Listen to Jim, the Main Street Piano Player, at Casey’s Corner

How many times had we rounded Casey’s Corner of Main Street, absently listening to the ragtime cheerfully drifting from a piano just out of view? The answer was all too often — without pausing a moment to discover the man behind the music. Many Magic Kingdom regulars consider Jim, the master pianist of Main Street, to be a rather hidden treasure they’d never consider missing. Finally, on a recent fall trip to the parks, we joined the ranks of those regulars.
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Last call for DisneyQuest!

When DisneyQuest opened in 1998, the indoor theme park boasted five levels of cutting edge interactive attractions. It was the kind of place where families could take a break from the pace of the theme parks and be entertained for an entire day. When it closes its doors for good next week — just shy of the 20-year mark — it goes out as a tired destination, badly showing its age and lack of upkeep. (more…)

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. (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? (more…)

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. (more…)

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. (more…)

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.). (more…)

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. (more…)

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. (more…)

10 Things for Tweens at the Edge Youth Club, Disney Cruise Line

The Edge youth club on the Disney Cruise Line ships 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!). (more…)