Walt Disney World’s Toy Story Land: What to Expect

Calling all Disney fans!

In case you didn’t hear, Toy Story Land is coming to the Walt Disney World Resort this summer with the official opening date of June 30, 2018.

I got a sneak preview of the playtime paradise right here in New York City and let me tell you, it’s going to be magnificent—but that’s no surprise because Disney always delivers.

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Inspired by the blockbuster DisneyŸPixar franchise, the all-new 11-acre fun-filled world is located within the already magical attraction of Disney’s Hollywood Studios. With two new rides and one that’s been updated, guests will be fully immersed in thrilling entertainment surrounded by vibrant, nostalgic toy novelties. Plus, there’s a whimsical spot to grab on-the-go refreshments when hungry strikes.

Below, check out the details on what’s in store at Toy Story Land:

TOY STORY LAND AT WALT DISNEY WORLD RESORT (LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla.) ÑToy Story Land at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida opens June 30, 2018. Located at DisneyÕs Hollywood Studios, the new 11-acre Land will make guests feel like they have shrunk to the size of a toy in the setting of AndyÕs backyard. Guests will whoosh along on a family-friendly roller coaster, Slinky Dog Dash (pictured under development), take a spin aboard Alien Swirling Saucers and score high on the midway at Toy Story Mania! (Matt Stroshane, photographer)

Photo Courtesy of Disney/Matt Stroshane

Slinky Dog Ride
My son is obsessed with Slinky Dog. Right now, he has four slinky dog toys of different varieties, but one can never have too many Slinky Dogs, right? Well, there’s only one Slinky Dog you’ll want when visiting Toy Story Land and that’s the family-friendly roller coaster.

With tracks and supports in bright primary colors, riders are seated inside the belly coils of the stretched-out pooch. Riders will zip around and above Toy Story Land, providing panoramic views of all that the new destination has to offer. I had the pleasure of taking a virtual ride on this coaster and it was completely exhilarating.

TOY STORY LAND AT WALT DISNEY WORLD RESORT (LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla.) Ñ Disney's Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida will take guests to infinity and beyond when Toy Story Land opens June 30, 2018. This new 11-acre land will transport guests into the adventurous outdoors of Andy's backyard. Guests will think they've been shrunk to the size of Woody and Buzz as they are surrounded by oversized toys. Guests will whoosh along on a family-friendly roller coaster, Slinky Dog Dash, take a spin aboard Alien Swirling Saucers (pictured) and score high on the midway at the expanded Toy Story Mania! (Disney)

Photo Courtesy of Disney

Alien Swirling Saucers
No theme park is complete without getting bumper to bumper and Toy Story Land is no different. Riders will be in for an out-of-this world experience as the alien-inspired saucers glide riders into a fun-filled galaxy.

The galactic space toy is designed as a playset that Andy won at the Pizza Planet restaurant in the popular movie. The undeniably cute green aliens swirl about in their flying saucers with guests in tow in their rocket-ship toys, while “The Claw” hangs overhead. Plus, the space is covered, which provides shelter from the beaming sun or intermittent rain showers that are common for Orlando summers.

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Photo Courtesy of Disney

Toy Story Mania!
One of my family’s favorite attractions at Disney World, Toy Story Mania!, is getting an update making it better than ever. With a brand new decked-out entrance, the ride will have an all-new colorful toy carnival game box that leads to the playset action. With an additional third track, more park-goers will be able to get in on the fun of the beloved fast-paced games with a reduced wait time.

Photo Courtesy of Disney

Photo Courtesy of Disney

Woody’s Lunchbox
After you’ve explored the new and updated rides, Toy Story Land will offer Woody Lunchbox to fend off hunger pangs. The nostalgic walk-up window will serve up delicious bites and old-fashioned soda floats that will transport you and your taste buds back to happier times. The food spot will also feature Mini Babybel – the Official Snack Cheese of Walt Disney World Resort.

If you’re heading to Walt Disney World before the big opening, don’t fret you’ll be able to catch a preview of the new land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. A detailed model is on display at the theme park’s Walt Disney Presents attraction.

I can’t wait to visit soon!

Are you looking forward to visiting Toy Story Land? What’s your favorite attraction at Walt Disney World?

‘Insecure’ Star Yvonne Orji Partners with Colgate on New Campaign

Yvonne Orji, co-star of HBO’s hit series “Insecure,” has something to smile about.

The Nigerian born multi-talented comedic actress and bestie in our head has teamed up with Colgate, the iconic toothpaste brand for a new campaign that celebrates being ready for opportunities and life’s unexpected moments.

And there are plenty of prospects on Orji’s horizon.

Yvonne Orji and Colgate Total (1)

Not only is she currently filming the third season of the highly-anticipated HBO series, she’s also writing and executive producing her own sitcom, as well as her role in an upcoming comedy film set to be released in the fall.

Orji is ready for her close-up and she’s kicking things off with the Totally Ready ® campaign, which informs consumers that with their whole mouth health—healthy gums, teeth, cheeks and tongue—they are Totally Ready ® for whatever life brings them. In the candid video, Orji reveals how she gets ready for Valentine’s Day. In the clip, Orji chats about confidence, her pearly whites being her best asset and how she’s still waiting for Mr. Right.

With her undeniably gorgeous smile and effervescent personality, this partnership seems like a match made in heaven.

“I am so excited about this partnership with Colgate Total,” Orji said in a release. “A healthy smile has always been important to me. My healthy smile makes me feel good and, when I feel good, I feel totally ready for whatever comes my way. Last year was a really good year for me. I want to take that and make it bigger and better for 2018. So, not only do I need to be totally ready, I know that I must stay ready.”

We can’t wait to see what’s in store for our girl Yvonne!

What are you most excited to see from her this year? Her role as “Molly” on “Insecure,” or some of her upcoming projects? Share your thoughts in the comments. 

Things to Do in NYC: 5 Cool Places to Take Your Kids this Winter

Now that Old Man Winter has officially arrived, it’s time to find places where kids can stay warm and have fun this winter.

With outdoor activities pretty much off-limits, we moms must do a bit of digging to find indoor kid-friendly spots. Living in New York, the options are seemingly endless. People often tell me that they don’t know how I manage to find so many places to take my kids, but the truth is that I simply research. Most major cities are teeming with options for school age children during the colder months—the secret is just seeking them out.

From engaging events to educational exhibits, there’s always somewhere new to explore. Below, find five of my family’s favorite places in NYC to keep little ones occupied all season long.

Gulliver’s Gate

Gulliver’s Gate may be all about small wonders, but it’s big on fun. Located in the heart of Times Square, this unique attraction brings a miniaturized version of the world to the crossroads of the world. Based around the popular adventure story, “Gulliver’s Travels,” this awe-inspiring exhibit of miniature models is nothing short of amazing. With more than 300 built-to-scale scenes, including model landscapes in New York, Asia, Latin America, Russia, Israel and many other regions from across the globe, it will keep you and your kids intrigued for hours on end.

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Address: 216 W 44th St, New York, NY 10036

New Victory Theater

New Victory Theater is an excellent way to introduce children to live performances. The off-Broadway theater is the city’s first and only full-time performing arts theater for kids. With several shows each season, you’re bound to find the perfect for your family. Plus, the newly-renovated arts center in the theater’s lower level provides a space where children can partake in arts & crafts that complement most performances.

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Address: 209 W 42nd St, New York, NY 10036

One World Observatory

One World Observatory is a breathtaking place for all to marvel. Not only can riding to the top of one of the world’s tallest skyscrapers be an exciting experience for your child, it can also be an educational one. Sure, seeing New York City from 1,776 feet in the air is a sight to see, but use your visit to One World Observatory as a teaching moment. The terror attack that occurred on September 11, 2001 may be too much to explain to a toddler, but for older children it can be a good opportunity to talk about this dark spot in American history. After checking out the view, head over to the 9/11 memorial and museum only steps away, and grab a guide on how to talk to your children about the devastating attack.

one-world-observatory

Address: 285 Fulton St, New York, NY 10006

Brooklyn Children’s Museum

From enriching exhibits to educational play, this kid-centric museum has something for children of all ages. Rumored to be the first museum to cater to the younger set, Brooklyn Children’s Museum is filled with activities and programs that encourage social, physical and emotional development while fostering creativity. The museum’s new exhibit, Color Cover, is sure to be a hit—with white paper covering the entire room, pint-size Picassos can scribble, paint and color until her heart’s content.

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Address: 145 Brooklyn Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11213

Bowlmor Lanes

Striking out with the kids when it comes to entertainment? Don’t worry, you’ll score major points with them at Bowlmor Lanes. The edgy, nostalgic, trendy and whimsical bowling alley all rolled into one is a playground for budding bowlers and fun-loving kids alike. With decked out lanes and loads of video games, the 90,000-square-foot flagship space is a neon-centric paradise. Plus, it has kid-friendly menu that will blow their minds. Their offerings range from chicken fingers to king-size pizza cakes. Yes, a PIZZA CAKE and pizza cupcakes! The kitchen cranks out inventive, yet top-notch fare that rivals popular restaurants.

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Address: 222 W 44th St, New York, NY 10036

What’s your go-to place to escape the cold with your kiddies? 

Things to Do in NYC: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Family Matinee

When it comes to dance in this country, one name comes to mind: Alvin Ailey. This past Saturday, my daughter and I had the opportunity to see the iconic Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater company perform live at the New York City Center.

For more than five decades, the esteemed African-American dance enterprise has graced stages in front of more than 25 million people at theaters in 48 states and 71 countries on six continents—as well as millions who’ve witnessed their masterful artistry through television broadcasts, film screenings and countless online platforms.

So, to finally see the AAADT up close and personal with my 7-year-old daughter was an experience I won’t soon forget. Saturday’s show was part of the company’s Family Matinee series, which aims to get more families out to experience the beauty of the AAADT during the holiday season.

AAADT in Hope Boykin's r-Evolution, Dream. Photo by Paul Kolnik

AAADT in Hope Boykin’s “r-Evolution, Dream.” Photo by Paul Kolnik

Divided into three acts with two 15-minute intermissions, the show opened with “r-Evolution, Dream” an enthralling piece inspired by the speeches and sermons of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. Led by Hope Boykin, veteran Ailey dancer — the Civil Rights era came to life through a mesmerizing ensemble that didn’t miss a beat. Through fluid movement and awe-inspiring narration by Tony award winner Leslie Odom Jr., the piece delved into Dr. King’s exceptional and unyielding message of unity during one of America’s darkest, yet most constructive times.

AAADT in Jamar Roberts' Members Don't Get Weary Photo by Paul Kolnik

AAADT in Jamar Roberts’ “Members Don’t Get Weary.” Photo by Paul Kolnik

The next piece, “Members Don’t Get Weary,” a remarkable display of the current social landscape picked up where “r-Evolution” left off. Set to the music of legendary jazz saxophonist and composer, John Coltrane, the piece captivated the audience with spellbinding steps and seamless choreography. The dancers’ bodies evoked immense emotion with every move—conveying a gripping story of triumph.

AAADT Alvin Ailey's "Revelations." Photo by Paul Kolnik

AAADT Alvin Ailey’s “Revelations.” Photo by Paul Kolnik

The final rendition, “Revelations,” a cornerstone to AAADT’s legacy—was a soul-stirring, hand-clapping and foot-tapping performance that entranced the entire audience from start to finish. This signature masterpiece transfixes you and takes you to a spiritual place. With the stirring church songs and traditional organ chords, you’re transported to the church in which Ailey drew inspiration from while choreographing this piece. It’s as if your soul soars above the seats and floats center stage alongside the artists. Witnessing the effortless elegance and power of this performance is akin to an out-of-body experience (at least what I’d assume one to be).  It’s no wonder the ballet has been seen by more people around the world than any other modern work—it’s that good.

From the brilliant, symbolic costumes, to the top-notch lighting, to the riveting music, the show’s overall production is beyond praiseworthy. While the artists were indeed the stars of the show, the staging was superb and allowed the dancers to elevate and showcase their breathtaking artistry.

To top off an incredible afternoon, guests were also treated to a Q&A session with the dancers and veteran Ailey dancer, Hope Boykin. Attendees learned about their inspiration, background and future aspirations.

Watching the uber-talented dancers demonstrate their creativity through movement has inspired me and my daughter. While I’m sure she didn’t understand some of the elements, art is universal and witnessing poetry in motion is something that everyone can enjoy. After the show, she couldn’t stop twirling and swaying her body from left to right. You never know, I might see her on stage with the ADDT one day. Now that would be a dream.

Below, please find the remaining Family Matinee schedule:

Saturday, Dec 16, 2pm – The Winter in Lisbon, Night Creature, Cry, Revelations
Saturday, Dec 23, 2pm – Four Corners, After the Rain, The Hunt, Revelations
Saturday, Dec 30, 2pm – Four Corners, After The Rain, Mass, Revelations

All performances will take place at New York City Center – 131 West 55th Street, between 6th and 7th Avenues, New York, NY. For ticket information, please visit: www.nycitycenter.org

**Disclosure: I was given two comp tickets for review purposes only. All thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. 

 

Have you ever seen an Alvin Ailey Dance Theater performance?

‘Jason Bishop: Believe in Magic’ Show Will Make You a Believer

Do you believe in magic? If not, you’re going to change your mind after watching Jason Bishop’s mesmerizing new show, “Believe in Magic” at the New Victory Theater in Times Square.

The show aimed at kids ages six and up, is obviously created for younger audiences—but will keep parents just as entertained. With funny political and pop culture references sprinkled throughout, Bishop delivers laughs for adults in between mind-boggling tricks.

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Bishop, who made his New Victory debut last year, has updated his show with holiday inspired magic and surprises to add to the festive wonderment of the season. Plus, audience participation puts your budding magicians in the spotlight with fun stunts and tricks that will make them feel like a pint-size Whodini!

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Credit: Alexis Buatti-Ramos

From puzzling card tricks to unbelievable illusions, kids will be entranced as he seamlessly creates a magical experience they won’t soon forget.

And as always, the New Victory offers fun interactive crafts and games that complement the show in their stunning, newly renovated space. My kids loved the show from start to finish and couldn’t wait to go home to show their dad the tricks they learned.

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Jason Bishop’s “Believe in Magic,” is currently showing at the New Victory Theater, located 209 W 42nd St, New York, NY through December 30th.  For ticket information, visit the New Victory Theater.

**Disclosure: I was provided comp tickets to “Believe in Magic” for review purposes only. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

What shows or live performances are you taking your kids to see this holiday season?

New Musical ‘Interstellar Cinderella’ Soars in Off-Broadway Production

Think you know the story of Cinderella? Think again.

New York City Children’s Theater’s latest production, “Interstellar Cinderella,” based on a book of the same title by Deborah Underwood, puts a fresh, new twist on the classic Disney tale.

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Set in 3017, “Interstellar Cinderella” takes theatergoers on a far-out ride into the future where Cinderella is a beautiful, self-assured science and tech-savvy space engineer in the making. Like the original, Cinderella still wants to escape the wrath of her evil stepsisters and hateful stepmother, but this time around, it’s not a Prince Charming she’s after—it’s independence and an opportunity to make her dreams come true.

Photo by Carol Rosegg

Photo by Carol Rosegg

Good with her hands, Cinderella, portrayed by Meadow Tien Nguy, has a knack for fixing things and coming up with out-of-this-world inventions—namely, a warp-speed rocket engine. After learning of a space parade hosted by the prince, she knows that it’s an opportunity she can’t miss—and thanks to a two-headed fairy godmother she doesn’t.

While at the ball, her ability to fix the prince’s rocket ship catches his eye and the quintessential fairy tale unfolds.

Directed by Marty Johnson, “Interstellar Cinderella,” emphasizes girl power throughout the STEM-centric production, which is refreshing and inspiring for young audiences, especially young girls. Plus, with music by Laurie Berkner, the famed children’s composer and former preschool teacher—the 50-minute musical is spellbinding and keeps everyone grooving along in their seats. “This is the best thing I’ve worked on today,” says Berkner of her participation in the production. “

My kids with the cast of "Interstellar Cinderella," at the Beckett Theatre at Theatre Row in New York City, Nov. 18, 2017.

My kids with the cast of “Interstellar Cinderella,” at the Beckett Theatre at Theatre Row in New York City, Nov. 18, 2017.

Also, all of the characters bring something unique to the performance and showcases the actors’ remarkable talents.

If you’re looking for a funny, modern show that’s entertaining from start to finish, don’t miss out! Get your tickets for “Interstellar Cinderella” at the Beckett Theatre today.

What’s your all-time favorite fairy tale?

‘SpongeBob Squarepants’ Musical Makes a Broadway Splash

Oh! Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?

If you don’t know the next line to that catchy ditty, then maybe it’s YOU who’s been living in a pineapple under the sea! For those in the know, it’s of course “SpongeBob Squarepants.”

In case you didn’t get the memo, the world’s most famous sponge is making a big splash on Broadway right in time for the holidays. “SpongeBob Squarepants: The Broadway Musical” is currently in previews at the Palace Theatre, and my kids and I had the pleasure of seeing it last week.

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The beloved, quirky character who’s been a mainstay on Nickelodeon for nearly two decades, comes to life on the Great White Way with the zeal and enthusiasm that only SpongeBob can bring. Ethan Slater, who stars as SpongeBob, excels as the upbeat, yet trouble-prone sponge.

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The plot revolves around an imminent catastrophe that SpongeBob and his Bikini Bottom friends including Patrick, Patrick, Squidward, Mr. Krabs, Pearl Krabs and of course Sandy, the smart and science-savvy squirrel must find a way to avoid.

Jam-packed with cool costumes, the show, set in the underwater world of Bikini Bottom is as colorful as the cartoon that made the yellow sponge popular in the late 1990s and early aughts. The production is also topnotch with eye-catching set designs accompanied by a band outfitted in Hawaiian shirts—giving a tropical vibe that the animated series exudes.

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The show’s opening number set the tone for a dynamic afternoon of unforgettable original songs (earworm worthy) written by legendary artists like John Legend and Yolanda Adams. The talented ensemble didn’t miss a beat and brought the house down with every note.

Speaking of the cast, seeing the human versions of the popular animated cartoon crew was delightful. The performers masterfully embodied the quirks, twangs and mannerisms of their animated versions.

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While the show is aimed at kids, adults will find striking similarities to social issues facing the country today that are cleverly woven into the musical. Without giving too much away, there’s a theme of prejudice against certain creatures that sound unfortunately familiar in today’s political climate. But like the citizens of Bikini Bottom, hopefully the world will see that there’s power in optimism!

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If you’re looking for a fun, high-energy introductory Broadway show for kids, look no further than the sponge who lives in a pineapple under the sea!

Get your tickets today!

**Disclosure: I was given comp tickets to the show from Nickelodeon for review purposes only. All opinions are my own. 

Are you looking forward to seeing “SpongeBob Squarepants: The Broadway Musical?” What’s your favorite musical?