Where has the Disney Pet Merchandise Gone?

Guest Author: Heather Araskiewicz

My family loves Disney and we look forward to each and every trip. The only part we don’t look forward to is leaving our pets behind. The dogs usually have to be kenneled. Last year it broke my heart when I had to kennel my senior pug Tyson. He was blind so the kennel was very stressful for him because he didn’t know where he was or what was happening.

That said I wanted to bring him back something special from our trip. I always bring back a little something for him from every trip I go on regardless of where I go. But the Disney gifts seemed to always be his favorites. For the past several years we got bought the same gift for both dogs….a stuffed Mickey shaped plush toy.

The good thing about getting them a new one from every trip was that the old dingy one could be casually replaced with the new one. Tyson would carry the toy around with him everywhere and would hold it between the ears so that the ears completely covered his eyes.  It had gotten to the point where both dogs had several of these silly things laying around the house.mickey plush

Last year we took our family trip and I searched store after store for the pet items. Then I remembered seeing a small variety of toys, bandanas and bowls at the Firehouse Gift Shop on Main Street. I stopped by the Firehouse and found out it was no longer a gift shop. So I searched Downtown Disney high and low for the pet items. Finally I asked a cast member at World of Disney if they could help me. This very nice cast member informed me that the shops would no longer be carrying pet merchandise and he suggested checking at the Best Friends Kennel over near Port Orleans Riverside.  Hearing that bummed me out because this was a staple souvenir I got without hesitation on every trip.  Although we were staying at Riverside I wasn’t about to run across the street to kennel to see if they had anything. To his credit the cast member walked the store with me and suggested alternative items and we finally settled on a flat Eeyore toy.eyoreplush

Although Tyson was excited when I gave him his new “baby” he never took to this toy in the same way he took to his Mickey Mouse. I would often have to coax him into playing with Eeyore when his Mickey needed to be cleaned.

Since Disney never carried a huge selection of pet products (usually just an end cap on an aisle) I really wish they would reconsider restocking them.  I can only speak for myself but my pets are part of my family and I think nothing of spending the money to get them that special Disney souvenir too!

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Forever in Disney Sweats

Guest Author: Mary King of acuppafashion.com

While a staple in nearly everyone’s closet, it seems as though sweatshirts are hitting the fashion trend scene in a major way this upcoming fall season. Retailers everywhere are putting out their racks of sweatshirts for their autumn collections. This means going out in laid back and cozy apparel is going to make you one trendy person!

Forever 21 has a long history of selling Disney licensed clothes. And this season, they have not disappointed when it comes to their Disney collection of sweatshirts. The iconic Mickey and Minnie grace a few styles, while they also include the additions of The Lion King, Finding Nemo, and Cars.disneysweats

These sweatshirts are every bit as cute as you’d find at the Disney parks, but without the hefty price tag. And chances are you have a Forever 21 in your local mall, giving you the opportunity to grab one, two, or all of them for your upcoming trip! So go ahead and  be trendy in your coziest and Disneyest way!


MegaCon 2013- Orlando, FL

Guest Author: Heather McClay

 Once a year in the spring International Drive looks like your favorite comic or anime; as hundreds of enthusiasts are dressed up as their favorites.mega1

This is MegaCon, it is a convention that happens for three days at the Orlando Convention Center. There is everything from artists to the 501st to the local Lego group set up in the main room. Every year also features a bunch of different celebrities; this year was the cast of Star Trek Next Generation as well as the actors who played the Weasley twins.megacon4 megacon7

The con features so many cosplayers that you will want to bring a camera or two! The costumes go from the thrown together to the how much time did they spend on that! It is a fun event for the whole family, but some of the cosplayers may be a little less dressed than you would want your little ones to see.megacon5

There are also boardgame rooms as well as a room to play Magic and other card games as well as groups that will get together to play Werewolf.megacon6

Make sure to save up money, you will want to buy everything! Especially if you are a geek who likes to collect things from their favorites shows, movies, comics and anything else that may show up.megacon3 megacon8

Next year’s MegaCon is already up, so start planning now and if you want to go together let me know!


“Oblivion” Restaurant in East Orlando

Guest Author: Heather McClay
As you drive along Colonial Rd/Route 50 on your way to Semoran Blvd you will pass by this place unaware of how amazing it really is- this is “Oblivion.”
The outside it looks like a biker bar, but upon closer inspection you will find out how wonderfully wrong you are. Once you step in you will notice the neon beer signs, but there is not Bud, Coors or Miller here, this is micro brew territory. If you are not a beer drinker, do not despair, they have over a page worth of ciders as well; and again, this is also a perfect place for family dinners.
The burgers are amazing, the one pictured is known as the Paradise burger and is a veggie burger, black bean patty freshly made with pickled mango and avocado as well as lettuce and mayo. I usually go with the JalePINEo burger, again another amazing burger, this one with jalapeno cream cheese and a pineapple ring. And if these weren’t good enough, they come with a choice of spud side, the high recommendation is the tater tots with Parmesan on them.
This was my fifth time coming to this restaurant and have gotten something different anytime, if you do come in hungry get the fried pickles to split; if you have gotten them before you will find these superior, if you have never had fried pickles, you will be spoiled!
But don’t just take my word for it, go and give this place a try. They are open Tuesday-Sunday opening at 4pm and they are closed Monday. Also they are one Facebook and post events as well as specials for everyday. https://www.facebook.com/obliviontaproom?ref=ts&fref=ts

Our Drive is Part of the Adventure!

         Guest Author: Rachel Purcell

            Hello fellow Disney lovers!  My family and I live just north of Omaha, Nebraska.  My family consists of myself, my husband of 13 years,Ron, and our 12 year old son Hunter.  Every winter as we are getting snowed on and freezing every time we walk outside, we dream about our next Disney vacation.

The last time we flew to Disney was in 2007.  Our flight took us up to Minneapolis for a layover on our way to Omaha.  The plane had terrible turbulence which caused me to fly out of my seat and everybody around us to cry, scream to our Lord to save us, etc.  Needless to say, it was scary.  We decided after that trip that we all would like to try to make the long drive down to Florida.  Ron said that “Our drive would be part of our adventure!”  Boy was he right!


            We live approximately 1,500 miles from Disney and we prepare for our trips by first setting our trip date.  We have to take in account 2 nights before check-in for the drive and 1 night after we leave to drive home.  Next, we lined up our rental car, which we have always rented.  The last time it cost us $300.00 for a two week rental on a full size car- this is plenty big for our family plus we like the assurance of knowing that it is a brand new car for such a long drive.  Then, we make sure our Atlas is up to date and print off our Google maps.  Yes, we travel by map – we haven’t entered the GPS age yet!  We have planned our trip to avoid Atlanta.  Some may disagree, but we have decided that the stress of getting through that city just isn’t going to be part of our trip.  Our route may be a bit longer, but we enjoy it.  Then finally, we book our hotels on the way down.


            As for our packing – we take 2 suitcases.  We travel during the summer, so this is plenty of room for shorts, t-shirts and necessities.  It’s also nice to have some extra room in them to bring home a few souvenirs. We also pack plenty of snacks and a cooler for the car.  Our snacks consist of pretzel rods, combo’s (pretzel and cheese), licorice and our favorite go-to snack of beef jerky.  This is crucial for a trip this long.  One time we were stuck in traffic in Birmingham, AL for two hours- during dinner rush.  Our dinner that night was beef jerky and pretzel rods with a cold can of pop so we were so thankful that we had these things to eat!  No, not the most nutritious, but we all still laugh and remember our “snack dinner” fondly.  We know try to coordinate our time better to avoid cities at rush hours.


Our trip starts when Ron gets off work at 5PM.  Hunter and I (with the great help from my Mom – Jan) will have the car ready and packed.  Ron will get home, and we will take off for our first night – Kanas City.  We arrive there at about 9PM.  We sleep a few winks and are back up at 3AM to take off for our huge drive day.  We will drive to Dothan, AL for the next night.  This takes about 16 hours accounting for our stops.  We stop every 2 hours to take a break from the car.  Whether it’s a gas stop, a game of football at a rest area, or just to get out and do jumping jacks.  These breaks are usually for 10 minutes.  Lunch and dinner breaks last about 20 minutes at a fast food joint.  (Can’t wait to hit our Whataburger in Alabama!!).  The final day, we leave at about 7AM and arrive at Disney at about 1PM.  On the drive home, we leave Disney at 7AM and drive all day, usually staying somewhere in Mississippi and then finish the drive the next day.  We never book hotels coming home, but just “play it by ear” for how far we want/can drive.  So, in total, it takes us about 26 hours each way for our drive.  We always stay at Hampton Inn, Holiday Inn Express or La Quinta.  We have always had great, clean rooms with fine service.  The costs for our rooms always are under $100 with codes that we find off the internet.


I kept all my gas receipts from our last trip.  Going through them, I found that our cheapest gas was found in Alabama for $3.46/gallon.  The most expensive was in Florida at $3.86/gallon.  This was due to the fact that we accidently got off the exit by “Café Risqué” and paid out the WaZoo for gas that we found was cheaper just one exit down – I guess we lived and learned there!  Our gas for our round trip in a Chevy Impala was $427.00.

So, if you are totaling this all up, not including food, our drive will cost right around $1,000 including gas, car rental and 3 nights for hotels.  Our cost to fly from Omaha was always right about this amount, so it is just a cost that we budget into our trip.

My husband and I like to think of ourselves as adventurers and we are raising our son to be the same way.  The drive truly is “part of our adventure” now.  We have seen sights that we never would have seen otherwise – the fun, winding hills in Arkansas, Memphis – where our king of rock and roll lived, beautiful magnolia trees in Mississippi, the awe of the mist floating in the trees in Alabama, the feeling of seeing the sign that says “Florida” and finally driving under those Disney arches.  Our country is so beautiful and we feel lucky that we have the chance to see it.

Welcome to Wonderful Winter Garden!

Guest Author: Sara Austin

This time last year, I was shivering through a cold New Jersey winter and had just learned we would be moving to Florida in July for my husband’s job. Overwhelmed by the prospect of relocating our family, I did what most people do these days and turned to the Internet. My months of planning led me various blogs and websites that raised a host of horror stories about moving to the Orlando area! Online research can be a blessing and a curse. For every hint I got on possible neighborhoods for our move I had three more saying that the schools were bad, it wasn’t safe and there are no jobs! Thankfully, my searches also led me to The Relocated Tourist. Amy’s blog was definitely a bright spot in the Internet and was a daily reminder that I too would be fulfilling a dream to live near Disney!

downtown- WG

My husband and I were lucky that his job’s relocation package included payment for a house hunting trip. If we had to have done our house search from NJ we likely would have had drastically different results! Also, because we were being moved due to his transfer, it made financial sense for us to buy a home right away. We also didn’t want the stress of renting first and then having to move everything a second time. Another priority that made buying instead of renting a better choice for us was wanting our girls, ages 12 and 10, to be settled in their schools and neighborhoods right away so the transition would be as smooth as possible.

Our house hunting trip was four days and we put a ton of pressure on ourselves to find a home! Thankfully, we found an amazing realtor who was willing to spend very full days with us looking at various neighborhoods. She was great about keeping to our very specific requests, with good school districts and tight budget being the biggest priorities. However, we found that houses we loved online were very different in person, and usually not for the better. We also learned that, because the Florida housing market was just starting to bounce back, that the houses we did put bids on were either sold for higher than our bid or sold to a cash buyer. It was very depressing on our third day to have already lost out on two houses we thought were right for us and our house prospects dwindling.

In retrospect, the stress we felt during that trip ended up to be a wonderful blessing. Winter Garden was not one of the towns we originally planned to look at during our trip and we only ended up there because there were no more houses to look at in our price range when we hit the final day of house hunting! After a rough morning of fixer-uppers, our realtor suggested a new construction in the Independence development. Our initial thought, after walking through a gorgeous model home, was that there was no way we could afford new construction. However, we were surprised to find that both the three-bedroom single family home and four-bedroom townhouse were in our price range. Our house hunt took an even stranger turn when we fell in love with a townhouse after spending three months telling the realtor that we would only consider single family homes!

Walking into our townhouse the first time, we instantly fell in love and knew we had found the right place for us. However, I had only minimally researched Winter Garden and quickly hopped on my laptop to happily discover that it had good schools and was in a safe area. And, with that minimal information, we signed the contract for our Florida home on the final day of our house hunting expedition. We finished out the trip taking pictures of the neighborhood to bring home to the girls to get them excited for the move and then headed back to New Jersey.

Looking back now, I am so thankful that we took the risk in moving to Winter Garden and continue to be amazed and grateful that God put us exactly where we were meant to be! Our development is on the very outskirts of town in what was unincorporated Orange County. We are closer to the Magic Kingdom (more on that in a minute!) than we are to our downtown. However, downtown Winter Garden is worth the 15 minute drive because it is like a little slice of Americana with cobblestone streets and inviting restaurants and mom-and-pop businesses! Even better, it has an amazing farmer’s market every Saturday and frequent festivals and events that I look forward to sharing with you.

Winter Garden is in an excellent location for almost every need. It is not a tourist area, so it has a quiet, laid-back charm that is missing in other neighborhoods. It is an active community with bike paths and walking trails. And while it is a developing area with several new housing developments in various stages of production, it is also a beautiful spot to enjoy nature and various types of wildlife. While I expected to see alligators in the ponds, I have been delighted to also see otters, armadillos, raccoons, exotic birds and to even hear the howls of coyotes in the distance at night! It’s a new and wonderful experience to be able to watch Wishes from our yard while listening to croaking frogs and other sounds of nature!

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In addition to being pretty, Winter Garden is also practical because the town is close to several major roadways, including 429, 408 and the Turnpike. That makes it an easy trip to go to Downtown Orlando or anywhere else in the area without having to brave I-4. Also, since we live West of downtown, we are usually in the opposite direction of rush hour traffic, so it makes for an easy commute! But the best commute was one that we did not discover until our second week in Florida.

The girls and I spent the first few weeks exploring the area but realized one day that we had never tried making a right out of our development. As we headed down the road about two minutes, my best friend called from New Jersey. I answered the phone at the exact moment that I realized where I was. And then I started screaming…and crying…and then screaming some more. I was screaming so loud that she thought I won the lottery. And in a way I had because only a few miles from our home was the cast member entrance to the Magic Kingdom! As I turned the car down the road, we saw Disney University, the Holiday warehouse, a monorail being repaired and then, right in front of us, Cinderella Castle. My girls still make fun of the scene I made and the thought of it still makes me cry. As we drove the loop around Bay Lake and I realized that WDW was literally my backyard, I knew that Winter Garden was now my home and that we had made the right choice moving here. I am so blessed to call Winter Garden home and I look forward to sharing this special town with all of you through The Relocated Tourist!

Enjoying Florida Living WG