Kidcot Fun Stops

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banks at kidcot fun stop UK

I will confess…I am a huge Epcot nerd. It’s my favorite theme park in Disney World! I work with clients planning their Disney vacations and I’m always surprised when someone says they don’t want to go to Epcot. What?! I sometimes hear “there’s not enough for my kids to do there”, “I remember being bored there when I went 25 years ago”, “isn’t that the educational park?”. Please say it isn’t so. Epcot is awesome! It is a theme park where there are so many things to do yet many guests walk right on by some of the best activities, in a hurry to get on a ride. Did you know in addition to some great rides, you can also taste beverages from around the World, create your own roller coaster and then ride it on a virtual simulator, play in jumping water fountains, conduct music with your hands, become a secret agent and go an interactive adventure, experience what it’s like to be in a hurricane, go on a piggy bank adventure, enjoy musical bands, I could go on and on. One of the activities my family enjoys doing is participating in Kidcot Fun Stops.

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Kidcot Fun Stops can be easy to overlook. They are simply a table that’s set up in each of the 11 showcased countries along Epcot’s World Showcase. The tables will have paper Duffy bear cutouts and sharpie markers. At each table children (or I suppose adults too if they want) can color in their Duffy bear cutout. While they are making their masterpieces, there are Cast Members located at each of the Kidcot Fun Stops from that particular country. The idea is to go from country to country and meet with different Cast Members who will tell you about their particular native land. Not only will your kids have fun doing a craft, they’ll get a free souvenir and they get to learn about each country. OK, so maybe Epcot is educational but it’s fun as well! Each Cast Member will stamp the Duffy paper cutout on a stick with that particular country’s stamp so you can collect them all. Kids will enjoy creating their works of art and you can get some downtime or perhaps even learn a thing or two yourself! Next time you’re in Epcot, slow down and give the Kidcot Fun Stops a try!

KIDCOT FUN STOP4

If you are thinking of traveling to Disney World, contact me at corby@travelwiththemagic.com. I’d love to help!

Pick a Pearl, Pick a Memory

I am always in search of the most unique kind of treasures and souvenirs when I travel to Walt Disney World. I collect many different things from Disney pins, vinylmations, bags, t-shirts.  There is one item that is one of a kind and different, that I try to pick one up on my Disney trips, any chance I get!  The Pick a Pearl stand is located in the Mitsukoshi Department Store at the Japan Pavilion in Epcot.  This is where I find a beautiful treasure.

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There is something so exciting about the whole process and it makes it even more special that it is in Disney! When you arrive at the Pick a Pearl stand, you will be given a number and pay for your pearl (around $17 including tax). Your number will be called out when it is your turn to pick out your oyster and find your pearl!

While you wait, you can take a peek at the oysters that are located in two different tanks. I always let my husband pick out our lucky oyster. You can also take some time to check out the jewelry cases that have settings for you to add the pearl into. They have simple settings like earring posts and plain silver necklace charms to set the pearl into, and they also have the more elegant and expensive settings such as gold rings or and fancy pendants. Prices for the settings start around $10, No additional cost is required for the pearl to be added into a setting.

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When they call your number, you will have the chance to pick your oyster and find your treasure. A Cast Member will open your oyster for you.  You will participate in a little ritual involving counting in Japanese. There are so many different types of pearls that you could find: ones with colors (pink, silver, gray, and even a gold tone), a range of sizes or if you are really lucky, you may even find two pearls!

Pearl 4

After your pearl has been taken from the oyster, the Cast Member will get out a pearl measuring device and you will find out how large your pearl is.  The Cast Member will clean it off in a little bowl with fine grain salt. At this time, they will also bang a drum and let everyone there know how big your pearl is and how lucky you are to have found it!

Pearl 2

Once your pearl is bagged, you can head on over to the jewelry case and pick out your special setting. I have gotten two necklace charms and a gorgeous ring. There are so many options that you could choose.  You can pick a new and unique one every trip!  Depending on your setting and how many other pearls have been picked that day, the Cast Member will tell you when to come back and pick up your new treasure, so be sure to plan accordingly. You cannot have this item delivered to your room.

A perfect souvenir to enjoy at the start of your day at Epcot, or even before dinner in the World Showcase or before Illuminations. I would love to help you plan your next trip and have you pick a pearl and see how lucky you can be!

Tracy@travelwiththemagic.com

Beat the Heat! Indoor attractions to cool you off on your Summer trip

Indoor attractions at Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resort to cool you off on your Summer trip

Title pic for pinterest

Summer in Florida and California can get HOT. VERY HOT! But you can still enjoy your trip by planning out some cool off zones in each park. Finding a spot to cool off doesn’t mean you have to be bored or waste time away from the attractions. There are TONS of things you can do at any of the parks that do not require standing in the heat. Below are some of my favorites:

Animation Academy: (Hollywood Studios and California Adventure Park)
Take an art class from a Disney Animator! This is An Animation Experiencethat you won’t soon forget. The class lasts 20-30 minutes and there is even more to see and do inside the Disney Animation building at Disneyland and Animation Hall at Hollywood Studios. Plan to spend at least an hour cooling off here!

Animation

Turtle Talk with Crush: (Epcot and California Adventure Park)
This show is geared toward kids but with or without children this is a must see. Crush is live and interacts with audience members which make each show unique. Everyone will laugh and you will remember why Crush stole the show in Finding Nemo. Turtle Talk is located inside The Seas with Nemo and Friends at Epcot and inside the Disney Animation building in Disneyland. Both locations offer more indoor activities besides turtle talk so this could also easily be an hour or more of cool off time.

Turtle Talk

3D movies: (All Parks)
Even before you get into the theater to see the movie you get to wait inside for a little while and still be entertained. This maximizes the cool off time and gets everyone rested up and cooled off before the show. Each park has 3D movies available including Captain EO a resurrected classic featuring Michael Jackson (Disneyland and Epcot), MuppetVision 3D at Hollywood Studios and California Adventure), Its Tough to be a Bug featuring your favorite critters from It’s a Bug’s Life (at Animal Kingdom), and my favorite, Mickey’s Philharmagic at Magic Kingdom. Make time for the 3D movies and you will be refreshed and entertained, ready for your next walk in heat!

Live Stage Shows: (California Adventure, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios)
If you do not typically take the time to see the live shows you are really missing out! Not only will you get to sit down and cool off but you will get to experience Broadway quality shows that are unique to the Disney Parks. Some of my favorites include Festival of the Lion King (Animal Kingdom) which is an interactive musical and dance show that is non-stop thrills and fun the entire time. Finding Nemo-the Musical (Animal Kingdom), Beauty and the Beast-Live on Stage (Hollywood Studios), and Aladdin-a Musical Spectacular (California Adventure) are wonderful retellings of your favorite stories with live actors, music, and some great special effects.

Aladdin

Festival

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Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor: (Magic Kingdom)
Like Turtle Talk, this show is always unique because of the audience participation and interaction with the animated characters from Monster’s Inc. Text your joke to a number you will see in the lobby before your show and they might use your joke in the show. Be ready to be a part of the show and the laughter when you enter the Laugh Floor. This is one I could do over and over again.

These are just a few of my favorites but of course I need to at LEAST mention some runners up, Kali River Rapids (California Adventure and Animal Kingdom), The Enchanted Tiki Room (Disneyland and Magic Kingdom), Innoventions (Epcot), and of course all the great movies and shows in the pavilions of Epcot’s World Showcase.

There are MANY more tips for keeping your cool during your summer vacation to a Disney Park. And don’t forget to add the Water Park Fun + More option to your tickets so you can cool off at the Water Parks and indoors at Downtown Disney’s DisneyQuest! For more info and help planning the perfect trip for YOUR family give me a call or shoot me an email, I would LOVE to help you book and plan your next magical vacation.

See ya real soon,

Aleshia

Aleshia Sokoloski, Travel with the Magic
~ 1-800-670-4312 ext. 139 ~ aleshia@travelwiththemagic.com ~Find me on Facebook ~

Why I love the Playgrounds at Disney World

Disney Playgrounds

We all know Disney has awesome rides, attractions and restaurants but did you know they also have some great playgrounds? I bet I know what you’re thinking…Why in the world would I want to pay money to go on a Disney vacation and have my kid play in a playground? I can do that at home, thank you very much. I completely understand and I’ll be honest, the playgrounds used to drive me nuts because I had to drag my children out of them kicking and screaming every single time. Well, I’ve since changed my ways and now I’ve come to embrace the playgrounds.

My 8 year old son particularly has A LOT of energy, as most young children do. I discovered while at the parks, most of the time, we were either walking to and from rides, standing in line or sitting down riding a ride. While this does allow movement (and certainly can be exhausting), my son thrives off running, jumping, sliding and spinning. I noticed whenever we would come across a playground, that’s where he would have the time of of his life. I’ve since learned to make time for active play with playgrounds (and swim time too). In case you aren’t sure where the playgrounds are located, here you go!

Playgrounds at the Resorts

You will find playgrounds at many of the Disney resorts. They are usually your standard playgrounds with swings, slides and tunnels. Some are more elaborate than others. A couple of our favorites are at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Resort and Disney’s Ft. Wilderness Resort. The kids can enjoy playing on the playgrounds which are located on the beaches of Bay Lake. If you time it right, you’ll also get a great view of the Electrical Water Pageant as it goes by each night. Disney’s Coronado Springs also has a pretty impressive playground near the Dig Site pool you won’t want to miss if staying there.

Honey I Shrunk the Kids

Playgrounds at the Parks

  • The Boneyard, located at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park is amazing! A two story elaborate playground designed to look like a dinosaur dig site. It’s complete with slides, caves, an area to dig for “bones” and a water feature to cool off.
  • Honey I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure, located at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. This is another elaborately themed, interactive playground which makes you feel like you’ve shrunk down to the size of a bug. You are surrounded by huge grass, ant tunnels, a sniffing dog and other oversized details you won’t want to miss. There are also a couple of water features you may want to hit (or dodge).
  •  Tom Sawyer Island, located at Disney’s Magic Kingdom Park. OK, so this one isn’t “technically” a playground like I’ve been discussing but it’s an island where kids are free to run around and burn some energy. It features caves, a barrel bridge, a rope bridge, mine, dirt paths and an old fort. Did I mention you’ll need to take a river raft to get to the island which is a unique experience in and of itself? Please note: Tom Sawyer Island is quite rugged and not wheelchair accessible.
  • Dumbo the Flying Elephant, Located at Disney’s Magic Kingdom Park. You’ll find this interactive playground inside the big top tent located at the Dumbo the Flying Elephant attraction. Use the standby line and you will receive a pager upon arrival. Kids are then free to play in the air conditioned playground featuring a toddler play area, fun sound effects, flying nets and slides instead of standing in line (Best. Concept. Ever.). Your pager will let you know when it’s time to ride. If the kids are still having fun, you can stay and play and ride later.

Dumbo Playground

Seasonal Playgrounds

My personal favorite of the playgrounds are the ones you can find at Epcot’s Flower and Garden Festival each year. My kids LOVE these and I enjoy sitting on the “grass” taking in the beautiful atmosphere the festival brings each Spring.

Flower and Garden Festival Playground

Tips

  • Keep an eye on your child. It can be tricky so be prepared! If your child is older, you may be able to sit at the entrance if there is only one way in and out. Have them check in with you regularly. With younger children, parents may need to split up, one go with one child and another can keep an eye on the entrance. Be sure to set up a meeting place in case someone gets lost.
  • Make sure kids don’t get overheated! Florida weather can often be hot and humid which doesn’t usually go well with running around. I recommend bringing a mist fan and having a cold beverage near by.
  • Set time limits before entering a playground. This will help children not become over exhausted or over heated. It will also make it easier to get them out and on to other attractions if they know ahead of time they have X amount of time to play.
  • Bring a change of clothes. Some playgrounds have water features so kids may get wet.
  • Lots of little hands touch play equipment- bring sanitizer.

The Boneyard Playground

While I may prefer to ride leisurely on one of Disney’s rides, obviously my son prefers to be active. It took several vacations until I came to the conclusion…We are all different and it’s not just my vacation, it’s for the whole family. Each family member should be able to enjoy whatever it is that makes them happiest, even if it’s a playground. We used to have our fair share of arguments on vacation. We’d get to a park and my family (full of hard heads) would start fighting over what we wanted to do first, getting little accomplished in the process. Now we have conversations during our vacation planning about what is most important for each person to do for that particular trip before we even get in the car. Each person has a list and we make sure they get to scratch off their top picks so no one leaves unhappy. We all have to compromise at some point.

If you have an active child who enjoys getting lots of physical play, I would encourage you to take time out each day to allow them to get some energy out. They’ll be happy and you’ll get a kick out of watching them enjoy themselves.

If you are considering a trip to Disney World, feel free to contact me at corby@travelwiththemagic.com. I’d love to assist with your Disney vacation planning!

Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival

I have to start off by saying this is one of my favorite times to go to Disney. As my children were young, we never did the Food and Wine Festival so it was time to go on a mom and dad trip only.

As my husband is a foodie, he was really looking forward to this event. An event that you can actually visit approximately 30 countries (no jet lag a plus) and have a taste of their authentic foods and wine.

You start off by getting your passport and a map, and off you go. As you go to each country they stamp your passport. This is a great reminder and keepsake as to which countries you visited. We had to visit a few countries more than once! We loved their food and would not have been able to try it otherwise.

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Only Disney can actually make you feel like you are visiting each country feel real. The market place booths for every individual country is made to look like a landmark of that country. The cast members are mostly from the country they are representing…which again, puts you in the mode of being there. The food offerings are more of a tapas (small) serving, as they offer 2-3 different types of food, and of course the wine pairing to compliment each. Some countries specialize in beer and this is a must try! (my husband’s favorite)

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There is even wonderful entertainment to see which is called “Eat to the Beat” a concert series of popular bands. We saw the Hanson Brothers a few years ago and they were amazing and still going strong! It was nice to see these brothers still making music together.

The dates this year are September 27- November 11. If you are planning to visit Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival, I would be happy to help plan your trip and give you some wonderful suggestions!

Georgia Sioutis

Georgia@travelwiththemagic.com

1-800-670-4312 ext. 130

Walt Disney World’s Park Hopper Option

The park hopper option can be added to any Walt Disney World base ticket and is good for the length of your stay.  This option allows you to visit more than one park in a day.  For example you could spend the morning at Magic Kingdom then “hop” over to Epcot in the afternoon. The park hopper option is an additional $35 per person to add to a one day ticket or $57 per person to add to a 2 day or longer ticket.  This cost is not per day, it is the total price per person excluding tax.

While park hopping can be useful for any length of stay, if you have 5 day or longer park passes then I highly suggest adding the hopping option.  Once you’ve experienced all four theme parks, hopping allows you to go back and hit the highlights at each park again without having to devote an entire day to one park.  This is great when you may only want to ride a couple of attractions or eat a meal in any one location.  You could spend the morning at Animal Kingdom which tends to be the first park that closes for the day and then hop over to the Magic Kingdom for dinner and fireworks.  Or spend the day at the Hollywood Studios and then hop over to Epcot Illuminations that evening.  Or use the hopping option to bounce over to another park for evening Extra Magic Hours.  The possibilities are endless with park hopping and this feature allows you the flexibility to go where you want, when you want, and experience what you want.

 

For the ultimate in park hopping visit all 4 parks in one day and experience at least one attraction in each!

 

Whether you choose to park hop or not it’s important to have a good itinerary with a solid plan of action.  This is where I come in!  One of my complementary services is to work with you to prepare a touring plan that fits your style and make sure you have ample time at each park to experience those things important to you.  I’d love to help you get started with a wonderful Disney Destination vacation.  My name is Susan Heidenrich and I am a Disney Destination Specialist affiliated with Travel with the Magic.  Contact me at SusanH@travelwiththemagic.com.  You can also follow me on facebook at www.facebook.com/SusanHeidenrichTravelwiththeMagic.com for information, specials and tips and tricks on Disney vacations.

Tell me A Story

It is no secret that I love Walt Disney World during the holidays, everything is just so magical!  When we took our Christmas trip I was determined to fit in everything that is special and unique about visiting during this time of the year.  One of the things that was on our must do list was to see the Storytellers in Epcot.

You can see the Storytellers in all the countries around World Showcase at various times throughout the day.  Pick up a times guide as you arrive at the park and map out your plan of attack.  You can find the location by looking for these signs

Each Storyteller shares the traditions of their country through their story, which usually lasts around 10-15 minutes.  You then have a chance to meet the Storyteller and get your picture taken with them.  It was really fun to learn where a lot of our own Christmas traditions originated from!

Here is a list of who is available to see, typically from late November through the end of December

Mexico – The Three Kings

Norway – Sigrid tells the story of a mischievous little Gnome named Julenissen.  Julenissen plays tricks on Sigrid throughout the story and is really funny.  This was my favorite of all the Storytellers!

China – The Money King.  He was full of energy and was a favorite with the kids

 

Germany – Helga tells us all about the nutcracker and serveral other holiday tradtitions.  This one was especially interesting to me because of my German heritage, and the kids loved meeting the giant nutcracker at the end.

Italy – La Befana tells a beautiful and sometimes sad story.  She was another of my favorites

The American Adventure – You can meet Mr. & Mrs. Claus here as well as learn about Kwanzaa and Hanukkah

Japan – A Daruma doll seller explains the customs of the Japanese New Year

Morocco – Taarji shares the customs of Ramadan

France – Pere Noel

United Kingdom – Father Christmas, loved him as well!

And finally,

Canada – Nowell the lumberjack searches for Santa at Christmas

I was so glad that we made time to do this!  It was such a special and unique experience.  We were able to get through most of them during one afternoon/evening and the rest we caught at different times throughout our trip.

If you’d like to know more about the Storytellers or any of the other things going on at Walt Disney World during the holidays, you can contact me at michelle@travelwiththemagic.com  It doesn’t cost you any extra to book your trip through me and then all of my planning services are completely free.  I’d love to help you plan your next trip!

Making more Magical Memories at Disney’s Beach and Yacht Club Resort!

Last Spring, I had the opportunity to stay at Disney’s Yacht Club resort.  It was a wonderful experience.  The Yacht Club resort is right next door to the Disney’s Beach Club resort.  Both resorts offer wonderful accommodations, gorgeous pools, yummy snack bars and fun family activities while overlooking one of Walt Disney World’s many lakes.  We were able to take a short water taxi ride over to Hollywood Studios.  In the evening, your family can enjoy a beach campfire with sing-a-long songs and a movie.

Another great aspect of staying at Disney’s Beach and Yacht Clubs is the access to Disney’s Boardwalk area.  The Boardwalk is a fun, family area that offers several great signature restaurants, a candy store and ice cream parlor, ESPN Zone, dueling pianos, street performers and more.

One more great convenience of staying at either the Yacht Club or Beach Club is the back door entrance you will have to Epcot.  When staying here, you are a short 10 minute walk right into the countries of Epcot.  You can also take the water taxi over to Epcot if you choose.

If you have any questions and would like to use a planner for free – contact me at Robyn@travelwiththemagic.com or call me directly at 1-800-670-4312 ext 125.  I have an unexplained passion for Disney and making sure that everyone is getting the most that they can out of every visit!

 

 

 

The Story of Christmas

There is no place more magical during the holiday season than Walt Disney World.  From the Osborne Lights at Hollywood Studios to Cinderella’s Castle dripping with lights in theMagicKingdom, the halls are all decked across the entire resort, and it is a beautiful sight to see.

Of all the festive things going on during the Christmas season, my favorite has to be the Candlelight Processional.  The Candlelight Processional is a special holiday event that is held nightly starting in late November and running through the end of December.  It retells the story of Christmas with a celebrity narrator who is accompanied by an orchestra and an amazing choir.

There are three shows times each night, 5:00 pm, 6:45 pm and 8:15pm, held in the America Gardens Theater in the World Showcase inside the Epcot theme park.  As you can imagine this is a very popular show and seats fill up quickly.  You can arrive early and wait in the standby line for a seat or you can purchase a Candlelight Dining Package that includes lunch or dinner, a guaranteed seat for the show and a special spot to view Illuminations.

Lunch packages range from $32.99–$55.99 for adults, and $12.50–$17.99 for children ages 3–9

Participating lunch restaurants include: Biergarten, Coral Reef, Le Cellier Steakhouse, Les Chefs de France, Nine Dragons, Restaurant Marrakesh, Rose & Crown,SanAngelInn, Teppan Edo, Tokyo Dining, Tutto Italia and Via Napoli.

Dinner packages range from $49.99–$66.99 for adults, and $14.50–$26.99 for children ages 3–9

Participating dinner restaurants include: Biergarten, Coral Reef, The Garden Grill, La Hacienda de San Angel, Les Chefs de France, Nine Dragons, Restaurant Marrakesh, Rose & Crown,SanAngelInn, Teppan Edo, Tokyo Dining, Tutto Italia and Via Napoli.

Current celebrity narrators for this year are:

November 23 to November 25, 2012 — Geena Davis
November 26 to November 29, 2012 — Neil Patrick Harris
November 30 to December 1, 2012 — Whoopi Goldberg
December 2 to December 4, 2012 — Andy Garcia
December 5 to December 7, 2012 — Blair Underwood
December 8 to December 9, 2012 — James Denton
December 10 to December 13, 2012 — Jodi Benson
December 14 to December 16, 2012 — Lea Salonga
December 17 to December 19, 2012 — Alfre Woodard
December 20 to December 22, 2012 — Trace Adkins
December 23 to December 25, 2012 — Gary Sinise
December 26 to December 28, 2012 — Amy Grant
December 29 to December 30, 2012 — Marlee Matlin / Jack Jason

If you would like my help in planning your very own magical Christmas at Walt Disney World just contact me at michelle@travelwiththemagic.com.  It doesn’t cost you any extra to book your vacation through me and then all of my planning services are completely free!