10 spots to get splashed in the Disney Theme Parks

Visitors to the Walt Disney World theme parks generally know going into the game that they’re likely to encounter some heat. The index can range from toasty warm in the milder months to darn near sweltering in the summer. Much appreciated are the myriad ways to cool off around property. If it’s not yet time to head back to the hotel swimming pool, we’ve got 10 spots in mind in and around the theme parks where you can catch a break from the temps and savor a splash or two.

MAGIC KINGDOM

Casey Jr Splash ‘n Soak Station

First stop on our Splash Tour is this colorful, spurting collection of circus cars in Fantasyland. Themed after the animated film Dumbo, Casey Jr Splash ‘n Soak Station will be a magnet to your parched tykes on a hot day at the Magic Kingdom. We prefer to “splash” instead of “soak” at Casey’s — use your own discretion.

Splash Mountain

Beat the heat with Br’er Rabbit, Br’er Fox, Br’er Bear and the rest of the briar patch residents on this insta-cooling flume ride. Best to ride when the mercury’s rising and you’re in need of a little relief. If a 5-story splashdown is not your cup of tea, try cooling off in the mist on the bridge at the foot of the slide. (more…)

Arrrgh! Pirates IN the Caribbean on Disney Cruise Line

Avast ye Cruisers! Most Disney Cruise Line itineraries feature a Pirate Night during the voyage to allow you to immerse yourselves in the Pirate’s Life as much or as little as you choose. There is a special pirate theme at dinner, pirate games to partake in, a high-spirited deck party awash with buccaneers, and on many cruises, a fireworks spectacle at sea! Here’s a quick rundown of the events our family enjoys participating in. Savvy?

Pirate dress & more at dinner

Some cruisers go all out with their pirate getups: eyepatches, striped stockings, scrawled-on scars, the works. Don’t fret if you neglected to pack your seafaring togs; the dining room has you covered. Our daughter models the Pirate Mickey scarf above that each family member will receive. Your waitstaff will also be donning pirate attire and the menu will likely feature themed dishes. Depending on the length of your cruise, you may also be in for a more immersive experience at dinner!

A Pirate’s Life For Me game show

The D Lounge, a hub for family entertainment on the Disney cruise line fleet of ships, hosts this pirate game show. Our girls were among the brave souls who spun the “Wheel of Destiny” and showed off their pirate prowess. It’s a fun way to get in the spirit, mateys. Other opportunities abound on the ship for games, dancing and general carousing.

Pirate Character Appearances

All the classic Disney characters are on deck for unique photo opportunities. You can choose to queue up for professional snaps or simply ogle Mickey, Minnie, Goofy & Co performing in their garb. As far as I’m aware, Disney Cruise Line is the X-marks-the-spot when it comes to catching this crew in pirate attire.

Mickey’s Pirates IN the Caribbean deck parties

Train to be a member of Pirate Mickey’s Crew at this high-energy dance party on the ship’s Deck Stage. It’s loud, it’s exciting, and all ages are encouraged to get their little landlubbing grooves on alongside the Disney characters. Your ship’s itinerary determines who’ll be starring onstage: will the nefarious Hook succeed in crashing the party? Will Jack Sparrow be sparring with a band of merry deckhands? And — our personal favorite — will a certain VIP Captain zipline in to save the day?

Buccaneer Blast fireworks at sea!

All Disney Cruise Line ships get to experience the spectacle of fireworks at sea. We find it the perfect way to call it a Pirate Night — though there are far more activities buzzing on the boat much later. A special Pirate Buffet is served to curb midnight munchies, many cruises continue the dance party at “Club Pirate”, and a movie plays up on the deck past our bedtimes. Pirates of the Caribbean, anyone?


Follow the rainbow to World of Color at Disney California Adventure

World of Color is on the list of those non-negotiable attractions when our family visits Disney California Adventure. It’s a visually stunning show show filled with leaping Technicolor fountains, blasts of flame, and favorite Disney characters projected onto screens of mist. The music and images linger in our ears and thoughts for weeks after we return home from the trip: Pocahontas’s “Colors of the Wind”, a prince and princess montage, the wildebeest stampede from The Lion King, bagpipes from Brave, a magic carpet ride with Aladdin, a grinning Cheshire Cat.

During the holiday season, the traditional show gives way to the special World of Color — Season of Light show featuring classic Christmas tunes as a backdrop for clips from Disney films.

Making sure we have a decent viewing space for the spectacle is important as we are typically traveling with young children. Frankly, it can be a nuisance to achieve this. The attraction’s amphitheater-style seating on Paradise Bay is open to Fastpass holders only. And snagging one of those coveted passes often means standing in a long line early in the day. Alternatively (but aching expensively for a family of six), you can make dining reservations that include one pass per diner at one of three restaurants in Disney California Adventure.

While awaiting the show, keep yourself occupied with Mickey’s Fun Wheel Challenge, a game you can play right in your browser against other park guests. The winner of this memory-matching game earns control over the light display on Mickey’s Fun Wheel!


Location: The 22-minute show plays at Paradise Pier in Disney California Adventure Park, Disneyland Resort. Check the park’s Entertainment Times Guide for exact showtimes.


Learn some new jokes on the Jungle Cruise

I remember being an 11-year-old riding the Magic Kingdom’s “world famous” Jungle Cruise for the first time: was the skipper for real? What possessed him to spout off corny jokes the entire trip down the great rivers of the world? By age 17 I’d wizened up. No way was it coincidental that all the Jungle Cruise guides had a penchant for comedy. And, by the time I was a honeymooner, finally had a soft spot for the witty spiels and classic commentary. Indeed, the jokes and puns are likely why we ride it.

It’s not the for animals, for sure. Don’t jump on the “Amazon Annie” or the “Irrawadddy Irma” expecting to see exotic species populating the jungles you cruise through. At least, not live species. These are of the Animatronic variety, but they manage to entertain and lend themselves to the skipper’s spiel. (And yes, I took the above photo myself back on my very first cruise in the early ’90s.)

Have you heard the latest about “Dr. Albert Falls” and the backside of water? Have you had the chance to attend the “Republican National Convention” (aka the elephant herd)? Did you get to meet the “uninvited guests” (monkeys) trashing the safari camp? Oh, and don’t miss all the jokes about the zebra at the “Hard Rock Cafe”! With each new ride comes new souvenir punch lines.


Location: Jungle Cruise is located in the Adventureland sections of both Magic Kingdom Park, Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Park, Disneyland Resort.

Touring tip: If you visit during the holiday season, be sure to ride the “Jingle Cruise” for new jokes, gags and scenery!


Count characters in bloom at Epcot’s Flower & Garden Festival

I don’t garden or tend flowers, don’t cultivate a single square foot of my property, and certainly neither of my thumbs would be mistaken for green. Instead, I’d rather get that green fix at Epcot’s International Flower & Garden Festival. It’s all the beauty of gardening without the hours toiling away in the yard and the inevitable disappointment when the local rabbit population decimates my veggie plot.

A recent springtime trip to Epcot found our sunny days filled with lush gardens, explosions of color, favorite Disney characters in bloom and — very important here — the delicious outdoor kitchens that sustain us throughout our touring. We made our way from Future World to World Showcase checking off the character topiaries on our Garden Passports — which made for a fun activity for the kids and a cool souvenir as well. Here are some of our favorites (clockwise from top left: The Three Caballeros hot pepper garden in Mexico, Phineas and Ferb at Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure kiosk in Future World, the Seven Dwarfs in Germany and the new FIgment sculpture near Spaceship Earth.).

After the sun goes down, the topiaries and many gardens are lit so you can still seek them out as you nosh your way around the outdoor kitchens and take in some tunes from the Garden Rocks concert series. And, of course, Mickey and pals are there in full bloom to bid you good night as you head out after a full day in the park.


Location: The Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival runs from early March through May each spring at Walt Disney World Resort. Admission to the festival is included in your theme park ticket.


Take a drawing lesson at Animation Academy

I have a thick folder dating back many years containing a charming collection of Disney characters my children have drawn me. Secretly, these are my favorite works of art to receive from them. It’s been awesome watching the characters evolve over time from masses of colored scribbles to something (or someONE) I can instantly recognize. No surprise, they thought it was the coolest to be able to take their first drawing lesson at Disney California Adventure’s Animation Academy.

Disney animators are on hand at the attraction to guide families through a crash course in drawing Disney characters. The class is about 20 minutes in length, long enough that adults can pick up some good tips from the rough stage of a drawing to the clean-up, but short enough to work with young attention spans. We had two young artists in the studio that day ages 6 and 8 who came home with impressive sketches of a certain Disney VIP. Be sure to check the Animation Academy schedule board outside the building to find out if your favorite character is featured.

I’ve heard the pros can even work wonders with folks like me that can’t even passably sketch…regardless your skill level, you’ve got yourself a unique and free souvenir.


Location: Find the Animation Academy in the Animation Building, Hollywood Land section of Disney California Adventure, Disneyland Resort. Two to three characters are drawn each hour in classes lasting 20-30 minutes each.


Hitch a ride on the Main Street Vehicles

Cruising down the Magic Kingdom’s main drag in one of the Main Street Vehicles  requires some departure from our usual traffic patterns. Like many families, when we enter the park in the morning we’re on a mission. Usually it’s to seek out a favorite attraction to avoid waiting in a long queue later. The vintage vehicles that tool along Main Street have always been more of a part of the backdrop for us than a mode of transportation. More like colorful props that lend authenticity to a turn-of-the-century scene.

However, if you’ve got some time to spare and are in the nostalgic mood to take in the details of Main Street USA in either the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World or at Disney, there is no better way to travel than by one of four vehicles:

  • horse-drawn trolley (as pictured above)
  • jitney
  • early fire engine (also above)
  • open-air, double-decker omnibus (pictured below)

 Hop on board for your trip down memory lane!


Location: Find the Main Street Vehicles on their-one way trip down Main Street USA at Magic Kingdom Park, Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Park, Disneyland Resort.


10 Things for Tweens at the Edge Youth Club, Disney Wonder

The Edge youth club on the Disney Wonder for ages 11-14 is the perfect getaway for tweens to meet new friends, hang out, and get some much-needed time alone with kids your age! From a recent awesome experience, I can tell you about my top ten reasons to go here:

1. Heroes vs. Villains: This is one of the big group activities done every day in Edge. At the beginning of the cruise, you split into two teams, and the game is on! Throughout the cruise you participate in activities such as dodgeball, trivia, and singing contests. The team with the most activities won by the cruise’s end is the champion (our team won, 6-5!).

2. The other fun activities: From Gaga Ball to trivia, from riddles and games to singing competitions, there is no end to the entertainment at Edge. I must have stayed out till midnight every night playing these games. Which leads me to mention…

3. Late-night hours: Usually, Edge operates until 1AM, so you can stay up late during Heroes vs. Villains. A huge sacrifice on your counselors’ part! Just make sure to let your parents know what time you’ll be rolling in. And speaking of those parents…

4. Liberation (at least for a little while!): If you want a little independence on your cruise, this is probably the best spot to go and hang out with kids your age. No little brothers, sisters or parents allowed here! Just you, your counselors, and the other members of Edge. However, there is an open house at the beginning so your family can have a long (and jealous!) look around.

5. Meeting new pals: Edge provides a huge chance to meet and interact with new friends. Challenge them to a game of NHL 17, play a board game, or do crafts with them. One of the best ways to get to know people is through Heroes Vs. Villains, where you’ve got to discuss strategy with your teammates.

6. Video games: Doesn’t every teen need them? Edge features giant sceens equipped with all the latest games, my personal favorite of which was Mario Kart 8.

7. Proximity to Eye Scream: Be sure to ask your parents, and if they grant permission, Edge is right across from Eye Scream, an all-you-can eat ice cream palooza! I used to go out and grab a cone every so often. Chocolate, anyone?

8. Prizes: Not a big draw, but if you win certain games, you can win cool prizes, such as Edge sunglasses and Disney Cruise Line backpacks!

9. The secret hideout on Castaway Cay: On Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island in the Bahamas, there is a secret teen/tween hideout featuring volleyball, soccer, Ping-Pong tables and more in this extravagant extravaganza! Plus, your club goes together to the Pelican Plunge waterslide area, and In-Da-Shade Games, where you can play shuffleboard, pool, basketball, and more.

10. Finally, a shout out to the cool counselors: These guys are what keeps Edge alive. Without them, there would be no Edge. They are extremely kid-friendly and nice. Hard to pick favorites, but mine was Mitch. We had a nickname for him, but that’s another story.


Location: Find the Edge youth club on all four Disney Cruise Line ships – Disney Magic, Disney Wonder, Disney Dream, and Disney Fantasy.


Saying farewell to Ellen’s Energy Adventure

We’re all in agreement that Ellen’s Energy Adventure is a bit of a dinosaur. The education on the origins of energy Ellen DeGeneres receives in her time-traveling trip with Bill Nye the Science Guy was fresh, what, 20 years ago? Not even a magical Disney makeover is going to save this stale show from the chopping block.

That said, our four children have grown up with Ellen, Bill, “Stupid Judy” and the rest of the Jeopardy crew —  and will be sad to see them go. Also, dinosaurs! Mom and Dad grew up in the era of the original Universe of Energy attraction, which consisted first of some “totally uncool” film footage. We didn’t mind sitting through it, though, to get to those dino dioramas! The dioramas still stand for the current generation and include a trip through primeval swamps filled with prehistoric species.

Energy, you may “make the world go round”, but that may not be enough to save your spot at Epcot.


Location: Find Ellen’s Energy Adventure — while you still can — in the Future World section of Epcot Theme Park, Walt Disney World Resort.


Team up for a game of Mission: SPACE Race

[This post was written by Junior Mouse Holiday contributor Andy, a master at Mission: SPACE Race.]

“And the winner is…………TRITON!!!!”

If you have heard this, you have probably played Mission: SPACE Race. Mission: SPACE Race is a highly interactive game situated with other hands-on activities at the end of the Mission: SPACE attraction in Epcot. When playing the game you are assigned to one of 2 teams on a ship, Triton or Orion. Up to 56 people can play at one time.

Once the clock starts, the game is on! There are modules on each team where you must fix “problems” on your spaceship. These usually involve tapping a few buttons on your module to fix the problem. Once you fix it, you get a different colored gem-like power source that is sent to the “command center”. There are four buttons in the command center that control hands, one for each color, red, blue, yellow, and green. These pick up their corresponding gem color, and place it in the “problem area” to solve it, and make the ship go faster. On top of that, once the ship solves enough problems, your ship gets a boost, which the commander activates.

Unfortunately, this gives your ship more problems! There is a halfway point in which the leader is announced, but after that, the teams go right back at it! After another minute or so, the teams stop, and the winner is announced. Teamwork is essential, and so is lots of players, so the game will not start until there are enough. Good luck, and may the best team win!


Location: Find Mission: SPACE Race at the exit of the Mission: SPACE attraction in the Future World section of Epcot Theme Park, Walt Disney World Resort.