On our last night at Disney, we decided to head back to the resort and let the boys play at the arcade for a little while. We walked past it every day and they kept asking & asking to play, so we let them. Chris got them each an arcade card with $10 loaded on to it and they played until their money was gone (which didn’t take long). They each got to play about about a dozen or so games.
About a month before my family was scheduled to go to Disney World recently, I got an email from Disney with this as the subject line:
“You’re invited to participat
It was a Sunday and I was at the playground with Chris and the boys when I got it. I was giddy when I saw the email that day because I knew exactly what it was in reference to thanks to a friend of mine who had gone to Disney a few weeks prior.
It was an offer to test out their new MagicBands.
MagicBands are wristbands that are an all-in-one device and they effortlessly connect you to all the vacation choices you made.
Once I got that email, I signed up for our Magic Bands on MyDisneyExperience.com. I was already registered on the site because that’s how I booked my dining reservations, but if you’re not registered – you will need to do so before you go any further. I was able to customize all of our bands, which basically meant that we could pick our colors and have our names printed on the inside of the bands. If I didn’t customize them, they would have just given us grey ones when we checked in. Plus, while I was on the site, I linked our reservation and all our plans to the MagicBand, so it was all loaded on to the band for me.
One of the things I truly love about staying at the Caribbean Beach resort in Disney World is that they show “Movies Under the Stars” every night (weather depending, of course). Each night, they blow up a big inflatable movie screen and show a “G” or “PG” rated, family friendly Disney movie. The movies are played at Old Port Royale, which is the hub of the resort and the movies are shown right next to the main pool, so you can literally hop out of the pool and catch the movie.
The cast members set up chairs in front of the screen, but there are also tables in case you want to grab a meal or snack while you watch – which is exactly what we did.
Every time we go to Disney, Chris tries hard to convince the gruesome twosome to go on Splash Mountain with him. Usually, he can bribe them somehow and get them both to go on with him, but this year was different. The oldest wanted nothing to do with it no matter what Chris offered him, so Chris and the little man went on by themselves.
Here’s a copy of the photo they snap as they fall down the big drop on the ride (they are in the front).
During our past three trips to Disney World, we have stayed at the Caribbean Beach resort. It’s very family friendly and we really like the atmosphere there. At Caribbean Beach, the rooms are divided into six brightly colored villages representing different areas of the Caribbean. Trinidad, Martinique, Barbados, Aruba and Jamaica. The villages are all centered around a lake and each village has its own small man-made beach.
There are signs posted that no swimming is allowed in the lake, but the kids are more than welcome to play in the sand. The quick service meals at the food court there are actually served in little plastic buckets that come with shovels, so it ends up working out perfectly if the kids want to spend some time at the beach.
We usually don’t spend a lot of time at the beach area -just because there is never enough time. This year, we spent about an hour at the beach in our village of Jamaica and here are some of the pictures:
On our last night at Disney World, we made reservations at our favorite restaurant. Teppan Edo. It’s located in the Japan Pavillion in the World Showcase at Epcot.
Celebrate authentic Japanese cuisine during an exciting dining experience that’s part meal, part show. In the communal ritual of Teppan-yaki-style cooking, skillful chefs chop and stir-fry dishes on grills at your table.
Select from steak, chicken, seafood and vegetable entrées, which are served with Udon noodles and steamed rice. You can also enjoy such favorites as teriyaki chicken, potato-vegetable croquettes, tempura and edamame.
Do you ever kick yourself for not trying something sooner than you did. Well, I am totally kicking myself for not signing my boys up for the Jedi Training Academy during any of our previous trips to Hollywood Studios at Disney. Honest to god, I think it was the highlight of our trip this year.
Wondering what the Jedi Training Academy is? Junior Jedi knights learn to use the Force in a 20-minute training academy “show” as they prepare to meet the Dark Side.
Here’s the description from the Disney website:
“Kids between the ages of 4 and 12, don a brown robe and pledge the Jedi Oath under the tutelage of a Jedi Master. The brilliant Star Wars fanfare stirs your spirit as you learn how to use The Force—and your wit—to wield your light saber. Behold how the Jedi Master hones your battle skills, for you never know when you will have to defend yourself against the Dark Side!”
The Jedi Training Academy offers 15 shows daily with 15 children participants per show. As a result, if your child wants to participate in the show, signing them up for the Jedi Training Academy should be the first thing you do when you get to Hollywood Studios in the morning. I am dead serious – the day we were there, the spots were full in less than an hour (or at least that is what the cast member told me).
Sign-ups take place at the ABC Sound Studio (where Sounds Dangerous with Drew Carey used to be). You NEED to have your child with you to sign up! When it was our turn to sign up, the cast member asked each of the boys a few questions such as their age and if they can follow directions. After they answered, the cast member handed us a little piece of paper for each of the boys with their names and the return time for their show. We had to be back at the ABC Sound Studio 30 minutes prior to the show to get their robes, etc, so if your kids are in the show – plan on an hour total.
Here they are after they got their robes:
On our last full day in Disney World, we decided that we would spend our last morning at the Magic Kingdom. We figured that we’d stay until 1pm or 2 pm and then head over to Epcot because we had dinner reservations over there.
My little guy has always been more of a snacker than an eater, so when he asked if he could have a pretzel for lunch instead of an actual meal, I agreed. We stopped at a snack stand in Tomorrowland and he was thrilled when the pretzel came out and it was in the shape of Mickey.
The rest of us had a “normal” lunch, but I wasn’t in the mood to argue with him about his choice that day, so he got his way. Hey, we were on vacation, right?
We had just as much fun during our second day at Hollywood Studios as we did during our first. Maybe even more.
Do you remember the Mike & Sully shaped shrubbery display that I had some pictures of from our first day? Well this is on the other side of that:
Here are a few pictures that I snapped while we were in line for the Toy Story Midway Mania ride. We absolutely love that ride and went on a bunch of times throughout the two days that we spent at that park.
One of the things that my family really likes at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular! It’s about a half hour long show that’s filled with fight scenes, explosions and all sorts of cool stuff!
Against the backdrop of temple ruins, Indiana Jones makes a grand entrance and the show swings into non-stop action. In pursuit of the golden idol, Indy and his companion Marion battle dangerous bad guys, leap from tall buildings and make other daring escapes as fake bullets fly and a moving vehicle bursts into flames. The edge-of-your-seat suspense comes to a climax in an explosive finale!
Here are some of the pictures I took during the show:
Last year when we went to Disney World, my nine year old and Chris decided to get their faces painted while we were at Hollywood Studios. My little guy opted out, but this year when we walked past the face painting stand – they both wanted to get their faces painted. So, we let them pick out a design and get all painted up.
Here are their “before” pictures:
First up was the little guy. He’s never let anyone paint his face before and honestly, I thought he was going to back out, but he surprised me & went along with it – and ended up LOVING what he got.
If you’ve been around for a while, you may remember that when we visited Disneyland back in April, my nine year old built his own droid in the gift shop of the Star Tours ride. When we were in Disney World in August of 2012, they didn’t have a station where people could build their own droids yet, but they did this time around – and you guessed it, the boys wanted to build their own droids.
When we got there, the station was already set up and all the parts were separated so that the kids could find them easily. There were ONLY two building stations, so we had to wait quite a while before it was our turn. Once we got to the the table to build, the cast member explained what the boys needed, so they didn’t have to figure it out all on their own.
One of our FAVORITE things about eating breakfast at Disney World are the Mickey shaped waffles. They have them right at all the resorts & at most restaurants that serve breakfast at Disney World. I have to say that I don’t think they necessarily taste extra special, but hey – they are Mickey shaped and that makes them awesome.
If you were around the other day, you may remember that I told you about the pools at the Caribbean Beach resort in Disney World. The main pool is located at Old Port Royale, which is the hub of the resort and each “village’ has their own smaller pool. We stayed in Jamaica during our most recent stay and here are a few of the pictures that I snapped one of the nights that the boys (and eventually Chris) were in the pool.
One of the discoveries that we made while we were at Hollywood Studios last year was the Lights, Motors, Action!® Extreme Stunt Show®. The show featured several cars performing high-speed chases packed with precise, split-second spins and misses—just like in the movies!
Here we are before showtime.
The show was broken up into sections. They would film a “scene” like they were making a movie and then beak to explain what we saw. Here is a picture from the first scene:
This year, we spent two days at Hollywood Studios while we were at Disney World. We like that park and many of the rides/attractions there, yet somehow we never made it there until our third to last day.
Each time we visit, we all stop to have a family picture taken with the giant sorcerer’s hat.
My kids love character meals when we go to Disney World. Chef Mickey’s is one we return to year after year, but I always try to make reservations for at least one more character meal during our week there. Since we’d never eaten there before, I made reservations for the Supercalifragilistic Breakfast at 1900 Park Fare, which is located inside the Grand Floridian. This breakfast features characters such as Mary Poppins, Alice in Wonderland, The Mad Hatter, Tigger and Winnie the Pooh.
Our reservations weren’t until 10 am and since there were extra magic hours at the Magic Kingdom that morning (the park opened at 8 am, which is an hour early – for resort guests only), we went there first. The Grand Floridian is right next to the Magic Kingdom, so we knew that we could hop the monorail and get there quickly when it was time to head out.
Turns out that we crammed in 5 or 6 rides that morning, so I definitely felt like we made the most of our time there.
Anyhow, the time came to head to the Grand Floridian for our breakfast, which is an all you can eat buffet. As soon as we got our food, the characters pretty much all seemed to show up at once.
Ok, I’m just gonna say it – The Animal Kingdom is my least favorite of the four Disney parks in Orlando. I don’t care for many of the rides there, I dislike a lot of the restaurants and frankly, if my kids didn’t want to go, I would skip it all together. But, the kids like it, so we keep going back…..for now.
There are basically three things that they like to do at the Animal Kingdom and they are as follows: The Kilimanjaro Safari ride, the Kali River Rapids (a raft ride) and Dinoland U.S.A. Usually, we bang those things out and then move on to another park and this year was no different with the exception of the fact that no one wanted to get wet, so we skipped the Kali River Rapids this time around.
One of the things our family enjoys doing when we’re at the Animal Kingdom is going on the Kilimanjaro Safari ride. It’s a glimpse at real animals in their natural habitats during an 18-minute expedition into the Harambe Wildlife Reserve. It’s REALLY cool.
Because the wait for this ride can get really long, we almost always make this our first stop of the day.
During the ride, you traipse along a twisting path amid a lush garden gateway and make your way to the rendezvous point of Kilimanjaro Safaris expedition, the touring company for your adventure into the wilds. Featuring picturesque open plains, shady forest landscapes and rocky wetlands, the 110-acre Harambe Wildlife Reserve is a spectacular sanctuary dedicated to the protection of African animals.
There are well over a dozen different resorts on the Disney property in Orlando. I’ve personally stayed at four of them, but three years ago when we discovered Caribbean Beach – I knew I had found the one we’d be returning to over and over again. Of course, there is no part of Disney that isn’t is family friendly, but there is something about Caribbean Beach that seems to be a little more family friendly than the other resorts that I’ve stayed at.
Sure, each resort has a playground and a great pool, but at Caribbean Beach, which is the largest resort on the Disney Property, there are seven pools. The main pool at Old Port Royale, which is basically the hub of the entire resort (in addition to the pool, there are several dining options, an arcade, gift shop, bike rentals, movies under the stars and more). The employees of the resort run all sorts of activities for the kids at the main pool daily and we always get a schedule for the week upon check-in, so we always know what’s going on! In addition, there are six smaller pools located in the six different villages of this resort. The rooms are divided into six brightly colored villages representing different areas of the Caribbean. Trinidad, Martinique, Barbados, Aruba and Jamaica.
The villages are all centered around a lake. In the middle of the lake, connected by bridge, is Caribbean Cay island which is where the playground is located.
The first year we stayed at Caribbean Beach, we stayed in Aruba. We loved it because it was right at the opposite end of the bridge from Old Port Royale and we were able to get over there to eat, swim or watch movies in just a few minutes. The past two years we stayed in Jamaica, which is right next to Aruba and is basically the same distance from Old Port Royale.
Here are the boys on the bridge with Jamaica (yellow buildings) right behind them: