Must-Read SeaWorld San Diego Guide

Want to hold a sea star? Or get up-close and personal with sea turtles? Watch an orca whale leap from the water, see penguins dive into icy water or observe beluga whales below water? Want to meet a dolphin (and probably get splashed?) Then Sea World San Diego is the place for you! This is the SeaWorld San Diego guide you need to have a great day at this park.

As a San Diego native, my family and I have been going to Sea World for as long as I can remember. The park has changed quite a bit over the years but some things have remained constant throughout. Sea World San Diego has always been a unique experience. It’s safe, clean and well-kept with offerings of education alongside the fun!

Please note that this post includes affiliate links. Clicking through and making a purchase helps me in a small financial way, thank you!

Ultimate guide to SeaWorld San Diego, including what shows to see, what to do and where to eat. There are also tips on seasonal events & special animal interaction tours. #SeaWorld #SanDiego

SeaWorld San Diego Guide

My SeaWorld San Diego guide tips will help you properly plan your day. The park is very easy to navigate. Start your planning by looking at the park map and plot out your day. It is quite possible to see all of the exhibits in one day (if you aren’t lingering too long in any one place). However it might be a challenge to see all of the shows. Show times often overlap so you’ll need to choose your must-dos.

Tickets: I recommend pre-purchasing tickets ahead of time. You can purchase vacation packages or just tickets on the SeaWorld website. Some of the packages include free dining offers, front of the line access or special souvenirs.

What Should You Bring to SeaWorld?

Bring a lightweight jacket or sweatshirt. SeaWorld is located along the bay and it can be chilly and windy. Always pack your sunscreen. While it might be overcast early in the day, the sun often peeks out after noon and it may get very hot. A hat is a must as the show stadiums do not offer much shade.

Parking: 

General parking is $20 per car. If you arrive before or at park opening, the general parking will suffice. If you’re arriving later in the day during peak season, consider $25 for up-close parking or VIP parking, which starts at $35.

Ultimate guide to SeaWorld San Diego, including what shows to see, what to do and where to eat. There are also tips on seasonal events & special animal interaction tours. #SeaWorld #SanDiego

Is Outside Food Allowed at SeaWorld?

While the official website says that only water is allowed, we have brought in small snacks with us for our kids without issue.

Security Checks:

All packages, backpacks and purses are inspected before park entry.

Drying Stations:

Should you get soaked anywhere in the park, there are convenient drying stations where you can purchase a warm air full-body drying!

Ultimate guide to SeaWorld San Diego, including what shows to see, what to do and where to eat. There are also tips on seasonal events & special animal interaction tours. #SeaWorld #SanDiego

Must-See Shows at SeaWorld San Diego

  • One thing you’ll notice that has changed at SeaWorld is they no longer mention the name “Shamu”. The SeaWorld San Diego orca show is now called Orca Encounter. The show is now more about education and learning about these beautiful creatures than pure entertainment. Orca Encounter is a must-see. Even though trainers no longer join the orcas in the water, the show is still very exciting. Seeing enormous killer whales leap so effortlessly is a magnificent sight.
  • Pet’s Rule! animal show with rescued pets is a family favorite.
  • Sea Lions LIVE is fast paced, funny and very popular so make sure you get there early for a good seat!
  • Dolphin Days features the swift and playful dolphins and pilot whales.

Tips for Watching SeaWorld Shows:

  • Remember to pay attention to the “soak zone” areas and protect your belongings.
  • Show times often overlap so I definitely recommend choosing your must-do shows ahead of time.
  • Make sure you get to those shows early (at least 20 minutes, but 30 minutes is even better on busy days) for the best seat.
  • Guests can purchase a Reserved Seating Pass for popular shows, which offers special viewing areas. This is a good idea during peak seasons, as the stadiums do reach capacity.

Ultimate guide to SeaWorld San Diego, including what shows to see, what to do and where to eat. There are also tips on seasonal events & special animal interaction tours. #SeaWorld #SanDiego

Sealife Interactions & Touch Pools

There are several places around the park where guests can interact with sea life. Right inside the front entrance is Explorer’s Reef. With four touch-pools it’s an incredible interactive experience. If you want more intense education or want to get into the water, there are special tours available for purchase.

See my post about the SeaWorld San Diego touch pools for more details!

Ultimate guide to SeaWorld San Diego, including what shows to see, what to do and where to eat. There are also tips on seasonal events & special animal interaction tours. #SeaWorld #SanDiego

Thrill Rides at SeaWorld San Diego

Sea World has always been the place for unique interactions with marine life and now with the addition of several thrill rides, Sea World San Diego is a place for mild and wild thrills as well!

  • Manta is a fast roller coaster. Afterwards you can visit the interactive manta ray exhibit. The rays flop right up next to the ledge and let you “pet” them!
  • Journey to Atlantis is my kid’s favorite; they love that 60-foot drop!
  • Coming this spring is Electric Eel, which will feature inversions and loops in a high speed ride.

SeaWorld Vacation Tip: SeaWorld offers a front-of-the-line access pass called Quick Queue. This priority boarding access can be purchased online (or in the park) for select rides around the park.

Ultimate guide to SeaWorld San Diego, including what shows to see, what to do and where to eat. There are also tips on seasonal events & special animal interaction tours. #SeaWorld #SanDiego

You’ll get a good splash on Atlantis


Ultimate guide to SeaWorld San Diego, including what shows to see, what to do and where to eat. There are also tips on seasonal events & special animal interaction tours. #SeaWorld #SanDiego

Mild Thrills Attractions

In addition to the high thrill rides there are some really fun attractions for younger kids too. With under-the-sea themes like Tentacle Twirl and Sea Dragon Drop, little kids will “get” the pun.

SeaWorld Vacation Tip: If you have younger children who enjoy rides, head for this area first thing in the morning for the shorter queues. You might even get to ride it all by yourself, like my son!

Ultimate guide to SeaWorld San Diego, including what shows to see, what to do and where to eat. There are also tips on seasonal events & special animal interaction tours. #SeaWorld #SanDiego

Octorock

Aquariums at SeaWorld San Diego

  • One of the most amazing attractions is Shark Encounter. After viewing the sharks from above, you’ll journey through a tunnel that transports you right into the shark tank! As sharks float above and around you, you’ll be thrilled and terrified all at the same time!
  • Next door to Shark Encounter, be sure to visit Turtle Reef and see these gentle giants floating inside a floor-to-ceiling tank (and they are usually eating lettuce for lunch!)

Ultimate guide to SeaWorld San Diego, including what shows to see, what to do and where to eat. There are also tips on seasonal events & special animal interaction tours. #SeaWorld #SanDiego

  • The Wild Arctic Flight Simulator ride takes guests on a fantastical journey that lands them on a glacier. Afterwards get close to real arctic animals like polar bear, walrus and beluga whales. This is one of my favorite areas of the park because you can view the belugas both above and below the water. SeaWorld Vacation Tip: You don’t have to take the ride. Choose the non-simulator side and either watch the show or immediately walk through to see the animals.
  • Everyone enjoys the ice wall feature inside Wild Arctic! You can run your hands across it (some guests press a penny into the ice to make a hole).
  • Across from the Wild Arctic area you can visit the Penguin Encounter which is my most favorite place. A long moving sidewalk takes you through the exhibit where you can view nearly 300 penguins in action. I love watching the penguins swimming so quickly underwater and then propelling themselves straight out to land on the rocks…I could watch that all day!!

Ultimate guide to SeaWorld San Diego, including what shows to see, what to do and where to eat. There are also tips on seasonal events & special animal interaction tours. #SeaWorld #SanDiego

Sesame Street Bay of Play at SeaWorld San Diego

Sesame Street Bay of Play is the place to let little ones burn off some energy. There are several family rides aimed at the younger set. Kids will also enjoy ropes to climb, fun house mirrors and slides. Cash-play carnival games and an arcade are here as well. We won a giant giraffe pillow on the ring toss!

Ultimate guide to SeaWorld San Diego, including what shows to see, what to do and where to eat. There are also tips on seasonal events & special animal interaction tours. #SeaWorld #SanDiego

There is a baby and toddler soft-play area as well. Elmo and friends make an appearance at scheduled times for photo opportunities with guests. Bring a bathing suit, towel and water shoes for toddlers and preschoolers to splash in the water-play area.

SeaWorld Vacation Tip: The Sesame Street Bay of Play is a popular area that can get quite congested. Stop here first thing in the morning and the ride lines will be very short.

Ultimate guide to SeaWorld San Diego, including what shows to see, what to do and where to eat. There are also tips on seasonal events & special animal interaction tours. #SeaWorld #SanDiego

Other Fun Things to Do at SeaWorld

Sea World San Diego offers Premier Experiences that put guests right into the water with beluga whales, penguins or dolphins (for an additional fee). You can also get a more in-depth experience or a behind-the-scenes peek at marine life with one of several tours that Sea World offers.

Stop over at the Sea World San Diego website to learn more about their park, educational programs and both day and overnight camps for students and families. Sea World is a place to learn, discover and also have a lot of good family fun!

Ultimate guide to SeaWorld San Diego, including what shows to see, what to do and where to eat. There are also tips on seasonal events & special animal interaction tours. #SeaWorld #SanDiego

Dining at SeaWorld San Diego

SeaWorld has many great choices for dining that will please everyone. The food is always really high quality and delicious. My favorite is Calypso Bay Smokehouse (it’s hard to resist when you smell the barbeque ribs and chicken!) SeaWorld offers a very reasonably priced All-Day Dining Deal for guests, which includes dining at six of their popular restaurants for the entire day you spend at the park.

There is also the unique dining option of eating alongside the orca tank at either Breakfast with Orcas or Dine with Orcas. Both are buffet-type meals with delicious dishes on the menus. My family enjoyed our meal here, read up for all the details and tips: SoCal Guide – SeaWorld San Diego Dine with Orcas

Ultimate guide to SeaWorld San Diego, including what shows to see, what to do and where to eat. There are also tips on seasonal events & special animal interaction tours. #SeaWorld #SanDiego

SeaWorld San Diego Special Events

SeaWorld San Diego Seven Seas Food Festival takes place during the spring each year. This event highlights some special food and drinks sold throughout the park, as well as family-friendly entertainment.

Ultimate guide to SeaWorld San Diego, including what shows to see, what to do and where to eat. There are also tips on seasonal events & special animal interaction tours. #SeaWorld #SanDiego

New in summer 2018 is the Sesame Street Party Parade. Returning is Electric Ocean Light Festival with nighttime shows, lasers and dancing. Fireworks spectacular shows take place on various summer holiday weekends.

Families can enjoy seasonal fall fun at the SeaWorld Halloween Spooktacular. Children may dress in costume and trick-or-treat through the park.

Get into the holiday spirit at SeaWorld San Diego Christmas Celebration. We loved this special event which includes greetings with Santa and elves, holiday food and spirits and fun entertainment.

Ultimate guide to SeaWorld San Diego, including what shows to see, what to do and where to eat. There are also tips on seasonal events & special animal interaction tours. #SeaWorld #SanDiego


Save Money on Your SeaWorld Vacation!

Purchase discount tickets and vacation packages from my affiliate Get Away Today. Use the Promo Code REWRITTEN and receive an extra $10 off any 2-night or longer Southern California package. (Hotel and 2 ticket minimum purchase to qualify for the discount).


Ultimate guide to SeaWorld San Diego, including what shows to see, what to do and where to eat. There are also tips on seasonal events & special animal interaction tours. #SeaWorld #SanDiego #SoCal #California #VisitCalifornia #TravelBlogger #FamilyTravel #TravelwithKids #TravelGuide

Every Picture Tells a Story – Bedhead

 

Bedhead

Early morning and out of bed, ready for a car ride to Disneyland. Bedhead, always bedhead!

Top Tips on What to Do When You’re Pregnant at Disneyland

Don’t think you can’t have a magical time at Disneyland, just because you’re pregnant. But what can you do at Disneyland while pregnant? I’ve been to Disneyland three times while pregnant, once with each of my children. The first time I was 34 weeks along (around 7 1/2 months). The second time I was pregnant 12 weeks (around 3 months). The last baby (twelve years between the first and the last), I was 35 weeks! Each visit offered it’s own unique challenges. There is plenty to do, see, eat and enjoy even while pregnant at Disneyland!

Please note that I use affiliate links in my posts. Clicking through and making a purchase helps me in a small financial way, thank you!

What Disneyland Rides Are Safe During Pregnancy?

On my last trip to Disneyland while 35 weeks pregnant there was another pregnant mama visiting with her family. However instead of standing in line, she was waiting at the exit for them. We struck up a conversation and I let her know that she could safely go on just about any ride in Disneyland, save for just a few. She was so happy to hear since she’d already spent most of the day waiting outside the rides for her family.

There are only a few rides at the Disneyland Resort parks that offer the restriction for expectant moms. These include mostly vigorous thrill rides or rides that may be jerky or jarring to the body (rides like Indiana Jones or Space Mountain). Do not ignore those warnings, even if you are still in your first trimester. The sharp stops and G-force pressure of certain rides can injure your delicate cargo so it’s not worth the risk. Signs posted outside each attraction will have a Disneyland expectant mothers advisory and will detail if pregnant moms should skip.

Pregnant at Disneyland? This guide gives the tips on what to ride & what to skip at the California theme park.

Check these signs posted at each attraction -There will be notes here if expectant moms should not ride.

What to Bring?

In addition to packing your usual Disney Parks day bag, I’ve compiled a list of expectant mom must-haves. Check out this post about what pregnant moms should bring to Disney.

 

These Rides Might Be Awkward

Even if a ride or attraction is okay for expectant moms, you might find that navigating your 8-month pregnant belly into some of these might be a challenge.

  • The Finding Nemo Submarines are a smooth ride that is safe for expectant moms. However you’ll have to climb down and up a steep spiral staircase and sit in a narrow flip-down chair in a tight space.
  • Over in Fantasyland there are many dark rides that are just fine for expectant moms but several have small vehicles that may prove challenging to get into. If riding Casey Jr. Circus Train, opt for an open car instead of a caged vehicle. With the Storybook Land Canal Boats you might have difficulty balancing to get in and out of the boat.
  • Davy Crockett’s Explorer Canoes may also offer challenges getting in and out of the canoe. Be careful exerting yourself rowing the oar. Plus you’ll be un-shaded and it gets hot out there on the water.
  • The Astro Orbitor is safe to ride but the high sides and low seats are tough to get in and out of without help.

Pregnant at Disneyland? This guide gives the tips on what to ride & what to skip at the California theme park.

Keep Up the Healthy Eating

Continue to eat plenty of fruits and veggies (don’t forget to pack your prenatal vitamins!) Limit your sodium intake and stay well hydrated to reduce swelling in your feet and legs. You can also bring in your own water bottles and snacks to make sure you are getting the healthy and nutritious food you (and your baby) need. For more ideas on eating healthy at Disneyland parks, see this post on How to Eat Healthfully at Disneyland (and Still Treat Yourself!).


Save Money on Your Disney Vacation!

Purchase discount Disneyland and Walt Disney World tickets and vacation packages from my affiliate Get Away Today.

Use the Promo Code REWRITTEN and receive an extra $10 off any 2-night or longer Southern California package. (Hotel and 2 ticket minimum purchase to qualify for the discount).


Pregnant at Disneyland? This guide gives the tips on what to ride & what to skip at the California theme park.

Photo Credit: Jeff Holz

Relax and Rest

When I visited Disneyland in the later months of my pregnancy, I did a bit more resting in the shade with my feet on a bench instead of standing in queues.  There are plenty of places you can rest your swollen feet and still enjoy the Parks.

  • Find a shady spot and a bench to yourself. Consider bringing a small pillow to set at your back or to sit on to make yourself more comfortable.
  • Stake out a great seat on the parade route ahead of time and save places for your family to join you later.
  • A grand circle tour on the Disneyland Railroad offers almost 20 minutes of rest and fresh air along with a relaxing tour around Disneyland Park.
  • Pull up a chair and enjoy the cool air that blows across the waters of the Rivers of America on the Mark Twain Riverboat.
  • Sit in the shade of Tomorrowland Terrace to eat lunchand possibly have your young ones participate at the Jedi Training Academy show.
  • Mickey and the Magical Map offers bench seating in the shade and a live musical stage show.
  • I enjoyed resting on a bench on the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail while the kids climbed the ropes and rock climbed.

Pregnant at Disneyland? This guide gives the tips on what to ride & what to skip at the California theme park.

Feeling Nauseated?

That first trimester is a doozy. Throw in a few too many spins on the Mad Tea Party and you might be feeling nauseated. Check out my post about dealing with motion sickness at Disney.

Dress For Your Growing Body

  • Wear comfortable shoes and consider taking a second pair to switch into if you are prone to swelling. I like to start off with tennis shoes and switch over to well-cushioned sandals in the evening.
  • Dress in layers so if you get hot or chilled you can add or remove layers as needed.
  • Ditch the heavy purse and pack light with a small backpack or tote that you can put on and take off easily. Or consider renting a locker to store your items until you need them.
  • For more guidance on what to wear, see Maternity Fashion – How to Look Fabulous on a Tight Budget.


Seek Air-Conditioned Attractions

Keep rested inside by finding attractions that combine sitting along with cool air.

  • Soak in a little history (and air conditioning) inside The Disneyland Story presenting Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln.
  • Enchanted Tiki Room is a whimsical place with cushioned benches…and you can bring in a snack!
  • Oh yes, the looping music is worth 15-minutes inside It’s a Small World! You might want to ride it twice!
  • If you have little ones, get there early for the Disney Junior – Live on Stage! show. There are benches across the back of the theater (otherwise you’ll have to sit on the carpet).
  • 60-minutes of pure amazement in cushy theater chairs – Frozen – Live at the Hyperion is a can’t miss show.
  • Plenty of sit-down restaurants have both outdoor and indoor dining that gives you both a break and a healthy meal.
What can you do at Disneyland when you're pregnant?

Skip the Autopia, you don’t want to get rear-ended.

Bathroom Breaks

If little miss or mister is frequently doing the hot-diggety-dog dance on your bladder, consider reviewing a Park map online before your trip. Always take a potty break before getting on a ride (you don’t want to get stuck when the urge strikes!)

Listen To Your Body

Now is not the time to push your vacation to the limits. Pregnancy can be very hard on your body and with exhaustion and discomfort already at the max, there is no need to exacerbate any issues.

  • Take a break inside the First Aid station if you feel uncomfortable or in pain. First Aid can help you out and offer a place to lay down for a while.
  • If you’re exhausted, go back to your hotel room for a refreshing swim or to take a nap.
  • Get plenty of sleep even if that means going to bed while everyone else in your group is still up late watching the fireworks.
  • If you are truly miserable and can’t walk, consider renting a wheelchair or motorized scooter in the Park to minimize the amount of time you are on your feet.
  • Look forward to your next trip when your little one will be with you to enjoy it!

If you are new to my blog, please consider subscribing to my newsletter so you don’t miss any posts. Thanks for stopping by!

Read more about being pregnant at Disneyland on my posts at Traveling Mom.


CLICK THE IMAGE TO RECEIVE YOUR FREE DISNEY VACATION PLANNING VIDEO


Pregnant at Disneyland? This guide gives the tips on what to ride & what to skip at the California theme park.


Eat at Home and Save – DIY Bisquick Coffee Cake

Over the weekend, I decided to whip up a coffee cake for the kids to have at breakfast. This coffee cake was one of the first things I remember making when I was learning how to cook. My dad would frequently encourage me to bake one *wink*. It’s a quick and inexpensive recipe that calls for ingredients you probably already have…my favorite kind of recipe!

DIY Bisquick - Double Streusel Coffee Cake {Saving Up for Disney}

I’ve posted before about making your own “Bisquick”-type mix for making pancakes, waffles and biscuits. My kids love pancakes…especially when I make them Mickey-shaped! Boxed Bisquick in the stores is pricey. It’s quick, easy and cheap to make it yourself at home, read on!

DIY Bisquick recipe

There are dozens of variations for coffee cake using Bisquick on the Betty Crocker website.  I made the double-streusel version, adding chopped walnuts in the middle.

DIY Bisquick - Double Streusel Coffee Cake {Saving Up for Disney}


Before you make the coffee cake, you’ll need a batch of your “bisquick”.

Here is the quick and easy DIY recipe. I store it in a big zip lock bag to have on hand for quick pizza dough, pancakes, waffles and drop-biscuits.

DIY “Bisquick”

  • 6 cups All-purpose Flour
  • 3 Tablespoons Baking Powder
  • 1 Tablespoon Baking Soda
  • 3 Tablespoons Sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon Salt
  • 1 cup Vegetable Shortening

Use a fork or the whisk attachment on your mixer to cut in the shortening until the mixture is a fine crumb. Use in place of Bisquick in your recipes!


DIY Bisquick - Double Streusel Coffee Cake {Saving Up for Disney}

Betty Crocker Double-Streusel Coffee Cake

Streusel –

  • 2/3 cup Bisquick mix
  • 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3 Tbsp cold butter or margarine

Coffee Cake-

  • 2 cups Bisquick mix
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 egg
Optional – 
  • Chopped walnuts or pecans
  1. Heat oven to 375°F. Spray bottom and side of 9-inch round cake pan with cooking spray.
  2. In small bowl, mix 2/3 cup Bisquick mix, the brown sugar and cinnamon. Cut in butter, using pastry blender (or pulling 2 table knives through ingredients in opposite directions), until crumbly; set aside.
  3. In medium bowl, stir coffee cake ingredients until blended. Spread about 1 cup of the batter in pan.
  4. Sprinkle with about 3/4 cup of the streusel. Add the optional chopped nuts at this time, if desired.
  5. Drop remaining batter over top of streusel; spread carefully over streusel.
  6. Sprinkle remaining streusel over top.
  7. Bake 20 to 24 minutes or until golden brown. Let stand 30 minutes before serving. Serve warm or cool.

 

DIY Bisquick - Double Streusel Coffee Cake {Saving Up for Disney}

I had a little “helper” who was really anxious to know when the cake was going to be ready to eat!

I was excited to taste it and cut into the cake a bit early so my piece was too hot and fell apart…oops! It set together much better the next day after I’d let it rest. So nice to make a special dish using ingredients that I had on hand. Using my own “Bisquick”, this was also very budget-friendly!

Enjoy your treat with a cup of coffee like my dad used to do or with a straight-up glass of ice cold milk like my kids!

DIY Bisquick - Double Streusel Coffee Cake {Saving Up for Disney}

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Everything You Need to Know About Disneyland Ride Height Requirements

One of the major Disneyland rites of passage is when a child finally hits the height requirement for a particular ride! Did you know that a majority of rides don’t have any height requirements making Disneyland a perfect place for everyone to enjoy, despite their age or stature. But there are certain Disneyland height restrictions you should be aware of before your trip.

All About Disneyland Height Requirements

Not quite tall enough for Soarin’

Disneyland Ride Height Requirements

Is your child tall enough to ride all of the Disneyland attractions? How tall do you need to be to go on ALL of the Disneyland rides? How will you know which Disneyland rides have restrictions?

There’s more to know than JUST height! Follow these tips about Disneyland ride height requirements so you’re prepared in advance.

Please note that I use affiliate links in my posts. Clicking through and making a purchase helps me in a small financial way, thank you!


CLICK THE IMAGE TO RECEIVE A FREE DISNEY VACATION PLANNING VIDEO


Why Are There Height Restrictions at Disneyland?

Bottom Line: Height requirements are in place at the Disney parks to keep your children safe.

There is a reason why the requirements are in place. It might not make sense to you why you can bring an infant onto Toy Story Midway Mania (which has no height restriction) but why you have to be 32″ to go on Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters. Just know that Disney has those restrictions for a reason. There’s no getting around it. If you’re child isn’t tall enough, the Disneyland Cast Members aren’t going to let them ride.

If your child isn’t tall enough for a handful of attractions, there are still plenty of rides that they can go on (many that don’t have restrictions at all!)

Disneyland Height Requirements

Step-by-Step Guide To Pre-Vacation Height Planning

1. Measure at home with the shoes that your child will be wearing to the park. Rest back against a flat wall, heels completely to the wall for the most accurate height reading. Don’t stretch, tip-toe or raise your chin!

What if your child is SO close to the requirement? If we’re talking centimeters, have your child wear tennis shoes with a thicker sole instead of flat sandals.

2. Scan the list of height requirements and take note of what your children will or will not be able to ride.

Disneyland Height Requirements

3. Let your kids know in advance what rides they will be able to go on and which ones they aren’t tall enough for. You don’t want any disappointed thrill seekers on their Disney day when they discover that they miss the height requirement for Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout! by an inch!


Save Money on Your Disneyland Vacation!

Purchase discount Disneyland tickets and vacation packages from my affiliate Get Away Today.

Use the Promo Code REWRITTEN and receive an extra $10 off any 2-night or longer Southern California package. (Hotel and 2 ticket minimum purchase to qualify for the discount).

https://www.getawaytoday.com/?referrerid=7529


Exceptions to the Height Requirements

  • There are some rides that allow guests that don’t meet the height requirement to ride with a taller guest.
  • Children under 7 years old must ride with a person 14 years or older, even if they meet the height requirement!

Not sure if your child is tall enough to ride certain Disneyland attractions? There's more to know than JUST height! Follow these tips about Disneyland ride height requirements so you'll know before your California vacation. #Disneyland

Checking for Height at Disneyland

Outside each attraction there will be a sign. It will briefly explain the attraction and offer guidelines for guests. This includes height and age restrictions as well as wheelchair transfer info. There may be explanations on the signs for attractions that may cause discomfort to those who are pregnant or have back issues.

Near this signage you’ll find the height measure. The measurement bar MUST touch your child’s head (not just their hair!) in order to pass. Your child cannot be able to walk underneath the sign, their head needs to reach or exceed the measurement bar.

Not sure if your child is tall enough to ride certain Disneyland attractions? There's more to know than JUST height! Follow these tips about Disneyland ride height requirements so you'll know before your California vacation. #Disneyland

Not sure if your child is tall enough to ride certain Disneyland attractions? There's more to know than JUST height! Follow these tips about Disneyland ride height requirements so you'll know before your California vacation. #Disneyland

A Cast Member stationed at the front of each attraction will check your child at the beginning of each ride. Occasionally another Cast member will check again further down the line. Cast Members are very careful about checking height because the safety of your children is a high priority.

Disneyland height requirements - Does your child measure up?

Double checking my preschooler’s height before riding Radiator Springs Racers

Your Child Is Tall Enough – But Are They Ready to Ride?

So your child passes the test – they are tall enough to ride! But is the attraction appropriate for your child? Some rides might be too fast, loud or scary for your kid. And only you will know this information. If you have a child who is tall enough for the attractions but you aren’t sure it’s appropriate for them, I suggest doing your pre-vacation research. Read on the Disneyland website about each of the rides and even consider watching YouTube videos of the rides to see if it will be a good fit for your kid.

If you find that your child is scared or nervous about certain rides at Disneyland, consider reading the tips on this post 5 Helpful Tips for Calming Scared and Anxious Kids at Disney.


Not sure if your child is tall enough to ride certain Disneyland attractions? There's more to know than JUST height! Follow these tips about Disneyland ride height requirements so you'll know before your California vacation. #Disneyland

What Rides at Disneyland Don’t Have ANY Height Restrictions?

There are A LOT of rides at Disneyland parks that don’t have height requirements. You can check the list of attractions, or simply look at the signage at the attraction. There are some that might surprise you, like Mad Tea Party and Astro Orbitor.

Where to Find the List of Disneyland Height Requirements

Disneyland Attractions – This list is interactive and includes links to all the rides with a thumbnail photo next to each. The height requirement (or lack of requirement) is noted in the description of each attraction.

Disneyland Attraction Height Requirements – This list shows restrictions by height.

Looking for things to do once you get into line? Check out this list of 12 Things to Do Waiting in Line at Disney Parks.

Not sure if your child is tall enough to ride certain Disneyland attractions? There's more to know than JUST height! Follow these tips about Disneyland ride height requirements so you'll know before your California vacation. #Disneyland


Fix it, don’t toss it!! – How to Fix Broken Make-up

When I returned from vacation last month I was so disappointed to see that my pressed bronzing powder had shattered in my checked luggage. I figured it was a lost cause until I came across a Pinterest link that showed broken powder getting “fixed” back into a solid. I had nothing to lose so I thought I’d give it a try and hey, it worked!

Don't toss it!! Fix your broken make-up {Tutorial}

Don't toss it! Fix your broken make-up {Tutorial}

The pressed powder isn’t as smooth as it was before getting broken but I think it will smooth out with use. The color also seems a bit more intense or perhaps it picks up more on the brush? But in any case, I’m using less powder. Otherwise it’s working the same as it did before. This fix was a hit!

Don't toss it! Fix your broken make-up {Tutorial}

Good as new!

Let me know how it works out for you! Leave me a comment below and please sign up to follow this blog, thanks!

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SoCal Guide – What to Do, See and Eat at Knott’s Berry Farm

Knott’s Berry Farm

My family was supplied Knott’s Berry Farm park tickets to facilitate this post. Please note that this post contains affiliate links. Clicking through and making a purchase helps me in a small financial way, thank you!

Flying around on the Waveswinger. The bandit holdup on the Calico Railroad. Boysenberry everything! My Dad whooping it up on the Dragon Swing. The Ghost Town buildings. Getting splashed on the Timber Mountain Log Ride.

And not be missed: The biscuits and fried chicken at Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant! After all, the restaurant is what started the whole place. If you don’t know the history behind Knott’s Berry Farm this is fascinating story (that precedes Disneyland). Did you know that all boysenberries in the world can trace their roots to Knott’s Berry Farm?

Knott's Berry Farm - Fiesta Village

As a kid I always felt like I was betraying my love of Disneyland by also loving Knott’s but I can appreciate now that these are actually two very different places. I can’t compare them any more than I could compare my children to each other, they each have a different feel.

Knott's Berry Farm

I had been to Knott’s Berry Farm often as a child and then only returned as an adult with my boys about 7 years ago. There were some quality control issues (unkept, dirty, etc) at the time as well as it being overrun by rowdy teenagers. But all of those former problems seemed to have improved greatly when my family and I went last summer. Knott’s was clean, the rides were all in good working order, employee attitudes seemed more upbeat and they had many new rides. Lots of new coasters have popped up around the park over the years. My young thrill-seekers love them but I find it to be somewhat disjointed. Hard to get into the feel of the place (Wild West/Boardwalk/Mexican Village) when coasters are whizzing overhead!

Knott's Berry Farm


Knott’s Ghost Town

Knott’s Berry Farm started off as an “amusement park” when Mr. Knott brought in old buildings from actual abandoned towns. I think that the Ghost Town is much smaller than I remember but they have probably moved things out over time to make way for all the big coasters. We always make a stop at the Blacksmith and watch him making horseshoes, have a chat with Sad Eye Joe and pump water from the well. The Old School House is a favorite of mine… visions of Laura Ingalls Wilder dancing through my head!

Old School House - Knott's Berry Farm

Entertainment at Knott’s can be hit or miss. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the Native American dancers. The Calico Saloon show we watched last time was energetic however the room was lacking in chairs (though there was plenty of space) and it was stifling hot and without air conditioning (terrible in August!). We watched the Fool’s Gold Stunt Show in an open-air theater that featured some very cool seating (inside covered wagons). The show was a bit corny but the young boys in the audience particularly liked it!

 

Krazy Kirk and the Hillbillies (who formerly performed under the name Billy Hill and the Hillbillies at the Golden Horseshoe at Disneyland) are now performing at Knott’s. I can’t wait to see them again! They were always a must-see for me at Disneyland.

 

I always thought the figures placed around Knott’s to be a quirky and interesting touch. We have taken tons of photos with these characters over the years. My mom has pictures of me at 3 years old sitting on the benches with these figures. As you can see my son and husband were really enjoying playing it up with these “ladies”.


Camp Snoopy at Knott’s Berry Farm

 

Camp Snoopy has had some recent remodeling and new rides added since we visited last year. When we return to Knott’s later this month, I’ll update with a review on these rides for little ones and the newly revamped area. Camp Snoopy is one of my favorite spots in Knott’s.

Knott's Berry Farm

My guy was delighted with the Rocky Mountain Trucking Company on our last visit as you can see!

 

 

 


Knott’s Berry Farm Thrill Rides

THIS is my favorite picture, though:

Sidewider - Knott's Berry Farm

This photo of my son and stepdaughter riding the Sidewinder last year sits on my desk and never fails to put a smile on my face. She is looking ahead with such a huge smile and he is screaming and clinging on for dear life…it’s as if their normal personalities were “side-winded” and switched during the ride!

There is a picture of me on the Xcelerator from over 10 years ago that I will not be sharing. Let’s just say that my son’s about-to-die face is put to shame with my white-knuckled picture from Xcelerator!

Xcelerator at Knott's Berry Farm

My kids had no problem with the Xcelerator though, they wanted to ride it again! I’m not a roller coaster gal due to motion sickness issues so I’d much prefer to sit on the sidelines and take pictures. My kids and husband were all about the thrill rides!


What to Eat at Knott’s Berry Farm

Lunch or dinner at Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant is a MUST. Seriously, the best fried chicken ever! The entire restaurant has recently been remodeled and looks beautiful inside and out. Purchase the chicken dinner and you’ll receive handmade biscuits, side salad, choice of cabbage or cherry rhubarb, three pieces of fried chicken and mashed potatoes smothered with gravy. And for dessert, your choice of boysenberry pie or boysenberry sherbet. Definitely a large enough meal to share (because you’ll want to leave room for that boysenberry pie!)

Knott’s Vacation Tip: Make a meal reservation for the restaurant if you want to eat at the popular dinner time. Otherwise if you show up right when the restaurant opens, you should be able to grab a seat without waiting too long.


Special Events

Knott’s Berry Farm hosts several special events throughout the year.

Boysenberry Festival – Springtime is kicked off with their popular Boysenberry Festival. All in celebration of the little berry that started Knott’s farm to fame, there are 75+ boysenberry-inspired dishes to taste. There’s also a wine and beer tasting garden for the grown ups. Add in a craft fair and plenty of live entertainment and you can’t go wrong with this special event.

Knott’s Scary Farm – 

Knott’s Merry Farm – 


Save Money on Your Knott’s Berry Farm Vacation!

Purchase discount tickets and vacation packages from my affiliate Get Away Today. Use the Promo Code REWRITTEN and receive an extra $10 off any 2-night or longer Southern California package. (Hotel and 2 ticket minimum purchase to qualify for the discount).


 

Click the link if you’re looking for more things to do in the Southern California area, besides Disneyland.

 

Have you ever been to Knott’s Berry Farm? What’s your favorite thing to do there?

 

 

 

DIY Recipe for Spaghetti Factory’s Creamy Pesto Salad Dressing

I adore The Old Spaghetti Factory, it’s my favorite restaurant! Unfortunately there isn’t a restaurant very close to me so it’s been relegated as one of those places we only visit every few years. What do I do when I need a big plate of spaghetti mizithra or a salad with their delicious creamy pesto dressing? Well, I do the next best thing to going out to eat…I make it myself at home! The Spaghetti Factory’s Creamy Pesto Salad Dressing will make you crave a big plate of greens.

DIY Creamy Pesto Salad Dressing (Old Spaghetti Factory recipe)  - My favorite dressing, and so easy to make at home!!

I made several jars of this dressing for my birthday party last weekend. I created a salad bar with lots of different toppings. This dressing was by far the hit of the evening and we were scraping the bottom of the jar by the end of the night! Fortunately the container of buttermilk I bought was enough for me to make this recipe three times.

DIY Creamy Pesto Salad Dressing (Old Spaghetti Factory recipe)  - My favorite dressing, and so easy to make at home!!

Everyone at my party was requesting the recipe, so here it is for your dining pleasure!


Gather your ingredients!

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DIY Creamy Pesto Salad Dressing

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 1/4 cups low-fat buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp dried basil (I rub it between my palms to break up and release the aroma)
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder (or one 1/2 tsp of chopped garlic for a stronger garlic flavor)
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

Combine all ingredients in a bowl with a whisk until smooth and creamy. I put mine into a shaker cup with a wire ball to mix and it was perfect (it even has a pouring spout in the lid!). For making multiple batches try mixing the ingredients in your blender.

Refrigerate for one hour to help the flavors blend. Dressing thickens overnight. Serve over salad or as a dip. The recipe made slightly more than what fit in this mason jar.

DIY Creamy Pesto Salad Dressing (Old Spaghetti Factory recipe)  - My favorite dressing, and so easy to make at home!!


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How Disney Helped Me Deal with the Loss of My Father

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Welcome to those of you joining me from Heidi’s Head and those of you just hopping aboard. I am the 4th stop on our Magical Blogorail.


The title of this article is different, I know. How Disney Helped Me Deal with the Loss of My Father. During times of grief and sorrow, watching Disney movies, listening to soundtracks or taking a trip to the “Happiest Place on Earth” might seem atypical.

To everything there is a season”  – Ecclisiastes 3 is a beloved Bible verse because it pretty much sums up life in a nutshell! There is a time for everything, including A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance”.  And in my case, laughing helped with the mourning.

How exactly did Disney help me deal with the loss of my father? Through Disney movie quotes (I’ve placed some of my most touching favorites throughout this article). By taking one final trip together with him as a family. By looking at old photos of us at Disneyland. And finally by going to Disneyland again after my father had passed and recalling my favorite memories throughout the years.


“All it takes is faith and trust” – Peter Pan

Five years ago my family was hit with the news that my dad had terminal cancer. The renal cancer had been in his kidney and five years prior to this diagnosis, he’d had the kidney removed. But there it was… the kidney was long gone but the cancer had gotten into his blood stream and attached itself to spots on his spine and ribs. The cancer was small at the time, only the size of a pencil dot on a piece of paper. But it needed to be treated immediately and his doctors put him on a daily radiation medication. Dad was given a diagnosis of one year left to live.

Disneyland 2008

Disneyland 2008

In the summer of 2009, my mom and I were planning our first trip to Walt Disney World in Florida. We immediately dropped all plans for a cross-country trip. Our first thought as a family was to focus on making memories for Dad and his young grandsons and we wanted to take a family trip to Disneyland. Disneyland has always been our favorite weekend vacation spot and we’d been together dozens of times over the years. San Diego to Anaheim is a short trip for us (only about 90 minutes north). We planned on staying overnight at the Paradise Pier Hotel at the Disneyland Resort and really making a nice weekend of it.

Dinner at Goofy's Kitchen

August 2008

We booked several concierge rooms and on the first day we swam, ate dinner at Goofy’s Kitchen and then watched the fireworks over Disneyland from the hotel rooftop. The next day we rented my dad a motorized chair to ride through the Parks. My dad had only been on his radiation medications for a few weeks but they were already taking a toll and he was tired and had blisters on his feet. He kept up though, resisting taking a mid-day nap and rode all his old favorites.

Even though my dad had been to Disneyland the very first year it opened in 1955, he had never had his own pair of Mouse Ears. We bought him a pair, embroidered with “Grandpa” on the back. As you can see by his photo, he was delighted with them!

You are never too old for your first pair of Mouse Ears!

August 2008

Today’s special moments are tomorrow’s memories – Genie, Aladdin

Taking that last trip with him and seeing the joy light up for him at going down Main Street USA, riding Space Mountain, holding his grandson on his lap during It’s a Small World and at watching the fireworks over Sleeping Beauty Castle, those were all priceless memories for us. We knew during that last trip that he’d never be able to come again and were thankful for this final visit with him.


“The only thing predictable about life is its unpredictability.” – Remy, Ratatouille

My dad fought, not just for the one year sentence the doctors had given him, but for five years after his initial diagnosis (we believe it was actually five years to the day!). His cancerous spots stabilized for four years and only in the final year did the doctor give him the news that the cancer was no longer responding to the treatment and that they wouldn’t be able to continue.

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October 2013

“Don’t think and don’t worry. When the times comes, you’ll know what to do.”  – Helen Parr, The Incredibles

My mom and I discussed almost daily what was going to happen in the final days. Dad had stopped eating just after Christmas and was surviving only on small sips from protein shakes, certainly not enough to live on for very long. He continued to hang on for months, body diminishing, strength declining but steadfast. We talked to the children about what was going on.

Grandpa wasn’t just a far-off relative. My eldest son and I lived with my parents for five years after my divorce and even when I remarried, my new home was only minutes from my parent’s house. My mom and dad took care of my children during the day while I worked. For my son in particular, watching my dad drift away slowly was extremely hard. There were many questions, most of which I couldn’t answer. I wanted to know myself….what was going to happen?

Marlin: “I promised him I’d never let anything happen to him.” – Dory: “That’s a funny thing to promise.” –Finding Nemo


My dad passed away on April 5th, 2014. As he had one foot on Earth and another in Heaven, my mom said that he was staring up at the ceiling. She asked him what he was looking at and he told her, “Space”.  It was such a beautiful thought to me, that he could already see the beauty of Heaven from where he lay.

“To Infinity…and Beyond!” – Buzz Lightyear

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The memorial was perfect. I made a collage of pictures with my dad through the years, including some of him at Disneyland with us when we were younger and with his Mouse Ears on. My younger cousins loved seeing my dad acting so silly and enjoying himself at his favorite place.


Exactly one month after he passed, my husband, children and I went to Disneyland for the day. The entire Park reminded me of Dad. We’d gone every year as a family, he loved it. He especially loved to pretend that he and my mom were taking us to school but then would take us to Disneyland instead!

My dad was a detailed person (he was a police detective for the San Diego Sheriff’s Department for almost 30 years) so he pointed out the little things that everyone else rushed past. Like the beautiful displays in the windows on Main Street, how the landscapers used edible foods in the planter beds, the real gold accents on Sleeping Beauty’s Castle and the Evil Queen peeking from behind the curtains in Fantasyland.

“No matter how your heart is grieving, if you keep on believing, the dream that you wish will come true.” – Cinderella

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Each time we went to Disneyland Dad told us about the rides and attractions of the past. We got to the Park early and stayed until it closed. He would hide in the caves on (then called) Tom Sawyer’s Island to jump out and scare us. But when I cried on The Haunted Mansion he slipped me quickly out an emergency exit. Dad wanted to ride each thrill ride during the day and again at night because he was certain that Big Thunder Mountain Railroad was sped up at night!

My favorite Disneyland memory about my dad was on The Matterhorn…he insisted on riding in the front and would call out, “Lean to the Left! Lean to the Right” because he swore we could get the bobsleds to go faster if we leaned into the curves! You can be certain that when I rode the bobsleds on this last trip I had a smile on my face and tears in my eyes when I leaned into the curves.

“You know that place between sleep and awake? That place where you still remember dreaming? That’s where I’ll always love you… That’s where I’ll be waiting.” – Peter Pan

Dad walking with my kids, Disneyland 2005.


 Thank you for joining me today. Your next stop on the Magical Blogorail Loop is Journeys from a Follower.

Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail should you happen to have to make a stop along the way and want to reboard:

1st Stop ~ My Dreams of Disney – How Disney Helped My Grief

2nd Stop ~ In the Mouse House – Running the Walt Disney World Marathon for Charity

3rd Stop ~ Heidi’s Head – How Disney Helps in Healing

4th Stop ~ Saving Up for Disney – How Disney Helped Me Deal with the Loss of My Father

Final Stop ~ Journeys from a Follower – How Disney Helped Through My Own Life

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Birthday Party on a Budget – Make it Totally Fabulous on the Cheap!

I love to host birthday parties! The cake, the balloons, the coordinating table settings, the treat bags…I love planning it all. What I don’t like is spending a ton of money on a few hour celebration! I have dozens of ideas on how to host a fantastic birthday party on a budget. When planning a birthday party this is my intent:

  • I want the focus to be on the birthday celebrant.
  • I want my party guests to have a memorably good time.
  • I want to show my creative side with tasteful decor and thoughtful party favors.
  • But ultimately, I want it to be cheap!

I’ve included ideas depending upon how much you’d like to spend, how much time you have and how creative you’d like to get. Keep in mind, the more time you invest and the more creative you are, the less money you’ll have to spend! Keep reading for how to host a birthday party on a budget!

Please note that this post contains affiliate links. Clicking through will help me in a small financial way, thank you!

TONS of birthday party on a budget ideas! Dozens of create theme, decorations and food ideas for all types of parties.

10 Things to Consider When Planning a Birthday Party on a Budget

    1. Party Location
    2. Choosing a Theme
    3. Guest List
    4. Invitations
    5. Cake
    6. Party Favors
    7. Decor
    8. Table settings
    9. Food
    10. Games and Entertainment


1. Choosing the Best Party Location 

Choosing the party location first will determine the rest of your party, in relation to party size, decorations and budget. If you are planning a birthday party on a budget this is obviously not the time to book an ice skating rink or take your child’s entire class to the movies!

  • The best place to look first is hosting at your own home, backyard or clubhouse.
  • If you don’t have a location and booking a venue is a must, ask friends and family first if you can “borrow” their home or yard.
  • Local parks are free to host a party and if the weather is good, that can be your best bet. Some parks will have a clubhouse or gazebo at an additional cost.
  • If hosting outside, have an alternate location or risk having to cancel. Our kid’s birthdays are in November, December and March. We often get rained out and require an alternate inside location in case of rain (like Grandma’s house!).
TONS of birthday party on a budget ideas! Dozens of create theme, decorations and food ideas for all types of parties.

We got rained out and had to move the party inside for her 8th birthday.

Making a birthday party more like a play date can really take some pressure off the budget too. I hosted a Disney Preschool Playdate and offering a few snacks, cupcakes and juice was just perfect for these little ones.


2. Choosing a Theme for Your Party

Having a theme allows you to pinpoint the feel of the party. A theme is also a cheap way to get more bang for your buck! Requesting that party guests wear a costume or dress in the theme allows them to be more invested in the party. Here are a few fun theme ideas that translate into budget-friendly parties!

  • Doughnut theme- Invite party guests to wear their pajamas for a morning brunch-time party. Serve doughnuts, chocolate milk and juice.
  • Water theme – Bring your bathing suit and towel. Either go swimming, play in the sprinklers or (if there is no water!) have a beach theme inside with inflatable beach balls to toss around.
  • Craft theme – Request that party guests bring clean recycled items, like cardboard boxes and metal cans. Check out Pinterest for inexpensive ideas on making cool crafts with the addition of wrapping paper, glue, and scrap ribbons.
  • Movie Night theme – Is there a popular movie being released on Netflix or BluRay? Have guests bring a pillow and blanket, then host a movie night with popcorn and the feature film.
TONS of birthday party on a budget ideas! Dozens of create theme, decorations and food ideas for all types of parties.

A Sesame Street themed party required Cookie Monster cupcakes!

My kids love coming up with cool themes. In the last few years, I’ve created simple budget-friendly themes like Mickey in the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Nautical and Basketball.

Ask your child for input on the theme and then work with them to find perfect details that can be recreated for the party. My son was really into the Seven Dwarves Mine Train at Magic Kingdom so I created a very simple theme around that Disney attraction. Kids can really be the catalysis for some fun and creative ideas! Check out his Mine Train party ideas.

See more details on creating a Sorcerer’s Apprentice party!

TONS of birthday party on a budget ideas! Dozens of create theme, decorations and food ideas for all types of parties.

3. Invitations & Guests

The invitation really sets the theme in my book. Once you’ve chosen the theme, picking the invite is a fun way to bring that theme to life!

  • Make your invites with scrapbook paper and stickers.
  • Create your own invitations in Canva and then print them at home on my HP printer (love HP Instant Ink and HP Card & Invitation Kit!)
  • I love the invites from Tiny Prints with the photos on them and if you buy in quantity they are only about a dollar each.
  • Save a stamp and buy invitations that can be emailed, like te beautiful ones from Paperless Post. I love the freebie options too, including these adorable Disney-themed invites. There is a way you can track RSVPs as well, which is handy if you are too busy to call and follow up with your guests.


Tips for Creating a Guest List

Narrowing down the guest list can be a challenge. Every child wants to invite all the kids in class to their parties but with budget and space restrictions, this isn’t always possible. If you’d like to have a more elaborate party, keep the guest list to under 5. If you want to invite the whole group, keep the celebration simple with cake and punch.

For my son’s Mickey and the Roadster Racers we hosted after school at the park. It was low key with just a few friends. And it was exactly what my son wanted – just to play at the park with his friends! Click for more Mickey and the Roadster Racers party ideas, including free printables.

TONS of birthday party on a budget ideas! Dozens of create theme, decorations and food ideas for all types of parties.

4. Birthday Cake or Cupcakes

Cake is a birthday party must-have! Checking out the cake at a birthday party is my preschooler’s favorite. Putting a good amount of budget towards a special birthday cake can be worth it. Here are a few ways to save on the expense.

Make It Yourself From Scratch or a Boxed Mix

I have made many-a-boxed-cake in my party days and believe me, nobody turns them down! I recommend following Tidy Mom’s tip on doctoring up a boxed mix. You could get canned frosting or whip up your own quite cheaply with a bag of powdered sugar. I usually go for plain vanilla or a cream cheese frosting and add gel food coloring to decorate with.

Happy Birthday to Me! - Budget ideas for Birthday Parties on the Cheap (sure to make you smile!)

Happy Birthday to you! A simply sweet smiley face.

No need to get fancy – For the pink and green cupcakes below I just divided a tub of white store-bought frosting and colored it with gel food coloring. Simple but bright and colorful!

TONS of birthday party on a budget ideas! Dozens of create theme, decorations and food ideas for all types of parties.


Buy Cake Premade from the Store

Sometimes you simply don’t have the time to be baking and store-bought is the way to go. I bought these cupcakes from the grocery store for less than 70 cents each and they were delicious. You could certainly dress these up with some store-bought sprinkles, fondant toppers or royal icing flowers but I kept it simple for an adult party.

Tips for hosting a party on a budget

Add Unique Details

I took a boxed white cake mix and designed this amazing rainbow cake for my baby’s first birthday, which had an It’s a Small World theme. I was as easy as dividing the batter into separate bowls, adding gel food coloring in a variety of colors and then plopping a cupful of batter one color at a time on top of each other into the cake pans. Ultimate impact for no extra cost!

DIY rainbow cake from a boxed mix!

For my stepdaughter’s 6th birthday, she loved Tinkerbell. I simply baked her cake in a Pyrex bowl to create a little “grassy” hilltop and then added plastic play figures to the top. See what toys you have that you could clean up to use for decoration.

Tips on planning a birthday on a budget!

My son made the request for this birthday cake: Lego Indiana Jones and Lego Darth Vader playing soccer. Okaaayy…here it is! I added the Lego Stormtrooper at goalie for good measure. He was thrilled to see his idea come to life!

Darth Vader playing soccer with Indiana Jones (and a Stormtrooper goalie!). Click through for budget birthday ideas.

5. Party Favors for Guests

I’m not big on party favors but kids LOVE them. I like to choose favors that fit my party theme. However they also should be fun, practical items that won’t end up at the bottom of the toy box (ie: trash). Aim for quality over quantity. Shop early and with your theme in mind to find the best bargains. Here are a few creative party favor ideas:

Home-baked Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing

This one is not going to cost you too much but these cookies are definitely time consuming. I pace myself over several days when I make these, baking the cookies one day, icing another day and adding details on a third. I follow the recipes and techniques from Sweet Sugar Belle. Practice makes perfect & my decorating skills have improved over the years!

Birthdays on a Budget - Tons of easy DIY tips!

For an Alice in Wonderland themed 7th birthday I made little pastel flowers and mushroom shaped cookies. My baby son’s It’s a Small World party I used the same cookie cutter but added colored candies to accent the center of each whimsical flower.

For my son’s second birthday we had an Elmo theme and I made “Elmo-breadmen” out of Sweet Sugar Belle’s gingerbread recipe. To save time I only frosted the faces and added small details. They came out so cute (and the gingerbread was yummy!).

Elmo-breadmen!


Hand-painted Wooden Dolls

I found these little unpainted wooden peg dolls on Etsy (cost about $1.25 each). For my baby’s It’s a Small World party I painted the dolls in Disney characters from around the globe.

It's a Small World Birthday Party - Budget party tips!

We had Lilo representing Hawaii, Merida from Scotland, Aladdin from India and Woody from the USA among others. I painted two dolls a night leading up to the party to pace myself, using acrylic paint and a small brush. I used the dolls as part of the party decor around the dessert table and then told the kids to choose one to take home. By far, the most popular favors I’ve ever given out!

It's a Small World birthday party. For more budget party ideas, click through!

Worst pictures ever! Sorry for the blur…


Treat Bags with Goodies

  • Figuring out your theme early helps if you’re making up goodie bags.
  • Keep an eye on the dollar bins or sale sections for items to include in treat bags that work for the age group.
  • Save coupons for the craft store and use those 40% off offers to buy favors.
  • I aim for about 3 items inside a treat bag, usually with something edible (like a sugar cookie) being one of them.
  • Stickers are easy and inexpensive.
  • Costume jewelry, a tube of lip balm and hair accessories are perfect for girls.
  • If you have a large enough treat bag, a coloring book from the dollar store in the party theme is perfect!

At my daughter’s 6th birthday party we had boy and girl themed bags (boys got race cars, girls received bracelets). For my son’s second birthday I only handed out treat bags (filled with a package of crayons & Sesame Street stickers) to the littlest of party goers.

Birthdays on a budget. Tons of ideas!

6. Budget-Friendly Party Decor

The decor sets the theme and it can be done simply for greatest impact. Decide on a color-scheme of two or three colors to keep the look bright and lively. I’ve included a few tips and some ideas on decorations for a tight budget.

  • Choose large decorations instead of tiny ones and you’ll only need a few around the room.
  • Instead of decking out your tables with every piece from a themed line, pick one item whether it be the dessert plates, the table cloth or the napkins. Complete the look by choosing complimentary colors or designs to the themed item.
  • Use toys or decorative items that you already have around the house to complete the theme.
  • Balloons, paper streamers and oversized tissue paper flowers add a lot of color without a big price.

Papercrafting

I crafted simple paper pinwheels out of leftover scrapbook paper and hung them with twine. In the center of one pinwheel I taped a color print of a vintage It’s a Small World poster.

Punch out simple circles from scrap book paper. Easily sew them up on the sewing machine to make a paper streamer.

DIY birthday decorations on a budget.


7. Themed Table Settings

Creating an exciting table setting as a focal point for your birthday party can be done in even the smallest spaces. Include a collection of foods or treats, colorful paper ware and maybe even a themed-toy.

  • Solid colored plastic tablecloths are cheaper than themed ones. Dress them up with a strip of wrapping paper as a colorful runner.
  • Choose sturdy paper ware and utensils. Better to pay a bit more for durable versions than have to double up flimsy plates or replace plastic forks that break tines.
  • Create interesting heights by using cakes stands. Or wrap cardboard boxes in coordinating wrapping paper to use for stacking items on the table.

For my son’s Elmo party, I used red as the main color for the plates and napkins and white on the tablecloths. Then I cut a strip of Dollar Store rainbow wrapping paper to use as the table runner. A Tickle Me Elmo toy set the theme and we didn’t require any expensive themed paper products from the party supply store!

Sesame Street Elmo party on a budget. Tons of party ideas!

Wrapping paper came in handy again at my adult birthday party. I used a roll of black wrapping paper and layered it over a gold tablecloth. Writing with an inexpensive white Sharpie pen on the black paper looks like chalk and created a sophisticated element to the tables, for $3.50 total.

Use black wrapping paper and a white sharpie for a chalkboard effect.

8. Feeding Your Guests

Food can easily be the most expensive part of party hosting. Depending on what you purchase you might be spending several hundred dollars feeding your guests. If you are budgeting, choose foods that are filling but inexpensive.

  • For parties during cold weather, consider soup. I like to make a big pot of turkey-bean chili and pans of homemade cornbread.
  • In warmer weather purchase sandwich fixings and include several loaves of bread or rolls, deli meat and a few cheese selections.
  • Even pizza can get expensive, especially if you add additional toppings. Find a location with a great coupon and save!
  • Steer away from prepackaged party platters because they also tend to be pricier.
  • If you want to serve veggies and fruit, buy them whole and cut them yourself. This is always going to be cheaper than buying pre-cut.

Birthday party on a budget, tons of helpful ideas.

Consider a salad bar! For this party, I chopped a few romaine heads and tossed in a box of spring mix. A little lettuce went a long way! Each one of the toppings cost an average of $1.50 each and I placed them in glass dishes, each with their own spoon. The most expensive item was the chicken, which my husband  seasoned & grilled. I was able to feed 25 for about $50 and we had quite a few leftovers.

Black paper and white sharpie create a chalkboard effect at this party.

  • If the budget is very tight, consider hosting your party at an odd hour (like 2 pm) and don’t offer food other than cake with drinks. Make sure you note on the invite that guests are joining you for dessert so they don’t expect to be served a meal.

9. Games & Activities for Party Guests

Parents often over think this and tend to plan too many activities during a party.  Kids are more easily entertained than you think. If you host the party at a park, let the playground be the entertainment. The most simple things are the best:

  • Pinatas are cheap enough but then you have to fill it and that can get really expensive. Use leftover Halloween or Easter candy!
  • Pipe cleaners from the dollar store are fun to bend into headbands or silly glasses.
  • If you have an outdoor space, Play-doh is always fun for little guys.
  • Search Minute to Win It games on Pinterest and find a wealth of things you can do using things from around the house.
  • Jot up a scavenger hunt list and have kids search either inside or out.
  • An art project with inexpensive watercolors and paper or thin canvas boards and acrylics.
  • Turn on the music and dim the lights to host a dance party.
  • Gather fun accessories from around the house or costume box for a photo booth. Take pictures of the guests being silly. The photo can be printed and sent out with thank you cards!

Happy Birthday! Tips for throwing a party on a budget.

10. Party Entertainment

Booking entertainment for birthday parties is usually very low on my checklist. I’m of the opinion that kids enjoy each other’s company enough that playing together is often fun enough!

  • Characters, princesses and party clowns are popular for parties. But sorry, Elsa & Anna from Frozen probably won’t be greeting guests at your party if you’re budgeting! That is unless you can convince a cool family member to dress up and act out the part.
  • Check your local Groupon website first if you’d like to get a bounce house or hire entertainment; they often have specials for 50-70% off.
  • Want to include face painting but don’t want to hire out? Buy your own kit and offer simple face painting designs yourself (or ask an artistic family member or friend for their assistance).

Parties put a smile on my face! Tons of tips on hosting a party on a budget!

Hosting the Best Birthday Party (Budget or Not)

The bottom line is to focus on the birthday kid and not get too wrapped up running around that you actually miss the special moments. It’s all about making memories and not the hoop-la, after all. Take lots of pictures and have fun!

Happy Birthday to you!

 

TONS of birthday party on a budget ideas! Dozens of creative themes, decorations and food ideas for all types of parties. #BirthdayParty