tag is what you pay. The price of the groceries is what you pay! I like that! Keeps things simple!

8.) College: Means high school to New Zealanders while university means the equivalent of USA college.

9.) Weetbix: New Zealand’s #1 breakfast cereal! I can only describe it as our shredded wheat cereal.

10.) L & P Soda: New Zealand’s soft drink. Lemon fizz is the only way I can really describe it. It is now owned and marketed by Coca Cola!

11.) Rubbish Costs: Rubbish is how kiwi’s refer to garbage, and you must pay for your rubbish bags. Prepaid rubbish bags are sold in the stores (they were green when we bought them), and your trash must be bagged in these paid bags for it to be picked up. Recycle bags are cheaper than rubbish bags. A great way to encourage recycling!

12.) Lollies: How kiwis say candy!

13.) Metric system: Like the rest of the world, kiwis use the metric system. KGS instead of LBS. I forgot about this and at the grocery ordered 1 LB of deli meat. I got 1 Kilo which is about 2.2 LBS. I had a lot of meat for 2 people!

14.) Left side of the road: They drive on the left! And they love them some round abouts!

New Zealand Car
Our “sweet as” car in NZ

15.) Celsius: C not Fahrenheit! I also forgot this one day, and set my oven to 350 C. Should have been 180 C ! I definitely burnt the chicken!

16.) Grass Fed Beef: Almost all beef in NZ is grass fed due to their abundant grazing pasturage! Even McDonald’s uses 100% New Zealand grass fed beef! It was amazing!

17.) Lamb & Mutton: There is an abundance of sheep in New Zealand. Currently there is about a 6 to 1 ratio of sheep to human. Kiwis make an amazing cooked lamb with mint.   Mutton: They eat older sheep too!

New Zealand Sheep
Visiting with New Zealand Sheep

18.) Gorgeous: An adjective used to describe food that is delicious  “The chicken is gorgeous”

19.) Partners: People in relationships refer to their significant other as a “partner” even if you are married which I always found very confusing!

20.) Alcohol: Drinking age is 18!

21.) Taking off your shoes: It is considered rude to leave your shoes on when entering a person’s home. You always take your shoes off and leave them at the door! At least that was my experience; I know from Real Housewives of Auckland they don’t all adhere to this motto.

22.) Tea Time: Kiwis love their tea!

23.) Cafe culture: Cafe culture is BIG in New Zealand. Lots of specialty coffees, teas, pastries, dining options, etc.

24.) Good on ya mate: Another kiwi phrase meaning job well done. This slogan was popularized by beer commercials.

25.) Kia Ora: I can’t believe I left this one for so late in the list as it is an integral phrase of New Zealand marrying Maori culture with the mainstream. It is used in their tourism slogans as well. Kia Ora is interrupted as a Maori hello greeting, but means have life and be well which I think is lovely!

26.) Shoes optional: So many people view shoe wearing as optional even in grocery stores at least in the Northland where we set up base!

27.) Pavlova: Meringue dessert with fruit topping and oh so good! There is a debate as to New Zealand or Australian origin, but the kiwis claim it passionately!

28.) Jandals: Kiwi word for flip flops

29.) Jumper: Kiwi word for sweatshirt

30.) Togs: Kiwi word for swimsuit

31.) All Blacks: The national Rugby team! They also perform the haka before every game which is the traditional Maori war dance which is sweet as!

32.) EFTPOS: Their debit system. (Electronic Funds Transfer at Point of Sale). And make sure if you open a bank account you have unlimited EFTPOS transactions. We did not when we opened ours. 😦

33.) Fried eggs and beets: These are burger toppings!

34.) Pakeha: A term used to describe people of European descent, but which most kiwis say translates “white pig” There seems to be much debate as to if pakeha actually translates this way, but this is how it was explained to me when I asked the meaning!

35.) Manuka Honey: Native to New Zealand. It is a monofloral honey produced by bees pollinating the native manuka tree. It has one of the highest antibacterial properties of any honey, and is amazing!

36.) Paua: The equivalent to abalone shell, but uniquely kiwi due to their pattern and color which is only found off the coasts of NZ.

37.) Crayfish: The equivalent maybe to our lobster, but yet different. I’ve heard them described as US crawfish, but NZ crayfish are much larger than crawfish!

38.) Holiday: Holiday refers to vacation. You go on “holiday.” And most New Zealanders get 30 paid days off vacation time and public holidays!

39.) Aotearoa: Another name for New Zealand. Aotearoa is a Maori word meaning “land of the long white cloud”

40.) Bookabach: New Zealand’s equivalent of airbnb or vrbo. A bach refers to a holiday home.

41.) Feijoa: This can be found in other countries around the world, but is also native to New Zealand. It is called the “pineapple guava”. I love the juices that have feijoa in them! I miss this about NZ!

42.) Screwcap: New Zealand is known for its screwcap wines. Almost all wines are screw cap. They had an initiative for this.

43.) Shout: Someone has offered to “shout” you a drink. It means their buying. 🙂

44.) Horn: Its illegal to use your car horn after 11:00 pm and before 7:00 am unless for an emergency. Stay quiet my friends!

45.) Snakes: There are NO snakes in New Zealand. They were never introduced to New Zealand.

46.) Spiders: Unlike their Aussie neighbors, there are no poisonous spiders in NZ.

47.) The sun: The burn time is appx 12 minutes in NZ without sunscreen!

48.) Kauri: Native trees in New Zealand. These trees are majestic. The largest Kauri tree is Tane Mahuta located in the Northland, and is estimated to be as old as 2,500 years.

49.) Capsicum: The kiwi word for bell pepper.

50.) Half & Half: It doesn’t exist in New Zealand. If you want half & half you make your own with cream and milk.

51.) The Tui bird: A beautiful native bird of New Zealand. Often overshadowed by the more widely known kiwi bird which leads to…

52.) The kiwi bird: And my favorite for last. New Zealander’s take their nickname as kiwis from their national bird. A flightless/ almost blind bird more active at night. They also lay the largest egg in conjunction with their body size! Pretty cool! Plus they are really cute in my daughter’s opinion!

Matauri Bay Drive, New Zealand
My husband, Matauri Bay Drive, New Zealand
Walter Peak Farm, Queenstown New Zealand
Walter Peak Farm, Queenstown New Zealand

We are currently moving house so I will be taking a two week break from blogging, but when I return please check back for my Kiwi friends featured blog!


Art of Animation Resort

Art of Animation Resort
Art of Animation Resort, Disney World, Florida

During our most recent trip to Disney World, we stayed at the Art of Animation resort, and I wanted to take the opportunity to share my thoughts/reviews of the property. This marks the third time I have stayed at Art of Animation Resort. The first time I stayed in the Cars family suite with a group of 6 fun loving girls on a bachelorette trip! The second time was with my family of 3 plus my mom+dad+and sister when our daughter was newly 2. We stayed in 2 adjoining Little Mermaid standard rooms. And this last time was just my family of 3 and our dear daughter was 2 (almost 3), and we again stayed in a Little Mermaid Standard Room!

Resort: The Art of Animation is a value resort hotel, and opened in 2012 making it the newest value resort on property. Art of Animation celebrates the animation and fantasy of 4 beloved Disney movies: Cars, Finding Nemo, The Lion King, and The Little Mermaid. The resort is divided into sections with The Little Mermaid section offering standard hotel rooms. The Cars, Finding Nemo, and Lion King sections offer family suites with interior halls/doors. In addition, the family suites are in closer proximity to the resorts main hub, Animation Hall whereas The Little Mermaid section is a bit of walk. It took us appx 10 minutes each day to walk from our hotel room to the buses with a stroller and tot in tow from The Little Mermaid section. The hotel also features 3 pools (more comments later), an arcade, a quick service food court: Landscape of Flavors, a souvenir shop: Ink & Paint Shop, a playground with slide for bambinos, and standard Disney amenities including Disney bus transportation to/from parks, Disney’s Magical express transportation to/from airport, and Movies under the Stars.

Rooms: The family suites can sleep 6, and have a designated bedroom with a door in addition to 2 full sized pull out beds in the living area of the suite (1 in the couch, and 1 pulls out from the wall and doubles as a table/bed). The suites also offer a kitchenette and 2 bathrooms! The Little Mermaid rooms have 2 full sized beds, and can hold a max of 4 people, but if you get adjoining rooms like we did you can technically fit 8, although I think it would be extremely tight. The rooms are fashioned after the themes of each movie and are fun and vibrant. If you are not into animated Disney decorum then you may feel the furnishings are cheap and cheesy, but we found them to be whimsical, and our 2 year old loved every second at the hotel!

The property: In addition to the rooms, each section is designed on the outside to reflect the movies’ setting. The Cars section has the cozy cone motel sign as well as cars parked outside. The Finding Nemo section has my husband’s favorite touch, the squalling seagulls that caw “mine, mine, mine” from the humorous dialog on Finding Nemo at set times throughout the day. This really brought out the inner kid in him as he would want to wait to hear their very loud caws 🙂  The Lion King & Little Mermaid sections have your favorite character statues including a rather scary over sized statue of Ursula – might need to give little ones a head up on this!

Little Mermaid Art of Animation
Ursula Statue, Art of Animation

Pools: There are 3 pools at Art of Animation. The Big Blue Pool, The Cars Pool, and The Little Mermaid Pool.

The largest pool at Disney World is the Big Blue Pool in the theme of Finding Nemo. There are underwater speakers in the pool for music. The pool has a splash pad area for younger kids as well as a poolside bar and beverage station. The hotel also hosts weekly activities at this main pool including outdoor movies and games, etc. The pool is located directly behind the Animation Hall providing convenient access to the food court as well.

Big Blue Pool, Art of Animation
Splash Pad Area, Big Blue Pool

The Cars Pool is the smallest pool at Art, but it has cabanas which are first come/first serve.

The Little Mermaid pool is a good size, but nothing extra special about it. It is a nice pool area, and has laundry facilities (fee), bathroom facilities, and vending machines in the poolside buildings.

There is not a pool area in the Lion King area; however, I do not view this as negative since there is no pool noise to work around. When we stayed in the Little Mermaid rooms once it was April and once it was January. For January we had a room overlooking the pool, and it was lovely as it was cold during our visit and not too many people were swimming. However, in April every evening once people would return from the parks the pools would be packed out with tons of noise. My tip for this is to request a lake view room if staying in the Little Mermaid section! When we stayed in Cars it was also cold during the month of February, and we also experienced no pool noise so I am not sure how loud this pool area gets during peak months.

Restaurant: Landscape of Flavors is a great quick service counter restaurant as it has multiple options, and a good variety in terms of food fare. There are 5 service areas. There is a dedicated build our own salad/ sandwich counter, build your own pasta counter, a pizza counter, a burger counter that offers a wide variety of options on burgers and toppings, and the last counter is international fare options including chicken tandoori, chicken curry, ribs, and fish. There is a wide variety of kids meal options, and they also have an entire wall of coolers which contain pre-made pastries, sandwiches, fruit & veggie cups, on the go snack and drink options. You also have the option to order pizza in your room! For breakfast, there are lots of options ranging from a breakfast platter, build your own omelette, pancakes, Mickey waffles, etc. Most of the time the lines were manageable; however, I will say, if at all possible avoid eating dinner here right after the park closes. It is a mad house. The set up is that you order your food and then go thru a cafeteria style line to pay for what is on your tray. One night we opted for this, and once I got my food I stood in line to check out for 20 minutes. By the time I checked out, all of our meals were cold. 😦

Ink & Paint Shop: We think this is a fabulous little souvenir shop. We have found some souvenirs here that we did not find elsewhere in the parks so definitely check out what they have. Also, if you purchase something at another store in the park, you can always return here as well so that is extremely convenient as well. You can also have anything you buy in the parks sent back to your resort hotel, and you can pick up inside this Ink & Paint Shop.

Fun Extras:

Draw Class: Art of Animation offers an area where kids can learn how to draw their favorite characters with a Disney artist. This is held in the little activity center adjacent to the check in area 3 times a day: 11am, 2pm, 5pm.  You also have the opportunity to bring your sketch of your favorite Disney character to the front desk to enter a contest as the hotel picks a winning sketch daily. You can also get art supplies from the front desk.

Jogging and Biking: There is also a free jogging trail around Art of Animation that links it with Pop Century. You also have the opportunity to rent a single or double bike from the property.

Coming Soon: Sky high Gondola: Construction was already underway when we visited last month (Jan 2018) for the new gondola transportation system which will allow you to enjoy an ariel view of Disney World. This system will link Art of Animation, Pop Century, and Caribbean Beach Resort with Hollywood Studios and the International Gateway at Epcot. This is something exciting and unique for these 3 resorts!

Overall: We have really enjoyed staying at Art of Animation, and highly recommend it! We have chosen to visit this property repeatedly because we really feel while our daughter is still little this is a really fun atmosphere for her! She loves all of the attention to Disney films. Some of her favorites are:

  • The shower in the Little Mermaid rooms is is designed to look like Ariel’s grotto where she hides all of her treasures. It has all of the treasures printed on tiles in the bathtub which is a blast for a 2 year old.
  • The cawing seagulls in the Nemo section just like her father.
  • The slide/playground area in the Nemo section

    Playground Art of Animation
    Playground, Art of Animation
  • The chance to draw on easels in the nook inside reception.
  • The outdoor movies
  • The statue of Rafiki in the Lion King section which we discovered last trip has now been removed. 😦
Art of Animation Directory
Art of Animation Directory
Hourglass Lake, Art of Animation
Hourglass Lake, Art of Animation Resort

Cinderella’s Royal Table vs. Akershus Royal Banquet

If you want to dine with princesses in Disney World then these are your 2 main options where multiple princesses from different tales are featured! Character experiences are our favorite part of Disney World! I, also, find the money well worth the expense in order to spend 1 on 1 time with characters while dining instead of having to stand in line especially when you are seeing at least 5 different characters like at these venues!

We visited both Cinderella’s Royal Table (Magic Kingdom) and Akershus Royal Banquet (EPCOT) recently when our daughter was 2! We enjoyed both experiences, but our favorite is Akershus at least from our most recent experiences!

Characters: At Cinderella’s Royal Table you first enter the castle and meet Cinderella. You have one on one time with Cinderella to sign autographs, take pictures, and talk! After visiting Cinderella, you walk upstairs to the dining room inside the castle, and during your meal you are visited table-side by Ariel, Jasmine, Aurora, and Snow White. At Akershus you enter the banquet hall and walk into a curtained off nook to meet Belle. You have one on one time with Belle to sign autographs, take pictures, and talk! After visiting Belle, you walk to your table in the main dining hall and are visited table-side during your meal by Cinderella, Ariel, Aurora, and Snow White. They state that character appearances are subject to change at both venues, but the main difference is Belle at Akershus and Jasmine at Royal Table. Although I have to say, the dress Cinderella wore at the Royal Table meet and greet was much grander than the dress she wore at Akershus!

We thought both of these experiences were grand, but we felt that at Akershus the princesses were able to spend more time with our little one than at Cinderella’s Royal Table. They sat down with her, chatted, showed their shoes, told her stories, signed her book, etc. At Royal Table, they visited, signed the autograph book, took a picture, and left. At Akershus the little ones are able to participate in a princess processional with all of the princesses around the dining room holding their hand, dancing, etc. At Cinderella’s Royal Table each little one is given a magic wand if a girl or a plastic sword if a boy and a wishing star which they use throughout breakfast on different cues.

Value: Cinderella’s Royal Table requires 2 table dining credits while Akershus only requires 1. If using the dining plan, Akershus is a better value. However, if paying with cash I don’t really see the difference. Akershus may be slightly less, but only by a few dollars. An example, Disney World lists Cinderella’s Royal Table & Akershus breakfast/lunch price as both $35 to $59.99 per adult. You must use a credit card to secure each reservation even if you are on the dining plan. The cancellation policy at Cinderella’s Royal Table is more strict. Our reservation confirmation stated the cancellation policy was 1 day prior or you pay full price for Cinderella’s Table. For Akershus the cancellation policy is 1 day notice or a $10 per person fee. This is probably due to the difficulty of securing a reservation at Cinderella’s Royal Table. Which leads me to:

Reservations: It is easier to get a reservation at Akershus compared to Cinderella’s Royal Table. For our Cinderella’s Reservation I was logged online exactly 180 days (6 month mark) ahead of time, and was able to secure an 8:30 am breakfast reservation. All Cinderella reservations were gone for the beginning of our trip. I had to make the reservation for the end of our trip. For Akershus I made our reservation 3 months prior to our trip, and had multiple options on multiple days. I ended up booking a lunch reservation.

The Food: The food fare at Akershus is more ethnic except for breakfast. The breakfast menu is very much a typical American style breakfast. For lunch/dinner however it is food fare from Norway. We thought the food was fantastic! You begin with a buffet of Norwegian cheeses, salads, meats, fruits, and seafood options. Then you order an entree from the menu. I got the Norwegian meatball dish which I thought was fantastic! Then you finish with dessert! All for 1 dining credit! And since you are in Norway in Epcot your servers are Norwegian which allows for a more cultural dining experience. At Cinderella’s Royal Table we had breakfast so I don’t feel it is an accurate comparison, but we enjoyed the food here as well. I ordered the stuffed French toast and it was mouth watering delectable! You can find menu’s here: Cinderella’s Royal Table Menu & Akershus Banquet Hall Menu!

The Bottom Line: Both of these character dining options are enjoyable and perfectly Disney! We enjoyed the more one on one time with the princesses at Akershus. We enjoyed the food fare, and think it is a better value on the dining plan. Cinderella’s Royal Table does offer a chance to visit and dine in the castle which is a very unique, enchanting experience! There are pros and cons to each one, but I’d say we will probably visit Akershus in the future over Cinderella’s Royal Table! Although, I have heard stories of watching the fireworks thru the stained glass windows of Cinderella’s Castle while enjoying dinner so perhaps we are due for another experience there at different timing. What is your favorite princess character meal and why?




Epcot, Disney World

EPCOT with a Toddler

EPCOT, Disney World

We just returned from our second **Magical** trip (** is my electronic version of pixie dust:)) to Disney World with our 2 year old! We have often heard that Epcot isn’t a great park for a 2 year old, or that it is only a “half” day park with a tot in tow! While Epcot doesn’t offer quite the same level of experiences as Magic Kingdom for a 2 year old, it is still a fantastic FULL day park to be enjoyed with a toddler! Our daughter loves EPCOT! Here are our top things to enjoy in EPCOT:

1.) Character Experiences: EPCOT, in our opinion, has some of the best character meets! At the character spot in EPCOT you can meet Minnie, Mickey & the crew! You can also reserve a fast pass for this attraction so you do not have to wait for long with a little one. We waited all of 5 minutes, and were able to meet some of her favorite characters in one sweep! You can meet Anna & Elsa in Norway, Jasmine & Aladdin in Morocco, Mulan in China, Donald Duck in Mexico, Snow White in Germany, Princess Aurora & Belle in France, and Mary Poppins & Alice in The United Kingdom. We have found the lines are often shorter in EPCOT, and the characters are able to spend more time with the little ones!


There is also the fabulous princess dining experience at Akershus Royal Banquet Ball in Norway where you get to meet Belle upon entering, and then get visited table side by other princess who rotate in appearance. We loved this dining experience, and got to meet Aurora, Snow White, Cinderella, and Ariel in addition to Belle! We actually prefer this character dining experience to Cinderell’s Royal Table. Plus you are right next door to ride Frozen Ever After upon finishing dining. Having done both Akershus & Royal Table with a 2 year old, I will be reviewing and comparing both during my blog post next week so be sure to check back in! 🙂


2.) Kidcot & EPCOT Passport: This is a fantastic free program for little ones! In every country in The World Showcase there is a Kidcot area where your little one can get their EPCOT passport stamped. The cast members will write your child’s name in their native language as well as draw special surprises on their countries page for your little one! Our daughter loved finding the Kidcot area in each country, and kept asking “What country are we going to next?” It was so cute! Also, at each station there are activities. In Japan they were demonstrating how to make origami animals. In Norway they were coloring Olaf pictures with markers. They also will give your child a “Duffy the Bear” and they can color and decorate the bear along the way. The passport comes with a pin, and stickers. While we ate lunch, our daughter had fun finding each page the stickers went on!



3.) Visit During the Flower & Garden Festival: If you are able, I highly recommend visiting EPCOT during The Flower and Garden Festival which runs from February 28th thru May 28th. During this time EPCOT is stunningly beautiful. There are topiary displays, a butterfly garden, and interactive playgrounds. There is a special playground that is set up on the grass lawn adjacent to the walk way from The Land area to the World Showcase area. This was a fantastic area. Our daughter played, and we lounged under the covered umbrellas with our Dole Whips and Floats! (Which you must try if visiting Disney World by the way –  pineapple flavored frozen soft serve ice cream or if you make it a float with pineapple juice!) The butterfly garden was also a hit! And at each country our daughter loved finding the topiary displays of her favorite characters. Also during this time, there are special food stall vendors that sell small plates which makes eating around the world so fun and cost efficient!

Epcot during Flower & Garden Festival!


4.) The toy train: Besides Germany in EPCOT is the toy train display. This is a favorite of toddlers! It is a huge toy train that runs thru tracks of villages, displays, etc. It is fun to watch, and follow alongside!

5.) Splash Pads: If visiting during warmer months, pack a swimsuit and a change of clothes for little ones. On the main path from Future World to World Showcase there is an oval splash pad that is a hit for small ones!

6.) Innoventions: Visit Colortopia inside the Innoventions pavillon. This is so fun, and often overlooked! You dip your digital paintbrush in different colors, and then paint screens located around the room. When painting with each color different images appear! Kids can have free reign as it is all digital, and they can reach the screens independently!

7.) Sea Base: This is where The Seas with Nemo & Friends ride is located which is a great ride for little ones, but we particularly enjoy the aquariums located inside the sea base pavilion. This offers a great break from the sun, and is interactive and a big hit with little ones!


EPCOT, Disney World
France, Epcot, Disney World

Enjoy EPCOT! Sending Pixie Dust your way 🙂 *****************

A kiss around the world

A photo journal

On our honeymoon we started a tradition that has now been running for a decade, and that our daughter is now a part of! Follow our photo journal below of our kisses around the world!

Kissing in Rome Italy
Rome, Italy
Kissing in Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Kissing at the Eiffle Tower
Paris, France
Kissing at Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu, Peru
Kissing at Sydney Opera House
Sydney, Australia
Kissing at Brooklyn Bridge
Brooklyn, New York
New Zealand
Matauri Bay, New Zealand
Kissing in New Zealand
The Lost World Cave, New Zealand
Kissing in Venice
Venice, Italy
Kissing in the Bahamas
Paradise Island, Bahamas
Kissing atop Roys Peak
Wanaka, New Zealand
Then there was 3
Then there was 3… Southern Oaks – Alabama
Kissing at the beach
30A, Florida
Kissing Top of the Rock
New York, New York
Kissing Top of the Whistler
Whistler, British Columbia
Kissing Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe
Lake Tahoe, California
Kissing in New Zealand
Kauri Cliffs, New Zealand
Kissing Queenstown, New Zealand
Queenstown, New Zealand
Disney World
Paris, Epcot, Disney World

We have an entire wall in our home dedicated to “our kissing wall”. When we look at these beautiful pictures, we are reminded of our wonderful memories. Travel has a way of humbling you; making you realize how insignificant you are compared to the scale and grander of the world. However, there is nothing small about love. We are so thankful each and every day for the gift of marriage, and our greatest blessing of all: our beautiful,happy daughter! We look forward to adding to these photos over time… our next stop is Ireland! Maybe a photo in front of the Cliffs of Moher or Ring or Kerry! 🙂 What is your favorite travel tradition?


Favorite beach products for little ones!


Enjoying the beach with little ones can sometimes be a lot of work! There is so much preparation in order to avoid sunburns, heat overload, bathroom disasters, and sandy eyes! Here are my top favorite items that always make our beach trips with little ones a joy!

Tent: We always pack the tent! It is amazing how much more enjoyable our beach trips are with our tent! But then again with me having quite a fair complexion, I probably benefit  from the tent more than my daughter! 🙂 The tent makes nap time, potty breaks, etc so much better. It is like our own little home on the beach!

A portable potty: Little ones often have to have numerous potty breaks at the beach! And often kiddies are very scared about going potty in the ocean, and they do not want to take a break to go find a public restroom. Please use this suggestion within reason because obviously a public restroom will be needed in circumstances especially if anything other than number 1 is going down. We love our Potette Plus Travel Potty! It folds up to fit into a purse, backpack, or beach bag! The legs fold out and make a small potty. Absorbent liner bags fit inside the potty, and once done the bags tie up and throw away mess free. This is one of my favorite toddler contraptions!

Baby Powder: If your little one gets sand all over them, use baby powder! Baby powder takes dry sand right off and will circumvent that dreaded situation of sand in the eyes!

Inflatable Pool: We always take an inflatable pool with us to the beach. Our daughter used this at the beach for the first time when she was 6 months old, and continues to use it and she is almost 3! The inflatable pool we have is small and once deflated folds up to fit in my beach bag! It is easy to blow up, and offers a great place for a tot to play and cool off from the heat!

Inflatable Pool

Portable Clip Fan: Sometimes, the summer heat can be sweltering and a little hot for a baby who is only a few months old. A fan like this is great, and clips to to the beach chair!

Radio Flyer Wagon: This wagon breaks down with all of the paneling coming off, and makes it easy for us to load it into our Toureg for a drive to the beach! The wagon isn’t a necessity, but it definitely adds a bit more fun to long beach days. We use the wagon to pull all of our gear to the beach! Your tot can sleep in he wagon, and our daughter loves wagon rides on the beach!

Radio Flyer Wagon Beach

Mum & Bub Soothing Ointment: Long beach days can sometimes leave little one’s sensitive skin chaffed. This is my absolute favorite skin product! The soothing ointment was developed by a leading dermatologist and is naturally derived. It is infused with pawpaw fruit, and free of sufates, parabens, phthalates, gluten, soy, chemicals, etc.