Lion Country Safari

Lion Country Safari – Drive Thru Gone Wild!

Drive thru Starbucks – genius, especially when you have a sleeping baby in the back. You may also enjoy the convenience of a drive thru dry cleaner.  And of course we all succumb to the drive thru fast food from time to time.  But, have you heard of a drive thru safari?  If not, you’ve got to check out this wild (literally) experience at Lion Country Safari, located about 20 miles west of West Palm Beach.  What the heck is a drive through safari, you might ask?  Well, remember the movie, Jurassic Park?  Yes, yes I realize mentioning that and then talking about LION Country Safari may have you think twice about bringing your precious babies there.  Trust me.

The Drive Thru Safari

The safari is a self-guided driving tour through various African environments that allow you to see real animals in their natural habitat, roaming free.  Well, except for the lions, they aren’t roaming free.  They are safely behind a fence with an on-site park ranger to make sure that everyone is safe.

Lion viewing area
Gate to the lion viewing area.  Deep breaths.

 

Lioness
The lioness is safely behind the gate.

Don’t worry, you have a designated path and the park gives you an audio CD that guides you and tells you more about the animals in each section.  You are kindly asked to keep your windows rolled up, drive slowly and keep your eyes open for roaming animals.  But, it seems that most of the animals are very accustomed to vehicles driving through their “African” plains.  Being stopped in your car by an impala crossing isn’t something that you see every day, well, at least not in Florida.

Animal crossing
An impala making it’s way to greener pastures. As they say here, “Animals have the right of way!”

You are welcome to drive through at your leisure and they have places to stop and watch the roaming wildlife and take photos.  If you are organized (which I wasn’t) you can go to their web site and get a list of the animals on the safari so you can study up before seeing them in action.  The audio CD is great, but sometimes when they are talking about the Brazilian tapir, an alpaca is crossing in front of your car instead. You’ll encounter all kinds of 4-legged animals, reptiles like giant tortoises, water buffalo, ostrich and rhinoceros.

Rhino out of car window
It’s not every day that you see a rhinoceros outside your car window.

They even have a chimpanzee habitat for your car full of monkeys to watch.  And, of course the lions, who are rather docile during the safari are roaming behind the gates.  We saw one lumber over to the chain link fence, but that’s about it.  One of our favorites was the giraffes.  You can see them roaming from the car, but I highly recommend you spend a few dollars to feed them because there’s nothing like having a giraffe nibbling lettuce out of your hand (more on that in the Safari World Amusement Park).  It truly is magnificent!

Safari World Amusement Park

When you’ve finished the drive thru safari you are led to the Safari World Amusement Park.  At this point you have to leave the comfort of your vehicle and explore on foot.  It’s time to load up on sunscreen, grab your bag and stretch your legs.  The amusement park promises hours of entertainment but the entertainment options are a bit disjointed, much like the attention of a 5 yr old.  You can do anything from explore a petting zoo, paddle boat, play miniature golf, ride a train, see an animal show and even get soaked at a mini water park.

Lion Country Safari Train
Little ones will love the Lion Country Safari train ride.

If you visit during one of the hotter months March-November, you may want to bring a bathing suit or clothes you don’t mind getting wet.  Let the animals inspire you and cool yourself down at the water park.  They also have ice cream if you want to cool down from the inside out.

Safari Water Park
Cool off at the water park on the splash pad or one of the water slides.

Being from the western part of North Carolina, my kids won’t pass up the opportunity for some good old gem mining.  For you gem mining newbies, you get a bag of dirt and sift through it with a screen while submerging it in a trough of running water.  It costs a little extra to buy the bag of dirt but my kids just dug around for cast offs from other non-experienced miners.  We walked away with some cool rocks, I mean “gems”.  Y’all my kids spent 15-20 minutes hunched over this trough.  If I could get them washing dishes like this, it would be a miracle!

Safari Gem Mining
Not sure how many mines are in Florida but they have gem mining!

For a truly special and unique experience, spend a few extra dollars to feed the giraffes a little safari salad.  They prefer romaine, in case you were wondering.  You feed them from an elevated platform and it’s hard to appreciate their size until they walk up to you and grab lettuce from you with their incredibly long tongues!

 

Giraffe Eating at Lion Country Safari
We knew giraffes were tall but we had no idea that they had really long tongues!

The bird feeding tent is another “fun” animal encounter.  For a few extra dollars you can feed birds out of a little cup in your hand.  Warning, when you grab the cup they swarm at you. My kids got a good laugh. Can you tell I am not a bird person?

Safari bird feeding
The claws of the (whatever this bird is) are super sharp!

Eating

When you want to do more than graze, like the animals, you have a few options.  You are welcome to bring your own food to the park. They have a designated food area with picnic tables.  They also sell food at various locations throughout the park.  This visit I brought my wild pack of kiddos to the “Main Restaurant” (I know the name sounds delish!) for lunch.  They had a surprisingly varied selection of food.  The usual culprits were there; burgers, pizza and fries.  But, they also have deli sandwiches, salads, fruit and sides like mac & cheese and beans and rice.  The food was just fine and great fuel to keep us going for a few more hours.  Save some room for a treat later.  We recommend the ice cream and chocolate covered frozen bananas.

Tips for Busy Moms:

  1. Lion Country Safari ain’t cheap.  Adult tickets are $37 at the door and children over 3 are $26!  It’s actually pretty pricey, but whatever you do, promise me that you’ll do a quick online search to find discounts – or just click the link below for your very own coupon!  They usually have a Groupon running.  And they usually have a coupon on their web site.  The day we went, I found an $8 off coupon for each person in the car.  And for you home schooling moms, there is even a better discount with some extra educational opportunities.  The annual pass is just a little bit more than the regular ticket and it makes sense to buy it if you plan on going back, even just one time.
  2. If you don’t have a CD player in your car, you can go to the Lion Country Safari web site to stream the audio tour for the drive thru safari portion.  Just be sure your phone is charged before you leave home.
  3. Bring snacks for the car.  For some reason watching animals constantly munching makes you hungry.  I recommend crunchy ones.
  4. The park recommends that you go when it is raining, the animals emerge from the shadows to enjoy a shower and you can get some great photos.  Early in the morning is the second-best time.  Set your alarm clock!
  5. Load up a stroller so little ones can take a break from walking and you can take a break from carrying everyone’s “stuff”.
  6. Pack your bathing suit and towel if you plan on going to the water park.  It’s really just a few slides and a splash pad but you will want to be ready to get wet.
  7. In my opinion, the park, especially the Walk-Through Amusement Park is geared more towards the 5 and under crowd.  But, older kids may have a better appreciation for the Drive Through Safari.
  8. They have special educational days for toddlers and fun options for school break camps and summer camps for the kids.
  9. Don’t forget your sunscreen!

Lion Country Safari coupon

 

Young At Art Museum – Creativity Awaits

Don’t be fooled by the name, the Young at Art Museum isn’t just a great spot for the kids, grown ups can have fun too.  Located outside of Ft. Lauderdale in Davie, the modern museum hosts an afternoon’s worth of activities to get your creative juices flowing.  The YAA’s ultra-modern structure is anything but chilly.  The colorful exhibits draw you in and begs you to shout, “play with me”.

The public library shares the space and both take advantage of the other’s existence.  Glass windows allow little ones to peep into the library and check out ways to learn more about artists.

There is an area for younger children based on Alice in Wonderland.  Crawl through a tea pot or snuggle into a book in Alice’s Reading Forest.  There are lots of opportunities for pretend play and a few soft spots for adults to sit down and watch.  My kids loved the water room.  Decorated with an intricate mosaic of a woman.  We spent at least 15 minutes – hours in kid time – using plastic dividers to manipulate the water to push boats around and creating waterfalls.  Little did my kids know that they were getting a lesson in hydraulic engineering.

Learn about water pressure and water movement in this awesome exhibit

The Stomp room is a dream come true for the child who loves to bang on pots and pans and who you promised to never buy a drum set.  Adapted from the Broadway show Stomp, kids can bang on anything, even things bolted to the walls. Trash can lids, PVC pipes and wood blocks are all fair game.  And, they can scream while going down the slide (insert ear plugs here and wave).

What?  I can’t hear you!

My kids really loved the puppetry room.  The museum has all the supplies you need to make your very own puppet and a stage to act out your “show”.  We spent at least 30 minutes creating and it was a great place to take a load off.  Even I got inspired!

Bins full of materials like papers, fabrics, plastic, and scraps of any ‘ole thing are perfect for puppet making.

 

My son showing off his work.  And, don’t worry he isn’t really a lifeguard, just a wanna be.  The lifeguards at Palm Beach are well-trained.

If you have climbers, they are going to love this play structure inspired by the Japanese print, The Great Wave of Kanagawa by Hokusai.  Not only is it beautiful but according to my kiddos, the view from the top is “super cool”.

A great place to get the wiggles out and to see the whole museum.

 

A description of the piece that inspired the play structure.

There are other examples of culture-specific art forms in this room including hands-on opportunities to weave, do stencils, fold origami and do rubbings.  One of my favorites was a display of Japanese wallpaper.

I may need one of these for my powder room.

This isn’t just an art museum where you look at paintings on the wall, kids can try their hand at creating different types of art.  They can make a moving picture or mini movie.

Draw your picture over and over and over again and then insert it in the circular wooden piece and watch it come to life.

Sculpt a masterpiece out of clay, practice figure drawing and even curate their own gallery.

Literally get your hands dirty and try your hand at sculpting.

 

There is an art form to arranging pieces in a gallery.

A couple of nice touches for parents or extra curious kids.  The museum does a great job of including images of classic and modern art on the walls so if your kids are happily playing, you can take a minute to learn something yourself.  Some of the artist spotlights have an option to learn more about their biography and their work via a QR code.  What a great way to use technology and save paper!

Take a break in the open-air courtyard and enjoy the vibrant colors and warm southern Florida breezes.  Pack your own snack or enjoy the munchies from Super Duper Grub.  They even have veggies.  I love how they have veggie sticks with most of their sandwiches.  My kids loved the Rock n’ Rollup – Nutella, strawberry preserves and banana rolled in a tortilla.  They did not forget about the grown ups, they have healthy and delicious offerings.  Don’t miss the afternoon milk and cookie happy hour.  This happy hour is kid friendly.

Super Duper Grub
It’s hard not to feel inspired eating lunch outside of the Super Duper Grub Cafe.

If a quick visit to the YAA doesn’t get your right brain synapses sparking then you may need to check out some of their more intensive art classes or camps.  We poked our heads into some of their art classrooms and just wanted to do something to get our hands dirty.  And when we got home, not one electronic device turned on.  The kids rode that creative high and played for another hour or so.  Now THAT is how art impacts life.  Get inspired!

Tips for busy moms

1.  Children of all ages will find something fun to do at this museum.
2.  Broward County residents get a discount on entrance tickets.
3.  Give yourself 2-3 hours
4.  If you are a Broward County resident, bring your library card and you can check out books and return them to your local branch
5.  If you are lucky you may catch live music playing on one of the stages.
6.  This is a slam dunk birthday party for a budding artist, call ahead to reserve.
7.  There are traveling exhibits so check their web site to see what is on display before visiting.
8.  There is an outside play area and you know what I say about being outside!  Don’t forget your sunscreen.

Snowbirds

The Snowbirds Are Coming!

I had no idea what to expect when people said, “the Snowbirds are coming” until I experienced the influx first-hand last winter.  “The season,” as they call it starts from about mid-October and runs through the end of March with a few stragglers lingering through April.  So, just about the time the weather starts changing from hot and unbearably humid (think of your worst hair day and multiply it by 4 months) to warm breezes and delightfully comfortable; an estimated 145,000 temporarily move down here to share in the delight.  That’s about an 11% increase in a short amount of time, according to the Palm Beach Post. And, what that means to those of us that are just trying to get through the day-to-day is everything, and I mean everything is just a little bit more of a pain.  It’s like adding a 3 yr-old to your family any time you are trying to get somewhere quickly.  And some of my friends actually have a 3 yr-old in tow so may the Lord be with you!

You start the day off with positivity and deep breaths.  Your inner voice says, “We all want to enjoy this paradise that is south Florida!  Relax, try not to think about how it took you 30 minutes to get somewhere that took 10 minutes just one month ago.  Why oh why is everyone on the road at 7:25 AM???”  By lunchtime even your most well-practiced yoga breathing can’t get you through the long line at the deli counter at Publix.  Your smile has faded to the gritted teeth emoji.  And by dinner you are downing glasses of wine to take the edge off.  Don’t even think about doing that in public though, because you would have to wait at least 2 hours to sit down at dinner and enjoy those sips (or gulps). Drinking behind closed doors in the winter is encouraged here.  Well, actually in the winter it’s drinking on the lanai (covered porch for my southern friends, y’all).

But as we all know, with the Snowbirds come an influx of money that helps support many of the businesses that we get to enjoy all year long.  And, getting to see some of their amazing cars on the road is a dream come true for my kids.  I just hope they don’t expect to get a Maserati for their 16th birthday.

Now that my family is a little more prepared for the population surge this year, I genuinely appreciated reading this article on how to get ready for “the season”.  If you need me in the next few weeks I’ll either be at the doctor, the library, the mechanic, the pool or Costco.  And after all of those errands, let’s meet at a beach bar and enjoy the calm before the storm.

Thanks for the great list, Florida Weekly!

Do it now – Florida Weekly

 

Adult Time – Check – At Eau Palm Beach

Now that the kids are back in school and you’re starting to hit your stride with the weekly routine, it’s time to start thinking about Mommy and Daddy time.  Every once in a while it’s nice to take a break from the kids to reconnect, relax and rediscover your partner.  You know, the person that signed up to go on this parenting journey with you.  Maybe the grandparents are in town to take over or maybe you just found a sitter for 24 hours.  Trust me, it will be worth the time away, especially if you check in to this amazing resort for the weekend, or just a night like we did.

Eau Palm Beach is located in Manalapan, FL a short drive from West Palm Beach and the West Palm Beach airport and only 42 miles from the Ft. Lauderdale airport.  Pronounced “Oh” as in, “Oh, what fun it is to have a vacation without the kids!”  Formerly a Ritz Carlton, this hotel has all the glamour of a Ritz but, with a little more modern swankiness of a boutique hotel.  Famed designer Jonathan Adler designed the decor for much of the hotel and it is so refreshing and so chic at the same time!  The staff at Eau are almost as excited for you to be there as you are, so much so they give you champagne upon check-in.  Don’t mind if I do!  Walking in the door to our room, champagne in hand, it just screams, “I have arrived at my incredibly sophisticated vacation!”  I resisted the urge to take a nap upon arrival on the immaculate bed for fear that I would mess up the pillow arrangement.

Jonathan Adler designed bedroom
Jonathan Adler, this bedroom is sophisticated perfection.

 

Nautical hallway
The hallway to the rooms set the Palm Beach-nautical mood
Hallway with Asian accents
Hallway with geometric and Asian accents

 

Marble bathroom
This is my dream bathroom!  Marble tiles, navy, waves of iridescent blue wallpaper.

Instead, I immediately changed into my bathing suit and explored the grounds in search of the adult-only pool.  The pools have delicious fruit-infused waters for sipping while you relax.  The lounge chairs are plush and shade is plentiful if you want to avoid the sun, like me.  And, no fear if you’ve forgotten your sunscreen, Eau has you covered!  They must have known I was coming.

Sun Bum
Sun Bum sunscreen with little shot glasses for dispensing.

Every afternoon they have a champagne toast in the pool.  Don’t miss seeing the bar staff walk around the pool with their floating bar tray filled with champagne flutes.

For the ultimate luxury, do yourself a favor and book spa appointments.  I am in no way a spa connoisseur but, I’ve had a massage or two in my day and this spa has some of the most unique treatment options I’ve seen.  And, the couple’s treatments even convinced Matt to put aside his male bravado and join me for an afternoon of relaxation.  They have everything from a customized scrub and polish bar to buff out those rough spots to couple’s treatments in your own garden suite for romance and luxury.  When you check-in you receive a glass of champagne (notice a theme here) and you’re asked to make a wish in their wishing well.  If yours has anything to do with forgetting where you are or what is on your running “to do” list, you wish is granted.  We were guided to the male/female bath lounges to enjoy the sauna, steam rooms and hot tub while soothing music played.  Before our treatment, I nibbled on a cupcake and sipped cucumber water a bit of a contradiction but, I don’t care.  Our treatment was phenomenal and I’m pretty sure I fell asleep for a few moments while suspended in the dry float bed (whatever that is) while Matt enjoyed his massage.  Afterwards we made our way to the “Self-Centered Garden” to relax some more!  The garden was beautiful and the perfect place to enjoy a light lunch, a good book or an intense game of life-sized chess.

Spa lounge chairs
Napping is encouraged!

Spa seating
It’s really hard to be stressed in a suspended chair while your feet dangle in the water.

Life size chess
Game on!  Unfortunately you have to use your brain for this one.  Checkmate.

Self-Centered Garden
The Self-Centered Garden awaits you.  Really, it’s okay to think about yourself sometimes.
Relaxed parents
This is what two relaxed parents look like.
After an intense day of pool time and spa treatments, you can’t forget about dining on delicacies and sipping something by the ocean.  Throw on that plush bathrobe and enjoy the serenity of getting ready for dinner without interruptions.  We opted to stay at the hotel and eat beachfront at Temple Orange, a Mediterranean inspired restaurant that took our breath away.  The food was light and fresh and the service was impeccable!  We toasted to the end of an amazing day in paradise and dreamed about the next time we could escape to Eau Palm Beach to recharge.  Cheers!

Tips for busy moms:

1.  Plan ahead a bit and book a room reservation. Go ahead and sign up for a spa treatment to make sure you get a time that works for you.  The treatments aren’t cheap but, they are excellent and worth the splurge.
2.  The hotel has great restaurants but, you aren’t far from Palm Beach if you want, venture out and enjoy some of the swankiest and delicious places to eat in South Florida.  Or just be lazy and stay at the hotel.  We got away with not booking a reservation ahead of time.
3.  The hotel is happy to work with you to make it a memorable stay.  They have bikes you can grab to enjoy the beach scene and flat roads.  You can get into water sports like paddleboarding  (SUP) and fishing.  They also have plenty of options if you like to party like it’s 1999, think hand-crafted cocktails and DJ music.
4.  Pack a bathing suit, cute cover-up, book/trashy magazine, something fun to wear to dinner and flip flops.
5.  For all of my Florida friends.  Ask about the Florida resident rate.
6.  Don’t forget the sunscreen!  Well, you can forget it this time since they have it poolside.

Riverbend Park – Jupiter, FL

Well, we are full steam ahead into 2016 and I am sure it’ll take me another 3 months to write 2016 with ease.  Living in a warm climate gives me a little extra motivation to stay fit year round because I can’t hide behind baggy sweaters here!  We’ve been trying to think of a few family activities that don’t involve eating or sitting (we still love you, movie theater).  Florida knows how to “do” parks and there  are several around we have been wanting to check out.  Here’s how we spent our Saturday morning.

Riverbend Park is not only a great place to get some exercise while enjoying nature, you can fit in a history lesson as well!  The park is over 680 acres of trails and waterways on the Loxahatchee River. We chose to run the trials while the kids biked and scooted.  There are over 10 miles of trails winding through the park and the palm and cypress trees make excellent shade cover so you don’t overheat.  We loved how the “compacted shell rock” trails were bike-friendly, although our youngest had a hard time with the small wheels of his Razor scooter.  I didn’t say it was a continuous run, but we got exercise.

Riverbend park 1
Sweaty family selfie

There are trail maps and directional signs all over and just when you think you are lost, they’ve cleverly placed another map within sight.

Riverbend Park 2
Trail maps are plentiful so you don’t have to panic that you are lost.

 

Riverbend Park 3
Enjoying the shade of the giant palms lining the trails.

We were hoping to spot an alligator on our trek but, didn’t see any.  Other animals that call this park home are deer, raccoons and river otters.  For the birding enthusiasts, there are over 130 species to be spotted.  When we pulled up in the parking lot, a beautiful peacock strutted by.  One way to enjoy the wildlife up close is to hit the waterways and either canoe or kayak through the park.  You can go on trips lasting 2-7 hours, depending on your route and your patience.  The park welcomes private vessels but, you can also rent a canoe or kayak if you don’t own one.  No motorized boats are allowed so if peace and quiet is what you are after, this is about as zen as it gets (unless your kids are on board)!

Riverbend Park 4
Kayakers enjoying the serenity of the river.
There are plenty of shady spots to picnic and play throughout the park beneath the Chickee huts.

 

Riverbend Park 5
Chickee huts are great for picnic lunches and scavenger hunt bases
.

One of the most unique features of Riverbend Park is the Loxahatchee River Battlefield, the site of one of the Seminole War Battles January 15-24, 1838.  There are complimentary tours on Saturdays, courtesy the Loxahatchee Battlefield Preservationists.  Apparently the tours are kid-friendly and a great way to experience some of the less well-known pieces of American History.  Okay history buffs, recall the Indian Removal Act of 1830?  The Seminole Indians called this part of the country home until they were forced out by American troops.  Major General Thomas Jesup led troops to collide with the Seminoles on the banks of the Loxahatchee River on January 24, 1838.

We did not fit this tour into our first visit to the park but, we hope to be back soon to learn more about the local history.

All in all, the Riverbend Park is a great place to spend a morning or the whole day!  While it’s only about 10 miles from the beach, it feels like it is a world away.

Quick tips for busy moms
1.  If you’re bringing your own wheels, choose bikes vs. scooters.  The trail is a little bumpy and not a fun ride with small, hard wheels.
2.  You can rent bikes, canoes and kayaks Thurs-Mon if you don’t have your own.
3.  During droughts or little rain, the waterways are shallow and many “trails” are closed.  Check the website  before you go.
4.  The park can get a bit buggy because it is surrounded by marsh water.  Bring bugspray.
5.  There aren’t any places to grab a sip of water so be sure to bring your own.
6.  Unfortunately, they don’t allow pets so it’s not a place to give Rover a walk.
7.  When in Florida, don’t forget your sunscreen!

Disney Cruise

Top 10 Reasons to go on a Disney Cruise

Yes, I am a Disney fan and I’ll admit, being closer to Mickey Mouse was a perk to moving to south Florida.  But, sometimes planning a trip to Disney World can be intimidating and downright exhausting.  And, if you’ve never been, where do you start?  What if you hate lines and you want to go an a vacation that doesn’t require you to go on another vacation to recover from the break-neck pace you’ve been going?  The answer…a Disney Cruise.  I like to call it, the lazy-parent’s vacation.  You may say, “yeah but, aren’t cruises cheesy and packed with people and mediocre food?”  Yes, they can be, but not a Disney Cruise.  Because you know the genius of Disney?  Well, they put it on a boat and all you have to do is show up and unpack your bags.  I’m serious, don’t worry about planning excursions or packing sequin gowns, it’s time to unplug and enjoy the beauty of an unstructured vacation.

 

Disney Cruise

 

Top 10 Reasons to go on a Disney Cruise 

(in no particular order)

1.  You can watch Disney movies while you swim.  
What’s not to love?  Hang by Goofy’s pool and you can splash around or relax in a lounge chair while you watch Disney movies on the 24′ x 14′ LED TV.  It’s especially fun to enjoy a little night swimming and movie on the deck while you star gaze.

Disney Cruise 1
Poolside movies


2.  No crowds at dinner  
This is just pure Disney genius.  Instead of crowds of people waiting in lines at buffets for dinner, Disney assigns you a themed restaurant each night and to a dining time.  So, no restaurant is crowded at dinner and you get to eat at each one during your cruise.  To keep some consistency, your wait staff moves from restaurant to restaurant with you each night.  More on the staff later.  These aren’t just boring restaurants either!  There’s plenty to look at and menus for the kids to keep them entertained, including a few surprises.  I have a  hard time cooking for 4 some nights, I can’t imagine cooking for 2500.  Miraculously, they do it and do it well!  I’m still dreaming about the tuna tartare tower that I had one night and the dolce de leche ice cream with the salted caramel sauce.

Disney Cruise 2
Our favorite dinner spot – Animator’s Palate

3.  Free room service  
We like to travel but, ordering room service is never really something that we’ve done because I’m not a fan of an overpriced burger and luke-warm french fries.  But, on the cruise everything on the room service menu is free and available 24 hours/day.  I’m not sure why you need food at 2:00 in the morning but, at 2:00 in the afternoon it’s sort of fun to have chocolate chip cookies show up at your door.  An even more welcome sight is coffee delivered in the morning.

4.  Castaway Cay
If you go on a Disney cruise to the Caribbean or Bahamas, you have the pleasure of spending a day at Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island.  Picture an immaculate beach, clear-blue water and Caribbean music playing in the background.  Oh, and Disney cast members are available to help you with whatever you need.  Yes, I am ready to move to Castaway Cay but, apparently I’d have to homeschool our children if we live there.  Spending a luxurious day there will just have to do.  If you (or your kids) don’t like to sit still there is plenty to do on the island.  You can rent inner tubes, snorkel gear, or rafts to float around.  There are swim up watersides and playground equipment in the water (think monkey bars and rope climbing.)  You can even parasail and get a bird’s eye view of the island.  They also have a splash playground for little ones and a kid’s club if you need to sneak away for an hour or two to the adult-only beach.  Everything you need for the day is on the island, including Mickey, Minnie and the gang.

Disney Cruise 3
Paradise Found! Castaway Cay

5.  Kids Club
Usually my kids don’t go running to hang out with a room full of kids they don’t know.  They can be clingy like that, but on the Disney Cruise, the Kids Club is no joke!  Think Mary Poppins, meets an indoor playground, dance party, digital design studio and dress up party.  There is always something fun going on like a science experiment or craft and the kids love having their own space sans adults.  There are counselors there but, I don’t really count them as adults because they are just way to peppy!  And, you don’t need me to tell you what to do with alone time, but there is a whole section of the ship dedicated to adults including a separate pool, bar, and spa.  In the Kid’s Club, they are vigilant about germs and they make kids put their hands through a carwash-like cleaner up to their elbows before entering.  When you board the ship they give your kids a bracelet that has a tracker in it so they always know where your kids are, which comes in handy when (or if)  you decide you want to pick them up.

6.  Waterslides
Each ship has a different set-up, but no matter which one you sail on, you are sure to have a few watersides to choose from.  On the ship we went on, the Disney Magic, the kid-friendly water slide has several twists and turns, but is tame enough for smaller children.  Then there’s the big kahuna.  The Aqua Dunk, in our case, literally drops you down 3 floors and then propels you out over the side of the boat before depositing you with a giant splash at the end.  I’ve heard grown men shriek like little girls at the first drop.  Our Dad gave it two thumbs up.  You are guaranteed to get soaked and a giant wedgie, but it is an adrenaline rush you don’t want to miss.  I recommend trying it at night when the lines are shorter and the views are beautiful.

7.  Pirate Night
For all of you land lubbers who haven’t experienced pirates at sea, here’s your chance to show off you best pirate speak!  Most ships have a pirate night one evening on the cruise and Disney goes all out.  All of the characters are dressed in pirate gear and the cast members as well.  You’ll want to don your best ruffle shirt and grab your sword to join the fun in the search for Jack Sparrow.  We enjoyed watching Pirates of the Carribean on the top deck before the pirate party.  If your little ones can stay up late enough, it’s worth it to join the dance party and witness fireworks at sea.  Arr!

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Our pirate crew with Stitch

8.  Cruise staff
In Disney speak, they are called Cast Members but, whatever you call them, they are heaven sent!  No matter what their job, everyone that you encounter on the ship is there to make your vacation magical.  Our server at dinner literally said, “tell me what I can do to make your dining experience phenomenal.” And, he meant it!  The room stewards remember what you like to have in your room or how many towels you need and they make it happen every day.  If you are stuck in a lounge chair with a sleeping baby, someone will come over to offer you a cold beverage or extra towel if it is chilly.  This trip, our toilet overflowed after my 5 yr old used the bathroom.  He claims he wasn’t doing anything fishy, I’m not sure I am buying it.  As soon as we told someone, the ship mechanic was there and the room steward had cleaned the bathroom before we got back from breakfast.  Now if we could just figure out how to have everyone come home with us after the cruise…

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Roston, our favorite server doing magic tricks for the kids

9.  Disney Characters
You know when you go to Disney World and you have a child who is really into a character and you spend at least 30 min in line waiting for a picture, an autograph or a hug?  Or maybe, you’re like us and when you finally got to the front of the line and your child realized that up close, Mickey Mouse is HUGE and maybe you don’t want to take a picture with him.  Well, no more!  The great news about the Disney Cruise is that the characters are also on the boat.  You can get a schedule of where they are daily and plan to meet them.  We’ve only waited in line for about 10 min, tops and we even got to high-five them walking down the halls of the ship.

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Mickey took a break from lounging at the beach for a pic.

10.  Staterooms
The design of the staterooms is pure genius.  The designers definitely had families with children on their mind when they planned the rooms.  And you know where there are families, there is also tons of gear that go with them!  Miraculously, everything that you travel with has a home in your room.  Each room has a king-size bed and a sitting area with a couch that turns into bunk beds at night.  Magic!  There’s plenty of room under the bed to slide your suitcases under and there are lots of drawers and closet space.  The kids’ side can be “closed off” with heavy curtains  if you want to block the light or just have some privacy.  And, the TV is on a swivel so the kids can watch Disney movies or you can tilt it towards the king bed for late-night viewing.  But, by far my favorite feature is the bathrooms.  Yes, I said bathrooms with an “s”.  Oh the joy to have two bathrooms!  One has a sink and a toilet and the other has a sink and a tub/shower.  Do the great Disney minds realize how many arguments they prevented by separating the shower from the toilet?  I think they must have had teenagers or just enjoy their private moments.  Either way, it’s delightful and being able to hose your kid down in the tub is so rewarding.

11.  The Shows
When you think of cruise entertainment, do you think of cheesy lounge singers in sequins draped over a piano?  I do!  Not so on this cruise.  The shows are pretty darn close to Broadway quality and the singers are legit!  Like, goose bump good!  They have shows every night and they are different themes but, all are professionally developed and the set design is amazing (imagine things appearing from under the stage and people flying through the air).  They are actually a bit better than Broadway in my mind because they hold the attention of the smallest theater-goers.  The shows are so interactive you can expect things to fall from the ceiling, characters to surprise you from behind and wonderful sing-along worthy music.  While we were on the ship, they debuted a new musical that they had been perfecting for almost 2 years, Tangled.  It was fantastic!  Our crowd from 4-41 was completely in awe. Grab some popcorn and an adult beverage and be thankful that you didn’t just pay $100 a ticket on  Broadway.

Okay, so that was more than 10 because I just couldn’t stop thinking of reasons why I love Disney Cruises.  If you haven’t been, do yourself and your family a favor and consider booking one.  No they aren’t cheap, if you really add up the amenities and the activities that you can do that are included in the price, it is totally worth it.  And best of all, you will make memories to last a lifetime!

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Hoping we can comeback again someday!


Quick tips for busy moms:

1.  Check the sailings to book a cruise.  They offer 3 night sailings on up to 2 weeks, but don’t feel like you have to break the bank.  Three nights away is just as magical.

2.  Make sure everyone’s passports are up to date (and you know where they are).  Many of the sailings go out of the country and you’ll need a passport to board.

3.  Pack your pirate gear.  Even if it’s some black eyeliner, a scarf and a torn white T-shirt.  There is a pirate night on board and people go all out!  As long as you don’t have an aversion to costumes, you’ll want to join in on the fun.  Of course, Disney never misses a shopping opportunity so if you want to pick up an eyepatch on board, you can!

4.  Bring something magnetic to “decorate” your cabin door.  It’s a great way for your kids to identify which door is yours on a long corridor of look-alike rooms and it’s fun.

5.  No need to bring swim vests, they have them everywhere to use.

6.  You have to be a certain height to go down several of the watersides.  Check their web site so you don’t have explaining to do later.

7.  If you can, go with family or friends.  Disney cruising is a perfect multi-generation vacation because you can stay as busy or lazy as you want.  And, you can join together at dinnertime to share the magic of your day.

8.  Be prepared to unplug.  Communication on the ship is difficult and expensive so get a back-up at work and enjoy the luxury of truly going “off the grid”.

9.  When in Florida or cruising, don’t forget the sunscreen!

A special thanks to the Oates family for letting us join you on this magical journey.