Summer took a long time to say its goodbyes this year, as the high heats continued for all of September. This weekend, the temperatures have finally started to drop and I am so happy to trade in my sundresses for my sweaters. I’m home in New York this weekend and am able to celebrate the beginning of fall in my favorite way: picking pumpkins and eating apple cider donuts. No matter where I buy my apple cider donut from, the first bite brings me back to being a kid apple picking with my family on an orchard. We would spend hours picking four huge bags of apples, and before we could head home, we would always stop at the orchard store to each get a warm apple cider donut. It was always the perfect ending to some of my favorite days.
This year, it looks like I won’t be able to go apple picking in New England like usual, but that doesn’t mean I am looking any less forward to fall. I thought it would be fun to put together a bucket list of activities for me to do this fall and I thought I would make it as a fun graphic so everyone can join in on the fun!
This blog started out as a self-care resource and as I look back, I’m shocked that I never shared my favorite self-care activity: going to the movies. I know the whole spiel about how the movie theaters are dying out, thanks to streaming services, but to me, the movie theater is one of the most magical places in the world. There’s nothing quite like the lights dimming and for a brief few hours, there is nothing in the world except the story you are being shown on the screen. It’s being swept away and you feel everything with no buffers– it’s happiness, it’s sadness, it’s terror, and it’s love. The music bellows around you and you’re not you anymore, all that matters is the adventure on screen.
It’s similar to that feeling I used to get as a young kid reading a great book– everything drifted away as the words circled around me, forming a new world. As I got older, distractions came in and when I sit down with a book, I still feel the vibration of my phone, the sounds of the world around me on the metro, and the thoughts that never stop running through my head. The movie theater is special to me because it takes out all those distractions. I turn my phone off, I sit in the silent theater, and my thoughts focus in on the story that encompasses all my senses. It’s the one spot in the world that I truly feel I can disconnect and when life gets overwhelming or I feel a bit alone, the movie theater is the first place you can find me. It’s magic.
To honor my love for the movies, I thought I would share my four of my favorite movies of all time, though this list (other than number one) is constantly changing and my favorite quote from each.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Favorite line: The blues are because you’re getting fat and maybe it’s been raining too long; you’re just sad, that’s all. The mean reds are horrible. Suddenly you’re afraid and you don’t know what you’re afraid of.
You’ve Got Mail
Favorite line: “Sometimes I wonder about my life. I lead a small life – well, valuable, but small – and sometimes I wonder, do I do it because I like it, or because I haven’t been brave? So much of what I see reminds me of something I read in a book, when shouldn’t it be the other way around?”
Favorite line: “Absolutely! That’s when the magic happens.”
13 Going on 30
Favorite line: “You don’t always get the dream house, but sometimes you get pretty close, you know?”
At the end of May, I visited Disneyland for the first time in almost ten years. As someone who proudly calls Magic Kingdom her home park, I knew that I would spend much of my time in Disneyland comparing it to WDW. I’ve spent a lot of time since coming home trying to give the most objective comparison possible between Disneyland and WDW and my determination of which is the better resort/park. I’ve decided to break this comparison down to a few categories: rides, shows/parades, food, hotels, fastpass experience, and aesthetic/appearance. Let’s dive right in!
Rides: To do this category justice, I have to break it down into two categories: rides that the two parks share and original rides.
Shared Rides: Disneyland and Disneyworld basically share most of their e-tickets including the three mountains (Space, Big Thunder, and Splash), Pirates of the Carribbean, Haunted Mansion, and Jungle Cruise, along with some smaller rides, such as the Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Some of these experiences are significantly different– Pirates of the Carribbean is significantly longer in Disneyland and much, much creepier. Other rides, like the mountains, are slightly different experiences but if you’ve ridden them a few times, you’ll be sure to notice. Space Mountain, for example, uses different rider cars on the two coastlines and while many enjoy the more traditional car used in Disneyland, I think the experience is far more intense on the bobsled style car at Disneyworld. Other rides, like Jungle Cruise and Haunted Mansion, definitely show which one is the original, with Disneyworld’s versions having the little improvements to make a big splash. There were a few similar rides I didn’t try out, knowing the Disneyland version would make me miss my version at Disneyworld, such as the DL version of astro-orbiter (after riding these with a view of Happily Ever After, I don’t think a smaller and shorter version could ever compare) and Dumbo the Flying Elephant, which lacks the theming of Storybook Circus I love so dearly.
Winner: On the shared rides, I have to give it to Walt Disney World. As they say, second is the best, and Disneyworld definitely benefits from being second to receive most of these rides.
Original Rides: While two parks have so much in common, they also have a lot of original rides. I fell in love with California Adventure and the many original rides the park has to offer, including Mission Breakout and Radiator Springs Racers. Disneyworld also has a plethora of original rides, such as all of its Animal Kingdom offerings and many of its Epcot rides. I have to say I have never been a big Animal Kingdom fan and could easily skip this park when visiting Disneyworld and while I love Epcot, it is not for its ride offerings but rather its ambience in World Showcase. And while I will always say that Magic Kingdom is definitively the world’s best theme park, the many dark rides that Disneyland’s Fantasyland have to offer, such as Alice in Wonderland, do make this land stand out and pop much more than some of Disneyworld’s rides like Seven Dwarves Mine Train.
Winner: In this subcategory, I have to give it to Disneyland. Their exclusive rides are e-ticket attractions that are immersive, creative, and original.
Winner for rides: The two resorts end up in a tie in this category, each winning one subcategory so I will give them each .5
Score: Disneyland .5, Disneyworld .5
Shows/Parades: Both Disneyworld and Disneyland offer many parades and shows throughout the day and night. It is important to note here: Disneyworld has a HUGE advantage. There are four parks– WDW can have one meh parade/show (example: the First Order in Hollywood Studios) and make up for it with another amazing one in another park (like Festival of Fantasy). When I visited Disneyland, the Red Car Trolleys were under renovation so I didn’t get to see them perform (and apparently, the show is permanently closing now) and I missed having a light-hearted show like on Main Street in Magic Kingdom or Hollywood Studios. I loved Disneyland’s parade, but I am a bit partial because I LOVE Mary Poppins and loved seeing her featured. I also want to give Disneyland some points in advance, because the Main Street Electrical Parade (aka my favorite parade of ALL time) is running for a limited time there this summer and I am VERY jealous that the west coast gets this beautiful parade again. Disneyland also wow’ed me with their performance of Frozen, which was truly Broadway levels of good. Frozen was definitely the best show I have ever seen in a Disney park, but Disneyworld offers some great options, with Festival of the Lion King and Finding Nemo the Musical. What loses Disneyland major points was is its nighttime shows in comparison to Disneyworld. World of Color is a beautiful and moving show and I can see how it greatly inspired Happily Ever After, but it didn’t have the full effect that Happily Ever After gives. Also, I found myself wishing they had set the show up in a space more similar to Rivers of Light– if you weren’t in the front for World of Color, you weren’t seeing much. Further, Disneyland’s nighttime offerings had me wanting to fly to Florida immediately. Mickey’s Mix Magic was playing while I was at Disneyland and this firework show did not hold at all when compared to ANY of Disneyworld’s offerings. The show felt like it was pandering to a youthful audience and it lacked true heart to it.
Winner: Disneyworld. While Disneyland shone with its theatrical show of Frozen and its parade offerings, its nighttime offerings really did not their own.
Score: Disneyworld 1.5, Disneyland 0.5
Food: To judge this category fairly, I also will be breaking it up into three subcategories: table service, quick service, and snacks. Table service is worth 0.4 points, quick service is worth 0.3 points, and snacks are worth 0.3 points.
Table Service: Growing up with trips to Disneyworld, there is nothing I love more than a good character meal. With diverse offerings in Florida from 1900 Park Fare to Bon Voyage to Tusker House, there is no shortage of character offerings with great food and a great interactive experience. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said across the country. While at Disneyland, we went to Plaza Inn at Disneyland for breakfast and Goofy’s Kitchen at the Disneyland Hotel for dinner. Plaza Inn was a complete flop– the characters ignored us for the first thirty minutes we were there, the food was bland (the french toast tasted like someone threw a bottle of cinnamon on it and called it a day), and the service was WAY below Disney standards, with it taking thirty minutes before we could get any information about gluten free options for the allergy in our party. Goofy’s Kitchen had much better character interaction but the food was not great. The best things there were the mac and cheese and the chicken fingers. For non-character table service meals, we ate at Carnation Cafe and Lamplight Lounge. While both of these restaurants were good, they lacked a spark that makes restaurants such as Coral Reef, Hacienda San Angel, and Skipper Canteen so special.
Winner:Without a doubt, Disneyworld.
Quick Service: While Disneyland flopped with its sit-down offerings, it shone with its quick service. My first quick service experience here was Tangaroa Terrace, where I got nachos and dumplings. They both were amazing and I returned here for breakfast, where the french toast blew me away. I also stopped at Flo’s in DCA and had their french toast (I REALLY like French Toast, I’m not even sorry for how much french toast I eat) and loved it. I also loved the complete theming at Flo’s. I also had to get Mickey Beignets for an early breakfast and while these tasted more like regular donuts mixed with funnel cake than traditional Beignets, I still thoroughly enjoyed them and very much would get again. My one quick service let-down happened in DCA at the Pacific Wharf, where I ordered potstickers and an orange chicken rice bowl. While the potstickers were delicious (though a small order of only three), the orange chicken rice bowl was far too spicy for my liking and did not have enough orange taste to it. While Disneyworld does have some stand out quick service locations like Satuli in Animal Kingdom and its offerings throughout World Showcase, it typically does not shine in its quick service. If is festival season in Epcot, I may take back that statement but generally, I would stand by it. And though I may have a soft spot for Peco’s, I’m not sure the average tourist would fully agree.
Winner: Disneyland. While Disneyworld has seasonally good quick service offerings, it falls to offer consistently good quick service options throughout all of its parks like Disneyland does.
Snacks: This is by far the hardest category of all to rank. Disney snacks around the world are the absolute best, with the classics like Mickey pretzels and churros and seasonal specials. I loved all the snacks I tried in Disneyland, from the nom nom cookies to the ice cream treats to the Mickey rice krispie treats. I also though love Disneyworld’s snacks, such as the soft serve at Storybook Treats, the changing milkshake at Auntie Galaxy’s, and the numerous treats found around world showcase.
Winner: Truthfully, the two resorts are almost even in my mind in their snack offerings, but having world showcase pulls Disneyworld right over the edge, as it offers such a huge range of snacks to try.
Winner: Overall, Disneyworld wins in food, with better table service and more snack offerings. Disneyland though shines with its quick service.
Score: Disneyworld 2.3, Disneyland 0.8
Hotels: Disneyland offers a very different hotel experience from Disneyworld, with only three Disney-owned-and-operated hotels, compared to the numerous offerings at Disneyworld. For this trip, we chose to stay at the Disneyland Hotel, which is equivalent to a Disneyworld deluxe hotel. The first reaction to the hotel was a bit of surprise– this hotel does not throw Disney magic at you in the same way as Disneyworld deluxe hotels or even the Grand Califorian do. However, little bits of magic are found around the hotel with notes of history. The rooms were beautifully sized and the castle headboard is definitely the star of the hotel. I can say I truly LOVED staying here, but still, the theming definitely fell behind the theming I love at Disneyworld. It didn’t transport me anywhere and seemed confused, with a monorail pool slide but Trader Sam’s tiki bar next to it. The Grand Californian seemed to have a much more cohesive theme, but because I did not stay there and only walked around it, my experience has to be based solely off the Disneyland Hotel.
Winner: The winner is Disneyworld, but I want to give some points to Disneyland because staying at the original Disney hotel truly was a bucket list experience for a big Disney fan like myself, so I’m giving 0.3 points to Disneyland for that nostalgia factor.
Score: Disneyworld 3, Disneyland 1.1
Fastpass Experience: The fastpass experiences are completely different at Disneyland and Disneyworld. Disneyworld uses the Fastpass+ system, where you make three reservations a day in advance. Disneyland uses the original fastpass system, with the option to buy Maxpass so you can make fastpasses on your phone. While Disneyworld lends itself to the ultra-planner, I found Maxpass a much more effective and efficient system. I was consistently able to get fastpasses for everything I wanted to ride, without being stuck to a stringent schedule. I also was not tied into one park, being able to move from fastpass to fastpass in different parks, compared to having to have three in one park at Disneyworld.
Winner: Disneyland, while Maxpass costs extra, it proved worth it.
Score: Disneyworld 3, Disneyland 2.1
Aesthetic/Appearance: This category is probably the most controversial I will rank, as everyone holds their favorite quite close to heart. I think California Adventure is a completely underrated park. I thought this park was truly gorgeous, with Pixar Pier, Cars Land, and Wine Country standing out to me. The park did an amazing job of grasping different areas and truly transporting guests to them. I can’t say I feel the same about Disneyland. Disneyland felt crowded. Tomorrowland felt cramped and closed, Fantasyland felt overrun with small walkways, and the castle, while in beautiful pink, lacked the grandeur I expected. I will say both New Orleans Square and Toontown shone in my eyes as unique and beautiful areas, and I have not visited Galaxy’s Edge so I can’t say how I would feel about that. I felt the parks lacked the beautiful spots like Cinderella’s wishing well or the Italy pavilion in world showcase or Pandora in Animal Kingdom.
Winner: Disneyworld. While Disneyland had its beautiful spots, it lacked the smaller spots of beauty that make Disneyworld such a special space.
Final Score: Disneyworld 4, Disneyland 2.1
If you’re thinking about a Disney trip, you’ll never go wrong but in my opinion, if you’re focused on Disney, book a flight to Orlando. There is so much to do in Disneyworld, you could stay forever and never get a month (I stayed for four months and wish I could go back daily). The resort truly transports you to a magical place. The memories and happiness the place brings are definitely worth the splurge.
You make your plans and life makes other ones for you.
I had no intentions of taking a social media break at all this summer. I blogged while on vacation and was planning to start my job, settle into my new place, and keep going with the blog as usual. Life didn’t think that was the best plan for me and I decided to follow that cue: I took a two week break from my blog and Instagram.
The break happened naturally– I would sit down to write, but I didn’t have the words or energy to say anything. To put it simply, I was experiencing complete burn out. I blogged through the school year, finals, and then my vacation. I felt like I was blogging because I had to, but I didn’t feel like I was creating content I was truly proud of. I felt like I had gotten to a point where I wasn’t being a service and I was a bit lost from my own personal mission statement of serving others, as my mind focused more and more on growth and following.
So, when life got busy and the words escaped me, a break felt like the exact move I needed to take. And, not having social media did make a difference. I could take more effort to settling into my new house and new job. I could spend time with friends and be fully in the moment, not thinking about my posting schedule. And the amazing part was that during this break, I felt my creativity skyrocket again. I constantly was having ideas for blog posts and Instagram photos and stories. I felt like I could see why I started blogging again: to share my life in the hopes of helping someone else.
So, I recommend taking a break every once in a while. In a culture that praises hustling and hard work, taking a break feels almost impossible. But, when you push yourself constantly, you burn out. You need the break to recharge and find your direction again. You might find yourself feeling better than you ever did at the end of it.
A little known fact about me is that I am a bit of a movie junkie. I absolutely love going to the movies and I basically live for Oscar season. For this reason, I was SO excited to go to LA and have the opportunity to tour the studios where magic happens. I had the opportunity to go on three different studio tours: Sony Pictures, Universal Studios, and Warner Brothers. I enjoyed each of these tours. Here’s the details and differences of each one:
Sony Pictures:This tour definitely takes a more historic approach, which I was very excited about as entertainment history is what I want to specialize in. The tour begins with a video and a stop to the Sony Pictures museum, which includes the Seinfeld set and various costumes and props used in movies like the Spiderman films. We learned about how this lot came to be Sony Pictures and the history of both MGM and Columbia Pictures. The lot is formerly MGM’s but unfortunately, the studio sold off many of its sets, props, and costumes when it hit financial difficulties and it is unknown where these items ended up. The lot does still have many small details that honor this past– the office buildings, which were once apartments for the stars, are named after the stars who lived in the buildings (my favorite to see was the Hepburn Building, named for Katharine Hepburn, who I am named after– my mom is also a huge movie fan). The next stop on the tour was the Jeopardy! Set. The set was much larger than I had ever imagined and I was able to take a picture at one of the previous podiums. Next, we visited the set of The Goldbergs. Seeing this set was so cool, as it is such a unique set and show, with much of the decorations being from the creator’s actual home. Finally, we walked the backlot and saw many of the cars used in films, including the cars from Ghostbusters. This studio felt the most like a working studio and if you’re lucky, you might even get a celebrity sighting! I would definitely recommend this tour, especially if you are interested in entertainment history and the old golden age of Hollywood.
NOTE: This is a 2-hour walking tour.
Universal Studios: This tour is located within the theme park Universal Studios: Hollywood and feels much more like a ride than the other two tours. You board a very large tour bus and begin to go through the backlot of Universal. We visited the streets of New York first before going into our first piece of immersion: a 3D King Kong experience meant to demonstrate the power of special effects. I was a bit disappointed here to find that this experience was simply a snippet of the King Kong ride located in Universal Studios in Orlando. We drove by some of the famous cars used in film, before going to Little Mexico where movie rain and flooding was demonstrated to us. We saw a set for Jaws, which was not used for Jaws but rather Murder, She Wrote, before seeing a backlot for a scene of Jurassic Park. We drove down the road where town scenes are filmed and continued to Whoville. The buildings in Whoville are actually made of styrofoam to get the weird shapes! We also saw the sets for Bates Motel and the destroyed plane in War of the Worlds. The ride ends with taking you through another 3D experience: the Fast and Furious ride (it is a replica of the Orlando version). This was the shortest tour we took, being an hour long, and was the most ride-like.
Warner Brothers: This tour is part walking and part driving cart, a combination of the other two we took. We started by seeing a cabin that has been used in True Blood and Hart of Dixie. I am a big Hart of Dixie fan and was amazed at how they transformed this cabin into the beloved Rammer Jammer. Next, we visited the part I was most excited for: Midwest. Midwest is used to represent any town and can famously be recognized as Bluebell in Hart of Dixie, Rosewood in Pretty Little Liars, and my personal favorite, Stars Hollow in Gilmore Girls. We got to get off and walk around here, going into the inside of Lorelai Gilmore’s house (spoiler: it’s also Sookie’s house) and seeing how they used these houses to film. We also saw the house used for Fuller House here and the streets used for the Jersey scenes of Jersey Boys. Next, we visited the streets of New York followed by a prop museum. This museum held props from Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Harry Potter, and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. We also got to see the Batmobiles throughout the years. The guided tour ends and you enter an interactive area where you get to learn about filmmaking. Here, you can see costumes from the new A Star is Born, take a picture on the set of Friends, and hold an Oscar. This was the longest tour we took, clocking in at 3 hours. I really enjoyed this tour and would definitely recommend it, especially for younger girls, as many of the sets you see are aimed at this age group.
Overall, I enjoyed each of the tours. I would recommend trying to check them all out but if you are pressed for time, I would definitely do either the Sony or Warner Brothers tour. Both of these give great insight into the behind-the-scenes magic that occurs on the movies.