Girls Day Downtown

There is nothing quite like a girls days with my little girls. They love being downtown and going on adventures, and now that they are older, it’s easier for me to do the adventures by myself. Diapers? Don’t need them. Snacks? Still needed but they can open them by themselves. And, although their legs get tired after walking all day, we no longer need to haul a stroller around town.

We recently had a girls day downtown doing two of their favorite things: eating and shopping at American Girl Place and shopping at Disney Store (this is a big deal mostly because there are so few locations of Disney Store, now…..there had been a location very near us but that closed a couple years ago).

Part of the fun of shopping at Disney Store is finding all of the buttons to press and then see what noises or actions those buttons make happen.

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And, of course, watching all of the cartoons and movie previews on the big screen.

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Now, going to American Girl Place and eating there requires a little more planning. You can, of course, just go to shop. However, there is a lot of do while you are there.

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Some things to remember:

  • Tea is fun but is served later in the afternoon so it may not a good option if you haven’t already eaten lunch. Your kids will be hangry. (Trust me. I know.) The lunch is very filling. If you’ve already eaten lunch before arriving, go ahead and do tea!
  • In addition to tea and lunch, there are also brunch and dinner options depending on the time of day that you are going.
  • If you only have a small group with you and you are already there to celebrate a birthday, go ahead and go in for the birthday package. It’s a set price, you get a full meal including a starter and your main course, you get a cake (we always go home with extra), and the kids get a goody bag. Definitely a good deal when you look at the the prices of the meals. (The basic package is $37 for kids and $27 for adults.)
  • If you are planning on taking a doll to the salon, book that as soon as you arrive. The salon can get very busy!
  • Plan on at least 45 minutes to just browse and shop. (Even if you aren’t planning on making any purchases.) The store is set up so that girls can play with almost every item that’s for sale. And, from experience, this takes awhile.

 

Our list thus far:

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Disney’s Art of Animation – Resort Review

So, as you may have previously read, my family recently took a trip to Disney for the RunDisney Princess Half-Marathon weekend. I did the Fairy Tale Challenge (10K and half-marathon) and the girls both participated in the kids races (100m and 200m). As we do whenever we travel to DisneyWorld, we stayed at a resort on the Disney grounds. Our hotel this time? Art of Animation.

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Upon entering the resort, you can see right away that the animation theme is in full effect. There are animation sketches on the walls of the lobby and on the chandeliers (some of my favorite chandeliers ever!)

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There are four different sections with very distinct designs – Lion King, Finding Nemo, The Little Mermaid, and Cars. We stayed in a family suite in the Finding Nemo area. I will go ahead and say that I think that the Finding Nemo section is probably the best if you are staying with younger kids. It’s the closest to the big pool, the playground, and the quick service food option, store, and lobby. We have stayed in the Little Mermaid area before, and it’s a fun design but it’s definitely a longer walk. Long walks after a day at the park (or a day running) with small children and tired feet is always something to take into consideration when planning your stay.

Everything about the design is larger than life. The huge scale makes it feel as though you are a little fish in this big big world.

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Of course, not all of the design elements are huge…..be on the lookout for hidden Mickeys!

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Hidden Mickey – in the bubble design of the carpet

Check out the pictures of the Finding Nemo family suite here. There was plenty of room  for the four adults and two kids that were staying with us. The girls slept on the table bed – I wish I could find a video of that thing unfolding so you could see just how easy it was to turn the table into a bed. Very easy and the girls slept very well. Ryan and I slept on the sleeper sofa. It wasn’t as comfortable as a bed. Sleeper sofas rarely are. But, I was exhausted each night so was able to fall asleep (except for when the pre-race jitters would keep me awake, which honestly was a large portion of each night.)

Also, since we stayed in the family suite, there was a kitchenette. Do not plan on preparing full meals using the kitchenette. But, it’s great to store and reheat some leftovers.

There is only one restaurant option here and this quick service option is ok. Lots of family friendly options and probably something to fit every craving that you are having at any time of day. However, at least when we were there, it seemed that no matter what time you were there to eat, there was absolutely no sense of urgency among the employees working there. Everything, from placing an order to paying for your food, took way more time than it needed to. When you are trying to feed a hungry kid or someone who just ran a half-marathon…..you really don’t want to wait in line longer than you need to. The lines were crazy during peak meal time but they were also crazy during every other time of the day as well. When you can see employees just standing around and talking when there are huge lines of people, it doesn’t really reflect well on your dining experience. (There was never a time when I saw every available register was open and being used…..that definitely would have cut down on the lines.)

One of the best parts of the quick service option is that you can take your food out to the pool. One night, for dinner, I grabbed a ready-to-go large cheese pizza and some drinks. This is actually a pretty good deal for Disney food because the pizza is huge! We brought leftovers back to the room. In addition, if you have the Disney dining plan, you will find many options to choose from for each meal and snack.

For the adults, perhaps one of the best parts of the pool area, is the pool bar!  The drinks were delicious and strong (!!!!!). And best of all , the bartenders all seemed to really enjoy their jobs. 🙂 You can enjoy your beverage in the bar area, or by the pool.

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The number one reason to stay on site when traveling to Disney, in my opinion, is the ease of transportation. Yes, the Disney design is fun and each resort has it’s own unique design and different level of Disney-ness. It’s always fun to keep the Disney atmosphere with you all day, whether or not you are in a park. However, transportation is key!

The schedule for the race weekends begins very early in the morning. Yes, on the morning of the half-marathon, I was on the bus at 3:30am. 3:30am. Gross. The early mornings were, well, really early.

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It was so nice to not have to worry about parking…..or driving anywhere during this weekend. However, the Disney transportation is definitely a benefit whenever you are staying. Some of the hotels have boat or monorail transportation to get you from the parks back to your hotel. And at some resorts, you are so close that you can simply walk to the park. However, they all have buses. We used the bus to get to the Expo, to the race starts, and to get to Disney Springs for dinner, snacks, and to see Black Panther.

Would we stay at Art of Animation again? Of course! This was already our second time staying at the resort. It is one of the Value resorts (very important!!), you get the ease of Disney transportation and a fun Disney design everywhere you turn. The girls loved coming back to the hotel room and seeing the giant Crush the Turtle right outside the door!

Key Takeaways:

Fun design. Very kid friendly. Loads of large character sculptures around the buildings and the pool.

Rooms are a fun design and can easily accommodate a large family.

Design is very Disney. Many of the resorts have a subtle Disney design. This is not one of one those resorts.

Food options are plentiful but be prepared to wait. And wait. And wait. And there is only one restaurant at the resort.

Transportation is right outside the lobby. Although Art of Animation only has buses at this time, they definitely get you where you need to go and you don’t need to worry about renting a car, driving, and parking.

 

 

Winter Checklist

It’s time for a new checklist. The winter checklist is full of winter-y but mostly Christmas-y things that we will hopefully be able to accomplish in the next coming weeks. Most of these things are ones that we have traditionally done each year. I hope that each of these things are things that our girls want to do for many more years to come.

Our list of winter must-dos:

When we do the summer checklist, we generally have about three months to get everything done and are able to do much of the list during the week since the girls and I are all home for the summer. For the winter checklist, however, we have to get it all done in just a few weekends (for the most part).

A couple of the to-do list items have already been accomplished. The Mag Mile Lights Festival was last weekend. It’s always one of our favorite events of the holiday season. It’s a great combination of two of our favorite things, Christmas and Disney.

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Mickey Mouse celebrating his birthday on the Mag Mile

We’ve also already accomplished taking a picture with Santa – a couple times already! At the tree lighting at Yorktown, the girls had a picture taken with Santa and Mrs. Claus. And then, once again, at a tree lighting – this time at the Shops at 900 North Michigan, the girls got to see Santa again and this time sit on his lap and let him know what their Christmas list consisted of.

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The tree at the Shops at 900 North Michigan is truly stunning!

So, all in all, I’m feeling pretty good about our list. Hopefully, there will be even more Christmas-y things that we are able to do, even if they aren’t on the initial list.

Our list thus far:

What are your Christmas must-dos?

Days Downtown – Summer Checklist

We have been able to slowly get more items checked off of the summer list.

Like:

Going to the Disney Store in downtown Chicago. Our girls like to go to to press buttons on the walls and watch the big tv. Lol.

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We also ate at one of big girl’s favorite restaurants: Big Bowl.

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The list thus far:

  • Make lemonade.
  • Eat at Big Bowl.
  • Go to Millennium Park.
  • Go to Adler Planetarium.
  • Get space ice cream.
  • Go to zoo.
  • Go to Shedd Aquarium.
  • Go bowling.
  • Make banana pudding.
  • Go to the splash pads downtown.
  • Play at Maggie Daley playground.
  • Go to Field Museum.
  • Go to Art Institute and do a JourneyMaker tour.
  • Go swimming.
  • Go to the Children’s Museum.
  • Play at playground.
  • Have a pajama day (with daddy.)
  • See a movie at the movie theater.
  • See a movie outside.
  • Go to the library.
  • Go to the Family Festival downtown Chicago.
  • Make cookies.
  • Read books at home.
  • Ride the train at the mall.
  • Go to the beach.
  • Have a picnic.
  • Go to American Girl Place.
  • Draw pictures and cut them out.
  • Play with legos.
  • Make muffins.
  • Make pasta salad.
  • Play with toys.
  • Go to a festival.
  • Try to go to a water park.
  • Go to the Disney store downtown Chicago.
  • Eat at Rainforest Cafe.
  • Eat at Labriola Cafe.
  • Bake an apple pie.
  • Play games on the iPad.
  • Play Mario game with daddy.
  • Go to the Morton Arboretum.
  • Go to Mimi and Pa’s house.
  • Go to Granny and Pa’s house.
  • Go on a hike.
  • Go to the Museum of Science and Industry.

Kick Starting 2017

A few months ago, my treadmill died…..and then grad school happened……and then the weather turned colder. All of these added up to me completely stopping my training. *sigh* So, after some important conversations and a visit to a local gym, we made the decision to buy a second (and much higher quality) treadmill. Important reason #1: this one is covered by a warranty for several years so if the motor dies on it, it can be fixed. Important reason #2: although a gym membership is enticing, any gym that we go to would be required to have child care on site because I would have to bring the girls. Important reason #3: the convenience factor of having a treadmill in our house so I don’t have to go outside (in weather) is pretty high.

So, here’s my new friend. I’m looking forward to working with her so that I can keep up with my training. Goal? I want to be able to register for any 5K or 10K that I want to without having to worry about whether or not I’ll be ready. And…..I am planning on doing the Glass Slipper Challenge in 2018. Run Disney, here I come!

Plus, it gives me a chance to catch up on my Netflix.....

Plus, it gives me a chance to catch up on my Netflix…..

Vacation Preparation – So Many Movies

Our guest room (also known as the grandparent’s room since that’s where they sleep when they stay over), has become the prep room for our upcoming Disney trip. There are suitcases stacked up, piles of clothes waiting to be packed, and toiletries in various piles. But, we’ve been prepping for this trip for the majority of the summer. We watch a lot of Disney films in our house but a lot of times we end of watching and rewatching and rewatching and rewatching the same ones over and over again (Frozen….Tangled….anything with Tinker Bell in it.) One of our Disney prepping activites has been to watch as many movies as we can.

So far…..

  • Bedknobs and Broomsticks
  • Brave
  • Brother Bear
  • Brother Bear 2
  • A Bug’s Life
  • Cars Toons: Mater’s Tall Tales
  • Chicken Little
  • The Emperor’s New Groove
  • Fantasia
  • Fantasia 2000
  • Finding Dory
  • Finding Nemo
  • The Fox and the Hound 2
  • Frozen
  • Hercules
  • The Incredibles
  • Inside Out
  • Lady and the Tramp
  • Legend of the Neverbeast
  • Lero & Stitch
  • Lilo & Stitch
  • Lilo & Stitch II: Stitch Has a Glitch
  • The Lion King
  • The Little Mermaid
  • Kronk’s New Groove
  • The Many Adventures of Winnie-The-Pooh
  • Mary Poppins
  • Mickey and the Beanstalk
  • Mickey, Donald, Goofy: The Three Musketeers
  • Mickey’s House of Villains
  • Monsters, Inc.
  • Mulan
  • Mulan II
  • Muppet Movie
  • Piglet’s Big Movie
  • Pooh’s Heffalump Movie
  • Robin Hood
  • Secret of the Wings
  • Short Films Collection
  • Sleeping Beauty
  • Stitch! The Movie
  • Tangled
  • Tarzan
  • Tarzan & Jane
  • Tarzan 2
  • Tinker Bell
  • Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue
  • Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure
  • Tinker Bell and the Pirate Fairy
  • Toy Story
  • Toy Story 2
  • Toy Story 3
  • Up
  • Wall-E
  • Winnie-The-Pooh

And…..countless episodes of Doc McStuffins, Jake and the Neverland Pirates, Little Einsteins, Octonauts, Sofia the First.

A lot of these are ones that we own, some we watched on Disney Channel and some were on Netflix. (Also, I love Netflix!!!)

I think we’re ready………Now to just get the actual packing finished…..