Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Top Ten Hidden Gems at Walt Disney World

As I mentioned yesterday, on Tuesdays this summer, I will be sharing trip tips to make your summer family vacations as great as possible. Today, I'll be writing about one of the most visited vacation spots in the entire world. If you've read my blog since the beginning, you probably know that I am quite obsessed with all things Disney. I love the movies and the parks. To help you plan your magical trip, I decided to share my top 10 hidden gems at Walt Disney World. These are in no particular order, except for number one. :)
10. Chip and Dale's Campfire and Singalong- Every night your family can join the lovable Chipmunks at Fort Wilderness Campground for a free campfire and songs. You can enjoy smores for a small price.
9. Epcot Club Cool- Head to this gift shop in Epcot for free samples of pop (or maybe soda in your neck of the woods). This isn't your everyday pop, though. You can sample a variety of flavors from all over the world. Just a warning: not all of them are tasty!
8. Boat ride from Port Orleans to Downtown Disney- hop on a historic riverboat for a relaxing ride down the beautiful Sassagoula River, surrounded by a cool breeze and lush vegitation. Your driver will offer fun facts about the area, and you'll be at the exciting shopping and entertainment complex in about 15 minutes.
7. Hidden Mickeys- this literally hidden gem is a fun family favorite. All over the property, the Imagineers (that's what they call their designers and construction workers, how cool is that??) have hidden Mickey heads. You know. The big circle with two smaller circles on top. You might find them hidden on signs, within show backgrounds or even etched into the concrete. There are guidebooks that leak the location of every single one of them, but I think it's more fun to find them yourself. I'll never forget the first one I found. It was a very small one (about 2" wide) drawn in the concrete in between the parking lot and Planet Hollywood at Downtown Disney. How many can you find?
6. Magical Express- okay, so this one isn't very hidden. But I had to include it. It's one of the many benefits to staying on property. The Magical Express is a FREE shuttle bus that drives guests from Orlando International Airport to their Disney resort hotel. There is an adorable movie shown on the way there that sets the stage for your special trip, and they even take you back to the airport again at the end of your stay. Then, you'll hear your driver say that famous line from the original Mickey Mouse Clubhouse- "See ya real soon".
5. Kid's Clubs- Simba's Clubhouse. Mouseketeer Club. Neverland Club. Cub's Den. Sandcastle Club. Camp Dolphin. What do all of these have in common? They're all childcare centers located right on the property. Sometimes moms and dads like to have some special time on vacation, too. These centers, most of which are open from about 4:00 or 5:00 PM until midnight, provide a meal, fun crafts and games for kids while the parents are enjoying a more grown up dinner at, say, Victoria and Albert's. They're a little pricey, but rest assured that your kiddos will be well cared for.
4. Best Friends Pet Care- can't bear to travel without Fluffy and Fido? Bring them along! While only service animals are allowed in the parks and hotels, you can leave your furry friends at the Disney location of Best Friends Pet Care. You can trust that these animal lovers will take care of your furbabies. They even read them bedtime stories. I'm not kidding. Hershey and Bella haven't stayed here yet, but I want only the best for them, and from what I've heard and seen, this place makes the cut.
3. British Revoloution- Located in the United Kingdom Pavillion in Epcot, this fun cover band performs tributes to epic British artists, including my personal favorite- The Beatles!
2. Kidcot Fun Stops- Also in Epcot, Kidcot Fun Stops are craft stations located at various country pavillions. Little kids can create a fun craft while learning about the nations of our world from the people who call them home. There is no charge for this short and sweet gem.
1. One Man's Dream- I'm not going to lie. This one made me cry. While you may think that the parks are all about riding rides and getting character autographs, don't pass by this self guided tour, located in Disney's Hollywood Studios. This beautiful and inspiring tribute to the man who started it all is not to be missed. You'll have the chance to see original sketches, interesting facts and more. His life story is amazing. Make sure you add this one to your "must do" list.

"I only hope that we never lose sight of one thing- that it was all started by a mouse."- Walter Elias Disney

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