Monday, February 22, 2010

Pin Trading - Gear for trading

Once you decide to start trading pins, you'll need some gear to help you carry them in the parks. The easiest solution is to buy a lanyard that you wear around your neck. These come in many colors, styles and themes. They can be purchased at the Disney store, in the parks, at stores like Walmart, off the internet, or on Ebay. Some lanyards have a place to hang a lanyard medal at the bottom. A lanyard medal is like a giant pin. Some have a place to hang keys or other small items. My favorite has a small, zippered pouch that I use to store my ID, park tickets, and fast passes. It's great to have the tickets and fast passes in a place that's very easy to get at.

If you don't want the weight of a lanyard hanging around your neck or worry that you may lose pins this way, consider a pin bag. Pin bags come is several sizes, styles, colors, and themes. There are small bags that hold 10-20 pins and large bags that will hold up to 100. It just depends on how much you want to carry. Keep in mind that the more pins you carry, the more weight you will be carrying. For kids, I would recommend a lanyard or very small bag that clips onto a belt or has an across-the-body strap. They probably won't want to carry them all day, but the smaller bags and lanyards can easily be put into a backpack.

So, now that you've decided to start trading, pick a theme, find a lanyard, get out there and have FUN!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Pin Trading - Managing your collection

© Disney
Once you get started pin trading, you will probably have a collection of keepers that grows fairly quickly. Now you have to decide how to keep track of all those pins. How many pins are in a set? Which sets do you have? Which sets are you missing a few from? What do the missing pins look like? The answers to these questions can be found on several websites. 

 Disney's Official Pin Trading website lists all new and soon to be released pins and has good information with pictures of each pin. They also have a few printables to keep track of your cast lanyard collection, pins that can only be obtained by trading with cast members. 

Another great website, called Pin Pics, allows you to not only gather information about each pin, but create a profile that allows you to keep track of which pins you own, which pins you are still looking for, and, if you want, which pins you are willing to trade with other Pin Pics members. I don't trade over the internet, but I do use Pin Pics to keep track of my pin collection. Each pin has a photo and information about the original price, where it was available, rarity, and more. It is a great way to determine whether a pin is worth bidding on on Ebay, too. When you know the original price, you will know how much to bid without paying too much. (I usually don't bid more than 50% of the original price if purchasing from Ebay.) 

A great source of information about pins is Dizpins. They update their information frequently and always seem to know the latest pin news. Now you can easily keep track of your collection and keep up to date on the latest pin news as well.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Pin Trading - Getting Started


In the last few years, I have come to love collecting pins. At first, I didn't understand what all the excitement was about. But now, I love the added adventure of looking for that perfect pin to trade for.

I purchased my first pins off of Ebay. While many collectors complain that you can't guarantee the authenticity of such pins, I've found a few reputable sellers to buy from and haven't had any problems. The great thing about buying off of Ebay is that you can often get pins for $1.50 -$2.00, much less than the $6.50 and up that you would pay in the parks. I generally don't worry about which pins I get when buying from Ebay, after all, you can always trade for what you really want once you get to the parks.

I have several collections of pins that I have put into frames to decorate my home. I love Pirates of the Caribbean and have a frame that has pins surrounding a lithograph of a pirate ship. I also love the Haunted Mansion and have a set of pins surrounding a postcard of the Mansion. It's a fun way to display your collection. For extra pins that I haven't decided where to display yet, I keep them in a soft book with felt pages. Disney sells pin trading bags and books, but they can be a bit pricey, so I made mine. It keeps my pins safe and allows me to look through them quickly and easily.

Once your collection begins to grow, you'll probably want to go through your pins periodically and see if one that you had to have before is now one you'd like to replace with something new. New pins are coming out all the time, so there's always a new set to start collecting. My family likes to trade with cast members exclusively. While some Disney guests will trade with you also, the ones I've met just want my best pins without offering anything good in return. As a result, I just stick to the cast members, who will trade you any pin on their lanyard. You can trade 2 pins with each cast member, each day. This is great for those times when you see more than one pin that you just can't live without. I've gotten some really great, and sometimes rare, pins from cast members. They are a lot of fun to talk to and always willing to trade. Some only trade with children, which is great for the kids, but most will trade with anyone. My niece loves looking at all of the pins and trading with nearly every cast member we talk to, so her collection is ever-changing. She enjoys searching for Princess pins, and pins from her favorite Disney cartoons.

Pin trading is a lot of fun and can be very entertaining. After all, the search for that one perfect pin is a grand adventure. So, get yourself a lanyard and a few pins to get started and get out there, and let the games begin!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Photo of the Week


Every week, I will pick one photo taken by my family on a Disney World trip. This weeks photo of the week comes from The Seas with Nemo and Friends at EPCOT. After riding through on a clammobile, my niece loves to go to the shark room and play with the sharks. There are several little stations for kids to learn about sharks and our oceans. All three of the sharks from Finding Nemo can be found in this room. Kids of all ages like to climb inside Bruce's mouth and wave to the people on the other side. It's quite funny.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Happy President's Day!


I hope everyone has a fantastic President's Day! Enjoy the day off and have a little fun with the kids. I would recommend some crafting using ideas from Family Fun, a Disney owned family magazine and website. Check out the Presidential Portrait game featuring Abe Lincoln or the Rescue Flat George game. Try making cherry pie and Lincoln log cake, a chocolate roll up cake. Talk about the Presidents and above all, Have Fun!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Outlet Store vs. Park, or How to buy the cool stuff without spending a fortune

I love going to Disney World and strolling through the shops browsing for fun new items to add to my ever-growing Disney collection. However, unless you find a rare sale or clearance item, you can end up spending a small fortune. A few years ago, I heard about the three Disney outlet stores located near Disney World. One, Character Outlet, is fairly small and sells both Disney and Universal Studios merchandise at a decent discount. There are two that sell all Disney items and are licensed Disney stores. Disney's Character Premiere, has several items that are discounted 50% or more, but also a lot of items that are regular price. The last store, Character Warehouse, sells items removed from the parks to make way for new merchandise, at a steep discount. This is our favorite Disney store. We've purchased a lot of fun items there at a great price. They have had everything from toys to Pal Mickey costumes, to t-shirts from Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party and EPCOT's Food and Wine Festival, all for 50-70% off. They usually have a wide selection and a wide variety of price ranges, with something to suit everyone. We've purchased pins there for $4 or less, picture frames from Tower of Terror ($1) and Star Tours ($5 and it even lights up!), scrapbooking items for 75% off the original price, and a ton more. This store also gives stickers to kids that come in, just like the stickers given out in the parks. It's a little farther from the parks than the others, but offers the best value.

One of the best ways to save money at Disney, is to buy your souvenirs from an outlet store at some time during your trip. Because we usually drive down, we drive right past our favorite store on the way to the parks. As a result, we like to stop BEFORE going into the parks and pick out a few new things. We always budget for souvenirs and allow Bean to pick out a new toy and accessories at Character Warehouse, then don't purchase much in the parks. She usually gets more this way for the same amount of money that we would have spent in the parks. Also, this means that she has something new and exciting before we even get to the parks and so she's less likely to fall in love with something in the parks. If you want to go to the parks first and are spending several days, you still may want to check out the selection at the outlets at some point during your trip. We have often found the same or similar items from the parks in the outlets at a much lower price. It's a fantastic way to save money and still make the kids very happy.

If you would like to visit the outlets, here are the addresses.
Disney's Character Warehouse
Pr1me Outlets International, Suite #95

Mon-Sat 10AM-11PM, Sun 10AM-9PM
4951 International Drive, Orlando, FL 32819
(407)354-3255

Disney's Character Premiere - Suite #1252
Mon-Sat 10AM-10PM, Sun 10AM-9PM
8200 Vineland Avenue, Orlando, FL 32821
(407)477-0222

Character Outlet - Lake Buena Vista Factory Stores
Mon-Sat 10AM-9PM, Sun 10AM-7PM
15629 Apopka Vineland Road, Orlando, FL 32821
(407)238-9301
charout@embarqmail.com

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Autographs - An Adventure in Collecting, Part 5 EPCOT

EPCOT is a great place to collect autographs. The lines are generally short and there are many opportunities to meet characters at this park. There are a few character Meet'n'Greets in Future World and several in the World Showcase. And if you're a Disney Visa cardholder, don't forget to take advantage of the special Meet'n'Greet in Innoventions. Not only will your family get a private session with some of the characters, but you'll also receive a free 5x7 photo from the session.

Characters that can be seen on normal days:
Mickey & Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, Pluto
Chip & Dale
Aladdin, Jasmine, Genie*
Alice
Mary Poppins
Mulan*, Mushu*
Belle, Beast*
Snow White, Dopey
Winnie the Pooh, Eeyore, Tigger, Piglet

Characters that are sometimes available:
Governor Radcliffe
Marie
Baloo
Donald Duck in 3 Caballero's clothes*, Jose Carioca*

* = only at this park

There are also some special event characters that you can meet at Christmas, only at EPCOT, and sometimes they do sign autographs. They also tell stories about the winter customs of their countries. The stories are very interesting and help children learn about other culture's customs without realizing they are learning. I would recommend getting to each storytelling early and standing as near the front as possible. Depending on when you go, you may be the only family waiting for a storyteller, and you may be chosen to help with the story. (Bean was chosen to help La Befana by holding her broom!)

The special Christmas storytellers are:
Nowell the Lumberjack (Canada)
Father Christmas (United Kingdom)
Pere Noel (France)
Taarji (Morocco)
Daruma Doll Seller (Japan)
Santa & Mrs. Claus (American Adventure)
Hanukkah (American Adventure)
Imani (American Adventure - Kwanzaa)
La Befana (Italy)
Helga & the Nutcracker (Germany)
Monkey King (China)
Sigrid & Julenissen (Norway)
Los Tres Reyes Magos (Mexico)

Monday, February 8, 2010

Autographs - An Adventure in Collecting, Part 4 Animal Kingdom

Collecting autographs at Animal Kingdom is a lot of fun. At this park, most of the characters, quite appropriately, are animals. This has been one of our favorite places to meet characters because the lines are usually very short. Often, we've had to wait one minute or less. Sometimes we just get to walk right up to the characters with no waiting. When traveling with impatient kids, that's a real bonus. At Animal Kingdom, there are several places to meet characters. Several are available right after you enter the gate, and there are always characters at Camp Minnie-Mickey.

Characters that can be seen on normal days:
Mickey & Minnie Mouse, Donald & Daisy Duck, Goofy, Pluto
Chip & Dale
Baloo, King Louie
Winnie the Pooh, Eeyore, Piglet, Tigger
Lilo & Stitch
Flik
Pocahontas, Governor Radcliffe, Meeko
Rafiki, Timon
Terk
Jiminy Cricket

Characters that are sometimes available:
Koda* & Kenai*
Brer Bear & Brer Rabbit
Thumper* & Miss Bunny*
Princess Atta*

* = only available at this park
Tomorrow, last but not least, EPCOT!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Autographs - An Adventure in Collecting, Part 3 Hollywood Studios

There are many opportunities to collect autographs at Disney's Hollywood Studios. For some characters, this is the only park where you can meet them for photos and autographs. The lines in this park are generally shorter than at the Magic Kingdom. At Hollywood Studios, I would recommend seeing Prince Caspian, the Incredibles, Playhouse Disney characters if you have little kids who enjoy the shows, Lightning McQueen & Mater, Mike & Sully, and the characters from UP. I haven't been to the Star Wars weekends yet, but I've heard that there are a lot of great characters to meet at these special events, as well as some of the actors who performed the roles in the movies. Most of the characters at Hollywood Studios are in special, themed areas specific to the character and are available throughout the day. Then there are rotating characters at the Magic of Animation building. These characters vary and may change multiple times throughout the day. As a result, you never know who you're going to get, but that can be fun if you have the time.

Characters that can be seen on normal days:
Mickey & Minnie Mouse, Sorceror Mickey, Donald Duck, Goofy, Pluto
Chip & Dale
Buzz Lightyear, Woody, Green Army Man*
Prince Caspian*
Power Rangers Green*, Yellow*, Pink*, and more*
Elastigirl*, Mr. Incredible*, Frozone*
Genie
Playhouse Disney: Handy Manny*, Jojo & Goliath*, Annie*, Quincy*, Leo* & June*
Indiana Jones* & Marion* (after the stunt show)
Lightning McQueen* & Mater* (they can't sign autographs because they don't have hands!)
Mike Wazowski* & Sully* (they can't sign autographs because Roz won't allow extra paperwork!)
Russell*, Mr. Fredrickson (Carl)*, and Dug* from UP

Characters that are sometimes available:
Belle
Mulan
Mary Poppins & Bert, Penguin
Villains: Captain Hook & Mr. Smee, Cruella DeVille, Frollo, Governor Radcliffe, Jafar, Prince John, the Sheriff of Nottingham, Queen of Hearts, the Snow Queen, Evil Queen
Tweedle Dum & Tweedle Dee, the White Rabbit
Rafiki
Snow White & Dopey
Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore
Pinocchio, Gepetto
Lilo & Stitch
Max
Pocahontas & Meeko
Suzy & Perla (the Mice from Cinderella)
Marie

Characters that are only found during Star Wars Weekends:
Chewbacca*, Ewoks*, R2-D2*, Jawas*
Darth Vader*, Boba Fett*, Stormtroopers*, Darth Maul*, Clone Troopers*
Jedi Mickey*, Stormtrooper Donald*, Vader Goofy*, Leia Minnie*

* = only available at this park
Tomorrow, on to Animal Kingdom.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Autographs - An Adventure in Collecting, Part 2 - Magic Kingdom


When collecting autographs at Disney World, there are several ways to go about it. The first time I went to Disney World, I got the autograph of every character that had a fairly short line. That worked fairly well, but the next time I went, I wanted to try for different autographs. I would like to eventually collect one from every character, but that takes a bit of planning and a lot of time spent waiting in line.

When starting your autograph collection, it's a good idea to hit some of the spots where characters are always available. At the Magic Kingdom, I would recommend Mickey in the Judges Tent in Toontown and the Princesses in the Toontown Hall of Fame. The Fairies are also in the Toontown Hall of Fame, but often have a wait of up to 1 hour. However, with Toontown closing sometime this year to make way for the new Fantasyland expansion, these locations will probably change.

As you walk around the park, you will probably see lines for characters at what seem to be random locations. Many of the characters are available at the front of the park, just after walking under the railroad station. Sometimes, you will be able to meet unexpected characters here, such as mice from Cinderella, Pinocchio & Gepetto, Mary Poppins & Penguins, and others.

With a little planning, kids should be able to narrow down a list of which characters they absolutely have to see. I would suggest only visiting characters at Magic Kingdom which can't be found at other parks. If you plan to visit all four parks during your stay, there's no reason to try to meet all of the characters at the Magic Kingdom as the lines for characters are usually shorter at the other parks. For the Magic Kingdom, I would recommend the Princesses, Buzz Lightyear, Stitch (although he can also be found at Animal Kingdom), and Mickey. If you can catch them, try to see Tweedle Dum & Tweedle Dee, the Mad Hatter, and Alice near the Teacups.

At certain times of the year, additional characters can be spotted at the Magic Kingdom. During Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party, in addition to Mickey and the gang sporting Halloween costumes, you can meet the Queen of Hearts, White Rabbit, Playing Cards, and more from Alice in Wonderland. Sometimes, you can even meet all 7 Dwarfs at the same time, a real rarity. At Christmas, Scrooge McDuck can often be found near his nephew Donald's Tree Lot and Mickey and the gang often sport winter garb, which is fun to photograph.

Characters that can be seen at the Magic Kingdom on normal days:
Mickey & Minnie Mouse, Donald & Daisy Duck, Goofy, Pluto
Chip & Dale
Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore, Piglet, Darby* (from the new Tigger & Pooh Super Sleuths)
Lilo & Stitch
Buzz Lightyear, Jessie*, Woody
Cinderella, the Mice Suzy & Perla, the Fairy Godmother*, Lady Tremaine*, Drisella*, Anastasia*
Aurora (Sleeping Beauty)
Tinker Bell*, Iridessa*, Rosetta*, Fawn*, Silver Mist*
Captain Hook and Mr. Smee
Ariel*
Aladdin, Jasmine
Baloo, King Louie
Peter Pan* & Wendy*
Tiana* & Prince Naveen*

Characters that are sometimes available:
Alice, Tweedle Dee, Tweedle Dum, the Mad Hatter*, the White Rabbit*, the Queen of Hearts
Brer Bear, Brer Rabbit
Mary Poppins & the Penguins
Merlin*
Marie (from Aristocats)
Max
Meeko
Prince John, the Sheriff of Nottingham
Terk
Rafiki, Timon

Characters that can be seen only during Halloween or Christmas:
Scrooge McDuck*
Snow White, Dopey, Doc*, Sleepy*, Sneezy*, Grumpy*, Happy*, Bashful*
Bullseye*
Villains: Cruella DeVille, Frollo, Jafar, Maleficent, the Evil Queen from Snow White
Tarzan*, Jane*
Prince Charming*
John Smith*

* = only available at this park

The list is ever-changing, but this is a good starting point to help you plan out your autograph hunting. Tomorrow, Disney's Hollywood Studios.


**UPDATE**
There are two new characters to see at the Magic Kingdom: Tiana and Prince Naveen from the Princess and the Frog. They can be found behind the Christmas shop on Liberty Square. For now, they can be difficult to catch, we had to try three times before we could finally meet them. However, they may be moving to a more permanent location in a few months.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Autographs - An Adventure in Collecting, Part 1

One of my favorite things to do at a Disney park is to collect autographs. I didn't start collecting autographs until I was in my 20's, but the cast members and characters have never seemed to mind that I wasn't a child. My first autograph book was a home-bound stack of pastel papers, cut into 4x6 pieces. I removed the autographed pages when I got home and used them in my scrapbook.

When I went to Disneyland in 2007, I purchased a Disney Pirates of the Caribbean autograph book. It has plain, white pages inside and a skull on the cover. I have used it on multiple trips, marking each autograph with the date and park where it was collected. To use the autographs in my scrapbook, I scan each autograph and print it out sized to fit the appropriate page.

My favorite autograph book is the newest one. It is a Cars autograph book which is spiral bound so that it lays completely flat, unlike the Pirate book which is book bound. It has a pale background and Cars characters around the edges. It is much easier to use because it is flat and can be opened to a blank page and then handed to the character, preventing any fumbling for a blank page.

There are several Dis-Signers on Disboards that have designed some truly awesome autograph books that can be printed out and bound in any way you like. The pages have the characters image and name and a place for them to sign. The only problem with these pages, is you either have to plan out which characters you want to get autographs from, or you have to print all of them out and shuffle to the correct page for each character to sign.

An absolute must for collecting autographs is a pen. I've tried regular ballpoint pens, sharpie markers, and felt tip pens. A good ballpoint is your best bet as the others bleed through the thin paper of most autograph books. While the cute Disney pens are fun, they aren't always reliable. A regular ballpoint, preferably on the fat side to help characters with gloves to get a good grip, decorated with a few stickers if the kids think it's too boring, will give you the best results.

A few of the characters can't sign autographs due to costuming issues: King Louie can't close his hands to hold the pen, however, Buzz Lightyear has a stamp that he will use on autograph books. I would recommend having an autograph book for each child with their name and an "If found, please return to" label with the name of the hotel where you will be staying. That way, if a book is lost, it may be returned.

Finally, don't forget to bring your camera. While the autographs are great on their own, kids enjoy them more if they also have a picture of themselves with the character to go with it. And don't avoid a character just because you already have an autograph. The first time we saw Koda from Brother Bear, he was by himself. The second time we saw him, he had Kenai with him, so we got autographs again so that we could get both bears. As they both signed on the same page, it was fun to have the two different autograph pages.

Also, one trip we saw Belle 3 times on the same day at EPCOT. She was in the exit area for the Mickey and friends Meet'n'Greet. No one else stopped to see her, so we got to spend 5 minutes alone with Belle. Bean loved it! Later in the day, we stopped to see Belle near France. We were hoping to catch her with the Beast, but he was busy "cleaning the castle." About 10 minutes later, the Beast came back out, so we saw him with Belle again. At this point, Bean said, "How come I keep seeing you today?" and Belle said, "Because I enjoy seeing you SO much!" and gave her a hug. It was wonderful!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Free at EPCOT

Last but not least, my favorite park for freebies: EPCOT. EPCOT has the same basic free stuff: stickers, buttons, maps, times guides, and a whole lot more. The best freebies at EPCOT are from their kids activities, and there are several. The biggest kids activity, which will take you around the entire park, is the Kidcot Fun Stops. (Although these stops are intended for kids, I have participated in them as well, saving the charms to use in my scrapbook.) There are 17 fun stops; one in each of the 11 countries and one in each pavilion in Future World. The Kidcot Fun Stops are sponsored by Sharpie and have markers to color the charms or masks at each station. The charms each come in several colors so that kids can personalize their collection. Starting with the Innoventions Pavilions, you can get a Kidcot Fun Stop lanyard to attach paper charms to at each station throughout the park. At Innoventions West, the charm is an ID with a mobile phone from Kim Possible. At Innoventions East, the charm is a 3-D food pyramid with Rufus inside and kids learn about the food pyramid. At the Living Seas pavilion, you can get a shark or dolphin charm and learn about ocean creatures. At the Land pavilion, they have ladybug and Venus Flytrap charms. Kids learn about plants and insects. At the Test Track shop, kids can get two charms: a race car and a caution cone. After completing the 5 stops in Future World, head over to the World Showcase. 

In the World Showcase, the Kidcot cast members are native citizens of their respective countries. As such, they can tell you quite a bit about their country and will often teach kids to say "Hello" and "Goodbye" in their native language. At the first country, pick up a mask for more collecting fun. There are several different types of masks available, including some special seasonal ones. The three masks that are available anytime are an African style mask, an Asian style mask, and a European style mask. Each mask has a paint stir stick handle that will be stamped at each country. At Christmas, you can get a Santa mask and during the Food and Wine Festival, you can get a special mask with a chef's hat on. We usually start with Mexico and work our way around. In Mexico, kids can get a Jaguar charm and the first stamp on the handle of their mask. In Norway, the charm is a Viking Ship. In China, the charm is a Kite with a butterfly punched out. In China, they will also stamp your Chinese zodiac sign on the back of your mask as well as writing your name in Chinese. In Germany, the charm is usually a Teddy Bear, although the last charm I got was a Gingerbread boy. In Italy, the charm is a Half Mask. At the American Experience, the charm is a Rocking Horse. In Japan, the charm is an origami style Butterfly, although a Frog has been available in the past. In Morocco, the charm is a Khamsa, or Hand of Fatima. The Morocco charm used to be plastic, but has since been changed to paper. In Morocco, you can also ask to have your name written on your mask in Arabic. In France, the charm is a Hot Air Balloon with a fleur de lis punched out. In the United Kingdom, the charm is a Dragon. In Canada, the charm is a Dream Catcher, although a Maple Leaf was available in the past. At times, kids are offered a small gift such as a poster or certificate upon completion of the World Showcase masks. While they are not always available, it's worth making sure to visit each country on your way around the lagoon. 

In addition to the masks, you can purchase an "EPCOT Passport" to have stamped as you travel around the world. The cast members will stamp each passport and write something about their country or a message of welcome in their native language. I have not used the purchased passports, but there are a few free ones on the internet that can be downloaded and printed before you go. The first one I used was from a Disboards Dis-Signer. I've also created my own special passport to use at Christmas, incorporating the various holiday greetings from each of the 11 countries. 

Another fun freebie at EPCOT, although one that is only available to Disney Visa cardholders, is a free photo. To get the free 5x7 photo, part of the Visa Meet'n'Greet, you have to go to the Innoventions West pavilion sometime between 1:30PM-4:30PM. You show your card to the cast members and they will give you a certificate for the free photo. You can get one free photo per day, per unique card number. The wait to get in to see the characters can vary, but usually is around 20-30 minutes. While there are usually 2-3 characters in the room, sometimes there are as many as four. The last time we went, we saw Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy. It was great to spend a few minutes with the characters as the only family in the room and my niece loved the one on one interaction without all the distractions of other families waiting to see the characters. If you have a Disney Visa, I would highly recommend it. 

Another fun free thing in Innoventions West is the velcro frogs. These are often overlooked and can be a ton of fun. The frogs are available near the Slapstick Studios show. After picking a frog, which come in several colors, you can dress your frog in a wide variety of clothing. They have everything from sunglasses, to capes, to shorts and shoes, to Mickey ears or crowns. There are different accessories and different colors available every time we go. We love to play with the frogs while walking to the different areas of the park, and with EPCOT, there is a lot of walking. When you finish your frog, a cast member will give you a soft velcro bracelet so that you can wear your new creation. The frogs are a blast! 

And don't forget to visit Club Cool in Future World. Sponsored by Coca Cola, Club Cool gives you a chance to try Coke products from around the world for free. There are 8 different flavors to try, ranging from the delicious to the unique. Our family loves the watermelon soda available in China, although we didn't like the bitter Beverly soda from Italy. It's a great chance to try unexpected flavors and also very refreshing on a hot day, although it can get very busy. And there you have it, freebies at Disney World.


**UPDATE**
The Kidcot stations that were located in Future World have all been removed. Whether this is temporary or permanent remains to be seen. I'll update this if the stations are returned.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Free goodies at Animal Kingdom

The Animal Kingdom has some free goodies, but they are mostly for kids. You will still find the same stickers, buttons, maps and times guides. Then there are some that are unique to the Animal Kingdom. At Guest Services, you can request a copy of Timon and Pumbaa's Wild About Safety Safety Challenge and set of Safety tip cards. There are 15 safety cards humorously detailing what to do and what not to do to safely enjoy a day at the Animal Kingdom. The tips include "Don't wait too late to hydrate", "Follow the rules of the jungle" and "Have fun in the sun, don't get overdone". The safety tips are quite smart and putting Timon and Pumbaa into each situation will help kids enjoy learning the rules of the jungle. 

Another fun kids activity is the Kids Discovery Club. There are six Discovery Club stations throughout the park, one in each land. At each station, kids will learn about animals and the environment through games and quizzes. In Camp Minnie-Mickey, kids place their hands inside a hollow log and try to identify the item in the hole, such as a turtle shell or a pine cone. On Discovery Island, kids learn about insects and arachnids, such as tarantulas, and can try out "bug vision" with a special bug eye mask. In Asia, kids learn about Siamangs, tigers, and frogs and try to identify them based on what sounds they make. (During the summer months, there is an extra freebie available at this station. Last summer, after the presentation and stamps were given, each child was given a coupon for a free bottle of water for every member of their party. They were trying to encourage people to stay hydrated.) In Dinoland, kids help reunite jaw bones with dinosaur skulls. In Africa, kids follow clues to track and identify an animal. At Rafiki's Planet Watch, kids do a scavenger hunt to identify wildlife that can be found in their own back yards. At the end of each activity, the Kids' Discovery Club Membership Card is stamped. Once kids have collected all six stamps, they take an oath to protect animals and the earth and to respect nature and are given the final Rafiki Ya Wanyama stamp. They also receive a Kids' Discovery Club Activity Guide full of games to learn more about our world. Each station only takes a few minutes, although you may need to plan carefully to make it to every station before the park closes as they are spread throughout the park. It actually took us 4 separate trips before we were finally able to complete the card in one day. 

Another fun freebie, that may no longer be available, was the Disney Where Dreams Come True Magical Moment Certificate. The first time we received one of these was when we rode Dinosaur. We were selected as the family of the hour and the four of us got a car to ourselves. They also gave us a certificate to commemorate the honor. 

Another fun thing you can pick up, although cast members would prefer that you didn't, is a pair of bug glasses from It's Tough to be a Bug. We had a pair that broke, so we saved them. We took the legs off and the lenses out and used them in a scrapbook with photos in the lenses. Unlike the other 3D glasses, the Bugs Life ones look like bug eyes, so they are rather cool.

Monday, February 1, 2010

More Free? At Disney's Hollywood Studios

Disney's Hollywood Studios also has several free items that can be found within the park. As with the Magic Kingdom, there are maps, times guides, buttons, and stickers from cast members. However, Hollywood Studios has several unique freebies of it's own. If you have small children, you'll probably watch the Playhouse Disney Live Onstage show. During the show, tissue paper confetti will rain down on the audience. The shape of the confetti changes whenever they change the lineup of Playhouse Disney shows that are featured during the stage show. The last time I was there, it was large tissue paper leaves, which Bean gathered up to put in her scrapbook.

Another fun thing for kids can be found just after entering the Rockin' Roller Coaster area. On the left, they have a kids area set up where kids can decorate a large paper CD with stickers and take it home. They also give the kids magnet frames advertising new Disney Channel shows. Although this was the first time I had seen this kids area, it looked like it was expected to stay.

One of the coolest kids freebies is from Block Party Bash. At the end of the show, small red, yellow, green or blue Nerf balls, emblazoned with the Block Party Bash logo are shot out over the audience. While not everyone gets one during busy times, most of the kids will get one, either from the ones shot into the air, or from the ones cast members pass out so that everyone can have one of the balls.

At most of the table service restaurants, kids are given fun menus that are specific to the restaurant, with activities in addition to the menu. They have cool games and pictures and can be fun to take with you at the end of the meal. However, interesting free stuff isn't just for the kids. At the Hollywood Brown Derby, they serve fantastic food, and copies of the recipes. At the reservation desk, you can request copies of the recipes for the Cobb salad and Grapefruit cake, both of which are amazing. The recipes are printed on the back of a card that is shaped like the Brown Derby logo. When I ate at the restaurant, they told me that you can also request the recipe for the dish that you order and the chef will provide it. Whether you eat at the restaurant or not, you should request the recipes at the reservation desk. They will be happy to provide them.

Heaven forbid you should have to make a trip to the nurses station, but if you do, they give out Nurse Minnie stickers. Another fun free item is an extra fast pass. Toward the end of the night, if the fast pass stations are still open, I like to get a fast pass for my favorite ride and keep it to put in my scrapbook. The fast passes have the logo for the ride at the top and are a fun way to remember a favorite ride.