All Aboard the Polar Express on the Grand Canyon RailroadDec 9, 2013
The Grand Canyon Railroad brings a classic holiday tale to life with the return of the Polar Express. Now through January 4, families can experience this themed train ride that follows the storyline of the acclaimed children’s book.
Talk about the potential for stress. How about racing around Disney World with 11 people, no less, with kids who range from five to college age?
But one family I meet are all smiles—even as they wait 40 minutes in line at Epcot to see Soarin’ — the popular attraction that makes you feel as if you are hang-gliding over California.
“I think this is the best trip I’ve ever done,” one of the adults opines.
Even the rain doesn’t get them down. “I wish it would rain ever day,” they joked. “There were no lines!” They made sure to make reservations for dinners (they are a big group, after all,) and those special character meals. Buying the Disney meal plan helped, they added. Not only did they save significant bucks but had their choice of restaurants.
Getting the kids involved in the planning certainly helps too. That’s why I hope you’ll check out my new Kid’s Guide to Orlando that’s packed with fun facts, tips from local kids and suggestions on how to de-stress the experience.
A liberal dose of pixie dust certainly helps.
The Disney resorts have just announced Limited Time Magic for all of 2013 –52 weeks of what they promise will be magical experiences that appear, then disappear as the next special surprise debuts.
There will be a Pirate Week during a bicoastal buccaneer bash in which Disneyland and Walt Disney World become pirate-palooza: pirate bands, pirate meet-and-greets and more.
Valentine’s Day in 2013 that becomes Valentine’s Week with Disney castles blushing pink, surprise meet-and-greets with Disney princes and princesses, and candlelit dinners for couples in love.
Come next July, Disney Parks salutes America with a 4th of July Fireworks Party — for an entire week, with patriotic lighting bathing the Disney castles on both coasts. Mickey Mouse appears in his patriotic finest and guests will find special USA shirts, Ear Hats and other limited-edition souvenirs.
And during “Long Lost Friends Week,” lesser-known Disney characters will move from the shadows to the spotlight — Flik, Clarabelle Cow, Remy, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum will be on hand for photo ops.
This is all inspired, Disney officials say, by the notion that many most cherished vacation memories are made during such special, but fleeting moments when families spend time together.
Taking the kids to see Mickey, Minnie and all their favorite characters, villians and princesses is never easy and always expensive. That’s why I’m glad to see Disney upping the ante for families to help them get more bang out of their theme park buck.
Knowing where to go when can help too. Check out The Undercover Tourist App that not only offers maps of the park but tells them all the waiting times, show and parade schedules.
And if you’ve got a baby in tow, make sure to check out the parks’ baby centers where you can nurse, feed a baby in a high chair, change a diaper and buy anything you need from baby food to formula to diapers, even baby pain relievers.
Of course first time visitors always wish some things were better—more information about character “meet and greats” so you don’t get there to discover the line is closed (that’s why character meals are so great when all of the characters come to your table for autographs and photos), more information about the transit system (yes, sometimes it can take upwards of two hours to get from a resort to a particular park).
One mom I met is a fan of park-hopper passes, though they are more expensive. “You can do one park in the morning, go back and take a rest and do another in the evening,” she explained. It helps to bring grandma along too.
It also helps to score a good deal—like those offered by Southwest Vacation with theme park tickets to Disneyland Resort now starting at $47 per person, per day. (Book the vacation package through November 8, for travel through the end of March. )
For the best deals in Orlando, check out www.visitorlando.com
“Every day is better than the day before,” one dad visiting Disney World from Australia told me. “The kids like everything.”
And you can’t ask for more than that.