Monday, September 14, 2009

A DiVine Discovery!

Disney has a way of introducing you and your family to fine arts without you realizing what's happening. I'm not just talking about the animation we've come to expect from both Disney and Pixar. Attractions like it's a small world are like stepping into a painting, much like Mary Poppins and crew do in the famous sidewalk chalk segment of the movie.

However, Disney also brings you performance art in many forms. Whether it's living statuary at Epcot or a full-scale production like Cirque de Soleil's La Nouba at Downtown Disney, there are many opportunities to let your children experience living art in many forms.

One of my personal favorite examples of this is the elusive DiVine at Disney's Animal Kingdom. She's usually around Africa at various times between 10 and 2, and although she's up to 16 feet tall, she's sometimes pretty hard to spot. Truthfully, the only way I noticed her the first time I saw her was the crowd of people who had gathered to watch her fluid movements. Disguised as -- wait for it -- a huge vine, she remains stationary for a good portion of her performance, tricking you into thinking you are looking at a really large vine. Or more often, tricking you into simply walking right by the huge vine.

But then she comes to life, and she swings and glides through the area, moving to interact with the crowd or the other nature around her. Some children, especially the under-four set, can be pretty frightened by her, as she doesn't fit into what they understand to be reality. A little encouragement can set this to right.

My daughter was four when she saw DiVine the first time and she was mesmerized. She did have some questions, though, as she didn't quite understand what she was seeing. She hasn't seen many people on stilts, and especially the way DiVine uses them. I encouraged her to just watch as much as possible, and then once DiVine started gliding away, we talked about her questions.

To prepare for writing this post, I shared some videos of her and other performance artists in this company (The Living Garden) with my five-year-old and three-year-old. Both were completely entranced. My daughter said, "She's so beautiful!"

And she really is.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Mickey Flower Pins

When I posted this project on Scrapping the Magic in early August, I never expected the response I would get about it. It has gone over so well I'm going to share it with you, the lovely readers of Take The Monorail.


- Silk Flowers - Small, medium, and Large, the flatter the better. Mix and match the colors to coordinate with any outfit.
- Mickey Buttons by EK Success - These items can be found in most craft stores in the scrapbooking section.
- Mickey Rhinestones Stickers by EK Success - These can also be found in the scrapbooking section. You can also use loose rhinestones and glue them on.
- Pin
- Needle & Thread

  1. Remove flowers from their stems
  2. Stack the different sized flowers on top of each other starting with large at the bottom and working your way up to the smallest flower. You can use as many layers as you wish, just keep in mind you are going to want to sew through all the layers.
  3. Take the buttons out of the package and remove the adhesive from the back and cut the thread from the button holes.
  4. Sew the button on to the flower making sure to go through all the flowers.
  5. Sew the pin onto the back of the flower.
  6. Attach rhinestone sticker to the front of the button. If using loose rhinestone attach with a strong glue.

What's nice about this project is you can mix and match the colors. You can also making them smaller or larger based on what you like. Use a barrette instead of a pin to make a cute little hair accessory, or skip step number 5 and sew the flower directly on to a tote bag.

You'd be surprised how useful these cute flowers can be. Make identical flowers in bright colors for every female in the family. Then put them in hair or at the top of their shirts as a pin. Now you have a fabulous way to skim the crowd and ensure you have all members of your party in sight.

And if your children are old enough to work with a needle, use this craft to introduce them to sewing. Boys and girls alike need to know how to sew a button on, right? Here's a great way to teach them on something fun and colorful.

Check out our Mickey Flower pin thread on Scrapping the Magic to see some of the beautiful flowers that people have made and share your own!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Silly Shot: License And Registration, Please

This week's Silly Shot was sent in by a friend of Take The Monorail, Sandy Ezzell. This photo was taken at Mr. Toad's Wild Ride in Disneyland. While you can no longer find Mr. Toad or any of his cars in Walt Disney World, the concept of the shot is easy to duplicate at any photo location that involves a vehicle. We'll be featuring two of those spots in the coming weeks.

Do you have a photo of you and your family driving one of Mr. Toad's cars? Post them on Scrapping the Magic or on our Facebook page page!

For last week's Spot the Shot: Road Trip!, the correct answer was The Boneyard in Animal Kingdom! Great job in Spotting the Shot!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Kicking It Up A Notch: Moderate Resorts

Disney's Moderate Resorts are Port Orleans French Quarter, Port Orleans Riverside, Coronado Springs , and Caribbean Beach. These are priced in Disney's midrange, generally between $150 and $200 per night and up to $250 during high seasons. Discounts on these rooms can get as low as $110 or so. These prices are comparable to hotel rates in large cities around the country and you should find the amenities and grounds to meet your expectations for this price range.

As in our previous post on the Value Resorts (and in our future post on Deluxe Resorts) I will not cover basic amenities and room sizes for you. The official Disney site will give you a basic overview, and then can give you the finer details. If you prefer print, the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World and the Passporter guide both have excellent resort overviews. Instead, let's once again look at the pros and cons of these resorts for families. Your "pro" may be my "con," so take them as the opinions they are and hopefully they will still help you decide if a Moderate Resort is best for you.

Pros To Staying At A Moderate Resort
  • Cost - The Value Resorts are cheaper, but the Moderates give you a good amount of bang for your buck. Whether or not it's $50-$100 worth is a question only you can really answer, but the cost is reasonable for a resort of this caliber.

  • Room Size - The rooms are spacious (though not over-sized by any stretch) and some have a trundle bed that allows you to sleep five in the room. The trundle is more of a cot and is designed for folks under five feet tall, so if your family of five include at least one smaller kid, this can be a huge benefit to these resorts. It's far cheaper to stay in one of these rooms than to have to get two rooms at the Value Resorts (with the exception of the Family Suites at All-Star Music).

  • Bed Size - Queen-size beds are standard in the Moderates (as opposed to double beds in the Value Resorts). This is simply more comfortable when you are sharing a bed and gives siblings less reason to jab and kick each other during the evening. Not that it will deter them completely, of course...

  • Refrigerators - Mini-fridges are standard in Moderate Resorts. If you don't use it for anything else, you will appreciate being able to use it for water. If you have an infant with you, it's a savior for your formula and you can also stash some milk and cheese in it for cereal and sandwiches respectively.

  • Sprawling Landscapes - All of these resorts are pretty large and spread out. It is easy to find yourself in a building quite some distance from the main building and/or the main pool. Prepare to walk. At Coronado Springs, we were directly across the lake from the main pool. But you have to walk AROUND the lake... there is no bridge. Which reminds me... don't forget to bring your diaper bag when you walk all the way around the lake to the pool. It's a long walk back... trust me.

  • Hot Tubs - Okay, maybe this isn't important to you, but it is to me. We really appreciate being able to soak in a hot tub after a day in the parks. One of us stays in the room with the sleeping kids while the other goes out to soak, and then we switch places. This is an amenity you will also get in the Deluxe resorts, but not in the Value category, so the Moderates are the cheapest way for you to have access to this feature.
Cons To Staying At A Moderate Resort
  • Outside Hallways - Just like the Value Resorts, Moderates have you enter rooms from exterior hallways. This feels less secure to me and I'm not wild about people passing by the window to my room constantly. With napping children, add the noise factor of that in.

  • Centrally Located Elevators - Here, I shall repeat exactly what I said about the Value Resorts: The elevators for each building are in the center. Your room, however, might not be. It might be just up from a stairwell, but if you have strollers... ugh. No fun. And if you request a room right by the elevator, you're going to get lots of foot traffic going right by your room. So add on even more walking around than you had before we started.

  • Food Choice - The food in these resorts is hit or miss. Coronado Springs has a great food court, but reviews of their Table Service restaurant are lukewarm. I'm not crazy about the food court at Port Orleans French Quarter. Generally, none of the choices at these resorts are widely regarded as excellent experiences.
It should be noted that the cabins at Fort Wilderness Campground are also considered Moderates. They accommodate six people and start at $265 in low season. I tend to consider them more in the Deluxe category due to cost and the fact they include an equipped kitchen. They are really more of a category unto themselves, as their amenities and features are so different from the other Moderates. The pros and cons above do not necessarily relate to them.

As for which Moderate is the best, that point is widely contested. There are many fans of Port Orleans French Quarter because of it's intimate size and great pool. Some like Port Orleans Riverside for it's sprawling mansions and nifty piano bar. Others prefer the Caribbean Beach Resort's tropical feel. Personally, Coronado Springs is my favorite. The pool is fantastic and the grounds are gorgeous. I'm a big fan of the hammocks around the lake as well.

The pool at Port Orleans Riverside

Which Moderate Resort is your favorite? Do you have pros or cons to these resorts that I haven't mentioned? Please share them with us as a comment!

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Art Of Resting

When you go to Disney World as adults with no children, you don't often think about going back to the room in the middle of the day. Especially to do something crazy like... *gasp*... take a nap. Kids, however, will find a way to let you know that napping isn't only a good idea, it is sometimes imperative.

Generally, kids about age six and under (maybe older than that) need a bit of a rest in the middle of the day if you want them to be coherent, cooperative children by about 6pm. Certainly, if you expect to see fireworks with them, a nap is really a must-do. Many families try to skip this because they are paying a whole lot of money for this trip and don't want to hear the meter ticking as they sleep away an hour or two. But I really must assure you it's money well-spent, and the return on investment can yield you a great deal of sanity. Besides, most kids, when asked what their favorite part of the trip was, will name the hotel and the pool at the top of their list.

Napping for infants and early walkers is a bit different than napping for older children. From about age two to six, children will need one rest about mid-day. Ideally, they will sleep, then maybe go to the pool for an hour or so (or video arcade or lobby television or something like that) and then will be ready to get back to the parks. This isn't very difficult to do. My favorite strategy even helps make the trip a bit cheaper for you by saving money on food if you have a fridge in the room:
  • Eat breakfast in the room or at the resort and get to the park before it opens.
  • Hit the park hard until about 11:30, eating snacks around 10am. You can bring the snacks with you to save money, or buy them as an extra treat/convenience.
  • Leave the park around 11:30am and head back to the resort. You can eat in the park quickly before leaving (eat at 11 or so) or make sandwiches in the room. If you prefer, grab something at your resort's food service area before retreating to your room.
  • Try to nap or at least relax to some television or soothing music.
  • After the nap or quiet activity, do some sort of simple activity like pool time, video games, or something that doesn't require lots of lines and walking. It can be active (like the pool), but "cool and refreshing" is the idea here.
  • Get back to the parks around 4 or 5pm.
  • Stay as late as you can handle, treating yourself to dinner somewhere in the park.

This is a general strategy and can be tailored to your different plans for the day. For instance, if you are eating a character breakfast, try to schedule it early (before the park opens) or at around 10:30 so you can go from there directly back for rest time.

Some parents recognize the need to nap, but choose to allow kids to nap in the stroller instead of heading back. This works best for infants who are really able to lie back in a stroller and rest, and even then, it isn't ideal. Kids under two, especially infants under twelve months, often need more than one nap a day making it really difficult to get back to the room for those periods of time. You may plan to either stay around your resort until after morning nap, then take afternoon nap in the stroller, or reverse it, depending on your children and how they will best fare. We prefer to get to the park early to help beat the crowds and the heat of mid-day. Regardless, prepare for stroller naps by bringing shade for the stroller and maybe a favorite stuffed animal or blanket. Anything that will make baby more comfortable will help ensure as restful a nap as possible.

It's important to also plan something to do yourself while baby naps in the stroller. Most attractions require you to remove the child from the stroller, which might wake him or otherwise disturb him. It's a good time to eat at a counter service restaurant. If you can pick your child up without waking him and he will like sleeping in your arms, you can attend a stage show like Beauty and the Beast or Finding Nemo: The Musical or you can take in the Hall of Presidents. I don't recommend the stunt shows or the 4-D movies, as they are loud in general with explosions and other things that are likely to wake a baby. Walking the trails at Animal Kingdom is also a nice way to pass the time, although if your stroller is large, you might have some trouble maneuvering through some areas. Check with a cast member.

So what are your strategies for napping and resting at Disney World? Do you have suggestions for places to enjoy while your youngster takes a snooze in the stroller? Please leave us comments with your thoughts!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Spot the Shot: Road Trip!

It's time for another Spot the Shot! This photo was sent in by Ryan Wilson of the Main Street Gazette. Here his lovely wife Aileen is just waiting to leave on another great road trip!

Where in Walt Disney World is this jeep just waiting to leave on a new adventure? Leave your answer as a comment!

Do you have a photo of you and your family hanging out on the jeep? Post them on Scrapping the Magic or on our Facebook page page!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Kid Scale - Fantasyland

When planning a trip to Disney with a young one (or even a not-so-young one), it becomes apparent rather quickly that you will not be able to experience every attraction in one trip. So in choosing, it helps to know in advance which rides your child will be most interested in and conversely , which ones he or she will reject due to fears, smells, or other sensations. Many a child has been traumatized by riding something his parents expected to be innocuous or just “not that bad.”

To help you with the task of choosing which attractions to put on the “must-do” list and which ones to skip altogether, we will be providing posts called The Kid Scale. These posts are not meant to describe the ride, but rather will assume you already know what the ride entails and will provide instead some details about age-appropriateness. I offered age suggestions based on developmental milestones, so you will want to adjust those to your own children’s development and special needs. We’ll also point out difficulties you might encounter or highlights that may be especially important to your individual tyke. Every six weeks or so, we’ll post another land or area in the Walt Disney World resort until we’ve covered them all. We’re starting with Fantasyland, as it is arguably the most popular land for parents with small children.

And remember, I’m just a parent with my own experiences and those of other parents like me, so your comments and feedback are more than welcome as they will help others whose children are more like yours than mine or those of my interviewees.

  • Cinderella's Golden Carrousel – Ages 18 months and up – There are figures on the carousel that don’t move up and down, which might help a child who is a bit more motion-sensitive enjoy this ride. Between ages 18 months and four years or so, you will want to ride alongside your tot, ensuring there is no tumble from the horse (which is MUCH taller than you thought it was). Be careful when holding your child, though. You might tend to look out for your significant other who is holding the camera and photographing the event, but this can cause a pretty mighty bout of nausea if you’re not careful. That carousel spins faster than you think and few things are more humiliating for an adult as getting off the carousel only to lose your lunch in the closest trash bin.
  • Dumbo the Flying Elephant – All ages – This is the quintessential ride for a young child to experience. The smallest ones can sit on your lap to see out. The young preschoolers love knowing they are controlling an aspect of Dumbo’s flight. Be aware that he may fly higher than your child likes. Even if you keep the elephant hovering inches off the platform to mollify your child, the end of the ride sends all pachyderms up to their highest flight path for a few seconds before coming back down to Earth. Be ready to help your child through that moment; it may make her a bit braver for the next go round. If you intend to ride Dumbo, it should be your very first ride of the day. It’s a great intro to what Disney is all about and the lines get long quickly.

  • "it’s a small world" – All ages – Sure, the song sticks in your head and can be mildly annoying, but the ride itself is a living piece of history and deeper than that, a living piece of art. There are so many things to look at and your senses are blasted with color, light, and sound. Infants will see this ride as one huge mobile. It’s also a great final ride as the park is about to close… relaxing and peaceful after a noisy day in the park.

  • Mad Tea Party – Age three and up – you can take children under three on this ride, but don’t spin your teacup. The forces this ride can put on you, especially when you add in the extra spinning of your individual cup, can really send a little one slipping around on the seat. One of you should hold on to the kiddo while the other one spins if you go that route. Otherwise, someone may get a sharp head bonk on the ride, and that generally isn’t considered the fun part of the trip.

  • The Many Adventures of Winnie the PoohAll ages – This is another ride where an infant can ride on your lap. But hold tight! That bouncy area Tigger takes you through is a bit more intense than your glider at home. This ride has it all: whimsy, catchy music, and those fabulous characters from the Hundred Acre Wood.

  • Mickey’s Philharmagic – Age two and up – You can take the zero-to-two set into this theater, but they can’t deal well with the 3-D glasses. One word of caution to parents of a noise-sensitive child… this is a loud attraction with no volume control. Between the noise and the 4-D effects like puffs of air and light mists of water, a sensitive child can be over-stimulated rather quickly.

  • Peter Pan’s Flight – All Ages – Your infant can ride on your lap, and small children may want to crawl into your lap as well. Between the time your child can speak to about age three or four, you may find your child especially frightened on this ride. The neon paint and black lights are a little odd to children and there are pirates and other scary moments. At 18 months, my daughter was frightened when the ship we were in suddenly seemed to be flying and was inconsolable for the rest of the flight. She requested to ride again when she was three and it was a totally different experience. She loved it, although she admitted later that the pirates still scared her a little.

  • Snow White's Scary AdventuresAges eight and up – I know it seems odd to recommend a ride in Fantasyland be avoided until your children are around 8 or so, but this ride has some terribly scary moments, as the name of the ride indicates. It uses neon paint and black light to help add to the fear factor. The Wicked Witch pops out from behind trees and you seem to crash through walls. To an adult, or even an older child who has been immersed in today’s movies and video games, the effects seem primitive and almost laughable. But to a preschooler or young school-age child who still believes in magic and fairy tales, this ride is all too real. Save it for when he’s older.