Archive For June 20, 2017

Disney Weekday Select Annual Pass for Florida Residents: A Great Value

 

Disney Annual Passholder MagicBand

Disney Passholder MagicBand

 

Disney Offers Florida Residents Annual Pass Options

One of the benefits of living in Florida is the ability to purchase an annual pass to the various world-famous theme parks like Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, Sea World, and Busch Gardens.  Offering unlimited visits, they can be a huge money-saver.  As a 17-year resident of the Sunshine State, the first thing I did (right after getting my Florida driver’s license) was head on over to a Disney ticket booth to purchase my annual pass.

Even before moving to Florida I was a big fan of “the Mouse!”  Every year we would spend our family vacations at Disney, probably about 20 memorable visits, more or less.  Therefore, it was only fitting to celebrate the 1200-mile-move with our very first Disney annual pass!  Way back then, Disney only offered 2 or 3 types of passes for Florida residents.  For the first 10+ years we splurged and bought the highest priced ticket.  But with hubby and I both working full-time, we found ourselves visiting the parks less and less.  Not that we didn’t have a desire for the Disney magic, our schedules just didn’t allow for it.  In fact, one year we only used the pass once or twice.  Our “bargain-priced” Disney pass ended up costing us a lot of money.

After that, we discussed not renewing our passes.  But then… the masterminds at Disney did something supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!  Something so extraordinarily good happened that I’m certain Mary Poppins herself would have been tickled pink.  Disney introduced some brand new Passholder options. And, behold, the Weekday Select annual pass was born.

 

Our Disney Weekday Select MagicBands

Our Disney Weekday Select MagicBands

 

What is the Disney Weekday Select Pass?

The Disney Weekday Select annual pass is a fantastic option for Florida residents.  Hubby and I have had ours ever since its inception, and it has served us extremely well.  Hubby and I are retired now, so our time is quite flexible.  And flexibility is key with this type of annual pass.  Weekday Select Passholders can only attend the Disney theme parks Monday through Friday, and certain “blackout” dates are also imposed. The blackout dates are always around major holidays and some other peak times.  (Here’s the link to the Disney Weekday Select 2017 blackout dates calendar.)  They usually include Christmas/New Years week, Easter/Spring break, and the peak summer vacation period from early-June to mid-August.

But, that’s perfect for us.  Since we are locals, with the ability to visit the parks anytime we want, why would we want to be there during those crazy busy times anyhow?  We never enjoy having our toes stomped on by hoards of overly-excited tourists, nor waiting in line for hours for the most popular rides and shows.  Oftentimes, during Disney’s off-season, we can get into those same attractions with little or no wait time.  And once, we made the mega-mistake of going to Animal Kingdom over the 4th of July weekend, with 100-degree heat, and vowed NEVER to do that again!  Between the record-breaking crowds and a downright dangerous heat index, clearly that foolish decision made for a most miserable day.

With the exception of those blackout periods and no admission on Saturdays and Sundays, the Weekday Select pass works just like any other Disney park-hopper ticket.  We are entitled to unlimited visits to all 4 Disney theme parks: Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom.  It also includes park-hopper privileges, meaning we can go to multiple parks on the same day, if we choose.  (Some of the high-priced single-day admission tickets do not allow for park-hopping.)

With my Weekday Select pass I’m able to attend all my favorite Disney events, like the colorful Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival, the yummy Epcot Food and Wine Festival, and the creative Epcot International Festival of the Arts.  And this year I’m among the first to see the NEW Rivers of Light nighttime show, Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular, and Pandora: The World of Avatar.

 

Dining Discounts for Disney Weekday Select Passholders

Dining Discounts for Disney Weekday Select Passholders

 

Disney Weekday Select Pass Perks & Discounts

In addition to unlimited park entry throughout the year (excluding the block out dates), there are many other special benefits included with the Weekday Select pass.  Here are a few of my favorites…

  • FREE Parking!  The Weekday Select annual pass hasn’t always included this benefit.  Free [standard] parking has only been added within the last two years.  For us, this was an impressive improvement to the value of the pass.  Considering that Disney parking is now $20/day, that can add up quickly over the course of a year.  Hubby and I try to use our pass at least 12 times a year, so that’s a savings of $240.
  • Disney Dining Discounts!  As a Weekday Select Passholder we receive a discount at select Disney restaurants in the theme parks, at Disney Resorts, at Disney’s Boardwalk, and at the newly redesigned Disney Springs complex (formerly Downtown Disney).  The discount is typically 10% off the total bill but can be greater during special promotions.
  • Merchandise Discounts!  A 10% discount is given at all Disney-owned retail shops, including some of the kiosks found throughout the theme parks.  Another fantastic perk for us, as oftentimes we take our toddler Grandson, who expects a souvenir every time he’s there.  NOTE: This year, in 2017, there’s a special 45th anniversary promotion that allows a 20% discount at many of the shops and restaurants.
  • Lodging Discounts!  As a Weekday Select Passholder we can make reservations at select Walt Disney World Resorts with savings up to 35%.  Obviously, the best deals are usually during off-season, but again, that’s when we prefer to be on Disney property.  Passholders should bookmark this page when searching for discounted accommodations at Disney Resorts.
  • Tour & Special Events Discounts!  There’s been a surge in recent years in the number of behind-the-scenes tours and special events added by Disney.  Our Passholder discount varies with each individual tour.
  • Movie Ticket Discount!  The Weekday Select pass includes a $2 savings per ticket for movies at the Disney Springs theatre.
  • Others!  Although I’ve never used it, there are discounts available for rental cars, salon treatments, childcare at select Disney Resorts, and a 20% discount on all purchases made with the Shop Disney Parks app.  Also, live entertainment discounts like 20% off Disney on Ice and Disney Live shows, and recently a $50 discount off certain performances of The Lion King touring production.

NOTE:  In order to receive the special discounts mentioned above, the Passholder must present their physical annual pass (the plastic card, not just the MagicBand) along with a valid photo ID.  Trust me, the savings are more than worth it!

TIP:  A good place to find up-to-date information on deals and discounts is on the Disney Passholder Facebook page.  Disney doesn’t always publicize special discounts on their website.

 

Walt Disney World Passholder

   

How Much Does a Disney Weekday Select Annual Pass Cost?

The Disney Weekday Select annual pass is only available to Florida residents with proof of Florida residency, such as a Florida driver’s license or State issued identification card.  The cost, for ages 3 and older, is $286.49 which includes tax.  (Our cost is even less, as we receive a renewal discount every year.)  If hubby and I attain our goal of 12 yearly visits, that’s less than $24 a visit for each of us!  You can’t get a better Disney deal (apart from being a Disney Cast Member with free tickets!).

Monthly Payment Program

In an effort to make Disney annual passes affordable to more Florida residents, Disney has implemented a monthly payment program.  It allows the Passholder to spread the cost of the pass over 12 monthly payments.  When you purchase the pass, you will be required to make a down payment.  The balance will be split into 12 monthly payments that will be automatically billed to the credit card of your choice. (The first monthly payment is charged the day you sign up.)  For the Weekday Select pass, the down payment is $114, with monthly payments of $14.38.

 

Let the Memories Begin!

Let the Memories Begin!

 

A Year of Magic for a Lot Less

I’m feeling oddly good about the value here.  You won’t hear me say that about too many Disney price tags.  But, as the price for a one-day Walt Disney World ticket keeps escalating, (from $105-$172) an annual pass is a valuable option for Florida residents.  I highly recommend the Weekday Select pass if you are able to attend on weekdays.  I haven’t missed out on anything by switching to this cost-efficient pass.  In fact, I still have all the fun experiences and awe-inspiring moments that I’ve come to expect at “The Happiest Place On Earth,” only for a fraction of what I used to pay!

 

How has the Weekday Select annual pass worked for you?  Please share your Passholder experience with our readers in the “comment” box below!

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Review: Hammock Hollow Children’s Garden at Bok Tower

 

Hammock Hollow Children's Garden at Bok Tower Botanical Gardens

Hammock Hollow Children’s Garden

 

Hammock Hollow Children’s Garden: Education and Exploration for Kids

The new Hammock Hollow Children’s Garden is an outstanding addition to the already beautiful landscape of Bok Tower Gardens.  It’s a fantastic place for kids to explore nature.  Recently, I took my toddler Grandson to Hammock Hollow, and what an awesome time he we had!  The environment was not only fun but extremely educational.  We spent several hours there and his curious mind never stopped exploring the unfamiliar territory.  It was the perfect place for my inquisitive little guy.  It seemed as if there were interesting surprises around every corner.  My 3-year-old is eager to learn about the natural world, and there was no better place than the hands-on classroom of Hammock Hollow to educate him.

 

Hammock Hollow Children's Garden Site Map

Hammock Hollow Children’s Garden Site Map

 

Site Map of Hammock Hollow: 17 Unique Areas

Upon arriving at Hammock Hollow, it’s beneficial to take a look at the site map for the Children’s Garden. You’ll notice that it’s divided into 17 different areas.  According to your child’s age and interests, some sections may be better than others.  I’ll list a few of the ones that my Grandson, Apollo, liked.

TIP:  It’s a good idea to print a copy of the site map and have it available when you arrive.  You can download a copy of Hammock Hollow Site Map here, directly from the Bok Tower Gardens website.   

The Gateway

We began our garden adventure by entering through the keystone gate.  The kid-size entrance is just the right size for little ones.  Grandma’s can go through here too, just don’t forget to duck!  This area was a gift from the Bok Family.

 

The Keystone Gateway Entrance to Hammock Hollow Children's Garden

The Keystone Gateway Entrance to Hammock Hollow

 

Stone Mosaics

The pebble mosaics were really cool.  There were both large and small ones, including a woodpecker, gopher turtle, and firefly.  Apollo has a fetish for any kind of rocks.  On any given day his pockets are filled with them.  So it goes without saying that he was fascinated by the artwork made with these colorful little stones.  Sculptor Kevin Carman created the masterpieces that perfectly complimented the entrance.  This area was a gift from Alexis and Jim Pugh.

 

Pebble Mosaics at The Gateway of the Children's Garden

Pebble Mosaics at The Gateway

 

Indigo Pass

I’m not usually a fan of snakes, not even the caged kind.  But this humongous pebble mosaic snake sculpture seemed like a friendly fellow.  This lifeless reptile encircled a tot-sized sand area complete with sand pails and shovels.  What a fun way to help young children develop motor skills.  The area has a sunscreen overhead to allow the kids to linger a little longer.  I really love exotic bamboo trees, so I was happy to see them planted as a backdrop to the sand play area.  I’m looking forward to seeing their growth in a few years as they tower over this twisty serpent.  Indigo Pass was a gift from Frank and Carol Drake.

 

Indigo Pass Sand Play Area at the Children's Garden

Indigo Pass Sand Play Area

 

River Walk

As a Florida resident for the past 17 years, one thing I learned very quickly was that the Sunshine State has 3 seasons: hot, hotter, and hottest!  Obviously the designers of Hammock Hollow learned that lesson too.  I’m sure that’s why they created the sparkling springs of River Walk.  It’s the perfect place for the children to cool off.  There are misters, spray jets, foggers, and fountains.  This area is paradise for any rock-climbing tyke.  River Walk was a gift from Publix Super Markets Charities.

This is a good time to remind you to pack a change of clothes for your child (or maybe 2 or 3!).  And don’t forget the sunscreen — remember that Florida heat I told you about?  Even in the winter months the sun’s rays can have dangerous UV levels.

 

The Sparkling Springs at River Walk in the Children's Garden

The Sparkling Springs at River Walk

 

Ledge Walk

Along the Ledge Walk kids will have a blast exploring all the little nooks and crannies in these huge rock formations.  The fern-covered rocks represent Florida’s remarkable karst limestone history.  The Florida Peninsula is a porous plateau of limestone that was formed many millions of years ago.  Another great opportunity for a brief history lesson for your child.  As parents, you may want to read up on the Geology of Florida before you go.  (Your kids will think you are so smart!)

 

The Ledge Walk Representing Florida's Limestone History at Hammock Hollow

The Ledge Walk Representing Florida’s Limestone History

 

Edward Bok Word Garden

Edward Bok was a Pulitzer-Prize winning author and also the publisher of one of the finest magazines of yesteryear, the Ladies Home Journal.  You can imagine the importance of “words” to a man with such creative writing talents.  The Edward Bok Word Garden is an area dedicated to his memory.  Unlike the other sections of the Children’s Garden that serve as outlets for physical play, this one is more reflective. Here, the beautiful stones each have an inspirational word etched in them — words that teach our children about qualities that make the world a better place.  Pick up a few of the rocks at random and take the opportunity to teach your child about the importance of peace, joy, beauty, caring, and success.  It’s also fun moving the stones around to create sentences or phrases.  After some exhilarating physical exercise, take a moment to rest in the Word Garden.  It will rejuvenate the body and soul.

 

Inspirational Stones at Edward Bok Word Garden

Inspirational Stones at Edward Bok Word Garden

 

Apollo Resting in the Word Garden at Hammock Hollow

Apollo Resting in the Word Garden

 

Fence Swift Stumpery and Fox Den

Without question, the Fence Swift Stumpery and Fox Den was one of Apollo’s favorite areas at Hammock Hollow.  My little dude loves to run, jump, and climb on things.  At the Fox Den there was a log climb that challenged Apollo to take it slow and focus on balance.  The Fence Swift Stumpery garden proves that even tree stumps can be beautiful and useful.  It was inspired by the acrobatic lizards that are native to Florida. Although we have many species here, I like watching Geckos.  It’s pretty interesting to see how they use their tails while leaping from place to place.  This sprawling area under a shady oak hammock was the perfect spot for Apollo to put his best Gecko imitation to the test.

 

Fox Den Log Climb at Hammock Hollow

Fox Den Log Climb

 

Apollo Creates a Masterpiece from Tiny Logs at Hammock Hollow

Apollo Creates a Masterpiece from Tiny Logs

 

Doodle Bug Art Place

The Doodle Bug Art Place is an area to encourage young artists to display their artistic ability.  The paper, crayons, markers, and colored pencils are provided.  The tables are made from wood and the seats from tree logs.  When finished, the child can proudly showcase their drawings with the other Hammock Hollow guests by hanging the artwork on a clothes-line type apparatus secured with a clothes pin.  Who knows… the next Van Gogh might just be discovered here at Hammock Hollow!  The Doodle Bug Art Place was a gift from The Herndon Family Foundation.

 

Doodle Bug Art Place at Hammock Hollow Children's Garden

Doodle Bug Art Place at Hammock Hollow

 

Supplies Are Provided at Doodle Bug Art Place

Supplies Are Provided at Doodle Bug Art Place

 

Songbird Music Tree

The Songbird Music Tree is the perfect spot for your budding musician.  Here, you’ll find several tuned acoustic instruments that encourage hands-on activity.  Depending on your child’s age, this would be a great opportunity to introduce them to the rich musical heritage of Bok Tower Gardens.  The nearby rope hammocks are another great place for parents and kids to rest.  The Songbird Music Tree area was a gift from The Ruth V. Marchione Foundation.

 

Songbird Music Tree Acoustic Instruments

Songbird Music Tree Acoustic Instruments

 

Acoustic Instruments at Songbird Music Tree in Hammock Hollow

Acoustic Instruments at Songbird Music Tree

 

Rope Hammocks Provide Rest at Hammock Hollow Children's Garden

Rope Hammocks Provide Rest at Hammock Hollow Children’s Garden

 

Spider Climb

Another of Apollo’s favorite activities at Hammock Hollow was the Spider Climb.  It’s a gigantic spider-web-inspired structure that allows children to weave their way through this enormous faux web.  But be careful, keeping your balance while others are maneuvering the web can be quite challenging.

 

Spider Climb at Hammock Hollow Children's Garden

Spider Climb at Hammock Hollow

 

Cypress Boardwalk

Hammock Hollow has a beautiful winding boardwalk that twists and turns along a Cypress grove.  They’ve strategically placed bird feeding stations in the Bird Hollow section and added special plants that attract wildlife, birds, and butterflies.  Few children have actually caught a butterfly, but most of them enjoy the difficult task of trying.  Apollo does, for sure!

 

Cypress Boardwalk at Hammock Hollow Children's Garden

Cypress Boardwalk at Hammock Hollow Children’s Garden

 

Pine Place Representing the Pine Forests of Florida

Pine Place Representing the Pine Forests of Florida

 

In Conclusion…

The fundraising efforts certainly paid off for this amazing project — raising over $16 million dollars in donations, far exceeding their initial goals.  I found Hammock Hollow, the new interactive children’s garden at Bok Tower Gardens, to be fun for the entire family.  The interactive areas encompass 3+ acres, and do an outstanding job of representing Florida’s varied ecosystems.

It did my heart good to see so many children engaging in outdoor activity.  Some of my fondest childhood memories include playing outside after school, on weekends, or any chance I had.  Decades later, I still remember those mud pies!  But it’s a different world now.  With the age of rapid technological advances, oftentimes we depend on our [very young] children to educate us regarding computers, cell phones, and most other wired devices.  We must keep up with this “wired” world, or get left behind.  Not minimizing that, my concern is that children are missing out on healthy physical exercise, not to mention the overall learning experiences that are only found in the classroom of nature.  And, Apollo felt like a million dollars after his outdoor adventure!

 

Apollo Felt Like a Million Dollars at Hammock Hollow!

Apollo Felt Like a Million Dollars at Hammock Hollow!

 

Leave No Child Inside — Nature Play is Healthy

There is growing research about the positive impact of nature play for children.  This type of unstructured play in the outdoors has proven beneficial for a child’s social, emotional, intellectual, and physical well-being.  I highly recommend a best-selling book by Richard Louv entitled “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder.”  It talks about the great divide between children and the outdoors, with possible links to childhood obesity, attention disorders, and depression.  The book’s success has spurred a national movement called “Leave No Child Inside.”  I’m so grateful Bok Tower Gardens is doing their part to reunite our children with nature.  Don’t miss this Central Florida attraction!

NOTE:  Hammock Hollow Children’s Garden is just an hour’s drive from Disney and the Orlando area.

TIP:  Florida residents may want to consider an Annual Membership to Bok Tower Gardens for year-round unlimited admission.  With many membership levels, there’s one just right for your adventurous family.  A membership also includes the American Horticultural Society Reciprocal Admissions Program, with free or discounted entry to attractions, museums, and gardens throughout Florida and the United States.  

 

What is your family’s favorite outdoor activity?  Can you recommend a special place to enjoy an outdoor adventure? 

 

 

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