Disney Ticket Prices Just Went Up, So What Can You Do?

Disney Ticket prices went up so what can you do?

Disney recently raised their single day ticket prices for 2017 during certain times of the year. Company officials say they hope this will prevent overcrowding during the busiest times at the theme parks. So where does that leave you and your wallet? [Read more…]

Cabana Bay Beach Resort at Universal Orlando: A Cheapskate Princess Guide

Cabana Bay Cheapskate Princess Guide

Looking for a unique resort for your Orlando Vacation? Check out Cabana Bay Beach Resort, a Loew’s hotel located on site Universal Orlando Resort. Cabana Bay’s retro look will take you back to the sleek design of hotels from the the 50’s and 60’s. If you want to watch the lava from Universal’s newest theme park, waterpark Volcano Bay,  [Read more…]

Pros and Cons of Staying Off Site at Disney World

disney-offsite-pros-and-cons

Planning a Disney vacation can be very overwhelming, especially considering where to stay in Orlando with so many options for all budgets and accommodation preferences. The first step in deciding where to stay should always be asking, “Do we stay on site at a Disney Resort or do we stay off site?” There are pros and cons staying off site at Disney World, while being in the middle of the magic at Disney World is fabulous and convenient, it comes with a price. On the flip side, off site resorts not operated by Disney or located outside the Disney World property can truly make a Disney vacation thrifty budget friendly, however sometimes offsite isn’t the best option.   [Read more…]

Disney’s Art of Animation Resort: A Cheapskate Princess Guide

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Updated for 2017!

As the newest resort on Walt Disney World property, completed in 2012, the Art of Animation Resort will give you and the kids the feeling of being a character in some of your favorite Disney movies. Whether you are going under the sea with Nemo and Friends, swimming with The Little Mermaid, chilling out in Radiator Springs with Lightening McQueen and Mater, or enjoying the essence of the African savanna with Simba and his friends Timon and Pumba, Art of Animation has something for everyone of all ages.

This value resort provides the amenities and perks as other value resorts on property but can comfortablly accommodate larger families.

Compared to the other Disney value resorts, The Little Mermaid Standard Rooms are perfect for any budget. And while the Family Suites are higher priced than those found at All-Star Music Resort, your kids will definitely enjoy the adventurous feel of each differently themed area.

This list of pros and cons for Disney’s Art of Animation Resort will help you decide if this should be your next choice for your magical Disney World vacation!

Read: A Cheapskate Prince$$ Guide: Top 10 Freebies at Disney World

7996404249_d7aeb790c2_zThe Inovabed in the Lion King Suite, one of 1,120 Family Suites available at Art of Animation

Art of Animation Resort Pros:

Standard Rooms: 

The Little Mermaid Standard Rooms can accommodate up to four guests, plus one child under the age of three in a crib.

These rooms have two full beds.

Family Suites

For larger families, the Family Suites comfortably accommodate families of six.

While all rooms have a mini refrigerator, the Family Suites, also have a microwave and a kitchenette.

Family suites also have two bathrooms.

All Family Suites have three separate sleeping areas. The master bedroom has one queen, sleeper sofa with double bed, and the Inovabed that converts from a table to a double bed.

Pools:

There are three amazing heated pools; The Big Blue Pool (the largest at the resort and has an underwater soundtrack in the Finding Nemo Courtyard), Flippin’ Fins Pool (Little Mermaid courtyard), Cozy Cone Pool (Cars Courtyard).

The main pool and kids splash area have zero entry, which is perfect for little ones.

The Schoolyard is a water play area for the little ones; Squirt’s Righteous Reef Playground and The Boneyard Playground are all play areas for your little animators.

 

Read: Prisma: The FREE App You Need for Your Disney Vacation Photos

Dining

Landscape of Flavors Food Court includes five distinctive food shops – The Soup, Salad and Sandwich Shop, The World Flavors Shop, The Pizza Shop, The Burger Shop and The Market.

The Drop Off is a poolside snack bar and delivery service.

Freebies included with your Reservation

Registered guests receive free resort and theme park parking.

Registered guests receive access to Extra Magic Hours in the parks when offered.

Transportation

Airport transportation is free using Disney’s Magical Express.

Free Disney Theme Park transportation is offered via service bus every 15-20 minutes.

There is a dedicated Disney transportation bus for Art of Animation guests only, as opposed to All-Star Value Resorts which all share the same bus line.

Fun Lobby

Animation Hall Lobby houses Pixel Play Arcade as well as, an interactive, hands-on area where a Disney artist teaches guests how to animate favorite characters.

Read: Disney World’s Memory Maker: A Cheapskate Princess Guide

7320062486_45965f6fb0_zFinding Nemo Courtyard features The Big Blue Pool, The Schoolyard, Squirt’s Righteous Playground

 

Art of Animation Resort Cons:

The Little Mermaid Standard Rooms are the farthest away from Animation Hall, like all standard rooms, so at the end of your day in the parks, it can be a long walk.

Finding Nemo suites are now considered a “preferred location” which means they are more per night than Cars or The Lion King Family Suites.

There are only a few Standard Rooms available with a King Bed.

While this is value resort, the price of the themed suites are more than the Family Suites at Disney’s All-Star Music Resort.

Because this resort is a great option for families, especially larger families, it can definitely be noisier during high peak travel times.

If you are a family of five, the themed Family Suites at Art of Animation Resort are not the least expensive option on property. If are trying to stick to a tight budget, certain room which accommodate five at the moderate resorts can be more cost effective.

Read: Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival : A Cheapskate Princess Guide

102 (2)The Little Mermaid wing featuring 864 Standard Rooms

These pros and cons will help you decide if Disney’s Art of Animation Resort is the best fit for your family. My opinion is this is a great resort to try for your next Disney vacation. Whether you stay in The Little Mermaid Standard Rooms or any of the Finding Nemo, Cars or The Lion King suites, the pros outweigh the cons with this property.

With the right planning, you can avoid some of the cons of staying here. Booking with Cheapskate Princess, travel partners Destinations in Florida, an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner, can also help you decide if the Art of Animation Resort is the right fit for your desired vacation experience for your family’s needs, preferences and budget.

7996401717_0aa4d48f04_zSleeper sofa in The Lion King Suite which converts to a double bed

108 (2) (1)Queen Bed in The Lion King Master Bedroom

AOA1The Little Mermaid Flippin’ Fins Pool

AOA2 The Inovabed as a table for four in the Finding Nemo Family Suite

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The Inovabed as a table for four in the Finding Nemo Family Suite


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The 4.3 cu. ft. refrigerator and microwave in the Finding Nemo Family Suite Kitchenette

AOA5 The Master Bath in the Finding Nemo Family Suite

Art-of-Animation-Resort-040Squirt’s Righteous Reef Playground in the Finding Nemo Courtyard

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Read: Disney Springs’ Boathouse Restaurant: Tips for Dining Under $20

To see more of our Cheapskating Guides, use this link.

Erin JohnsonAre you ready for a once-in-a-lifetime vacation? Erin is your Princess Vacation Expert! Erin is a Disney College of Knowledge Graduate and Universal Orlando Specialist. Erin’s passion is helping families have a once-in-a-lifetime moments! She provides excellent customer service, attention to detail, magical milestones, and bringing families together.
Erin is ready to help you plan your next magical family vacation. Contact Erin Johnson at erin@destinationsinflorida.com or by phone at (214)697-7732 to get started! You can fill out a quote request form here. Let the magic begin!

Now let our vacation planners help you plan your trip, totally for FREE!

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Use this link for a free no obligation vacation quote from our Disney Vacation Planners with Destinations in Florida travel.

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Great Perks for your Walt Disney World Vacation at Destinations in Florida

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Animal Kingdom at Dark Debuts & More News Around the Mouse

Disney News

Like Olaf, kids are rejoicing with the arrival of summer as parents question where did the school year go? Here we are in Summer 2016 and its time to #AwakenSummer at Disney World. This week’s Disney’s Cheapskate Princess News Around the Mouse includes the debut of Animal Kingdom at dark, the return of digitally enhanced film and addition of a new theater at Epcot’s Soarin’, extended  hours and fireworks along with a preferred parking test at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the return of Sounds of Summer concerts at Epcot, Lilly Pulitzer brightening up things at Disney Springs, and Gone Mad Parties are on the Grand Floridian Resort. With so many new experiences, focusing this week on Animal Kingdom in a new light – at night!  Click here to download the whole edition to view on your computer, tablet or smart phone OR click here to watch the Around the Mouse by video.

Photo Source Disney Parks Blog, David Roark, Photographer

Photo Source Disney Parks Blog, David Roark, Photographer

Animal Kingdom has become one of my family’s favorite parks because of the shows (Flight of Wonder, Finding Nemo, Festival of the Lion King), the best quick service offerings of any of the parks in my opinion (did someone say Flame Tree BarBQue or Yak and Yeti – yum), the shady pathways, Wilderness Explorer activity and of course the animals. Animal Kingdom’s night time makeover opened this past weekend and to quote Aladdin its a whole new world. Guests will enjoy the new attractions with extended park hours and can experience favorites Expedition Everest, Kali River Rapids and Primeval Whirl as never before in the dark.

New Animal Kingdom Park experiences for Summer 2016: 

  • The Tree of Life awakening as the sun goes down -The iconic park image comes to life in a spectacular show.
  • Harambe Dance Parti – Join the party animals taking over the streets of Harambe in this street festival featuring music and acrobats.
  • Discovery Island Carnivale – Join a cavalcade of dancers, stilt walkers and musicians for a nighttime dance party in the streets of Discovery Island.
  • Kilmanjaro Sunset Safari – Explore the wilds of the Harambe Wildlife Reserve at night.
  • The Jungle Book Alive with Magic Water Show – Baloo and Mowgli’s tale comes to Discovery River each night in a water and light show, complete with Cast Members celebrating the Indian culture through choreography and music. 
  • New signature table service restaurant Tiffins  – Cuisine inspired by places that created Disney’s Animal Kingdom open for lunch and dinner. The full Menu can be viewed in the whole edition link of what’s new.
  • Nomad Lounge opens – Waterfront views offering hand crafted beers and cocktails with Asian, African and South American flavors. Small bites are also available, see the full list of what’s new for a menu.
  • Dining Packages with The Jungle Book Alive with Magic Show – Reservations can now be made for Dining Packages at both Tiffins and Tusker House which give preferred seating at The Jungle Book Alive with Magic Show. You can make Dining Package reservations online through your MyDisneyExperience account or by calling 407-WDW-Dine, Disney’s Dining Reservations number.
  • Pangani Forrest Exploration Trail name change to Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail – Only the name has changed the attraction remains the same and you can expect to see zebras, hippos and other animals along your trail trek.

Looking for news on Pandora: The World of Avatar attraction? It is set to open summer of 2017 and from what I have seen, looks, hold on to your mouse ears folks, looks to be an experience like no other! Stay tuned here for the latest news as it develops.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom, one of the largest animal theme parks in the world, is a park for all ages. Night time attractions offer new ways to experience exotic animals and exciting adventures. Whether your Disney Parks vacation is a family trip, couples trip, adults only trip, or multigenerational reunion – make Animal Kingdom a must do park on your next visit. There is truly no other park like it!

What is on your MUST DO list for Disney’s Animal Kingdom at night?   

Written by Julie Franklin  

Julie FranklinJulie Franklin is a travel agent creating family memories at Destinations In FloridaAn Authorized Disney Vacation Planner. She can plan and book your customized magical vacation anywhere at no extra cost to you. As a blogger, mom and wife of a budget traveler, Julie knows how to get the most magic for you vacation. Whether thinking of heading to the parks in Orlando, cruising, an all-inclusive resort or traveling anywhere, let Julie take the stress out of your vacation planning.

You can reach Julie at julie@destinationstoexplore.com or call her at 404 312 8099 for your free no obligation vacation quote. Tell her Cheapskate Princess sent you!

Disney World Preferred Parking: Do You Need It?

preferred parking at Disney World

Updated for 2017!

Disney World now offers a preferred parking program, allowing theme park visitors to get a closer parking spot at entrances to all four of their theme parks. Other theme parks in Orlando have charged for preferred parking for years now. (The following are updated prices as current as 2016) Regular car parking at Universal Studio’s garage is $20, with a preferred parking upgrade cost of $30(total). Universal offers valet parking ranging from $20 to $50. SeaWorld parking is $18, with a preferred parking upgrade cost of $23(total).

These are the 2017 prices for parking at Walt Disney World:

  • Preferred parking: car or motorcycle – $35 per day
  • Standard parking: car or motorcycle – $20 per day
  • Shuttle, Limo, Camper, Trailer or RV – $22 per day
  • Bus or Tractor Trailer – $25 per day

So do you need to splurge on the up-charge for closer parking or take your chances just parking in the back?

Read – Understanding Disney Park Closure Phases: A Cheapskate Princess Guide

How to Get It

By paying $15 on top of the regular parking fee, you will be allowed to pull into designed areas of currently existing Disney parking lots. Since the current parking fee for automobiles is $20, the preferred-parking total then becomes $35.

If you stay in Disney resort hotels, you have parking fees included in your room rate. You will simply need to pay $15 for the closer preferred parking place.

Parking fees are included in the cost of an annual pass.  If you are an Annual Pass holder, you will have to pay $15 for the closer preferred spots as well.

Disney World preferred parking cost

Disney preferred parking lots

Do You Need It?

How close do you need to park to the theme park entrances? Are you in rush to get there or get back home?

The first thing I would ask myself would be if there was any reason I couldn’t just park out further in the lot. I realize not everyone who has physical issues will have a handicapped sticker, so it may depend on your circumstances on the day/s you decide to pay for closer parking.

I may be a cheapskate, but I am not all that big a stranger to paying for extra vacation benefits. I have paid the up-charge to park in Universal’s preferred parking garage. While owning a perfectly good stroller, long ago I paid to rent a Disney double stroller on multiple days during multiple trips. I know if I was parking today at Magic Kingdom, I don’t have any reason to pay for an upgrade in order to cut some steps out of my day. That’s not to say I might not have reason in years to come.

Read – Understanding Disney World Bus Transportation: A Cheapskate Princess Guide

Preferred Parking cost Disney World

The current trend in Disney vacationing is to pay for upgrades and extras. Extra time in the parks, special parties and t-shirts, and now closer parking may one day be on your list of Disney World extravagances. I sure hope it’s not on MY list anytime soon, but I try to never say never. On the day I need to pay for the parking upgrade, I may have to pull out my toll road roll of quarters and hope for the best. 

If you do a lot of walking in the heat of the day, you certainly may need this information:

How to Beat the Disney Rash!

 

Thanks for stopping by, and we’ll see you debating the merits of closer parking…

To see more of our Cheapskating Guides, use this link.

Amanda Major Cheapskate Princess

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Disney’s Cheapskate Princess

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Now let our vacation planners help you plan your trip, totally for FREE!

Earn $20 Rewards for Vacation Referrals!

Use this link for a free no obligation vacation quote from Elizabeth and Julie, our Disney Vacation Planners with Destinations in Florida travel.

You can also e-mail them at cp@destinationsinflorida.com.

Great Perks for your Walt Disney World Vacation at Destinations in Florida

Amanda Major CheapskatePrincess.comAmanda Major is the creator of cheapskateprincess.com. She remembers her first visit to Magic Kingdom like it was yesterday, because she had a ham sandwich tucked in her shorts pocket. The whole family snuck in their lunch; you can’t make that kinda stuff up. 40 years worth of trips to Orlando later, she is still trying to save money on vacations.

Amanda is a Disney Vacation Club Member and Annual Pass holder. Her amazing husband, band director Carl Major, plus three teen children and two dogs keep her busy. Amanda teaches Leadership to high school seniors in the almost-coastal town of Foley, Alabama. Read about her cheapskating local vacations with this link. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, walking somewhere, or paddling a kayak. Life is indeed a blast. 

We hope we can help save you some money too. Use this link for a free no obligation vacation quote from our Princess Travel Experts with Destinations in Florida travel, Elizabeth and Julie. You can also e-mail them at cp@destinationsinflorida.com.

30 Free Activities at Disney’s Contemporary Resort: A Cheapskate Princess Guide

Free activities at Disney's Contemporary Resort

Updated for 2016!

Along with Polynesian Village Resort, the Contemporary Resort is one of Walt Disney World’s two original hotels. The building was constructed with modular components, meaning the rooms were built off-site and hoisted by crane into place once the hotel structure was built, although later refurbishments locked everything permanently in position.  The main 15-story tall Contemporary Tower was constructed as an A-frame; the outer walls slope inwards around an inside atrium. This design was a collaboration by the United States Steel Corporation, California architect Welton Becket, and Walt Disney himself. 

What stands out with the Contemporary Resort? It’s located right next door to the world-famous Magic Kingdom. Oh, and there is a monorail that zips through the building, like literally goes through the building. That’s two things your average hotel can’t boast about. Here’s another bit of trivia: the original name of the Contemporary was the Tempo Bay Resort Hotel.

Almost 130 FREE Walt Disney World Resort Activities!

what can I d for free at Disney World Contemporary Resort

If you stay at this resort or you “Disney Resort Hop,” which means you visit Disney Resorts as a guest for a few hours, what is there to do for FREE at the Contemporary? A lot, both inside and out.  If a free activity requires a room key, called a Key to the World card/Magic Band, we will indicate that in blue. So get ready for our guide to over 30 free activities at Disney’s Contemporary Resort.

Outside

1. Mickey Topiary 

Topiary gardening, where living plants are fashioned into decorative forms, has been practiced for centuries. Behind the Contemporary, just before you reach the pool and the marina areas, is a fantastic Mickey Mouse topiary, just right for a photo. If you snap one every year, you can see how fast your children are growing. 

take a photo by teh Mickey Mouse topiary at the Contemporary Resort

2. Mickey Statue

Just to the left of the Mickey topiary is a metal Mickey Mouse ears statue, and seated up top is a metal Mickey. Adventurous kids climb on it, as do older teens, while taller people usually just stand in front. If Cast Members see you on the statue, (ask me how I know,) you will be kindly asked to just to stand in front.

With a parent close by, smaller children could sit in the ears. This statue is taller than it appears in this photo.

What Are the 5 Worst Times to Vacation at Walt Disney World?

metal Mickey Mouse at Disney's Contemporary Resort

3. Volleyball

Enjoy a friendly beach volleyball match on the lakeside court. Complimentary volleyballs can be checked out at the Boat Nook Marina with your MagicBand/ Key to the World card.

volleyball at the contemporary resort in Orlando

4. Jogging Trails 

A jogging path loops around Bay Lake Tower and the Contemporary South Garden Wing for a just-under-1-mile run, or in my case, a brisk walk. Your feet may already be tired from walking through theme parks, but this is a fantastic way to see the entirety of both resorts from a much more up-close view than simply looking out the window from the lobby.

Contemporary Resort vacation jogging trails

5. Go Visit other Resorts

Disney has an “open resort policy” where you don’t have to be staying at the resort to go visit, which we referred to earlier as “Resort Hopping.” This would be a great time to determine what section of the property you might like to make reservations for on your next trip. You can inquire at the front desk about rates and current discounts. It’s more pricey to stay in the main A-frame building than to stay in the Garden Wing rooms. 

Hop a boat to the Magic Kingdom, and with one more boat transfer, you can be at the Polynesian Village or the Grand Floridian resorts, and a different boat takes you to Wilderness Lodge and Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground. Check the time schedule with the front desk, but the usual posted hours for these boats are 6:55 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. We have a whole series of guides for free activities at resorts close to the Contemporary, 

ride to Wilderness from Contemporary Resort

6. Wishes Viewing 

You can watch the Magic Kingdom Wishes fireworks from a balcony outside the Grand Canyon Concourse level, just in front of the Fantasia Gift Shop. Get here early for a good spot, because at night, this area is pretty busy with watchers. Once the fireworks are finished, it’s nice to sit here and watch the monorail sail quietly over your head inside the building. You’ll see two different monorails going two different directions, all leading ventrally back to the Magic Kingdom.

You can also see Wishes from the sidewalk between the Contemporary and Bay Lake Tower.  There is a nice breeze here on most nights, as well as out in front of the Contemporary Resort. The lower you are, obviously, the more trees may obstruct your view.  A better plan is to Resort Hop over to the Polynesian Resort and watch Wishes from the beach.

23 FREE Activities at Downtown Disney!

wishes viewing at Contemporary Resort

7. Park for Free

Parking is free while you visit the Disney resorts, with the understanding that this is for a maximum of about three hours. But this one is a little tricky, because you are not allowed to park at the Contemporary throughout the really busy times of year, which “busy” now can describe most of the year. Imagine how many people would park here if they were allowed, simply to walk over to the Magic Kingdom. 

Your best bet, if you are not visiting before or after you enjoy a meal here, is to ride the monorail over or walk over from the Magic Kingdom. You are allowed to park for free with dining reservations, but remember you are required to give your credit card number to hold your reservation. Ditching your reservation just to park for free would be counterproductive with this suggestion. 

10 Things They Forgot to Mention About Walt Disney World Vacations

8. Fireside Marshmallows

Camp fires are held at resorts that offer free marshmallows and roasting sticks for resort guests. Complimentary campfire activities can be found at 14 locations at the Walt Disney World Resort; the Contemporary shares a fire pit with Bay Lake Tower, very close to the shores of Bay Lake.

marshmallow fires at Disney World

9. See a Movie Under the Stars

Come for the campfire and then stay for a movie. Take in one of the many free “Movies Under the Stars” outdoor movies at the WDW resorts following the campfires. A huge screen is blown up for nightly movies outside, although this can depend on weather.  At some resorts, you will need to bring a towel or blanket to sit on, and at others, they provide chairs. The Contemporary offers chairs and towels.

Movies and entertainment are subject to cancellation or change without notice. For movie schedules, call 407- WDW-PLAY or 407- 939-7529.

how to see outdoor movies at Disney World

What Items Can You NOT Bring to Walt Disney World Theme Parks?

10. Night Time Water Parade 

Visit the Polynesian, Grand Floridian, Wilderness Lodge, Ft. Wilderness, or the Contemporary Resort to catch a glimpse of the nightly water show, The Electrical Water Pageant. This water light-parade was created in 1971 for the dedication of Disney’s Polynesian Resort. Scheduled to run just that one time only, popularity has kept it playing each night for all these years. Approximate show times are:

  • Polynesian Resort, 9:00 p.m.
  • Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, 9:15 p.m
  • Wilderness Lodge, 9:30 p.m.
  • Fort Wilderness Campground, 9:45 p.m.
  • Contemporary Resort 10:00p.m.

11. Take an Outdoor Seat

This may not be the best idea from May until September when the weather is pretty hot, but there is wonderful seating outside by the marina, which feels especially nice on a cool spring or fall day with a light breeze blowing off the water. You will hear the sounds of the boat whistles echoing off Bay Lake. There are benches in the shade of trees or tables with umbrella canopies just perfect for a picnic you bring yourself.

Bathrooms and a water fountain are close by outside for your convenience.

The Top 20 Best Disney Restaurants, So Says the Fans!

take a seat out by Disney's Contemporary Resort marina

12. Have a Picnic

Saving some money by providing your own meals? As we just mentioned above, there is seating by the marina with umbrellas to block the sun. It’s lovely being between two Disney Resorts, the Contemporary and Bay Lake Tower, and lots of people will pass by as they make their way to the boats headed to Wilderness Lodge/ Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground and the Magic Kingdom.

You could hop a boat when you finish your meal.

where to picnic at the Contemporary Resort

13. Outdoor Viewing Deck

The outdoor viewing deck we mentioned earlier on the Grand Canyon Concourse level, with the great benches to see Wishes, also would make a nice place for a picnic. It’s hard to get much closer to a monorail unless you are climbing in one.

This is a designated smoking area, just so you are informed.

Can a Disney Princess Afford to Stay at the Contemporary Resort at Christmas?

Monorail viewing at Disney's Contemporary Resort

14. See the Christmas Tree

Will you be visiting the Contemporary Resort during the Christmas season? Don’t miss the 70-foot-tall Christmas tree at the resort’s main lobby entrance, featuring nearly 36,000 white LED lights. Kids love to stand beside this tree in amazement of how big it is, and you’ll be impressed by the size as well.

Christmas tree in front of Disney's Contemporary Resort hotel

Ready for Christmas at Disney? You May Need Some Advice…

 

Inside

Window shopping is a great “activity” at the Disney Resorts, and given your propensity to touch fabrics and metals, you could easily spend an hour in the Contemporary’s three gift shops just admiring the goods. You can always do some actual shopping, but looking is free!

15. Bayview Gifts 

Located right in front of the Contemporary escalator and across from the Fantasia Gift Shop is Bay View Gifts (BVG.) You can pick up chocolate treats like fudge and cookies, plus items for the home, picture frames, art work, and Christmas decorations. BVG also sells clothing for men, women, and children, plus watches and other assorted jewelry. Merchandise prices here vary from $8 for key chains to thousands of dollars for 14k gold jewelry.

window shop at Bay Lake Gifts at the Contemporary Resort

16. Fantasia 

You know you reached the Fantasia Gift Shop when you see either of two metal Mickey shapes situated at either end of the shop. Fantasia is definitely a shop more designed for children, carrying Disney character merchandise, Star Wars toys, and an entire wall of trading pins. You can frequently trade pins here on a board they place near the cash registers.

The Best of the Best Disney World Shopping Guide

Fantasia Gift Shop at Contemporary Resort

17. Fantasia Market 

Located next door to the game room on the Grand Canyon Concourse, across from Fantasia, Fantasia Market offers a variety of reading material like newspapers and magazines. For those seeking adult beverages, there is wine and beer available, plus a multitude of refrigerated items like milk, frozen dinners, and ice cream. If you want to make some meals without the luxury of a kitchen, pick up items here for sandwiches or grab canned foods. This is the gift shop to find health and beauty items.

Are you seeking DVC merchandise? This is where you will find authentic DVC shirts, jackets, key chains, plus other items that change occasionally.

Fantasia Market at Disney World's Contemporary market

18. Check Out Chef Mickey’s

Chef Mickey’s is one of Disney World’s most popular all-you-care-to-eat buffets. As monorails zips through the building, Disney Characters like Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Donald and Goofy mingle for photos and autographs, leading diners in songs and dancing. This would be a good time to scout out the eatery, to decide if this is where you would like to schedule dining reservations. Chef Mickey’s is more pricey than the Contempo Cafe, by almost triple or more for adults, so it’s a good idea to know what you are walking into.

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Chef Mickey's restaurant at the Contemporary Resort

19. Sit in the Outer Rim

Located just next to Chef Mickey’s, the Outer Rim offers stunning views of Bay Lake from almost floor to ceiling windows. You can enjoy specialty cocktails before—or after—dinner. A full bar menu is available, with suggested drinks including a Piña CoLAVA, Red Stag Lemonade, and a Blue “Glow-tini.”  The seating is relatively comfortable, offering excellent views of the monorail and the massive Mary Blair mural, plus you are steps away from a Disney Vacation Club kiosk, should you be curious to pick up some DVC information. Bay View Gifts is just to your right.

sit by Chef Mickey's in the lobby

20. Ride the Monorail

How often do you get to ride a monorail where you live? The answer for me is a big huge never. Riding the monorail is free, but it can be crowded at certain times, like when everyone is trying to escape the summer heat of mid-day or during holidays. The monorail is a lovely way to see the sights of the Seven Seas Lagoon from up in the air while you ride surrounded in air-conditioning.*

*Unfortunate note: sometimes the monorail can get a bit hot, depending on the season and crowd levels, which can be rough if you have claustrophobic tendencies.

The Ultimate Tinker Bell Gift Guide for a Disney Vacation

monorails go through Contemporary Resort

21. Simply Take a Seat

We just mentioned the nice seating outside by the marina. Disney’s Contemporary Resort Convention Center features state-of-the-art audio and video equipment, full catering services and 115,000 square feet of event and meeting space, which won’t affect most of you in any way. But there is seating aplenty for convention breaks on the 2nd floor, just below the Grand Canyon Concourse and above the lobby area where guest check in. 

Let me tell you from personal experience, having waited on our room to be ready here for over an hour, these couches are perfect for a short nap. There is Wifi available here as well, also for FREE!

sitting areas at Disney's Contemporary Resort

 22. Bathroom Break

I don’t normally mention resort bathrooms in particular, but on the second floor with the couches, you will find some really nice bathrooms.  Unlike the busy upstairs bathrooms underneath the monorail loading area, this 2nd floor restroom is roomy, quiet, and especially clean. Sometimes it’s nice to have a little peace and quiet! 

How Many Miles Will You Walk on Vacation in the Disney Parks?

nice bathrooms at Disney World Contemporary Resort23. The Mural

Disney legend Mary Blair graduated from the Chouinard Art Institute of Los Angeles.  In 1940, she went to work for Walt Disney, helping craft movies like Cinderella, Song of the South, Alice in Wonderland, and Peter Pan. Blair finished a 90-foot-high mural for the Contemporary Resort in 1971, which was completed in time for the resort’s opening.

You can view the mural from all four directions on the Contemporary’s Grand Canyon Concourse level. Featuring animals, birds, flowers, and American Indian children, the mural consists of 18,000 hand-painted tiles. You will find Blair’s name on the tiles just as you enter the Contempo Cafe.

Mary Blair tile mural at the Contemporary Resort

24. Hear a Concert

During the Christmas Holidays, you can hear the sounds of the season when choirs sing holiday favorites just outside of Fantasia Gift Shop. Hang out for the full concert, or just catch a tune or two as you wait for the monorail, because the songs reverberate all over the massive lobby.

Perhaps the Most Amazing Disney World Resort Ever? The New Four Seasons Resort Orlando

27. Attend a Church Service 

The Contemporary Resort has hosted religious services for Christmas Day in the Fantasia Ballroom. Catholic Mass was held at 8 a.m. and 10:15 a.m. and a Protestant Service at was held at 9 a.m. Our suggestion is to call Guest Services to see if they are hosting a holiday church service before you waste a trip just for this activity.

26. Lobby Cartoons

While you look at the fine detailing of the hotel lobby on the first floor, there is a television playing older Disney cartoons just for the children. If your kids are tired of walking while you resort hop and need a break, tell them to have a seat. This is also a nice child distraction area while the adults check in after a long drive or flight.

FREE Entertainment in Orlando? You have Simply GOT to Visit The Mall at Millenia!

children's lobby television at the Contemporary Resort

 27. Locate Hidden Mickeys

So this Mickey is not exactly subtle or hidden, but you get the point. Where is this? This Mickey is found on the Contempo Cafe chairs on the Grand Canyon Concourse, just outside Chef Mickey’s buffet.

If you would like to see a list of Hidden Mickeys before you arrive, use this link to visit Hidden Mickey’s.org. 

Hidden Mickeys at the Contemporary Resort

28. Gingerbread Tree

During the holidays, a 17 foot gingerbread tree is erected on the 4th floor Grand Canyon Concourse. Inspired by the art of Disney’s Mary Blair, who we just mentioned designed the large four-sided mural, the tree is created with an amazing amount of ingredients.

  • 136 lbs honey
  • 211 lbs flour
  • 101 eggs
  • 27 lbs spices
  • 15 lbs sugar syrup
  • 98 lbs icing
  • 151 lbs of chocolate

The tree features over 2,000 gingerbread shingles, with enough space to hide a reported 15 hidden Mickeys. There are gingerbread holiday treats available for purchase, and while the merchandise can vary from year to year, you may find a five-legged Rice Krispy goat, a holiday cupcake with a hidden Mickey inside, monorail sugar cookies, gingerbread shingles, a gingerbread boy, lollypops, and holiday citrus bread.

The tree took on a “Frozen” movie theme in 2014, but when the newness of the Frozen movies wears off, they may go back to the other traditional tree.

29. Gingerbread Pin Signings

By the gingerbread tree in years past, visitors have been offered opportunities to meet the Disney chefs behind some of Walt Disney World’s best holiday gingerbread creations.

Call Guest Services to see if they are hosting this event before you waste a trip just for this activity.

When Should You Tell the Kids About A Disney Vacation?

Mary Blair Christmas tree Small World at the Contemporary Resort

We lost two free activities off our list since this article was published back in 2014, the butterfly garden and the giant Mickey shaped Christmas wreath. If these activities show up again, we’ll update out list.

You might need this information for your resort visit.

4600 North World Drive
Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830-1000
Telephone: (407) 824-1000
Fax: (407) 824-3539

If you are interested in other free activities, this link contains all the freebie details.

The Ultimate Walt Disney World FREEbie Guide: Over 119 Free Vacation Items and Activities

To see more of our Cheapskating Guidesuse this link.

 Thanks for stopping by. If you ever walked around a Disney Deluxe resort and wished you were checking in, only to drive back to your Value Resort and be a bit financially relieved you saved your money, you just might be a Cheapskate Princess!

 

Now let our vacation planner help you plan your trip, totally for FREE!

Earn $20 Rewards for Vacation Referrals!

Erin Johnson, our Cheapskate Princess Travel Agent

Erin Johnson, our Cheapskate Princess Travel Agent

Use this link for a free no obligation vacation quote from  Erin, our Disney Vacation Planner with Destinations in Florida travel.  She offers promotions like Disney Trading Pin sets, autograph books, and free Mickey Mouse ear hats for kids under age 17.  We know our readers love free…

Give Erin a call at 214-697-7732, or send an e-mail to erin @ destinationsinflorida.com.

Great Perks for your Walt Disney World Vacation at Destinations in Florida

 

Disney World Food Tip #9: Why You Should Share Dessert

Everywhere you look at Disney World, you will be surrounded by incredible sweet snacks and desserts. They are inescapable on Main Street, U.S.A, restaurants, Goofy’s Candy Co. at Downtown Disney, and now there are even dessert cases in the resort gift shops. I joke that you cannot walk more than about 100 feet without running into something with sugar as a main ingredient.

But man oh man, you have to see those desserts. Chocolate-covered caramel apples, brownies, ice cream sundaes, Dole Whips, tropical icees, pastries, turnovers… the list just never ends. [Read more…]

Disney World Food Tip #1: When to Schedule Table Service Meals to Save Money

Updated for 2017!

Headed to Walt Disney World? Chances are, you have several special restaurants you want to visit for a memorable meal. Table service meals, where a Cast Member brings food or drinks directly to your table, are a great way to add to your Disney dining experience, but it doesn’t come cheap. Table service meals are more expensive than counter service meals, sometimes by a rather large amount, and that’s before you even add in the tip. For what you will pay for a table service steak surrounded by fantastic architecture and soft lighting at Le Cellier, I could buy three hamburgers meals, with fries and a drink, at a counter service restaurant like Cosmic Rays, ambient sounds provided by an audioanimatronic space alien. Steak for me or hamburgers for three members of my family?

[Read more…]

Save Money on Food at Walt Disney World: A Cheapskate Princess Guide

save money at Disney World and Disneyland on Food
Updated July 2017!
 
If you ever ate half a Disney kid’s meal for lunch to save money for a character meal for dinner, then you just might be a Cheapskate Princess!

You will need to bring an empty stomach and a full wallet to Walt Disney World. Tickets, accommodations, food, travel costs, and souvenirs will all set you back a pretty penny. We are always on the lookout for ways to save you money both for and during your long-awaited Disney vacation.  Here’s our guide to a multitude of ways to save some cash on your next vacation, even if it’s not exactly your first time to see the Mouse. [Read more…]

2015 Beach Princess: Spring Breakin’ It at Martinique in Gulf Shores, Alabama

Martinique Blue Lagoon house rentalApril 2015

Martinique on the Gulf is a beach community on the Fort Morgan peninsula on the western side of Gulf Shores, Alabama. This resort offers private beach vacation rental homes and affordable luxury condos. [Read more…]