At the beginning of January, my family and I received an invitation from Disney, inviting us down during winter break to explore some of the fun, new offerings for preschoolers happening all around Disney World. Having been there in November, I was hesitant to go back at first, but we only visited two parks on that trip, so it was the perfect opportunity to experience the full extent of the magic. And, I have to say, I am so glad we went because honestly, no matter how many times you see the mouse ears, this place never gets old.
We landed in sunny Orlando, and took the Magical Tour bus to Disney’s Art of Animation Hotel, our home for the next few days. The Art of Animation Hotel is divided into four distinctly designed wings, each celebrating rich storytelling, spirited characters, original sketches inspired by Disney and Pixar films. The storybook landscapes were developed around the animated classics: Finding Nemo, Cars, The Lion King and The Little Mermaid, which make you feel as if you are already visiting a theme park as you walk the grounds. Our family suite in the Cars section included a separate bedroom, a full size sleeper sofa in the living room, 2 bathrooms and a kitchenette. One of the coolest features of our room was the convertible table-bed in the living area. It offered an area for the kids to sit and play during the day, but opened up to a full size bed, which the girls shared at night. With all this space our room was plenty big for our five top.
These are the sketches displayed throughout the lobby…
After unpacking and settling in, we had some down time to hang at our hotel, before heading over to Disney’s Grand Floridian for a special dinner, where we were welcomed by the guest of honor, Mickey Mouse! With only five other families present, meeting Mickey in such an intimate setting was a pretty spectacular way to start our vacation.
Next, we made our way over the Disney’s newly designed Polynesian Bungalows to view the nightly fireworks display over at the Magic Kingdom. This resort is an addition to the growing Disney Vacation Club, offering the spirit of the South Pacific infused with some fun Disney touches. The resort’s Deluxe Studio rooms are the largest at the Walt Disney World Resort, featuring tropical décor, a whimsical child-size hidden pull-down bed and a split bathroom, which allows multiple members of a party to get ready at the same time. Located on the Seven Seas Lagoon, the two-bedroom, two-bathroom Bora Bora Bungalows are beyond, and I would definitely love to stay here the next time we travel to Disney.
The Polynesian Village Resort is an ideal destination for families with preschoolers, because they offer a fun children’s activity center called, Lilo’s Playhouse. The center caters to children ages 3 to 12 offering cooking activities, adventures in science, and enchanting character interactions to all of their little guests. All of your expected games, toys, dress up outfits, crafts, and storytelling are all on hand, as well. I thought this was the perfect resource for parents, who look forward to a night off for a grown-ups only dinner, without the kids.
The grounds and rooms were impeccable and from the balcony of the bungalow, it may be the best way to view the beauty of the fireworks from the comfort of your own room.
The next day I woke up, to find birthday cards from Jason and the kids, and a birthday pin from Disney. At first, I wasnt going to wear the pin, because I don’t like to make a major deal about my birthday, but then I figured, what girl wouldn’t want to spend her big day at Disney World. Clad with my b’day mark, it was off to our first stop, Hollywood Studios. Not having made it here last time, we were psyched to see what it had to offer.
First stop was Hollywood & Vine for a character breakfast, with all of the Disney Junior stars such as Doc McStuffins, Sofia the First, Handy Manny and Jake and the Never Land Pirate. Ryder, Siella, and Gemma were stoked to add some new signatures into their autograph books. The interactive breakfast was pretty neat, because the kids were encouraged to dance along with their friends, in sing along performances.
On our last trip, Ryder wanted nothing more than to see some characters from Star Wars, so next stop was especially for him. The Star Wars themed attractions at Disney’s Hollywood Studios now include elements from Star Wars: The Force Awakens, including life sized displays of new and old Star Wars artifacts, and photo opportunities with the latest villain, Kylo Ren. The new experiences include the creation of Star Wars Launch Bay, a central locale for fans to celebrate all things Star Wars; Path of the Jedi, and cinematic overview of the Star Wars saga. There are also new enhancements for Star Tours: The Adventures Continue and Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple.
For those roaming the park after dark. another cool Star Wars themed attraction to Disney’s Hollywood Studios is the nightly fireworks show, called the “Symphony in the Stars: A Galactic Spectacular.
After our trip to a galaxy far, far away and a ride on the Toy Story Midway Mania, we walked to a live performance called “For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration.” Siella and Gemma belted out their favorite Frozen songs, as fake snow poured down in the theatre, making the show a unique and magical experience.
Going from one performance to the next, we also took advantage of watching Disney Junior: Live On Stage entertainment brought to life as hand puppets, who invited their little fans to sing, dance, and play. With friends from the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Princess Sofia, Doc McStuffins, and Jake and his band of Never Land Pirates, there was a little something for everyone to enjoy.
After what had already felt like a full day, we then headed over to the incredible Magic Kingdom!
Having spent most of our time here on the last visit, the kids were old pros remembering where everything was located, and exactly which rides they wanted to go on again, like The Magic Carpets of Aladdin, Peter Pan’s Flight, and Under The Sea.
After some repeat favorites, we added to the mix: Pirates of the Caribbean, Splash Mountain (all of us this time), and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. Can you tell which was their favorite!
This trip also opened up Ryder and Siella to the world of Disney Trading Pins. I got a kick out of watching them trade up as they built little collections for themselves.
With only one day spend at Magic Kingdom last trip, we missed the afternoon Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade, so it was a must see this time. It was quite the spectacle, and in some ways it was just as cool as the nighttime Main Street Electrical Parade. The interactive floats rolled past, with awesome entertainment like the Maleficent display, with a fire-breathing dragon, and the Under The Sea cast starring Ariel, Sebastian and an enchanted ocean ensemble from The Little Mermaid atop a sparkling music box. I am so glad we didn’t miss this one again.
For dinner, we dined at the newly opened Skipper Canteen, in Adventureland. Feeling as if we were on a tour in the Amazon Jungle, we enjoyed the flavorful cuisine of Asia, South America, and Africa which was definitely a nice change to traditional theme park cuisine.
We closed the evening with the girls taking a spin on the Mad Tea Party Cups, while Ryder and I tackled Space Mountain. As we made our way out of the park, the fireworks started, to cap off one action packed day. At the hotel, we tuck ourselves in early in anticipation for the next day filled with Epcot and Animal Kingdom parks. You will have to check back to hear about all the fun from that day…
In the meantime, I’m psyched to tell you how you can Experience Walt Disney World Resort with a package that includes a 3-night stay in a standard room at Disney’s All-Star Music Resort, plus 2-day theme park tickets, for as low as $927 for a family of 3. This price is available for stays, most nights, Sunday through Thursday from April 14, 2016 through May 26, 2016, when you book by March 31, 2016.