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…)

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.


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.


Fill a passport with new flavors at Epcot International Food & Wine Festival

It’s a menu, super souvenir, and a kid’s geography lesson all rolled into one: the Epcot Food & Wine Festival Marketplace Discovery Passport! (That’s a mouthful, huh? And yes, pun intended.) These handy checklists detail the ethnic offerings – including food and complementing beverages – at more than 30 vendors arranged around World Showcase during the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. Our family goal is to fill one of these passports with as many unique stamps from the vendors as we have room for in our stomachs. Here’s where it will actually help that there are six mouths to feed – one bite each of these sample-sized portions will leave us plenty hungry for more. We likely won’t collect all the stamps, but we’ll have a delicious time trying.

Voted most delicious by our family for the 2016 International Food & Wine Festival:

  • Canada: Le Cellier’s wild mushroom beef filet mignon with truffle butter paired with their Canadian cheddar cheese soup and pretzel roll (Moosehead lager to wash it down)
  • Scotland: potato pancake with Scottish smoked salmon and herbed sour cream
  • France: boeuf bourguignon (cabernet-braised short ribs) with mashed potatoes paired with gruyère and cognac onion soup. Also couldn’t resist one of the premiums from Les Vines de France. Beautiful nighttime picnic on the fountain outside Les Chefs de France!
  • Belgium: Belgian waffle with berry compote and whipped cream (Obsessed. It was perfect.) Oh and a brew, of course.
  • Hops & Barley (American Adventure): New England lobster roll and the fresh-baked carrot cake with extra cream cheese icing because it was last call! Plus, Sam Adams for one of us and California pinot noir for the other. What made it even sweeter? Scarfing it down in the Chase Visa lounge, then catching a near-private showing of the American Adventure as the park closed.

If you manage to stomach your way around each and every one of these marketplaces, be sure to treat yourself to a passport completion stamp, located in the gold-domed Festival Welcome Center.


Location: The annual Festival runs August 31-November 13, 2016, at Epcot Theme Park, Walt Disney World Resort.

Meet: Santa & Mrs. Claus at American Adventure Pavilion

To me there is no better place to meet Santa and Mrs. Claus than the American Adventure Pavilion in Epcot’s World Showcase. The backdrop is perfect — the jolly duo seated on plush thrones surrounded by trimmed trees and wrapped gifts — we just have to get past the Minnesota kids incongruously meeting the Clauses dressed in T-shirts and sandals instead of parkas and snow boots. The Christmas characters are the American contribution to Epcot’s Holidays Around the World.

MH santa american advThe shiny bow on the package was “O Holy Night” performed by the Candlelight Processional choir on the America Gardens stage in the background. What more could the kids ask Santa for?


Location: Meet Santa and Mrs. Claus in the gazebo of the America Adventure Pavilion, Epcot Theme Park, generally between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve. Check your Epcot Times Guide to plan a visit.


Fit our family into a phone booth in the UK Pavilion

I wouldn’t have guessed that the iconic phone booths in Epcot’s UK Pavilion would entertain for so long – but I wasn’t complaining. It was our girls’ first time exploring this particular World Showcase pavilion; they had never seen these bright red beacons of telecommunication. Or even seen a pay phone used, for that matter. It was extra novel to barricade themselves inside the booths and pretend to make secret calls!

Speaking of making calls, I don’t know if it has ever actually been possible to make outgoing calls from the booths.  But up until earlier this year, calls could be made to the three phones (plus one in the Canada Pavilion). It was common for guests to walk by the booths as one was ringing, pick up the receiver and be greeted from a faraway fan (or perhaps as a prank from someone right there in the park with you!). Just called the phone numbers (readily available on the net) to verify: Nope, my calls “cannot be completed as dialed”. A little piece of magic I missed out on.

Oh, and no, we didn’t actually try to fit our entire family inside one of those stuffy booths…this time…but as our four little ones are only going to get bigger, we probably shouldn’t have put it off!


Location: Find the phone booths in the United Kingdom Pavilion of World Showcase, Epcot Theme Park, Walt Disney World Resort.


Four places to bang the drums in Walt Disney World

Kids don’t want to work – they just want to bang on the drum all day! So where can you do that at Walt Disney World? Here are four spots we’ve found:

MH walt disney world drumsThe Little Drummer Girls are performing at the following locations clockwise from top left: the interactive play queue of The Many Adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh at Magic Kingdom Park, the Outpost area of World Showcase at Epcot, while waiting to be seated at Boma – Flavors of Africa at Animal Kingdom Lodge, and in the Harambe Village area in Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Let me assure you – you don’t have to be a kid to join in!


Enjoy: Fish ‘n chips from Yorkshire County Fish Shop

A basket of fish ‘n chips and a Harp lager in his grasp while wandering World Showcase might have been my husband’s favorite memory of a recent trip to Epcot. The highly portable dinner had come from the Yorkshire County Fish Shop, a compact cottage with a quick-service dining window in the United Kingdom Pavilion. Yorkshire County serves up two superior strips of fish – slightly crisp on the outside, flaky and tender on the inside – and thick-cut fries for less than $10. It’s such a tasty, filling bargain that we found ourselves back at Yorkshire County twice during the trip (and, clearly, it was still on the brain days later!)


Location: Find Yorkshire County Fish Shop in the United Kingdom Pavilion of World Showcase, Epcot Theme Park, Walt Disney World Resort.

Touring tip: Expect to wait in a fairly long line during mealtimes for the fish and chips. Rose and Crown Pub & Dining Room, the UK Pavilion’s table-service establishment, also serves fish and chips as their signature dish.


Play in the ImageWorks: The What If? Labs

If you’ve got young children and can spare a few minutes in your touring schedule, consider letting them roam around ImageWorks: The What If? Labs at the exit of the Journey Into Imagination with Figment attraction. It’s one of the few spaces at Epcot that allows kids a little wiggle room – and busies them with activities such as:

MH imageworks

  • playing musical instruments with their feet via sensors in the carpet
  • customizing digital pictures of Figment – and emailing them home
  • conducting an orchestra with the wave of your arm in Figment’s Melody Maker
  • and a puzzling panel of rainbow-colored lights that I’ve never been able to figure out how to interact with. Is there anyone out there who’s got a clue?

MH imageworksWarning: Spending any significant amount of time in ImageWorks: The What If? Labs may result in “One Little Spark” stuck playing in your head the remainder of the day.


Location: ImageWorks: The What If? Labs are located within the Imagination! Pavilion in the Future World area of Epcot Theme Park, Walt Disney World Resort.