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Disclosure: As an Affiliate Blogger for Busch Gardens Virginia through Mom Central I received an invitation to a Christmas Town Preview Event. Opinions are my own.

Christmas Town Busch Gardens

Well, I haven’t fully decided on our Thanksgiving menu for this year yet, but I am definitely in a much merrier mood after visiting Busch Gardens® Christmas Town™ for a Preview Event!

Nothing lifts my spirits more in Winter than gorgeous sparkling lights, hot cocoa, and beautiful Christmas music. We began our evening at the Christmas Town Lighting Ceremony with the O’Tannenbaum Tree in front of Das Festhaus. A collective roar of approval went through the crowd at the lighting of 8 million Christmas lights and I am so glad we were there.

Shortly after the tree lighting, it began to get dark and the park really took on a festive and magical appearance.

Christmas Town Lights

I honestly enjoyed the lighting throughout the park the most overall.

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My daughter was delighted with the refillable hot cocoa mugs, the rides and the fun of running around after dark in winter weather. While obviously not all the rides are open, many are and I loved seeing the England Skyride cars going across the sky rimmed with lights.

As I was cold (definitely dress warmly this year!), I ended up wandering through many of the shops. I got a beautiful mistletoe ornament in the England Christmas Towne Shoppe, and walked outside to find “snow” falling. Just beautiful. My kids were enjoying the firepit with peppermint hot chocolates.

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Personally, I thought the lights at the Polar Pathway in Italy were the most amazing.

Polar Pathway #ChristmasTown

I also loved the Peace on Earth theme reflected in so many lights in Italy.

Peace on Earth Lighting #ChristmasTown

 

We wandered around just enjoying all the lighting, heading towards Castle O’ Sullivan in Ireland for a Dinner at Santa’s Fireside Feast.While this was especially for my youngest, we all enjoyed the show and got to visit with Santa Claus, have cookies served by Mrs. Claus and watch the jolly elves. A fun experience overall.

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Meeting Mrs. Claus at Santa's Fireside Feast

After dinner, we discussed which show to see, with choices like the Scrooge No More, Miracles and Gloria. We peeked in at the Deck the Halls performance in Das Festhaus. At that point, my daughter learned there were live penguins over in the Ice Palace, so shows were put on hold and we continued our journey around the park.

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All too soon, it was closing time. As usual, we did not get to do everything available! I need to go back and see more of the live shows, which all sounded wonderful. As a southern girl, I just wish it would stay about 50 degrees for me, but nevertheless, I would go back. I think this is a fantastic holiday tradition for families and yet again, I found all the employees very kind, the park clean and the festivities and shows family friendly.

Take a look at the Christmas Town website to plan your trip, Christmas town runs through December 31, 2014. And yes, your kids will be tired out from having so much fun!

Sleepy after Christmas Town

As an aside, I’d also like to share that I got to try out Photokey. Photokey is a new program they are offering at the park. Using Photokey, you can visit places inside the park, take digital pictures that are then available online for you to access and print, even create gifts.

I had some trouble with my photokey, because of a problem with my password. I was really upset, but it was my error. Luckily, they figured out the issue and I was able to get some great shots. I love the idea of owning all my photos. We were able to get some beautiful photos of my daughter with Santa Claus and now I can turn these into ornaments for grandparents! I do recommend looking into the Photokey service.

Here are a few of my favorite spots with Photokey locations in the park:

  • Highland Stables (Scotland)
  • Christmas Carriage (Big Ben in England)
  • O Tannenbaum (Oktoberfest)
  • Polar Pictures (Polar Pathway in Italy)

Visit Christmas Town for Christmas Town details, and to watch for specials – I have seen a few already. I so want to go back with all my family! To see more pictures check out #ChristmasTown, or @BuschGardensVA on Twitter and Instagram. The official Facebook page is:www.facebook.com/buschgardens.

You can also download the Busch Gardens mobile app, it is available on the iTunes and Google Play store. Play a new scavenger hunt in the app, while you are enjoying Christmas Town:)

Disclosure: As an Affiliate Blogger for Busch Gardens Virginia through Mom Central I received complimentary tickets for my family but was not otherwise compensated. Opinions are my own.

Roman Rapids Ride

Roman Rapids Ride

As I write this post, I think I want to begin at the end. Because one of the last things the kids did together was so fun for me to watch and it just summed up the reason I wanted to go to Busch Gardens in the first place ~

I wanted to get as many of my kids as possible together and do something memorable and super fun. To get outside together without having to make a ton of plans, just to BE. As all my kids grow up, go to college, and begin their own families, time together becomes more and more precious and it is harder to get everyone together than in past years, for sure…

I have to say, my most favorite moment of the day was watching (almost) all my kids, including my daughters’ boyfriend and my daughter in law, go down the river on the Roman Rapids Ride. I stood there and wondered how time had gone by so quickly. I loved seeing how much fun they were having together…I heard them taking care of each other, and a little bit of teasing, but not much. It’s every moms dream to see your kids having this much fun together, don’t you think? Take a look for yourself:

While my kids may remember Griffon, Verbolten or Alpengeist more, I know I’ll never forget watching them from the bank as they laughed their way down the river. Seriously, right then, I was so glad Busch Gardens existed, that it was nice and that the kids all made it that day.

So now you know how I felt about the day and the park already! But anyway, the day began way earlier as we live a few hours away from Busch Gardens Williamsburg. We took two cars and met up at the park. My daughter made one stop on the way:

On the way to Busch Gardens Williamsburg

On the way to Busch Gardens Williamsburg

Once we all arrived, beginning with the tram ride to the entrance, I found the park facilities to be wonderfully clean, with the grounds so well kept and the staff very friendly. Honestly, the park has the feeling of being well run, overall.

The kids at Busch Gardens Williamsburg

The kids at Busch Gardens Williamsburg

We stayed together mostly as a big group, although we had the roller coaster riders…and the non roller coaster riders! But that worked out because we needed someone to hold bags! Note: the lockers are good, but most people still want to keep phones, wallet, a few little items with them. I would consider wearing a non-lame fanny pack next time. I did get some of the Cashless wristbands, one less thing to carry and my youngest thought it was fantastic.

So, after looking at our park maps and checking the show times, (you can also use the Busch Gardens Discovery Guide App), we had a rough plan and started riding! My son Nick wore a Go Pro camera and filmed a bunch of the coasters, which was neat to see. Park regulations permit go pros with the chest straps.

Loch Ness roller coaster in Busch Gardens Williamsburg

Loch Ness roller coaster in Busch Gardens Williamsburg

As my kids are older, we skipped most of the little kid areas, like the KIDsiderate Attractions, which moms of younger kids should check out. (We did last year) We hit all the coasters! Here is a Nick Go Pro Video of Verbolten, I was laughing so hard listening to this one:

And here’s Griffon:

See more of Nick’s park videos on my youtube channel!

After a bunch of intense rides, we took a little detour to chill out, get some water and decide on lunch. We saw the Clydesdales, the grey wolves, the hawks…as a homeschool mom, I am very interested in all their nature and conservation programs (but I’ll save that for another post!).

Petting Clydesdale at Highland Stables

Petting Clydesdale at Highland Stables

After some more wandering, we ended up eating while watching the Entwined: Tales of Good and Grimm show. This was a great decision, because the show was a trip, everyone ate a solid meal and got to relax. Nick got a chicken and barbeque plate that was very good. Note: I see you can pre-purchase meal deals  with a discount. I think I would do this next time. We hung out in Germany for awhile and checked out some shops and enjoyed the carousel and bumper cars.

Visiting the fountain at Busch Gardens Germany

Visiting the fountain at Busch Gardens Germany

Big brother and little sister Carousel Ride at Busch Gardens #99daysofsummerfun

Big brother and little sister Carousel Ride at Busch Gardens #99daysofsummerfun

My daughter and her boyfriend wandered off to ride some more rides and then they had a portrait done! The portrait is adorable and I know she loves it, great job Gwen!

Busch Gardens Portrait Artist

Portrait done by Portrait artist, Gwen

Then, there was more riding and laughing… and mom NOT doing anything but having fun also!

I have to say, it was an intense day! so much fun and just one day:) We had to leave a lot undone, but we all got to do most of the things we had wanted to.

The day was nearly over by now, but we were able to see the London Rocks Show, which was a very entertaining musical show with great technology as well, loads of classic British rock woven into a story and a few 3D surprises…shhh!

London Rocks

London Rocks Show at Busch Gardens Williamsburg

All in all, it was a fantastic day. You can tell by all the smiles:

my kids at Busch Gardens

My Eldest and his gorgeous wife enjoying family time at the park

All this fun and time together and no one had to make anything or do anything… I think I will start a tradition where our whole family has to meet and do this at least once a year. This year, Busch Gardens is having #99daysofsummerfun, and I like that idea:)

So whether you are a family full of littles needing to burn off energy or have a house full of teenagers, Busch Gardens is a great way to get outside easily and have some fun together. They have special shows and events throughout the summer, and a few other special events throughout the year. You can purchase an annual pass or Fun card. There are other online deals for shorter time periods, as well as plenty of information about the park on their website.

Check out Busch Gardens Williamsburg:

Busch Gardens

facebook.com/BuschGardens

twitter.com/buschgardensva

Instagram.com/buschgardensva

 

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The below content is sponsored by Sanofi Pasteur’s Headfirst! Expert Advice on Lice campaign on behalf of Mom Central Consulting. I received a promotional item as a thank you for participating.

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Polly Pockets Fun

Heather —  July 5, 2013
Emma setting up Wall Party Polly Pocket playset

Emma setting up Wall Party Polly Pocket playset

“I participated in a campaign on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for Polly Pocket. I received product samples to facilitate my review and a promotional item as a thank you for participating.”* #Sponsored #MC

Looking for a treat for a little girl this Summer? Look below for a great sale price on Polly Pocket Dolls and Sets!

These are always imaginative and fun for my kids. The little portable ones make it easy to bring dolls along on errands and the bigger sets seem to keep them entertained for hours.

The latest playsets can be used for play and décor! Just apply to a playroom or bedroom wall and the kids can play right there, which is adorable looking and also they get to leave their toys out!

I encourage you to check out the newest Polly Pocket Sets. If you want to buy one from my Amazon Social Store on this review, Just click below:

Through Sunday, July 7th, the Polly Pocket items promoted on my store have been discounted at LEAST to the following:

  • Polly Pocket Zip ‘N Splash Playset: Previously: $17.99 Now: $15.95
  • Polly Pocket Wall Party Tree House Playset: Previously: $19.99 Now: $11.99
  • Polly Pocket Wall Party Ultimate All-in-One Playset: Previously $74.99 Now: $47.99

This discount is only available for a limited time and is a great sale!

Emma playing with Zipline Adventure Polly Pockets

Emma playing with Zipline Adventure Polly Pockets

“I participated in a campaign on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for Polly Pocket. I received product samples to facilitate my review and a promotional item as a thank you for participating.”*

We have had Polly Pockets dolls around our home for over 10 years now! My older daughter loved the Polly dolls when they were new and spent hours setting up her dolls with the little teeny outfits.

Over time, the Polly Pocket sets have grown and we still have a bunch of Polly sets. They are always imaginative and fun for my kids. The little portable ones make it easy to bring dolls along on errands and the bigger sets seem to keep them entertained for hours.

The newest Polly Pocket sets even surprised me. First of all, they now have Polly dolls that can change color in water temperature and the sets are more adventurous in nature, like the Zip ‘N Splash playset we got to check out.

Polly Pocket zip and splash playset

Polly Pocket Zip ‘N Splash playset is great for bath time

On top of that, the latest Wall Party sets can be used for play and décor!

Seriously, this is a GENIUS idea. I always say, the “floor is not a shelf,” and my kids laugh and pick up their toys (or fuss and pick up their toys). But the latest sets from Polly Pocket can be applied to a playroom or bedroom wall and the kids can play right there, which is adorable looking and also, they get to leave their toys out! My daughter loves these and I think they look really cute in her room.

Emma setting up Wall Party Polly Pocket playset

Emma setting up Wall Party Polly Pocket playset

I really only share things I like and I think these are fun. They are just plain fun and do encourage imaginative play. Plus, this wall décor idea is really new and entertaining, I think.

Need some toys for a car ride, birthday gifts or presents for your daughters, granddaughters or neices? I always seem to and I get to give you a DISCOUNT!

I encourage you to check out the newest Polly Pocket Sets. If you want to buy one from my Amazon Social Store on this review, it should be really easy. Let me know if you have any trouble.

Just click on this link:

 

Through Sunday, July 7th, the Polly Pocket items promoted on my store have been discounted to the following:

  • Polly Pocket Zip ‘N Splash Playset: Previously: $17.99 Now: $15.95
  • Polly Pocket Wall Party Tree House Playset: Previously: $19.99 Now: $11.99
  • Polly Pocket Wall Party Ultimate All-in-One Playset: Previously $74.99 Now: $47.99

I have seen that these prices may go even lower – click that store link to see. Right now, the Zip ‘N Splash is showing under $10. That is a great price. This discount is only available for a limited time and seems like a great sale!

Family time fun at Busch Gardens

We had so much fun that day at Busch Gardens being outside and playing, from my 8 year old to my 18 year old.

How is your Summer going? Ours has been a mix of great fun and some quiet indoor days. I am not a super outdoorsy person and I definitely feel guilty when I am not out and about with the kids, doing outdoor activities.

Yet, most of my kids are pretty content to watch movies and play online, so while that mitigates my guilt, I still feel it IS better for kids to be outside, being kids, whether that is just going to the pool or running around the neighborhood.

Just recently, we all got off our electronics though! I had a “Mommy and Me Meetup” at Williamsburg, Busch Gardens. This ended up being a fantastic opportunity to get outdoors and enjoy time with my children.

Note: “I attended an event on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for Busch Gardens. I received free admission to the park as a thank you for participating.”*

Once we got there, we had an awesome breakfast buffet and meeting. I loved how the Busch Gardens team prepared for our kids. They know little kids need to have stuff to do, and the tables even had paper and chalk for drawing and little buckets with toys.

Busch Gardens Breakfast

Busch Gardens Breakfast

While the kids were eating and playing, Stacy from Mom Central Consulting and the Busch Gardens Team gave a fascinating presentation about how our children are described as the generation of digital natives. We heard about a study of 900 Moms, which showed that most mothers struggle to find a healthy balance of indoor and outdoor play.

I totally agree. I know I ran around outside crossing our little creek and climbing around in the woods as a kid. I wish my kids had more natural outdoor fun, but where we live now it just is not as easy. I have to worry about safety and neighbors, and the kids want to play video games.

 “According to a just-released survey of nearly 900 moms conducted by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of Busch Gardens®, kids spend only two hours during the week participating in natural, unstructured activities such as playing tag, riding bikes, and exploring nature, and these activity levels increase only slightly on the weekends to a little more than two hours.”

It is almost as though, as parents, we really need to work to help our kids play outside and have that old fashioned fun. And some days I do try hard to set up more outdoor play. But, it really is work for me though I know it is worth the time to get.

With the meetup focus, we heard about how Busch Gardens is trying to help fill that need for outdoor natural fun for whole families. It makes sense. They have over 100 acres of lush land at this location. They have been voted the world’s most beautiful theme park for the past 23 years! I took a few photos from the The  Aeronaut Skyride because the trees and foliage are just gorgeous.

The Aeronaut Skyride

Anyway, Busch Gardens wants to share that “Fun Grows Here”

outdoor fun clip

they have a kind of triple play of gorgeous nature, animals and rides. So, any family can find their niche while enjoying being outdoors together.

The Aeronaut Skyride

I think that is fabulous and I love that Moms and Dads can have the fun also. My kids love it when we play with them and this trip made it so easy to just go play outdoors!

It was, overall, such a relaxing, enjoyable experience. At the beginning of the day (and at the very end) we had some rain showers. I freaked out and figured we’d have to go home, but there was no lightening and the kids could have cared less.

girl at Busch Gardens with Umbrella

A teeny bit after I calmed down, the sun popped out and the weather was fantastic most of the day…and no one got sunburned.

We got our maps and those of us with smart phones had the Busch Gardens App, which is great because it shows where you are, directions to rides and such and even updates the showtimes around the park. It proved to be a useful App.

The older kids got to run around on the roller coasters and thrill rides, while we did some of the younger kids things, marked as KIDsiderate with our youngest:

Kids roller coaster at Busch Gardens

and then we all met up, throughout the day, to do some rides together, watch some shows, have some treats and check out the animals.

The pompei ride at Busch Gardens

The kids on the Pompeii ride

Dad even found a new ride he liked:

Europe in the air ride

 

As we walked through the park I did test some of the employees {grin} I knew I would be writing a review and I wanted to be able to share the truth of our experience. I had been told that the Park employees with animals were friendly and if I asked, would tell us all about the animal. So, we talked to several park employees who were with animals. We first hung out with the sheep in Scotland and learned tons about the baby sheep and border collies and Clydesdales. My daughter was so into that!

girl and Clydesdales at Busch Gardens

I was impressed with the employees knowledge and willingness to chat with us. We also went to the pet shenanigans show, and I liked how after the show, people were encouraged to come up and talk to the people and visit with the animals.

Pet Shenanigans show at Busch Gardens

Again, my eight year old enjoyed that very much. We also spoke with a woman with the most adorable little owl and she gave us so many facts, Emma could write a report.

Busch Gardens Owl

The roller coasters were my teenagers favorites and they rode those over and over, as the wait times were not bad at all. My children declared Griffon® the “best ride ever”.

Griffon Roller Coaster at Busch Gardens

One thing they noticed was that many of the coasters and thrill rides like the Battering Ram and Da Vinci’s Cradle had accelerometers on the rides, and they were curious to do some of the educational activities when they came back again.

I loved it that I did not push them to do the educational stuff, yet they became curious and want to follow up for themselves. Now, THAT’S natural learning.

I hear that Busch Gardens is homeschool friendly, with many new homeschool opportunities coming up.

For example, they have a Launch Into Physics: The Mars Mission program where kids can learn about momentum, acceleration and g-forces.

I see that this Summer there will be NASA Exploration Days (Aug. 2 – 3) and they have ongoing Conservation programs. You can check out their website to read about how to do Behind the Scenes Tours with groups of 15 or more. As a homeschool Mom, I will be keeping a watch for these things!

Anyway, we meandered through the park and ate crazy good ice cream cone sundaes in France and fat pretzels in Germany (the pretzels in Germany are the best get yours there). I felt like a kid myself.

ice cream at Busch Gardens

As a parent, it is so much fun to watch your kids enjoy themselves! I got a kick out of doing some old school rides like the bumper cars…

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and the carousel…

Busch Gardens carousel

Haha! We made Big brother go with us

and we planned our day to culminate at the Celtic Fyre® a show with singers, musicians and Irish dancers, which was so enjoyable and a great end to the day.

I didn’t have time to do everything. I missed taking the Rhine River Cruise, which sounds beautiful. Next time around, I want to try the Escape from Pompeii® and Roman Rapids®. There is so much to do!!

I know that this trip is something all of my kids that went with us will remember forever. It was just that fun and doing it all together made for a great memory.

You can find more information on the Park on the Busch Gardens website. You can also follow Busch Gardens Facebook. An upcoming event that looks great is the return of IllumiNights: A Busch Gardens® Encore.

So, that was our experience. Here’s to enjoying outdoor fun as a family! #NaturalFun and #MC.

Polly Pocket Playset

Christmas is coming….

My daughter enjoys this type of toy. While playing she is in a little pretend land, ruler of the Polly Pockets! I like overhearing her, enjoying imaginative play.

This is the second play Set we have looked at with Christmas coming up and this one does not have the new suction cups on the bottoms of the dolls and some play items. I did like those because the dolls stay up. Yet this one has a spot to tuck the Polly’s feet into so she stands. That works too. Each set has a number of little things to do, so that’s nice. The pet one seemed to really engage my daughter. I liked all the little pets and treats.

This one folds up somewhat but not entirely into a case. I would love if they would totally fold up into themselves. But this stays together pretty well and keeps all the little pieces inside.

I think this is a cute gift for a little girl from about 6-11.

You can see all the sets on the Polly Pocket website: www.pollypocket.com

We also got a CD with some Polly Pocket short clips. You can see these and play on the site as well. I was a bit worried that the clips show unrealistic roller skating. Hopefully, kids realize they don’t need to go that fast? My daughter however, put her skates on and went to skate.

“I participated in a campaign on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for Mattel Polly Pocket. I received a product samples and a promotional item as a thank-you for participating.”

use paper carton
As mama, I am very concerned about caring for my family’s health. Because of this, we have been going green one step at a time. We began eating organic foods. We began using green cleaners. I started buying my children organic clothing. We began recycling more.

Today, I just realized another thing I can do that is green. Good for my family and good for the planet. And, it is super easy!

I can choose paper cartons over other types of packaging. Yes, it is that easy!

I read up on the benefits of using cartons on the Evergreen website www.choosecartons.com  

Here are some facts I like:

  • Cartons block UV light preserving the nutritional value of foods like milk.
  • Cartons are made from renewable materials – more than 70 percent of the carton is made from paper, all from trees from responsibly managed forests.
  • Pulp and paperboard is manufactured into cartons using 50% or more biomass fuel, a renewable energy source.
  • Reducing food and packaging waste with a great product- to-package ratio, an average of 94% product to only 6% package. So more of what you buy is product.
  • Cartons are recyclable where facilities exist. The paper fiber contained in cartons is valuable. Recycled cartons are used to make products such as tissue, office paper, wall boards and other building materials.  To learn if your community accepts cartons for recycling, please visit www.recyclecartons.com

This really makes a lot of sense, using a renewable resource and I love knowing that my shopping habits can make a difference.

And then I went on a fridge hunt, looking through my refrigerator and pantry to see what cartons I already use and what changes I could make.

inside of refrigerator

What’s In YOUR Fridge?

As I use a lot of local and organic products, I was glad to see I already had some cartons, like the buttermilk and cream! Some brands I like were already looking out for me, I suppose.

milk

I noticed that my gallon of milk is always in plastic, rather than carton form. When I buy the half gallons, they come in paper cartons. I often have soymilk (although I was out) and that always comes in a paper carton.

I know I buy a lot of yogurt and kefir and that always seems to come in plastic packaging.

I do also seem to have most condiments in plastic or glass.

The frozen stuff all seems to be in paper packaging…

I would love to get more things in paper cartons. With my family of six, we go through groceries quickly and I like using cartons.

I believe most of the things in my fridge are recyclable. And, I looked up if paper carton recycling is available in my area, and the form said no, but actually, I always toss our paper cartons into our recycle bin and the recycling guys are picking mine up, so I will need to check on this.

So far, I have learned a lot lately about how to help my family AND my environment. I will be looking around the grocery store for more cartons when I shop tomorrow. Of course, at the farmer’s market, I use nothing, and that is good when possible:)

What Can you do?

Join in the conversation!  Every carton fact shared, via Twitter, using the hashtag #choosecartons will help raise money for Habitat for Humanity® Play the cart game, learn more about packaging and green living by visiting choosecartons.com! Follow @choosecartons on Twitter and via Facebook at facebook.com/choosecartons.

 

“I wrote this review while participating in a campaign by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of Evergreen and received a promotional item to thank me for taking the time to participate.”

 

 

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