Paying to park when staying overnight at a hotel has long been commonplace in heavily populated areas like downtown Chicago, New York City, or San Francisco. Travelers, though, were able to park their vehicles for free at most other locations, though, adding to the savings of driving to their destination. For my family, it also made the decision to rent a car fairly simple as we preferred the convenience of having our own transportation. It appears, however, free parking for overnight hotel guests is disappearing. Continue reading
Category Archives: Walt Disney World
Walt Disney World Resort – How Do I Decide Which Park to Visit Each Day?
One question I get asked really often about visiting Walt Disney World Resort® is how to know where to make dining reservations six months out when one doesn’t even know which park they’ll be in that day. What if that park is too crowded? How does one decide? Unfortunately, there’s no hard and fast rule as to which park to visit which day but experienced Walt Disney World Resort® visitors do have a few “tricks of the trade” that are used when putting together an itinerary. Here are a few of mine. Continue reading
When Your Tween is “Bored” with the Disney Parks
“But I don’t want to go to Walt Disney World!”
I’d love to say that no parent has ever heard that, but not only have I heard that, I know of others who have as well. It seems to hit around the Tween/early Teen years. My own son decided that he didn’t want to go to Walt Disney World a couple of years ago – around age 11. He’s also wishy-washy about Disneyland. What’s a Disney-loving parent to do? I’m sharing our tried and true ways to get our Tween (now Teen) to go.
Let him or her bring a friend – If you can afford it and your child has a friend whose parents are agreeable, the Disney Parks for Tweens and Teens are way more fun with a friend to hang out with. I had to face the fact that my child was getting older and hanging out with mom and dad just isn’t cool. OK. By bringing a friend (or sometimes a cool cousin will work), he was able to save his “cool factor,” and show someone around who hadn’t been to the parks as often as he had.
Highlight new attractions – For our son, the biggest draw for our upcoming trip is Pandora – The World of Avatar in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Since my husband and I have already experienced them, we were able to give a first-hand account of them, but even if we hadn’t, a little research would have told us what we needed to know. Our son is excited to ride Avatar Flight of Passage. He also can’t wait to see the new missions at Mission: SPACE at Epcot. All this finally convinced him that a few days at Walt Disney World Resort®, his parents might not be so bad.
Compromise on time with family – Our son has been staying home alone for a little while now. While I’m not crazy about leaving him alone in a hotel room, we do if we aren’t going to be far or gone a long time. For example, we might let him stay in the room if we’re going to one of the resort’s restaurants for dinner. He’s also been allowed to stay in our room at the Disney’s Beach Club Resort while we were close by at Epcot’s World Showcase. If we’re going further, we got someone from Kids Nite Out to stay with him (we didn’t call it her a babysitter). All of this depends on your child and your comfort level, but we found that our child appreciated time to hang out in the room alone on his phone with friends or playing video games. We are giving him his “me time.”
If all else fails, it might be OK to leave your Tween at home. On a recent trip to Walt Disney World Resort®, we gave our son the option of going or staying with family or friends elsewhere. He chose the family or friends. At first, I wasn’t thrilled about it, but it turned out to be a lovely trip. Yes, I missed my son but having the freedom to focus on my husband (we have no other children) and do what we wanted to do was wonderful, and that’s OK. It’s OK for you to take a trip with another child. Your Tween may be thrilled to have the time with family or friends and your other child or children may love having special time with mom and dad. I found that it also worked well when it came time for the next trip. He didn’t like missing out on what we did; he wanted to go.
For more ideas on what to skip at the Disney Parks,
check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!
The Ultimate Way to Celebrate Your Wedding Anniversary with a Disney Vow Renewal
Did you dream of having a Disney wedding? Think it’s too late because you’re already married? Well, I have the ultimate way to spend your anniversary and still get your dream Disney wedding – a Disney vow renewal!
I will admit I had dreamed of a Disney wedding. When I got married, however, I just couldn’t bring myself to spend the money on a big wedding. My fiancé (now husband) and I wanted to do things like buy a house and start a family and it just seemed like a big wedding wasn’t the way to spend our money when we were just starting out. Don’t get me wrong. We had a lovely small wedding in Las Vegas with our parents and some Continue reading
Our Top Five Evening Activities Outside the Parks at Walt Disney World Resort
My family and I have found that some of the best memories are made during the evenings outside of the parks at Walt Disney World. These can be great options, especially for the night of arrival when we don’t want to add an extra day to our passes or just want a chance to sit and give our feet a rest from all those miles they’ve walked during the day! The Walt Disney World Resort actually has a lot of options for evening activities, but rather than making this a crazy-long post, I’ve narrowed it down to our top five favorites.
#5 – Disney’s Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show
Want to escape to the South Pacific in the middle of Walt Disney World? It’s possible to get a taste of the islands, literally, at Disney’s Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show. Dancers in traditional costumes perform dances native to the islands of the South Pacific including Tonga, Tahiti, and, of course, Hawaii. They even get the audience into the act! A few adults are selected to go up front to learn the dances, too, but everyone is welcome to join in. Children especially seem to enjoy learning the dances and turning the dinner into a giant South Pacific dance party.
For my son who was not “into” the dancing, the highlight of the show was the fire dancer. Disney describes him as “show-stopping,” and I’d have to agree. There’s just something about watching the twirling fire that was mesmerizing.
Of course, it’s a dinner show so I have to mention the food. For adults, everything has a distinctly South Pacific flair. There is a starter salad, pulled pork, Polynesian ribs, roasted chicken, vegetables, and my favorite, the pineapple coconut guava cake. Yum! For kids, there are also mini corn dogs, cheese pizza, and grilled chicken available. The food is served family style so everyone can easily get enough to eat.
There are two shows nightly, one at 5:15pm and one at 8:15pm. The cost depends on where you sit in relation to the stage. The best seats cost $78 for those over 10 and $46 for kids ages 3-9. Category Two seats cost $74 and $44 respectively while Category Three seating is $66 and $39. Disney Dining Plan credits can be used for Categories Two or Three seating. It’s actually a pretty small place and we sat in the Category Three seating area last time. It was way off to one side, but we could still easily see so don’t avoid booking if that’s all that’s left.
The Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show can be booked like any other dining reservation at Walt Disney World Resort. It can be done online at DisneyWorld.com under Things to Do or by calling (407)WDW-DINE. Reservations are a must!!!
After the early show, one can hang out at the beach at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort to get a glimpse at our next favorite.
#4 – The Electrical Water Pageant
Compared to today’s technology, the Electrical Water Pageant is relatively simple, but for me, it brings back a nostalgia like the Main Street Electrical Parade. Even better, it’s free!
For those not familiar, the Electrical Water Pageant is kind of like the Main Street Electrical Parade, just on water. There are a series of floats being pulled by a boat. Each float has lights on it that make up pictures. For example, there is a green sea monster, a whale, an octopus, and other water creatures. The parade ends with the floats changing to a patriotic theme full of flags. All of it, of course, is set to appropriate music. It’s really cute and I love watching it.
The Electrical Water Pageant is shown nightly, weather permitting, at the resorts near Magic Kingdom. The times may vary slightly, but usually it starts at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort at 9pm, then goes to Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa at 9:10pm, Disney’s Wilderness Lodge at 9:30pm, Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground at 9:45pm, concluding at Disney’s Contemporary Resort around 10:10pm or if the Happily Ever After fireworks at Magic Kingdom are at 10pm, the pageant will begin shortly after the fireworks are done. Because it’s a long series of boats and floats, it can be seen pretty much from any beach or location near the water. I’ve also watched it from my patio in the Garden Wing at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, the pool area at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, and our Bungalow at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. If you’re not sure where to go, simply ask any resort Cast Member.
What if you want to see it and you’re not staying at one of the Magic Kingdom resorts? That’s OK. Simply park in the Magic Kingdom parking lot and take the monorail to any of the Magic Kingdom resorts. They do not require that you are a resort guest to go to the waterfront to watch the pageant.
#3 – Illuminations Fireworks Cruise
Have you ever wished you could have a front row seat for Illuminations: Reflections of Earth at Epcot? I’m not talking about from the water’s edge; I mean, front row, a view from a boat in the water. You’re away from the crowd with no trees or other obstructions. You have snacks and refreshments and can just relax and enjoy the view. This is exactly what you get with an Illuminations Fireworks Cruise.
Around 8pm, guests board their own private boat at the Yacht Club Marina. While each boat holds up to 8 to 10 guests, the boats are rented by boat, not by person, so you can have a private, romantic sail for two or bring family and friends. After a warm greeting from the Captain, he will show you around the small boat – basically safety features like where the life jackets are as well as where the basket of snacks and cooler of drinks are, which are included in the cost of the boat rental. Optional additions are decorations such as a Happy Birthday or Happy Anniversary banner if you are celebrating something special or one can order additional food and beverages through the Yacht Club in-room dining.
The Captain will then take the boat for a short sail. Ours have always headed over to Hollywood Studios before heading back toward Epcot. This is especially nice when the Christmas decorations are up. The boat is the perfect place from which to view the giant Christmas tree at the Hollywood Studios entrance.
Shortly before 9pm, the Captain will head to Epcot via the International Gateway between the United Kingdom and France Pavilions in World Showcase. He will “park” your boat alongside other boats just inside the bridge that goes between United Kingdom and France. This provides an amazing view of Illuminations: Reflections of Earth and while not private, since there are other boats right next to you, it does still give a feeling of having your own private show.
For our upcoming cruise on Thanksgiving, we were quoted $325 for the cruise plus $25 for the decorations plus tax. When booking, they state there are no discounts, but last time when we paid on the night of the cruise, they did give us a DVC member discount of 10%. It never hurts to ask. To book a cruise, call (407)WDW-PLAY. As of right now, there is no way to book it online.
#2 – Pirate & Pals Fireworks Voyage
Ahoy, mateys! There be pirates and they’re out to recruit you! All pirate recruits should report to Disney’s Contemporary Resort where they will meet up with Captain Hook and Mr. Smee. Before departing on their maiden voyage, recruits will be enticed by snacks like popcorn and ice cream and an assortment of soft drinks and bottled water. There is also plenty of time for photos with Captain Hook and Mr. Smee before parading to the marina to board the pirate ships (well, they’re actually just boats, but I’m keeping with the theme).
Once on board, Disney Cast Member “pirates” named Patch will take over captaining the boat as well as entertaining everyone with sing-alongs, jokes, and trivia. If you’re lucky and really up-to-speed on your pirate knowledge, you may even win a small prize!
The captain will “park” the boat in a perfect viewing position for the Happily Ever After fireworks at Magic Kingdom, basically in the lagoon straight out from Main Street with a view of the castle. The accompanying Happily Ever After soundtrack will be played through the boat’s sound system. While the boat is not close enough to see the detail in the castle projections, it is still a great view.
On the way back to Disney’s Contemporary Resort, there is usually a great, up-close view of the Electrical Water Pageant. Then, once back at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, there is one more surprise. Peter Pan is there to greet you along with a lantern with “Tinkerbell” inside.
The cost of the Pirate & Pals Fireworks Voyage is $72 for adults and $43 for kids, plus tax. The time of the voyage varies based on the time of the Happily Ever After fireworks. Reservations are a must and can be booked by calling (407)WDW-PLAY. Online reservations cannot be made at this time.
#1 – Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground
This had to be number one because it’s really multiple activities that can be done in one night or multiple nights.
First, one can take a horse-drawn carriage ride. For me, there is nothing more relaxing than riding along in a carriage, moving at the pace of the horse, listening to the clippity clop. It helps to be surrounded by a lovely forest and at night, it seems to take on a magical quality, especially in view of campfires. Even the smell of the campfires makes it seem like one is world’s away from the busy day at the park. Around the holidays, one can travel by sleigh instead in your very own version of Jingle Bells. Whether by carriage or sleigh, the ride lasts 25 minutes and leaves from Crockett’s Tavern. The cost is $45 for the carriage or $75 for the sleigh. Both seat 4 adults or 2 adults with 3 small children. Reservations should be made in advance by calling (407)WDW-PLAY.
If your carriage ride has made you hungry, head on over to the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue for some grub and a rip-roarin’ good time. The Hoop-Dee-Doo is so entertaining. Guests enter what looks like an old west saloon complete with a stage and upright piano. The entertainers sing songs, tell silly jokes, and provide uproaring comedy throughout the evening. Even my 13-year-old has had a good time ever since his first time at the show seven years ago, so it really appeals to all ages. The meal of salad, fried chicken, barbecue ribs, baked beans, cornbread, and strawberry shortcake are served family-style at your table. Prices vary by proximity of your table to the stage. Category 1 is $72 for adults and $43 for children, Category 2 is $67 and $39, and Category 3 is $64 and $38 respectively. Reservations are a must can be completed online just like any other Disney Dining reservation at DisneyWorld.com under Things to Do or can be made by phone at (407)WDW-DINE.
I don’t know how this could happen, but if you didn’t get enough to eat at dinner, you can always join Chip ‘n’ Dale for Chip ‘n’ Dale’s Campfire Singalong (or simply enjoy the singalong without eating). Sit around the campfire roasting marshmallows you brought yourself or from a s’mores kit available for purchase. While your marshmallows are roasting, sing along to the tunes played by a guitar-strumming cowboy or take a break to visit and have photos with Chip ‘n’ Dale. Immediately following the singalong, enjoy an outdoor Disney movie. Chip ‘n’ Dale’s Campfire Singalong is held nightly, weather permitting. Both the singalong and the movie are free!
I hope you’ve found something new to try on your next visit to the Walt Disney World Resort. What’s your favorite evening activity outside the parks?
For more ways to enjoy evenings at Disney,
check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!