We have been doing a lot of celebrating around here over the past few weeks. We celebrated Christmas, then New Year’s and then the big event of the twins turning two. As part of their multi-week birthday celebration (you do really need more than just one day!), we took our annual trip to Florida to visit family. As part of that trip, we continued a tradition of spending some time at the wonderful world of Disney!
Now, I know that Florida is in no way close to Connecticut and doesn’t really fall in line with our tagline of “Scouting your CT outing”, but I know so many families from this state make a trek down to Walt Disney World, that I thought it would be good to do a little post on my trip.
I will not kid myself and think that my measly handful of trips to the Magic Kingdom would qualify me to write a blog post about those adventures. Plus, there are already tons and tons of blogs out there that can provide tips, tricks, and details on visiting Disney, so I won’t even attempt to go there. But, what I thought might be helpful for you Connecticut Mommas considering a trip to the world of Mickey and Minnie, would be for me to give you some details on our great hotel, the Art of Animation Resort.
This is a brand new Disney World property having opened in 2012. One of the main reasons we were interested in staying here is that most of the rooms on the property are family suites that have two full baths and sleep 6 people. Perfect when you are traveling with lots of little ones!
Ok, let’s start from the beginning.
Here is a map of Disney World and I’ve noted where the resort is located. As you can see, it is not directly next to any of the parks, so you will either have to drive or take a bus when commuting between the resort and other Disney destinations.
To get to the actual resort, you can either drive and park for free in their self parking lot or, if you are arriving by airplane at the Orlando Airport, you can take the Disney Magical Express bus from the airport to the hotel (photo credit: https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/guest-services/magical-express/)If you are interested in using this form of transportation, you will need to book it when making your hotel reservations. Then you will receive a package in the mail with your bus tickets and your luggage tags. Don’t be like us and forget to place the luggage tags on your luggage. If you use them, then your luggage will be “magically” transported from the airport to the hotel. If you don’t use them, then you will be like us and have to get all of your luggage from baggage claim at the airport and then drag three kids and the luggage from the airport to the hotel. It wasn’t impossible, but it would have been much easier to use the tags.
The trip from the airport to the Art of Animation resort took about 30 minutes and we were either the 2nd or 3rd stop on the route. Once you arrive at the boarding area for the bus, you will present your boarding passes and they will direct you to the correct bus and get you to your destination quickly. It is pretty simple, fun for the kids, and complimentary.
Once we arrived at the resort, we checked in and a bellman brought our luggage to our room.
As I mentioned before, the rooms at this resort are mostly family suites (though there are some standard rooms).
The Art of Animation theme is dedicated to just that, the art of animation and the rooms offer a variety of themes from some of Disney’s most famous animated movies including: Cars, The Lion King, The Little Mermaid and Finding Nemo.
The main hub of the resort is in Animation Hall where the check-in, dining and arcades are located.
From there, you walk outside to get to the entrances to each of the themed building housing the guest rooms.
If you are looking for a minimal walk to where you will be sleeping, I would suggest booking a room in the Finding Nemo themed suites. They are located right outside the main building and right next to the largest pool on the property.
If you are ok with a little bit of a walk and your kids enjoy The Lion King movie, then there are Lion King Family Suites just for you.
Furthest away from the main building and dining area are the only standard size rooms on the property. This area’s theme is The Little Mermaid.
Even though this section of rooms is the furthest distance from the main Animations Hall, it has several pluses. If you don’t need a full suite, this offers you the ability to stay at this new hotel, but book a less expensive standard room. This area of the property also has its own pool and laundry facilities. I also noticed that in the morning they set up a little breakfast kiosk with coffee and breakfast food items for purchase so that guest don’t have to walk all the way to the dining hall if you just want a light meal.
My kids had a great time playing in this area and loved all of the gigantic Little Mermaid character statues. Sparkles has not yet seen The LIttle Mermaid movie, so no matter how many times I explained who King Triton was, she just kept calling him “Santa”.
On the other side of the dining hall was where we stayed, in the Cars themed rooms. These were also one bedroom family suites that included two full size bathrooms, a kitchenette, and sleeping spots for 6 people.
One of the best things about these rooms was the fun walk from the main building to where the rooms were located. You felt like you were right out of a scene from the movie as you entered Radiator Springs and ran into “life-size” models of all the movie characters. Bruiser was obsessed and insisted on getting his picture taken in front of each of the cars.
This section of the property also has its own pool. It was similar to the pool over in The Little Mermaid section. Much smaller than the main pool, but a great spot for a dip if you wanted to stick a little closer to your room. The pool looked to be about 3 – 5 feet in depth and one of the great things about it was that there were several cabanas in the pool area. This would be a great place to hang out with a baby during hot Florida days.
The suite we stayed in had a great setup:
- Two full baths (with at least one bathtub).
- A seating area with a couch, tv, and kitchenette. The couch turns into one of the full size beds.
- The kitchenette includes a sink, microwave, coffee maker (with coffee and tea), refrigerator, and basic supplies like plates, napkins, silverware and a can opener.
- There is also a dining area. The dining table is actually a Murphy bed that folds down for the other full bed sleeping area. I somehow didn’t get a picture of this setup, but you can see a video with details here.
- A separate bedroom with a bed (of course) and tv.
The resort also seems to have plenty of pack n’ plays available for all the kiddos that come to visit. We did get a special visit from the bellman when we called to ask for 3 baby sleepers (he said it was his largest pack n play order yet), but they seemed to have plenty available. The separate bedroom was also big enough that we were able to fit all three pack n plays in there and still have room to get to move around.
You could really have a great time just hanging out at this hotel and not even visiting one of the parks for a few days. It has three swimming pools (one near Little Mermaid, one near Cars, and one in the center near Nemo and the dining hall), a small playscape, an arcade and fun activities for the kids such as movies under the stars (A different Disney movie is played each night outside starting around 7pm. The nights we were there they played Brave and Tangled.)
The main, Big Blue, swimming pool is where we took our little ones. It is the largest pool on any Disney property and includes not only a large swimming area, but a zero depth entry and a spray pad.
Make sure you bring the towels from your room with you when you head over to the pool. They don’t supply them, but they do provide life jackets and a place to deposit your used towels. There are also lifeguards, a laundry facility and a snack bar in the pool area. And if you are visiting when it is a bit cooler out, the pool is slightly heated. Also, here are a few pictures of the play area which is located right behind the Big Blue pool.
I also took a few pictures of the arcade area. My 10-year-old nephew had a great time spending all his money here and my 2-year-old kids had a great time thinking they were spending money here. The wonderful thing about toddlers is that they can be completely entertained in an arcade without you having to spend one penny 🙂
The dining options on the property are relatively limited.
You can order food to your room or you can grab something at the Landscape of Flavors casual restaurant.
Now this is a value resort, so I wasn’t surprised to learn that we wouldn’t be eating at a table service restaurant. For us, though, this was a great option for our family. It was fast, casual, counter service with a variety of food options. There were several stations where you could select from a set menu of options. We would load up our tray with food, check out at the cash register and then eat in the dining area.
There are dining plan options available with the room reservation and if you are staying at the property for several days, it might be economical to purchase one of their unlimited mugs. With that, you could fill up as many times as you want with a variety of beverage selections. So, that completes my tour of the Art of Animation Resort at Walt Disney World.
If you are planning a family trip to Disney and looking for a value resort, I would highly recommend the Art of Animation. It is clean, spacious and will keep your kids entertained without blowing your budget.
But hey, don’t just take my word for it, you can also check out reviews and more pictures at Trip Advisor.
Oh, and if you have a question about the resort, feel free to ask it in the comments below. Hopefully I will have the answer 🙂
Walt Disney World
1850 Animation Way, Lake Buena Vista, Florida 32830
Phone: (407) 938-7000
Room Options and Rates:
- General Description
- Family Suites start at $283 per night and include: “a bedroom with one queen-size bed; one double-size convertible TableBed; one double-size sleeper sofa; living room; 2 bathrooms and a kitchenette.” The family suites sleep 6.
- Standard Rooms start at $112 per night and include: two double beds or one king bed and one full bath.
- The Cars themed rooms are all one bedroom suites and located a bit of a walk from the main building and dining hall. You do feel like you are walking right through the animated town of Radiator Springs as you head to the building’s entrance. This area also has its own pool option.
- The Nemo themed rooms are one bedroom suites but they are the closest room option to the main building and are located right next to the Big Blue pool.
- The Lion King rooms are also one bedroom suites and are located on the opposite side of the dining hall building from the Cars rooms, but are about the same walking distance.
- The Little Mermaid rooms are all standard rooms and are the furthest walk from the dining area. They do, however, have their own pool, laundry and snack facilities.
Transportation and Parking Options:
- As a guest of the hotel, self-parking is free.
- To get to and from the Orlando Airport, utilize Disney’s Magical Express bus service. There is no charge for this service, but you do need to book it in advance.
- To get to and from the hotel and other Disney property destinations (e.g. Magic Kingdom, Epcot, etc.), utilize the complimentary busing service.
- As a Disney Resort guest, you will also receive a parking pass which will allow you to park for free at any of the theme parks.
- There are three pools on the property: The Big Blue Pool located right outside Animation Hall, the Cozy Cone pool located near the Cars themed rooms, and the Flippin’ Fins pool located near the Little Mermaid themed rooms.
- The Cozy Cone pool has covered cabanas which may make them a great destination if you are traveling with an infant.
- The Big Blue Pool is the largest pool on any Disney property and it offers a lot of features. There is both a pool and spray pad area. The pool depth is not very deep (I don’t think it is over 5 feet) and offers a zero entry area (basically a sloped pool access area kind of like a beach. Perfect for the little ones.) Both the pool and spray pad have heated water.
- All pools have life vests available for use by the guests.
- All pools have life guards.
- There are also family-friendly activities held each day at the Big Blue Pool.
- There is a playscape located right behind the Big Blue Pool. It is basically a large climbing structure with built-in slides.
- Each night around 7pm, there is an opportunity to watch a Disney movie under the stars. This was a real hit with the middle and elementary school crowd.
- Inside Animation Hall, there is an arcade.
- The only dining options on property are room service, a snack bar in the Big Blue pool area, and the main dining hall, the Landscape of Flavors.
- If you are utilizing Disney’s Magical Express to get to and from the airport, make sure you affix the correct stickers to your luggage so that they will magically be taken from the airport to your hotel and vice versa.
- If you are traveling with children who still sleep in a crib, the hotel has pack n’ plays available. Usually I bring my own pack n play sheets for the kids to use, but at the hotel, the sheets have little Mickey Mouses on them which the kids loved, so don’t worry about dragging your own along.
- The entire property is very stroller friendly.
- An abundance of high chairs are available in the dining hall.
- The restrooms in the Animation Hall have baby changing stations.
- Some of the Disney parks open early or stay open late for resort guests. Make sure to find out the details when you check into your room.
- Check-out time for the resort is 11:00 am. If you want a later check-out time, make sure your ask right after you check-in. I waited too long to ask and couldn’t get a late check-out.
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