Monday, June 19, 2017

4 Reasons to Fall in Love with Knoebels Amusement Park

Our family just returned from a weekend visit to Knoebels - our third so far.  My husband grew up visiting the Central PA amusement park, so it's no surprise that he has been excited to make memories there with our kids.  This was our first visit since having both boys and I have to say that it might be one of the best bargains for families with young kids around.

From our house, we can be to Knoebels in about 3 hours which makes it just on the line of being a day trip.  This time, my husband was on his way home from a fishing trip in Canada so I met him in Bloomsburg with the kids and we stayed in a hotel for the weekend.  Our boys are 5 and 2 - perfect for loving the kiddie rides and the family amusement park experience.  This trip really solidified 4 reasons that all young families will fall in love with Knoebels!

The Price - As I said, this might be the best bargain for families with young children around.  Unlike most amusement parks, entry into Knoebels is free - yes, you read that right - FREE!  Try finding that these days!  Entertainment, like musicians and magic shows are all open to the public and included in your free entry.  When it's time to ride the rides, you simply pay as you go for the rides you want.  The kiddie rides are all very reasonable with most ranging in price from $1.00 to $1.50.  You can buy tickets in books of $5.00, $10.00, or $20.00 and can even buy discounted tickets at places like local Weis Markets ahead of your visit.  The paper tickets also never expire so the extra tickets we had from 2 years ago were still able to be used on this visit saving us even more money!  During the week, the park offers a ride all day pass, but on weekends that is not an option.  Now if you have older kids and teenagers that are looking for thrill rides, be warned that the big roller coasters cost $3.00 each per rider which can quickly add up.

The Location - Nestled among the mountains and trees of Elysburg, PA, you don't even realize you're approaching an amusement park as you pull up to Knoebels.  The feel is more of a large carnival than an amusement park with lots of shade, a mix of gravel and paved walkways, and an overall "woodsy" feel.  For those families that enjoy camping (unlike me. . .), there is a campground adjacent to the amusement park which is a popular draw.

The Food - Knoebels is known to have some of the best amusement park food around.  We have never been disappointed in the quality of traditional park fare like pizza, hamburgers, and fries.  They also offer a wide variety of options that are not as traditional in amusement parks including spaghetti dinners, meatloaf dinners complete with potatoes and veggies, and a delicious International Food Court.  The prices are in line with what you would expect at an amusement park - not cheap, but not ridiculous either.

The Rides - The rides are perfect for kids of all ages.  Our 2 year old enjoyed playing on the sliding board and the ball pit the best while our 5 year old ran from ride to ride eager to enjoy everything from cars, boats, trains, and much more.  If you have older thrill seekers, there are several roller coasters including the Phoenix - one of best ranked wooden roller coasters in the country.  The park also features a pool and water play area at a very reasonable price.  So if you are planning to visit in the summertime, be sure to bring your bathing suits in case you want to cool off in the pool during your visit!


Overall, I highly recommend this experience for families - especially those with young kids.  While I still love my visits to (also nearby) Hersheypark, this is a much cheaper alternative that has a very different "old time-y" feel.  It's definitely worth the drive to check out on summer road trips!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Back to the Races

Lightning McQueen races back into theaters nationwide on June 16 in the latest Disney/Pixar hit, Cars 3.  In the newest film, McQueen and the Rust-eze racing team face a new challenge on the race track as next generation rookies are taking the circuit by storm.  Lightning McQueen works with a new trainer, Cruz Ramirez, to get back into top racing shape.  But will it be enough?  How far will the latest and greatest technology take the number 95 and how far will your heart carry you through tough times?

One of the new stars in Cars 3 is Cruz Ramirez.  She is a next generation trainer who is looking to take Lightning McQueen to the next level.  What's really to love about her though is a girl who is strong, smart, and very real.  Ramirez faces her own insecurities during her training of McQueen, but in the end she also learns that with encouragement from friends you can achieve even your wildest dreams.  McQueen also finds inspiration from friends and a mentor of his old crew chief, Doc Hudson.  The educator in me really enjoys how much these movies pay tribute to the "teachers" along the way and Cars 3 is certainly no exception.

And it wouldn't be a film staring Lightning McQueen and his best friend Tow Mater if there wasn't a few good laughs along the way.  One of the funniest scenes finds McQueen at a Demolition Derby where we meet some pretty off the beaten path characters, including a school bus named Miss Fritter.  Call me crazy, but if I was writing a Cars 4, I could totally see Miss Fritter being a love interest of Tow Mater - just wishful thinking though on my part!

Without offering any spoilers, I can say that this movie is endearing, inspiring, and fun for the whole family.  Kids will love the laughs and the fast paced racing, while grown-ups will enjoy the heart of each character and may even find themselves relating to what it means to be getting older in a society that is rapidly changing around them.  Be sure to check it out to kick off your summer season!

Like CARS on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PixarCars/

Follow CARS on Twitter: https://twitter.com/pixarcars

Follow CARS on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/pixarcars/

Subscribe to the Disney/Pixar YouTube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/user/DisneyPixar

Visit the official CARS 3 website here: http://movies.disney.com/cars-3

Disclosure:  I attended a free screening of the film to share a review with my readers.  Opinions and thoughts are always my own!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Enchanted 10K Race Recap

Walt Disney World is a place where dreams come true and runDisney weekends there help those dreams become reality.  This year, my friend and I traveled for a girls weekend to Walt Disney World as part of the Princess Half Marathon festivities where we participated in the Glass Slipper Challenge which includes the Enchanted 10K and the Princess Half Marathon.  Given the princess theme for the weekend, I opted to go for race costumes inspired by two of my favorite leading Disney ladies.  For the 10K, I sported a green skirt and purple top along with a red headband to run in an Ariel inspired look.  

Saturday morning began early as all runDisney race days do with a 3AM wake-up call and a 3:30AM bus ride to Epcot for the start of the race.  The DJ had us all pumped up and ready to go.  We decided to jump in line for the chance to try and meet a princess before the race.  No one can queue up a line like Disney and they had the hour plus line well organized - even if there wasn't a FastPass+ option to jump ahead!  After finally snagging a picture with Jasmine, I joined some very enthusiastic ladies in the parking lot for the Cha-Cha Slide and then it was off to the corrals.  

The Enchanted 10K featured a staggered start within each of the corrals in an attempt to spread runners out on the course.  My friend and I were in one of the later corrals and found congestion prevalent along the way as the race began for us.  Typical of runDisney races, characters were out in full force on the course.  Because our starting corral was not that great, we skipped most of the character stops.  However, I couldn't resist stopping for a rare opportunity to meet the Evil Queen from Snow White.  The line was massive, but I decided to take the chance and wait.  We ended up waiting nearly 30 minutes and as we were getting our pictures taken, I saw the cyclists ride by warning about sweeping and could easily see the balloon ladies - YIKES!  That was a first.  We hightailed it back onto the course and continued along the highway until we entered Epcot through World Showcase.  

Getting that close to the sweepers scared me to death and we didn't end up stopping for any more character pictures along the way.  As we wound through World Showcase and onto the Boardwalk, the sun was rising higher and the so was the temperature.  The final character stop featured Princess Minnie, and a line that was probably 45 minutes long.  I felt like there were a great number of character stops, but I couldn't get over how long the wait was at each one - even larger than what I remember from previous Wine and Dine races.  

The finish was truly a celebration for runners with music, characters, and medals.  We were so exhausted by the end of the race from the late night out the night before and the early morning, that we opted to head straight back to the hotel for a shower, some food, and a nap.  After all, we had only completed one leg of the Glass Slipper Challenge with another 13.1 miles less than 24 hours away!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Disney's Coronado Springs Resort

Many of our most recent trips to Walt Disney World have found us at the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek thanks to the all of the Hilton Honors points that we have accrued over the years.  But on my girls weekend trip for runDisney's Princess Half Marathon weekend, my friend Christine and I decided to stay on property.  For a trip with such a short turnaround, the perks of Magical Express and regular transportation to all of the race events made it a smart choice for us.

In all honesty, Disney's Coronado Springs Resort was not our first choice.  We were hoping to grab a room at Disney's Port Orleans French Quarter,  but by the time we got around to booking, the resort was sold out.  Keeping with my tradition of liking to stay someplace new each visit, we then opted to stay here.  I have to say that, as always, I was impressed with the theming, service, and beauty of the resort.

The resort is large featuring several styles of buildings, each connecting with a type of architecture from the Southwest and Central America.  We requested a room in the Casitas which was closest to the main building, but a good walk from the main pool.  The resort surrounds Lago Dorado which provides a beautiful centerpiece to the entire resort.  The main pool, the Dig Site, is centrally located as an island in the center of Lago Dorado.  We visited the pool area for about an hour one afternoon, but only enjoyed the hot tub as it was a little chilly and windy for pool time.  Upon arrival at the resort, guests enter into the main building which houses registration, guest services, a gift shop, several restaurants, and the Conference Center.  Yes, you read that right - Coronado Springs boasts a Conference Center too which makes it perfect for adult travelers which can be a nice change of pace to the often kid-crowded All-Star resorts.  The ambiance around the resort is quiet and relaxed - perfection!

Rooms at this moderate resort are decorated with subtle Disney touches throughout.  As a Conference Center resort, the theming here is much more scaled back than others.  One of my favorite features were the dark doors that closed around the sink area and the bathroom.  This was especially nice on a runDisney weekend when early mornings mean that we need ample opportunities for naps throughout the day.

Transportation around the entire Walt Disney World Resort is available by busses.  There are several bus stops around the resort property so that you are never far from a bus ride to the magic!  For Princess Half Marathon weekend, charter busses picked up in front of the main building and we never had to wait more than 10 minutes for a bus.  Despite the large footprint of the resort itself, it never felt oversized or inconvenient.  My favorite afternoon happened to be lying in a chair by the lake and reading for hours on end.  Beautiful and peaceful.

Overall, I would highly recommend this resort to those seeking a quiet retreat from the hustle and bustle of your Disney vacation.  There are several choices to relax whether it's at the pool, the spa, or enjoying one of the many restaurants on property.

Looking for additional information about Walt Disney World Resorts and reviews of my favorites?  Check out more of my thoughts here! 




Monday, May 29, 2017

Taking Time for Mom

Over the past three months I've taken an unplanned hiatus from blogging.  I can't say that I'm sorry about it either.  While I was in Walt Disney World for runDisney's Princess Half Marathon weekend, I had a blast with my good friend, but realized just how out of shape I was for someone who was a "runner."  Yes, I would run using Galloway's interval training, but since the birth of my second child, I had a hard time dropping the pounds.  The pictures from the weekend revealed this to me more than I liked to admit.  So I decided to get serious about getting back in shape and focus on me.

In order to take more time for myself, I had to find some extra time in my schedule which meant that blogging took a back seat.  I have to say that it felt good to do something for me each day.  And the results have felt good too.  I've lost roughly 20 lbs over the three months and refocused on my health, career, and family.  And while I still have work to do in all of those areas - I'm ready to return to the blog to talk about my journey over the past months, summer family fun plans, and the magic of Disney!  I look forward to connecting back with each of you again over the next few weeks!!

Monday, February 27, 2017

I'm officially a runDisney Princess!

It's been quiet for a few weeks on the blog as I've prepared for and traveled to Walt Disney World for my very first Princess Half Marathon Weekend.  I'll be posting more details on each of these experiences in the weeks ahead, but I wanted to take a minute and give you a quick weekend recap from my trip.

Where We Stayed - For this trip, I was back on Disney property and stayed at Coronado Springs Resort.  The moderate level hotel is also a Convention Center and as such boasts several dining options, a spa, and beautiful grounds.  We were only here for two nights, but enjoyed our stay.  It's definitely one I will recommend to friends and family in the future.

Where We Ate - We had two new dining experiences on this trip.  We visited Chef Art Smith's Homecoming in Disney Springs for dinner one evening where we were delighted by some down home southern cooking.  And on Sunday, we enjoyed the Gospel Brunch at House of Blues - also in Disney Springs.  The Gospel Brunch, which features a buffet of New Orleans favorites and a gospel concert, had been on my "must-do" list for a while now and it didn't disappoint!  I also had the pleasure of introducing my friend Christine to California Grill.  If you're a regular reader of my blog, you know that dinner while watching the fireworks from California Grill is one of my favorites and I was excited to do it again.

What We Did - We ran the Glass Slipper Challenge!  When you spend less than 50 hours in Walt Disney World and run both a 10K and Half Marathon, there's not much time to do anything else.  Both races were a lot of fun.  In typical runDisney fashion, characters and entertainment were everywhere you looked.  And the bling. . .oh, the bling!  It was a fabulous weekend of race medals - my new favorites in my ever growing collection.  Princess Half Marathon weekend had a very different vibe then my previous experiences at Wine and Dine.  It felt "crazier," but I guess that's what happens when you have 20,000+ women running in tutus!

As you can see, it was a short trip, but I was able to pack in many new experiences.  I can't wait to share them with you in the weeks ahead and I'm already counting down to our next trip in November - a return for runDisney's Wine and Dine Half Marathon weekend events!!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Disney News Update!

This week featured many big announcements in the world of Disney!  Here are some of the highlights in one place.

Image from Disney Parks Blog
Animal Kingdom Openings - Opening dates were released for the long awaited Rivers of Light Nighttime Show and Pandora: The World of Avatar.  Rivers of Light will open officially on February 17 - just in time for President's Day weekend.  You can book FastPass+ reservations for seating at the show and there are also dining packages with Tiffins and Tusker House that are available for booking at this time.  Pandora: The World of Avatar of Avatar will open on May 27, 2017 - Memorial Day Weekend.  First looks at this new land are amazing with lighted walkways, floating mountains, and so much more.  The movie featured breathtaking scenery and Disney imagineers have worked hard to replicate that in the park.

Star Wars Land Update - Disney also announced that Star Wars Land will be set to open in both Disneyland Resort and at Disney's Hollywood Studios in the Walt Disney World Resort in 2019.  Reports have shared that the out-of-this-galaxy experience will feature character interactions, a new Star Tours, and the chance to be Han Solo and take control of the Millennium Falcon.  My two little padawans are going to love this!

Image from Disney Parks Blog
Goodbye Wishes - For the past 14 years, guests at Walt Disney World Resort's Magic Kingdom have ended their magical day with the Wishes fireworks show.  This park classic will bid farewell on May 11th and an all new show, Happily Ever After, will begin on May 12th.  The new show promises to bring even more shows topping magic to the Magic Kingdom with projections, lasers, fireworks, and of course classic Disney music!

Beauty and the Beast meets Disney Cruise Line - Disney will unveil a Beauty and the Beast stage show on board the Disney Dream beginning in November.  No doubt capitalizing on what is sure to be a wonderful live action film this year, the stage show is sure to bring this "tale as old as time" to life in the grandest of fashions.

Ticket Price Increase - As I was prepping this blog post, more information hit today about ticket price increases for Walt Disney World.  It looks like some of the most notable changes will be increases for single day and annual passholders, no more water park and fun option, expiration dates on all tickets, and an increase to premium parking rates.  More information on all of this can be found in numerous posts online today, including this article from the Orlando Sentinel.

What a whirlwind few days! Hope everyone has been able to keep up and I can't wait to see what new fun awaits in the wonderful world of Disney!

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