Posts Tagged ‘pools’

Where to Get Wet at Walt Disney World

by on May 16, 2014

Summer is on its way to Orlando and that means Disney World is on its way to sizzling temperatures. Often the best way to beat the heat is to give it a good soaking (or at least a mild spritz). If you want to tame the searing sun by getting wet, here’s how to make that happen.

Your hotel pool is the perfect place to cool off.

Your hotel pool is the perfect place to cool off.

YOUR HOTEL POOL

Every Walt Disney World resort has outdoor pools for guest use. Some of these are basic rectangular puddles, while others include elaborate themeing, slides, waterfalls, or interactive play zones. If you’re visiting Walt Disney World in the winter, you may find that you can skip pool time completely. But even the most stalwart aquaphobe will want to at least dip their toes during a summer visit.

For the complete scoop, take a look at our four part series covering every aspect of the Disney pool situation.

  • Get to Know the Disney Pools: General Overview
  • Get to Know the Disney Pools: Value Resort Pools. Covers the pools at the All Star Movies, All Star Music, All Star Sports, Art of Animation and Pop Century resorts.
  • Get to Know the Disney Pools: Moderate Resort Pools. Covers the pools at the Caribbean Beach, Coronado Springs, Fort Wilderness, Port Orleans French Quarter, and Port Orleans Riverside resorts.
  • Get to Know the Disney Pools: Deluxe and Deluxe Villa Resort Pools. Covers the pools at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, Beach Club, Boardwalk, Contemporary (and Bay Lake Tower), Grand Floridian, Polynesian, Saratoga Springs, Wilderness Lodge, and Yacht Club resorts.

When planning your summer WDW visit, remember that most Disney World resorts do not allow “pool hopping” which means that all your swimming will take place at your own hotel. If special water features are important to you, choose your lodging accordingly.

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Should You Stay Off Property At Disney World?

by on February 2, 2014

Where to stay during your Disney World vacation is a long debated topic with no right or wrong answer. Before moving here I was a 100% Disney purist, horrified at even the thought of stepping foot off Disney property. But after moving to Orlando and working in the travel industry I realized there are some excellent options if you are brave enough to venture off property. Today I’m outlining some things to think about before choosing to stay off property on your next trip.

Beware “scheduled” transportation: Many properties in Kissimmee and throughout Lake Buena Vista offer what they call scheduled shuttles to the parks. What they don’t tell you is that this is often a single shuttle in the morning and evening to each park, meaning that you likely will have to arrive late or leave early to make this one shuttle. The shuttle is also commonly shared with other hotels and crammed, packed full. Be sure that you understand the shuttle service offered prior to booking if you’ll need transportation to the parks.

IMG_9391

Believe me – you don’t want to walk from here!

You cannot walk: I know this seems pretty obvious but I can tell you from working in hotels that it’s common for guests to think they can just walk to Disney from offsite hotels. This is because hotels advertise their distance to “Disney’s Maingate”. By definition a maingate is the arch that you drive under to enter Disney property… which can be miles from an actual Disney park! There is not a single non-Disney hotel where you can walk to a park.

Renting a car: Personally, I can’t imagine staying off property without renting a car (or using your personal car if you’re driving to get here). The shuttles offered by offsite hotels have never worked for me and I need the freedom to come and go as I please. The cost of renting this car should be weighed with the cost of an onsite room at Disney. Also, remember that if you don’t have an annual pass you will have to pay for parking when staying off Disney property. That really adds up at a minimum of $15 a day!

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101 Things to Do Near Disney World Without Going into a Theme Park

by on October 23, 2013

You’ve got time to kill on your arrival or departure day. You’re taking a chill day mid-vacation. You’ve got a park-phobic in your party. Whatever the reason, there may be times when you’re at Walt Disney World, but can’t, or don’t want to, venture into a theme park. Here’s a handy list of 101 ways to keep busy and have fun without heading into the parks.

Before I get going, let me say that one oft-mentioned reason for avoiding the theme parks is to save money. I mean, going into the park means a big outlay of funds for admission, right? Well, yes, if you’re going into the parks, you will need a ticket, but you should be aware that spending a day in the park may actually end up cheaper than looking for fun elsewhere. For example, the price difference between an 8-day park ticket and a 9-day park ticket is only about $10 per adult. Even simple activities like mini-golf ($14 per adult at Winter Summerland) or a trip to the movies ($11.75 per adult evening ticket at AMC Downtown Disney) will cost more than that. The math is less clear with a shorter stay, and you still may want or need to avoid the parks for sanity purposes, but you should sit down and do the math to make sure that a non-park day makes financial sense for you.

And now on to the list of Walt Disney World Activities Outside the Theme Parks:

  1. Dine with Characters. Several of the character meals are located outside the theme parks. Try Chef Mickey’s at the Contemporary (breakfast and dinner), ‘Ohana at the Polynesian (breakfast), Cape May Cafe at the Beach Club (breakfast), or 1900 Park Fare at the Grand Floridian (breakfast and dinner).

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Get to Know the Disney World Pools, Part Four: The Deluxe and Deluxe Villa Resort Pools

by on May 22, 2013

We’ve given you the basics about Disney resort pools in general and the specifics about the pools at the value and moderate level hotels. The series concludes with an in-depth look at the pools at the Walt Disney World deluxe and villa resorts: Animal Kingdom Lodge and Villas, Boardwalk Inn and Villas, Contemporary Resort and Bay Lake Tower Villas, Grand Floridian, Old Key West, Polynesian, Saratoga Springs and Tree House Villas, Wilderness Lodge and Villas, and the Yacht & Beach Club and Beach Club Villas.

So strap on your swim fins; we’re going in …

ANIMAL KINGDOM LODGE AND KIDANI VILLAGE

  • How many pools are there? There are two large pools at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, the Uzima pool at the main Jambo House, and the Samwati Spring pool in the Kidani Village villas area. There is no “quiet pool” area at the Animal Kingdom Lodge.
  • What is the pool themeing? The African wilderness.
  • What’s the kiddie pool situation? There are traditional kiddie pools in both the Jambo and Kidani pool areas. Additionally, Kidani has a large interactive water play area intended for children under 48″ tall.
  • Are there water slides? Yes, both pool areas have water slides. At Kidani, there is a small slide, appropriate for preschoolers, as well as a larger slide for older children. At Jambo, there is one large water slide.
  • Is there a nearby playground? Yes. There are playgrounds near both the Jambo and Kidani pool areas.
  • What’s the nearest food option? The Maji bar next to the Kidani pool offers drinks and very limited number of cold sandwich options. The Uzima Springs bar next to the Jambo pool offers drinks and a small selection of packaged snacks. The Mara quick service restaurant, with complete food offerings, is steps away from the Jambo pool.
  • Are there showers at the pool? Yes, there are restrooms with lockers and shower adjacent to both the Jambo and Kidani pool areas.
  • Are there hot tubs? Yes, there are hot tubs at both the Jambo and Kidani pool areas.
  • Are there towels available at the pool? Yes, towels are available at both pools.
  • How deep is the pool? The Jambo pool is four feet, ten inches at its deepest point. The Kidani pool is four feet, eleven inches at its deepest point.
  • Are there zero entry pools available? Yes. The main pools at both Jambo and Kidani have zero entry access.
  • Are poolside cabanas available? No.
  • Are there poolside activities? Yes. There are activities at both the Jambo and Kidani pools. Schedules may vary seasonally, but recently there were planned events from 1:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m. every afternoon, plus a movie under the stars in the evening. Events may include: Bingo, Wild Trivia, Frisbee Toss, Giant Jenga, Chalk Art, Musical Rings, and others. Weather permitting, there is a free campfire with s’mores.
  • Anything else? The two sections of the Animal Kingdom Lodge are a substantial walking distance apart. Guests with preschool and elementary age children may prefer the pools at Kidani Village due to the appealing children’s water play area. Different evening movies are shown at the Jambo and Kidani areas. Feel free to view whichever film is more appealing to your family. The schedules for both will be available at the front desk.

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Get to Know the Disney World Pools, Part Three: The Moderate Resort Pools

by on May 16, 2013

We’ve taken a look at the general pool situation at Walt Disney World, as well as the pool specifics about the value level resorts. Now it’s time to dig in to the details about the pools at the Disney moderate resorts: Caribbean Beach, Coronado Springs, Port Orleans French Quarter, and Port Orleans Riverside, as well as the Fort Wilderness Campgrounds. (Disney classifies the Fort Wilderness cabins as moderate level accommodations.)

CARIBBEAN BEACH RESORT

  • How many pools are there? There are seven real pools. The main feature pool, Fuentes del Morro, is located in Old Port Royale Centertown. There are also six smaller quiet pools, one each in the Martinique, Barbados, Aruba, Jamaica, Trinidad South, and Trinidad North guest room areas.
  • What is the pool themeing? The feature pool has an old fashioned pirate theme, with faux pirate outpost ruins.
  • What’s the kiddie pool situation? There is an aquatic play area, reserved for children under 48″ tall, adjacent to the main feature pool. The water around the play area is shallow and appropriate for the smallest children. There is also a small traditional kiddie pool.
  • Are there water slides? Yes, there are twin mini-slides in the aquatic play area. There are two medium-sized slides in the feature pool, appropriate for older children.
  • Is there a nearby playground? The aquatic play area functions much like a playground, with interactive elements. Traditional playgrounds are located in the Barbados, Jamaica, and Trinidad South village areas.
  • What’s the nearest food option? The Banana Cabana bar is located directly adjacent to the main feature pool. The Market Street food court and Shutters full-service restaurant are located in nearby Centertown. Other than vending machines, there are no food options near the quiet pools.
  • Are there showers at the pool? Yes, there is a locker room with showers located next to the main feature pool.
  • Are there hot tubs? Yes. There is a small hot tub located next to the main feature pool.
  • Are there towels available at the pool? Yes, there are towels available at the main feature pool. Towels are typically not available at the quiet pools.
  • How deep is the pool? The main feature pool is four feet, ten inches at its deepest point. The quiet pools average four feet, six inches at their deepest point.
  • Are there zero entry pools? Yes, the main feature pool has a zero entry access point. The children’s aquatic play area is also zero entry. The quiet pools are standard entry.
  • Are poolside cabanas available? No.
  • Are there poolside activities? Yes. All activities take place at the feature pool area. Schedules may vary seasonally, but recently there were planned events from 1:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m. every afternoon, plus a movie under the stars in the evening. Events may include: Dance Parties, “What’s in Your Beach Bag,” “Mickey Who?,” Notable Quotes, and others. Weather permitting, there is a free campfire with s’mores.
  • Anything else? There are laundry facilities near the pool in each village area. There are often hair wrap artists located at the Dig Site pool mid-day. While there are plentiful beaches here, there is no swimming allowed in the lake.

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Get to Know the Disney World Pools, Part One

by on May 1, 2013

While the theme park attractions may be the reason that people come to Walt Disney World, often the reason they stay at Walt Disney World is the hotel pool. All of the Disney World hotels have at least one, if not several, pools on site, many of which have elaborate themeing, kiddie play zones, or other enticements that can make a day at the resort just as fun as a day at the parks.

Zero entry pool at the Polynesian.

Zero entry pool at the Polynesian.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be doing some deep water exploration of the pool situation at Walt Disney World. So put on your swim fins, folks, and get ready to dive in.

What’s the overall pool situation like at the Disney World resorts?

While all Disney hotels have pools, there is a great deal of variation between the resorts in the size, atmosphere, and amenities of the pools at each location. The pools range from basic water-in-the-ground (albeit with colorful themed elements) at the All Star Resorts, to a de facto mini water park, with multiple slides, sandy play areas, and a lazy river at the Yacht & Beach Clubs.

Some resorts have elaborate interactive water play zones for children, some have hot tubs, some have deluxe cabana rentals, some have quiet pools for restful relaxation, some have zero entry approaches to the water. Sometimes these features, or the lack thereof, can have a big impact on your vacation enjoyment.

In a future post, I’ll get into the specific set-up at each hotel, but for now we’ll cover issues that apply to the pools in general.

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Value, Moderate, Deluxe, Villa: What’s the Difference Between Disney World Resort Categories?

by on August 22, 2012

Walt Disney World Veterans instinctively understand the differences between Disney’s resort classification system: value, moderate, deluxe, and villa. But new Disney travelers, or folks who’ve previously only stayed off site, are often confused by the terminology. Sure deluxe sounds, well, deluxe, but what exactly makes it that way. What makes it more deluxe than a moderate resort? What does moderate mean, anyway? And why is moderate more deluxe than value when there are some value rooms that cost more than moderate rooms? To help you sort it all out, here’s a handy-dandy cheat sheet detailing the differences in the Disney resort categories.

But before we get going, it may be helpful to list the hotels that fall into each of the classification categories.

The deluxe resorts are: Grand Floridian, Contemporary, Polynesian, Beach Club, Yacht Club, Boardwalk, Animal Kingdom Lodge Jambo House, and Wilderness Lodge. The moderate resorts are: Port Orleans Riverside and French Quarter, Coronado Springs, Caribbean Beach Resort, and the Fort Wilderness Cabins. The value resorts are: All Star Movies, All Star Music, All Star Sports, Pop Century, and Art of Animation. The dedicated villa resorts are Old Key West and Saratoga Springs. Additionally, there are villa rooms at the Beach Club, Boardwalk, Animal Kingdom Lodge, Wilderness Lodge, and Contemporary (Bay Lake Tower) resorts. The amenities of those villas are shared with the deluxe resorts that host them. The Fort Wilderness campground remains unclassified. Campground guests have all the privileges of Fort Wilderness cabin guests except, of course, having a Disney roof over their head.

Room Size

Value resort accomodations are fairly basic.

  • Value resorts: The typical standard room, sleeping up to four guests plus a baby in a crib, is approximately 260 square feet. The typical family suite, sleeping up to six guests plus a baby in a crib is approximately 520 square feet.
  • Moderate resorts: Typical standard rooms at Caribbean Beach, Coronado Springs, and Port Orleans are approximately 314 square feet. These rooms sleep up to four guests, plus a baby in a crib. There are some rooms at Port Orleans Riverside equipped to sleep up to five guests plus a baby. There are some suites at Coronado Springs. The Fort Wilderness cabins, which sleep up to six guests plus a baby, are approximately 504 square feet.
  • Deluxe resorts: There are a variety of room types and sizes at the deluxe hotels. These range from standad rooms of about 344 square feet at the Wilderness Lodge and Animal Kingdom Lodge (rooms sleeping four plus a baby) on up suites of more than a thousand square feet. Typical rooms at the Grand Floridian sleep up to five guests plus a baby in 440 square feet.
  • Villa resorts: There are studio, one bedroom, two bedroom and three bedroom villas. These range in size from a 316 square foot studio at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, to a nearly 2,500 square foot three bedroom grand villa at the Boardwalk. Most studio rooms sleep up to four guests plus a baby. The grand villas sleep up to 12 guests plus a baby.
  • Things to think about: Not surprisingly, the rooms get larger as you move up in the resort classification level. However, the square footage of your room may not matter to you if you’ll only be spending time in your room to sleep.

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Giving Kids the Run Around at Disney World: Places Kids Can Move at WDW

by on April 25, 2012

In my experience, in order to be able to maintain calm and control for situations that demand good behavior (waiting for restaurants, waiting for attractions), most kids need periods of activity that allow them to use pent up energy and blow off steam. They need to move their bodies and “get their wiggles out.” A typical Walt Disney World vacation does involve lots of movement, but this tends to be of the energy sapping sort (walking from ride A to ride B), rather than the energy rejuvenating sort (free and creative play).

The water play areas at the resorts are great place to expend excess energy.

So in a regimented Touring Plans, gotta-hustle-to-the-next-attraction world, how to do you get your kids to move their bodies in a constructive, appropriate, and fun manner. Here are some tips.

Take a mid-afternoon break at your resort.

This is an old saw, but it works. If at all possible, you should take a mid-day break to recharge your batteries. Some folks recommend that the best activity for break time is a nap, and for the youngest children (and my husband) this may be true. But I’d argue that for preschoolers on up, a free movement break can be equally reinvigorating.

So what can kids do at the resort to move around? Of course all the WDW resort hotels have pools which are heated to at least 80 degrees year round. I’ve seen hardy souls Marco Poloing like mad, even when the air temperature was 45 degrees. Many of the resort pools have splash areas, fountains, slides or other interactive features which encourage use of multiple muscle groups.

The resorts also have small playgrounds with slides and basic climbing structures. While most of these are covered, be aware that the plastic and metal elements can become quite hot in the Florida sun. Test surfaces yourself before allowing your child to play freely. The resort all have play areas for climbing and sliding.

And best of all, many of the resorts have lawns, beaches, or courtyards that practically beg kids to run around. I’m talking to you faux football field at All Star Sports.

You can make free time more entertaining by packing one or two pieces of small sports equipment such as a frisbee, ball or jump rope. Every time my kids have tossed a frisbee in an open area at our hotel, they’ve made friends with other children who wanted to join in the fun. Be mindful to keep the noise level to a dull roar, but otherwise go ahead and enjoy the open space. Depending on your child’s need for exercise, you may want to factor the availability of play areas into your resort decision.

Many resorts have open areas for free play.

While “pool hopping” is generally not allowed at Walt Disney World, you are welcome to use the playgrounds and open areas at any of the WDW hotels. For example, if you’re staying at a distant off-site hotel and want a mid-day break from the Magic Kingdom, a good solution can be to take a brief boat ride over to Fort Wilderness for lunch and playtime. There is a well-shaded climbing structure and beach area where you can let kids be, well, kids for an hour or so.

And at all the resorts keep an eye out for special opportunities for movement such as beachside sack races or hula hoop contests.

What if Your Kids are Antsy in the Parks?

Despite your plan to take a break at the hotel, sometimes that’s just not in the cards. Or, perhaps you’re planning on taking a resort break later, but your child need to move around NOW. Never fear, there are some location in the parks where free play is possible.

Honey, I shrunk the kids and blew up an ant.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

The primary spot for unfettered play at DHS is the Honey I Shrunk the Kids Playground. Your kids probably won’t understand why there’s a supersized Play-doh can or a giant ant sitting there, but they’ll love climbing on the netting bridges, zooming down the slides, or playing hide and seek with their siblings in the secret tunnels. Think McDonald’s Playland on steroids.

There’s only one exit, so if your kids are big enough not to get stepped on, park yourself near that exit and catch up on your emails while you wait for the young ‘uns to burn off their excess energy.

A stealth energy burner can be the Disney Channel Rocks show which takes place in front of the big hat several times a day. This attraction includes a section where kids can dance their hearts out. For an uninhibited child this is a chance for both the illusion of fame and the expenditure of a few calories.

Animal Kingdom

The Animal Kingdom equivalent of the Honey I Shrunk the Kids Playground is The Boneyard in DinoLand. In addition to slides and climbing structures, there’s a sand pit area where kids can dig for buried “dinosaur bones.” Your child will definitely get some sand in his shoes here; be prepared with an extra set of socks to facilitate clean up.

The Boneyard has lots of places to explore.

While not specifically designed as an active movement area, you might want to take a squirmy child over to the Affection Section at Rafiki’s Planet Watch. This petting zoo allows kids to freely interact with, hug, and pat the tamest group of sheep and goats I have ever encountered. This has a huge calming effect on many youngsters.

Epcot

Epcot does not have a dedicated playground area. The closest thing to free play you’ll find at Epcot is the interactive fountain splash area in the walkway between Future World and the World Showcase. This is an area where kids will, obviously, get wet. For here, and many other locations, it makes sense to keep a dry set of clothing in your backpack or diaper bag.

Your kids WILL get wet at the Epcot water play zone.

While not free form play, the exhibits at Innoventions do offer some physical activity. One of my kids’ favorities is the “Where’s the Fire” attraction which involves running from room to room in a mock house while identifying fire hazards. Similarly, the Kodak Image Works area in the Imagination Pavilion involves movement like jumping and stomping to activate some of the attraction features.

If you happen to be at Epcot during Flower and Garden season, you may find that there are temporary play structures erected for the Festival. Be sure to take advantage of them.

Magic Kingdom

The Magic Kingdom is experiencing a transition in the availability of free movement areas. The Ariel’s Grotto water play area and the Toontown Donald’s Boat water play area were both closed as part of the Fantasyland refurbishment and expansion. Beyond the old standby Tom Sawyer Island, currently the only real play areas at the Magic Kingdom are a teeny todder-sized climb area near the exit to Splash Mountain and the new-and-improved interactive queue at the Winnie the Pooh ride.

You can play in the Pooh queue even if you don't want to go on the ride.

The latest version of the Magic Kingdom map mentions the Casey Jr. Splash and Soak Station in the Storybook Circus area. When this opens, I assume it will provide some relief for families who want a place for their kids to cool off and run around. Again, bring extra clothing for your wet wigglers.

Much like the Disney Channel show at Hollywood Studios, the “Move It, Shake It, Celebrate It” parade invites guests to get their groove on and dance during the show. If you shake your groove thing, maybe your cranky kids will join you and activate some endorphins.

Where have you found to let your kids be kids at Walt Disney World? What are your tricks for helping little ones burn off excess energy? Let us know in the comments below.

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