It’s All in the Bag

I have a confession to make.  I’m a bit of a bag lady.  No, not that kind.  I mean literally, bags. As in those fabric-covered treasure chests in which to stuff all of the various junk deeply important items that I think know I will need at any given time.  Not one for shoe shopping (that alone keeps the spouse happy), I can’t resist scooping up the latest pretty print in the form of a beach bag, travel tote, shoulder bag or cute cosmetic case.

Of course, I have my go-to bag for quick trips to the pool or water park, and ones for longer beach trips, but there is always room in the bag basket for at least one or two (or three or four) more.  This is my current go-to beach bag, just throw a few things in and you’re ready to go.  Of course, I also have one with multiple pockets and a gigantic interior for towels, goggles, cover-ups and such but this one is tried and true.

This is my current all-around go everywhere type of bag.  You can't go wrong with Margaritaville.

You can’t go wrong with Margaritaville.

Given that I also have a big, and I’m talking BIG, theme park obsession, this latest round of bags I’ve discovered is now at the top of my “must acquire” list.

The Dooney & Bourke company was one of the first to get in on the Walt Disney bandwagon  with their well-known name, high-quality materials and pricey price tag.  Dooney certainly does Disney well.  Take a look.

Dooney does Disney well.

Dooney & Bourke wristlet
Photo: ©Dooney & Bourke

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Dooney & Bourke Mickey tote
Photo: ©Dooney & Bourke

I especially love this design and bag style.

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Dooney & Bourke Disney satchel
©Dooney & Bourke

This cute letter carrier bag is tied as a favorite, as well.

DooneyLetterCarrierBagChipDaleDisney

Dooney & Bourke Disney letter carrier bag
©Dooney & Bourke

Being the paranoic that I am, I don’t know if I would trust myself to spend a day at the theme park carrying around one of those super cool, but super pricey, Dooney bags.  Water rides, slippery snacks and the chance of rain would all but have me worrying more about protecting the bag than having fun in the World (or Land as the case may be).  I would probably reserve it for a special occasion.  That being said, there is another great looking bag in town that I am currently drooling over.

Lesportsac has a very happy version of Disney in their “Small World” collection.  Based upon the classic ride and the artwork of Mary Blair, the patterns are taken from the various countries, or rooms, of the ride and feature colorful scenes and ride icons.  It’s a Small World is my favorite ride/attraction at Walt Disney World (Yes, really, it’s my ring tone.  Don’t judge), so I am particularly fond of these bags, which are a bit lower priced than the Dooney ones.

Photo: ©Lesportsac

Lesportsac Well Wishes bag
Photo: ©Lesportsac

Well Wishes is based upon the Holland room.  Happy young ladies peer out from pretty pink and pastel toned fabrics.

LeSportsacWellWishesCharmTote

Lesportsac Well Wishes tote
Photo: ©Lesportsac

I am actually torn between the girly pink pattern above and the one below.  I really like the iconic buildings and architectural elements depicted on the tote below.  I can definitely see myself using this as a beach bag or carry-on for books, sunscreen, snacks and what-not.

Lesportsac See the World totePhoto: ©Lesportsac

Lesportsac See the World tote
Photo: ©Lesportsac

The Fancy That pattern is from the England room of Small World.  The pattern features famous English icons and scenes.

LesportsacFancyThatBigDisney

Lesportsac Fancy That bag
Photo: ©Disney/Lesportsac

I love this bright, colorful Moroccan Sun pattern. It is, however, from the summer 2012 collection and is most likely not easy to find.  I just had to include it though.  You can also get an idea of what the backpack models look like.

LesportsacBackPackMorrocanSunDisney

Lesportsac Morroccan Sun backpack
Photo: ©Disney/Lesportsac

There is even a Lesportsac Small World diaper bag for the well-traveled baby and mom.

LesportsacBabyBagWondrousJourneyDisney

Lesportsac Wondrous Journey baby bag
Photo: ©Disney/Lesportsac

There is a great review of the Lesportsac Small World bags at Onezumiverse.com.  Check it out.

Next up is the big bag announcement of the week.  This was all the rage in my Facebook news feed the other day.  Yeah, I subscribe to a lot of Disney blogs, sites and pages.  It’s a weakness.  Now, without further ado….

It is none other than Vera Bradley, the queen of the widely popular and equally beautiful quilted bag.  Disney and Vera have joined forces, and these fabric designs will eventually be found in the form of the usual selection of Vera Bradley bags, totes, pouches and cosmetic cases.

Photo: ©Vera Bradley

Disney and Vera Bradley team up to bring a bit of the World to the quilted bag.
Photo: ©Vera Bradley

Here is a close-up of the pattern.  I wish they had done more of a “Hidden Mickey” type of design with the pattern, but that is just my opinion.  The colors are great and I can’t wait to see the completed product.

Pink design:Black design: Midnight with MickeyPhoto: ©Vera Bradley

Pink design: Just Mousing Around
Black design: Midnight with Mickey
Photo: ©Vera Bradley

Visit the Disney Park’s blog for more detailed information on the Vera Bradley Disney bag, which will debut this fall at Disney parks and will eventually be sold online.  I have not seen any information on price point but I’m thinking that they will be along the lines of the current Vera Bradley items.

That is my roundup of Disney-themed bags.  Please let me know if you know of any that I have missed, including non-Disney characters and patterns.  I’m always on the look-out for a useful and great looking bag.

Carry on.

SandySignature

Happy Wholidays from Universal’s Islands of Adventure

Seuss Landing is easily the most festively decorated spot in all of the Universe (Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure in Orlando, Florida, that is).  Sure, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is always snow-covered and stocked with snowmen and steam engines, but all of the greenery and red-trimmed wreaths just add a special sparkle to the Seussical air of Seuss Landing.

The Grinchmas Wholiday Spectacular at Islands of Adventure is a magical journey of music by Mannheim Steamroller, singing and dancing courtesy of the Whos of Whoville, and gallons of  Grinchy-ness that should not be missed.  I have to admit that I am not generally one for shows – I like to get right to the ride action – however, I’m grinchishly glad I made time for this one.  Yes, there will be a lot of “Grinchisms” sprinkled throughout this post.  It’s just fun.

As you enter Seuss Landing, this is the scene you will see.  Bear to the right and get in line for the Grinchmas Wholiday Spectacular, featuring everybody’s favorite green-skinned grouch and a whole bunch of happy Whos.

Caro-Seussal

Seuss Landing in all of its festive finery.

As I’m sure you already know the story, I’ll let you experience the show through the following photos.

The Whos.

The Whos.

The Whos.

The Whos.

The Whos.

The Whos.

The Grinch.

The Grinch.

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Enter Cindy-Lou Who.

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Peek-a-boo Mr. Who.

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The Grinch looks down on the Whos of Who-Ville.

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Mr. Grinch

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Mr. Grinch.

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…and the Grinch thought up a lie…

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Mr. Grinch

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…and the Grinch’s heart grew three sizes that day.

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Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.

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Happy Wholidays!

And, yes, Max is a real dog.

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The Whos.

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Merry Grinchmas!

And we, we ourselves, got to meet the grouchy, green one himself.  F.Y.I., this Grinch is very much in character.  Think Jim Carrey.  This was the funniest meet-n-greet I’ve ever had.

Everybody is a Who in Seuss Landing.

Meeting and greeting the Grinch. Everybody is a Who in Seuss Landing.

More Seussical scenes.

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Seuss Landing

The Cat in the Hat.

The Cat in the Hat.

Along with character breakfasts and meet-and-greets, Islands of Adventure is the place to be for Christmas cheer.  Come on over.  The weather is fine.

Merry Grinchmas to Whos everywhere.

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Very Vintage, Virginia: Christmas Town at Busch Gardens Williamsburg

Welcome to Holiday Hills.

Welcome to Holiday Hills.

Miles of twisty, crinkly sparkly garland, vintage Coca-Cola signs, retro reindeer and more blow molds than you can shake a candlestick at, Christmas Town has gone retro with the all new Holiday Hills area.  If you’ve ever wanted to step back in time, Busch Gardens Williamsburg is the place to do it.

The Festa Italia section of the park has been transformed into a stroll through a 1950s Christmas card.  Oversized Santa heads, prancing reindeer, toy soldiers, singing angels, glowing candlesticks and classic Coke signs (complete with a sipping Santa) all give a nostalgic feeling of another place in time.  I really enjoyed this section and hope to make it back just to walk around some more, as well as catch a ride on the Peppermint Twist (teacups) and Snowman Summit.

Retro Reindeer

Retro Reindeer

Here are a few more of my favorite scenes from Holiday Hills.

Step onto Retro Lane.

Step onto Retro Lane.

ChristmasSnowmanSummit

Snowman Summit

Santa and classic Coca-Cola.

Santa and classic Coca-Cola.

The rest of the park is equally decked out in more than two, or three, or six million lights and holiday cheer.  The SkyRide takes guests high over the park for a great light-gazing show, while Mach Tower, operating at a slow pace, gives an even higher bird’s-eye-view of the park.  Take a frosty ride through the Black Forest on Verbolten, also open during Christmas Town evenings.

Mach Tower operates at a slow pace during Christmas Town - ©Busch Gardens

Mach Tower operates at a slow pace during Christmas Town – ©Busch Gardens

I like to take it easy, and Europe in the Air is much more my style.

Europe in the Air

Europe in the Air

Musical shows like Gloria! and Deck the Halls show off the immense talents of Busch Gardens’ performers.  Gloria! brings the story of Christmas and the nativity to life with songs like “Oh, Little Town of Bethlehem,” while Deck the Halls, in Das Festhaus, offers a lively song and dance ensemble of Christmas carols, along with a few favorite characters.

Here are a few favorites from Deck the Halls.

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ChristmasDeckHalls8

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Deck the Halls

Deck the Halls

Deck the Halls

Deck the Halls

Deck the Halls

Deck the Halls

Deck the Halls

Deck the Halls

Deck the Halls

Deck the Halls

Miracles, in the outdoor Il Teatro di San Marco Theatre, is another must-see production that takes guests on a sweeping journey of classical music, song and dance.  The little ones will enjoy A Sesame Street Christmas featuring Big Bird, Cookie, Elmo, Abby Cadabby and the rest of the furry, fun-loving gang.

A Sesame Street Christmas in the Globe Theatre

A Sesame Street Christmas in the Globe Theatre

My interests always run to the merchandise side of things and Busch Gardens manages to put as much of the Christmas spirit into their stores as the rest of the park.

ChristmasStore

ChristmasStorePink

ChristmasStoreNutcrackersDarkEdges

Nutcrackers of every size, shape and style.

Here is one of my favorite scenes at Christmas Town or any day of the year.  I can never visit the park without a stop at the Highland Stables.

Dear Santa...

Do you think he will fit under my tree?

Even rides that aren’t operating during Christmas Town offer the opportunity for magical decorations and lights.  Pompeii looks so dressed up in its coat of water-inspired lights.  I just adore the purple trees along the pathway.

Pompeii all lit-up in lights.

Pompeii all lit-up in lights.

Of course, Christmas Town can’t be complete without those cute, waddling guys in tuxedos.  Even if Mr. Popper is not around, penguins make any day much more fun.

ChristmasPenguinSign2

Magellanic penguins on loan from SeaWorld.

Magellanic penguins

Magellanic penguins

Magellanic penguins

Magellanic penguins

African penguins on loan from the Columbus Zoo.

African penguins on loan from the Columbus Zoo.

African penguins

African penguins

Polar photo ops.

Polar photo ops.

Hi there.

Hi there.

O Tannenbaum is a spectacular light show choreographed to a musical score.  This 50-foot Christmas tree in the Oktoberfest Village is the place to be for a magical ending to any Christmas Town adventure.

Das FestHaus

Das FestHaus

O Tannebaum musical light show in Oktoberfest Village - ©Busch Gardens Williamsburg

O Tannebaum musical light show in Oktoberfest Village – ©Busch Gardens Williamsburg

On a final note, it is almost worth the admission price just to try all of the food, desserts and tasty treats available during Christmas Town.  You’ll notice I don’t have any photos.  My traveling companions tend to quickly gobble things up that aren’t glued to the plate.  I recommend the pumpkin cheesecake and anything from Trapper’s Smokehouse, which offers a wide variety of frontier-style meals such as BBQ ribs, sliced brisket, super thick turkey sandwiches, smoked chicken and the best baked beans and macaroni and cheese around.  Also, and this is just me, but I cannot leave the park without a freshly made pretzel from the German bakery.  Guests can watch through the window as the pretzels are being made.

For more information on Christmas Town, please check out my theme park column at Examiner.com.

For a peek into Christmas Town Florida-style, including snow, head on over to Busch Gardens Tampa at AdventuresByDaddy.com.

Merry Christmas!

Disclosure: The author received complimentary admission to Christmas Town as part of Busch Gardens’ Social Media Event.  All opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author.

SandySignature

The Night I Became a Zombie – Kings Dominion’s Halloween HAUNT

I became a zombie for the night last weekend.  No, it wasn’t the zombie apocalypse.  I’ll be sure to give you plenty of notice when that time comes.  This was a Zombie Invasion dance party to open Halloween HAUNT at Kings Dominion.

Zombies in all shapes and sizes ripped up their clothes, painted their faces and rolled around in dirt and detritus to get that perfect “zombie ambience.”  Or maybe that was just us rolling around in the dirt and detritus.  You be the judge.  Here we are:

Us in all of our zombie glory. Yeah, we go a bit overboard.

Here’s a shot of me and my zombie child beneath the glowing eyes of the Eiffel Tower.

Striking a pose beneath the eyes of the Eiffel Tower.

The zombies did a little dance number and enjoyed some gruesome goodies (which were quite tasty).

Zombies do love their cake.

We then lumbered and stumbled off (zombies do that) to enjoy all of the haunted houses, scare zones and shows the park has to offer this year.

This was my first official visit to HAUNT.  We had been there several years ago, during the day, when the youngster was, well, younger. The haunted happenings were just beginning to get underway so we decided to try out a haunted pirate maze.

Okay now, let me remind you that the child was maybe four-years-old at the time.  She is not a scaredy-pants by any means and decided that she would like to try this maze.  While she seemed to enjoy herself – she was given the go-ahead to scream as loud as she wanted (a rare treat for any child, let me tell you) – that was the last time for that experience.

Yeah, we didn’t make Parents of the Year that year.  This time was different.  Maybe it was the zombie attire.  I don’t know, but she (and I) had a blast.

My zombie children. I’m so proud.

Now, I enjoy a good scare (while holding on for dear life to the nearest non-creature I can find), but I need a storyline to go along with it.  Blame it on the writer in me.  Kings Dominion definitely has the scares and the storylines.

Cornstalkers was a favorite.  As you wind and weave your way through a decaying cornfield (who doesn’t love a good cornfield?), the creatures of the corn come out to visit.  As the twisty, turny rows of corn confuse and distract your path, all kinds of mangled and dangled objects deter your journey.  This is one maze where you want to make it to the end.  And watch out when you get there.

Come this way to the creatures of the corn.

The glowing entrance to Cornstalkers.

Medieval Macabre tells the tale of a plague-ravaged town.  The survivors are holed up in a decrepit castle just waiting to take revenge on those that have taken their loved ones.  This was my zombie child’s favorite.

A daylight scene of the Medieval Macabre that overtakes the bumper car venue every year.

Some more daylight scenes…

Welcome!

Nimble skeletons climb the walls of International Street.

New to HAUNT this year is a haunted hotel called No Vacancy.  I would have to say that this was my favorite. Remember, I like a good storyline.  This maze takes travelers through an abandoned hotel where the housekeepers and staff have managed to stick around, long after everyone else has passed on (so to speak). Creep through the library chamber and inch past the kitchen, but don’t accept any “snacks” from the staff. Left-behind luggage, bags and bodies fill up the rooms and hallways of this hotel where the no-vacancy sign has a whole new meaning.

While the wait is expected, the Blue Ridge Bloodbath is always one to check out.  The Antique Cars provide the transportation through a “scenic” drive in the mountains.  This drive isn’t your grandma’s Sunday sojourn. Hop aboard and prepare for the ride of your life … if you’re lucky.

Blue Ridge Bloodbath.

What awaits in the covered bridge?

Outbreak: The Evolution is located at the Flight of Fear ride.  We were a bit worried that we were in line for the ride instead of the maze – it’s an indoor, dark coaster (with four inversions) somewhat like Space Mountain at the Magic Kingdom.  Or so I’ve been told.  I’ve never been on it myself.  I don’t do coasters.  Go figure.  Anyway, it was the maze (we checked) and it is all about the aliens and other test tube creatures of a medical facility.  Walk along the hallways and try not to become part of the experiment.

A few missed mazes include Club Blood (you guessed it, vampires), Camp Killauee and The Doll Factory (ya gotta have a doll house).  Since we have season passes (and the youngster loved the scare fest), we will be back for more Haunts.  See you there.

Of course, there are lots of daytime activities for those not into the haunting.  Roller coasters, thrill rides, family fun rides and Howl-O-Fest all make it a great day at Kings Dominion.  Check this one out…

The Crypt always makes for good entertainment.

To read more about HAUNT, go ahead and click here.  I dare you.

Howl-O-Scream and #FrightNight 2012 – The Dark Side of the Gardens

A couple of weeks ago, I received an invitation to a social media event, #FrightNight, scheduled for the opening weekend of Busch Gardens’ annual Howl-O-Scream event … read more… The above link will take you to the rest of my … Continue reading