Must Do Downtown Disney: Splitsville Luxury Lanes Video Review

Check out our video review and highlights of Splitsville Luxury Lanes in Downtown Disney.

Bowling as a family is so much fun and Splitsville’s brand new luxury lanes at Downtown Disney are a joy for the entire family. Add this item your Must Do list for a vacation in Orlando near Disney. Splitsville luxury lanes are GORGEOUS and an ideal activity for an off park day when you decide to hit Downtown Disney instead.

Check out our video of the kids and I enjoying Splitsville here:

 

Even the littlest members will be able to participate since all lanes have side rails that can go up to prevent the “gutter balls” kids are likely to toss. Plus, they have cool ladders to help the kids manage and roll those heavy bowling balls to insure they can push it hard enough that it makes it all the way down the lane.

I especially always recommend Downtown Disney days for families looking to stay outside of the park resorts – as this is a great way to get a giant taste of Disney without actually spending money in the parks or dealing with lines and crowds. Great for a “rest” day in the middle of your vacation.

Splitsville is known for it’s gorgeous luxury lanes – 2 floors with 22 bowling lanes. Clean, brand new, and pristine.  This is NOT your grandmother’s bowling alley – Splitsville even serves sushi!

Note: We bowled for free as we attended this session at Splitsville during a media preview. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own. 

7 Tips for Traveling With Small Children to Disneyland & Walt Disney World

Disneyland and Disney World are both ideal picks for vacations with small children.

The Disney magic extends to even the youngest of visitors. We’ve been to Disneyland three times and Disney World once with little ones under age two and it was delightful each time.

Our family at Disneyland - 2009

Although both places have their own charm, I prefer Disneyland and California Adventure for little ones. It’s MUCH smaller than WDW and wonderfully walkable (plus, the tickets are a little less). Oh, and did I mention the breezy, beachy California weather?

Either way though, you’re bound to have a magnificent time.

These seven tips will help ensure that your babies and toddlers stay happy at the Happiest Place on Earth:

1. Bring your own food (and water). We always think we’ll just swing by a grocery store when we arrive, but it usually ends up being more complicated than that. Try to shop ahead of time. Bring lots of snacks (fruit leathers, been jerky, granola bars, etc), plenty of water bottles, and at least 1 easy meal.

2. If you have a small child, bring a stroller. At the parks, single strollers cost $15/day or up to $31/day for a double stroller. Save by bringing your own $15 umbrella stroller. If you have two little ones and two parents, it might be worthwhile to bring 2 umbrella strollers as opposed to a massive double stroller. By the way, it’s wise to bring a stroller for kids in their early school years too. Big parks make for tired feet.

3. Pack toiletries, baby gear, & medical supplies. Here’s a basic list: feminine products, a razor, diapers, wipes, tylenol, sunscreen, hairbrush, etc. If you forget these necessities, you’ll end up in an overpriced gift shop or driving to the nearest [overpriced] Walgreens.

4. Pick up a complimentary “1st Visit” Button from Guest services. Disney cast members sometimes give perks and friendly advice to first-timers and your little ones will love wearing a button with all their favorite characters.

5. Make use of the Baby Care Centers. All Disney Parks offer baby care centers which feature a quiet (and private) curtained area for nursing your baby, changing tables, and miniature potties. Diapers, wipes, diaper cream, and other baby toiletries are available for purchase.

6. Book a hotel room with a suite or rent a house/condo. If you opt for a traditional style hotel room, you’ll likely find yourself whispering in the dark post baby’s bedtime. With an extra room, you’ll be able to shut the door and have some privacy…plus, it allows for greater flexibility if certain members of the family need/want to wake up early, sleep in, stay up late, etc. If you can find a place with a full kitchen or kitchenette, that’s even better. Check Vacation Rentals for options. You’ll be surprised at how affordable renting a home can be…especially if you split the cost with friends (see the next tip!).

7. Bring along grandparents or friends. For extra fun, bring along other adults so that YOU have an opportunity to go on rides (It’s not as thrilling to ride Space Mountain by yourself, after all). This “tactic” also allows you to extend your park visit because you’ll be able to go out to enjoy the park while baby naps at the hotel or post-bedtime.

Have you been to Disneyland and/or Disney World with little ones under age two? Share your top tips!

Stephanie Sheaffer is an entrepreneur, writer, runner, and the mother of three little girls. In 2011, she traveled 20,000 miles around the USA with her family in a 300sqft RV. At the end of the trip, her 5-year-old said Disney World was her favorite stop! She now resides in Arizona and blogs at Metropolitan Mama. Follow her on Twitter @stephsday.

20th Anniversary Walt Disney World Marathon Course Map

Download the 2013 Disney marathon map here as there are some great new changes.

To celebrate, the new Marathon Course has lots of enhancements – like running through Disney’s race car speedway, along with the 4 Theme Parks at Walt Disney World.  Yes this sounds awesome – as this will be the very 1st time runners will dash through the high-banked Walt Disney World Speedway where Indy cars and exotic super cars typically race around the one-mile track.

After running the amazing Disney Princess Half Marathon a few minutes ago I am DESPERATE to do another RunDisney race – it was the most inspirational race of my life and I can not wait to run another RunDisney marathon or half marathon.

Plus, the course will send runners to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex “Champion Stadium”, the major-league style ballpark that’s also the annual spring training home for the Atlanta Braves’.

The race will still start at Epcot as it always has and finish near there as well. Here’s the course map:

The marathon’s commemorative route changes add to the new enhancements recently announced, including enhanced entertainment along Mile 20, a specially-designed 20th anniversary Mickey Mouse medal and a new post-race party at Downtown Disney.

Runners can register at www.rundisney.com.  Runners can register early to get the best price.  Below is pricing and the schedule of events for the 2013 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend.

EVENT Today – June 19 June 20 – Sept. 25 Sept 26 – Jan. 13
Full Marathon

$150

$170

$190

Half Marathon

$150

$170

$190

Goofy Challenge

$320

$350

$380

Family Fun 5K

$55

$55

$55

8 Tips for Family Traveling to Disney’s Aulani Resort and Spa

Disney’s Aulani Resort and Spa opened in August of 2011. When we learned that Aulani was on the same lagoon that we honeymooned on twelve years ago, it simply was meant to be.

We became Disney Vacation Club members in December of 2011 and were thrilled to take our first trip to our home resort, Aulani, in March!

The entire trip to Aulani was amazing and we cherish that we were able to share a location with such special meaning to us as a couple with our children.

To enter and be greeted with “Welcome home, Barseghian family” brought tears to my eyes.

I wanted to share some of the “take aways” from our trip that can help families enjoy their trip to Disney’s Aulani Resort and Spa to their fullest.

1. Before your trip, order SPF swimsuits, hats, and cover ups for your children (and yourselves :) ) from Coolibar.  We have used Coolibar since our children were born and have never had either of them get sunburned. Even when the swimsuits are years old, they stay true to their protection.  We splurged and ordered the ZnO Hoodies for each of the kids and they wore them every day at Aulani.

2.  After you get settled at the resort, head to Target and get some sand toys for the kids. $20 will get you endless entertainment on the beach!  We had our children gift their toys to an incoming family when we departed, which felt so good.

 3.  Take advantage of the beach activities through Hawaii Ocean Adventures.  They have a stand right by the beach with tons of activities for the entire family.  We rented a paddle board and each of us took the children out on it. They felt safe in the calmer waters of the lagoon.  We also did a catamaran outing as a family, which was a total highlight of our trip.

 

 4.  Schedule a character breakfast at Makahiki.  The food is incredible and your children will get special time and photos with the characters.  Plus, Aunty will immerse them in the Hawaiian culture through song and activities.

5. Speaking of Aunty, be sure to visit Aunty’s Beach House early in your stay.  Your children can go here…alone…while you enjoy a nice dinner.  There are so many fun activities at Aunty’s each day for children of all ages.

6.  Talk with cast members at Aulani and learn about everything they did to honor the Hawaiian culture in the design of Aulani.  For example, all of the photos behind the check in desk were taken by children in Hawaii…love!

7.  Enjoy a meal at Ama Ama.  Aside from the fact that the food is amazing, you can customize dishes and the view is incredible.  We ate here most mornings and filled up so we could enjoy hours of uninterrupted bliss on the beach and by the pool.  The photo here shows the view from our table…

8.  Most importantly, spend time at the beach in the evening and watch the sun set with your little ones.  The beauty is breathtaking…and quiet. :)

Amy Barseghian, aka MommyMentor, is the owner of From One Mommy to Another.  She grew up going to Disney World during family trips to Daytona Beach.  Now, she enjoys trips to Disney World and Disneyland with her husband and two children.

Tips for the Jedi Training Academy at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Are your kids big fans of Star Wars? Even if they aren’t now, they will be after being a part of the Jedi Training Academy at Disney Hollywood Studios. This is one attraction that is NOT to be missed!
Read on for insider tips & photos from our Disneyed contributor,  Kelly Cockshaw‘s experience at the Jedi Training Academy with her boys (age 4 & 6).
Unlike most of the other live-action stage shows in Disney World, this show puts your kids directly onstage and part of the action. As “Padawans” (Star Wars lingo for a Jedi in training), the children are given a brown, hooded robe. The program begins with a “Jedi Master” leading the kids on stage and teaching them how to use their light sabers. The Master mixes the seriousness of a Jedi with plenty of humor that we parents enjoyed.
It is then that the infamous theme music begins, smoke appears, and Darth Vader himself makes his entrance. And what an entrance it is!
To be honest, I was a bit nervous watching Lord Vader point his gloved, black finger at my boys, telling them to join the Dark Side! But the kids showed no fear. They each took their turn facing him and used their newly acquired light saber skills to “defeat” him. And don’t worry, while his presence is menacing, Darth battles in a non-threatening way that doesn’t terrify the kids. In fact, they all looked downright determined to bring the big guy down.
Here are some helpful hints for the Jedi Training experience:
  • Be sure you get to the gates of Disney Hollywood Studios well before opening. You will want to make a beeline for the Jedi Training signup location (check with a cast member to find out where). On most days the showtimes are filled before the entire line of kids can sign up.
  • Your children MUST be with you in line when they are assigned a showtime!
  • To make the most of your time waiting in line, have another adult from your party go around the park collecting Fast Passes for other rides.
  • Lastly, when you return to the Star Tours stage for your showtime, have one of the adults from your party save a spot in the front row a few minutes before the show.
When anyone asks my boys what they liked best about our trip to Disney World, they always answer, “Defeating Darth Vader!!” (sorry, Mickey, you were a distant second).
Have fun, and may the Force be with you!

The Small Pleasures of Disney World

Disney World is an wondrous place. Just think about some of the amazing attractions and the imagination and technology that it took to bring those experiences to life. Attractions like Mission:SPACE, DINOSAUR, and Toy Story Mania! They’re rides that we, even as adults, love to go on. And hey, that’s why we’re ok with spending some substantial cash to get in, right?

But we noticed a funny thing with the kids, especially when they’re younger, like Kyle – who started visiting Disney at 15 months (He’s also since been back at just 2 and just 3 years old)

Some of the attractions that we think he should love, he simply does not.  And even more surprising, he took a strong liking to some of what we us adults might consider to be the most boring parts of the park. He loved the Tomorrowland_Transit_Authority_PeopleMover, Brer Rabbit’s Playground (a hidden gem of a playground underneath Splash Mountain), riding the Carousel again and again, and the guns on Tom Sawyer Island.

I urge you to embrace the small pleasures your kids find in the hidden nooks at Disney and let go of the need to hustle and bustle to the star attractions. Take in the parade. Hop on the carousel ride with your kids. Dance in the Streets when you find an impromptu character dance party happening. Relish the small playgrounds your kids find in a hidden area of Disney.

Some of our most magical moments and memories at Disney are from the spontaneous joy the kids have found in the out of the way & little known attractions – that also have generally have zero lines and no wait time. Something that will please everyone in the family from birth to age 80.

Disney’s Pirate League – Pirate Makeovers for Boys

A big thanks to my great friend Kelly Cockshaw, whom I met at our childrens’ preschool. Her family just got back from Disney World, and she graciously offered to share some very fun activities that she did with her boys:

A while back, Colleen wrote a blog post about the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique in Downtown Disney.  Because I have two rough-and-tumble boys, she suggested that we try the Pirate’s League in the Magic Kingdom. It was a great suggestion! As soon as we entered the Pirate’s League, the cast members made the boys feel like they had joined a secret pirate crew. They were given real pirate names (“Ned Bladecutter” and “Joseph Bluefish”) and were transformed into their choice of pirate. With face paint, a sash, tattoo, eye patch, kerchief, earring and sword, they were then “sworn in” to the pirate’s league, and ushered into a back room for their pirate initiation and photo.

The price is very reasonable – $29.95!  Of course they have options to upgrade your pirate costume and accessories, but keep in mind you will want to buy the adorable picture they take, which is an additional $15.00.

Here are a few tips for making the most of your pirate adventure:

  • Make your reservations well in advance (407-WDW-CREW), especially if you have more than one child and want them to go at the same time.
  • Try to get an appointment early in the day, or later in the afternoon. Our appointment was mid-day, and it really interfered with us getting around the Magic Kingdom in a timely fashion.
  • Have the kids wear a plain, solid shirt – it will look more authentic under their pirate sash!

Tips for Taking Kids to see Mary Poppins on Broadway

If you haven’t seen Mary Poppins on Broadway, I highly recommend it. This was my 2nd time seeing the show and it has universal appeal for both children and adults. I love this musical and can’t rave enough about it. Here’s the inside scoop on taking kids to see Mary Poppins on Broadway – my kids ADORE this show and I’m sure your kids and you will love it too!

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Will my child like Mary Poppins? What age is best to take the kids?

Yes! The music is outstanding – especially as you’ll recognize most of the tunes so these updated Broadway renditions sound marvelous to me. Both my 6 year old and 4 year old were captivated by the show. How could they not be with Bert literally dancing on the ceiling and Mary Poppins flying through the entire theater? Incredible!

What age is best to take the kids?

Disney recommends age 6 – and remember, Disney knows kids.

However, Parents also know their own kids best and will definitely know if their children are prepared to see a Broadway musical. Every child has a different attention span and different interests. I took Kenzie last year for her 5th birthday and she was thrilled. This weekend she was 6 when we took her and she was even more thrilled the 2nd time just because she knew how much she was going to love it.

We also opted to buy a ticket for my son Kyle – who is 4 as he has been begging to see this show since Kenzie saw it last year. He loves the Mary Poppins movie and he does incredibly well in the movie theater. We felt that he could do the show but were skeptical about the 8:00 PM start time. So we had both kids nap in our hotel room from 4:15 -5:30. Thank heavens they were agreeable to this as they don’t normally nap anymore – but this nap proved critical to them both being able to stay awake.

Kyle did fabulous and was captivated by the entire show. We did buy him & his Dad the cheapest seats – $67 for the 1st row in the upper balcony – just in case he was too tired and they would need to leave. Mike said the seats were wonderful and he loved it.

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Tips for taking kids to see Mary Poppins:

1. Watch the Mary Poppins movie before your take your kids. Anytime we see a movie or show, we introduce the characters and the story to our kids first. This really heightens the enjoyment for the kids. Remember, kids LOVE repetition so the more familiar they are with the Mary Poppins story, the more they will get out of the experience if they know a bit about it before “showtime.”

2. Consider buying the soundtrack ahead of time to pump the kids up for the music.

3. Consider a matinee and/or the 7:00 PM showings for younger children so getting tired at a show that starts at 8:00 and ends at 10:45 won’t be a factor you need to deal with!

Where to Sit?

If you are confident your kids will love the show and are ready for a musical, go for the aisle orchestra seats on either the Left or Right side of the stage. Pick a row up close (say from A-M). There is a great incline in the theater too and kids can sit on a leather booster to give them a boost! It’s comfy and my kids love the boosters!

These Left or Right Orchestra front row style seats are about $118 when I’ve bought them. I sat in row J and G and loved it and felt super close to the stage.

If you are not sure if your kids will stay through the entire show or this is above your budget go for a front row Balcony seat for about $67. Balcony seats at Mary Poppins are FABULOUS! Burt Dances on the ceiling and Mary Poppins will SOAR literally with her umbrella from the stage to the Top LEFT hand side of the theater. As I’m no Broadway stage expert and do not know my stage terms, by left I mean the left hand side of the theater if you were on the stage looking out at the seats. Or think of it as the right hand side of the theater if you were in  seat looking at the stage.

My favorite part of our adventure…..Back stage at Mary Poppins!

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Disney is all about the magic and our backstage tour of the Mary Poppins Broadway show in New York City was fabulous. Literally we stood on stage in the New Amsterdam Theater, got up close and personal with the Mary Poppins set, and even had a special “archive” tour of all the Disney Musical props – from the Lion King, to The Little Mermaid to Tarzan to Mary Poppins and more.

Here is Kenzie in Ariel’s Bathtub from the The Little Mermaid. Kenzie could have stayed in this room for 2 hour as she literally was soaking up every single bit of it and wanted to learn about everything & touch and feel it all.

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The joy the children had – and the Moms – at seeing these props was amazing and I’m so excited that Disney will soon be sharing this fun with the public. Our tour was essentially a sneak peek of what will soon be a Mary Poppins Backstage Tour option that is rich in history and full of Disney Broadway musical mementos.

Doing a backstage tour before seeing the show was a big bonus as our tour guide gave me a true appreciation for history of the New Amsterdam Theater. The architecture was crazy awesome – especially considering the theater was built in 1903 at a time when there were only 5 miles of Paved roads and 10 registered automobiles in the USA. All materials to build this Theater pretty much arrived by horse!

The kids stood on stage. Looking out at the theater from on stage is beyond cool and a once in a lifetime feeling.

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Video of us backstage at Mary Poppins:

Lion King Masks! They let us try them on – they were incredibly lightweight as the actors in the Lion King need to be able to dance with them on.

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The inside scoop on the theater was priceless too. From ghost stories to tidbits on the architecture. Kenzie was most impressed and somewhat freaked out by the ghost story shared by our guide too – about a dancer/actress named Olive that is known to appear on stage to male night security guards in her beautiful green dress. She’s a beauty who had an untimely death. This nice ghost is harmless, but I guess it was Kenzie’s first official “ghost story” told to her by someone in authority so she is still talking about Olive!

Here’s Kenzie holding Mary Poppin’s umbrella and wearing her hat. We even held some of the “chimney sweeps” too!

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Disclosure: Thanks to Disney Parks for hosting Kyle, Mackenize and I for a backstage tour and Virtual Reality experience in Times Square. Disney also provided Kenzie and I with a ticket to see Mary Poppins.

As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own. I’ve paid to see this show before with Kenzie and we also bought a ticket for Kyle and Mike to see the show this past weekend so they could join in on the fun. I’m sure we’ll see it again as we’d love to make this a family tradition! This show is well worth every penny. Mr. Banks would approve :)

 

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Behind the Scenes at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique

Video & photo tour of the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique experience in Cinderella’s castle at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. Maybe you’ve seen kids running around Disney with those tight princess buns or wild colored hair extensions?

Here is where it is done…and boys can book appointments for a knight styling too.

I highly recommend this experience as truly one of a kind. Here’s my tips:

1. Bring your own princess dress for the little girls and book a less expensive package. The cheapest package is $49.95. We book the $54.95 as it includes make up and nail polish – plus the kids get to bring home the polish and makeup palette as a souvenir too.  This package is by far the best value and in my opinion actually a steal in terms of the Disney experience.The more expensive packages will run you over $200.

2.  Book months in advance. Reserve the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique in the castle as your first choice. For my kids, stepping into a room in Cinderella’s castle is magical.  We wouldn’t have it any other way. The other option is Downtown Disney – which can be great if you are planning a day off the parks and convenient if you are staying at a resort further from the Magic Kingdom or renting at a non-Disney hotel or resort.

3. Boys can participate too. For $14.95 they have a Knights Package. This includes a sword and shield shown below and a spiked hair styling that can include a color gel application. I booked this for my 3 year old so he wouldn’t feel left out, however, he did NOT want to sit in the chair to get his hair done by a stranger. It wasn’t an issue for him being a boy doing girl stuff, as his big sis loves to play with him in dress ups and make up – but as a little guy the idea of getting his done in an unknown location just kind of made him nervous. So we just let him get “Knighted” and he loved the souvenir of his shield and sword.

4. If the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique is booked, try the Pirates League, a salon located near the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction. For both boys and girls packages are about $30 and include a ton. We hope to try this out on our next visit.

What a day for our little princess and knight. Kenzie loved it despite looking skeptical in her videos- as it is a bit overwhelming to have a stranger combing your hair into that magical bun.

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Free Disney Character Dining

What a deal! The Swan and Dolphin hotel in Disney’s Boardwalk area offers this awesome service which was a total surprise to us when we ended up staying here 3 extra nights after our crazy flight issues the other day.

Kids eat free and there is free character dining at dinner daily and every Saturday and Sunday for breakfast. We loved it last night and the food was excellent.

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