Upcoming Movies (November/December)

I think some of my favorite films of each year come out in November and December. In some ways it’s become a stronger time for movies than even the summer blockbusters, sequels and reboots.

Below are the movies I’m most looking forward to for the next 2 months.


  • Doctor Strange At this point, I’ve seen every other Marvel film in the past decade and they haven’t let me down so far. Plus, I absolutely love Benedict Cumberbatch, so I’m definitely seeing this one.
  • Arrival The military is exploring a mysterious spacecraft after it lands on Earth…this film looks really interesting. Throw in Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker…looks like a winner!
  • Fantastic Beast and Where to Find Them If you know me, you know I love Harry Potter. A lot. I have seen the movies countless number of times. I’ve read the books probably half a dozen times as well. We’ve been to Harry Potter World in Orlando more times than I can count. So when they do a movie in the same universe 5 years after the last film, I will be there opening night. In fact, Rachel and I already have our tickets/seats. To say I’m excited would be an understatement.


  • Moana Disney. Animated. Classics. Rachel and I love Disney animated classic movies almost as much as we love going to Disney. Yeah…I think we’ll see this.


  • Office Christmas Party This movie looks hilarious. I don’t know a ton about it, but I love a good comedy. I’m down.
  • La La Land Ryan Gosling. Emma Stone. Hearing amazing reviews already from critics as well. Enough said.


  • Rogue One: A Star Wars Story The Star Wars saga continues and all I can say is take my money please and thank you.
  • Collateral Beauty There are a few actors that I pretty much watch anything they are in. Will Smith is one of those actors. Plus, with a cast that features Kate Hudson, Keira Knightley, Edward Norton and Helen Mirren, you know it’s going to be a good film.
  • Passengers Maybe the hottest two actors in Hollywood right now with Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence. Throw in a super intriguing plot line…I’ve been excited about this one for a while now.


  • Sing I don’t know why, but this movie looks super fun to me. Not sure we will see this in the theaters, but it’s definitely a rental at some point.

There you have it…some of the movies I’m looking forward to over the next 2 months. What movies are you excited about seeing?

The Great Debate, Part Two: Walt Disney World vs. Disneyland – Disneyland Resort (Guest Post)

(Rachel is taking over the blog again today with Part Two of “The Great Debate: WDW vs. Disneyland”)

A few weeks ago I decided to write a post comparing the two US-based Disney parks. (This time next year I’ll be able to include Disneyland Paris!) I tackled categories such as weather, transportation, location, and more. I decided that the crux of the debate is the parks themselves, or rather, the attractions that compose each park. I started out planning to compare both coasts’ parks in one post, but I got a little carried away…so this will also be split into two posts.

Without further ado, below are my thoughts and opinions about Disneyland Resort’s attractions.


The first Disney park, Disneyland, opened in 1955. It was exceedingly unique in its design, composition, and attractions. Never before had something been built based on not only one man’s idea, but also preconceived characters (this is not researched, so I could be way off here…but this is my perception of how it came about). The idea that a guest could have an experience based on something they’d seen in a movie or cartoon was novel. Of course, Walt Disney had other progressive ideas in mind, being an inventive and innovative man.

One of the great things about Disneyland is the concept that so much has been preserved – if not the actual structures, at least the mindset. The park itself is small, especially compared to its sister park, Magic Kingdom. But there are so many experiences packed into the smaller square footage. Take Fantasyland, for example. There are so many “classic” rides – Peter Pan’s Flight, Snow White’s Scary Adventures, Pinocchio’s Daring Journey, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, Alice in Wonderland, King Arthur Carrousel, Matterhorn Bobsleds, “it’s a small world” (just Google “it’s a small world holiday”; you’re welcome) and more. All of these rides provide a feeling that you’re in some undefined year in the past.

Then you have classics in other lands: Jungle Cruise in Adventureland (thanks for not including real animals after all, Walt!), Big Thunder Mountain in Frontierland, Pirates of the Caribbean in New Orleans Square, Space Mountain in Tomorrowland. All also located in Disney World, but somehow have such a different (not to mention smoother, longer, what have you) vibe in California. And the Haunted Mansion, another classic – is it any wonder New Orleans Square is my favorite land? – even gets a holiday makeover in the form of a The Nightmare Before Christmas overlay every fall and winter. So unique and fun!

California Adventure

Across the way, about the length of a football field, we have California Adventure. Not quite a classic yet, as it was opened in 2001, but something completely unique and special in its own way. It was initially conceived as a park celebrating California and its many different regions, and still includes much of that same flavor, but it has morphed into even more in the years since opening.

Cars Land, the newest land in the park, with its gleaming Ornament Valley backdrop and exquisitely lit-up Radiator Springs, is extraordinary (and the hubby’s favorite Disney land, period). Radiator Springs Racers, with a similar ride track to Epcot’s Test Track without the sense you might get whiplash, might be the best ride in the park. It’s really something special.

Paradise Pier evokes the feeling of a 1920s boardwalk, and sensory wise, is similar to Walt Disney World’s fun Boardwalk Resort. California Screamin’ is one of the best thrill rides Disney has to offer. But it’s more than just the thrills that make this land exciting – it’s the entire perspective of the park one gets from this area. I could literally spend hours just in the area, taking in all of the awesome scenery.


California Adventure is also the birthplace of Soarin’, which is one of the best rides Disney has ever conceived (in this author’s opinion). I’m still getting used to the new “Around the World” version (compared to the excellent original “Over California” version), but it’s still a fabulous ride.

I would also be remiss if I at least did not mention “a bug’s land,” which, yes, is technically the kids’ area, and not one we typically spend a lot of time in. However, it’s one of the best themed lands Disney has to offer. Between it and the ever-immersive Cars Land, California is rife with making guests feel like they’ve literally been transported to another place.

Let me say this about Disneyland and California Adventure: Attraction wise, especially if we’re talking about the number of attractions, it’s hard to compare. I’ve heard that Disneyland (not including California Adventure) has more rides than all of the Disney World parks combined, and it definitely feels that way. Maybe it’s due to the smaller space, but it feels like, inch for inch, Disneyland and California Adventure evoke more feelings of immersion than the Disney World parks.

But who will ultimately come out on top? You’ll have to read Part 3 to find out!

Friday Favorites

It’s been a while since I’ve done a Friday Favorites edition on the blog, so without further ado….

  • PNC Atlanta 10 Miler Sunday morning, I’m running the PNC Atlanta 10 Miler, which starts at Atlantic Station and goes through West Midtown and Buckhead. This race is the second part of the Triple Peach series that I am running, which includes the Peachtree Road Race on July 4th and the Thanksgiving Half in November. Looks like the weather is going to be quite chilly for the start of the race. Honestly, I am ready for cooler weather after mid- to upper 80’s this week.
  • Bon Iver: 22, A Million Bon Iver is one of my favorite musical artists. His first 2 albums are so good. It’s been over 5 years since he’s had a new album come out. But a few weeks ago, he released his 3rd album: 22, A Million. I am loving it so far. It’s definitely got a little different vibe to it, but after several times listening through, I can honestly say it’s fantastic! Standout tracks for me so far are 715 – CRΣΣKS, 22 (OVER S∞∞N) and my personal favorite, 8 (circle).


  • 10 Year Anniversary Trip In January 2017, Rachel and I will be celebrating 10 years of marital bliss. It still feels like yesterday Rachel was walking down the aisle with her dad towards me and now we are hitting a decade. We are in the process of planning a huge 16 day trip next August/September to celebrate. The plan is to start in Paris, France with 3 days in the city and another 2 at Disneyland Paris (because, of course, we would!). Then we will fly to Barcelona, Spain for a couple of days, before boarding a Disney Mediterranean Cruise for 7 days that will take us to Rome, Nice, Cannes, Florence, Naples and more! We have already booked the cruise and are very excited!


  • Westworld We’ve been watching the new HBO show Westworld over the past few weeks. I think I’ve mentioned this before…but HBO is responsible for some of my favorite TV shows of all time, so I have high hopes for Westworld. It’s super interesting and different from anything else on TV, which is why I think I’m enjoying it so much. Looking forward to seeing where they will go in the first season.


Chicago Marathon Weekend Part 2

Check out part 1 of my Chicago Marathon weekend here!

Race day (Sunday) came early. And while I definitely got some sleep, I never seem to get a good amount before a big race. I always fear I’m going to sleep through my alarm. I was up by 5:30am and ready to go by 6:15am that morning. I had about a 20-minute walk over to the Grant Park area where the starting line was. By the time I was leaving, Rachel was already up as well. She was meeting up with Devin so they could cheer us (Justin and me) on during the race.


The weather that morning was about 55 degrees, which is just about perfect temperature for a race start. By the time I got over to Grant Park and the starting corrals, I was actually a little chilly. Fortunately, I brought a old long-sleeve shirt to throw off when I got going.

I was in the second wave, which meant I was in one of the last corrals. Unfortunately, I messed up when submitting my time and I ended up further back than I probably should have been. But honestly, I knew my pace was going to be much slower than usual, so I wasn’t too worried about being back in the slower corrals. I was actually seeded about where I would finish.

While waiting for the start, I made some new friends in the corrals. Runners are usually very friendly and willing to talk. I think we all just needed to stay distracted while waiting to start.

Finally, just a little before 8:30am, our corral was off and running. My number one goal for the race was to finish injury free. With this summer in Atlanta being so hot and humid, my pace has slowed significantly. So even with almost perfect running conditions in Chicago, I knew I couldn’t bust out at the beginning. I would need to keep some energy in the reserve tank for the last 6-8 miles.

I began my journey at a nice and easy pace through downtown Chicago. I loved the energy of the city and the crowds. Easily one of the best parts of this race was the crowd support. So many people cheering you on as you make your way through the 26.2 gauntlet.

As I got up to mile 5, I knew Rachel and Devin would be somewhere around there. I found them and stopped for a minute to say hello. It was so good to see them. By that point, my left knee had decided it wanted to act up a little bit. Nothing major, just a small nagging pain. I knew it wasn’t anything major, but it was still very annoying.

Just a little after mile 9, I came back across Rachel and Devin again. Rachel got a couple of pictures of me running up to them. After a brief hello, I said goodbye and continued on my way. I knew I wouldn’t see Rachel again until mile 23, so at this point, it was me and the road!

One of the interesting things about running for such a long time and distance, is the mind games you play with yourself. For me, I use multiple ways to keep myself motivated. Whether it’s listening to a certain song on repeat or breaking up the distance into certain segments, my mind is my biggest strength and weakness.

One of the things I decided to do as I was running this time was jump on my phone (i.e., social media) a few different times. I posted on Twitter several times during the race and on Instagram right at the 13.1 (halfway) mark. Seeing people respond to me with words of encouragement really helped keep me going. It’s not something I would normally do, but since my pace was slower and I knew I wasn’t going for any kind of PR (personal record), it was a different kind of strategy and really seemed to work.


As I got towards mile 20, I wasn’t noticing the pain in my left knee as much anymore. However, my right calf started tightening up. I stopped 1-2 times along the way to stretch it out over the last 6 miles and that seemed to help.


As I got up to mile 23, I was ready to see Rachel for a minute or two. By this point, Devin had left to go meet up with Justin, who started in wave one and finished much earlier than me. It was so good to see Rachel and reset myself for the last 3 miles.

Honestly, by this point, my body was exhausted, but my brain was still very strong. That’s why I always say, the mental game is just as important as the physical game during a long distance run.

As I came towards the end, a flood of emotions begin to take over. What a journey the past 4-5 months have been. Between the early long runs and the loss of my grandmother just a week before, I found myself very choked up. As I crossed the finish line, I said a quick prayer and blew a kiss up to my grandmother, who I dedicated the race to. I was so happy to get the finisher medal. It was easily one of the best moments of my life.

As I made my way through the finisher’s area and picked up water, Gatorade and food, all I wanted to do was see Rachel and give her a big hug. Once we finally met up (finding each other through the craziness of all the people was not fun), we grabbed several pictures in the Grant Park area, including one in front of The Bean!

Finally, we made the trek back to the hotel so I could get a shower and lie down for several hours. Later that evening, we met up with Justin and Devin for a celebratory dinner and to share war (race) stories. I knew I wanted a steak and friends…and I definitely got myself a steak. It was a great dinner celebrating with our new friends, who we are so grateful to know. I told Rachel later that I really wish we lived closer to them. They are some great people!

We called it an early night as I was flat-out exhausted. The next morning, we packed up, grabbed some breakfast and made our way to Chicago Midway Airport for our flight back to Atlanta.

Couple of things I want to highlight about the Chicago Marathon…

  • Best crowd support of any race I’ve ever run. That includes the Disney races and the Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta, which are also great races for crowd support.
  • The course was very flat and fast. I was pleasantly surprised at how flat the course really was.
  • The water/Gatorade/aid stations were terrific. There were plenty of stations and water/Gatorade even for those of us in the later corrals. That’s always a win.
  • The scenery (course) is excellent. You run through 29 different neighborhoods from the North Side all the way down to the South Side of Chicago. There is so much to see.
  • There is a definite difference in running one of the World Marathon Majors versus running a Disney race. People were way more serious and there were fewer run/walkers. Not that there is anything wrong with run/walkers…it was just a noticeable difference.

So now that Chicago has officially been conquered…the NYC Marathon is next on the bucket list!

Chicago Marathon Weekend Part 1

Last Friday we made our way up to Chicago for the weekend so I could run the Chicago Marathon. If you’ve been following the blog, you already know this. You also would know the journey that training for a marathon entails. When I got the email back in April that I had gotten in, I immediately went into planning mode. I would need to maintain a certain mileage base over the next few months until July, when I would begin to increase my mileage, including my long weekend runs, in order to get up to 20 miles a few weeks before the race. 


I have blogged about several of my long training runs throughout the past few months. I remember back in late July/early August when I ran my first 15 miler…I was very unsure how I would be able to run much farther. That’s the struggle and the beauty of marathon training. It’s mind over matter just as much as it’s training your body to go further. I am grateful for the journey, even though it is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Crossing that finish line last Sunday was one of the greatest thrills of my life. I think every marathon that I’ve run has felt that way. 

Back to the actual weekend…as I mentioned before, we flew out on Friday afternoon to Chicago Midway Airport. It was a very quick and easy flight, which is always nice. We took the CTA train to downtown Chicago and checked into our hotel.


That evening, we met up with Naama, who is one of Rachel’s closest friends. Naama and her husband Jon are moving to South Africa from North Carolina in November! She just happened to be in Chicago visiting friends, so we were able to see her again. It was so great to have a little time with her before she leaves the country!

After spending about an hour with Naama (and her friend Kate), we made our way over to Giordano’s for pizza! While it’s super touristy, we both love their pizza! We walked down the Magnificent Mile for a little while after dinner before making our way back to the hotel for the night.

On Saturday, we met up with some of our new running friends, Justin and Devin, who used to live in Chicago and know the city very well. Justin has run the Chicago Marathon before (this was his 5th year running!), so we were grateful to have them to show us around the expo and parts of the city.

The expo was a 15-minute Uber ride from our hotel. And it was filled with tons of people, booths and merchandise. We spent a good 2 hours walking around, picking up our race number and shirt, along with a few other goodies as well!

After the expo, Justin and Devin took us over to The Pasta Bowl for lunch near where they used to live in Lincoln Park. The food was ridiculously good! I ate way too much pasta, but I was running 26.2 miles in the morning so I knew I needed the carbs.

After lunch, we walked around the area before stopping off at their old apartment and going up to the rooftop to look around. The view was amazing. Nothing like seeing Chicago from the top of a roof!

Finally, we made our way back over to downtown and our hotels for the rest of the afternoon/evening. We knew we needed to get off our feet and rest up for the next day. Rachel and I watched some college football before walking across the street to grab a few sandwiches for a light dinner. We brought the food back to the hotel so we could eat, rest and watch some more football before heading to bed fairly early as it was going to be an early morning.



Chicago Marathon (It Is Finished)

Running the Chicago Marathon this past weekend was an amazing experience. I am still trying to process everything that I felt during the 26.2 mile journey. From the amazing crowd support (including Rachel!!) and beautiful weather to crossing the finish line as I celebrated the memory of my grandmother, who passed away just 8 days before, this was a race filled with a multitude of emotions.

I will share my experiences of the race weekend over the next set of blog posts. Here’s a small sample of pictures from our time in Chicago. Enjoy!

Chicago Marathon Weekend

After months and months of training, Rachel and I are heading out today for Chicago, where I will be running the Chicago Marathon on Sunday. It’s been a long and quite draining process, but it’s finally here.


The itinerary for the weekend is pretty chill for us. We should get into Chicago today around late afternoon before possibly meeting up with one of Rachel’s closest friends who is also in town.

Saturday we will hit up the expo before exploring Chicago for a good portion of the rest of the day. We have some great running friends that we’ve made over the past year (Justin and Devin) that we are hoping to spend some time with as well. I definitely want to be back in the room fairly early to rest up and, of course, watch some college football.

For Sunday (Race Day), I’m in the second wave so my start time is a little later, which is fine with me. I’ll be off between 8-8:30 (central time) and on my way. Rachel is going to try to catch me a few times on the race course while I’m running. I think she is hoping to meet up with Devin since Justin is also running. After the race, I’m sure I will be completely wiped out…but after resting for a few hours, the plan is to grab a celebratory dinner somewhere in the city!


Monday we head back to Atlanta after a short but hopefully successful weekend!

Make sure to follow me on social media to stay up-to-date on all of my amazing adventures this weekend!

Instagram: @allenwhittaker
Twitter: @allenwhittaker
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/allenwhittaker

The Great Debate, Part One: Walt Disney World vs. Disneyland (Guest Post)

(Rachel is taking over the blog today with a new guest post…enjoy!)

After Allen’s and my recent visit to Disneyland – our fifth in three years – it got me thinking about the similarities and differences between it and Walt Disney World. I have park experience only as a guest, and more frequently as an adult than as a child, so I can provide only a narrow perspective, but I thought it might be fun to do a little comparing and contrasting between the bi-coastal empires. I also added a completely arbitrary and meaningless point system, just for funsies.

The Properties

Walt Disney World (for our purposes, WDW) is a giant, sprawling spate of resorts, shops, restaurants, roads, trees, and most importantly, four unique parks. It lies outside of Orlando proper, and you can’t see any its iconic landmarks from I-4 (unlike its counterpart, Universal Orlando, which recently has developed property so close to the interstate that surely little magic could be conjured within its borders). Between Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom, there are offerings for everyone across this consortium of consumerism (and magic, of course!).

Whereas WDW has plenty of room for yet future growth and expansion, Disneyland Resort (comprised of two parks, Disneyland and California Adventure, herein collectively referred to as DLR) is landlocked in Anaheim. It’s located about 45 minutes (depending on traffic) from the gigantic city of Los Angeles, and is commonly thought of as a “local” park. Oddly enough, its intimate size feels a little less inundated with tourists.

WDW: +10 for lots of space
DLR: +10 for using space wisely

The Transportation

WDW is, as I mentioned above, sprawling. Google tells me that it’s 40 square miles, or roughly the size of San Francisco. And it feels every bit as huge as its own city. Unless you’re staying at a rare within-walking-distance resort, you have to travel by car, bus, or monorail to visit each of the parks (especially Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom). The transportation runs pretty smoothly for the most part, but you likely know…traffic is a part of life, no matter how magical the setting.

DLR, conversely, is completely walkable, among both of parks, Downtown Disney, the three on-property resorts, and multiple nearby “Good Neighbor” hotels. There is a monorail system, but it’s presented more as an attraction than as pure transportation. Bottom line: it’s quite convenient to walk everywhere, but you’ll definitely give your record step count a run for its money.

WDW: +6 for organization; −3 for traffic
DLR: +8 for fitness; −4 for exhaustion

The Attractions

I could probably write an entire blog post just about the various attractions on both coasts. Actually, you know what? I’m going to do just that. Look for part two in the coming days.

WDW: ??
DLR: ??

The Weather

Have you ever noticed that the majority of the queues in Disneyland are outside? California is no stranger to blistering temperatures, but generally, SoCal has what some (including yours truly) refer to as fairly perfect weather.

In comparison, WDW is literally built on a swamp. Although I think (having zero research) Florida actually gets colder than California in the winter, the non-January through March months are brutally hot and humid. Hence why there are considerably more indoor attraction options.

WDW: −10 for humidity; +4 for seasons
DLR: +10; −1 for >100 temps

The Food

Between the two parks, DLR has a churro stand in every land. And Mickey-shaped beignets and mint juleps in New Orleans Square. And Blue Bayou. And those hummus and pretzel snack pack things (it’s the simple things).

But WDW has Epcot, where one can eat “around the world.” So maybe it wins by default? (It also boasts a Five Diamond Award-winning and Forbes Four Star-rated restaurant in Victoria and Albert’s, so there’s that.)

WDW: +8 for World Showcase
DLR: +5 (because churros!)


Stay tuned for part two, wherein I’ll go deeper into the nitty gritty of what makes the parks special – their attractions!

Who will come out on top?!