How Hong Kong Disneyland Made it to the Top of My Fave List – Part I

That Time I Went To Hong Kong – Back When I Forgot to Write About Things

We Didn’t Kill Each Other

It all started with a College DECA competition, a conversation about culinary school, & an over-friendly college Sophomore trying to make friends with, who she thought, was a really cool dude who cooked & stuff. Fast forward to that one time we were lost in DC trying to find pie,  eating tons of Thai food during my DCP, & that time ‘that really cool dude who cooks & stuff’ puked on my first Dapper Day (I mean, sorry but it’s true. Who takes prescription medication & washes it down with a venti iced coffee?!) I’m talking, of course, about my best friend Matt. Oh, did you think this was some sappy post about relationships? Sorry to disappoint, but this story is about two best friends who embarked on an epic adventure across the world together & lived to tell the tale; i.e. we didn’t kill each other.

So, just how do you plan a trip all the way to, let’s say Asia, on a teacher/chef budget while being able to get time off & still have money for the Disney park you’re inevitably going to visit & all of the merch that goes along with that? I think Matt & I would both agree that there are a few things you have to keep in mind; as it were, I am currently in the middle of writing that blog post! I wanted it to be as vulnerable & open as possible, so if you have any questions about it, please feel free to comment them below! For this post, I pulled Matt so you could hear from him too! So throughout this post you’ll get some ‘Matt Quotes’ as well.

Seeking the Magic

So, it’s no secret that Matt & I went to Hong Kong & Tokyo last summer (2018) mainly to visit the Disney Parks. We got to explore some amazing cities while we were there, one of them being the City of Hong Kong. While we weren’t there for long, we had an amazing evening by Victoria Harbor, watching the buildings light up during the dazzling ‘Symphony of Lights” show which happens nightly at 8pm!

“ Enjoy the small moments of the trip, because they tend to be the most memorable, because even though Hong Kong Disneyland was incredible, one of the craziest/weirdest/funniest moments of the trip was the two of us just trying to figure out how we could get pictures with the harbor background, with hundreds of other people also trying to take pictures, especially the group that was taking selfies of themselves, trying to get us in the background, until they finally just asked to take a picture with us.” – Matt

Afterwards, we explored the streets of HK & got the cutest bao buns at Kanahei’s Small Animals Café, a little pop-up location! We ended the night with an iconic street-style egg bubble waffle, a MUST-TRY when you’re in HK!

“One of the most important things while exploring any new country or city, is always be open to journey off the beaten path. Granted, I ended up being navigator, because Amelia was not doing too well in that department; however she trusted me to guide us around the city, & because we were both open to whatever, we found some great spots, such as the dim sum restaurant inside of a mall, & the amazing bubble waffles that were enjoyed in our taxi ride back to the hotel.” – Matt

Disney Magic, Hong Kong Style

There are so many things I could write about this amazing experience in the ‘tiny park’ that is Hong Kong. The truth is, Hong Kong Disneyland (HKDL, as it will be referred to in the remainder of this post) truly captured my soul in a way I never expected. I truly believe that it has become one of my favorite parks of all times; yeah, hard to believe I know. From staying at the Explorer’s Lodge, which was an amazing hotel experience, to being able to ride countless rides with little to no wait, HKDL was not only a breeze to navigate & get around, but the cast & other guests helped make the experience perfect. I won’t say too much about the hotel as there are a million other blogs about it, all I will say is that staying on property was amazing, convenient, & we wouldn’t have done anything else. Not to mention that compared to the US park hotels, it was a bargain for a beautiful hotel so close to the parks with amazing amenities.
The room tour (as well as a bunch of other snippits from this trip) are in my story highlight entitled Hong Kong Disneyland on my Instagram @magicalmelia.

A Preview to My Next Post: “Park Day; Why HKDL Became a Favorite Park Experience”

all of my cute ears in this post come from @shinyskyrainbows

How can a one-day park experience make the list of top experiences of all time? There are a few answers; the first is something I’m calling “Unique Familiarity”. Anyone who has visited at least two Disney parks has experienced a thought similar to this:

“As we walked on to Main Street, I was hit with this wave of wonder & nostalgia. I attribute this feeling to something I have dubbed “Unique Familiarity”. The feeling that you’ve been here before, & have made memories here before, but this time it’s new & different. As the excitement bubbles up in you, you suddenly want to run to every corner of every land to note the similarities & differences. From windows, to rides, to little side-streets, to shops (mine is always, always the confectionary), you soak in the uniqueness & normality of this experience. There’s nothing like this feeling, it’s my favorite thing about visiting a new disney park.” – Amelia

The answer to why HKDL is in my top Disney Park Experiences as well as an in-depth review of my top 5 aspects of HKDL will be shared Friday 6/21 in honor of it being ONE YEAR since we visited HKDL!

I failed at blogging (I’m not as put-together as I seem)

A month after my first post I tearfully ‘broke up’ with my blog in the parking lot of a starbucks. I cried real tears, I sad-binged on a butter croissant, & I texted my boyfriend who simply responded “why?”. Not a proud moment, not a good day, not an inspirational story from the past. It. Just. Sucked.

Hello Dreamers! I’d like to start by addressing the elephant in the room *waves to Dumbo*  now that that’s taken care of, we can discuss the fact that I atomically failed at writing this blog. If we were to compare the idea of this blog in terms of food, this was actually a good recipe that, if well executed by an executive chef with a 5-star kitchen, killer ingredients, & a knack for creation, would have been even the slightest bit successful. If properly marketed to the right crowd, could have been enjoyed by so many. If properly delivered to… oh, well you get it. Truth is, I’d like to lie to myself & simply say “I didn’t have time, but [insert time in the near future here] I will”, but I know that’s not the whole truth. If you’re still reading this, I can only deduce that you have followed my from instagram to bathe in the wake of my destruction (because that’s the kind of thing you enjoy), or, simply because you’ve experienced failure as well. Perhaps my flippant title resonated with something inside of you that quietly whispered “me too.” Perhaps you don’t want to feel alone in the ‘arena’ ( Brené Brown reference, we’ll come back to that later). I am hoping the pretty photos of various scenes in my life might entertain you as I explain, & hopefully connect with you, about why we fail at things we love. Here goes nothing.

I want to address the photo above. I promise, it’s relevant, although it looks like a poorly-edited stock photo from a travel magazine. I actually took this photo when I was 19 years old. It was my first trip to Europe on my study abroad in Prague, Czech Republic. The first day we arrived, I remember as clearly as if it were yesterday; our professor sitting us down in the massive lecture hall. The smell of foregin carpet cleaner. How distinctly ‘American” we all looked as our tiny group of twelve sturggled to fill the space meant for 500. Dr. Ricardo, albeit a bit eccentric, far too energetic, & overzealous about being punctual (though he was, indeed, late himself a few times), captured our attention as he stood at the front of the room to enlighten us about the foregin culture in which we were about to spend a significant amount of time. I remember his pressed white shirt & stubbled face presented before a nervous, excited, anxious group of collegiates. There, he gave us the most vital piece of advice about writing & documenting that I have ever, ever recieved. I wrote it down as fast as he spoke, trying to absorbe every word, & I will attempt to do his words justice here:

He started by addressing us casually as he always did, never making us feel like inferior students, but equals in education, “You guys,” he explained, “This is it. Document it. Live it. Do everything you can to remember this.” He went on as I rushed to grab my leather-bound notebook from my travel bag (in true wanna-be hipster fashion).

“In a year or two, when you look back at this, you must realize that you will only be able to recall maybe five minuets in total of this trip. Think of another trip you’ve taken, how many details can you recall? How many spoken words can you recite? (little did he know, I would be reciting his words years later) Could you talk for more than five total minutes about that trip or experience? You will forget if you do not make yourself remember. You will never be in this moment again; in this place with these people, feeling this way. Never again. So remember to document, guys. Live it all & drink it in because (& here’s where it really sunk in) no memory can ever, ever be replicated in the form of experience.”

I wrote my first travel blog post that day. Errors & all, here’s an excerpt:

“Ahoy from Praha! I had my very first look at the city today & let me tell you it was breath-taking. Between airports, college dorms & class rooms I finally felt like I was in Europe. There are a few of differenced we noticed right off when we entered the city, here are ust a few from my classmates & I:

Amelia: Tiny roads & scary driving! With a significant lack of stop lights, everybody simply GOES & they drive RIGHT next to each other! It’s crazy, I felt my heart beating out of my chest!

Classmate: Sporadic people Some people would go over the moon for you, while others can’t be bothered.

Classmate: Flankey ball a German drinking game involving a basketball, a round of beer, & some crazy competition.

Classmate: Flying on an air plane Her first time.

& the post went on. 281 words. Spelling errors. Grammatical mistakes for days. & a sense of pride that wouldn’t soon be forgotten. I received one comment on that post, zero likes, & too few face-to-face compliments to name. It was a different world back then, I think it made it easier, in a way, to not only avoid seeking validation, but simply not to address it. I wasn’t writing for anyone, I was writing to follow the words of that professor for myself. I was writing to remember. I was writing for me.

Flash forward to blog posts entitled: “Magical Mozart”, “Dear Vienna”, “From Start to Venice” &, my personal favorite, “5 Easy Ways to Fall In Love With Yourself”, I was a ‘blogger’. I began writing to someone not just about myself. Instagram took off, I started my, what is now @magicalmelia, Disney account entitled @100daysofdisney, & began documenting my DCP experience. Even in 2015 my focus was mostly documenting for myself. I quickly faltered when working for the mouse became too much & relied heavily on instagram, as so many of us do, where captions became my platform of information & photos were the desired focus.

Likes, comments, DM’s began to matter. I can still recall the excitement of hitting 11 likes, when the list of names became a  number; a sign that you didn’t need to delete the post due to inactivity… who else can relate?

This is getting long, & I can only assume if you’re still with me that you’re a dear friend, a fellow failure, or, again, someone who enjoys grinning at my faltering self-esteem. Despite this, you’d be wrong to assume this is simply a ‘poor me’ post. The inspirational stuff is coming up, fear not.

Ps. hey to all of my IRCHS babies reading this. See? Your teacher fails too. Pss. Thanks  in advance for not correcting my spelling.

The point of topic is now vulnerability. When I decided to reignite my love for writing in the form of a blog, I, of course did what anyone would do nowadays: I googled how to be a successful blogger. I followed the steps. I found my niche. I created an ‘inclusive-yet-interestingly-open-ended-but-specific tagline’. I even bought a $10 online E-Book – boy, are there so many other things I can buy for $10. (the title of a future blog post). I wrote an intro, created content, made sure my title was “an attention grabber!” (@ all of my high school English teachers) & bought a matching domain to my instagram handle.

& yet, here we are, in the wake of my failure. A month after my first post I tearfully ‘broke up’ with my blog in the parking lot of a starbucks. I cried real tears, I sad-binged on a butter croissant, & texted my boyfriend who simply responded, “why!?”. Not a proud moment, not a good day, not an inspirational story from the past. It. Just. Sucked.

There are a million other words I can write about what happened between that starbucks parking lot in Vero Beach, FL, & my current location of a coffee shop in La Jolla, CA, but I’ll spare you the details (They’re sure to show up in other blog posts), for now I will talk about Brené Brown, & how her words changed my life.

Brown speaks about the concept of “living in the arena”. To quote her, quoting Teddy Roosevelt, the concept in which her theory is based on is as followed:

“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles…The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again… and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly,” – Teddy Roosevelt

Brown then goes on to state:

“If you’re not in the arena getting your butt kicked too, I’m not interested in your feedback.” – Brené Brown

I realized. I didn’t need to write for you, reader, but for myself. I realized that without living in the arena, nobody was going to care about what I was writing anyway, & those who had something to say, didn’t really matter if they weren’t , at one time in their life or another, crying in their car in a starbucks parking lot. In my book, I failed, but was and am grateful to count myself as one of the people “who’s face is marred by dust & sweat [ & butter croissant crumbs].”

I’m going to write about travel. & Disney. & my friends. & anxiety. I’m not a ‘niche’ blogger, & I have finally found peace in knowing I’ll probably never be a famous writer. Yeah, I’ll keep trying to reach people, & I’ll probably fail at that too. But at least I’m living in the arena; at least I’m daring greatly.

If you’re still here, thank you for sticking through the musings of a girl who’s rising from the ashes of her, let’s call it ‘parking lot moment’. This is just the begining. As alway, Stay Magical.

Mickey 90th Celebration; 6 Photo-Worthy Foods You Don’t Want to Miss! (DCA)

Who doesn’t love posing with food? Go ahead & search the #DisneyEats tag on Insta & you’ll see just how many of us are obsessed! With the release of Disney’s new line of food-inspired fashion & home items, you are going to need to step up your foodie game! Don’t worry though, I am here to show you the best way to do that, one park at a time. While visiting Disney’s California Adventure, I indulged in so many adorable & exclusive food items to find some of the most photo-worthy foods! See the video that goes with the blog HERE!

First up on the list is the “Share Your Ears Cheeseburger!”

Share Your Ears Cheeseburger from Smokejumpers in Disney’s California Adventure

Let’s break this bad baby down: Taste-wise it was your basic Disney burger; nothing you couldn’t get at any quick service location. With some smokey sauce & the option to visit the toppings bar (for lettuce, onions, tomatoes, etc.) this burger ranks a 5/10 in deliciousness

What brings it to a solid 7/10 is, of course, the cuteness factor. I would have loved the burger to be a double-stack (not only to make it worth the price of $14.99) but to add more volume. Nevertheless, the burger makes for a cute prop when taking photos (especially when you’re sporting a pair of @ShinySkyRainbows burger ears).

This burger is shareable, cute, & pretty tasty. If you love Mickey & don’t mind the price, it’s a cute photo prop & a good meal. For sure a photo-worthy food item! To take shots with this burger, the outdoor seating area surrounding the restaurant is great! It tends to be less crowded in the afternoon (after 2pm) & gets great lighting!

Food Photo Tip: whether you’re using a phone or a camera, try holding the food item a little closer to the device, having the focus be on the food instead of you. This creates a cool effect that can be achieved with most any basic device! (see above & below)

While at Smokejumpers, Alex decided to surprise me with the sweetest, cutest sipper of all time! This park-exclusive Mickey Birthday Sipper can be found at many quick service locations across both Disneyland in Cali & Walt Disney World in Orlando.

Though he isn’t technically a food item, we dub this Mickey Sipper a 10/10 on the photo-worthiness scale! He doesn’t leak, he’s a cute decoration, & he holds the amount of a regular sized drink.

There are all sorts of amazing photo spots to take him to, this one, in particular, is located in Downtown Disney, near the Lego Store! I LOVE this fun wall; a great photo spot for sure!

Birthday Hat macaron from Cars Land – DCA

We continue at California Adventure on to Cars Land, a place with photo spots galore! We opted for the basic-yet-iconic Cozy Cone Motel shot with our tasty & absolutely adorable treat: The “Birthday Hat” Macaron.

As sweet as it was adorable, this cute confection was filled to the brim with sprinkles! If you want to see what happens when you break it open, watch the video HERE ( &follow Magical Melia on YouTube)

I would give this a 10/10 on photo-worthiness & a solid 8.5/10 for taste (it was sooooo sweet! & tasted like birthday cake. Share it if you can!)

Heading back to DCA, we head over to Hollywood Land to grab the next three items on our list. First stop, Award Weiners! Known for their hotdogs, this quick service location has been serving up funnel cake fries for a few seasons now. For Mickey’s birthday, they create not one, but TWO confections that aren’t only beautiful, but taste amazing too!

Get Your Ears On funnel cake from Award Weiners – DCA

The “Get Your Ears On” funnel cake was super fun & cute! It is a classic-Mickey food item that would be perfect with Mickey disneybound. With two Oreo ‘ears,’ it’s classic colors & physique are sure to inspire some fun outfits!

Celebration Cake funnel cake fries from Award Weiners – DCA

The next one was my favorite! The colors, the sprinkles, the frosting, everything! The “Celebration Cake” fries will inspire anyone to party & rings in at a 9/10 on photo-worthiness & taste. Because they look like a birthday bash in a bowl, they would make a great prop for any Mickey 90th Birthday fashion shoot! (ps, these ears are also by the amazing & lovely @ShinySkyRainbows, check out her insta!)

The area surrounding this location can get pretty busy! We opted for a simple background to showcase the food more than the fashion, but if you’re patient & creative, you can get some cute shots with these!

Mickey Cookies n’ Cream Shake from Shmoozies – DCA

The last item was by far the cutest & easy to pose with. The “Mickey Cookies n’ Cream” shake can be found at Shmoozies (right across the street from Award Weiners). Simple, delicious, & adorable, it’s my 10/10 item for sure!

It’s easy to see how this item came to be a favorite, but let’s discuss the simple fact of posing; everyone can hold a drink & make it look cute. We’ve been practicing it for years with our Starbucks hot cups & our iced tea in our personalized tumblers (amirite?!). If you’re looking for an easy item to go with an outfit or just a fun (& yummy) food prop, this shake is a must-try!

Stay tuned for more fun food (from Disneyland!) & connect with me on social media to see more photo-worthy disney stuff! I can’t wait to show you everything I got to try ( & take photos with!) Until then, Stay Magical!

xoxo Melia

Magical Moments Await Us…

Sleeping Beauty Castle – Sundown – Canon T6i

Well, it’s been a hot minute! I am so thrilled to be writing to you again from Magical Melia headquarters (today, it’s located in a local coffee shop). Before you begin the post, I wanted to extend my thanks to all of you sparkly humans who are reading this.  You’ve followed my Disney journey (some of you since @100daysofdisney!!) for the past few years. You’ve watched my vlogs on YouTube, liked & connected with me on Insta, & shouted at me from across the Hub Grass. Social media gets a bad rep for being a place for comparison & negativity; despite this, we’ve grown as a community through love, support, post-sharing, & shoutouts!

The most common DM’s I receive are about photos; it’s no secret my passion is photography, especially when it involves a castle backdrop. So I thought: what better way for me to contribute to the community than to share my know-how with the people who have loved & inspired my content?

Main Street USA – Canon G7x + iPhone Flash

My hope is to dispell any preconceived notions about what expertise you *think* you should have when it comes to photography, Disney knowledge, & social media savviness. I’ll be sharing ideas & tips to improve your photo skills, where to go in which parks, at what time, & even some of my most-loved ‘secret’ photo spots across various Disney properties. My purpose is to help you maximize your Disney experience &, most of all, create beautiful, magical moments.

From Main Street to the Matterhorn, you & I are going to document the world of Disney together! Whether you have an iPhone 5 or a glitzy DLSR, I will show you how & where to take the best shots, making the most of this magical world we share.

Harambe Market – Early Morning – Canon T4i

Stay tuned for my next blog post dropping SUNDAY, 1.27.19 (& this one is fun because it includes a video!) What’s in store? Pictured below is a hint…Visit my instagram for more!

Let’s keep in touch, okay? Go ahead & hit the subscribe button & connect with me on social media!

I’m so glad to be back! Stay tuned for more &, as always, Stay Magical!

xoxo, Melia