Luciana Vega is American Girl's 2018 Girl of the Year

Have you heard the news? American Girl's Girl of the Year doll for 2018 made her debut on Good Morning America today! GOTY 2018 s Luciana Vega, an 11 year-old who wants to become the first person on Mars. There are so many things about Luciana that I am excited about. First, she is a girl of color; based on her name, I would guess that she has Hispanic heritage.  Second, she is a STEM kid! We seem to be entering an age (in the US at least) where science and facts are being minimized and discredited, so having Luciana be someone who loves science is going to mean the world to girls who are growing up in a world where research funding is being cut and scientific evidence is being denied.

Luciana's story includes a trip to space camp, which means her product line will include cool accessories like a space suit and a Mars habitat. American Girl actually works with a task force of NASA scientists -- and they all happen to be female! How cool is that?! Even my 16 year-old daughter is impressed and inspired by that factoid!

If you happen to live near an American Girl store, you're in luck: to celebrate Luciana's arrival, all stores are hosting launch events on January one. Drop by the American Girl store to learn more  about Luciana’s story and watch interactive science demonstrations, test your lunar knowledge with a fun Moon Phase craft, nibble on galaxy-inspired treats, and take home a doll tee that Luciana would think is out of this world (while supplies last). What a great way to start the New Year!

Disclosure: I did not receive a sample or monetary compensation for this post.  The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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Top 10 Attractions at California Great America's Winterfest

California Great America's Winterfest

Christmas is just two days away! Want to get into the holiday spirit? Head on over the California's Great America! I recently wrote an article on Red Tricycle about how theme parks are really amping up the holiday cheer with some really fun holiday offerings, and Great America is one of the theme parks on my list. They have really gone all out and transformed the park into a winter wonderland.

I kid you not when I say the park is almost unrecognizable. They have closed not just attractions, but entire sections of the park, and the areas that remain have been decorated to the nines. Some attractions are open (Flight Deck, Gold Striker, Delirium, the carousel, the swings, all of the rides at Planet Snoopy), but the real can't miss attractions are the ones created especially for Winterfest. To begin with, it's fun to just walk around and enjoy the sights and sounds. But the holiday shows are so delightful, you simply must make time to see them. And save some time to enter a shop or two and check out the holiday merchandise! There are literally dozens of things to see and do. Don't have all night? Here are my top ten things to do at Winterfest:

California Great America's Winterfest

10) Snowflake Lake

For the first time ever, Great America has an ice rink! It's set just in front of the giant double-decker carousel, and the trees surrounding the rink have been swathed in white lights, so you'll truly feel like you're in a winter wonderland. Get there early to reserve your skating time and shoes.

California Great America's Winterfest

9) Artisan Alley

Need a last-minute holiday present? Wander through Artisan Alley, which features local artists and crafters selling unique wares. It's fun to wander from booth to booth and check out their beautiful displays. From jewelry to soaps to ornaments to scarves, each booth offers something for everyone.

California Great America's Winterfest

8) Cool Yule Christmas show

What's a holiday celebration without a big holiday production? The Cool  Yule Christmas features performers belting out classic holiday tunes, backed up by energetic dancers dressed in holiday outfits. The gigantic tree looks amazing in the background and snowfall at the end of the show caps off the show very nicely. This show always draws a big crowd, but there's plenty of room for everyone in the audience. The show plays every hour starting at 6PM, so you literally can't miss it.

California Great America's Winterfest

7) Street performers

You won't be able to walk far without encountering some kind of live performance. You can hear Jingle Jazz, an a capella group, at Celebration Plaza. The Mistletones, a 40's style singing group, performs in Coca-Cola Plaza. The Jolly Holly Trolly roams the park on a San Francisco cable car, spreading good cheer with their song and dance routine. Various local groups perform in front of the Great America Theater. In addition, costumed characters roam the park greeting visitors, cracking jokes, and making folks smile.

California Great America's Winterfest

6) Holiday shops 

All the souvenir shops have been given a Winterfest theme. All have been given holiday makeovers: North Pole Mercantile, Peanuts Holiday Gifts, Frosty Furnishings, Peanuts Holiday Gifts, Snoopy's Stockings Stuffers, and more. Even the storefront signs have changed! Inside, you'll find winter-themed merchandise such as sweaters, holiday ornaments, and decor.

5) Holiday treats

You'll have a difficult time finding the usual theme park food (burgers and fries) at Winterfest. The food court has been blocked off and the usual cafes have been transformed into holiday-themed eateries such as Prancer's Pizza, Toy Town Treats, and Sally's Festive Funnel Cakes. Holiday treats such as peppermint ice cream, pumpkin pie, a turkey dinner, and hot chocolate are available. In addition, Winterfest treat kiosks have been scattered throughout the park, serving hot chocolate, churros, and other treats. Instead of the bottomless soda cup, they have a bottomless mug of hot cocoa: for $10.99, you get a souvenir mug, free refills on the first day, and $1 refills on future visits. It's perfect for walking around the park on cold winter nights!

California Great America's Winterfest

4) Orleans Place

Pretty much the entire park has been strewn with holiday lights, but at Orleans Place (near the Flight Deck roller coaster), the lights blink to holiday music! Snowflakes and other designs are projected onto the floor, making for a great impromptu disco stage. The light show happens about every 15 minutes, and it's a joy to walk through while it happens.

California Great America's Winterfest

3) Candy Cane Lane

Walking through the park during Winterfest is so much fun, because of all the holiday decorations they have put in. I'm so impressed by how completely they have transformed the entire park! Nowhere is this more evident than Candy Cane Lane. One entire section of the park has been decorated with candy structures. Temporary walls have been set up to block the regular attractions and to guide visitors through the area; these walls have been decorated with candy trees, lollipops, and more. There are several gingerbread structures, including a two-foot castle. There's even a treat stand with chairs and tables that look like peppermint candy!

California Great America's Winterfest

2) Photo opps

Keep your camera close by, because photo opps abound. There are so many decorative items around the park, from brightly lit trees to polar bear sculptures to a giant blow-up Santa. Costumed characters like elves, toy soldiers, and Nutcracker princes are more than happy to pose with you. In addition, there are photo stations and cardboard cutouts that make fun backgrounds.

California Great America's Winterfest

1) It's Christmas, Snoopy

My favorite thing about Winterfest at California's Great America? The Snoopy ice show!  It's Christmas, Snoopy features great ice skating routines interspersed with clips from the classic cartoon, A Charlie Brown Christmas and live cameos from the The Peanuts Gang. The skaters are really talented, and the costumes are beautiful. Snoopy joins the skaters for quite a few numbers and his personality really shines through on the ice. The costumes and sets are beautiful, and everyone loves the holiday tunes. This show is just as impressive as any holiday ice show, and worth the price of admission all by itself.

There is so much more to see and do at Winterfest, so check out California Great America's Winterfest website, and plan your visit ASAP! They are open through New Year's Eve, so there's still time to enjoy this one-of-a-kind winter celebration.

California Great America's Winterfest

Disclosure: I received press tickets to Winterfest for me and my family. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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Top 10 holiday treats at the Disneyland Resort

holiday treats at the Disneyland Resort

With Christmas right around the corner, it's probably not a good time to start that diet! Instead, focus on enjoying treats in moderation and getting some exercise. This holiday season, you can get plenty of both at the Disneyland Resort -- there's no shortage of adorable and yummy treats, and you have plenty of opportunity to walk some of those calories off at the parks. Below is my list of Top Ten sweet holiday treats. Each one is festive, adorable, delicious... and available only during the holidays.

10) Candy canes

The famous Disneyland candy canes are the only treats on this list that I haven't tried yet, but I'm including them because they are Number One on my list of Treats to Try. They are handmade at the Candy Palace (Disneyland) and Trolley Treats (Disney California Adventure) and they sell out every day. People line up to buy them even before the parks open! Once the park opens, people in line get a numbered wristband with a return time to pick up their candy canes (one per person).
holiday treats at the Disneyland Resort

9) Candy cane beignets

Doughnuts are 3Po's favorite dessert, so we've enjoyed many a Disneyland doughnut. My favorites are the Mickey-shaped beignets, served with vanilla cream. Their holiday version features crushed candy canes sprinkled on top along with powdered sugar!

8) Shortbread cookies

Warning: Disneyland's frosted shortbread cookies are addicting. I prefer to get the freshly ones at Marceline's as opposed to the ones already shrink wrapped in plastic. The prewrapped ones look just as cute, but they are drier.
holiday treats at the Disneyland Resort

7) Chocolate peppermint shake

Cars Land is full of sweet merri-mint this holiday season. I love chocolate mint milkshakes, and Flo's V8 Cafe has just the thing. They are serving up peppermint candy cane shakes as well as chocolate peppermint pie.

6) Cupcakes

Disneyland cupcakes are enormous! These holiday Santa and snowflake designs have a bigger dollop of frosting than usual, so make sure you have someone to share it with!
holiday treats at the Disneyland Resort

5) Rice Krispy Treats

Who doesn't love a rice krispy treat? They seem lighter and less decadent somehow; I guess it's because they don't have the cream, and butter that so many other desserts do. They're just straight up sugar!
holiday treats at the Disneyland Resort

4) Cake pops

If all you want is a bite-sized treat, get the cake pops. They are just right for smaller appetites or for hungry diners who still have a bit of room for dessert.
holiday treats at the Disneyland Resort

3) Caramel apple

Disneyland's holiday designs for caramel apples include Mickey, Minnie, Jack Skellington, Olaf, snowmen, snowflakes, and Christmas tree ornaments. They are almost too pretty to eat! Almost.
holiday treats at the Disneyland Resort

2) Marshmallow wand

I am a big fan of Disneyland's marshmallow wands. That combination of chocolate, caramel, and marshmallow is irresistible! During the holidays, they coat the chocolate with crushed peppermint candy pieces, which makes it even more delicious.
holiday treats at the Disneyland Resort

1) Gingerbread men

My number one, all-time favorite holiday treat at the Disneyland Resort is gingerbread men! They are the most delicious gingerbread men I have ever tasted. I have seen two versions: one kind is shaped like a gingerbread man wearing a Mickey ear hat, and the hat is dipped in chocolate. The second kind is a regular gingerbread man. I prefer the regular one because it is dipped in a thin glaze with keeps the cookie moist and sweet throughout. The gingerbread is slightly spicy, and very sweet. It is soft and moist and chewy and Omigod I wish I was eating one right now.
holiday treats at the Disneyland Resort

Enjoy these holiday treats at the Disneyland Resort until January 8, 2018! What's YOUR favorite sweet holiday treat at the Disneyland Resort?
holiday treats at the Disneyland Resort

Disclosure: We received press tickets to visit the Disneyland Resort. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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Visit Santa at the Great Mall

It's the weekend before Christmas! Everyone is hustling and bustling to finish up all the items on their to-do lists. In the flurry of this weekend's activities, don't forget to make time to take those holiday photos with Santa Claus. It may seem like a small thing hardly worth bothering about, especially when you are already so busy, and when your kids are past the toddler stage. But if you make it a yearly tradition, those Santa photos will become as precious to you as your heirloom silver. I love looking back at our photos with Santa and seeing how the kids have grown.

The good news is that Santa will be at the Great Mall of the Bay throughout the weekend, all the way up to Christmas Eve! That's right, you can take your Santa photos right up to 9PM on Sunday December 23, and up to 6PM on Monday December 24. Photo packages start at $29.95. That price doesn't include a digital print, but if you order a package, the friendly elves manning the photo booth will let you snap photos with your own camera.

Here's another pro tip: even if you don't want to order photos, your kids can still visit Santa! They can sit on his lap and chat with him for a bit. And while you're waiting in line to see Santa, you can snap a selfie using the beautiful props as a background.

Another pro tip: even if you don't want to order photos, you might want to dress your kids up nicely anyway. Santa's corner at the Great Mall of the Bay Area is so beautifully decorated, it makes a great holiday photo backdrop!

Just stand in front of one of the giant presents or Christmas trees, and you're all set. Turn your holiday shopping into a family activity by visiting Santa at the Great Mall of the Bay Area!

Disclosure: I received a free Santa photo courtesy of Great Mall of the Bay Area. Product information (in italics) is provided by the featured company/product. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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