Archive for March, 2011

Get the most out of Disney by planning ahead

March 27, 2011
This was first published May 9, 2010, in my Boston Globe column “Where they Went.” Years ago, when I lived in Cocoa, Fla., my friend had a press pass to Disney. We would “drop in” for an hour, parking in VIP spaces up close. Fun!

Amy and Douglas Yatsuhashi, and their children (left to right), Laura, Andrew, Kevin, Lindsay, at Disney World.

WHO: Amy, 38, and Douglas Yatsuhashi, 45, and their children, Andrew, 9, Lindsay, 8, Kevin, 6, and Laura, 4, of Reading, Mass.

WHERE: Disney World, Orlando, Fla.

WHEN: One week in August.

WHY: “My husband and I went as children and for our honeymoon. His family is a real Disney family,’’ Amy Yatsuhashi said. “We waited until the kids were old enough to enjoy the magic, but under 10, because Disney charges adult rates at age 10.’’

KEEPING A SECRET: “We usually go to the Cape every summer. We didn’t tell them until the end of June so they’d get through school without being too distracted. It was their first airplane ride, too. They were so excited.’’

Kevin, Lindsay, Andrew, and Laura hang out with Goofy

PLAN OF ATTACK: Yatsuhashi read up on Disney and especially relied on Fodor’s “Walt Disney World With Kids 2009.’’ She booked a family suite with a dining plan at Disney’s All-Star Music Resort, one of its budget-minded “value resorts,’’ and even made restaurant reservations 90 days in advance for “character meals,’’ where the kids could see and photograph themed characters during lunch and dinner.

GETTING AROUND: “Where we stayed was perfect. Even though it was budget for Disney, it was first class. Buses went from our place to everywhere. We had a Park Hopper pass so we could go to all the different places like Blizzard Beach [Water Park] or Epcot or Animal Kingdom. We got a double stroller for the younger two, and the other two would hang on to the stroller. We pinned our cellphone numbers into their shirts in case we got lost.’’

Andrew, Laura, Lindsay, and Kevin at the Barrel o` Monkeys.

VOICE OF EXPERIENCE: “The best advice I could give anyone is to go early. We were at the doors when they opened at 9. We didn’t have to wait that long for rides. They have a neat thing called Fast Pass where you make ride reservations. The kids’ favorite was Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. They must have gone on it 10 times.’’

A PENNY SAVED: For souvenir buying, the children had “earned money from chores, and their grandparents gave them Disney dollars . . . like dollar bills but with Mickey Mouse on them.’’

Andrew, Kevin, Laura, Lindsay, with their grandparents Tony and Pam Carrara

ADULTS ONLY: Yatsuhashi’s parents joined the party for a few days, thrilling the children and giving the parents a little alone time. “One night they had the kids overnight and my husband and I went to Pleasure Island and then had dinner in The Land at Epcot.’’

SIGN ‘EM UP: “The kids were great and were happy almost all the time. You get to say yes a lot in Disney World. Even before we got home they said, ‘Mom, we decided we’re going to put together our allowance to make a reservation for next year.’ ’’


‘Farm Fresh North Carolina’ has arrived!

March 6, 2011

Alpaca nuzzles Diane at Bedford Falls Alpaca Farm in Warne, Clay County.

So it’s finally here! “Farm Fresh North Carolina,” my farm-travel guidebook to my home state, is now out, Both my hometown papers, the Durham Herald-Sun and the News & Observer, have written it up this week, with more articles across the state to follow! The N&O piece used one of my favorite photos — me being nuzzled by an alpaca at the state’s first alpaca farm, Bedford Falls. What a fun day that was, way, way west in Clay County, a part of North Carolina that often gets relegated to an annex on state maps. I fell in love with alpacas during my research, and included a few alpaca farms in the book.

As for sales outlets, it’s available at the usual online spots and of course in stores all across North Carolina. Even NC Costco stores will start carrying the book in April! That is nuts (in a great way!) and a testament to how crazed the local-food movement has become. I pitched the idea for this book in 2007, the same year that “locavore” was named the New Oxford American Dictionary’s Word of the Year. My, how times have changed.

In case you’re wondering what the heck a farm-travel guidebook includes, the subtitle says it all: “The Go-To Guide to Great Farmers’ Markets, Farm Stands, Farms, Apple Orchards, U-Picks, Kids’ Activities, Lodging, Dining, Choose-and-Cut Christmas Trees, Vineyards and Wineries, and More.”

If you want to know more about it, visit my “Farm Fresh North Carolina” website. And remember: Keep it Fresh in NC!

Tampa’s ambitious work of art

March 2, 2011

The new Tampa Museum of Art opened to much fanfare last year

Tampa, in my experience, is one of those Florida cities that people from away can’t place. I was often asked when I lived in Boston, “Now where is it, on the West Coast or East Coast?”  (West!) I lived in the “Tampa-St. Pete” area for many years, and now watch the two cities’ growth from afar and occasional visits. St. Petersburg has developed a stronger personality, but Tampa is catching up. One example: it’s stunning new Tampa Museum of Art , open just over a year now.

View of the Hillsborough River from the museum's second floor

We toured the gleaming new space during a visit late last year and were mightily impressed. The building, designed by Stanley Saitowitz, sits along a bank of the Hillsborough River, next to the spiffy and even newer Glazer Children’s Museum and Curtis Hixon Riverfront Park, a tremendous addition to downtown green space and entirely new to me. From the lobby and hallways of the modern-industrial 66,000-square-foot museum one can see the water, and, on the other bank, the landmark minarets of the Moorish-styled University of Tampa.

The ultra contemporary space — all shiny on the outside — lends itself well to its modern works, including a Calder mobile in the lobby, a room with cool LED displays, a sculpture-filled terrace, and a Do Ho Suh bathroom installation made of fabric that I so wanted to touch.

But the two or so rooms of ancient stuff was just jarring. OK, yes, the museum has this important collection of Greek and Egyptian art, but it just doesn’t work here. It broke my flow and harshed my buzz. What’s a modern-looking museum to do with its old stuff? 

A rock garden decorates the lobby

If you aren’t into art (what’s with that?),  at least check out the lobby (free) and Sono Cafe, which has an upscale sandwich menu and gelato — best enjoyed on the patio overlooking the river.

Another free thrill is the museum-commissioned nighttime display by digital-light artist Leo Villareal, which turns a wall of the museum into “a kaleidoscope of patterns and colors,” according to one article. Alas, we visited during the day. Next time!