Showing posts with label christmas. Show all posts
Showing posts with label christmas. Show all posts

Holiday Season 2020: Best Gifts for Runners!

Holiday Gift Guide for Runners


Got a runner on your holiday shopping list?  Check out some of my favorite running gifts that will be sure to delight any runners this holiday season! 

Disclaimer:  I received most of these items below for free.  Some I won, others I received in exchange for review as a BibRave Pro.  

Virtual Race Entry - What better gift to give a runner than the gift of racing!  Virtual races are the norm right now and there are so many great choices out there.  Over the past few months I ran the Fargo Marathon 10K, DC Wonder Woman 10K, and the DC Batman 5K virtually as a BibRave Pro.  Coming up soon, I have the All-State Hot Chocolate 5K.  The Hot Chocolate races are a great option for runners with both a 15K and a 5K option as well as some pretty amazing swag.  These races are traditionally in person events and you can still support your favorite cities by signing up for that special race location and with race dates well into 2021, you can give your runner a chance to train!  Keep an eye out for some of your favorite in-person races that may also be offering virtual options.  At this time, there are still virtual spots available for runDisney's Marathon weekend events (I'd love to find that underneath my Christmas tree. . .wink, wink!) 

Best Bets at the Movies This Holiday Break

The holidays are officially here and with many kids home from school and adults taking time or having time off from work, it's a perfect opportunity to head to the movies!  Here's a round-up of movies I've seen that are still out in most (if not all theaters) to help you make your viewing choices.  Click the titles of each for a more detailed look.

Frozen 2


We still can't let this film go!  This movie has been out since before Thanksgiving and has already surpassed $1B globally.  If you are one of probably only a handful of people who haven't seen this film, what are you waiting for?  Grab the kids and head "into the unknown" to uncover the source of Elsa's powers and watch the next chapter of the story unfold for our friends in Arendelle.  I still can't believe I had the chance to see this at the Hollywood World Premiere back in November with The Geekly Retreat - walking the red carpet and taking celebrity selfies!  ALL of my Frozen 2 coverage is linked here including my experience at the premiere, a review, a closer look at Olaf, and my favorite musical moments!

Spies in Disguise


This is another movie that I had the chance to see in it's entirety at The Geekly Retreat out in California, weeks before the fancy world premiere.  We had the chance to watch this with some of the creative minds behind the film and then dish on the secrets of making it.  Your kids will really enjoy this action-packed look at an unlikely friendship and championing the fact that it's good to be weird.  With the voices of Will Smith and Tom Holland behind the main characters, you know you're getting quality.  I've again linked all of my coverage to Spies in Disguise here because there is also a mobile game available when the movie releases that I had the chance to preview at The Geekly Retreat and then received a free download of in advance of the release for my kids to enjoy.  Check it out!

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker


What will most likely be the undisputed winner of every box office stat this Christmas season, Star Wars has raced back into theaters for the final chapter in the Skywalker saga.  If you're a hard core Star Wars fan, you're going to be feeling LOTS of feels with this one.  My review linked here is spoiler-free so you are totally fine to read it ahead of time.  In fact, you may want to if you're debating taking your kids as I have a whole section devoted to whether or not that's a good idea.  May the Force with you!

Richard Jewell


I didn't write an official review for this one, but I did record an initial reaction after I saw the movie for my YouTube channel.  This is definitely one to leave the kids home for as the content and language is not appropriate for them.  I really enjoyed this movie for a few reasons.  I remember the 1996 Atlanta Olympics bombing and the name Richard Jewell, but I didn't really remember the details into what happened.  It's a fascinating look at the concept of "innocent until proven guilty."  Is that really the case anymore with media coverage scrutinizing every detail of an investigation?  And this was 1996 people. . .imagine if this happened in 2019 how this would have played out with not only traditional media, but the advent of social media.  It's a heavier film to watch, but their our some comedic one liners and the actors all do an incredible job.  There has been some criticism of Clint Eastwood with the way he directed this film and portrayed Kathy Scruggs, the Atlanta journalist who broke the story on Richard Jewell.  Scruggs has passed and her family is strongly denouncing the the way that she is portrayed here, and Eastwood even acknowledges that we may never know what REALLY happened.  See it with that in mind.  There may be some liberties that were taken with characterization of the people who were there covering events.

Knives Out


This is another movie that has been around since mid-November, but has picked up speed after opening weekend.  Again, I didn't write a full review on this one, but I LOVED this movie.  It's certainly a grown-up night out - not appropriate at all for your littles.  It's a fun, witty whodunit story with an all-star cast including Daniel Craig, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Chris Evans. . .in cable knit sweaters.  I mean, that right there is reason to go see it, right???  It's like a giant game of Clue as the patriarch of the family dies on the night of his 85th birthday party.  The twists and turns will keep you guessing and you may or may not see the ending coming!  This movie may be getting pushed out of your local theater depending on it's size, but it's still at a few local ones for me so I included it here.  See it if you can!

And of course, there are some other big movies that have just recently released for the holiday that I haven't seen yet to comment on including Black Christmas, Bombshell, Jumangi: The Next Level, and CATS (why would you want to see this one though??).  What are you planning to see this holiday season?

5 Tips to Maximize Your Visit To Christmas Candylane at Hersheypark

Hersheypark has been a favorite of mine going all the way back to my childhood.  I remember visiting with my parents as a child, hanging out there as a college student at nearby Elizabethtown College, and am now making even more memories visiting regularly with my own children.  Over all of the years though that I've been going to Hersheypark, I have never been to the annual Christmas Candylane.  I was excited this year to partner with Hersheypark to attend this holiday tradition with my family.  We had a great afternoon and evening, while also learning a lot about maximizing your time at Christmas Candylane.  Here are my 5 tips (in no particular order!) to make the most of your visit.

My family and I received complimentary admission to Hersheypark's Christmas Candylane and Hershey's Sweet Lights so we can share our experiences with you!


1. Arrive Early


On weekends, the park is open beginning at noon.  Some of you may be asking why you would visit a holiday lights event that early in the day, but the answer is simple - there's so much more to see and do besides the lights!  There are 47 rides and attractions open during Christmas Candylane.  While many of these are kiddie rides, you'll also find several roller coasters including sooperdooperLooper, Sidewinder, Wildcat, and Laff Trakk.  When you arrive early, I would recommend heading straight for the most popular attractions - and right now that means Reese's Cupfusion which just opened this year.  As the afternoon goes on and night begins to fall, the park becomes more crowded and lines can grow.  Those early hours are perfect for kiddie rides, roller coasters, and some of your fan favorites.  Remember to download the Hersheypark app prior to arriving so you can have a map, park details, and current ride wait times at your fingertips!  Just save some rides for after night falls, which leads me to tip #2. . .
Bring back the Crystal Cup on
Reese's Cupfusion!

2. Rides to Ride After Dark


Hersheypark is truly beautiful with all of the lights at night.  A well laid out and picturesque park in the daytime lends itself well to be gorgeous at night.  There are a few slow moving rides that will offer you breathtaking views of the lights as you travel around the park after dark.  Make sure you save Skyview, Capital BlueCross Monorail, Kissing Tower, Ferris Wheel and Dry Gulch Railroad for nighttime to see dazzling light displays.  The Sunoco Speedway and Classic Cars are also fun as night falls with their own "Sweet Lights" display on the driving tracks for families to enjoy.  Bring your cameras with you on these rides to grab some great photos of the festive Christmas lights!

3. Enjoy the Shows Mid-Day


The Littlest Tree at
Chevrolet Music Box Theater
Each season at Hershey always brings it's own fun when it comes to special entertainment and Christmas Candylane is no different.  Over in Pioneer Frontier, you'll be able to find Santa's Reindeer and an ice skating rink (extra fee for skate rental - $3).  The Chevrolet Music Box Theater is home to a Christmas musical show, The Littlest Tree.  It is full of fun, familiar music the whole family will enjoy, and a cute story about the littlest tree at Santa's Tree Farm.  Speaking of Santa, you can meet the man himself in Kissing Tower Hill right near the arcade games building.  There's also a special Hershey's character meet and greet in Kissing Tower Hill as well.  So my advice is to ride your must-do rides when you first arrive, then hit up some shows and character greetings before dark when you'll want to be out and about enjoying all of the holiday glow!  The NOEL light show begins nightly at 5PM and can be viewed best on the bridge near sooperdooperLooper.  This show features lights set to popular holiday music and the beauty is amplified with reflections on the water that runs through this part of the park.

4.  Bring Your Sweet Tooth


Reese's Extreme
Hot Chocolate
Of course you can't visit Hersheypark without enjoying some chocolate, right??  In fact, Hershey loves chocolate so much, you can even purchase a souvenir mug and drink hot chocloate all day for $12 or all season for just $17.  There were too many sweets around the park that we didn't have a chance to sample it all.  My personal recommendation on something you don't want to miss is the Hot Chocolate Bar located in Founder's Way across from the entrance to Reese's Cupfusion.  While you can get a traditional hot chocolate here, that would be a boring option.  This location takes hot chocolate to the next level featuring punches of Hershey's goodness literally sprinkled on top in a variety of ways.  I opted for the Reese's Extreme because, those of you who know me, know my deep love of all things Reese's.  My son opted for the Caramel choice and my husband went with the Toasted Marshmallow.  These drinks will cost you a few more dollars than your typical hot chocolate (and they aren't included with the souvenir mug deal), but trust me when I tell you it's money well spent!

5. Add on a ticket to Hershey's Sweet Lights


Located across from Hersheypark and tucked in the woods behind The Hotel Hershey, you'll find one more tremendous light display - Hershey's Sweet Lights.  This drive through experience does come with an extra price tag.  If you're visiting Hersheypark, make sure you purchase your event ticket for the discounted price of $18.15 per car (plus tax) before you leave the park or you'll find higher prices at the entrance for this attraction.  It took us about 30 minutes to complete the drive through light show which features over 600 animated light displays.  You even get special viewing glasses that make bright lights look like snowflakes - my boys were fascinated by these!  Our favorite lighted displays were those which showcased some of our favorite rides from Hersheypark, but we enjoyed each different section which included an enchanted forest, the "12 Days of Christmas," a victorian village, and an area devoted to our favorite fairytales.  This was the perfect way to end our evening!

Hershey Sweet Lights
Remember that while Hersheypark's Christmas Candylane can certainly fill a whole day on it's own, there are plenty of other attractions to enjoy around Hershey while visiting.  You can access ZooAmerica for free with your admission to Hersheypark from within the park back by Kissing Tower Hill.  Hershey's Chocolate World is a must-do for us on every visit to Hershey, PA.  This is so much more than the ultimate chocolate gift shop!  It includes a FREE ride that teaches you how Hersey's chocolate is made as well as paid experiences like Make-Your-Own Candy Bars, a 4-D movie, and a chocolate tasting experience.

A visit to Hershey, PA will definitely make your holiday even sweeter!  Hope you have a wonderful holiday season at the Sweetest Place on Earth!


Family Guide to Winter Wonderland at Dutch Wonderland

Our family had the pleasure of being invited by Dutch Wonderland to enjoy opening day of Winter Wonderland during the holiday season.  Even though Dutch Wonderland is not a new destination for our family (check out my coverage of past visits here!), this was our first time enjoying the park during the holidays.  Staying true to it's slogan as a "Kingdom for Kids," there is plenty for families to enjoy together.  We were delighted with so much during our visit and I can't wait to share some of my tips to make the most of your day at Winter Wonderland as well.

We arrived just a few minutes before park opening and were among the first to enter.  I wasn't sure what to expect crowd wise for the day - it was opening day of the season but there was also a chance of rain throughout the evening - so we tried to think of a plan that would maximize our time in the park.  Upon entering, we headed straight to Merlin's Restaurant where we had the chance to meet the big guy himself - SANTA!  In fact, we had the distinction of being the very first guests of the season to meet Santa.  It was a fabulous visit.  Not rushed at all and several photos taken throughout the time with him.  When it comes to purchasing photos, you have a few options to consider.  If you purchase a day long photo pass for the price of $25, your Santa photos are not included, but digital downloads can be added at just $5 each.  If you don't want to purchase all of your photos from around the park for the day, you can purchase your Santa photo for a $15 digital download price.  I thought this was a great bargain compared to the pricing in malls around us!  Before we leave the topic of visiting Santa, I will say that we were in Merlin's Restaurant later on in the evening too and, again, never saw a line of more than a 2-3 families waiting to meet him.  Maybe we just had a light crowd day, but I was impressed with how easy it was to say hi.  In fact, my boys went back a second time in the evening to talk to Santa and they bought him a hot chocolate because they said "he's been working hard all night!"
First ones of the season to meet Santa!

After stopping by to see Santa first, we headed towards to the back of the park.  This is one of the my common strategies when visiting theme parks - start from the back and work your way forward.  Honestly, there was never a crowd to speak of all night (I think the threat of rain was holding some people off), but we definitely were one of only a few that headed to Exploration Island and were able to walk right on several rides.  Those that we did have to wait for were never more than a 5 minute wait.    You obviously won't find water rides open, but besides those and the larger roller coasters, Merlin's Mayhem and Kingdom Coaster, most everything else was open to ride.  We covered a lot of ground in a short amount of time and worked up an appetite by the time we hit almost every ride and made our way back to the front of the park.  Want a quick way to see what the whole park has to offer?  Don't miss the Wonderland Special train ride or the Sky Ride - they are especially beautiful with the lights!

The lights were beautiful!
This was the perfect time to stop back into Merlin's Restaurant for a treat.  When we were here earlier visiting Santa, the cookie decorating station caught my eye and we decided to give that a try along with having cups of hot chocolate to warm up on the chilly November night.  Cookie decorating is $3.99 per person.  You get a very large cookie and then can head to the "buffet" of icing and sprinkles to create your own masterpiece.  My boys had a lot of fun making their cookies and even more fun eating them!  Fun bonus - you even get a cute apron to wear during the experience!

Once we were done, we ventured back outside to find the rain had started up.  We took a quick stroll through the park again to get a final look at the Christmas lights in all of their nighttime glory.  The Christmas light show with dancing lights to music was a lot of fun, but my favorite lights were found on the trees.  There is one tree with gorgeous blue lights and lighted icicles on it as well.  Don't forget to venture back to Exploration Island and walk through the dinosaurs at night too!

We spent 3 hours in the park before the rain really started to dampen the evening, but we pretty much got to see and do everything except the two stage shows that are offered.  This is a great way to celebrate the holidays and have a fun-filled family evening.  Remember, Dutch Wonderland is truly a Kingdom for Kids so most of the rides and attractions here have your youngest family members in mind.  At 4 years old, Caleb couldn't have been happier all night long! Ready to check it out? Season pass holders for Dutch Wonderland have access to Winter Wonderland included.  If you need to purchase tickets for this event, check out my blog reader discount here (Promo Code: DWWBlog19) to save $3 off of the gate price - only $12.99 per person!!  Enjoy and happy holidays!



Website - www.dutchwonderland.com

Twitter - http://twitter.com/funatdw

Instagram - www.instagram.com/dutchwonderland

Facebook - www.facebook.com/dutchwonderlandpa

My family received complimentary admission to Dutch Wonderland's Winter Wonderland so we could share our fun adventures with you! As always, thoughts and opinions are my own!

Get in the Christmas Spirit with Noelle

Who doesn't love a family friendly Christmas movie that gives us a glimpse of what it's like to be a Kringle?  For generations, movies have been made that pull back the curtain on the mystery of Santa Claus and his family, and Disney's Noelle puts an original twist on the family life of St. Nick.  Warning - I both laughed out loud and ugly cried in this movie far more than I expected which is the sign of an outstanding movie in my opinion!  Seriously, you'll want to keep reading this and then grab your yogurt pants (you'll get it when you see the movie!) and your hot chocolate with extra whipped cream and peppermint to watch this with the whole family.

Recap of the Movie


The movie begins introducing us to Santa's kids, Noelle and Nick.  When Santa passes away, it's everyone's expectation that Nick (Bill Hader) take over for his father.  Noelle (Anna Kendrick) is there to support her brother every step of the way as her Christmas cheer is infectious.  As his first Christmas nears, Nick is overwhelmed and questions his ability to handle the job.  Noelle encourages him to take a weekend getaway to clear his mind, but when Nick doesn't return, the North Pole goes into panic mode.  What happens when Santa goes missing and Christmas is just around the corner?  Panic sets in and Noelle's tech-savvy cousin, Gabriel (Billy Eichner), is named as the replacement Santa.  Realizing her duty to her brother, and really the world, to bring the real Santa back home, Noelle leaves the North Pole for the first time with her nanny, Elf Polly (Shirley MacLaine), and heads to Phoenix, Arizona.  What follows is a series of hilarious events that teach Noelle more about the true meaning of Christmas than she can even imagine.  Seriously, Anna Kendrick is delightfully jolly as Noelle Kringle and her enthusiasm for the holiday season will easily come across the screen to everyone who watches.

Why Families Will Love It


Where do I even begin with this?  Let's first talk about messages that you'll walk away with from the film.  There is a big overarching look at expectations - both from society and from your family.  Nick is expected to become Santa because he's Santa's son.  No one stops to ask Nick if that's what he wants.  I don't want to give any spoilers here, but I'll just throw it out there that Nick isn't the only one struggling with this battle of what he wants and what is expected of him.  Learning to stand up for what you want and what you believe is a hard thing for all of us.

Noelle also grapples with the fact that the holidays can be a hard time for some kids.  As an educator, I loved that a Christmas movie shows that the holiday season isn't always perfection and lots of gifts and big families gathered under the tree singing carols together.  In the film we follow a young boy going through his first Christmas following the divorce of his parents as well as a young girl is living in shelter with her mom over the holiday season because they've lost their house.  I'm a big proponent of movies that show kids they are not alone is struggling with hard things at home and I think this is also a great reminder for kids who may be tied up in wanting the latest and greatest gadgets to be reminded what some of these kids in the movie wish for as their "present" this Christmas.  The idea of Christmas traditions changing as families evolve is also present throughout the film.  Most of my ugly crying happened during these scenes by the way.

At the end of the day, this is a family holiday movie that will leave you feeling all the feels.  It's certainly one that kids of all ages can enjoy right alongside of their parents.  Even young children who would miss most of these bigger themes I've been talking about will delight in the bright colors, fun music, and jolly holiday spirit.  Thank garland that Disney+ has brought us this film for the holidays!!

About Disney's Noelle




In Disney+'s holiday comedy, "Noelle," Kris Kringle's daughter is full of Christmas spirit and holiday fun, but wishes she could do something "important" like her beloved brother Nick, who will take over for their father this Christmas.  When Nick is about to crumble like a gingerbread cookie from all the pressure, Noelle suggests he take a break and get away. . .but when he doesn't return, Noelle must find her brother and bring him back in time to save Christmas.  The sudden disappearance of the new Santa (Bill Vader) leads to chaos in the North Pole, so Mrs. Kringle (Julie Hagerty) must step up to rein in the hi-tech replacement Santa, Cousin Gabs (Billy Eichner).  Meanwhile, Noelle and Elf Polly (Shirley MacLaine), the family's acerbic but good-hearted nanny, are down South on a search-and-recover mission, during which Noelle (Anna Kendrick) comes to realize she has much in common with her father and begins to understand the true meaning of Christmas.  Written and directed by Marc Lawrence, "Noelle" stars Anna Kendrick, Bill Vader, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Billy Eichner, Julie Hagerty and Shirley MacLaine.  The film is produced by Suzanne Todd with John G. Scotti serving as executive producer.

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#DisneyPlus #Noelle

Get in the holiday spirit as Disney's Noelle begin's streaming on Disney+ when the service goes live November 12, 2019!

Don't Miss Disney - Holiday Edition!

We all know that there are several things that are "don't miss" items on any Walt Disney World Resort vacation and the holiday season brings it's own list of must-see attractions, events, and entertainment.  In fact, I talked about what makes the holidays a bit more magical during my Disney Parks Moms Panel Application video when I applied for the 2019 panel.  Even though I didn't make the panel, I think my video sums up a bit of what makes the holiday season extra special when vacationing in Walt Disney World.  Take a look at my video here:



Excited to learn more?  Check out my top 5 things you won't want to miss to put a little extra jingle in your bells this holiday season!

2014 Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party
Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party - This is a special ticketed event on select nights at Magic Kingdom Park.  Similar to Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, you'll find all the magic of the season at this party!  From top notch decorations to put the jingle in any bells to free hot chocolate and cookies throughout the park, you'll feel holly jolly as soon as you enter the park.  Don't miss the parade during this event which features a very special guest at the end!  The holiday fireworks are also an amazing end to the evening.  You will need to purchase a separate ticket for this, but that ticket gets you entrance at 4PM even though the party doesn't begin until 7PM.

Epcot's Candlelight Processional - Included with your ticket to Epcot is the chance to take part in this spiritually mesmerizing event.  Join celebrity narrators, an orchestra, and a enormous choir to hear the Biblical tale of Christmas as never before.  There are several performances each evening of this show and it is incredibly popular.  If you want to guarantee your seat, you can book a dining package at one of Epcot's restaurants with a special reservation on My Disney Experience.  For those of you choosing to attend without that dining reservation, plan to arrive early and wait in line in order to secure your spot!

Disney Springs Christmas Tree Trail - We all know Disney Springs is a premiere shopping, dining, and entertainment destination, but it gets even more spirited during the holidays.  With themed Christmas trees from Star Wars to Pixar to Disney classics, you'll quickly find yourself lost in a maze of color and merriment.  One extra perk of this particular holiday attraction?  It's located outside of theme park so if you're in the Orlando area for work, fun, or as a resident - you don't have to pay park admission to enjoy with your family!

Hotel Decor and Experiences - The holiday festivities and decor aren't just limited to the parks around the Walt Disney World Resort, but can also be found in hotels on property as well.  A great way to spend a low-key afternoon or evening is by taking some time to visit different resort properties and enjoy all they have to offer.  For example, the giant gingerbread house display at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa is not to be missed.  Feeling a bit more rustic?  Make a visit to Disney's Fort Wilderness Campground where you can find special horse-drawn holiday sleigh rides around the property.
2017 Dinner at Minnie's Holiday Dine

Minnie's Holiday Dine at Hollywood & Vine - Looking for a festive dining experience with some of your favorite characters?  Look no further than Minnie's Holiday Dine at Hollywood & Vine in Disney's Hollywood Studios!  This dining option is available for lunch and dinner and provides guests with a wide buffet selection and memorable character interactions.  You can find something for everyone at this restaurant and can even grab a special dining package to get reserved seating for Fantasmic later on in the evening!

This is just a sampling of some of my favorite ways to celebrate the holidays at the Walt Disney World Resort!  You'll find holiday magic around every corner and the decorations, costumes, and special events around the resort will help you create memories that will last much longer than those gingerbread cookies and hot chocolate on Main Street, U.S.A!