We Are to Going Disney World…NOW WHAT?

To-Do Thursday: 

Photo courtesy of 1001fonts.com.
NOW WHAT? 

Is it just me or does it seem like your list keeps getting longer and you aren’t taking anything off? I know mine does. So I took a big look at my calendar and saw what was on my “must-do” list for this weekend: 

Go to Michael’s on Saturday for “Kids Craft, You Shop” Event for $2!
Very cool event for kids to do a special themed craft at your local Michaels, learn more here.

Get Ready for “Day Out with Thomas” at Grapevine (next weekend)!
Don’t have your ticket yet? Then get your discount code here!

Prepare for a trip to Disney?!?
WHAT? Yep, you got that right! My son’s wish was granted from a Wish with Wings to go to Disney World and we go in less than 90 days! Considering some good moms plan this magical trip for months and sometimes years, it’s difficult to think I haven’t planned anything yet! #uhohspaghettios

Photo courtesy of the a Wish with Wings Facebook page

So to get things rolling, I decided to ask my fellow mom experts who have thought of EVERYTHING from how to surprise their kids they are going, how to dress them, itineraries – you name it.

Wow. Man, did I learn one thing…there is SO much to learn about going to Disney World! 

So while I’m doing my homework to attempt to live up to my four-year-old’s dream vacation (did I mention it’s his FIRST vacation, too?), here’s a look at some of my favorite posts and sites to help us plan our trip to Disney World? 

Milk and Cuddles: Dining at Disney World 1 and More Dining at Disney
There’s so much to say here, she had to do two posts! Did you know you SHOULD make reservations for some of your Disney dining choices at 180 days out BEFORE your trip? Yep, it’s true and there are so many places to eat, snack and treat. And considering eating is one of our favorite past times, dining is at the top of our Disney to-do list. Shannon, gives you the lowdown on what you need to know to get your grub down on Big D (Disney that is!)

Ramblings of a Frugal Mom: Disney World Tips, Tricks and Ideas!
Dawn’s family heads to Disney each time she finds out she’s pregnant (sounds like a reason to keep having kids, right?) This DFW-based online expert knows how to do things awesome and inexpensively. She shares all her memorable tricks to make your trip memorable for years to come. 

Suitcases to Sippy Cups: What Happens When You Lose a Child at Disney
This mama knows how to travel AND with her family in tow, too. She’s done a little bit of everything from RVing, skiing, and of course, Disney. While I don’t anticipate losing my child, it is a relief that it’s happened before AND there’s a way to locate your kid. (Consider it like algebra, you don’t need it daily, but there will be a time.) 

My Crazy Savings: Looking for a Stroller Rental at Disney World?
With two kids under 5 at Disney, I’m sure there will be more time on wheels than there will be on feet. And since we will also be on a plane to get there, I’m not going to try to tote the “good stroller” to Disney or use the “cheap” one and have it die out on my on Day 1. 

Alpha Mom: 65 Things to Do & See at Disney World? 
While we won’t be doing all of these things, it was a great checklist to begin our jouney of “what to do, what to do.” 

Free Disney Font Download: without having to download a free toolbar to create some of the coolest stuff for the kids like shirts, special messages and more. 

WDW Prep School: “How to Plan a Trip to Disney World in 6 Steps, this is my one-place-for-everything from packing lists, templates and more. (She’s got things there I wouldn’t even think to think about.)

So now I ask: do you have a recommendation of must-dos for two toddlers at Disney World? If so, please let me know. Really, I need all the help I can get. And if you are a blogger, than share your link here and I’d love to add it to this “best of” Disney blog posts! 


Gift Guide: Hot Holiday Toys 2020

Working overtime to help Santa get the right gifts under the tree? This list is kid-tested and kid-approved to get you all the love. Here’s our guide to Hot Holiday Toys 2020. 

2020 has been a doozy and we all deserve something really good under the tree…especially the kids. So I’ve enlisted the help of my favorite “two elves” to help discover the best toys for everyone on your holiday list. 

That’s right – how else do you think my research panel really works? By asking the pros (i.e. the kids) to let me know their thoughts (and put it together) that’s how I REALLY find out how cool (or not so cool) the new toys each year will be.


And this year we’ve been hard at work and we want to make it fun for everyone, so we’re giving it away! YES GIVEAWAY TIME. 


MAMACHALLENGE TIP:

Make money while you shop with Rakuten! Download the plugin and see the savings as you shop. (My last check was over $500! AND Honey will tell you when prices are at their lowest (and highest.) Both of these are worth downloading to make the most of your money anytime you shop! 


See below for our Guide to Hot Holiday Toys 2020!

For Littles

Disney Juniors E-I-Oh! Mickey Feature Plush

Who doesn’t love Mickey Mouse! Sing and dance along with Disney Juniors E-I-Oh! Mickey Feature Plush to the “Old McDonald” song, the Chicken Dance and“What Animal Sound is That?” He’s snuggly and soft and will keep them busy for hours. 

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Blue’s Clues Dance-Along and You

Our toys aren’t just something to do – they’re also about being our friend. Again a toy targeted for the littles, but my kids have had just as much fun with Blue’s Clues Dance-Along and You as you dance and sing. And the guitar acts as the remote!

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Pinkfong Baby Shark Official – Baby Shark Dancing DJ – Wowwee

This one doesn’t need an introduction – it’s Pinkfong Baby Shark Official – Baby Shark Dancing DJ! Don’t hate me because you’ll be singing this later but Baby Shark does much more like teach letters, counting, and when you dance, it detects and will start dancing with you. And don’t worry, it sings more than that song, too! 

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Crayola Colors of the World Crayons

This may be my favorite item and it’s just a few dollars! Crayola Colors of the World Crayons is really showing its true colors with its COLORS OF THE WORLD CRAYONS. Kids can actually reach into the box of newly formed 24 and find colors that represent them and the people around them!  Even the names of the colors are reflective of them or blend together to find their perfect shade.

Basic Fun Care Bears

And I don’t know if this toy is for them or for me, but New 2020 Carebears ARE BACK! Yes, and more than ever, they’re reminding us to be positive, to share, and to care, right? So those of us that grew up in the 80s this was THE toy! Plus while kids are at home, this is a great gift to give them comfort and share a hug when you can’t always give the hug to the person you want! So this is a great grandparents gift! 

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Crayola Glitter Dots Keychain Craft Set

Crayola also has done a great job keeping kids busy! So this is Squish the Crayola Glitter Dots Keychain Craft Set. This is another great stocking stuffer or something they can make now and give to their friends and neighbors by leaving it at the door! You just squish the dots  into the molds to create one-of-a-kind charms in a sweet treat theme!

For Bigger Kids

VTECH Kidzoom Creator Cam

If there was a hot gift this season, this is it to me. Designed for ages 5, I’ve had fun playing with this one. This is the VTECH Kidizoom Creator Cam and it’s so cool I want one. This isn’t just a camera – it’s a tripod/selfie stick, microphone, video tools, a green screen and everything you need to be a “digital creator.” And what I love as a parent is they don’t need your iPad or smartphone to make it work! 

Crayola Marker Maker Set

With so much time at home, art projects and being able to express themselves through art has had so many benefits for kids. So here’s a gift they can use to create those beautiful works of art by making their own markers! Create your own custom colors with the Crayola Marker Maker machine, 16 Makeable Markers, Customizable Marker Labels, Color Mixing Guide, Instruction Sheet, and Assorted Inks.

Crayola Scribble Scrubbie Pets Scrub Tub Animal Playset

And the fun with colors doesn’t stop there either! Crayola has done a remarkable job recreating fun ways for kids to have fun like with this is a Crayola Scribble Scrubbie Pets Scrub Tub Playset. Forget flat color books – they are taking color 3D in a fun playset. Best of all, when you’re done coloring and want to do something new – give ‘em a scrub and start again! 

Hatchimals Pixies Riders

The biggest thing in toys last season was the “surprise” with toys like Hatchimals Pixies Riders and LOL Dolls as gifts within a gift. And this Christmas you’ll find this idea in so many gifts. We all remember the Hatchimals 

Hasbro Star Wars The Child Animatronic Edition

We all want to call this Baby Yoda, but this is THE ONE and this is the one they’ll definitely want with this Star Wars The Child Animatronic toy. Touching the top of his head activates over 25 sound and motion combinations, including happy and excited sounds, giggles, babbles, and more, all while the figure’s head moves up and down. Plus it’s too cute!  

Pre-teens & Teens

Electric Party Pop Scooter

The big kids always seem to be the hardest to buy for. But with us all at home more, I’m all about getting them to be more active! Kids don’t really want bikes anymore, the hot gift is the Electric Party Pop Scooter! And these cooters are a party on their own! 

This is a foot activated powered electric scooter that goes up  to 7.5 mph (12 km/h) for up to 30 minutes of continuous ride time while you roll with these multi-color LED lights.

Black Label from Razor E90

And for the even bigger kids, this scooter has all the power in their hands! The Razor Black Label E90 electric scooter that features a hand operated front brake in addition to the rear-fender brake, creating a dual-braking system for better control. Plus with a higher weight limit, this is a good one for those tweens and teens.

Nintendo Ring Fit Adventure 

And last but not least, this is one game I love recommending! I don’t know what we would’ve done without the Nintendo Ring Fit! We have to keep the kids moving and with their virtual school this is a fun way to make everyone happy. It’ll make them squat, lounge, and move along with keeping count of calories. This is also one you can do together! 

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Young Scientist Plasma Globe

Kids at home means we’re all taking on teaching too. Young Scientist Plasma Globe is making science fun by showing the power of electricity by being activated by touch and sound! You might remember something like this in the early 90s – and I always wanted one!

Snapstyle Mask Maker

Of course we’ve all been in mask but we can let kids have fun with it with this SnapStyle Printable Mask maker from  If you can take a picture of it, you can make a mask of it. Kids can print their own mask that matches their clothing or show their creativity – and yes these are WHO compliant mask! 

Holiday Events in DFW 2020

 

Bradenton Area: This Florida Beach Destination Will Surprise You

Need to get away? Florida is a popular destination, but we found a paradise not far off the beaten path that is an adventure you don’t need a ticket to enjoy. Welcome to the Bradenton Area in Florida!

Hello Mama Challenge readers! My name is Debra Muccio and you’ll usually find me over at FindingDebra.com, a lifestyle blog where I focus on my day to day adventures at home, on the road and in the air. From holiday recipes to Disney secrets, I’m your go-to girl. Recently. Autumn sent me to cover a travel destination for her, the Bradenton Area of Florida. It was there that I joined 3 other bloggers for an adventure I’ll never forget.

Bradenton Area Florida guide

Anyone who knows me will testify to the fact that I spend A LOT of time in Florida. In fact, if you looked at my calendar recently, you’d find that this Texan visited the state four times this fall. But I have a little confession to make. Most of the time when I visit Florida, it has something to do with a certain mouse we all love. So when I had the opportunity to visit the Bradenton Area on behalf of Mama Challenge, I jumped at the chance.


What did I discover? That there is WAY more to Florida than my favorite theme parks and characters. Shhh! Don’t tell Mickey!

Follow along as I take you to a Florida beach destination that will surprise you, one set along Florida’s West Coast.

Bradenton Area Florida

Bradenton Area Beaches

Truth be told, I’d never heard of the Bradenton Area before, but one quick look at a map and I knew exactly where it was. Nestled between Tampa to the north and Sarasota to the south, you’ll find this area which includes the more city-like area of Bradenton, Longboat Key and a little known tourist destination called Anna Maria Island.

Whether you are looking to plan a family beach vacation or trying to add on a little rest and relaxation after a busy Orlando trip, this is the spot for you. It’s one of those destinations where you’ll find families coming back year after year. How do I know? I met many of them.

Let’s start with why people visit Florida year after year…the beaches!

The Beaches to Visit

The Bradenton Area has many beaches and they are all so very different. I’m talking about 16 miles of sand in this area. While the rain kept us from spending more time at the beach and from actually getting in the water (seriously, Mother Nature did not cooperate those 3 days), the moments spent visiting the beaches were amazing. These are just 3 of the beaches in the area. One beach in particular had me in awe.

Bradenton Area Manatee Beach

Manatee Beach – Located in the heart of Anna Maria Island, this beach is close in proximity to everything and is more for families with kids. It has many amenities perfect for families, including a cafe, restrooms, water fountains and gift shop. The playgrounds are incredible and located right on the sand!

Bean Point – Located at the very northern tip of Anna Maria Island, this beach is for those wanting a more serene and quiet spot. It will not disappoint.

Coquina Beach – This is the beach that stole my heart. Why? Well, I’m from Texas and let’s just say I’ve always been enamored with seashells. I’ve visited a few Florida beaches before and there were shells here and there, but let me tell you that Coquina Beach blew me away. At one point I was walking on nothing but shells. It was incredible and I cannot wait to take my daughter back. She would literally spend all day collecting shells.

Bradenton Area Restaurant The Sandbar

Where to Eat

Food. It’s at the heart of nearly every vacation you take. You not only want a great destination but you want to experience amazing and unique food. The Bradenton Area did not disappoint!

The Sandbar – From the very first night on Anna Maria Island on, we were spoiled rotten by the generosity of the restaurants we visited. In fact, that very first night could not have been spent on a more beautiful beach. Yes, our dinner was spent watching the incredible sunset with our toes in the sand. That’s not something you can do every day. You’ll want to make room for a visit to The Sandbar restaurant for sunset dinners. I’ve also heard the Sunday brunch is pretty incredible.

Owner Ed Chiles’ commitment on serving locally harvested seafood and local produce makes this restaurant top notch. One can see why The Sandbar is consistently chosen as a top spot for weddings and receptions by brides everywhere.

Seafood Shack – If you are looking for somewhere a little more casual, you’ll want to head over to the Seafood Shack. Located at Cortez Fishing Village, this restaurant, which opened in 1971, has gotten a new look and updated menu thanks in part to Chef Gerard. Locals and tourists alike will love the seafood offerings here. A special menu created for our visit included an outstanding spread of seafood complete with lobster and even turtle soup. (Yes, I tried it – delicious!!)! I have to say the Chef outdid himself and the meal ended with Bourbon Pecan Pie, family style!

Bradenton Area Pier 22

Pier 22 – When it comes time for an upscale meal or perhaps a date night, you’ll want to head off the island and back into Bradenton for a stop at Pier 22. It was at this restaurant, sitting outside along the water’s edge, where we spent 3 hours enjoying the cuisine.

Yes, 3 hours!

Pier 22 served us more than a meal. It was an experience.

Bradenton Area Seafood

From the unexpected sushi boat that arrived on our table to the homemade fudge slices that came directly from the recipes of the Chef’ Campbell’s Grandma, each bite was superb. The seafood. The sides. The incredible service. They wow’d us and for that reason alone, I will be back!

TIP: Pier 22 is in a great section of Bradenton and within walking distance to several area attractions, including the South Florida Museum I mention below. So definitely make a point to grab a reservation here.

Restaurants Off the Beaten Path

We all know it’s those small restaurants and locations off the beaten path which can make a destination memorable. Anna Maria Island has several of them worth noting!

Ginny’s and Jane E’s – This funky gift store actually has a cafe in the back where they serve the most amazing cinnamon buns that are approximately 6 inches wide! Do not miss this. You know it’s great when locals and tourists alike are standing in line!

The Donut Experiment – Kids and grownups alike will be smiling upon entering this small storefront off Pine Avenue. This is the island’s only donut shop and what a donut shop it is. Donuts are made to order with so many icings and toppings to choose from, but you’ll find a few specialties as well. TIP: Try the Key Lime Donut with a coffee to go!

Poppo’s Taqueria – Looking for a quick meal, one with affordable prices and organic ingredients? Look no further than Poppo’s Taqueria on Pine Ave (right next to The Donut Experiment). We grabbed a quick dinner one night after enjoying the annual Bayfest event. Don’t miss the fresh tacos and gourmet craft soda!

Bradenton Area - Things to Do

What to Do

Now that you’ve seen all the amazing restaurants in the area, you might think you’ll be eating the entire time you’re visiting. Oh no, you must make time for all the non-beach and non-food activities too!

You won’t be lacking in things to do while you are in the Bradenton Area, but here are a few of my favorites!

Bradenton Area South Florida Museum

South Florida Museum – A short walk from the the upscale restaurant Pier 22 you’ll find the South Florida Museum. The museum houses not only the Parker Manatee Aquarium, but also the Bishop Planetarium. We experienced both. I have to say that the show in the planetarium was stellar!

It doesn’t take long before you realize that manatee’s are a big part of the Florida landscape here. No trip to the Bradenton Area is complete without meeting Snooty, the world’s oldest manatee, located right here at the Parker Manatee Aquarium. He’s so famous that they even named a drink after him at Pier 22 restaurant!

Mixon’s Fruit Farm & Wildlife Rehab Tour – Another stop worth making in Bradenton, especially if you have kids, is Mixon’s Fruit Farm. This is Florida, so you can expect orange groves and it was a fun experience to get up close at this farm during a tram tour. It wasn’t exactly the time of year for harvesting, but you can bet we took advantage of the homemade orange swirl ice cream offered inside the gift shop.

Surprisingly the farm is also home to a wildlife tour, where we learned about how they rehabilitate Florida wildlife for release back into the wild. We met all types of animals like skunks, tortoises, a gigantic snake and more. You also can bet there were a few alligators. I even touched one of the smaller ones!

Bradenton Area Dolphin Spotting

Dolphin Watch Tour – You’ll want to head over to Historic Bridge Street to catch a dolphin watch tour with Paradise Boat Tours. The team there took great care of us and though a fast, incoming storm forced our trip short, we ended up spotting two dolphins upon our return. Due to the rain, they promised another boat tour to those who are able to take advantage, even if it’s not for months. Great customer service!

Bradenton Area Shopping

Shopping along Pine Avenue – Pine Avenue is Anna Maria Island’s main street, running from the Gulf to the city pier. The island in general is very committed to “green” and the shops are no exception here. You’ll find unique, one of a kind boutique shops along Pine Avenue and I dare you not to find something you must have! A few fun favorites included Junktion and Olive Oil Outpost.

Bradenton Area - Getting Around

How to Get Around

Whether you are coming in from Tampa, Orlando or Sarasota, chances are you’ll have a rental car at your disposal, which is great for getting to and from Anna Maria Island and back to Bradenton Area attractions, but don’t miss the fun of getting around this island.

You’ll want to check out Beach Bums, a great rental shop offering an assortment of transportation for your stay, including bikes, kayaks, paddle boards, and more. You’ll find that many tourist on the island use street legal electric golf carts to get around on the island and many use scooters & pedal cars too!

Free to those on the island is the trolley, which makes a continual loop from the Pier on the north to Coquina Beach on the south. The trolley is air-conditioned and runs daily from 6:00am to 10:30pm.

Bradenton Area - Where to Stay
Where to Stay

There was one thing I quickly learned during my visit to Anna Maria Island – this wasn’t a place where you’d see your favorite hotel chains. Anna Maria Island is unique in that many of the tourists stay in vacation rental homes, though you’ll find several boutique inns and motels seaside.

We were hosted in an 8-bedroom house on Anna Maria Island, complete with 7.5 bathrooms, courtesy of Anna Maria Vacations. The Malibu Beach home was spectacular both inside and out, complete with every modern convenience you can imagine. Though this house was meant for a large number of people, Anna Maria Vacations has rental homes to fit every traveling party size.

I don’t know about you, but I love the advantages of staying in a rental home. Having a full kitchen can save on meals and with a pool in the backyard (one with an amazing rock slide), there was build in entertainment! I did the math, and my extended family (which would fill up 8 bedrooms) could easily stay here and split the cost for much less than typical resort stays we are used to. Love that!

Bradenton Area

Overall, I have to admit that I fell in love with the Bradenton Area and I dare you to do the same!

Be sure to visit BradentonGulfIslands.com for more information and FindingDebra.com for more of my travel posts!