Visiting Hawaii and only have a few days to sightsee in Honolulu? This 2 Day Oahu Itinerary will give you ideas for the best things to do and eat. Honolulu travel tips with alternatives to Waikiki Beach. 2 Day Oahu Itinerary – Honolulu Hawaii Travel Tips If you have a few days in Honolulu and […]
Is the Disney After Hours event worth the money? Read about my experience at the Disney After Hours Event in Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park to get the inside scoop. This special event ticket is available to the public and allows you to stay in the park for three extra hours with access to popular attractions with little to no wait times, character greetings and snacks.
Review ~ Disney After Hours at Animal Kingdom
While attending my daughter’s cheer competition at Disney’s ESPN Sports Complex, I decided to splurge and purchase Disney After Hours special event tickets for Animal Kingdom. At $125 per ticket, I wasn’t sure it would be worth the money, plus I already had a four day hopper pass to the Disney parks. Adding extra tickets to what I had already spent seemed like a bit much. Since I write about family travel and love anything Disney, I thought I would go ahead and pay the extra money for the tickets to see what it was like to share with you.
What does the Disney After Hours Event Include?
First of all, the Disney After Hours events are only available on certain dates and only one park at a time. The events last from 9pm-12am. When you check in, you get a special wrist band, able to ride select rides, watch select shows, get snacks and meet characters. There are a limited amount of tickets and as of now, I don’t think you need any other kind of park ticket to be allowed to purchase an after hours event ticket. Guests with Disney After Hours tickets can enter the park at 7:00 pm every event night. If you didn’t have a park ticket during the day, you can enjoy the park for a few hours before the special event starts.
What we thought of Disney After Hours at Animal Kingdom
It seems like the Disney park people are still working out the details of these After Hours Events. I found out about it by the ad on their website while I was picking out my fast passes. I wish I had known about this before buying my hopper tickets – I could have saved money and bought a 3 day pass instead of a 4 day one. I saw some of my blogger friends at one of these events, but assumed it was a special event for just for influencers and not open to the public. When I saw that there was an after hours event while I was at Disney, I jumped on the chance to get a ticket before they were sold out. Animal Kingdom is our favorite!!
What We Liked About Animal Kingdom’s After Hours Event
Here are six things we enjoyed about the After Hours event at Animal Kingdom.
1. Little to no wait times
Obviously this is the main attraction for going to a Disney After Hours event. The most popular ride, Avatar Flight of Passage, which normally has a wait time of 2 hours, only had a wait of about 15 minutes when the event started. Towards the end of the night, we walked directly on the ride with no line. We rode our other favorite ride, Expedition Everest, over and over with no line and hardly any people around us!
2. The parks at night are cooler and way less bugs
While we were in Orlando, there were “love bugs” EVERYWHERE. These bugs don’t bite or harm you in anyway, but they are annoying and you could have 5-100 bugs on and around you at a time. Apparently there is only an infestation of these bugs in Florida for two weeks, twice a year. And sure enough, while we were visiting! We began avoiding the parks during the day because of this and another reason the late night after hours event looked appealing. No love bugs out at night!
3. Endless treats
We loved the grab and go snack and drink stations around the park. I think the smartest thing Disney did was to have had Mickey ice cream, popcorn, juice bar popsicles and bottled water sitting out on a table near the Pandora entrance where you could just grab your snacks and keep walking. If you preferred a soda, you could wait in a line for one. There are other various snack carts open around the parks with snacks included in your ticket and also something for purchase. Cocktails and beer are not included in your ticket, but available for purchase the whole evening.
4. No Crowds
At times, we felt like the only people in the park! If you prefer a loud, party atmosphere, you might not like the after hours events, but we thought it was the coolest thing ever!
I think we only saw 3 strollers the whole time we were there, compared to daytime when there are numerous strollers parked at every ride entrance.
Comparing the After Hours crowd to a normal night at a park:
A few evenings before, we stayed until closing time (11pm) at Magic Kingdom and saw less strollers and people than during the day. Attractions had much longer wait times on a normal park night though. Some popular rides were still over an hour wait. I have to note the night we stayed late… it had just stormed with hail, plus it rained on and off, so that could have been a big factor for less people, less toddlers in strollers.
5. After Hours Shopping
Our favorite shop was open when we arrived and we were able buy the last few of the much sought after lollipop Mickey ears. It’s really fun to shop with little to no people in the stores!
6. Fun Entertainment
We didn’t know about the entertainment as we were focused on what rides were open and where to find food. Here is what we did:
DJ Dance Party: In DinoLand U.S.A, we accidentally walked into the dance party with bubbles, fun music and a photo booth. We were the only ones dancing, but that is what we liked about it! ha!
Entertainment We Missed:
Apparently there were character greetings and shows, but we missed them all together on our race to ride the attractions and eat all the food! I’m sad we missed these things and wish I had known ahead of time to plan better:
Character greeting and photos: Meet Mickey and Minnie in Discovery Island
Rivers of Light : Show starts at 10 pm in Asia
Pandora Drummers: 10:30 pm and 11:30 pm in Pandora
What we did at the Animal Kingdom After Hours Event:
- Shopped for about 15 minutes before the event officially started.
- Walked to Pandora to be there at 9pm.
- Rode Avatar Flight of Passage 2 times in a row (about a 10-15 minute wait both times)
- Rode the Na’vi River Journey (walked right on)
- Got fruit bars and water in Pandora
- Walked towards Tree of Life and grabbed ice cream and popcorn to take on the way
- Watched the Tree of Life for a bit
- Stopped for lemonade and more popcorn on the walk to Asia
- Rode Expedition Everest 3 times in a row (walked right on)
- Stopped for more snacks and drinks in Asia
- Walked to Dinoland, rode TriceraTop Spin
- Danced and took photos at the DJ dance party
- Rode DINOSAUR (walked right on)
- Walked back to Pandora to ride Flight of Passage (walked right on)
Once we left Pandora the first time, we only saw 2-20 people at a time around the park the rest of the night.
What we did NOT like:
Don’t get me wrong, we had a blast and enjoyed the park after hours, but here are a few things I didn’t like.
Not enough time: We wish the event was at least 30-60 minutes longer so we could have done more. If they can’t make the event longer, then it would have been great to have gotten the option to skip the Avatar Flight of Passage pre-show to save time.
Not knowing what was going to happen until we got there: I wish we could have been emailed the event plans, what shops were open and the show times for the evening. I feel we missed out on activities, not being able to plan ahead.
Not many characters: I would have liked more characters around the park. Having another photo spot with a character out in the open where we could have seen them would have been great. I also wish they had a character at the dance party, especially since there was a photo booth there.
The park seemed closed: It seemed more like the park was closed and we were just there walking around as they were closing up. I would have enjoyed a more catered feeling to those of us who bought the pricey after hours tickets. I’ve been to special events at parks where we were treated like VIPS – I think Disney needs to add more of a special treatment touch. I would have liked having more cast members welcoming us and answering our questions. We would have enjoyed some fun music throughout the park so it didn’t seem closed. Special gifts such as glow stick necklaces or glowing drinks would have been nice.
Was it worth the money?
Let me break it down by what we ate and drank. Note I’m on a diet and with a 12 year old girl who doesn’t eat much. If my son was with us, he would have eaten a LOT more.
- Mickey’s Premium Ice Cream Bar $5.75 x 2
- Mickey’s Ice Cream Sandwich $5.75 x 1
- Fruits of Mo’ara Fruit Bar 4.50 x 3
- Popcorn 4.50 x 2
- Bottled Soft Drinks 4.50 x 1
- Water: $3.50 x 5
2 tickets + tax was $266.26. Take out our total food: $61.75 and the price was actually $102.25 per ticket for no crowds and to ride our favorite rides over and over.
After experiencing high crowds, Florida heat, 2 hour wait times and the infestation of bugs, I definitely think it was worth the price of admission and would do it again next time if it was offered.
Overall, I we had a BLAST at the Disney After Hours event. It will be a memory that my daughter and I will talk about for years to come!
Tips for Riding Avatar Flight of Passage After Hours
1. Take account for time spent walking the path and the pre-show:
For those of you wanting to plan to ride Flight of Passage numerous times, take note of your time. From the ride’s gate entrance where you show your wrist band, it will take at least 5 minutes to walk the path to the ride entrance point. Then another 7 minutes to watch the two pre-show videos, 6 minutes to ride the ride and another 3-5 minutes to walk the path out of the ride and back to the main entrance. Total time for riding Avatar Flight of Passage is around 22 minutes with no wait time.
2. Enjoy a different experience each time:
When possible, we made sure to switch up where we were in line at the pre-show. If you are with a big group, switch spots with someone else you know. We sat somewhere different each time we rode the ride and it was a totally different experience each time! When I sat on the far outside, I felt like I was flipping upside down, a feeling I didn’t get when in the middle. So be sure to try to change it up while you’re at the after hours event if you can!
3. Just for fun, shout SIVAKO!
Watch for the part during the ride where your Na’vi guide yells “SIVAKO” (see-vah-ko) meaning, rise to the challenge. Be sure to chant it back! We had fun doing that each time. LOL!
Official Disney World After Hours Event Information:
At the time of my review, you can purchase After Hours event tickets at Magic Kingdom park, Disney’s Hollywood Studios or Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park! Click here to learn more.
Planning to visit Orlando during the holiday season? Then don’t miss these 5 Reasons to Celebrate Christmas at Universal Orlando. Learn what’s new at the park this year and get some fun travel tips to make your Christmas vacation even more special.
What We Loved About Christmas at Universal Orlando
Any chance we get to go to Universal Orlando, we’re there! But in all time times we have visited, we’ve never been during the Christmas holiday season until this year. I’m sharing what we loved and what’s new at the park this year with these 5 great reasons to celebrate Christmas at Universal Orlando!
It goes without saying that visiting a theme park with your family during the holidays is going to be a blast. I love the memories we make and not to mention the amazing weather!
When we left Dallas, it was 39 degrees. Brrrr! The next night, we are enjoying a movie in the heated pool at Sapphire Falls Resort. Can’t beat that! Click here for Orlando hotel deals.
Beautiful Christmas Decorations
The Christmas decorations are so beautiful all around the park! I shared a lot of video and photos from our Christmas at Universal Orlando trip on Instagram, but if you missed it you can click here to watch it now on my featured Instagram story. We had so much fun and can’t wait to return!
5 Reasons to Celebrate Christmas at Universal Orlando
Christmas at Universal Orlando is amazing! If you are headed to Universal Orlando this holiday, be sure to read through these tips. I hope you have an amazing Christmas vacation!
1. Merry Grinchmas!
We love The Grinch and thought Grinchmas in Seuss Landing is so adorable!!! The whole area is decorated super cute for the holiday season. You can get your photo taken with the Grinch himself and encounter hilarious people from Who-ville!
The people of Who-ville walk through the park caroling and interacting with people. They found my son in one of the stores and made it their mission to get him to smile by piling candy in his hands. It was so funny! See what they did to him on my featured Instagram story here.
Don’t miss the live show, The Grinchmas Who-liday Spectacular, which tells the Dr. Seuss story of How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
2. Hot Butterbeer
I have written several articles about Butterbeer, sharing homemade recipes and where to find the shortest line for it at the park, so I thought I knew it all when it came to Butterbeer. NOT THE CASE… I just discovered you can get Hot Butterbeer during the holiday season! Another great reason to visit the park during Christmas.
Where you can find Hot Butterbeer
Hot Butterbeer is only available during the winter months at:
- The Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade
- The Leaky Cauldron in Diagon Alley
3. Christmas Magic at Hogwarts Castle
After you get your Hot Butterbeer, head over to the Hogwarts Castle to watch the holiday light show. Be ready for big crowds and don’t worry if you miss a show, they happen every 20 minutes starting at 6pm. It’s an amazing show that ends with fireworks. A must see for Harry Potter fans!
Best place to watch the Hogwarts Holiday light show.
If you want the best spot, go to the bridge that connects Jurassic Park to Hogsmeade. Of course being right in front of the castle is great, but beware of huge crowds.
Best spot to watch the show with very little crowds.
We tried to get to the bridge, but areas of the park were blocked off to form lines and we couldn’t get through. Instead, we sat on the patio of the Three Broomsticks to enjoy our drinks and the show without the crowds.
Ride Tip: There was no wait time to ride the train from Hogsmeade to London because everyone was trying to get to the castle to watch the light show. After the first show, we walked right on the train!
4. Universal’s Holiday Parade
We’ve never been to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City, so seeing the Universal’s Holiday Parade featuring Macy’s was a huge treat! Big balloons featuring your favorite park characters parade through the streets filled with dancers, lights and festive Christmas songs.
Holiday Parade Tip
Find a spot to stand near the giant Christmas tree across from The Mummy ride. When Santa comes by at the end of the parade, his magic lights up the tree! It’s so beautiful.
- Dec 6, and Dec 14: 5:15pm
- Nov 17 – 27, Nov 29 – Dec 5, Dec 7 – 13, Dec 15 – 23: 5:30pm
- Dec 24 – 30: 8:00pm
- Dec 31 – Jan 6: 5:30pm
5. Universal Orlando Season Passholder Lounge
New this year! Relax and recharge your phones at the new season passholder lounge by Coca-Cola. There are free snacks such as chips and granola bars, but you’ll have to purchase your drinks. That was okay with us because they had a fun Arctic Coke Cooler which turned our drinks into slushes.
Passholder Lounge Info:
- Dates: Now – Jan. 31, 2019
- Times: 11AM – 4PM Daily
- Location: Universal Studios Florida on Hollywood Boulevard, near Schwab’s Pharmacy
Favorite Part of the Trip
I think our favorite part of this trip were the fun times we had interacting with the characters throughout the park. That’s one thing I love about Universal Orlando! You might be walking through the park and Spiderman drives by on his motorcycle, Betty Boop says hello in her store or you get to meet a live baby dinosaur. They sure make it so much fun!
What’s your favorite thing to do at Universal Orlando? Click here for our favorite rides and more.
The post 5 Reasons to Celebrate Christmas at Universal Orlando appeared first on Living Locurto.
The school year is winding down, and Elsa finally let go of this year’s eternal winter, which can only mean one thing—summer vacation is coming!
Summer vacation means summer vacationing, but I think we can all agree that packing is the worst part of traveling. Packing for an overnight trip or a week seems to be equally terrible. If you’re a mom, it’s even worse because you’re responsible for packing ALL. THE. PEOPLE.
I recently vacationed with some friends and their kids, and they taught me something that blew my mind. Instead of packing all the nitty gritty vacation supplies that weigh down your suitcase or make it necessary to check (hello, extra baggage fees), they made Amazon do the work for them and shipped stuff directly to their hotel. Genius.
The Today’s Mama Editorial Team put their heads together, and came up with six vacation supplies you shouldn’t pack. Instead, you can ship these bad boys directly to your destination. I’ve made it even easier by linking directly to some of our favs. Just click, add to cart, ship directly to your hotel, Airbnb, or relative’s house, and you’re done. At the end of your trip you won’t feel guilty leaving these goods behind. Or you can pack them home if you have room. The choice is yours. The world is your oyster. And I can guarantee this will make your vacation at least 9.7% more enjoyable.
For being so tiny, babies require a lot of stuff. A lot of stuff that takes up a lot of room. Don’t waste precious cargo space with diapers, wipes, formula, swim diapers, or pull ups. You will use most of that stuff completely up on your trip anyway. Pack only what you need for your travel time, and ship the rest to your destination.
Beach, Pool, and Other Gear
I’m just thawing out from winter, so I can’t think of a vacation destination that doesn’t involve a beach, pool, or the blazing sun. Pack these things for a trip where the sun shines: Sunscreen spray, face sunscreen stick, and because there’s a 99% chance I will mis-apply sunscreen on myself…after sun gel. You may also want floaties, goggles, sand toys, and a beach bag. If you’re headed somewhere wet, don’t forget the ponchos.
Toiletries and Medicine
This is the stuff I hate packing most of all. It’s all the necessities, and the “just in case” stuff you will inevitably need if it’s not on hand.
Grab a toiletry kit for women or toiletry kit for men to get all of the necessities like shampoo and conditioner, deodorant, toothpaste, etc. Or at the very least, send some disposable razors to your destination.
I heard about pre-pasted toothbrushes awhile ago, and they seem perfect for vacation. Use them once and toss them out. No little tubes or bulky toothbrush holders. Grab a 36 count pack or 144 count pack.
You don’t have to pack your entire medicine cabinet, but it is nice to have Infant Tylenol, Children’s Motrin, Zarbee’s Children’s Cough or Baby Cough medicine, Advil travel packs, allergy medicine for adults and for kids, and a first aid kit on hand, depending on what you think you’ll encounter on your trip.
Food and Snacks
Why does everyone want to eat all the time? Don’t they know you’re on vacation too?!?! Sure, it’s great to eat out, but doing that for every meal can get pricey. Stock up on some basic snacks and treats like goldfish crackers, fruit snacks, granola bars, or cracker snack packs, or even bottled water. If you’re gluten free, check out these specialty snacks.
If you have space to cook, order your groceries online from Walmart. They will gather your order and even load it in your car. That means you have more time to enjoy your vacation.
In a perfect world, kids would stay entertained with the vacation itself, but in reality, you may need some tricks up your sleeve. If you think you’ll need to entertain some kids, ship sidewalk chalk, bubbles, crayon and coloring book sets, or activity books like this one or this one, or this fun kit that’s both a craft and a game.
More than Vacation Supplies: Souvenirs, Birthday, and Holiday Gifts
Here’s a pro-tip for you. If you’re headed to Disney, or any other theme park or major attraction, don’t buy your souvenirs at the park. You can save a bundle by getting them on Amazon and having them shipped to you. Things like this Mickey Mouse plush, Minnie Mouse plush, Minnie Mouse headband, Mickey Mouse hat, Disney lanyard, or Disney pins will cost way less when you buy them online instead of at the park.
If you’re vacationing for a child’s birthday, or over Christmas, Easter, or another holiday, Amazon has you covered with toys and games for every age.
That’s our list of ship, don’t pack vacation supplies. Did we miss anything? What would you ship?
(Also, I should probably note that if you’re not already an Amazon Prime member, you should be. There are so many benefits. Sign up today here.)
See More on TodaysMama.com!
School just started and summer is almost over. But lighter crowds and back-to-school travel specials make summer’s end the perfect time to squeeze in a short family trip.Puerto Rico and Mexico are perfect for families looking for a sunny, beach escape. Tired of the sea and sand? Pay a visit to our friendly neighbor to the north, Canada. San Francisco is a fantastic blend of history, city life and nature. Or breakout of your comfort zone in Cuba. So go ahead, steal some time with the kiddies before they are buried under mounds of homework. It’s easier than you think to find a quick family getaway.
No time to get passports? No problem! Puerto Rico is the perfect Caribbean summer escape without the hassles of international travel. This US territory uses the American dollar and doesn’t require passports for US citizens. Wander Old San Juan’s cobblestone streets and find handcrafted “treasures.” Discover dungeons, towers and cannons at El Morro, a 16th-century stone fortress built to protect the town from seafaring invaders. Venture into El Yunque Rainforest and hike the only tropical rainforest in North America. Finally, paddle a kayak after dark into the mysterious – and illuminating – Mosquito Bio-Luminescent Bay in Vieques.
Riviera Maya, Mexico
Finding a flight to Riviera Maya is a snap, making it an easy choice for last minute summer getaways. Families looking for a jungle adventure will find it at Xcaret. Let the kids play Indiana Jones as they search for secret caves and hidden passageways that lead to a recreated Mayan village. Or swim, snorkel or float your way along an underground river. Plan a day trip to Tulum and explore Mayan ruins. For some serious shopping–and eating–visit the pedestrian friendly la Quinta Avenida (5th Avenue).
One summer trip to Toronto and Oh, Canada! Trek to the top of CN Tower and gaze down on the city through the Glass Floor. Want more excitement? Take the Edge Walk, an adrenaline pulsing “walk” outside on the roof! Don’t worry, tamer adventures are aplenty too. Set sail for a swashbuckling stint as the kids hunt for treasure aboard a Pirate Ship Adventure cruise. Visit Toronto Zoo, the proud home of Giant Panda Cubs! These little celebrities have their own YouTube channel; have the kids check it out before your visit. Of course, no trip to Canada is complete without a visit to the Hockey Hall of Fame, it boasts the largest collection of hockey memorabilia in the world.
Lost in time is best way to describe Havana. It may only be 90 miles from Key West, but once your family steps off the plane, you’ll feel worlds away. Wander down the cobblestone streets lined with a rainbow of colorful colonial style homes. Have kids keep count of the retro 1950s cars as they cruise by. Savor a sweet treat at Museo del Chocolate, a tiny, air-conditioned chocolate shop. Stop in one of the many small museums peppered throughout the city and learn about Cuba’s rich culture and history. A “must see” is Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabaña, a 18th-century stone fortress overlooking Havana Harbor. Kids will get a bang out of the cannon firing ceremony every night at 9pm. Off the beaten path lies Gran Parque Metropolitano, an urban forest with a river, bridges, walking trails and other family friendly amenities. Good to know: US travel to Cuba is getting easier, but there are still restrictions. Check with the US Department of Treasury for details.
Does your family enjoy “get-up-and-go” getaways? If so, San Francisco is the place for you. Jam-packed with diverse attractions and unique neighborhoods, it’s a whirlwind of family fun waiting to be found. Jog across the sprawling Golden Gate Bridge or admire the view from Coit Tower. Take a ferry to target=”_blank”>Angel Island (the Ellis Island of the West) or explore eerie Alcatraz. Street performers, a mirror maze, carousel, boat rides, aquarium, and of course, oceans of sea lions sunning themselves along Pier 39 can easily fill up an entire day. Slow your pace and walk among towering, ancient giants – redwood trees that is – in Muir Woods. Score a seat at AT&T Stadium – home to San Fran’s “other” Giants. If you’re lucky, you may witness a “Splash Hit,” a homerun slammed into McCovey Cove.
Maribeth Pjosek-Durkin contributed this to MiniTime.
More from MiniTime:
Without a doubt, Grand Cayman’s Stingray City, Turtle Farm and Seven Mile Beach are exciting family attractions sure to thrill kids. And first-time visitors to the Cayman Islands should definitely check out these popular tourist attractions. But be sure to explore points of interest and attractions off the beaten path as well. It’s worth renting a car for a leisurely drive around Grand Cayman to stop at scenic points and uncrowded beaches away from other tourists. And don’t forget about Grand Cayman’s sister islands, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, as they’re fantastic day trips—only about a 30-minute flight—where more family adventures await.
Just as beautiful but much less crowded than Cayman Islands’ touristy Seven Mile Beach in Grand Cayman, Cemetery Beach has two coral reefs that are a short swim from shore. Bring snorkel gear to see colorful fish, sea turtles and other marine life in the crystal clear water. Relax on the pristine beach and enjoy a family picnic. If possible, visit Cemetery Beach on a day when cruise ships are not in port.
Wear sturdy shoes for a walk on the two-mile, 200 year-old trail in Grand Cayman. The rugged path meanders through a two-million-year-old woodland area with trees, plants and foliage. Along the way look for Mangrove Cuckoo, West Indian woodpecker, Smooth-Billed Ani, Mockingbirds, Caribbean Ground Doves, Bananaquits and Cayman Parrots, which nest in the palms. Beat the heat by making the trek in the early morning or early evening.
The former capital of Grand Cayman, this sleepy, Cayman Islands town features a museum, art shop and the restored 1840s Mission House. Here you can shop for locally made items, visit an old cemetery (graves with A-frame structures are said to contain the remains of pirates), and see the ruins of a fort and wall built by slaves in the 20th century. Kids will enjoy Pirates Caves, a series of underground tunnels where pirates buried their treasure.
Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park
Soak up some Cayman Islands history and see local wildlife at this heritage site located on the north side of Grand Cayman, about 45-minutes by car from George Town. Named after Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, the remote park is home to the Cayman Blue Iguana, freshwater ponds and colorful gardens (including a butterfly garden). Stop by the visitor center for park information and to plan a fun outing for both kids and adults. Park highlights include the Heritage Garden, featuring a restored early 20th-century Caymanian wooden cottage, a two-acre lake home to numerous native birds, and wildlife including turtles, lizards, agoutis and land crabs.
Referred to as the “Brac” by locals, the 14-square mile, rugged island is home to a close-knit, resilient group of Brackers. See exhibits and artifacts from the devastating 1932 hurricane at the Cayman Brac Museum. Kids will be fascinated with the island’s many caves, including Peter’s Cave, used by residents as a shelter from storms and hurricanes. Rebecca’s Cave contains the grave of a two-year-old girl who died during the 1932 hurricane. At the bat cave near Public Beach, you can walk through various chambers. Look up to see small bats hanging overhead.
Escape to a true island getaway that’s just 10 miles long and is home to less than 200 residents. It’s almost like being on a deserted island. Bask on empty family-friendly beaches, and ride bikes or scooters to zip around miles of tropical wilderness. Tell the kids to watch for iguanas as you venture out for a swim to remote South Hole Sound Lagoon.
Mimi Slawoff of Planetfamilytravel contributed this to MiniTime. She is a Los Angeles-based journalist and a seasoned family travel expert who explores the world with her three children and writes about their journeys.
More from MiniTime:
The post Family-Friendly Spots in the Cayman Islands That Few Tourists See (But Locals Love) appeared first on TodaysMama.
Learn about the best Orlando day trips that are perfect for your family vacation with these five day trips from Disney World. Enjoy these Disney family travel tips and fun excursions to do with kids.
Best Orlando Day Trips To Take From Disney World
We are huge Disney World fans, but I’m always looking for fun Orlando day trips. Because, face it, Disney World vacations can be a ton of fun, but after a few days in a row of experiencing the parks, your family – and your wallet – might need a break. Whether you’re planning your very first trip to Disney World or you’re an experienced Disney visitor, you should consider what Florida has to offer beyond the parks. From inland springs to coastal towns, here are some favorite day trips to take from Disney World!
St. Augustine is a small seaside town situated on Florida’s east coast, located roughly two hours northeast of Disney World and the Orlando metro area. It holds the honor of being the oldest city in America, and for many folks, that’s enough of a reason to plan a day to see what St. Augustine has to offer. It’s home to Castillo de San Marcos, an old fort built by early Spanish settlers, as well as a number of family-friendly attractions to keep your crew entertained. Explore the city by trolley or take to the cobblestone streets and see what you can find on foot.
The closest beach to Disney World, Cape Canaveral is an hour’s drive straight east from Orlando. Spend the day soaking up the sun or head a few minutes north to Kennedy Space Center – a must-see for anyone who’s interested in space or science! You can take tours to view shuttle launchpads, view exhibits you won’t find anywhere else, and experience a shuttle launch simulator. Don’t forget to treat the kids to some Dippin’ Dots while you’re there!
Ponce De Leon Springs
Ponce De Leon Springs is a natural spring located approximately one hour northeast of Orlando. If your family is dying to spend some time in the water surrounded by nature, this is a great stop to add to your itinerary. You can swim or explore the water by kayak, canoe or stand up paddle board. Bring a picnic lunch to enjoy in the shade or grab a bite to eat at the Sugar Mill Restaurant, known for tables with built-in griddles that let you make your own pancakes.
Two hours southwest of Orlando, it’s easy to spend a fun-filled day in Tampa. Experience marine life up close at the Florida Aquarium, explore the Lowry Park Zoo, or check out one of the multiple museums in the area. Head across the bay and into St. Petersburg to visit the , Salvador Dali Museum, home to one of the largest Dali collections in the world. You’ll find beautiful beaches all around Tampa!
If you want to add another theme park to your plan, you can always pick up tickets for Busch Gardens. While this theme park has attractions and activities for people of all ages, it’s best suited for adults or older kids who love thrill rides – especially roller coasters.
Feel the need for speed? Head to Daytona Beach, roughly an hour and a half northeast of Orlando, to experience the Daytona International Speedway – home of the Daytona 500 NASCAR race. If fast cars aren’t your thing, no need to worry! There are plenty of fun things to do and see in Daytona Beach. Stroll along the pier and you’ll find everything from thrill rides and snack bars to souvenir shops and arcades. Claim a spot on the beach and splash around in the water, or cross the street and have a blast at Daytona Lagoon, the local water park.
What day trips from Disney have you taken? Which were your favorite? Share your ideas in the comment section!
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Set amidst lush tropical gardens bordering turquoise ocean, Varadero resorts in Cuba boast some of the most beautiful and extensive pools in the Caribbean. With nonstop activities and entertainment, it’s no wonder that many visitors never leave their hotel and spa complex. That’s a pity as there’s a convenient double-decker hop on/hop off bus running from the bustling downtown markets to the pristine Reserva Ecológica Varahicaco on the eastern tip of the narrow Hicacos Peninsula. Here are six family-friendly attractions in Varadero, Cuba worth leaving idyllic all-inclusives for.
Clear as an aquatic pool and stretching for twelve miles along the Atlantic coast, Varadero Beach is the resort town’s ultimate family-friendly attraction. Sand as soft and white as talcum powder is a delight for delicate bare feet, and even during high season, you can find empty stretches between the umbrella-dotted bits at the resorts. Since most of Varadero’s accommodations are either on or near the beach, it’s easy to time your visits before and after the sun is at its fiercest. And do return for Nature’s best show—the magnificently florid sunset.
Coral Beach (Playa Coral)
Families traveling with children who are good swimmers can opt for an excursion to Coral Beach, the only spot near Varadero that is interesting to explore underwater. Because entry requires you to pass through surf conditions in shallow reefs, it is advisable to snorkel with a guide. But the reward is that a short swim brings you to huge coral formations that are home to a colorful assortment of native fish. And if you happen to bring a plastic bottle filled with bread—some guides carry this, as well as underwater cameras—you will be surrounded.
Most excursions to Coral Beach include a visit to nearby Saturno Cave, site of a paradisiacal blue cenote. Time your visit after swimming in the ocean so that you can rinse off with a dip in the spring-fed fresh water pool. It is deep; however, and best for kiddos who can swim well (tip – bring a snug personal flotation device for youngsters.) A snack bar at the entrance offers refreshments and rest rooms, providing a welcome kid-friendly pit stop before the 30-45-minute drive back to Varadero’s resorts.
Located on the eastern edge of the Varadero Beach Tour bus circuit, Ambrosio Cave is a great place to cool off with kids during the hottest times of the day. A guide will point out ancient pictographs before sending you off with a flashlight to venture on your own. The entire cave can take 30-45 minutes to explore, especially because you do need to take care walking on the rocky ground. The most thrilling part of the tour, however, is that the ceilings are lined with napping bats. Be aware that pointing a flashlight in their direction will likely awaken them, causing swarms of bats to fly in your direction.
Take the hop on/hop off bus to downtown Varadero and while away a peaceful afternoon strolling around the lake and gardens in Josone Park. Kids love the playground, mini-golf course, paddleboats, and the train that weaves through the park while parents rave about the delicious piña coladas. The park is next to the Beatles Bar–featuring live music outdoors and a photo opp with a band statue—and it’s situated on the main strip where you can pick up authentic Cuban fedoras and hand-tooled leather belts.
Little compares to the excitement of a dolphin encounter. At Delfinario, even little kids can touch a dolphin. For a small fee, visitors are encouraged to stay after the short, educational daily shows to pet and kiss a dolphin (and get pictures.) Older children and adults may also elect to swim with dolphins. Families like the semi-natural habitat–concrete pool surrounded by the trees and native vegetation of a mangrove lagoon–and that the trainers seem to take excellent care of the dolphins. (Note that the Dolphin Park is near the midpoint on the Beach Tour bus.)
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“The Aquarium of the World,” more popularly known as the Sea of Cortez, is a rich, sparkling habitat inundated with many species of local and migratory marine wildlife. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Sea of Cortez is home to porpoises, turtles, whales, Humboldt squid, sea lions, Giant manta rays and many kinds of fish; and it is the perfect playground for adventurers, animal lovers and travelers. And it’s easily accessible to those exploring Mexico’s Pacific shores and family-friendly destinations like Los Cabos. Discover the world-famous Vermilion Sea and its many wonders with some of these breathtaking kid-friendly activities.
Four to six species of migrating whales visit the Sea of Cortez every year, Humpbacks, Gray, Pilot and Blue, to name some; and it’s a spectacular phenomenon to witness. The fact that whale watching is amazing to experience without having to put a lot of effort—during peak season you can actually see them from the highway—makes the popular activity very kid-friendly. It’s best to see these beautiful giants from up close so make sure to hire one of the local tour guides.
Paddle Boarding (and Swimming) with Sea Lions
Paddle boarding in the Sea of Cortez is no ordinary experience. Go on a paddle boarding tour with one of the local tour companies, and they’ll guide you to the areas where sea lions feed and play so you can see these friendly creatures swim under and alongside you. If the guides think it’s safe, you might even get to swim with them. Careful not to get too close or pet them, however; they might be friendly, but they’re still wild animals with teeth.
Deep Sea Fishing
The Sea of Cortez has some of the best sport fishing in the world, so set aside an entire day (and maybe a whole lot of patience) for a deep sea fishing adventure during your visit. Many fishing charters, some of them luxurious, in Cabo and the neighboring towns offer 8-hour fishing experiences in the deep. And many of them offer all-inclusive bookings (lunches, drinks, snacks, live bait and a crew) as well as trips designed based on your preferences.
What’s the one thing everyone in the family, including the younger kids, can do to see the vibrant and diverse world underwater? Snorkeling, of course. And the Sea of Cortez is the perfect place to do it. You can go on a tour or opt to do it on your own. Some of the best family-friendly beaches for snorkeling include Santa Maria Bay, which is a part of a marine sanctuary; Chileno Bay, which offers over 80 species of marine life; and Lover’s Beach at El Arco.
Swimming with Whale Sharks
While they technically belong to the shark group, there’s absolutely no need to fear the magnificent whale sharks that consider the Sea of Cortez their home. These gentle giants are some of the friendliest marine creatures on Earth, and they simply love interacting with humans. Tour companies can take you on a short boat ride to where they feed and mate in the gulf for an unforgettable encounter. And moms, dads and the older kids can even swim alongside them!
Michelle Rae Uy contributed this to MiniTime. She is a travel writer based in Los Angeles and MiniTime’s Head of Content, who spends her free time on adventures and film photography.
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A big part of travel is sampling the native cuisine of the location where you are traveling. Authentic food is part of the experience. Yet often when you travel to a resort destination, it’s difficult, if not impossible to experience the local culinary culture within the resort walls. On a trip to El Conquistador Resort and Las Casitas Village, in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, we found lots of local favorites intermingled with more traditional stateside fare. Even the Starbucks had a regional sandwich called the Guavate Special, a pork sandwich on local bread with guava sauce, to go along with the iced coffee. Here is a sampling of more traditional Puerto Rican food available at El Conquistador.
Mofongo: Monfongo is a Puerto Rican staple. It is similar to a stuffing, but made with plantains that have been mashed and seasoned. This is a very popular dish in Puerto Rico and you’ll find it on the menu pretty much everywhere, as a side dish, or main course paired with seafood, beef, chicken or vegetables. You can’t go wrong with the Mofongo.
Acai: Delicious and good for you, this super food is a breakfast favorite and available at Las Brisas restaurant. The acai berry has many health benefits, but forget about that, it tastes wonderful whipped up to smoothie consistency and served in a bowl with fruit and granola. We sampled shot glasses from the breakfast buffet, but the real deal is ordering it off the menu. In addition to being tasty, it was a beautiful presentation with lots of fresh fruit on top.
Piragua: Piragua is the Spanish word for snow cone. These tasty pyramid shaped treats are served at the Coqui Water Park. It starts with hand shaved ice, then added flavorings like cherry, nutella, pistachio and more. The El Conquistador Resort even has a Piragua Concierge cart to educate guests about the local treat, as it serves up cones.
Coquito: Our trip coincided with the Christmas holidays. Given the time of year, it was only appropriate we sample a bit of Coquito, which is a traditional Puerto Rican holiday drink similar to eggnog. It’s a creamy concoction made with coconut, rum, and cinnamon, and personalized with other ingredients by the person making it. In the states we bring wine to a party, in Puerto Rico, they bring coquito.
Pasteles: During a dinner at Chops, Chef Fabian brought us delicious pasteles from his own kitchen. By own, I don’t mean his kitchen at the Chops restaurant where he works at El Conquistador, but from his home kitchen. Pasteles is a traditional Puerto Rican food, similar to a tamale. It is generally made during the holidays. Everyone has their own recipe, and Chef Fabian makes his with vegetables. Although pasteles aren’t always on the menu at Chops, the resort welcomes food requests and are happy to accommodate your wish for a home cooked meal, with a little warning of course.
Although all of these items are not always on the menu at the resort, it is possible to request any of these or other traditional Puerto Rican dishes during your visit. For those staying at the Las Casistas Villas, chefs are available to prepare a complete traditional Puerto Rican meal (or any meal for that matter) in your Villa.
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