Great Deals for Star Wars Fans at Disneyland Resort

The whole Star Wars fan universe has been waiting (with every ounce of patience we have!) for the exciting opening of Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge at Disneyland and Walt Disney World Resorts this year.  While those of us on the East Coast still have a few more months to wait before experiencing the out-of-this-world excitement at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Southern California gets to enjoy what Black Spire Outpost has to offer beginning May 31.  Here's what you need to know in order to travel to a galaxy far, far away! Fuel up your Millennium Falcon, grab a Wookie, and let's go!

This post contains affiliate links. You save money and I earn a small commission - everyone wins!

From May 31 to June 23, guests wishing to enjoy Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge at the Disneyland Resort will need a reservation at one of Disney's hotels to gain access.  My travel partner, Get Away Today, has a few reservations they can hook you up with if you're looking for a last minute opportunity to travel for the opening weeks:
If you can hold on to your lightsabers until June 24, more opportunities will open for locals and guests both on and off Disneyland Resort property to enter Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge.  Disney is trying something out that is a great timesaver for guests, by allowing visitors to log into a virtual "queue" to wait to gain entrance for this popular land.  Once you enter Disneyland Park, you will be able to "get in line" while still enjoying all of the other great attractions at the park.  Get Away Today also has great deals going on throughout the summer months which you can learn more about by following the links below:
The Force is so strong with these deals, even the Dark Side can't resist joining in the fun! So what are you most excited about in Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge?  Whether it's the rides, the food, the theming, or the character interactions, there will certainly be a lot to love!  I love the way that Disney immerses you in a story the moment you set foot in their parks and I'm sure Galaxy's Edge will not disappoint.  Don't miss out on your chance to experience it all!! Don't forget to use promo code PIXIEDUST when you visit Get Away Today to save even more money on your vacation package!

Frederick Running Festival 2019 Half Marathon

The sun did not shine
It was too wet to play
So we ran through Frederick
On that wet, wet, wet day

Okay. . .so maybe that's not exactly how Dr. Seuss wrote it, but that's my adaptation to intro you into a recap of the 2019 Frederick Running Festival Half Marathon.  I had never run a race before that rained (and rained hard!) most of the race, so this was definitely a first.  Let's recap - the good, the bad, and the wet!

This was my third time participating in the Frederick Running Festival. In 2014, I ran the Twilight 5K and in 2016 I completed the Nut Job Challenge by running the Twilight 5K on Saturday night and the half marathon on Sunday morning.  I've always enjoyed this race weekend for several reasons - number one probably being the company I get to keep when running!  Several of my friends participate in this race each year so it truly is a fun filled event.  In fact, one of the couples we are closest with lives in Frederick and play host to a pasta dinner on Saturday night and open their house to runners to sleep at the night before the half.  I also really enjoy the course in Frederick, or at least the first 10 miles of it.

Miles 1 through 10 of the race are ran primarily through the streets of downtown Frederick.  Whether you're running through the shopping and dining district or winding through neighborhoods, the course always brings out a good number of fans and the time in town passes quickly.  The last few miles of the course though are brutal.  The course opens up to basically be wide open road.  With all visual interest lost and a pretty terrible uphill climb through mile 11, it's easy to quickly fade out, especially in the rain.

So let's talk about the rain for a minute.  We knew a few days out that weather forecasts were predicting a soggy half marathon, but forecasts only increased rain totals as the hours drew closer.  Having never run a race in this type of steady and consistent rain before, I was seeking advice from my more experienced friends.  Armed with anti-chafe cream, a hat, and my poncho I took to the starting area ready to get this race started and finished.  Maybe the rain would motivate me to run faster?  About 5 minutes before the race started, the skies opened up big time.  As I'm standing at the starting line, I'm watching rain pour from gutters of the surrounding buildings and realize I'm already accumulating puddles of water in my already soaked shoes.  It was at this time I started to think that I had made a tremendous mistake.  Luckily, the rain eased up as the race began and by a mile into the race, it was a steady, but slow rain.  It picked up again around mile 6 and I was again trudging through a downpour for about 2 miles.  The highlight of that stretch was one of the volunteers standing outside cheering us on with the song "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head" blaring from his car!

After mile 8, the rain again slowed to a more manageable amount, but by this point I was thoroughly soaked and tired and I slowed considerably for the final miles of the race.  I was ahead of pace for where I wanted to be until then, running on average around 11:30 miles, but slowed to over 12:00 miles and then eventually closed in on the 13:00 mile pace.  I think I really need to build in some speed work before my next half because when I tried to "kick it in" at the end, I had nothing - no next gear whatsoever.  Despite this collapse at the end and the conditions, I actually set a new PR by 11 minutes, besting my previous time of 2:53 with a finish of 2:42.

Overall, I would say the day was a success.  With a new PR firmly in hand and proving to myself that I can conquer the weather, I was pretty pleased.  However, I think my favorite part of race day was the hot shower that was waiting for me at the end followed by the big greasy cheeseburger from McDonald's - and the bling! And a great perk post race is that Care First provides runners with FREE, yes FREE, race photos!   Missed the Frederick Half Marathon, but still looking for more great races in Maryland.  Corrigan Sports, the group that hosts the Frederick Half Marathon, also has both the Baltimore 10 Miler and the Baltimore Running Festival coming up in the weeks and months ahead.  If you're interested in learning more about the Baltimore Running Festival, check out my referral link here!

Avengers: Endgame - Can a Marvel Novice Join the Endgame?

Every great story comes to end and Marvel fans have waited over 20 films to get this one.  If you haven't heard the hype surrounding Avengers Endgame, you were probably destroyed by Thanos last year because this movie is pretty much all the entertainment world has talked about for a while now.


As my regular readers and friends are aware, I'm new to the Marvel universe.  Prior to October, I had only seen part of Avengers: Infinity War and that was it.  With all of the excitement surrounding Endgame brewing in my Disney circles, I decided to give Marvel a try.  Using the suggestion of my friend Patty, I made an attempt to watch all the Marvel movies prior to Endgame. (Check out her list of the order to watch all the Marvel films prior to Endgame)  I got through three by Christmas.  I wouldn't want to see how Bruce would feel about that. . .


I enjoyed the movies, but my husband was not a fan and my kids are too little to really get into them so I was trying to sneak them in when no one else was around.  Recognizing that I probably wasn't going to get through all of them, I changed my game plan and decided I would try just to watch the previous three Avengers movies to see what I could pick up before Endgame released.  I also made it to see Captain Marvel in March - you can catch my spoiler-free review here if you missed that one!

Prior to Endgame, here are the Marvel movies I actually watched:

  • Captain America: The First Avenger
  • Iron Man
  • Iron Man 2
  • The Avengers 
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron
  • Avengers: Infinity War
  • Captain Marvel
So can a newbie to the Marvel universe enjoy Endgame?  

Absolutely.  The movie is incredibly well done and you don't have to be an expert in these films to appreciate that.  My husband went to see the movie with me and he only made it through Iron Man 2 on my list above.  He also really enjoyed the film.  I would definitely recommend watching at least the 3 previous Avengers movies before Endgame in order for the storyline to make sense.  While the film picks up immediately following Thanos' famous "snap" at the end of Infinity War, the main action actually takes place five years in the future as all of The Avengers (and the world) learn to adapt to life after half of all living creatures have been destroyed.  With the little background knowledge I had acquired from previous films, I was able to answer a lot of questions my husband threw my way during the film, but not all of them.

Without spoiling the plot or the ending, I'll say this.  I'm glad I had seen Captain America and Iron Man to understand their background stories.  I wish I had seen one of the Thor movies to tell me more about this Asgardian hero and Ant-Man as Scott Lang does play a pretty significant part in this movie.  You'll also notice I have not seen any of the Guardians of the Galaxy films.  While I know enough about the characters from Infinity War to put pieces together, I really didn't know anything about their backstories and there were probably important plot lines for them that were being played out too that completely went over my head.  I think with careful attention in the three previous Avengers films, you can grab enough info about many of the other characters to not be lost, but I know I didn't "get" everything the same way my deeply devoted Marvel friends did in the Endgame.  What this movie definitely did was inspire me to want to go back and play "catch-up" on the previous films.

Regardless of your background knowledge of the Marvel characters, this movie will leave you feeling all the feels.  I found many moments that had me (and the entire theater) laughing out loud.  The humor in the film actually struck me more than I expected. While there were funny moments in previous Avengers films, this one takes the cake in my humble opinion.  I also did sob like a baby during one particular scene - no spoilers though people! 

So let's wrap it up with a quick summary:
  • If you haven't seen ANY Avengers movies previously (aka: my husband) - You'll enjoy the movie for what it is.  There's enough of the previous plot recapped for you in the film to follow along, but you will feel a lot of holes.  The sheer cinematic perfection in this film is enough for movie fans, even if they aren't Marvel fans, to enjoy.  If you have any interest in seeing it, don't let the fact that you haven't been schooled in the past scare you away.
  • If you've ONLY seen the Avengers movies previously (aka: me. . .for the most part) - You'll feel "in the know" with most of the movie and the plot lines that you don't get, you probably won't even realize you're not getting because you don't know they exist.  There will be enough of an emotional attachment to the characters to feel the weight and the emotion of the Endgame.  
  • If you're a DIEHARD Avengers fan (aka: my friends who saw it with us) - You're in for one BIG finish and emotional rollercoaster.  While my husband's biggest complaint with the film was that he thought they could have told the story in way less time, those of you who are Marvel experts will most likely disagree.  The Russo brothers could have told THIS story in less time, but to wrap up everything they did from previous story lines, you need the whole film.
If you're looking for spoiler-free reviews from some die hard Marvel fans, check out the list below.  These lucky ladies got to stroll the red carpet in Los Angeles for the Endgame premiere and share their fangirl perspectives below!

I can't wait to hear what all of you think of Avengers: Endgame! As I'm finishing this post, it's already passed the $1 Billion mark before opening weekend is even concluded. . .I think the people have spoken!

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Get Animated at Animator's Palate on Disney Cruise Line

We're gEARing up for our next Disney Cruise Line vacation and I'm revisiting some old favorites from previous cruise vacations! Disney Cruise Line is known for bringing the magic of Disney to the high seas.  Even a simple dinner can be turned into an extraordinary experience.  This is especially true at Animator’s Palate on the Disney Fantasy.  Disney Cruise Line uses rotational dining where guests rotate their nightly dinner service through three different restaurants.  During our 7-night Eastern Caribbean Cruise a few years ago, we had the pleasure of dining in Animator’s Palate three nights and each featured a unique dining experience.

The restaurant itself celebrates the animation that Disney was founded on and continues to embrace.  Mickey Mouse inspires the chairs and the wait staff wears shirts featuring classic Disney sketches.  The art throughout the restaurant is mostly digital and changes throughout the cruise as each night features a different theme.  Fun Tip: Did you know you can request a particular order for your rotational dining experience?  I love Animator’s Palate so much that I plan to request this again as the first restaurant on a 7-night cruise so that we can visit it three times again! 

Our first night in Animator’s Palate featured a special guest – Crush from Finding Nemo.  Throughout the dinner, Crush swims up to tables and chats with guests.  He asks questions about what life is like in the human world and then teaches everyone to ride the EAC just like our turtle friends.  Kids and adults alike will have a great time playing and interacting throughout the meal.
One of the sketches on Pirate Night at Animator's Palate

The second night we dined in Animator’s Palate was Pirate Night.  Disney Cruise Line hosts a Pirate Night on each of it’s Bahamian and Caribbean sailings.  On this particular night, all restaurants on the ship feature a special pirate themed menu and the wait staff dresses as “scurvy scallawags.”  Spending Pirate Night in Animator’s Palate was a nice treat as the art in the restaurant changed to reflect pirate favorites like Peter Pan, Captain Hook, and Jack Sparrow. 

The last night of our cruise was also spent in Animator’s Palate and featured the show that is unique to the Disney Fantasy and perhaps the one that people look forward to the most.  When you are seated for dinner, guests are given a paper to draw their own cartoon.  The wait staff then takes all cartoons and, at the end of the meal, you get to see your animation come to life.  Each drawing is featured alongside Disney classics in a magical cartoon experience that you won’t soon forget.  Also, all guests will have their names featured in the credits of the cartoon for contributing animation.

Regardless of which night you dine in Animator's Palate, you will certainly be treated to delicious food! With so many great options on board Disney Cruise Line, don't be shy and definitely try new things.  As you would expect, the Kids' Menus feature family favorites that will make even the tiniest artists happy to dine here.  And while your little ones probably won't want to miss a minute of the action in Animator's Palate, you can take advantage of the Youth Clubs during dinnertime so the grown ups can enjoy a more leisurely dinner.

Animator’s Palate will certainly satisfy guest appetites and quench thirsts for an entertaining evening on your Disney Cruise Line vacation!

Waddle on in to Disneynature's Penguins

Disneynature released it's newest film, Penguins, last week and my boys and I spent our final day of Spring Break and celebrated Earth Day by heading to the theater to check it out.  I have a small confession to make. . .I haven't seen any other Disneynature films before.  I know, I know - pausing for reaction.  This one appealed to me more so than others though.  Maybe it's because I've always had a soft spot for penguins? Maybe it's the fact that Brody and Caleb are at ages to get more out of these movies? Maybe it's the fact that Walt Disney Studios has been on fire lately and I knew it would be awesome?  Whatever the reason, we used the last of the movie gift cards the boys received for their birthday, loaded in the car, and headed to an IMAX theater near Baltimore to check it out.

With this being my first Disneynature film, I really wasn't sure what to expect - more documentary or more story?  I was pleasantly surprised to find it a nice combination of both.  The movie tells the story of Steve, a young Adelie penguin in Antartica who is coming of age.  Like most young adult penguins, he's ready to settle down, find love, and raise a family.  But just like in the human world, this isn't as easy as it seems.  We follow Steve as he battles brutal conditions, builds a nest, cares for his family, and protects his children from fierce predators.  While Ed Helms narrates and adds a voice to our main character Steve to tell his story, there is plenty of opportunity for viewers to learn about life for penguins living in Antartica.  In addition to the conditions that they face from powerful winds to icy waters, you'll also be introduced to other species that inhabit the area near them including elephant seals, leopard seals, and killer whales.  There's even several song selections throughout the movie to aid in telling the story including "I Can't Fight this Feeling Anymore" by REO Speedwagon when Steve meets his mate for the first time.  You'll be happy to find several moments of lightheartedness and humor throughout Steve's adventures as well as more touching and trying moments with his family.

When I was heading into the movie, I was wondering if it was going to hold the attention of two very active boys.  I'm happy to report that they both enjoyed it and the film held their attention - despite it being heavily educational!  The length of the movie definitely helps in this area.  With a run time of just over an hour, the movie doesn't have a minute of downtime.  The fact that the life of Adelie penguins is told as a year in the life of Steve also helps young children hold interest.  At 7, Brody in particular asked a lot of questions about the predators and laughed out loud at some of the silly moments in the movie - like the penguins belly sliding down the ice!  Stick around for the credits after the film to see some behind-the-scenes footage from the production crew.  This was also the first Disneynature film to be released in IMAX and that really is the way to see it.  There was so much stunning detail that you truly feel like you are immersed in the world of penguins.
Photo: Walt Disney Studios

Overall, I'm really happy we chose to spend a part of the Earth Day checking out this movie.  Penguins may have been the first Disneynature film that I saw, but it certainly won't be the last.  And you can feel good about seeing these films knowing that part of ticket sales from opening week are donated to the Wildlife Conservation Network to help protect these precious penguins you really do grow to love.  Before or after you see Penguins, parents and educators alike will want to check out this link - full of fun printable family activities and an educator's guide all for FREE!

Enjoy the film and follow all the #Penguins fun on social media!

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