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December 29, 2014

Ideas for celebrating New Year's Eve outside the theme parks at Walt Disney World

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Walt Disney World's theme parks certainly know how to host splashy New Year's Eve parties. It would be difficult to top the lavish food, top-notch entertainment and spectacular fireworks. But if your family has younger kids who might not make it until midnight or you're looking for a less crowded celebration, here are some suggestions for other ways to ring in 2015 Disney-style. Most of these do not require advance planning, so you can even decide on Dec. 31 what your family wants to do.

Raglan Road

At Downtown Disney, Raglan Road offers live entertainment on two stages, plus dinner and late-night menus inside the restaurant and on the patio. But what makes this especially appealing to families may be the complimentary champagne toast at midnight in Ireland (7 p.m. EST) and again at midnight in Orlando. Obviously those under age 21 won't be partaking, but the celebration itself is fun. My daughter and I have had several enjoyable experiences at Raglan Road and definitely recommend it. Parking in the new parking garage is complimentary, and there is no cover charge for the evening.

Dinner and fireworks viewing at a resort hotel

Although it may be tough at this late date to get a reservation at one of the table-service restaurants at the hotels on the monorail loop - Contemporary, Polynesian or Grand Floridian - it is still possible to dine there and then view the fireworks. To do so, you'll need to park at the Transportation and Ticket Center, which costs $17 for the day if you're not staying on property or are an annual passholder, and then take the monorail or a bus to the hotel of your choice. (Because of the heavy holiday crowds, guests who are not staying at the hotels or those who don't have dining reservations will not be allowed to park in those lots.) Guests can eat in the quick-service restaurants at the three hotels and then view the fireworks from various public viewing areas, such as the fourth floor lobby or monorail platform at the Contemporary. Be aware that some hotel viewing areas are restricted to patrons of specific high-end restaurants.

Walt Disney World kids activity centers

If the adults in your group want to experience their own celebrations at Walt Disney World, the children can spend a fun evening in one of the resort's activity centers, which will have extended hours on New Year's Eve. The four locations open at 4:30 p.m. and will have the last pickup at 1:30 a.m. (Children will be able to rest or sleep when they get tired.) I'm told that the centers will not have special activities for the holiday. Still, when my daughter has spent time in the centers, she thoroughly enjoyed all the choices of entertainment. The centers welcome children ages 3 (must be potty-trained) to 12. The cost is $15 per hour per child, with a two-hour minimum. Dinner is included for those who are in the club during the time it is served. At the time of this writing, there still was space available in all four locations, but reservations are recommended. For more details, see the AllEars.Net resource page.

Celebration Town Center

The town of Celebration, located just outside the gates of Walt Disney World, hosts "Now Snowing Nightly" -- a flurry of soap bubbles -- through New Year's Eve, and it's open to the public at no charge. The last "snowfalls" of the season happen on Dec. 31 at 6, 7, 8 and 9 p.m. on Market Street. There's no need to queue up to experience the snow - just step into the street, which is blocked off from traffic. This event does not have a New Year's Eve countdown, but it does offer a last taste of the holiday season with gorgeous decorations, ice skating, "snow flurries," carriage rides and a variety of restaurants for dinner.

DisneyQuest

For the last several years, DisneyQuest, which houses five floors of video and virtual games at Downtown Disney, has hosted a family friendly event on Dec. 31. Unfortunately, that is not the case this year, and there is no word on whether the party will resume next year. Still, the attraction is a fun place to let pre-teens and teens spend time enjoying electronic gaming fun while parents check out some of the more adult offerings at Downtown Disney.

Celebrate early

The Magic Kingdom displays its New Year's Eve fireworks on Dec. 30, as well as Dec. 31. Fantasy in the Sky starts at 11:50 p.m. both days. Although it still will be crowded in the Magic Kingdom on Dec. 30, it definitely will not be as bad as it is on New Year's Eve. This might be a way to see the fireworks early and then enjoy a quieter New Year's Eve. If you are staying at a Disney resort, there also usually are family friendly activities planned for guests.

Happy New Year's Eve, everyone!



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May 16, 2014

Details revealed about the new Club Disney child-care center at Polynesian Resort

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Walt Disney World has been teasing us this spring with a steady stream of details about the renovations that have begun at the Polynesian Resort. Among the less-publicized changes is a complete makeover for the kids' child-care center, which is set to reopen June 14, a Disney representative told me.

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The center, which formerly was known as The Never Land Club, has been renamed Club Disney and characters from the story of Peter Pan have a much smaller role, though they certainly have not been banished altogether. The themes inside Club Disney are based on tales in classic Disney Little Golden Books including "Alice In Wonderland," "Pinocchio" and "Lady and The Tramp."

Young guests ages 3 to 12 enter the activity center through a book-page portal, I'm told, and they will find additional storybook pages decorating the walls and floor to help bring the various beloved stories to life.

In the section of the center themed to "Alice in Wonderland," children will see Cheshire Cat grinning at them from above five two-person stations set up for video game play with PlayStation consoles. Game players will perch on chairs made to look like mushrooms.

"Lady and The Tramp" is represented with a recreation of the alley scene in the story, in which the two share their infamous meal of spaghetti and meatballs. There are tables, which will be used for making crafts and also dinner, which is included in the price of child care. The adjacent Stromboli Theater shows Disney movies.

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A mural of Christopher Robin's window looking out to the Hundred Acre Wood from "Winnie The Pooh" serves a backdrop for story time and nap time. The iconic castle from "Cinderella" is a structure that has been built and furnished with royal pieces and gowns to encourage dress-up. Last but not least, a play area will allow kids to fly to Never Land to help Peter Pan take on Captain Hook.

With a month to go before Club Disney's opening, the meal plans have yet to be finalized. However, I'm told the procedure is likely to be the same as before -- children and their parents can order their dinners when they are checked in, and the food will arrive between 6 and 8 p.m. A cast member told me that kid favorites, such as cheeseburgers and hamburgers, will be available. Club Disney also is expected to offer more healthy options to suit a variety of palates, including grilled shrimp skewers, grilled chicken, grilled fish, a cucumber roll or vegetarian sushi.

The cost of having your child entertained and fully engaged so you can enjoy adult experience at Walt Disney World? Priceless, of course. In U.S. dollars, that translates to $11.50 per hour per child with a two-hour minimum.

Reservations can be made now by calling 407-WDW-DINE for June 14 and dates going forward. Cancellations must be made one day in advance or the parent will be charged $23. Walk-ups are welcome, based on availability, and you don't have to be staying at Walt Disney World for your child to be cared for at Club Disney. Club Disney will be open from 4:30 to 11:55 p.m. daily.

My children have spent time at other child-care centers at Walt Disney World: The Sandcastle Club at Disney's Yacht and Beach clubs and Camp Dolphin at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin. (Read about those experiences in the links.)

Disney representatives told me that Club Disney will continue to host children's birthday parties with the same format and pricing as The Never Land Club. You can read about all the options in my story about Walt Disney World birthday parties here.



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This page contains an archive of all entries posted to A Mom and The Magic in the Club Disney category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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