Fun for Older Kids and Teens

Here is a great pre-trip scavenger hunt for the older set.

Ask your preteen/teen to go online and "Google" "Hidden Mickey." They can read all about the history of how these illusive creatures began turning up and where to look for them. This could turn into a great trip-long scavenger hunt for the digital camera/cell phone set. They can try to spot the known and unknown cheese eaters all over the parks. It also helps to pass the time away while online for attractions. Disney does sell a comprehensive book on the topic, but fans on the Web have many of their own ideas on the subject. It is a project to get older kids involved prior to the trip, and fun to share with the entire family!

For those interested in the book, it costs about $10 US and is called "Hidden Mickeys:A Field Guide to Walt Disney World's Best Kept Secrets." You can buy it at Amazon.com or at Disney World.

Shhh, Mom and Dad ~ A hidden Mickey is a partial or complete impression of Mickey Mouse placed by the Imagineers and artists to blend into the designs of Disney attractions, hotels, restaurants, and other areas. The most common Hidden Mickey form is the tri-circle Mickey frontal silhouette: three circles that form Mickey’s round head and adjoining round ears. There's lots more on the Web or in the book.


Hidden Mickeys Photolog

Hidden Mickeys, 3rd Edition: A Field Guide to Walt Disney World's Best-Kept Secrets

Tips For Traverlers with Young Children

Whether or not you have been to Orlando before, young kids love the penny press machines scattered all over Disney and Universal. For those of you who are unfamiliar with them, penny presses are machines, some manual (which are more fun) and some automatic, that literally press a penny with an impression when a penny and two quarters are inserted. Every machine features impressions of different characters and poses, usually the ones prominent in that particular part of the park. Near the Buzz Lightyear ride, you may find a machine with Buzz and Woody.

Kids love to collect them all and make a mad dash for them whenever they spot one. Both Disney and Universal sell inexpensive collector's books that are small, sturdy and waterproof for around $8 US that have a place to display every one found in the parks. It's like a scavenger hunt for the younger set and is relatively inexpensive on-going fun. Make sure you bring a Ziplock bag full of "shiny" pennies and quarters at a ratio of 1:2. You can add more on each subsequent trip and they make a great Show & Tell when back at school!

We also recommend buying an inexpensive fanny pack, which can be found at any bargain store on Highway 192 for a few dollars, so your children can hold onto their own Ziplocks of coins and collector's book.


Vicki's Testimonial

Hi Kim,
We had a WONDERFUL time. Thanks for checking!

Your condo was perfect for us. Having a highchair and playpen there really made it a whole lot easier to manage our little feisty 15 month old. And DVD players/TVs in every room... fantastic!!!
We absolutely loved the pool. We spent a huge chunk of every day in it, almost. The weather was beautiful and we just floated and splashed all day.

And your proximity to Disney doesn't get much better!

We also signed up for our 4 year old to watch Madagascar in the "movie" room. And he got a real kick out of having the whole thing to himself. ;)

We are already trying to figure out when we can come back down again...

Thanks again for everything!

Jim's Testimonial

The trip was fantastic and your accommodations were wonderful! I wrote the same in your guest book. Just thinking about the warm week in Florida at your facility brings a smile. My wife was very impressed with my selection which was unusual. Probably the best vacation accommodations we have stayed in due to the spacious 3 bedrooms and the pool and the playground not to mention the nice interior decorating, the ground floor location, the closeness to the parks, the TV's in each bedroom including the kids' and the ease to find parking even when getting back late. We may ask to rent again next year, I usually start planning my trip in September. If the opportunity arises I will refer your place to others.

Barb's Testimonial

Well we left your home today and I must tell you it was awesome. Great location, clean, close to pool and very comfortable. You will be hearing from us again as we start to plan next year's spring vacation around Xmas time. Thank you again for everything. If you ever need any references for future guests, do not hesitate to give them my email. Directions were perfect on everything. We truly appreciate your help. Thank you again. :)

10 Best Children’s Activities at Walt Disney World

by Cara Goldsbury

I’m sure you all know about Disney World’s amazing theme parks, but are you familiar with the myriad of fascinating activities for children offered throughout Walt Disney World that are either complimentary or offered for a reasonable fee to Disney resort guests? Here are some of the best:

  • Snag a Bass On a Kid’s Fishing Excursion. 1-hour angling trips just for children are available from the resort marinas of Disney’s Contemporary, Polynesian, Yacht and Beach Club, and Boardwalk Inn and Villas. For miles of shore fishing head over to Disney’s Ft. Wilderness where cane poles and rods and reels may be rented at the Bike Barn in the Meadow Recreation Area. Fishing excursions are approximately $25 per child. Call 407-WDW-PLAY for reservations.

  • Enjoy the Old West. Hayrides depart each evening from Pioneer Hall at Fort Wilderness for a 45-minute trip. Very tame, cowboy-guided trail rides are also offered, or younger children can opt for a $2 pony ride at the Fort Wilderness Petting Farm. Hayrides are $8 per adult and $4 per child; no reservations taken. Trail rides are $30 per person; reservations are required and may be made up to two weeks in advance by calling 407-WDW-PLAY.

  • Sing-Along in Front of the Campfire. Families gather round the campfire each evening at Ft. Wilderness for a sing-along, marshmallow roast, and a Disney animated movie. Complimentary to all Walt Disney World resort guests.

  • Watch the Electrical Water Pageant Parade. Nightly on the Seven Seas Lagoon is a delightful 1000-foot string of illuminated barges featuring King Neptune and his court of whales, sea serpents, and other deep-sea creatures. The free show can be seen from the beaches of Disney’s Polynesian, Grand Floridian, Contemporary, and Wilderness Lodge Resorts.

  • Ride Up Front with the Monorail Driver. Simply ask the Cast Member on duty. They will be happy to oblige as long as the front car is empty.

  • Take a Spin on a Watermouse Boat. Rent one of these two-seater mini-power boats and zip around one of Disney’s lakes at 22 miles per hour. Kids love them, particularly because they need only be 12 years or older and at least 5 feet tall to drive one without adult supervision. Available at the Contemporary, Polynesian, Grand Floridian, the Yacht and Beach Club, Downtown Disney, and the Wilderness Lodge. Approximately $22 per half-hour.

  • Dive into One of Disney’s Fabulous Themed Pools. You can’t do much better than a dip in one of Disney’s wonderful swimming pools. Children’s favorites: the Volcano Pool at Disney’s Polynesian Resort featuring a smoking volcano slide, underwater music, and sparkling waterfall, all with a superb view of the Seven Seas Lagoon; the Wilderness Lodge’s boulder-lined pool featuring waterfalls, rocky overlooks, water slide, and a nearby geyser; the eye-popping Stormalong Bay, a mini-water park complex that meanders between the Yacht and Beach Club, offering three acres of winding, watery delight including sandy bottom pools, a giant “shipwreck” waterslide, a tidal whirlpool, bubbling hot tubs, a kiddie pool with its own slide next to the beach, and enough length to float lazily in inner tubes to your heart’s delight.

  • Search for Buried Treasure on a Pirate’s Cruise. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday, children ages 3-10 sail from the dock of Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort on a 2-hour supervised trip to a deserted island. $28 fee includes snacks, bandanas, and treasure. Call 407-WDW-DINE for reservations.

  • Attend a Children’s Tea Party. A “Wonderland Tea Party” happens Mon-Fri at 1:30 P.M. in 1900 Park Fare at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort. Hosted by characters from Alice in Wonderland, the little ones play games, listen to stories, and drink apple “tea”. $28. Strictly for children ages 3-10. Call 407-WDW-DINE for reservations.

  • Take in a Character Meal. These extremely popular dining opportunities, offered at both the Disney theme parks and resort hotels, are a perfect way for your children to spend extra time with favorite Disney characters. Meals are offered in three ways depending on the restaurant: buffet-style, family-style, or pre-plated meals; regardless, it’s essentially all-you-can-eat. Characters work the room, stopping at each table to interact with guests, pose for photos, and sign autographs. Book priority seating early, particularly for Cinderella’s Royal Table, Epcot’s Princess Breakfast in Norway, and Chef Mickey’s by calling 407-WDW-DINE.

    Cara Goldsbury is the author of The Luxury Guide to Walt Disney World: How to Get the Most Out of the Best Disney Has to Offer. Visit her at www.luxurydisneyguide.com.


Driving Directions

From I-4 East: Take Exit 64-B to 192 West. Proceed for 2 miles and turn left onto Old Lake Wilson Road. Windsor Hills is located one mile down on the right. From I-4 West: Take exit number 64B to 192 West (2.8 miles). Make a left on Old Lake Wilson Road.


Disney’s 10 Most Magical Experiences

by Cara Goldsbury, author of The Luxury Guide to Walt Disney World: How to Get the Most Out of the Best Disney Has to Offer

  • An Epcot Illuminations Cruise — Each evening boatloads of visitors depart from the docks of Disney’s Boardwalk Inn and Disney’s Yacht Club headed for Epcot. Their destination is a prime position under the bridge between the United Kingdom and France for a view of the Illuminations fireworks spectacular. Cruises are offered nightly with your choice of either a pontoon boat seating 10 or a beautiful reproduction of a 1930s Chris Craft accommodating 6-7 people. Although reservations can be made up to 90 days in advance, they sometimes sell out on the first day. Call 407-WDW-PLAY.

  • Dinner at the California Grill — The California Grill on the 15th floor of Disney’s Contemporary Resort is a definite highlight for any connoisseur of cutting-edge cuisine. Through immense windows is an unbeatable panorama of the Magic Kingdom and the Seven Seas Lagoon and on many nights picture-perfect views of the Wishes fireworks. From pristinely fresh sushi to the exceptional New American Cuisine to sensational desserts and the outstanding California wine list, this place has it all.

  • Breakfast With Cinderella — High atop Cinderella’s Castle in the Magic Kingdom is your chance to feast in a fairytale setting with Cinderella, Jasmine, Aladdin, and Belle. Kids love the grand dining room where through glittering leaded-glass windows is a birds-eye view of Fantasyland. The characters make their way around the dining room and give each child quality time signing autographs and posing for pictures.

  • Beachside Vista of the Magic Kingdom’s Fireworks — On evenings when fireworks are on the Magic Kingdom’s agenda, head to one of the Polynesian Resort’s idyllic white-sand beaches, grab a hammock, kick back, and view the festivities.

  • Your First Glimpse of Cinderella’s Castle — As you walk under the train station at the Magic Kingdom and into a world of make believe, the splendor of Main Street is spread out before you with that celebrated fairy tale castle sitting at the end.

  • The Sight of Exotic Animals Grazing Below Your Guestroom Balcony — A stay at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge comes with a view of its marvelous savanna filled with hundreds of roaming exotic animals. After dark the preserves are lit with a moon glow effect, perfect for a nighttime stroll or after dinner entertainment from your room balcony.

  • A Picturesque Ride on the Monorail — Hop on board Disney’s favorite form of transportation for a delightful journey around the Seven Seas Lagoon, through the interior of the Contemporary Resort, past the Magic Kingdom, and off through the pine trees on your way to Epcot.

  • Cocktails in the Grand Lobby of Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort — This resort’s favorite gathering spot is an exquisitely soaring, 5-story lobby of stained-glass cupolas and filigreed chandeliers. Find a seat on a cushy sofa and take pleasure in the lively big band orchestra while sipping a strawberry-topped glass of champagne.

  • Reliving the Drive-In of Your Youth At Disney-MGM Studios — At the Sci-fi Dine-In Theatre, guests are served in sleek 1950s-era convertibles while watching B-grade sci-fi and horror trailers on the big screen. Waiters on roller skates carhop the darkened, starlit theater, speaker boxes hang on the side of your car and, of course, popcorn and hot dogs dance on the screen during intermission. Though the food is just so-so, who cares when Godzilla is your entertainment.

  • A Float Through Splash Mountain — Who can resist the charms of Brer Rabbit, Brer Fox, Brer Bear, and the rest of the gang, even if it culminates in one heck of a plunge? Drift round the briar patch in a hollowed-out log while toe-tapping music plays among the cabbages and carrots, jugs of moonshine, chirpin’ birds, and croakin’ frogs as you relax and bob your head to the beat. As you float through bayous, marshes, and caverns, all a delight to the eyes with loads of colorful detail and too-cute cavorting characters, the heartwarming theme song “Time To Be Moving Along” plays. It’s guaranteed to put a smile on your face.

    Provided the following credit is given, you are welcome to reprint this article for free.Cara Goldsbury is the author of The Luxury Guide to Walt Disney World: How to Get the Most Out of the Best Disney Has to Offer. Visit her at

Tips for Disney World First Timers

  • By guest writer Cara Goldsbury
    The character breakfasts can be very popular and are booked out almost as soon as they are available to be booked.
    Read below for the information you need that will maximize your chances of getting a table at one of these breakfasts.
    Many more invaluable tips can be found in Cara Goldsbury's book,
    The Luxury Guide to Walt Disney World.
    So you've finally decided to head to Walt Disney World. Most people find that a Disney experience can be overwhelming - there is so much to see and do. You don't want to get stuck in lines, you don't want to miss out on 'must sees', and you do want to enjoy yourselves.

Here are a hopefully lucky thirteen tips to make your trip one that will be remembered for a lifetime.

  • Plan ahead. Decide ahead of time what your priorities are and make a plan of action.
  • Get to the parks early! It's amazing, particularly in busy season, how many of the popular rides you can knock off before half the "World" gets out of bed.
  • Take the time to rest in the middle of the day. Stay at one of the Magic Kingdom or Epcot resorts, allowing a return in the middle of the day for a nap or dip in the pool.
  • Call exactly 90 days prior at 7 AM Orlando time for priority seating if breakfast at Cinderella's Royal Table in the Magic Kingdom is tops on your child's list. The only way you might get away with sleeping in and booking a bit later for this highly coveted character breakfast is if you are traveling in extremely slow season.
  • Come prepared for an afternoon shower during the rainy summer months even if the sky looks perfectly clear in the morning. Rent a locker to store your raingear and circle back if skies start to look threatening. However, if you're caught unprepared, just about every store in the parks sells inexpensive rain ponchos.
  • Use Fastpass, Disney's free, nifty timesaving device. It's offered at all four theme parks and is a great way to save hours of waiting in line. Just insert your park pass in one of the machines located at each individual Fastpass attraction and receive a ticket printed with a designated one-hour window in which you may return and enter a special line with little or no waiting.
  • Pre-arrange priority seating, Disney's answer to dining reservations, by calling 407-WDW-DINE. On arrival you'll receive the next table available for your party size, thus saving hours of frustration and waiting.
    Allow plenty of time to reach the theme parks each morning. It's easy to miss your breakfast priority seating if you don't allocate enough time.
  • Be spontaneous. If something catches your eye, even if it's not on your daily list of things to do, stop and explore. If not, you could miss something wonderful.
  • Realize the limitations of your children. If they're tired, take a break. If their feet hurt, get them a stroller (forget that they outgrew one years ago). If a ride scares them don't force the issue. Such precautions will make your day and the day of other park visitors a lot less stressful.
  • Bring pagers, 2-way radios, or cell phones. If your party plans on splitting up, they are a perfect way to keep in touch
  • Wear broken-in, comfortable footwear. Better yet, bring two pairs and rotate them. Nothing is worse than blisters on your first day and then nursing them for the remainder of your vacation.
  • Most importantly, slow down and enjoy the magic. Resist the urge to see everything at breakneck speed. You can't possibly cover it all, so think of this as your first trip to Disney, not your last. There will be time to pick up all the things you missed on the next go-round.

Cara Goldsbury is the author of The Luxury Guide to Walt Disney World: How to Get the Most Out of the Best Disney Has to Offer, available at 800-247-6553, www.luxurydisneyguide.com, Amazon.com, or your local bookstore. For more information visit her online at www.luxurydisneyguide.com.

Originally published 1 Feb 2004
You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to Cara Goldsbury as original writer.

Disney Tips - General Park Information

General Park Information and Tips

  • The theme parks at Walt Disney World are open year round. The parks usually open daily at 9:00 am and close anywhere from 6:00 p.m. to midnight depending on what part of the season it is. Animal Kingdom usually opens at 7 or 8 am every day. Disney changes its hours of operation throughout the year, but there are many places to find the hours of operation including calling Disney World and certain web pages.
  • The busiest periods at Disney World are from mid-February to August and from Christmas Day to New Years Day. The slowest months are January, September, October and November. The busiest day of the week seems to be Tuesday with Friday and Sunday being the least crowded.
  • Hurricane season is roughly from August to October. This is probably why these months are less crowded. Though it may rain every day during this season, the showers are often short and sometimes very light. Having a plastic rain parka can make this a very minor inconvenience.
  • The theme parks are generally less crowded after 4:00 p.m., especially Magic Kingdom and MGM Studios. Epcot seems to be the opposite, it is least crowed early in the morning.
    Attraction boards are located in all of the theme parks. It is a large board that lists all the attractions in the park and approximate waiting times for that attraction. This can be helpful in choosing what to see based on the length of the line. There is also a Disney staff member stationed at each board to give you directions to attractions.
  • Find out when parades are taking place at the park you are visiting. If you have already seen the parade or are not interested in seeing it, this is a good time to see one of the more popular attractions, as lines are generally shorter.


Testimonials - Kim

Your home was immaculate. Everything was so clean and well equipped. My mother misses the pillow-top bed. My two girls screamed and cried wanting to take the pool back to VA with us! My Dad now wants to buy a widescreen TV. My parents appreciated not having to climb any stairs with their weakened knees.

Rather than a typical rental home where the home is stripped from anything extra, when we needed an extra pool towel it was there. When my daughter wanted a pool tube or fetching toy, it was there. When we walked to the community playground or pool, a stroller was there. We were without need.

The Community Amenities! Nothing was spared or overlooked when the Builders made the amenities. What an elaborate playground! And the pool was perfect for my little girls who don't yet swim alone. The beach-like access into the water prevented the children from slipping on any steps. The water fountain area kept the girls busy allowing me to supervise from a relaxing deck chair. Next year we're bringing the older cousins so they can ride down the fastest water slide ever built!

We were so relieved to find your home as close to Disney as stated. After Park days of crowds and high excitement and over stimulation, we looked forward to rejuvenating in your home and Windsor Hills.

It was the first time we ever rented from an owner directly and what a difference in customer service! We weren't treated like tenants but truly as guests. Your correspondence was timely. Your interest in our experience, genuine. There was only a minor check-out situation; and the way you handled everything (all the way from Scotland) can only be summed up as impressive!

This was by far our family's best vacation experience and hope you'll have us back next year!
Best Wishes

Testimonials - Melissa

Hi Allan and Sandra,
Thanks again for another great vacation. Because we've been booking with you twice a year now, when we arrived for our 2007 vacation it felt so much like home. It's always a pleasure working with the both of you. Also, having Dee and Frank right next door is a comfort, especially if there's any issues, which of course there never is. We love the house so much, we are looking into purchasing one in the future. Anyone who wants the perfect place to vacation, with or without children, really needs to take a look at Windsor Hills. In the past when we have gone away, we have always stayed in a hotel. Never again... We have found for less than what we would spend on a hotel, we can stay in a beautiful house with everything you need and everything you could ask for. I look forward to our October vacation, which I will be booking soon! Thanks again for making our time in Florida great!
New Hampshire
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