Roam the Savanna at Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort with Kids in Walt Disney World

Spend time at the pool at Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort with kids.
Enjoy a safari vacation at Walt Disney World when your family stays at Animal Kingdom Lodge. Photo Credit: Jen Koepplinger

Waking up to a view of an African game preserve tops many people’s bucket lists. I certainly thought I would never see such a place…until I checked into Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort with kids in January of 2017.

Imagine exploring the African savanna, surrounded by blooming landscapes brimming with countless animals. The chance to take a wildlife safari sounds a bit out of reach, especially for Central Florida. But, I found this and so much more during our latest visit to Walt Disney World.

Enjoy the flowers at Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort with kids.
Walk around the grounds of Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort with kids and enjoy the flowers. Photo Credit: Jen Koepplinger

Traveling to Walt Disney World many times as a child and seven times as a parent did not prepare me and my kids, ages 11 and 12, for the awesome African adventure in the middle of our most recent Disney trip. The remote site gave us a feeling of a true escape away from the chaos of lines and theme park crowds.

When visiting the Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort with kids, I found myself transported to a faraway continent. The soaring ceiling and authentic African artwork are unique. The beautiful tribal prints, ornate carvings and large glass windows kept my eyes constantly darting around the lobby area. In fact, the Animal Kingdom Lodge offers one of the most beautiful properties at Walt Disney World.

Watch the zebra while staying at Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort with kids.
Watching the animals from your room tops my list of must-dos at Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort with kids. Photo Credit: Jen Koepplinger

Fully themed in African culture, this resorts provides the feeling of a serene escape. The décor, food, and cultural representatives give this resort an authentic vibe. In addition, the educational opportunities and theming makes this resort unique and original.

What I loved at Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort 

  • Unique theming
  • Several ethnic dining options with lots of vegetarian items
  • Many educational programs
  • Authentic African art and cultural pieces
  • Two large swimming pools with waterslides
  • Night vision binoculars for animal viewing

What I wanted at Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort

  • More buses to theme parks
  • Less music (or quieter) poolside
  • A larger, wider hall leading to the elevator

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge 

The Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort overlooks the savanna.
The Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort buildings overlook the savanna and its animals. Photo Credit: Jen Koepplinger

The Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort opened in 2001 and consists of two main buildings–Jambo House and Kidani Village. Separated by a flora-lined half-mile walking trail, the two buildings provide dining and entertainment options for all visitors. Guests can also choose to ride a van that travels between the two buildings every 15 minutes.

Also, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge offers approximately 43 acres of African savanna-themed, natural looking landforms. The resort provides a home to 200 animals and 130 birds.

Watch animal gaze on the savanna at Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort with kids.
Gaze on the grazing animals of the savanna, like this Oryx, at Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort with kids. Photo Credit: Jen Koepplinger

The deluxe resort features four main restaurants, a lounge, and two large pools with waterslides. In addition, Animal Kingdom Lodge features a playground, fitness center, free learning opportunities, unique views and safari-themed excursions.

My room at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort

Jambo House offers 972 rooms and 324 units in Kidani Village, part of the Disney Vacation Club (DVC). Resort rooms, designed in a semi-circle, resemble a Kraal African village.

The room at Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort with kids.
My standard room with a savanna view at Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort. Photo Credit: Jen Koepplinger

During my stay, I reserved a standard room with a savanna view featuring two queen beds on the third floor of Jambo House. The beds were comfortable, linens plentiful and the room was decorated with African carvings and fabric prints. The balcony features a small table with two chairs that overlooks an active savanna. The savanna provides scenes full of wildlife, including ostriches, zebras, cranes, wildebeests, gazelles and ducks.

The amenities include free Wi-Fi, room service, mini-fridge, and a flat-panel TV. Rooms also feature a desk, two chairs, ceiling fan, coffee maker, and almost all rooms have full balconies. Standard rooms sleep four guests + one child under 3 in a crib.

The bathroom at Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort.
Our bathroom featured a granite vanity with two separate sinks. Photo Credit: Jen Koepplinger

The bathroom features a granite vanity outfitted with two sinks though it’s missing the doors that I find in moderate resorts that provide an additional dressing area. I found a iron and board and a hair dryer.

In a separate room, I found a standard tub with a shower head and toilet. The bathroom continues the African savanna theming.

The bathroom at the Animal Kingdom Lodge with kids.
The bathroom at the Animal Kingdom Lodge features a standard tub. Photo Credit: Jen Koepplinger

Surprisingly,  rooms provide about 344 sq. ft. which is the smallest of the deluxe resorts. Compared with the larger, yet more expensive Grand Floridian Resort and Spa that features 440 sq. ft.

Table Service Dining at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge features several restaurants with African and Indian-based cuisines, as well as traditional offerings. In Jambo House, Jiko-The Cooking Place, offers a fine dining experience with a limited menu and romantic ambiance.

Though beautifully decorated, the service was mediocre and the beef short ribs and lamb loin (considered the restaurant’s specialties) were both not available on the night we had reservations. Because Jiko-The Cooking Place is categorized as signature dining, we expected more. Consequently, it was our least favorite restaurant at this resort.

Enjoy the restaurants at Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort with kids.
I enjoyed several of the restaurants at Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort with kids. Photo Credit: Jen Koepplinger

A bustling and popular buffet restaurant, Boma-Flavors of Africa serves breakfast and dinner. My daughters and I ate both breakfast and dinner at Boma and greatly enjoyed the experience. The buffet offers unique African dishes as well as familiar dishes for those less adventurous. We thoroughly enjoyed Simba waffles and jungle juice for breakfast and delicious vegetarian options for dinner.  Click here for a full review of Boma-Flavors of Africa.

Sanaa, which is Swahili for “art” or “work of beauty”, is found in the Animal Kingdom Villas-Kidani Village building. It showcases the most beautiful views of Sunset Savanna. We enjoyed two table service meals at Sanaa and plan to return to try more items.

Presently, the food features unique, flavorful and fresh offerings. Menu items include butter chicken, lentil dhal, seafood curry and African-inspired Biryani with seasonal vegetables. Check out the Indian-style bread service, which comes with five flavors of naan and nine accompaniments. Click here for a full review of Sanaa.

Animal lovers will love this resort at Walt Disney World where guests wake up to gazing animals on the savanna and kids activities at every bend.

Quick Service Dining at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

Also, a large, quick service restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner is called Mara. It opens to a patio that overlooks the Uzima Springs Pool and has outdoor and indoor tables.

The menu includes familiar breakfast items such as cinnamon rolls, waffles, eggs and bacon. Lunch and dinner menus offer soups, flatbreads, burgers, and falafel pitas. Mara features salads, fruit cups, and grab-and-go items, too.

Pools at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

The Animal Kingdom Lodge features two main pool areas. Uzima Springs Pool is an 11,000 square foot oasis that faces Uzima Savanna and closest to the guest rooms in Jambo House. With a zero-entry point, a 67-foot waterslide and a lounge and bar connecting to the pool’s deck, this pool gives guests a wonderful place to relax after a long day inside the Disney theme parks. Other features include a children’s wading pool, coupled with two whirlpool spas.

The pools of Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort with kids.
Enjoy an afternoon at the pools of Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort with kids. Photo Credit: Jen Koepplinger

Near the Animal Kingdom Villas-Kidani Village, Samawati Springs Pool surprisingly holds 118,138 gallons of water. It features an 128-foot waterslide and zero entry. Uwanja Camp features a children’s water playground with three zones for varying ages.

Poolside huts provide complimentary towels.  Both pools feature lifeguard stations, but check the posted signs near each pool for hours of operation.

Activities at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort with Kids

The Hakuna Matata Playground, located between Jambo House and savanna viewing areas, gives children a chance to climb and play.

The most exciting activity at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort with kids is watching the African savanna wildlife in a large habitat. I found many public viewing areas, some with benches and fire pits. Once the sun goes down, night vision binoculars provide a chance to view animals on the dark landscape.

I found lots of kids activities at Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort with kids.
Enjoy table tennis at Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort with kids during your stay. Photo Credit: Jen Koepplinger

Also, my daughters and I met eager African cast members that shared their knowledge and answered questions about their homeland. We found cultural lectures, storytelling and native games available for free, among other things. My daughters chose to decorate cookies and small cakes.

Beyond typical expectations, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge features an exciting dining experience with an animal specialist for as many as 12 guests. Click here for a review of this exclusive experience.

In fact, to enjoy every event at the Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort with kids, ask for a calendar of resort activities at the front desk of Jambo House and Kidani Village.

Getting to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge is located at 2901 Osceola Parkway, Lake Buena Vista, Florida.

About one mile from Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the Animal Kingdom Lodge is a short drive southwest from the theme park. Disney transportation provides guests with shuttle buses approximately every 30 minutes.

Twenty-four miles from the Orlando International Airport, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge is a 30 minute drive from the airport. Click here for driving directions.

Disney provides complimentary buses for resort guests to and from the Orlando International Airport via Disney’s Magical Express motor-coach vehicles. Reserve Magical Express transportation when booking online through the Disney website or by calling (407) 939-1936.

If traveling to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge from another Disney resort, take Disney buses to the Animal Kingdom theme park and board the bus to the Animal Kingdom Lodge.

From a Disney theme park, just board the bus to the Animal Kingdom Lodge.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge provides valet parking for $20-$25 a night. Complimentary self-park lots provide spaces for Jambo House guests. Kidani Village features a self-parking garage. Presently, vehicle parking is for resort guests and those with dining reservations.

Looking for More Resorts and Information?

The writers at Carful of Kids have stayed at the Pop Century Resort, the Art of Animation Resort, the Caribbean Beach Resort, the Coronado Springs Resort and the Grand Floridan Resort and Spa.

If looking for off-property resorts, see what we have to say about the Wyndham’s Lake Buena Vista, the Best Western Lake Buena Vista and the Mystic Dunes Resort and Golf Club.

Click here to learn how to plan a Walt Disney World vacation like a pro.

Tips from a Disney Mom:

  • The four main Animal Kingdom Lodge dining options accept some Disney Dining Plans.
  • Advanced dining reservations are best for all table service restaurants.
  • Because this resort is slightly remote, buses are the only forms of transportation to Disney theme parks.  Consequently, consider driving your own vehicle.
  • Check this resort out, even if you don’t plan to book a room.
  • The Disney planning book I use can be purchased here.

 

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Find the Largest Natural Pool in the World in West Texas

Balmorhea Pool for Kids in West Texas.
Balmorhea Pool offers close to two-acres of swimming in the heart of West Texas, right off Interstate 10. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

In a land that seems barren and forgotten, I found an oasis with the largest spring-fed pool in the world. A road trip stop extraordinaire or a gateway to the weekend of West Texas adventure, I’m sharing one of my favorite destinations in Texas for over 20 years, Balmorhea Pool with kids.

Balmorhea Pool, an Oasis in West Texas

Balmorhea State Park, in the heart of West Texas, offers close to 2-acres of family fun. In the largest spring-fed swimming pool in the world, my family finds the perfect place to spend an afternoon after driving along Interstate 10.

Balmorhea Pool with kids in West Texas.
The deep end of Balmorhea Pool features 25-foot depths along with fish of all sizes. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The San Solomon Springs produces 15 million gallons of water a day. And the pool holds 3.5 million gallons of water. With a constant temperature of 72F to 76F, swimmers congregate year-round.

At the end of the L-shaped pool, the depths reach 25 feet and host scuba divers. Peer closely and spot a school of giant catfish sitting on the bottom. Balmorhea pool also features a 3-meter diving board, though life guards are not on duty.

Find a diving board at Balmorhea Pool with kids.
Balmorhea Pool features a diving board. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

I found dressing rooms and lots of shade trees to spread out your blankets underneath. The pool offers a large area of 3-foot deep water though no zero entry options for toddlers, like Barton Springs Pool or Deep Eddy Pool, both in Austin, Texas.

Not only does Balmorhea State Park feature a pool, I found a covered pavilion, a playground, a campground and a motor lodge. Built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conversation Corps (CCC), the San Solomon Court features a white stucco exterior and most units overlook the spring-fed canals.

Balmorhea Pool with kids.
Balmorhea State Park also features the San Solomon Springs Court, a historic CCC lodge. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Balmorhea State Park is located at Park Road 30, Balmorhea, Texas, about 58 miles from Ft. Stockton. Admission is $7 for adults and kids under 12 are free.

Make it a West Texas Weekend

Make Balmorhea State Park your first stop in a West Texas road trip. After a swim, drive south on State Highway 17 to the Davis Mountains and on to Big Bend National Park.

Fort Davis National Historic Park for Families

Fort Davis National Historic Park offers one of the best examples of a frontier fort in the Southwest. During the 1800s, the Comanches and the Apaches made traveling on the San Antonio-El Paso Road treacherous.

Learn about frontier life and the Indian Wars during the 1800s while earning a Junior Ranger badge. I found lots of building to peer into showing the rugged side of life in West Texas.

Explore West Texas at Fort Davis National Historic Site.
Fort Davis National Historic Site offers a taste of fort life of restored buildings. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The brassy bugle bellows over the loud speaker, transforming my boys, 9 and 12, into Army recruits. As part of an elite force of soldiers that don’t need actual weapons, my boy destroy anything in their path.

Fort Davis National Historic Park is nestled next to the Davis Mountains, 40 miles south of Interstate 10 in Davis, Texas. Located in the center of town at 101 Lieutenant Henry Flipper Dr. and open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day, except Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years Day and MLK Day. The admission is $7 for everyone over 16 and the kids are free. Or use an America the Beautiful annual pass.

Looking for kid eats, then stop at the Fort Davis Drug Store. Located on 13 State Street in Davis and open from breakfast through dinner. As an old-fashioned soda fountain, it’s a hit with kids.

Indian Lodge

Explore Indian Lodge in West Texas.
Nestled in the Davis Mountains of West Texas, the Indian Lodge offers a historic property in a state park, minutes from Davis. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

I always stay at the Indian Lodge in the Davis Mountain State Park during my West Texas explorations. Nestled in the quiet hilltops above Fort Davis, Indian Lodge offers a helping of history along with inky night skies.

Explore Indian Lodge in Davis Mountains State Park with your family.
The interior of my room featured two queens and a period bathroom along with Viga beams on the ceiling. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The Indian Lodge provides 39 rooms in a full-service hotel with an on-site restaurant, and managed by the Texas Parks and Wildlife. It features whitewashed adobe walls with traditional handcrafted elements, like Viga beams that form the ceilings in most rooms.

Explore Indian Lodge in Davis, Texas, with kids.
The common rooms at the Indian Lodge feature crackling fires and original furnishings. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Built in the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), the New Deal’s work force, constructed the hotel. Along with a historic property with courtyards with fountains and common rooms bursting with crackling fires, I found a swimming pool and resident wildlife.

Explore Indian Lodge with kids.
The Indian Lodge features a pool for the kids with a view of the Davis Mountains. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The rooms are comfortable and roomy enough for a family (with two queens $159), complete with all the standard features. The Black Bear Restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, Wednesday through Sunday.

McDonald Observatory

Enjoy a desert night by learning about the stars. A quick drive up to the mountaintops from Davis, we saw stars, and even some planets, like never before.

The McDonald Observatory offers solar, twilight and night programs throughout the year. For our visit, I reserved the Twilight Program and Star Party, held on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

With close to two-acres of spring-fed pool to swim, this pool is a must-do for natural pool lovers. Swimmers from around the world float in an oasis in West Texas, a stone's throw from Interstate 10.

The Twilight Program features an hour-long educational astronomy program without telescope viewing. A must for the first-time visitor and families, I got a refresher on the night sky.

The Star Party provides two hours of night sky viewing and starts 30 minutes after the Twilight Program. Held outside in the Rebecca Gale Telescope Park behind the visitor’s center, I found three domes, each featuring a different telescope ranging in size from a 16-inch to a 24-inch. Portable telescopes are set out, each fixed on a different star or nebula.

The McDonald Observatory is located at 3640 Dark Sky Drive. Twilight Program admission is $5 for everyone 6 and older and free for children under 6. The Star Parties admission is $12 for everyone 12 and older, $8 for children 6 to 12 and free for children under 6.

Marfa, the Art Town of West Texas

Marfa started as a water stop then evolved into a military training area. Now its art scene draws a steady flow of visitors into a town of 2,000 with galleries, museums and movie sets.

Explore West Texas, like Chinati Foundation in Marfa.
The Chinati Foundation features the art of Donald Judd in Marfa. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The most notable museum, Donald Judd’s Chinati Foundation features his contemporary work. Behind the buildings we found 15 untitled concrete blocks with a walking path. A great option for parents and the outdoor path is free.

Chinati Foundation is located at 1 Cavalry Row in Marfa and open Wednesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For the movie buffs, head to the Hotel Paisano, a National Registered Historic Place. Built in 1930, Hotel Paisano hosted Elizabeth Taylor, James Dean and Rock Hudson during the filming of The Giant. A quick stop and I found a display of The Giant memorabilia.

Explore West Texas in Marfa like the Paisano Hotel.
Explore the Paisano Hotel in Marfa to find The Giant memorabilia. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Hotel Paisano is located on 207 Highland Street in Marfa.

For the mystery lovers, a stop at Marfa Lights viewing station is a must. A West Texas legend, where mysterious lights bob on the distance horizon.

Check out the Marfa Lights outside Alpine, Texas.
Looking for the mysterious Marfa Lights tops the list of many West Texas road trips. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Marfa Lights is located 18 miles west of Alpine on US Highway 67. I found parking off the highway with a nice viewing area complete with telescopes and bathrooms.

Big Bend National Park for Families

Explore Big Bend National Park is West Texas with your family.
Add Big Bend National Park to your West Texas road trip. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

If time permits, continue to Big Bend National Park, where all the roads end at the Mexican border. One of the four deserts of North America, Big Bend offers mountain terrain with resident bears, lonely canyon rivers and an International Dark Sky Park.

Know before you go

  • Balmorhea State Park limits the day-use visitors to 1,300 a day.
  • Give yourself at least an hour and a half to explore Fort Davis Historic Park especially if your kids are earning a Junior Ranger badge.
  • Camping is not allowed at Fort Davis National Historical Park but I found some at Davis Mountains State Park, 5 miles away.
  • Make reservations well in advance for the Indian Lodge, San Solomon Springs Court and McDonald Observatory.
  • Watch for snakes, especially around water.
  • The McDonald Observatory evening programs start at varying times based on the sunset.
  • The temperature at the observatory is 15°F lower than Fort Davis.
  • Alternative indoor activities available if the sky is obscured at McDonald Observatory.
  • If you forgot anything, stop in Fort Stockton, Texas, along Interstate 10. Or wait until El Paso.
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35 Places for Family Fun in Disney Springs

Visit Disney Springs with kids for shopping, dining and entertainment.
Walk over the bridge near Morimoto Asia to enjoy this view. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Over the last year, Disney Springs blossomed into a family fun destination. Disney Springs is my first stop after landing at the airport since I build in a transportation day in case of airport delays. Disney Springs with kids is the place to build Disney excitement while providing lots of options in dining, entertainment and shopping.

Table Service at Disney Springs

It’s a vacation, so take a break and treat yourself. After several visits to Disney Springs, I’ve sampled several different table service restaurants.

Eat at the Boathouse when visiting Disney Springs with kids.
The Boathouse serves up seafood along with steaks and burgers in a laid-back restaurant. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The BOATHOUSE wowed me with its views of Lake Buena Vista and extensive menu of seafood and steaks. I loved the nautical theme and the service was attentive. Be sure and catch the vintage amphi-cars drive into the water, located close by.

STK specializes in grilled meats, like the filet, along with inventive sides with an upscale environment. The views from the second-story terrace offer sweeping views.

Enjoy STK when you visit Disney Springs with kids.
The Truffle Fries at STK are gush worthy. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

I gushed over the parmesan truffle fries so I ate a week’s worth of carbs. The lil’ burgers, featuring wagyu beef, are tender tidbits of burger perfection.

Another favorite, The House of Blue Blues Gospel Brunch, tops my list for comfort food. Served as an extensive buffet, I gorged myself on BBQ and southern favorites before the gospel choir lit up the stage with uplifting spirituals.

Dining at Disney Springs with Kids 

Enjoy pizza at Wolfgang's Express in Disney Springs with kids.
I found a pizza kids will eat that appeals to adults at Wolfgang Puck Express. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

During my latest visit, my boys, 9 and 12, wanted pizza so we stopped at Wolfgang Puck Express where I walked away with a pepperoni pizza for under $15 for us to share.

If kids want sandwiches, I suggest the Earl of Sandwich for lunch. Another solid option for kids in a quick service format.

Stop by Earl of Sandwich in Disney Springs with kids.
Kids love sandwiches? The Earl of Sandwich has them covered. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Rainforest Café offers another option for families with their familiar menu and décor.

Desserts and Coffee in Disney Springs

Did someone say dessert? I found my go-to treat at Sprinkles, for cupcakes. With a wide range of flavors, everyone satisfied their sweet-tooth.

Enjoy cupcakes at Sprinkles in Disney Springs with kids.
Cupcakes your addiction? Then Sprinkles is your destination. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Lucky for me, I found two Starbucks locations in Disney Springs so I refueled.

A new addition is the ultimate ice cream shop topped in chocolate. Stop by Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop for decadent indulges, since it’s a vacation.

I found a patisserie and crepe shop in Disney Springs too.

Adulting Disney Springs Style

As soon as the sun sets, Disney Springs transforms from a family destination to the scene for dinner and cocktails.

Enjoy Disney Springs after dark.
Disney Springs transforms after dark with upscale dining and cocktails. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

If looking for a casual evening, then I suggest Splitsville for bowling and dinner. With my favorite tunes overhead and a pair of bowling shoes on my feet, this is the place to hang out with friends.

And the food, their sushi is tops in Disney Springs. Between games, I grabbed a slice of pizza, like my favorite, BBQ chicken. Don’t forget the sliders or the nachos, both actually helped my game.

Enjoy Splitsville in Disney Springs with kids.
Not just bowling, I enjoyed sushi and pizza along with sliders at Splitsville. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Bowling begs for beer and Splitsville features an extensive selection of beer and wine. If that doesn’t satisfy, I found lots of signature cocktails.

If bowling isn’t your game, then stop by Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar for drinks after dinner. The atmosphere reminds me of an Indian Jones hangout and if the inside tables are full, head outside to watch the lights glitter off Lake Buena Vista.

Entertainment for the Family at Disney Springs

With its own free-standing theater, catch Cirque Du Soleil’s La Nouba. I did and wow this show bypasses the traveling shows in a big way. I found the theater features a more intimate seating arrangement that allows for better views.

Disney Springs also features an AMC theater with 24 theaters so I can’t imagine not finding your favorite movie on the big screen.

Enjoy the House of Blues in Disney Springs with kids.
The House of Blue features a gospel brunch along with a concert venue. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Though I ate at the House of Blues for brunch, it’s also a concert venue booking a variety of acts.

Kids love seeing the giant tethered balloon assent 400 feet into the air next to Lake Buena Vista. For the brave-hearted, seeing all the parks at once might be a bucket list experience.

Top Things to do in Disney Springs with Kids 

Find the splash pad. With a park bench perfect for resting adults, I found the splash pad at the entrance of Disney Springs near the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique.

If the kids loved the splash pad, then check out spitting Stitch located outside of the World of Disney.

Enjoy the carousel in Disney Springs with kids.
A ride on the hand-painted Venetian carousel is a must for kids. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

I can’t pass up the hand-painted Venetian carousel. It’s a work of art and an amazing site at night.

The marketplace train express offers littles another way to ride in Disney style. Even the Disney Springs Water Taxi is fun for families.

Stop by all the kid-oriented outdoor sculptures. With LEGOS topping the list here, don’t miss Mr. Potato Head either.

Shopping at Disney Springs

Do all your shopping at Disney Springs. My kids loved the LEGO Store and this store offers free activities. Even if you have a million pieces at home you have to check out the sculptures in and around the store. Really. The Hulk, a dragon, Buzz Lightyear and the list goes on.

Stop by the LEGO Store in Disney Springs with kids.
LEGO Store, your destination for cool kid art. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Star Wars fans in the house? Then visit the Star Wars Galactic Outpost for gifts for the kids and the first-generation fans too. The make-your-own light saber bar is a must.

The dino-loving kids will find the Dino-Store at the T-REX.

For Moms, I start at the sprawling World of Disney for unique Disney gifts. Another destination for distinct Disney gifts, Disney Days of Christmas features ornaments for your tree. I suggest D-Living too.

Add a day to explore Disney Springs with your kids for your next Walt Disney World trip. With a ginormous selection of dining, shopping and activities open nearly around the clock, it's deserve a day for itself.

If you forgot something at home, fear not. Disney Springs offers all the brands you love. I found Anthropologie, Columbia Sportswear, Free People, Kate Spade, Levis, Lilly Pulitzer and Zara.

Need shoes or luggage? Not a problem. I found those too.

Getting to and around Disney Springs

Disney Springs is located at 1480 Buena Vista Dr. I found lots of free parking and the lots are labeled. Valet parking is available.

I always use the Disney Springs Water Taxi to get around. My kids love it and it saves a few steps. With three stops, one at each end and one in the center, I was never far from a dock.

If you staying in the Buena Vista area, a complimentary bus runs frequently or take the bridge back to the Disney Springs Resort Area hotels. For guests of Saratoga Springs Resort, Disney Springs is right across Lake Buena Vista and I found a bridge.

Looking for resorts and more information?

I’ve stayed at the Pop Century Resort, the Art of Animation Resort, the Caribbean Beach Resort, the Coronado Springs Resort and the Grand Floridan Resort and Spa.

If looking for off-property resorts, I’ve stayed at the Wyndham’s Lake Buena Vista, the Best Western Lake Buena Vista and the Mystic Dunes Resort and Golf Club.

I use the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World by Bob Sehlinger and Len Testa for every trip. It provides a comprehensive guide, packed with information. If this is your first visit, don’t try to do everything.

Disclosure:

This site uses affiliate links in which I get a small commission if the book is purchased. Some of the resorts stays were hosted for review purposes.

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4 Ways to a Perfect Spring Day at Epcot’s Flower and Garden Fest

Enjoy the topiaries at Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival with kids.
Enjoy a perfect day strolling among the flowers while watching the butterflies dance about. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Since 1994, every spring the International Flower and Garden Festival opens like a field of flowers across Epcot. From the first week of March until the last week of May, plant lovers drool and daydream as they wander through the eye-popping displays. But what about the kids? I’ve pulled together a list of must dos at Epcot’s Flower and Garden Festival with kids to keep Mom happy.

With over 70 topiary displays with Disney characters from every generation, I love meandering through Epcot discovering the displays. Each character is a piece of plant art and I take a few minutes to discover the details in each. I am amazed how the gardeners use plants and plant products to create characters with amazing detail.

Enjoy the topiaries with kids at Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival.
Stop and look at the topiaries of favorite characters at Epcot’s Flower and Garden Festival with kids. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

And think it’s the same every year, not so. Each year I find my favorite topiaries in a different spot. Even the blooms radiate different colors. As a plant lover, I study the way the gardeners group the plants in eye-popping arrangements. I seriously covet the container groupings. It’s everything I want on my patio.

Even though I am a foodie, I love Epcot’s Flower and Garden Festival a tad more than the International Food and Wine Festival in the Fall. Read on and to see why.

Enjoy some pastries at Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival with kids.
I walk through the flowers while I nibble on French pastries. If I’m dreaming, don’t wake me up. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

A Topiary for Every Movie

Well, almost. My girly faves are Elsa and Anna in Norway and France’s Beauty and the Beast topiaries. For my boys, Phineas and Ferb top the charts.

Stop by Elsa and Anna in Norway at Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival with kids.
A couple of my favorites, Elsa and Anna, enchant guests in Norway. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Along with the themed topiaries, some of the countries have themed gardens too. In Japan we find a display of Bonsai. In the United Kingdom, I’m enchanted by the Shakespeare Garden and the pots of tea plants.

Over 200 floating gardens catch us by surprise. They float and turn in the wind under the monorail near the Odyssey Bridge and the International Gateway.  

Enjoy the Beauty and the Beast topiaries in France when visiting Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival with kids.
Can’t miss these characters in France, they’re a couple of my favorites too. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Weekend Entertainment

On the weekends, Epcot comes alive with music at the Garden Rocks Concert. A free concert located in the America Gardens Theatre bringing national acts to the World Showcase.

Of course, special tours and tastings tantalize me. Though additional tickets might be required.

Enjoy delightful birdhouse at Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival with kids.
I love the topiaries yet this birdhouse delighted me as well. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Epcot’s Flower and Garden Festival with Kids

Kids and gardens can be a hard sell. So stop by the Music Garden Melodies Playground. My favorite feature is sitting in the Adirondack chairs watching my kids play.

Stop and take a photo with Lightening McQueen at Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival with kids.
My youngest needed a photo with Cruz Ramirez. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Another must-do for kids, the Road to Florida 500 features Lightening McQueen and Cruz Ramirez.

We explore the butterfly garden, sponsored by Go-Go Squeez next. After chasing butterflies, my boys slurp down an applesauce pouch in one gulp.

Thumper and Bambi are all-time favorites at Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival with Kids.
Who can’t pass up Thumper and Bambi on a perfect Spring afternoon at Epcot’s International Flower and Garden Festival. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The Kidcot activities, a free educational booklet in selected countries in the World Showcase, get a fresh makeover for Epcot’s Flower and Garden Festival with kids. Just grab a booklet head to a special desk in each pavilion. For 2017, kids learn about fruit from across the world.

Always running on-time, the miniature outdoor train in Germany excites my boys. I spend a few moments studying the tiny details with real trees to scale.

Take a hint from Snow White on how to get your kids whistling along as you lead the way to Epcot's International Flower and Garden Festival.

Dining during International Flower and Garden

One of my favorite parts of International Flower and Garden Festival is the food. Just for the festival, the Epcot chefs roll out farm-to-table offerings while mixologists concoct delicate spring inspired cocktails.

Sip a cocktail while strolling among the flowers at Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival.
I really can’t say no to a champagne cocktail. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

At the outdoor kitchens sprinkled in the countries, I find farm-to-table items offering fresh alternatives for families. The small plates entice me to sample in every country. And the signature cocktails are hard to pass up, especially the champagne cocktails.

Looking for resorts and more information?

I’ve stayed at the Pop Century Resort, the Art of Animation Resort, the Caribbean Beach Resort, the Coronado Springs Resort and the Grand Floridan Resort and Spa.

If looking for off-property resorts, I’ve stayed at the Wyndham’s Lake Buena Vista, the Best Western Lake Buena Vista and the Mystic Dunes Resort and Golf Club.

I use the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World by Bob Sehlinger and Len Testa for every trip. It provides a comprehensive guide, packed with information. If this is your first visit, don’t try to do everything.

Disclosure:

My visit to Walt Disney World was hosted for review purposes. Some of my resort stays were hosted.

This post contains affiliate link in which I get a small commission if you purchase a book.

 

 

 

 

 

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Finding the Family an All-New Ford SUV

 

the 2018 All-New Ford SUVs like the Ford Explorer
The new 2018 Ford Explorer offers a new stylish grill and the Safe and Smart Package. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The Ford Motor Company knows life happens in cars, especially for families with hectic schedules. Families need vehicles that work with them. I recently got the opportunity to experience the 2018 All-New Ford SUV lineup.

Since I am in the market for a new family SUV to love, I am sampling all the manufacturers. Looking for power, space, safety and lastly style, I need a SUV to seamlessly fit into my busy family life.

Ford and the Female Frontier

At a recent Ford installation, what impressed me most was Ford focus on the female frontier. By acknowledging the power of women’s influence on the purchase of new family vehicles, Ford researches and markets their vehicles to women.

With women influencing 85% of all vehicle purchases, Ford values women as users, purchasers and multi-taskers. As commanders of the household, they want to simplify life and that includes the role of a vehicle in family life.

Families, especially Mom, want convenient vehicles for everyday life and comfortable vehicles for road trips.

2018 All-New Ford Expedition Platinum

The 2018 All-new Ford Expedition.
The 2018 All-New Ford Expedition offers families more style, room and power. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

I recently got a preview of the new 2018 Ford Expedition and I found a SUV that handled the off-road with ease yet still featured sophisticated styling. With its Wi-Fi hotspot and wireless charging, keeping families connected has never been easier. This vehicle is a road tripping dream.

The all-new Ford Expedition just got leaner. By using advanced materials, like a high-strength aluminum alloy, Ford shaved 300 pounds off their SUV.

Though the stand-out feature is the second row seat that’s slides forward to allow access to the third row. That’s with a car seat in place, a major convenience for families with several children or parents that carpool kids around.

I found four 12-volt power plugs, six USB plugs and one 110-volt household plug. A plug for each kid, and that’s one less argument for a Mom to manage.

Power and plugs in at the 2018 All-New Ford Expedition.
The USBs and the 110-volt household plug in the second row of seats can’t be beat for convenience in the 2018 Ford Expedition. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The dual headrest, rear-seat entertainment system keeps the kids engaged in a program and not each other. Add the wireless charging for compatible mobile devices and a Wi-Fi hotspot for up to 10 devices within 50 feet of the vehicle and everyone is happy.

The seat back entertainment system in the 2018 All-New Ford Expedition.
The seat back entertainment system for the back seater passengers helps keep driver distractions to a minimum. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The driver experience is important so I loved the panoramic vista roof that spans two rows. Add the 12-speaker premium audio package, and this Mom can find happiness in bumper-to-bumper traffic. But my favorite feature has to be the adjustable shelf behind the third row.

A SUV for Dad too

Not just a Mom SUV, Dad can take the wheel and have confidence in the Ford Expedition’s hauling and towing capabilities.

Experience the 2018 All-New Ford Expedition.
I appreciate a well-designed storage spaces like the door of the Ford Expedition. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Remodeling? Stow the second and third row of seats and fit a 4×8 piece of plywood in the back.

The all-new Ford Expedition is engineered to handle rugged off-roading in addition to towing a family’s toys. With a hands-free lift gate, loading up the cargo hold has never been easier.

Look for this all-new 2018 Ford Expedition to be available in the Fall. The Ford Expedition is built at the Louisville, Kentucky, plant.

2018 Ford Explorer

the 2018 All-New Ford SUVs like the Ford Explorer
The new 2018 Ford Explorer offers a new style and safety. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The 2018 Ford Explorer sees a freshen up to the front and rear styling. Giving this SUV an upgraded style to satisfy a Mom that wants a capable vehicle that’s an extension of her personal style.

The 2018 Ford Explorer adds four new exterior colors, Platinum Dune, Blue Metallic, Cinnamon Glaze and Burgundy Velvet Tinted Clearcoat. Five new wheel choices will be available on the 2018 Ford Explorer too.

The 2018 Ford Explorer features a new grill.
The front grill of the 2018 Ford Explorer got a make-over. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The Safe and Smart Package is a stand-out for safety and new for 2018. With high-demand driver assistance, families can feel safer in their SUVs. The Safe and Smart Package uses cutting-edge technology to assist drivers.

With features like adaptive cruise control, where the driver can set the following distance along with the speed, to blind spot monitoring, drivers benefit from additional information. Cross-traffic alert uses radar to monitor for cars when backing out of a parking spot. The lane keeping system uses a camera to monitor the lane markers and alerts the driver with a steering wheel vibration when leaving the lane.

Experience the 2018 Ford Explorer for safety and style.
The safety features of the 2018 Ford Explorer include a Safe and Smart Package. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Parking might be one of the most challenging driving skills and the 2018 Ford Explorer has a Mom covered. With the active park assist, ultrasonic sensors monitor the surroundings to help in parallel and perpendicular parking.

Like the all-new 2018 Ford Expedition, the Ford Explorer provides Wi-Fi and features a 4G embedded modem that can connect up to 10 devices.

The Ford Explorer will be available this Fall. It is manufactured at the Chicago, Illinois, plant.

2018 All-New Ford Eco-Sport

The 2018 All-New Ford Eco-Sport.
The 2018 All-New Ford Eco-Sport packs fun in a capable small SUV. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The all-new compact SUV from the Ford line-up, the Eco-Sport, is the smallest Ford SUV. This SUV packs in the fun while staying capable and connected.

The Eco-Sport offers big sound with the available B&O Play audio system with 10 speakers. Add 10 available exterior colors to share personal style and all models feature the swing-gate style tailgate.

Enjoy the 2018 All-new Ford Eco-Sport, a compact SUV.
The 2018 All-New Ford Eco-Sport offers plenty of cargo space. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Stay connected with the Eco-Sport’s 8-inch touch screen for communication and entertainment. Looking for a plug? In the Eco-Sport, it’s easy. It features two USBs and one 12-volt plug and another 12-volt and 110-volt household plug are available.

The all-new Eco Sport arrives at dealerships in early 2018.

Ford and the Future of Cars

Ford acknowledges that more isn’t always better. The use of innovation needs to be deliberate and purposeful. Using technology to create vehicles that are seamless and intuitive.

Ford utilizes passive and active safety features in their line-up. With passive features like improved vehicle structure, crumble zones and airbags, Ford improves safety in accidents.

In the market for a new family SUV? Me too. I got a sneak peek of the 2018 All-New line-up of Ford SUVs. I found several packed with power, style and safety.

The active safety features include mapping the environment outside the vehicle to improve driver safety and convenience. Along with monitoring the driver’s performance while operating the vehicle to ensure undistracted operation.

My Experience with Self Parking

I am a driver.

As a driver, I enjoy the process. I learned to drive on a 1964 Ford tractor with a straight transmission. My dad balanced on the axle as he walked me through finessing a clutch. I moved on to the 1981 Ford F-150 with an equally cranky clutch.

As a smaller driver, I couldn’t reach to shift it into overdrive (old-school term for fifth). I had to throw the gear shift half way across the cabin and hope it engaged.

I will admit I was timid handling over the pleasure of driving to the vehicle. Though I understand for another generation, autonomous driving equals continued freedom of the road. For younger, less skilled drivers or non-drivers, freedom is equally important.

I slid behind the driver’s seat with an open mind. ShebuysCars.com founder, Scotty Reiss, patiently instructed me through the process.

The Ford Fusion maps the environment before I double tapped the park assist button. The vehicle selected the spot and I followed the instructions on the display panel.

The bumper sensors monitored the proximity to the other cars. I monitored the rear backup camera and manned the brake.

When the Ford Fusion failed to move, I pressed the accelerator. I utilized the brake more during the process.

The Self Parking Result

After several attempts, I conquered a self park. I need to practice setting up the vehicle in the proper position.

During the process, I used the side mirrors and looked behind me to insure the Ford Fusion didn’t inadvertently hit another car. I didn’t feel out of control of the vehicle since I maintained control over the gas and brake petals.

Disclosure: 

This post is sponsored.

 

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Make the Most of Your Disney Dollars at Coronado Springs Resort

Enjoy the Spanish Colonial styling while staying at the Coronado Springs Resort.
The Coronado Springs Resort offers Colonial Spanish styling along with a convention center and fantastic pool for the kids. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The Coronado Springs Resort in Walt Disney World transports guests to Spanish Colonial Mexico with a sweeping lobby and restaurants bursting with Mexican flavors. Watch the sunset over the 22-acre Lago Dorado and nibble off a plate of nachos while staying at the Coronado Springs Resort.

The moderately-priced Disney resort features a Mayan pyramid replica at its resort pool with a crazy water slide for the young at heart. With expansive grounds and large lake in the center of the property, the Coronado Springs Resort never felt crowded.

What I loved about the Coronado Springs Resort

  • The pool, it features a water slide that wowed my boys.
  • The grand lobby reminded me of old train stations across the Southwest.

What I wanted at the Coronado Springs Resort

  • A more manageable size, I walked for 10 minutes to get to my room.
  • Something to eat near the rooms. I had to walk back to the lobby area.
  • More transportation options to the parks, Coronado uses bus transportation only.

Staying at the Coronado Springs Resort

The Coronado Springs Resort ($$-$$$) is a moderate resort divided into three different areas with Mexican beach resort themed Cabanas, southwestern cattle ranch themed Ranchos and Casitas modeled after the grand architecture in Mexico City.

 

Enjoy the lobby while staying at the Coronado Springs Resort.
The Coronado Springs Resort features a lobby with details that transport me to San Diego’s train station. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The Coronado Springs Resort provides 1,915 rooms that measured 314 square feet, the same size as the Caribbean Beach Resort, another moderate resort. Though the Coronado Springs Resort is the only moderate resort to offer a convention center.

Because of the convention center, the rooms boast features for business travelers. The rooms feature large desk areas with task lighting and lots of plugs for charging.

Enjoy the art while staying at the Coronado Springs Resort.
I found artistic details around every corner at the Coronado Springs Resort. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Where the Caribbean Beach Resort provides a trundle for a total of five people per room, the Coronado Springs Resort does not. My room featured a walk-in shower instead of a tub with a showerhead. A consideration when planning a trip with kids that refuse to take a shower.

The Wi-Fi at the Coronado Springs Resort is better than most of the other resorts, including the deluxe resorts. It also features an ATM, resort airline check-in, three guest laundries, Disney merchandise delivery, a business center, a heath club with spa and salon services, and childcare services.

I visited Coronado Springs Resort in April.

My Room at Coronado Springs Resort

I reserved for a second floor room in building 7A in the Ranchos section. The farthest building from the lobby and we hiked for 10 minutes to get there.

Enjoy more space while staying at the Coronado Springs Resort.
My room at the Coronado Springs Resort featured two queen beds and a ceiling fan. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

My room featured 314 square-feet with a semi-private vanity area along with a glass-enclosed shower outfitted with a rain shower head and separate toilet. The room features two queen beds dressed with white linens. I found a spot for a pack-n-play and luggage though it might be tight.

My room featured a large desk and console unit that housed the Keurig coffee maker with coffee and tea, a hair dryer, an in-room safe, iron and board, a flat-screen television, a mini-refrigerator and ice bucket with real glassware.

Enjoy a working vacation while staying at the Coronado Springs Resort.
Since the Coronado Springs Resort features a convention center, I found a work desk in my room. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

I didn’t find an alarm clock. The charging station located on the bed side table with two outlets and two plugs for USB cords was a nice feature.

I visited Coronado Springs Resort in April.

My Bathroom at Coronado Springs Resort

The bathroom area featured sliding doors that provided a separate changing area. A convenient feature for a Mom who wants to dress before the kids wake up.

The bathroom's sliding doors is convenient while staying at the Coronado Springs Resort.
Closing the doors to let the kids sleep in while I got dressed is a nice feature. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The vanity area features two separate sinks with granite counter tops, decorative lighting and mirror. I found a lighted make-up mirror mounted next to the sink and the shelf above the sinks was convenient to put toiletries.

The bathroom offers lots of space while staying at the Coronado Springs Resort.
The double sinks and spacious vanity allows families to spread out in the bathroom. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

I found standard toiletries, including a facial bar, a bath bar, shampoo and conditioner. The hair dryer and iron were stashed in the door of the vanity, next to the wardrobe where I found a limited amount of handing space and the ironing board.

My bathroom at the Coronado Springs Resort featured a glass enclosed shower stall with a rain shower head. I loved it but my kids don’t need a tub bath anymore. This room included the toilet.

Enjoy the luxurious shower while staying at the Coronado Springs Resort.
My bathroom didn’t feature a tub though my older kids enjoyed the glass-enclosed shower. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Coronado Springs Resort Activities

The go-to activity at the Coronado Springs is the Lost City of Cibola pool. With a 50-foot replica of a Mayan pyramid, a two-story water slide named the Jaguar Slide and the largest hot tub in Walt Disney World, this pool is a destination.

The Lost City of Cibola pool is a destination for most while staying at the Coronado Springs Resort.
The Lost City of Cibola pool features a 50-foot replica of a Mayan pyramid along with the jaguar slide. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The Lost City of Cibola Pool is part of a larger complex of activities called the Dig Site. I found a playground in the area, movies under the stars, a white sand volleyball court, the Iguana arcade and the poolside bar and grill, Siestas Cantina.

Play in the playground at the pool while staying at the Coronado Springs Resort.
Kids can play in the sand at the City of Cibola Pool site as well. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The Coronado Springs Resort offers La Vida Health Club for massages, salon services along with a full range of gym equipment. During my stay I walked along the .9-mile jogging trail that rings the 22-acre lake.

If kids want to ride bikes while staying at the Coronado Springs Resort rent standard bikes at La Marina. I also found fun four-person surrey bikes.

For guests desiring a quiet pool environment, I found pools in each of the villages, the Casitas, the Ranchos and the Cabanas.

Dining at Coronado Springs Resort

As a moderate resort, Coronado Springs Resort offers several restaurants, unlike the Art of Animation Resort, a value resort.

Got a meeting or convention at Walt Disney World, then the Coronado Springs Resort needs to be your work trip home. With its convention center, pool complex, restaurants with Mexican favorites along with rooms with work desks, Coronado Springs Resort makes it easy to bring the family along on the Orlando work trip.

For traditional Mexican cuisine and American favorites, I found Maya Grill. For families wanting more casual fare, try Las Ventanas, both restaurants accept reservations.

Since the weather was perfect, we wanted to dine al fresco. I headed to the Dig Site pool for Siesta Cantina, where my boys, 9 and 12, ordered off the kids menu.

Other quick service options include Café Rix and Pepper Market.

Where’s Coronado Springs Resort

The Coronado Springs Resort is located at 1000 West Lake Buena Vista Drive near Animal Kingdom. It is located 22 miles from the Orlando International Airport (MCO).

Since this was the last resort of my three-resort tour during my Walt Disney World trip, I used the complimentary Magical Express to return to the Orlando airport. I found plenty of complimentary self-parking at the resort.

To get to the parks, I used the Walt Disney World bus transportation. The service was efficient though we waited at peak times.

Note about transferring resorts during your stay:

I changed resorts three times during my five-day/four-night stay at Walt Disney World. Walt Disney World will transfer your bags free of cost. I packed up our bags and rolled them down to luggage services that transferred them in the afternoon, usually between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.

If I wanted a bell hop to grab my bags from my room I would have to stay with my bags until the bell hop arrived. I found this inconvenient and brought them to luggage services myself, located next to the main entrance.

Looking for more reviews and information?

I’ve stayed at the Pop Century Resort, the Art of Animation Resort, the Caribbean Beach Resort and the Grand Floridan Resort and Spa.

Looking for off-property resorts, I’ve stayed at the Wyndham’s Lake Buena Vista, the Best Western Lake Buena Vista and the Mystic Dunes Resort and Golf Club.

I use the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World by Bob Sehlinger and Len Testa for every trip. It provides a comprehensive guide, packed with information.

Disclosure: 

This room was provided for review purposes. This post contains affliate links in which I get a commission if you purchase a book.

Know before you go:

  • Towels are available at the Lost City of Cibola pool only.
  • Lifeguards are on-duty at some pools, check in at the front desk for more information.
  • Must be 14-years-old to use the health club and 17 to enter without an adult.
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How to Stretch Disney Dollars at the Art of Animation

Staying at the Art of Animation at Disney is fun for kids.
The pops of color attract kids of all ages to the Art of Animation Value Resort at Walt Disney World. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The Art of Animation, the newest value resort, located across the Hourglass Lake from Pop Century Resort, wowed my kids. It offers lots of value for families and several pools with punches of color along with my kids’ favorite characters. When your family is all about the park time, this resort might be the right choice for you.

What I loved about the Art of Animation:

  • The theming of the Art of Animation is super cute with giant statues and playgrounds.
  • The pools are kid magnets.
  • The Art of Animation’s size is manageable to walk while pulling luggage.

What I wanted from the Art of Animation:

  • A coffee maker, none of the value resorts have them in standard rooms.
  • More pillows, I found two per bed.
  • More transportation options to the parks, this resort uses buses only.

Staying at the Art of Animation Resort

Built in 2012, the Art of Animation offers the nicest property of the value resorts ($-$$). It features 10 four-story buildings with three resort-style pools and a playground.

Play grounds make it fun and one of the reasons for staying at the Art of Animation.
A playground adds fun in the courtyard for kids at the Art of Animation Value Resort at Walt Disney World. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The Art of Animation Resort features more family suites than regular rooms with 1,120 suites. Each suite offers 565 square feet with amenities like a master bedroom, two full bathrooms and a kitchenette with a coffee maker, a microwave and a mini-refrigerator.

The Art of Animation features 864 standard rooms, all decorated with The Little Mermaid theming. Each room offers 277 square feet, a little bigger than the Pop Century. Outfitted with a king or a pair of queen beds, the Art of Animation standard rooms met my expectations for value rooms. 

Kids love the Art of Animation, it's like walking through all the movies.

With complimentary Wi-Fi, staying connected comes easy. The Art of Animation also features an ATM, resort airline check-in, a guest laundry, Disney merchandise delivery and childcare services.

The self-parking is complimentary. I used the Walt Disney World bus transportation and the Magical Express (complimentary Orlando airport transportation). Both are efficient though we waited at peak times.

I visited the Art of Animation Resort in April.

My Standard Room at the Art of Animation

I reserved a standard room with two doubles beds on the third floor of Building 7. I entered my room from an outside corridor and used the elevator to reach the third floor.

Staying at the Art of Animation offers lots of value.
My standard Little Mermaid room at the Art of Animation gave me the basics. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The buildings are well-maintained and vibrate with color. The rooms overlook the courtyard and don’t feature private balconies or patios.

I reserved The Little Mermaid themed room and my boys grunted at the theming. The downside to the standard room option is The Little Mermaid is the only theme. Cars themed standard rooms aren’t available which annoys most boys. Though I loved it, it’s super cute.

Staying at the Art of Animation Value Resort in Walt Disney World offers basic rooms.
A nice feature is the bathroom curtain so I could get ready before getting my boys up. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Our room featured 277 square feet, a bit bigger than the Pop Century Resort. Though still a little tight for a pack-n-play. This room provides sleeping for four with just two pillows per bed. I needed a pillow fairy to visit me and grant me another set of pillows.

Our room featured a small table with two chairs, a small refrigerator, a flat-screen television, a phone and an in-room safe. I didn’t find a coffee maker, a charging station, real glassware, a ceiling fan or separate closet. I missed some of those items, especially the coffee maker.

Cute details pop while staying at the Art of Animation.
The sheet music on the table in my room at the Art of Animation added to the theming. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

My Bathroom Art of Animation

The bathroom area was small though it provided a curtain in the vanity area so I could dress while my boys, 9 and 12, slept in. I found the tub and toilet separated by a door. The tub area features treasures under the sea tiles and the Ariel shower curtain is super cute.

I liked the bathroom when staying at the Art of Animation.
The Ariel shower curtain and the under the sea tiles make the bathroom pop. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The vanity area at the Art of Animation features a swirly blue countertop with one sink. The mirror above the sink continues The Little Mermaid theming, complete with a shell light fixture.

On the countertop, I found a plastic ice bucket and disposable cups. Basic toiletries included: bath soap, facial bar, shampoo and conditioner. I didn’t find lotion.

Enjoy a cute bathroom while staying at the Art of Animation.
The bathroom at the Art of Animation offers a cute details with basic amenities. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

I found an iron and ironing board, hair dryer and luggage rack. Though I don’t like that the closet rod is next to the vanity. I prefer a real closet with a door. The room gets messy with the kids when I can’t hide the clutter behind a door.

I found four towels with a couple of hand towels. The linens seemed of nicer quality than our room at the Pop Century Resort.

Activities at The Art of Animation

The Art of Animation Resort boasts the largest resort pool at Walt Disney World, The Finding Nemo themed pool. Sporting underwater speakers and a splashing area, this pool is the center of kid fun.

Kids enjoy the pool while staying at the Art of Animation.
The Art of Animation pool is the largest of all the Walt Disney World pools and provides underwater music. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The Cozy Cone Pool and the Flippin’ Fins pool are also kid magnets. The Schoolyard Spray ground and the Squirts Righteous Reef attract the littles from across the resort.

I found a playground in the Lion King area. A 1.38-mile jogging trail runs by the lake. I found bike rentals and surrey bike rentals along the jogging trail too.

Enjoy the bikes while staying at the Art of Animation.
Rent a bike with the kids and ride along the jogging trail next to Hourglass Lake. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Like most Walt Disney World Resorts, watch movies under the stars between The Loin King building and Finding Nemo building.

Inside the Art of Animation Hall, I found the Pixel Play Arcade.

Thinking about a stay at the Art of Animation Value Resort in Walt Disney World? I've got all the cute details plus a couple of things you might miss during your stay.

 

Dining at the Art of Animation

The Art of Animation Resort features the Landscape of Flavors, quick-service food court with American and international favorites. Open from 6 a.m. to midnight, it serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Outside at the Finding Nemo pool, I found tables that you could enjoy a snack or cocktail from the nearby Drop Off Pool Bar.

In-room pizza delivery is available at the Art of Animation Resort.

Where’s the Art of Animation?

The Art of Animation Resort is located at 1850 Animation Way. The Art of Animation provides the complimentary Magical Express to and from the Orlando International Airport (MCO).

If driving the Art of Animation is 21 miles from the Orlando airport. During my stay, I stayed at several area resorts and rented a car from the airport and returned it to the drop off in Disney Springs. An option if you are spending a day exploring the area before your park days.

Note about transferring resorts during your stay:

I changed resorts three times during my five-day/four-night stay at Walt Disney World. Walt Disney World will transfer your bags free of cost. I packed up our bags and rolled them down to luggage services that transferred them in the afternoon, usually between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.

If I wanted a bell hop to grab my bags from my room I would have to stay with my bags until the bell hop arrived. I found this inconvenient and brought them to luggage services myself, located next to the main entrance.

Need Travel Insurance?

You just never know. I know I’ve been there when my SUV was stolen on a road trip.

Add peace of mind to your trip when you purchase travel insurance from Allianz Travel Insurance Company.

Travel insurance protects in two ways: covering pre-paid, non-refundable expenses, like flights, hotels and event tickets along with the following coverage.

  • Trip Cancellation
  • Trip Interruption
  • Emergency Medical and Dental Coverage
  • Medical Transportation
  • Baggage Delay
  • Baggage Insurance
  • Collision Loss and Damage
  • Travel Accident and Delay
  • 24-hour Emergency Assistance
  • Concierge Services

Choose from several levels of annual coverage and coverage lasts for the entire year.

Looking for more reviews and information?

I’ve stayed at the Pop Century Resort, the Caribbean Beach Resort, the Coronado Springs Resort and the Grand Floridan Resort and Spa .

Looking for off-property resorts, I’ve stayed at the Wyndham’s Lake Buena Vista, the Best Western Lake Buena Vista and the Mystic Dunes Resort and Golf Club.

Disclosure:

This post was sponsored by Allianz.

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Get More for Your Money at Mystic Dunes in Orlando

Mystic Dunes for families offers resort activities and lots of space.
With 600 acres and 23 buildings, I found Mystic Dunes for families a top value choice in Orlando. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

With over 600 acres to discover, Mystic Dunes Resort and Golf Club offers resort-style lodging away from all the noise and activity of Walt Disney World yet just a few short miles to all the theme park adventures. I delighted in the manicured landscaping and resort activities to keep my kids busy while offering me a quiet retreat to indulge in some reading. I suggest Mystic Dunes for families wanting more value yet still close to all the Orlando action.

What I loved at Mystic Dunes Resort

  • The Ambience. It’s away from the hectic noise of Walt Disney World.
  • Four resort-style pools, including the Dunes Lagoon with a slide.
  • The property was well-maintained.

What I wanted at Mystic Dunes Resort

  • More restaurants located nearby.
  • A more walkable resort, I needed a car to get around the property.
Pool hop with the kids a reason I love Mystic Dunes for families.
Enjoy one of four pools at Mystic Dunes Resort, like the garden pool. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Mystic Dunes for Families

I found 23 separate buildings with several floors of accommodations and four different pools. At the welcome center, I found a fitness center, activities center along with a market and the garden pool and tiki bar.

Managed by Diamond Resorts and Hotels, I found the property well-maintained and spacious. During my stay, I reserved a one-bedroom studio ($ to $$) that accommodated four in building 23, steps away from the Dunes Lagoon Pool.

With four pools, I like Mystic Dunes for families.
The terrace pool offers a zero-entry for the littles. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

I stayed at Mystic Dunes Resort in April.

My Studio at Mystic Dunes

During my visit to Walt Disney World, I ventured further away from the resorts and parks. A few short miles away in Celebration, the traffic and noise disappeared.

Located on the third floor, I was surprised how roomy my studio felt with just 650 sq. ft. The bedroom was immediately off the entrance, providing a little privacy.

With lots of space to spread out, I like Mystic Dunes for families.
My studio’s living and dining room at Mystic Dunes Resort. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

A short hall offered a mom luxury, a stackable washer and dryer behind a door with detergent for one load. A nice feature for families staying for several days.

The open kitchenette featured granite countertops with an electric range, a dishwasher, a full-size refrigerator and a microwave. I found all the necessary dishes, cutlery, utensils and cookware for a family of four.

A kitchenette is great for family trips and I love Mystic Dunes for families.
The kitchenette at Mystic Dunes offers everything needed for a quick meal. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The living area was a tad small and featured a queen-sized, pull-out sofa with bedding located in the bedroom closet. My boys, 9 and 12, were able to unfold the bed by themselves and didn’t complain about the mattress.

I found a counter with two barstools and a small round table with two dining chairs. I would have preferred four chairs but I guess the kids could use the barstools for eating.

A kitchenette helps families save money and whey I love Mystic Dunes for families.
A counter with bar stools offers a place for kids to eat. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

My Bedroom at Mystic Dunes

Though the website’s description called my unit a studio, it featured a separate bedroom with a door that closed and separate closet with a in-room safe, iron and board, and a separate TV.

My bedroom featured one queen-sized bed made with white cotton linens. With celery green walls and beachy-white furnishings, I found the room calming in the middle of a hectic family trip to Walt Disney World.

A separate bedroom in my Mystic Dunes studio.
My studio featured a separate bedroom with a ceiling fan and a TV. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

My bedroom featured a whirlpool tub in the corner that seemed out of place. It needed to be on the other side of the wall since the bathroom is right outside of the bedroom.

My Bathroom at Mystic Dunes

The bathroom features a shower outfitted with a rain shower head and plenty of hot water during my visit. The large vanity housed lots of towels and I even found pool towels in the bedroom’s closet.

The bathroom didn’t offer a standard tub. The vanity only featured one sink.

Dining at Mystic Dunes Resort

For convenience, I ordered a pizza from Maui Pizza Delivery located at the Kenzie’s full-service restaurant at the Clubhouse, on property. It was reasonably priced and I picked it up since I planned to eat at the pool, though delivery is available.

Kenzie’s full-service restaurant and bar features a full menu. Snacks and bar food can be purchased at the tiki bars located at the pools.

Several dining options at Mystic Dunes for families.
The Mystic Dunes Clubhouse features a full-service restaurant, Kenzie’s along with Maui Pizza available for pick-up at the bar. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

During my stay at Mystic Dunes, I found a sundry store that sold treats and frozen meals. I saw several families using the complimentary grills to cook up dinner and eat al fresco on the picnic tables. A great option for mom who doesn’t want to tidy up a kitchen and let dad man the grill.

For my visit, I brought little bags of cereal to speed up breakfast since getting to the nearby parks was a priority for my kids.

Enjoy a cocktail at a tiki bar in Mystic Dunes Resort.
Order a cocktail or bar snacks at one of two tiki bars in Mystic Dunes Resort. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Activities at The Mystic Dunes

With four pools to choose, my boys, 9 and 12, pool hopped. Finally landing at the resort-style Dunes Lagoon with a two-story water slide. With several private cabanas, the Aloha tiki bar that serves poolside snacks and live entertainment on select nights, this area hops throughout the day.

During my stay, I found a steel drum percussionist to entertain the sunbathers while adding to the tropical vibe of the pool. A small sand area provides a place for littles to play.

A water slide and waterfall at the pool keeps kids busy.
The Mystic Dunes Lagoon with a two-story waterslide tops my kids list. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Though labeled a quiet pool, the Garden Pool, also offers a tiki bar along with shuttle board, water volleyball and ping-pong. Closeby, I found the tennis and basketball courts.

Located next to the welcome center, the activities center is a hub for fun. My boys enjoyed several different games, like Foosball. The activity center also hosts crafts for kids and adults (some free and others low-cost). Guests receive a full schedule of activities and crafts at check-in.

Lots of family fun at Mystic Dunes Resort.
Lots of fun for kids at Mystic Dunes, like a game room, loaner bikes and sports courts. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The activity center loans out miniature golf equipment course for the 18-hole course across the street. I found loaner bikes in assorted sizes along with tandem options. A great option for teens yearning for more independence in a resort that seemed too large to walk.

Golf is available at the Mystic Dunes Clubhouse and Golf Shop. The resort features an 18-hole par 71 championship golf course.

Less than 10 miles from Magic Kingdom, Mystic Dunes Resort offers lots of value for families and four different pools. My kids loved pool hopping and I loved all the activities for kids and adults, like daily crafts, miniature golf, sports courts and even BBQ grills.

Getting to Mystic Dunes Resort and Golf Club

Mystic Dunes Resort and Golf Club is located at 7600 Mystic Dunes Lane in Celebration, Florida. The gated community is 25 miles from Orlando International Airport (MCO) and 8 miles by roads to Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom.

During my stay, I rented a car to get around since it was cheaper than shuttles or taxis. The parking is complimentary and located right outside of the buildings.

Transportation to-and-from the airport is not included. Complimentary transportation to the theme parks is and a schedule is available at check in.

Looking for more reviews and information?

I’ve stayed at the Pop Century Resort, the Art of Animation Resort, the Caribbean Beach Resort, the Grand Floridan Resort and Spa, and the Coronado Springs Resort. Follow the links for more reviews.

Looking for off-property resorts, I’ve stayed at the Wyndham’s Lake Buena Vista and the Best Western Lake Buena Vista too.

I always use the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World by Bob Sehlinger and Len Testa. It provides a comprehensive guide, packed with information.

Know before you go:

  • A $13.00 resort fee is charged per day, per unit.
  • The management company collects $100.00 fee for damages.
  • It takes 7 to 10 days to be refunded to your card.
  • The management company offers its timeshares to all guests though I didn’t feel any pressure and didn’t attend any presentations.
  • Kids must be 48″ to use the water slide.

Disclosure:

As a result of a partnership with Vacatia.com, I enjoyed a complimentary room. This post includes affiliate links in which I receive a commission if you order a book.

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Top 5 Things To Do in Punta Cana with Kids

Explore the Dominican Republic with kids
A baby monkey on a mama’s back tops the chart for cute.

The Dominican Republic offers tons of family fun. I’ve pulled together a list of things to do in Punta Cana with kids.

So my Mom wouldn’t buy me a monkey as a kid. Something about throwing poo. .

But I still wanted to play with a monkey so I was beyond excited when I learned I could feed monkeys in the Dominican Republic. I was all in.

Too Much of a Good Thing?

Lounging in a beachside cabana offers busy adults the time they need to recharge and relax. But I didn’t want to sum up my time in the Dominican Republic with a one sentence, I sat by the beach with a glass of champagne.

Explore Ocean Blue and Sand in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.
The blue water beckons at Ocean Blue and Sand by H10 Hotels in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Don’t get me wrong–I love champagne and there’s nothing better to drink sitting next to the beach. I just wanted to learn a few things and walk away with a better understanding of the Dominican Republic. A few of my favorite things like chocolate and coffee grew in the Dominican Republic. I needed to learn more.

Why Choose Bavaro Adventures?

With 20 years of operating experience across the Dominican Republic, Bavaro Adventures offers eight different tours. During a recent trip to the explore the Ocean Blue and Sand All-Inclusive Resort by H10 near Punta Cana, I spent a day exploring the countryside with Bavaro Adventures.

Stop and smell the flowers as one of the things to do in Punta Cana with kids.
The tropical flowers in the Dominican Republic delight plant lovers like me. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

My tour sampled several of Bavaro Adventures signature activities. I fed the monkeys, witnessed thrill seekers on zip lines, learned about the local agriculture and even stopped by a pristine beach. All things to do in Punta Cana with kids.

Monkeyland

I was a little hesitant, I’ll be honest. What do you expect from a place called Monkeyland. I didn’t want to see unhappy, little monkey faces. I’m too much of a kind-hearted animal lover for that.

To my delight, I found a family of tiny, curious two-pound monkeys that swung from limb-to-limb in their five-acre sanctuary in the rainforest of the Dominican Republic. At night the monkey family sleeps in a large protective house, keeping them safe.

After a quick briefing, I walked though the door of the monkey compound. Down a few steps and into a grove of trees where the monkey guide handed me a bowl of cut up tropical fruit, nuts and sunflower seeds. Seriously, I would feed the nutritious snacks to my three kids.

In a blink of an eye, monkeys jumped onto my head with tiny, velvety feet and ran along my shoulders and arms to grab their treats. The monkeys perched on top of my head to nibble their fruit. I wanted to grab one and stuff it in my bag to take home, the monkeys were that cute and gentle. I didn’t.

Got your place to feed monkeys in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, along with zip lines and coffee for Mom.

A must-do for the family. My kids, 9, 12 and 14, would’ve loved it. Though the monkeys prefer calm-natured people that remain quiet during their feeding.

Maria’s House or Casa de Maria

I’m just your typical coffee-drinking, chocolate-hoarding Mom. So when I learned that the Dominican Republic grew cacao (the beans roasted to make chocolate) and coffee beans, I had to learn all about it.

Visit Maria's House in the Dominican Republic and 4 other things to do in Punta Cana with kids.
Maria House in the Dominican Republic offers a glimpse of traditional housing near Punta Cana. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Just down the road from Monkeyland, the Bavaro Runners stopped at a traditional Dominican house owned by Maria for a lesson in agriculture. Her land is covered with different tropical crops that yield year-round, like coffee, cacao and pineapple.

Behind her simple yet colorful house, I walked down to covered area where Maria works to turn the raw products into my favorite treats. First, I sampled the cacao seeds, fresh from the pod and experience a completely different taste and texture. The seeds remind me of a tart banana, almost lemony and look nothing like chocolate.

Learn about cocoa as one of the things to do in Punta Cana with Kids.
I learned how cacao goes from seed to cocoa powder. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Maria dries the cacao seeds before roasting them. Then she pounds and sifts the seeds to remove the flavorful nibs. The nibs are molded and eventually grated with cinnamon and raw sugar for a Dominican cocoa powder. I got the opportunity to taste the fresh cocoa powder—a must-do for the chocolate lover.

Coffee requires less steps, the Christmas red-colored beans dry for days then roasted to a deep chocolate brown before grinding. The best part, I sampled a hot chocolate, fresh coffee and pineapple from Maria’s trees.

Learn about coffee and other things to do in Punta Cana with kids.
From bright red berry to roasting then grinding, I learned how my coffee is made. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Not only did I find cacao and coffee plants, her land brims with tropical flowers and chickens run around eating bugs. Maria’s House is a popular stop for families wanting to learn more about the cultural heritage of the Dominican Republic.

Learning about Sugar Cane, Rum and Cigars

The Dominican Republic, on the second largest Caribbean island after Cuba, is an important agricultural center. Sugarcane is the largest crop harvested in the Dominican Republic and my Bavaro Runners Tour explained the production process.

Like about sugar and other things to do in Punta Cana with kids.
I learned how sugar cane becomes sugar in the fields of the Dominican Republic. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

As I walked through a field of towering sugar cane plants, I image a machete-wielding farmhand harvesting the cane and dragging it to a pair of oxen. Traditionally oxen drove the sugar cane press that extracted the sugary juice when the stalks were placed between two rollers.

Fortunately, this process has been automated but the harvest is still done by hand. Before moving on, I sampled the raw sugar cane juice that’s sweet yet not syrupy.

Learn about cigar production and other things to do in the Punta Cana with kids.
Though I don’t smoke, learning about the cigar production was interesting. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The next stop on the tour featured a series of boilers where the sugary juice reduces to molasses. The molasses can be used as a sweetener or fermented. The fermenting process produces rum, another important product of the Dominican Republic.

Next to the sugar cane fields, I watched a demonstration of traditional cigar making. With a combination of local and imported tobacco leaves, the cigar maker rolls the leaves into some of the best cigars in the world.

Zip line Adventures in Punta Cana

Bavaro Runners offers a zip lining adventure through their canopy of rain forest trees. Twelve zip lines connect 18 platforms for a ride of a lifetime, thrill searchers even flying over a small river.

Certified by the Association of Challenger Course Technology, safety is paramount at the Zip Line Adventures. Kids have to be 6-years-old and 44 pounds to ride and adults have weight restrictions too.

Macao Beach

Punta Cana is world famous for its sugar-white sand beaches with water the color of the purest turquoise. Though hotels line the majority of the beaches, except for Macao Beach, a locals favorite.

Learn how to surf at Macao Beach as one of the things to do in Punta Cana with kids.
The Macao Beach offers surfing along with surfing lessons. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

With deep beaches ideal for sunbathing, Macao Beach offers a deeper straw-colored sand dotted with palm trees. A beach for beach-lovers, I found a surf camp and several huts offering seafood and drinks.

Where’s Runners Adventures

Runners Adventures picks up their guests from the lobby of their resort, a convenient feature for travelers without rental cars. Depending on the adventure, guests will ride in an open air safari truck or smaller air-conditioned tour bus.

The mountain roads offer another adventure. Kids love the bumpy unpaved roads.

Disclosure: This tour was provided for review purposes. The opinion is my own.

Know Before You Go: 

  • Runners Adventures used to be called Bavaro Adventures.
  • Kids are welcome though strollers might be difficult to navigate in the hilly terrain that’s explored during the typical excursion.
  • Monkeys are sensitive to insect repellant so it can’t be worn in the monkey compound.
  • The Monkeyland tour not recommended for people with peanut allergies.
  • My school age kids would love the Monkeyland though it might be intimidating for timid preschoolers or babies.
  • For the Bavaro Adventures, I recommend wearing hiking sandals and clothes that can get dirty.
  • It rains at anytime in the rain forest.
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Float in the Caribbean’s Ocean Blue and Sand to Recharge

Explore Ocean Blue and Sand in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.
The blue water beckons at Ocean Blue and Sand by H10 Hotels in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

A beach vacation tops many lists as the ultimate place to unplug and relax. But what about the kids? I’ve got all the details for the Ocean Blue and Sand with kids for your next trip.

Why Stay at All-Inclusive

Recently, I woke up, grabbed my passport and hopped a plane headed for the Caribbean. I needed a place faraway that would drown out a house of jabbering. I needed to lounge in a white-curtained cabana while listening to the waves crash against a beach of sugar white sand.

The idea of not thinking for a week sounded divine. Even better, soothing my soul with a glass of champagne that never seemed half-empty.

The moment I landed in Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic, my resort, Ocean Blue and Sand by H10 Hotels, took care of me. As an independently-minded Mom of three, I forgot how nice it is to be indulged. It’s been so long since I had someone catering to my pleasure, namely a butler.

The Ocean Blue and Sand All Inclusive Resort

About 12 miles from the Punta Cana International Airport on the western edge of the Dominican Republic, I entered the private lobby for Privilege-level guests at the Ocean Blue and Sand All-Inclusive Resort. I sat down in the plush seating as the concierge offered me a hot towel and a glass of champagne.

Enjoy the Caribbean Ocean at Ocean Blue and Sand in Punta Cana.
With water the color of my favorite jewelry box, Ocean Blue and Sand offers everything needed to relax. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

My flight might have been economy but my resort was first-class. Moments later, my butler arrived to drive me to my suite, one of 708 suites. I felt like I had arrived at Fantasy Island when I stepped into the golf cart.

This mom forgot about laundry, lunches and that pesky school project. It was fine, my kids wouldn’t starve because their dad is a chef.

My Privilege Suite at Ocean Blue and Sand

My butler showed me around my Privilege-level junior suite in building 10, the closest building to the beach. From my balcony, I enjoyed a view of the turquoise-blue ocean for my wicker chair with a matching ottoman. The perfect place to witness a spectacular sunrise as I began my day with in-room coffee topped off with little Dominican Rum from the mini-bar.

My large suite offered lots of seating, I found a small white leather settee with a pull-out bed and a cocktail table. The upholstered chair with a matching ottoman and reading lamp called me to read a book.

The credenza offered functionality with an area for working with task lighting, electrical outlets and a pair of USB outlets along with a mounted 32-inch flat screen TV. Below the credenza top, I found the beverage station with a mini bar stocked with single-serve liquor bottles and an in-room coffee and tea service. I delighted in the deluxe ice bucket with glassware and ceramic mugs.

Enjoy a standard suite at the Ocean Blue and Sand All-Inclusive in Punta Cana.
The standard suite at the Ocean Blue and Sand All-Inclusive in Punta Cana offer lots of space and deluxe toiletries. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

My suite included numerous electrical outlets and included air-conditioning and a ceiling fan. The closet offered an in-room safe that fit my large laptop along with my camera and purse. I found more drawers along with an iron and a golf umbrella.

The bathroom featured a whirlpool tub and separate glass-enclosed shower with rain shower head and hand-held wand. The vanity featured two separate vessel sinks on top of a travertine counter. The bathroom was tiled extensively in travertine along with the flooring throughout my suite. During my stay, I enjoyed deluxe toiletries and several bottles of water. 

Where to eat Ocean Blue and Sand

With nine different restaurants, I ate a different cuisine every night. Each offered wait service and an extensive menu offering regional specialties. For the guests staying in the Privilege-level rooms, 24-hour room service is available.

Enjoy the buffet during your visit to Ocean Blue and Sand in Punta Cana.
The El Carey and Tortuga buffet offers a rotating menu with regional flavors along with familiar favorites. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

I found most of the restaurants centrally located near the main lobby, including the extensive buffet, El Carey and Tortuga. The Villa Marina is located beachside and offers traditional breakfast options with a view for Privilege-Level guests.

I ate at the main buffet (El Carey and Tortuga) for lunch and several breakfasts. With plenty of seating and waiters offering water service and coffee in the morning, the buffet exceeded by expectations for breakfast and lunch.

The buffet at the Ocean Blue and Sand features fresh fish and Caribbean flavors.
I enjoyed fresh fish and regional flavors for lunch at the El Carey and Tortuga buffet. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The buffet offered numerous options and a rotating 14-day menu of international favorites. I found a pasta station, a couple of grill stations with traditional burgers or seafood and beef, a salad bar, a cheese and cold cuts station, several daily soups, along with several Caribbean specialties and Mexican favorites.

I delighted in the fresh juice bar and enjoyed the ready-made mimosas and make-your-own Bloody Marys. The extensive dessert station with ice cream sundaes can not be passed up and stocked with yogurt and platters of fresh topical fruit. The Dominican Republic pineapple is the juiciest and sweetest around since it’s tree ripened.

During my stay, I stopped at Mike’s Coffee every afternoon where I enjoyed a Caribbean coffee with espresso, cinnamon, chocolate and rum. After a night of dancing, I stopped at the Over Time Sports Bar for the local beer, Presidente, and some late night French fries.

Restaurants at Ocean Blue and Sand

Each evening I sampled a different restaurant. The Italian restaurant, I Mascherati di Vencia, I found traditional Italian appetizers and pasta dishes. Looking for a lighter option, I ordered seafood options, like their salmon. For a special treat, the Sambuca is toasted tableside to accompany traditional tiramisu.

Ocean Blue and Sand Offers lots of specialties to choose from.
I sampled lots of specialities at Ocean Blue and Sand, like lobster and delectable chocolate desserts. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

At Sensai, I took a seat at the table facing the chef who entertained the diners while cooking up traditional Japanese favorites. I started sushi and sake, then dined on fried rice with a chicken and beef stir fry. Sensai offers two seatings of 56 diners each.

Bluemoon, an adults-only restaurant with a dress code, offers French-inspired selections for a fine dining experience with specialities like terrines and ratatouille. I enjoyed a carved lobster with its elegant plating.

To enjoy the specialties of the Caribbean, I dined at the Villa Marina. I started with ceviche featuring a Caribbean twist along with a seafood stew. All the restaurants serve delectable desserts with at least one chocolate choice that pairs well with coffee or an after dinner drink.

Despacio – the Spa at Ocean Blue and Sand

During my stay at Ocean Blue and Sand, I enjoyed an afternoon at the spa located on the premises. As I walked through the doorway, the scent of lemongrass lifted my travel-weary spirit.

Enjoy the spa at Ocean Blue and Sand.
With indoor or outdoor spa treatment rooms, relaxing comes easy at Despaio. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The welcoming staff escorted me to my lounger and handed me a glass of infused ice water as they placed a warm, lavender-scented pillow around my neck to soothe my soul.

After breathing deeply and letting my muscles relax, my therapist escorted me to a private room. I found a large therapy room outfitted with a dressed massage table, a therapy tub, and a small shower. During my visit, I enjoyed a thorough massage and a facial.

Spa patrons can use the outdoor pool and I found an outdoor area for treatments. The Despacio offers hair dressers, nail technicians, fish pedicures, a sauna and separate dressing rooms.

Take the kids to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic for fun in the sun while you lounge on the beach. All your tips for this top resort.

Entertainment at Ocean Blue and Sand

Though I found my suite lovely, I didn’t spend much time in it. Instead I enjoyed the private beach for the Privilege-level guests that boasts white-draped sun loungers with waiter service and upgraded towels.

Enjoy a privilege beach view and cabana.
The Privilege Beach at the Ocean Blue and Sand featuring white curtained cabanas with ocean-side cocktails. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

I found plenty of beach loungers for the non Privilege-level guests though no sun shades. The beach at the Ocean Blue and Sand includes a beach volleyball court, a climbing wall and gazebo. The diving center, Dive It! Scuba and Fun, is a PADI diving center that offers certification and snorkeling excursions. I found two bars in the beach area.

The Ocean Blue and Sand features two large outdoor pools, one with one swim-up bar and a spa. The pools dominate the central area between opposing building that flank the edge of the resort property. I found lots of loungers and the pool area hosts gatherings during the day and features an additional walk-up bar.

Enjoy lots of activities while vacationing at Ocean Blue and Sand in Punta Cana.
Along with snorkeling trips and scuba, I found a climbing wall and volleyball court. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The area has a shallow kids pool area but lacks a themed waterscape.

The open-air lobby bar features live music most nights that belts out popular dancing hits with lots of seating. Or enjoy a quiet cocktail in the piano bar located behind glass doors nearby.

Ocean Blue and Sand in Punta Cana offers gambling.
Try your luck at the gaming tables in the Casino at the Ocean Blue and Sand.

Ocean Blue and Sand features a casino and a disco. I watched a 70s-themed show one evening that packed top hits. After the performers finished the show, they stopped by the lobby bar and entertained guests.

Ocean Blue and Sand with Kids

With daily activities like crafts and special snacks, kids have a delightful clubhouse just for guests 4 to 12. They will stay entertained during the morning, have lunch with their parents and return for the afternoon. (Club hours are 9:45 a.m. to noon, 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.)

Play at the Daisy Club at the Ocean Blue and Sand with kids.
The Daisy Club at the Ocean Blue and Sand offers a place for arts and crafts along with snacks, steps away from the pool and beach. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Activities include bowling, swimming (in pool only), tennis and arts and crafts. Snacks include ice cream, popcorn and cotton candy.

For the older kids, I found a teen club above the bowling alley. Equipped with six gaming stations, air hockey, Foosball and pool tables just for the teens, it’s the place for teens. The bowling alley below features six full-sized lanes.

Enjoy the bowling alley or pool tables at Ocean Blue and Sand with kids.
Older kids and teens have a game room and bowling area to discover. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Adventures Outside the Ocean Blue and Sand

The Dominican Republic offers surfing opportunities, cultural heritage experiences, lessons in their culinary history and the chance to feed monkeys. I enjoyed a full-day excursion with Bavaro Runners where I did all that.

Note: During my stay at the Ocean Blue and Sand, their beach had encountered significant beach erosion due to a storm. The property worked overnight to rehabilitate the beachfront.

Disclosure: This trip was provided for review purposes. The opinions are my own.

Travel Tips for the Dominican Republic

  • A 30-day tourist card and a valid passport for all travelers is required to enter the Dominican Republic at the Punta Cana International Airport (PUJ). A fee of $10 US per person is best paid in cash.
  • Ocean Blue and Sand uses the standard 110-volt 3-pin North American electrical plugs; no need for a conversion kit.
  • The water from the sinks is NOT potable, use bottled water to brush teeth. All drinking water is fine.
  • I used U.S. dollars for tips and didn’t bother to exchange money during my trip. All large purchases were made with a credit card.

Know Before You Go:

  • The buildings don’t have elevators but my butler hauled up my bags. Families with smaller kids and babies might want a ground-level room.
  • The resort property is large, pack comfy walking shoes.
  • Women wear dresses for dinner.
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