Fourteen Tips for Preventing Sensory Meltdowns at Disney World

Fourteen Tips for Preventing Sensory Meltdowns at Disney World pin

Disney World with its five parks is vast, and there’s so much to experience. No parent wants to deal with a meltdown on vacation, let alone at Disney World where admission tickets are so pricey. In reality, chances are the intense activities of theme parks might kids with autism into sensory overload. To help parents mitigate such an occurrence here are our tips.

Fourteen Tips For Preventing Sensory Meltdowns at Disney World plant

Plan a Longer Vacation

Parents of kids with autism may find that visiting the parks over the course of a few days is much less stressful for everybody. Though it might sound less budget friendly, there are plenty of great deals on multiple Disney tickets as well as lodgings. At a minimum, parents should try to allocate one separate day for each park.

Rest Well

For the lodgings, even those on a budget should try to get their kids a good night’s sleep. Parents could pay extra for a rollaway or, if possible, getting the kids their own room. Sleeping in beds with siblings or parents can get in the way of an optimal night’s sleep. If kids are more rested in the morning, they’ll be more able to handle their emotions at the park.

Fourteen Tips For Preventing Sensory Meltdowns at Disney World castle

Take Frequent Breaks

Plan snack and lunch break times during the day. Parents of younger kids or those not used to spending the entire day at a theme park should schedule more frequent breaks and see how it goes.

Stay on Property

If at all possible, parents should find lodgings on the property for easy access to the park. For parents looking for a cheaper alternative to the Disney pricey hotels, the Wyndham has a property near Disney Springs that is affordable and still gives its guests access to the complimentary Disney transportation.

Fourteen Tips For Preventing Sensory Meltdowns at Disney World red

Avoid Crowded Areas

Parents should avoid crowded areas, like the parade thoroughfare during the shows.In fact, they should skip the shows since they tend to be crowded anyway and try to go on typically full rides during that time since they’re mostly empty. Moreover, families should also eat meals on off hours, meaning before or after traditional lunch or dinner times.

Limit Shopping

Limiting the shopping adds to time spent enjoying the park itself and reduces arguments with kids. Parents should tell their child before entering the park that they are going to shop at the end of the day for a set time or online as an alternative.

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Plan Outdoor/Indoor Rides

Parents need to know that the weather in Orlando is usually warm and humid no matter the month. Though Disney accommodates autism on many of their rides, there are often still waits. These waits can be challenging for kids who are temperature intolerant.

Parents should do the indoor rides in the middle of the day, then try to do the outdoor rides in the early morning or late evening when the temperature cools down and the crowds are gone.

Stay Hydrated

This advice applies to all parents traveling with kids but is of particular importance in a theme park situation where there’s a lot of walking involved.So, parents should either purchase several beverages for their kids during the day or bring refillable water bottles to fill up at water fountains in the parks.

Fourteen Tips For Preventing Sensory Meltdowns at Disney World sky

Avoid Sugary Snacks

Most theme parks, especially Disney, have sugary snacks available for purchase literally at every corner of the parks. Pumping kids on sugary snacks and driving them into a sugar rush is seldom a good idea. Parents should discuss ahead of time with their kids what snacks they are allowed to have every day to avoid disappointments and meltdowns later.

Wear Comfortable Clothes

If kids get wet or sweaty, they might react adversely. It is a good idea for parents to make them as comfortable as possible. Since staying in a theme park for ten hours in a stretch is enough of a challenge for most kids,  parents should bring a change of clothes for emergencies.

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Bring Headphones or Earplugs

Some noise sensitive kids will react to sounds and noises in the park. These sounds can include screaming, shots, or explosions from fireworks. It is, therefore, important to bring headphones or earplugs for these situations. It is important to note that some rides will not allow kids to wear headphones while riding for safety reasons.

Don’t Use Park Hoppers

It is better, especially for younger children, to spend the entire day in one park. Also, using the Disney Transportation from park to park can add a layer of stress for some kids due to the waiting time and buses that might be crowded.

Fourteen Tips For Preventing Sensory Meltdowns at Disney World car

Get a Stroller

Renting a stroller for younger children or those who can’t walk much is best for families. Visiting the Walt Disney World parks involves a lot of walking, and no parent wants to argue with children or try to force them into anything. So, even for older kids, a stroller may be a good place to relax if they get tired or cranky.

Keep your group small

Going in a large group to a theme park can be overwhelming, and the needs of a child with autism might be overlooked. Kids with autism might want to explore at a certain pace or adhere to specific mealtimes. The best ratio is two adults per kid so the adults can alternate taking care and helping accommodate their needs.

Fourteen Tips For Preventing Sensory Meltdowns at Disney World teacups

Clothing Tips for Taking Kids with Autism to Disney World

Clothing Tips for Taking Kids with Autism to Disney World pin

Unknown to many, clothing choices can be quite important for a theme park visit. For those who deal with sensory issues, clothing can make a day visit unpleasant and lead to meltdowns. Here are our tips for making good clothing choices for Walt Disney World.

Clothing Tips When Taking Kids with Autism to Disney World train

Shoes

Visiting Walt Disney World involves a lot of walking throughout the four large parks. Even groups who set themselves to one park a day can expect a lot of walking. Also, the parks have areas with water attractions, and Florida often has lots of afternoon showers. As a result, the ground frequently gets slippery, which can be dangerous for kids running around.

Clothing Tips When Taking Kids with Autism to Disney World walt

Non-slip shoes, like crocs, are essential. Parents can use fabric on/off shoes for the best results. Everyone in the family should avoid flip-flops, heels, or wedges. They should especially avoid leather or suede shoes, as they can get ruined by rain and shrink.

Pants

Choice of pants is of particular importance for those who want to go on the water attractions. Thick denim pants will not dry out easily, leaving kids with wet denim sticking to their legs for the duration of the trip.

Clothing Tips When Taking Kids with Autism to Disney World water

The best option is pants made of thin, lightweight material that quickly dries. Parents can find pants like these in most travel and camping stores. Alternatively, parents can bring a change of clothes for their kids.

Colors

Bring colors that stick out in a crowd is best, especially for little kids. Parks get crowded, and kids can easily slip away. In this situation, he or she would be easier to find if they’re wearing, for example, a bright orange jacket.

Clothing Tips When Taking Kids with Autism to Disney World car

Ponchos

As we mentioned before, at Walt Disney World it frequently rains in the afternoon. Ponchos are the best option for people who don’t want to have to stay indoors for the two to four hours these afternoon rains last.

Long ponchos are best, and parents can either bring them from home or buy them from the parks. We like buying them from the parks because they double as an excellent souvenir for kids to get from Disney. We suggest not buying expensive ponchos since ponchos are an item that one can easily lose. Also, if someone forgets their poncho in a bag, these expensive ponchos can develop mildew.

Clothing Tips When Taking Kids with Autism to Disney World clock

For the most budget friendly option, parents can buy a one time use poncho from the dollar store.

Jacket

Easy to dry, thin jackets are best for theme parks. The jacket should preferably have a hood that it easy to take off. The jacket should also zip, not button.

Clothing Tips When Taking Kids with Autism to Disney World rest

While it may seem like a good option, parents shouldn’t take heavy coats. The kids are not going to be wearing them the entire time, and nobody wants to walk around with a jacket all day for miles.

Pockets

Clothes with multiple pockets are always helpful. Parents and kids can either wear cargo pants or a jacket with many pockets. There’s a lot of knick knacks that parents will want to store, such as phones, wires, wallets, and small water bottles.

Clothing Tips When Taking Kids with Autism to Disney World red

Expensive or favorite items

Parents and kids should not bring expensive clothing or items into the parks for many reasons. These items can get snagged on rides, lost, or stained by food items. Jackets can especially get easily lost or misplaced between attractions.

Clothing Tips When Taking Kids with Autism to Disney World gaston

Bags

While tempting, parents shouldn’t bring large bags into the park. Many of the rides will not allow riders to carry large bags. And dragging these bags through the park gets tiring quickly.

Instead, parents should either wear clothing with lots of pockets or wear a fanny pack for small items.

Clothing Tips When Taking Kids with Autism to Disney World butterfly

Tight fitting

Mini skirts and tight pants might be fashionable, but they’re not optimal theme park attire. Being confined in tight clothes for an entire day can be challenging to many.

Clothing Tips When Taking Kids with Autism to Disney World building

Loose fitting cotton clothes that breath are best for these environments. Dressing in layers is also crucial since the temperature can be highly variable throughout the day.

Costumes

Although the idea of letting the little one walk around in a princess dress might seem fun, having kids dress up in costumes is not the best idea.

Clothing Tips When Taking Kids with Autism to Disney World sign

The costumes are often pricey and can easily get ruined in a theme park environment. In some cases, the costumes are long, such as with princess dresses or capes, and can get caught in ride mechanisms or doors.

After reading our tips it is your turn to chime in! What are your clothing tips when visiting the theme parks?

Our Family Stay at Disney’s Grand Floridian

Our Family Stay at Disney's Grand Floridian pin

When visiting Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, families have many options for lodgings. For the most elaborate and luxurious  experience, we suggest staying at The Grand Floridian. This elegant resort is surprisingly family friendly, with plenty of activities for kids and parents alike to enjoy.

Our Family Stay at Disney's Grand Floridian lobby

What Makes it Family Worthy?

This hotel is opulent with all sorts of amenities. It is also close to the Magic Kingdom. Guests can enjoy free WiFi in both the rooms and public areas as well as free parking.

Our Family Stay at Disney's Grand Floridian playground

Our Welcome

When we arrived, the staff was friendly and welcoming. We experienced practically no wait before we got to our rooms but spent the time enjoying the meet and greet with Cinderella in the lobby.

Our Family Stay at Disney's Grand Floridian ceiling

Hotel Decor

The hotel’s lobby is a sight to behold, decorated with a Victorian aesthetic. Guests walking in will see a ceiling five stories high with huge chandeliers. Throughout the hotel, one can see detailed latticework and ornamentation. The lobby is a lovely spot to relax while waiting to check in or after returning from the parks.

Our Family Stay at Disney's Grand Floridian white

Our Room

We stayed in room 9409 in a Garden view room. The first thing we noticed was the locking mechanisms for our door. Everyone gets a magic band as their door “key,” and guests can even customize this band with their favorite color. The bolt mechanism on the door is pretty high up, which is great for child safety.

Our room was decorated in rich creams, golds, and greens, with lovely crown molding. We had wood flooring, perfect for those who suffer from allergies. The entire room was also extremely well maintained. We saw no scuff marks, dirt on the carpet, or peeling on the walls.

Our Family Stay at Disney's Grand Floridian bed

The room featured a large two door closet with complimentary robes. The safety deposit box sat at a perfect level and could easily store a 15-inch laptop.

We appreciated the two queen sized beds, as not every Disney hotel has this. There was also an overhead fan, perfect for the hot, humid Florida days. We had a lovely nightstand between the beds as well as an opening desk next to the bed. Guests should look for one of Disney’s well-known Hidden Mickeys around the room,. We found several including one on the back of the desk chair!

Our Family Stay at Disney's Grand Floridian TV

Our room boasted a red sofa, a relaxing place to stay and lounge after a day in the park. We also had a TV with all the Disney movies. The TV displayed a daily schedule, which included a weather report. We found the mini cooler under the TV and a coffee maker next to the TV. The room featured plenty of hidden places to charge electronics, such as behind the coffee maker.

We loved the gorgeous setting out of our window. We requested a quiet room with “no view” but still got to see a lovely stretch of beach outside.Our room featured a big balcony. It struck us how squeaky clean it was with two white chairs and no bugs, impressive in Florida.
The door to the balcony had a high up double lock so little kids can’t unlock the door by themselves. The door itself was hard to open, another good safety feature.

Our Family Stay at Disney's Grand Floridian outside

 

Our Bathroom

Our bathroom featured tan marble tile throughout, with the hypoallergenic wood floor continuing into the room. We enjoyed the double sink, something that all families can appreciate, as well as the hair dryer and complimentary toiletries.

Our Family Stay at Disney's Grand Floridian sink

We had a tub with a showerhead as well as a clothesline. Unfortunately, the showerhead was not handheld, but the tub had a grab bar.Our biggest surprise was the laundry hamper. Not every hotel has one, but a basket is perfect for keeping dirty towels off the floor.

Dining

The Grand Floridian offers several choices for character dining, such as the Supercalifragilistic Breakfast on 1900 Park Fare. Parents can even book the Wonderland Tea Party where kids can chat with Alice.

Our Family Stay at Disney's Grand Floridian piano

 

Those looking for Mediterranean fusion can try Citricos. This restaurant does have a relaxed dress code; men can wear khakis, slacks, jeans, or dress shorts, and women can wear capri pants, skirts, dresses, jeans, or dress shorts. They do not allow tank tops, swimsuits, torn clothes, or t-shirts with offensive graphics. Parents can book their reservation online or over the phone, which we recommend.

Narcoossee’s features seafood dining on the waterfront. This restaurant boasts beautiful panoramic ocean views. Narcoossee’s has a slightly stricter dress code than Citricos, essentially business casual.

Our Family Stay at Disney's Grand Floridian cupcake

Victoria & Albert’s is the most high-end establishment at the Grand Floridian. Here, patrons dine on award-winning cuisine in a classically elegant environment. They have a strict dress code; men must wear dinner jackets, slacks, and shoes, and women must wear either a dress, dressy pant suit, or a skirt with a blouse. Guests must also book in advance to dine here.

More budget friendly options include the Grand Floridian Cafe, Garden Tea View Room, or Gasparilla Island Grill. At the Gasparilla Island Grill, our son particularly enjoyed their cupcakes and had to have one every night before bed.

Our Family Stay at Disney's Grand Floridian car

Those who can’t or don’t want to leave their rooms can enjoy the hotel’s 24-hour room service.

Amenities

The Grand Floridian boasts several pools. We particularly enjoyed the zero entry leisure pool with an 181-foot tall water slide, whirlpool spa, waterfall, and hammocks. One can get towels and lifejackets at The Captain’s Shipyard. Guests with disabilities can also arrange for pool lifts and other access options at the Front Desk.Our Family Stay at Disney's Grand Floridian night

Those wanting to get their feet wet can enjoy fishing, water cruises, and motorboat rentals. There’s also plenty of other outdoor fitness activities such as tennis, volleyball, and golf.

The Grand Floridian offers plenty of activities. Parents can sign kids up for such activities as Campfire Activities or Grand Adventures in Cooking. There is also Arcadia Games, featuring both classic and modern arcade games.

Our Family Stay at Disney's Grand Floridian grass

Cost

The Grand Floridian is pricey, with rooms starting at $570 a night. The Garden View rooms are typically the cheapest option.

Our Family Stay at Disney's Grand Floridian duck

Autism Travel Tips:

  • Though the balcony is secure, parents should still try not to avoid booking a balcony room when traveling with young kids.
  • Make sure all balcony doors, and windows are locked. The balcony doors have two high up locks for added security.
  • Parents need to bring a non-slip bathmat, as the hotel does not provide one.

 

Navigating Universal Studios Orlando with Autism

navigating-universal-studios-orlando-with-autism pin

Originally opened at 6000 Universal Boulevard, Orlando, Florida as a single theme park in June of 1990, the famous Universal Studios Orlando still flourishes. Islands of Adventure was added later, and together these movie-inspired theme parks draw almost 30 million visitors per year.For visitors who have autism, visiting a theme park can be fun but also quite challenging. To help families plan their visit here are our tips and suggestions.

Navigating Universal Studios Orlando with Autism fire

What You Will See

Rides

The rides in the park range from mild to extreme and may present some sensory challenges for visitors with autism.

Navigating Universal Studios Orlando with Autism ride

Children on the autism spectrum can range anywhere from thrill seekers that crave G-forces, and sharp roller coaster turns to being sensitive to even the slightest of motion. Many rides include moderate to high movement while others are tame. Furthermore, many of the rides are digitally simulated which involves being rocked in a seat.
Navigating Universal Studios Orlando with Autism roller

 

The park’s most extreme rides include Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit, Revenge of the Mummy, and Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts. All of these rides feature sudden stops, spins, and turns. Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts is a simulated coaster but still features extreme movements in all directions except upside down.

Navigating Universal Studios Orlando with Autism river

 

More moderate rides include Despicable Me Minion Mayhem, Transformers 3D, Pteranodon Flyers, and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. In Despicable Me Mayhem, guests can choose immovable chairs for a more surefooted experience.

Navigating Universal Studios Orlando with Autism boat
The feet of guests dangle on Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, which can prove a problem to some kids.  While Pteranodon Flyers is a smooth ride, it does suspend riders in flight over the Jurassic Park and is therefore not for those afraid of heights.

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The milder rides include Men in Black Alien Attack, Hogwarts Express, and The Simpsons Ride. The Simpsons Ride is another simulated roller coaster that’s mostly a mini Simpsons cartoon with a few ups and downs. The Hogwarts Express features mild train movement and can, in fact, be relaxing. For visitors who wish to experience very mild rides the Suess Landing area in Islands of Adventures is recommended.

Navigating Universal Studios Orlando with Autism seuss

Effects

Many of the attractions at Universal feature loud noises. Some especially stand out with loud explosions, gunfire, and screams.  For example, Diagon Alley’s giant dragon often growls and spews real fire, while the train to Hogsmeade features whistles and screams.

Navigating Universal Studios Orlando with Autism train

Though several rides at Universal are virtual they employ special lighting, darkness, and 3D glasses for their effects. The 3D glasses are not a requirement, so those sensitive to 3D effects can choose not the wear them during the ride or attraction. Those scared of the dark can wear a glow in the dark armband in attractions such as Revenge of the Mummy, Knockturn Alley, and Poseidon’s Fury.

Navigating Universal Studios Orlando with Autism show

 

Other attractions involve water sprays, winds, and smoke effects, which can prove a challenge to some kids. Water based rides include Jurassic Park River Adventure, Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls, and Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges.
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Most rides have riders wear a helmet or seat belts which again might bother some kids.

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Shows

Macy’s Holiday Parade, the Mardi-Gras parade, and the Superstar Parade all run outdoors in the afternoon with spectators lined along the parade route. People can sit on the sidewalk or stand during the half hour ceremony. Parents of kids who can’t sit through the entire show can leave at any time.

 

 

Navigating Universal Studios Orlando with Autism car

Families can also visit the Character Party Zone where they can find dancers from the parade performing and gsigning autographs in front of Mel’s Drive-In.

 

Navigating Universal Studios Orlando with Autism mel

Throughout the parks, there are also mini performances where spectators can stand and attend like the Blues Brothers concert stage in front of Rip Ride Rockit, and Hogwarts Frog Choir where performers sing songs from Harry Potter movies.

Navigating Universal Studios Orlando with Autism parade

There are plenty of character Meet and Greet opportunities in the parks. Though there are no accommodations for them, the lines are usually short.

Navigating Universal Studios Orlando with Autism potter

Finally, there’s Shrek 4D, a 3D movie with extra sensory effects like smells and water sprays. This show is an unusual attraction but can be scary or challenging for viewers with sensory issues.

Navigating Universal Studios Orlando with Autism train

 

Playgrounds

Universal boasts several playgrounds like Curious George ,If I Ran the Zoo and The Olive where antsy kids can let out steam. Many of these places feature water spray areas.

Navigating Universal Studios Orlando with Autism park

For kids that are temperature-sensitive, the Camp Jurassic and Jurassic Park Discovery Center are recommended.
The former is a shady playground where children can explore secret caves, climb through nets, run across bridges and slide down slides. The latter features an air-conditioned educational area focusing on the prehistoric past.

Navigating Universal Studios Orlando with Autism hat

Food

Restaurants inside the parks as well as Universal City Walk feature several vegan, kosher, halal, dairy-free, gluten-free, or nut-free options for those with special diets.

Navigating Universal Studios Orlando with Autism restaurant

Guests can make reservations at most sit-down restaurants on the property. However, except during very busy times of the year, one can usually just walk into most restaurants. Diners can ask about the dietary options when they book online or by phone.
Navigating Universal Studios Orlando with Autism hall

 

Souvenirs

Like a so many other theme parks, Universal is a souvenir heaven.
Each area has unique merchandise so guests can get items ranging from favorites like Dr. Seuss, Despicable Me, Shrek, Marvel heroes like Spiderman and Hulk to Terminator, Transformers, and The Simpsons.

 

 

Navigating Universal Studios Orlando with Autism potions
But none can compare to the memento explosion of Harry Potter items to choose from: T-shirts, school uniforms, and even owl cages. Of course, most people want to get the new interactive wands. These devices interact with various locations in Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. Guests can purchase these wands in several spots in the two parks, but by far the most popular place is Olivander’s Wand Shop.

Navigating Universal Studios Orlando with Autism wand

Location, Hours, and Admission

Families can buy tickets online or when they get to the park. Multiple day passes are the best deal. However, the park does offer three great options for children with autism.

Navigating Universal Studios Orlando with Autism duff

Universal Express Pass

The Universal Express Pass, or UEP, is a paper pass with a printed bar code that can be used around most areas of the park (excluding some Harry Potter rides). Parents can get one for everyone in the family at no additional charge when staying at any USO properties (excluding Cabana Bay).

Navigating Universal Studios Orlando with Autism coaster

They can also purchase the pass separately when arriving at the park. The UEP itself features two kinds of express passes. One offers a limit of one entry a day for each attraction. The other offers unlimited entries. Parents of children with autism who like to go on the same rides over and over again should get the unlimited pass.

Navigating Universal Studios Orlando with Autism betty

 

Attraction Assistance Pass

There is also Universal’s Attraction Assistance Pass or AAP. This feature is a free pass given to accommodate guests who can’t wait in regular standby lines. One can use this pass for any ride or attraction, even one without a Universal Express Entrance. Parents can get their AAP card upon arriving at Guest Services and present identification while describing the accommodation needed. A doctor’s note explaining limitations can be useful but is not legally necessary.

Navigating Universal Studios Orlando with Autism seat

The card can accommodate up to six people. It also remains valid at both parks for the entire length of one’s stay. Families just need to show a cast member their card. If a ride’s wait time is less than half an hour, they will get in immediately through the express lane. Otherwise, the cast member will write on the AAP card the attraction name, time of day, wait time, and a return time.

Navigating Universal Studios Orlando with Autism street

Guest Assistance Pass

Finally, there’s the Guest Assistance Pass or GAP. These passes are identical to a one day/two park unlimited UEP. They provide immediate entry to any attraction’s Universal Express queue, regardless of the standby wait. Guests can only get these on a strictly limited basis.

Navigating Universal Studios Orlando with Autism rock

 

Autism Travel Tips:

  • While the park features monthly events, summer and Christmas time are the most crowded times of the year.
  • The best way to dress is in layers since conditions vary from attraction to attraction and throughout the day.
  • Non-slip shoes are a must.
  • Parents should pack a change of clothes if anyone wants to do any water rides. The park does offer blow dryers for rent for five minutes at a time.
  • We recommend bringing a poncho to protect family members from getting soaking wet on some water rides along with flip flops.
  • The park can get crowded. Parents should snap a photo of their child to show authorities if they wander or get lost.
  • In addition, parents should get temporary tattoos or patches with their child’s name and the parent’s phone number in case they get lost.
  • Families should prepare children ahead of time that there are height restrictions on some rides.
  • Guests that can’t climb the two flights of stairs at Diagon Alley or Hogsmeade can ask staff to use the elevator to take them straight to the train platform.
  • There are no accommodations for attending parades.
  • At night, some parades may have fireworks.
  • Parents can use available lockers for shoes, socks, and small backpacks.
  • While the pathways are all paved and accessible, there might be slippery or muddy areas due to water attractions.
  • Orlando can get hot during the summer. This fact can make it uncomfortable for those waiting in outdoor lines for extended periods of time. Thankfully, many attractions at Universal are indoors and have air conditioning.
  • Those who don’t want to go on the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride can go through the queue line and experience all the Harry Potter items and scenes from the films. Interested guests just need to tell the attendant they are not riding. The attendant will then show them the exit.
  • Though the park allows guests to wear noise canceling headphones, some roller coasters like Hollywood Rip Ride Rocket and other motion intense rides won’t allow it.

 

Our Family Stay at the W Fort Lauderdale Hotel

Our Family Stay at the W Fort Lauderdale Hotel PIN
When our family went on the Harmony of the Seas inaugural cruise, we chose to spend the night before the cruise at the W Fort Lauderdale in Florida. Located on 401 North Fort Lauderdale Beach Boulevard, this hotel proved to be a great stay for our family despite the fact it typically caters to couples.

Our Family Stay at the W Fort Lauderdale Hotel building

 

What Makes it Family Worthy?

This wave-shaped luxury hotel boasts 430 rooms and sits on beachfront property overlooking the Atlantic. The hotel is an SPG property, so guests can both use and earn SPG points during their stay. The hotel is near several great recreational locations and activities, including the Museum of Discovery and Science, the Sawgrass Mills Mall, and the Fort Lauderdale Ghost Tour.As mentioned before, the hotel mainly caters to couples, and we mostly saw couples during our stay. However, families and other groups are certainly welcome at this hotel.
Our Family Stay at the W Fort Lauderdale Hotel elevator

Our Arrival

We requested our usual accommodations of feather free pillow for allergies and a quiet location for our son with autism. However, when we arrived at our room, we discovered the hotel had given us a couples room that was not at all appropriate for families. Our shower had a clear glass wall so that people in the room could see whoever was showering. While the hotel did give us a curtain, we found that the room was still not working for us, so the hotel thankfully moved us to a suite.

 

Our Family Stay at the W Fort Lauderdale Hotel couples

Hotel Decor

The Fort Lauderdale W prides itself on his whimsical, humorous touches. The W features dark decor, lots of velures, and metallics on white and black backgrounds. We appreciated the amazingly decorated elevators done in metal with pink-reddish light. The mat outside the elevator changes three times a day, so it says “good morning” “good afternoon” and “good evening” as appropriate.The wall behind the counter had a large stamped “W” symbol. There was plenty of dim lighting throughout the lobby, some of it cleverly hidden behind walls or in crevices.  The hotel is made up of two towers, one of which boasts residential properties, where we stayed.

Our Family Stay at the W Fort Lauderdale Hotel view

Our Room

The kitchen boasted an island with a pull-out sink faucet. We found the trash can stored underneath the sink, and next to the sink was a working dishwasher. Near the island was a dining table with several chairs where guests could sit together and have a meal.

Our Family Stay at the W Fort Lauderdale Hotel sofa

 

The closet by the door had a motion detector light and large safe. The safe in the closet sat at a convenient height on top of a set of drawers. We also saw another closet near the bathroom that guests could lock, an excellent additional security feature. We found a third closet in one of the bedrooms, which had shelving, a bathrobe, an ironing board, a luggage rack, and a chest of drawers. Something we noticed about the closets was that they were all painted black, which made the clothes stand out.

Our Family Stay at the W Fort Lauderdale Hotel breakfast

The living room was decorated with faux-marble white walls. The living room had a nice offwhite L-shaped sofa with an attractive coffee table. Over the couch, we saw a black and white blanket. The living room had a third TV over another black chest of drawers.

 

Our Family Stay at the W Fort Lauderdale Hotel safe

Our suite had two bedrooms that looked incredibly similar. Both bedrooms had blue carpeting that simulated waves, with similarly decorated curtains. The rooms each had a chest of drawers in black wood, above which we could enjoy a 45 inch TV mounted on the wall. The wall behind the bed in each room was a bold silver taupe. The rooms both had king sized beds with nightstands and night lights on each side. Each nightstand featured an outlet and two USB ports. Finally, both rooms had a sitting area with a standing lamp and an unusually designed chair. The seat was wide, sleek black, and looked like a cross between a lounge and regular chair.

Our Family Stay at the W Fort Lauderdale Hotel ROOM

Perhaps the best feature of the room was the provided washing machine and dryer. In-room access to clothes washing machines is perfect for families, especially for extended stays.There was adjustable air conditioning in every single room, ideal for family members with temperature sensitivities.Our room had a balcony with spectacular views of the ocean. The room had two sliding doors, one in the living room and one in one of the bedrooms. Unfortunately, both sliding doors had only one easy -to-open lock, not the best to stop wandering kids.
Our Family Stay at the W Fort Lauderdale Hotel bed

Overall, the decor of the room was a pleasant blend of metallic colors and neutrals, with the bright blue kitchen standing out in the room. The room felt like an upscale two bedroom apartment.
Our Family Stay at the W Fort Lauderdale Hotel lock

 

Our Bathrooms

Our suite featured two bathrooms, one next to each bedroom. A sliding door without a lock led into the first bathroom. The flooring of the entire bathroom was a tile that simulated wood in tan colors. The decor consisted of white walls with a cherry wood vanity. The sink was a Corian material and had toiletries, tissues, and a magnifying mirror. Our amenity kit was from Bliss, a sample of the hotel’s onsite Spa supplies.
Our Family Stay at the W Fort Lauderdale Hotel bliss

The toilet was in a separate room with a door for privacy. The shower area boasted a cherrywood shelf. Unfortunately, we didn’t see a handheld showerhead or grab bar, which can be an issue for some families. However, the shower did have an overhead light. Also, while most of the shower was tile like the rest of the bathroom, the flooring by the shower drain was made of small stones.

 

Our Family Stay at the W Fort Lauderdale Hotel sink

The second bathroom was next to the master bedroom. This bathroom was not separated from the bedroom by a wall or door. The first thing we saw was the large jacuzzi tub. As we went into the bathroom, we saw the sink with more bliss products ad toiletries.The area also had light up mirror and a mini magnifying mirror.Similar to the other bathroom, the tiles in this room were neutral and light tan. The shower of this bathroom had the same setup as the first but with stone tiling and an area to sit.

Our Family Stay at the W Fort Lauderdale Hotel tub

 

Amenities

Travelers who want to take full advantage of the W Fort Lauderdale’s beachside location could sign up for the hotel’s Beach Boot Camp and Seaside Yoga. There, depending on the day guests could take complimentary classes involving different types of yoga and cardio exercises.A fitness center featuring state of the art pilates, treadmills, free weights, and balance balls was available to patrons. Most of the gym equipment also had iPod docking stations.The hotel also featured the Bliss Spa, where guests could get things like massages, manicures and pedicures. The Bliss Spa also has a “legendary” brownie buffet for guests to try.
Our Family Stay at the W Fort Lauderdale Hotel gym

 

As well as the beach, guests can also swim at the hotel’s outdoor infinity edge pool WET West on the fifth floor. Travelers can relax on one of the many loungers surrounding the pool, shaded by several umbrellas. The hotel also has a relaxing hot tub near a gas powered fire pit.
Our Family Stay at the W Fort Lauderdale Hotel pool

Not only was the hotel pet-friendly, but it also offered guests an exclusive Pet Suite. Those staying in the Pet Suite could expect to see in the room several “Tinkle Turf” pads, a plush dog bed, food and water bowls, fancy dog snacks, pick up bags, and a special dog menu. The hotel also provided a special limited edition dog bandana. Sadly, the property has no accommodations for cat owners.
Our Family Stay at the W Fort Lauderdale Hotel cabanas

 

Dining

The hotel had several on-site dining options. Diners looking for fancy dining could try Steak 954. The restaurant featured different delicious steaks from chef Stephen Starr that customers could eat while enjoying beautiful oceanside views. Unique to this venue was the restaurant’s jellyfish aquarium, which extended 15-feet behind several sitting areas and was lit up with bright blue and green lights.
Our Family Stay at the W Fort Lauderdale Hotel pool dining

Swimmers at the hotel’s WET West could stop for a bite to eat at the Wet Bar. Along with cocktails, guests could get salads, wraps, and burgers. The bar also offered several smoothies and shakes.

The W Cafe was the perfect place for grabbing a quick bite to eat or coffee. Hungry guests could enjoy everything from yogurt parfaits to teas. The W Cafe also advertised themselves as dedicated to health food.
Our Family Stay at the W Fort Lauderdale Hotel steak 24

 

Cost

Pricing starts at $200 a night and includes access to the mentioned amenities as well as the free high-speed internet for SPG members. Non-SPG members must pay $14.95 per day for internet access.
Our Family Stay at the W Fort Lauderdale Hotel brch

 

The hotel site recommends that guests take an Uber, taxi, or shuttle from the Fort Lauderdale airport to get to the hotel. However, those traveling in their car can use the on-site valet parking for $36 per day.

 

Autism Travel Tips

  • The hotel is a dog-friendly property and allows those staying to bring along pets as well as service animals. Families dealing with allergies should request a hypoallergenic room.
  • While our room did not have a grab bar, other rooms in the hotel do have these as well as other accessibility features. Families should request these features when booking.
  • Families staying in the couple oriented rooms should request a curtain for the “peeping” shower so as to give everyone more privacy.
  • Parents need to bring a non-slip bathmat, as the hotel does not provide one.

 

Five Family Friendly Fort Lauderdale Experiences

Five Family Friendly Fort Lauderdale Experiences pin

Full of wildlife and vegetation, history and art, Fort Lauderdale is an exciting destination. Sometimes referred to as the Venice of America, Fort Lauderdale in the state of Florida is surrounded by beaches, swamp land and nightlife. With constant warm weather throughout the year, this city is a lovely vacationing area that all families can enjoy. For parents planning a visit here are our top five family experiences to try.

Five Family Friendly Fort Lauderdale Experiences sign

Anne Kolb Nature Center

Fort Lauderdale has plenty of places to explore for animal and nature lovers. One such place is the Anne Kolb Nature Center. This location features about 1,500 acres of coastal mangrove wetland. It is home to a variety of plants and animals including some threatened and endangered species. Their Exhibition Hall holds a series of interactive and static displays that help explain to kids the West Lake Park’s Mangrove ecosystem and significance. There is also an Eco Room where kids and parents can enjoy hands-on nature experience. They can also observe the 3,500-gallon saltwater aquarium. Visitors can enjoy different trails such as a fishing trail, bird observer trail and a trail designed for walking/bike riding.

Five Family Friendly Fort Lauderdale Experiences water

Sea Experience

Sea Experience is a scuba diving, and snorkeling shop open to the public all year round. They provide diving lessons and are welcoming and encouraging of beginners. The staff takes travelers out on the water in a glass bottom boat so they can view the underwater world. Sea Experience has a variety of diving sites, and experienced divers can suggest a site to the crew. A couple of the diving sites include shipwrecked areas.

Five Family Friendly Fort Lauderdale Experiences beach

Museum of Discovery and Science

This museum is very interactive and makes learning fun. The Museum of Discovery and Science has its own AutoNation IMAX that presents 3D films in fantastic quality. There are also a couple of flight simulators that will take visitors on an incredible journey to Mars or have them soaring through the skies on a jet. What is also amazing is that the museum often has animal-centered demos that allows kids and adults to connect and get closer to animal life. Their new exhibit Powerful You is all about the human body and uses fun interaction to learn about the human body and the technology used by health professionals.

Five Family Friendly Fort Lauderdale Experiences pool

Young At Art

The Young At Art Museum is the perfect place for creative travelers. There are regular events held at the museum, so there’s always something to do. Visitors can check out the ArtScapes exhibit and learn about the history of art and how it crosses time, culture and place. In this exhibit, travelers can wander through The Cave, a human-made cave, and view 5,000 years of images of art and its histories set to music. While exploring The Cave people are encouraged to leave a message on the walls for future visitors.

Five Family Friendly Fort Lauderdale Experiences bird

At Avenue A, visitors can “ride” a New York subway and explore the world of graffiti and its history. Guests can also visit the Portrait Gallery which allows them to create a self-portrait inspired by artists through the ages.

We highly recommend taking some time to check out the CultureScapes. This exhibit honors the artists from different cultures that make up America. They display art from cultures such as Haiti, Latin America, Cuba, Africa, Native American, and Asia, etc.Moreover, kids can learn how the artists interpret their culture and tradition and how it influences their art.

Five Family Friendly Fort Lauderdale Experiences jeff

Everglades Airboat Ride

Lastly, for those up for a little adventure, we suggest a ride in Everglades Park. Here, travelers can see the local alligators in their habitat. There are plenty of venues that offer airboat rides as well as information about alligators and their habitat. One of the more famous sites is the Holiday Parks which also invites travelers back to the park to meet rescued alligators and witness events held by the park staff.

Five Family Friendly Fort Lauderdale Experiences gator

Autism Travel Tips:

  • The Museum of Discovery and Science is highly interactive and recommended for kids who are tactile and energetic.
  • Parents should make sure kids know how to conduct themselves safely during Airboat Rides. Getting up close and personal to alligators can be dangerous.
  • For the nature center, parents should pack hand wipes as it is a hands-on wild experience.
  • Parents should bring either earplugs or phones when visiting some of the exhibits like the Subway exhibit for Young at Art if their kids are noise sensitive.

Five Family Friendly Fort Lauderdale Experiences park

 

Taking Kids to the Hemingway Home Museum

Taking Kids to the Hemingway Home Museum pin

Key West is known for its quirky atmosphere. However, it was also the home of writer Ernest Hemingway. Built in 1851, and then occupied by Ernest Hemingway and his family in 1930’s, many of the original furnishings and collectibles from the Hemingway estate still decorate the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum. For any Hemingway fan, this location is a must-see when exploring Key West.

Taking Kids to the Hemingway House Museum sign

What You Will See

 The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum was the home of the famed author and his family after they returned from Europe Those visiting the house will likely see over sixty cats roaming the property. Some of these cats are rumored to be descendants of Hemingway’s original cat who was polydactyl (extra toed.)

Visitors might notice that some of the furniture isn’t from the 1900s. That is because Hemingway was an avid collector of seventeenth and eighteenth-century Spanish furniture. As he was often gone on a safari or working as a war correspondent, visitors will find quite a few collectibles from his travels.

Taking Kids to the Hemingway House Museum house

The property features a unique pool. Hemingway dug into solid coral to create this pool. Also, at the time, Hemingway owned the only pool within a hundred miles. There are also the gorgeous gardens where guests can relax or discover flowers such as Plumbago, Star Jasmine, Hibiscus and Bleeding Heart.Throughout the home, there are multiple rooms to explore, slow down and even snap ‘selfies’ with the cats.

Historical Significance

Ernest Hemingway was a well-known American writer. His most famous works include novels such as The Old Man and the Sea and Farewell to Arms. Hemingway also wrote many short stories, like “Hills like White Elephants” and “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place.” The author is known, to this day, for his honest, straightforward writing style and his eccentricities. There are many interesting stories of the author like as the time Hemingway opened fire with a machine-gun on a group of sharks. Unfortunately, in July of 1961, Hemingway took his life with a shotgun.

Taking Kids to the Hemingway House Museum sitting

The Ernest Hemingway Home is where the author spent ten productive years writing his novels. Supposedly, he found the seas around Key West both peaceful and physically challenging. Today, the home is a National Historic Landmark, Literary Landmark, and a Historic American Building.

Location and Hours

The Museum located at 907 Whitehead St., Key West, is open daily from nine AM to five PM, including holidays. General Admission for adults is $13.00, for children is $6.00. However, children five years or younger get in for free.

Taking Kids to the Hemingway House Museum cat

How to Get There

Travelers should follow US-1 South (I-95 South turns into US-1), and keep right as they enter Key West. After a while, US-1 South will turn into North Roosevelt Blvd, and then it will turn into Truman Ave. After this, travelers can continue straight on Truman Ave., and turn right onto Whitehead St. The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum will be on the right. To identify the property, one can see its distinctive brick wall surrounding it.

Taking Kids to the Hemingway House Museum rooster

Autism Travel Tips:

  • This place could be a great educational trip for a school-aged child.
  • There are lots of cats on the property, which could stir up allergies or be frightening for a child who does not have a lot of experience with cats. That said, other kids might love a four-legged friend following them!
  • The gate to the property must be closed at all times and closed quickly behind visitors. This gate is the only thing keeping the cats on the property and away from the wild roosters that roam Key West.
  • Weekends are busier than weekdays. Therefore, parents with children who are quickly overwhelmed should try going during the week.

Taking Kids to the Hemingway House Museum pool

  • The museum only accepts cash. Therefore, parents should plan accordingly, especially if anyone in the family is a Hemingway buff and plans to purchase some of his books or collectibles in the bookstore!
  • We highly recommend taking the 30-minute tour to get an overview of the house. This recommendation is because the tour guides have a wealth of knowledge about Hemingway, his family, and the grounds, and love sharing this knowledge with visitors.

 

 

 

Family Friendly Stay at the Walt Disney World Swan Hotel

Family Friendly Stay at the Walt Disney World Swan Hotel pin

Walt Disney World is a magical place to bring families together. This year, when my family visited Walt Disney World, we decided to stay on a non-Disney property to see how it compared to staying at a Disney resort. Facing Crescent Lake, the Swan Hotel, with its 1509 rooms, is located at 1200 Epcot Resorts Boulevard in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. The resort is part of a duplex along with the Dolphin hotel. Together, the two hotels create the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort complex.

Family Friendly Stay at the Walt Disney World Swan Hotel swan

What Makes it Family Worthy?

For families looking for a resort offering a luxury stay for everyone, the SPG run Swan Resort is the way to go. Though not officially part of the Disney property, it is a boat ride away from Disney’s Epcot theme park. As the Swan is in a complex with the Dolphin, patrons have access to multiple restaurants within walking distance. The hotel is also close to three Disney hotels; the Boardwalk, Beach hotel, and Yacht Club. Each of these hotels has their restaurants for additional choices.

The property is much more budget friendly than the average Disney resort, and one can use SPG points to stay there. Even with the lower prices, families will find the hotel boasts larger rooms with two queen beds, something that not every hotel offers. Some of these large rooms also connect so more people can stay there comfortably in the same area.

Family Friendly Stay at the Walt Disney World Swan Hotel view

Fellow travelers range from business people attending conferences in the buildings to families wishing to try out a non-Disney, luxurious but slightly cheaper lodging option.

Our Welcome

Due to an unexpected snafu with our flight, we arrived at the hotel at one in the morning. This delay was unusual, and we were exhausted after flying from CA for six hours. The staff at check-in not only assisted us, but also upgraded us to a suite.

We had previously contacted the property to inform the staff that we needed certain accommodations, like feather free pillows and a quiet room. Therefore, they already knew about our needs, but it was a lovely added surprise that they upgraded us.

Family Friendly Stay at the Walt Disney World Swan Hotel bench

Hotel Decor

The lobby featured warm colors of yellows and browns highlighted with occasional touches of soft greens. The flooring alternates between flower patterned carpet to marble and natural stone. Guests walking out into the main lobby would see a large fountain with four white swans drizzling water out of their beaks. The area is well lit with lots of subdued lights with multiple tropical plants scattered around the lobby and public spaces.

Family Friendly Stay at the Walt Disney World Swan Hotel hall

Our Room

When we arrived at our suite 731, we were delighted with how spacious and comfortable it was. Throughout the room, we saw large floor to ceiling windows. Out of these windows, guests could see the iconic Epcot dome, which was lit up bright blue at night. Both thin and thick curtain covered the 180-degree suite windows.

Much of the decor in the suite consisted of glass top countertops, dark wood furnishings, tan walls, and greenish-gray carpeting. The room featured decorative plants which are usually used in luxurious upscale suites.

Family Friendly Stay at the Walt Disney World Swan Hotel room

The suite had two large closets with shutter doors and ample hanging space, shelving, and place for our luggage. The closets housed an ironing board, bathrobes, slippers, and a blow dryer. We found the in-room safe in one of the closets, an important feature for families who want to store valuables they don’t want to take with them into the theme parks. We noted the bar area, which included a coffee maker.

The huge living room was divided into a seating area and a dining area. The seating area had a dark blue velour opening sofa perfect for our son with autism to sleep in comfortably while the dining area was comprised of a table with several yellow chairs. There was a large screen TV over a chest of drawers facing the opening sofa in the sitting area perfect for our son to watch his favorite TV channels.

Our bedroom, aka the parents’ bedroom, featured two beds in the room with a nightstand between them. On the nightstand was a standing lamp with additional outlets, an alarm clock, and a soothing sound machine. The mini sitting area consisted of an armchair and a glass table that could either be a regular table or a desk. Across from the two beds was a rather large dresser on top of a flat-screen TV and a coffee machine along with another standing lamp. The dresser had many drawers and also housed a mini cooler.

Family Friendly Stay at the Walt Disney World Swan Hotel blue

The door between the main bedroom and the rest of the suite could be locked from both sides, a fantastic privacy feature.We particularly loved the ample seating and the fact there were two TVs in the room. We regretted getting to stay only for one night and  not being able to fully enjoy the suite.

Our Bathroom

Our suite boasted two bathrooms which turned out to be a very convenient feature for our family stay. Though both bathrooms were similar in size, they differed in decor. The first bathroom, just off the living room area, had tan tiles and marble flooring. There was a brown countertop with plenty of towels for all of us staying to use.

Family Friendly Stay at the Walt Disney World Swan Hotel sink

The second bathroom, right off the entrance hallway, featured modern decor with a glass mosaic green backsplash along with a wooden vanity with Corian countertop and sink.

Both bathrooms featured combination tubs/showers with grab bars, but the one in the first bathroom had a curtain while the second had a glass enclosure. We appreciated that both had a hand held shower head and a separate rain shower head.

Family Friendly Stay at the Walt Disney World Swan Hotel tub

Amenities

In addition to boasting terrific views and a luxurious decor, the Swan Resort had excellent family-friendly recreational offerings. Guests who love swimming could try out one of five different swimming pools. Two of these pools were lap pools, perfect for those who enjoy exercising. The most popular and featured pool was the three-acre grotto pool with a beautiful waterfall and rock caves. There was also a “kiddie” pool on site for younger kids to enjoy the water safely.

Guests who love swimming could try out one of five different swimming pools. Two of these pools were lap pools, perfect for those who enjoy exercising. The most popular and featured pool was the three-acre grotto pool with a beautiful waterfall and rock caves. There was also a “kiddie” pool on site for younger kids to enjoy the water safely.

Family Friendly Stay at the Walt Disney World Swan Hotel outside

Travelers looking for relaxation should try out the Mandara Spa. The Spa features a large selection of leisure options, including body wraps, facials, mani/pedis, and deep tissue massages. Guests could also enjoy sitting or sampling soothing tea in the Meditation Garden themed after a Meru Temple.

For those who want to keep in shape on their vacation, the Swan Hotel had a lot to offer. Guests could indulge in the Swan Health Club for access to workout machines like treadmills, stair climbers, and stationary bikes. Those staying could also participate in different sports like tennis, volleyball, basketball, and mini golf, all without having to leave the property. Finally, the hotel offered guests access to jogging trails. One of these trails takes runners around Crescent Lake and through five other hotels in the Epcot area.

Family Friendly Stay at the Walt Disney World Swan Hotel swan

Dining

Both the Dolphin and the Swan share a common area where they have several restaurants. There’s something for just about anyone in this joint area.

Regarding restaurants unique to the Swan, we had many options. For fine dining, visitors could go to Kimonos for Japanese sushi or Il Mulino for Italian cooking. Casual, more budget-friendly dining options included the Garden Grove, featuring Disney Character Dining in a beautiful garden setting, or Splash Terrace, where one could get grass fed burgers or ice cream right next to one of the Swan’s lap pools. Families looking for fast service could stop by the Java Bar to get a quick coffee or pastry. Of course, for those who couldn’t or didn’t want to leave their rooms, the hotel provided 24-hour room service.

Family Friendly Stay at the Walt Disney World Swan Hotel food

We ultimately decided to try Todd English’s Bluezoo, a restaurant technically on Dolphin property. We enjoyed their Happy Hour where we got to try their nachos, loaded with guacamole, beef, cheese, and sour cream.

For those wanting something different, one can access the three Disney resorts via a free short boat ride or a five-minute walk. Guests can also take the boat straight to Disney Springs for even more options.

Family Friendly Stay at the Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel bluezoo

Cost

The price for a one night stay starts around $300 and includes free Wi-Fi. The hotel offers plenty of package deals, especially in conjunction with Disney parks. One can find self-parking near the entrance to the park costing $18 per day. Guests can also utilize valet parking for $26 per day.

Family Friendly Stay at the Walt Disney World Swan Hotel sky

Autism Travel Tips:

  • The suites feature lots of glass standing lamps, which can be hazardous to kids if they get knocked over.
  • We saw lots of living plants throughout the hotel, including in the rooms. Parents of children with Pica might want to request a plant-free room.
  • The mini suite had quite a few vases and other breakable artifacts. These might be a problem for rambunctious kids with autism. Parents can request the removal of such items while booking.
  • There wasn’t a no-grip mat in the shower. However, guests can easily bring one from home to further assist those who need it.
  • Bring a nightlight as the suite is a really a big space and can be difficult to navigate in the dark.
  • The dresser and the nightstand featured glass tops, which could be hazardous for kids.

 

Orlando Hard Rock Café Behind the Scenes Tour

Orlando Hard Rock Cafe behind the scenes tour pin

The Hard Rock Cafe is a global restaurant chain known for preserving artifacts of notable musicians and performers. The Orlando location at Universal City Walk (right across from the theme park) is one of the chain’s larger venues. In fact, it can accommodate up to 1300 patrons at a time. The location boasts multiple rooms and has one of the biggest collections of memorabilia from around the world covering different music eras.

Orlando Hard Rock Café's Behind the Scenes Tour outside

Visitors can sit and enjoy American cuisine items surrounded by collectibles from rock stars and celebrities throughout the ages. Kids and adults will be fascinated to explore the different rooms. They can also learn more about the displayed pieces from the servers and from a giant digital interactive post board with trivia.

 

Orlando Hard Rock Café's Behind the Scenes Tour inside

The Deets

Those who would like to explore more of the collection can book a free behind-the-scenes tour conducted by one of the knowledgeable staff members. This two and a half hour tour is available throughout the year, all you have to do is register 24 hours in advance.
Like mentioned prior, the tour is free and takes about two hours to complete from beginning to end. As huge fans of rock n’ roll music, we marveled at the number of relics we saw. We also enjoyed hearing about the stories behind them.

Orlando Hard Rock Café's Behind the Scenes Tour man

The John Lennon Room

The tour starts by going upstairs to a room dedicated to the Beatles. One of the first things you will see is John Lennon’s beloved but ripped couch. There are old posters signed by the Beatles on the wall along with John Lennon’s white piano, a treat for any Beatles fan. We recognized the white suit in an individual display box as the one he wore when he married Yoko Ono in Amsterdam.

Orlando Hard Rock Café's Behind the Scenes Tour suit

Be sure to pay particular attention to the piano in the John Lennon room. The owners acquired this piano from a donor, who originally purchased it at an auction benefiting kids around the world in November 1991. What is unique about this piano is that a different famous artist signed each key.

Orlando Hard Rock Café's Behind the Scenes Tour piano

The Storage Room

After a short tour of the large amphitheater where bands and singers still come to perform, we entered a giant storage room filled with rock memorabilia.

Here, visitors can see posters and pins along with statues and outlandish costumes from rock stars and rock bands of the 1980s. Our guide mentioned many of these items, initially slated for the garbage, were salvaged by the restaurant chain that decided to “adopt” them and keep them on display. One of these recovered artifacts is, rumor has it, the booth where Elvis Presley recorded his first song. Our sons got a kick out of reading all the inscriptions and signatures on the wall of the different stars who have visited the cafe.

Orlando Hard Rock Café's Behind the Scenes Tour car

The Downstairs Rooms

The tour continued downstairs to the various rooms of the restaurant, decorated with many personal items of singers and performers. Not to be missed are Buddy Holly’s glasses along with guitars signed by other contemporary stars. In the next room over, we couldn’t miss the huge pink Cadillac rotating on a special pedestal that allegedly belonged to Elvis Presley.

Orlando Hard Rock Café's Behind the Scenes Tour glasses

Guests who choose to venture outside will come across an authentic piece of the Berlin Wall. This piece, unfortunately, lost its trademark graffiti due to the over diligence of a restaurant cleaner.

Orlando Hard Rock Café's Behind the Scenes Tour windows

Our Takeaway

We do hope that you will enjoy taking the tour.
Consider heading on to the Hard Rock Hotel nearby for additional sights. This cafe is beautiful to look at even if just from the entrance with the guitar fountains to the lobby.

Orlando Hard Rock Café's Behind the Scenes Tour guitar

We recommend this tour not only for its entertainment but also for its educational value.
Kaitlyn, one of the venue managers, was our tour guide. If you ask her nicely, she’s got a magical iPad that controls all the music in the restaurant. If you have a special  song to be played request, she’s the one that can make it happen.

Orlando Hard Rock Cafe behind the scenes tour end

Autism Travel Tips:

  • This tour is highly recommended for kids who are interested in rock music.
  • You cannot touch most items because of their historical value. Because of this, be sure to tell your children this and watch them, so they don’t break anything.
  • Since this tour is all indoors and air-conditioned, it’s wonderful, especially in the Florida summer.
  • You can technically leave at any time if your child gets bored or they don’t want to walk around. It’s also nice that it is complementary, so you don’t have to invest much other than your time.
  • When planning to visit with children with autism, first introduce your kids to rock n’ roll music. The will enjoy it to the fullest if they can identify the singers and enjoy the music.
  • Most of the tour your family will be walking, so wear comfortable shoes.
  • Kids will get a huge kick out of an interactive board that you can press to request songs. The board plays an interactive game which is probably the coolest thing we’ve ever seen in interactive games.

Orlando Hard Rock Café's Behind the Scenes Tour signatures

 

The Budget Friendly Crowne Plaza Orlando Universal

 

Location

Located at 7800 Universal Boulevard, the Crowne Plaza Orlando Universal has 400 rooms and suites from which travelers can choose.The hotel is a ten minute car ride from Universal Studios ( the property provides a free shuttle back and forth( and a twenty minute drive from Walt Disney World.

What makes it family worthy?

There are many different activities found within a short distance of the hotel. It is especially close to Universal Studios, and Disney World, as well as Ripley’s, Believe It or Not, Museum.

 

Fellow Travelers

With its’ many amusement parks, Orlando is a top destination for families. Couples and business people those visiting on business are also well represented among the hotel’s guests.

Décor

The lobby was especially spacious, brightly lit and decorated in a modern style. In all areas of the hotel, neutral hues with the occasional splash of color seemed to be the preferred decor.Our room had red accent pillows and light wooden furniture.

 

The Budget Friendly Crowne Plaza Orlando Universal rrom

Rooms

Plentiful pillows and comfortable bedding made for a pleasant night’s rest. In between the two queen sized beds, there was also a nightstand with an alarm clock and a phone.Facing the bed area was a large, flat screen television so that travelers could comfortably watch their favorite shows before going to sleep.Though the vistas were not advertised as a selling point at this location, we still had a good view of the nearby green spaces and some of the other hotels. Also visible from our windows was the outdoor kidney shaped swimming pool.

Our accommodations also contained a seating area with a comfortable green armchair with a footrest and a small side table that was ideal for holding beverages or snacks while one was lounging about. Supplies for making coffee and tea were likewise found in the rooms.

The work desk area in our suite came complete with a second chair, another phone, and an overhead lamp. The spot made an excellent place to sit and surf the web. After all, complimentary wireless internet, a much-appreciated amenity, is available in all parts of the hotel. There was also a large chest of drawers and sizeable closet to store our belongings in. The closet further contained an iron, a safe, and clothes hangers for our use. The microwave and mini fridge were likewise good touches that rounded out the room’s furnishings.

The bathroom area was sufficient for our needs. It contained the usual features of a sink, a toilet, and a bathtub. A silver rack filled to the brim with towels of all sorts could be found just above the toilet, along with the basic amenity kit of soap, shampoo, conditioner and body lotion bottles and a scale.The tub/shower combination with good water pressure did not have a hand held shower head and was separated with a shower curtain.

Overall, we found the standard room to be an adequate budget friendly fit for our family of four.

The Budget Friendly Crowne Plaza Orlando Universal pool 

 

Facilities

Several cabanas and numerous lounge chairs can be found in the outdoor pool area which is located just outside the main lobby. Children who are making their way through the lobby will no doubt be fascinated by the large aquarium that is found there, but their parents may be more interested in the small dining and bar area.

The dining section has some comfortable chairs where those staying here can relax and chat with their traveling companions even if they don’t plan on eating anything. I  met up with some of my friends at this spot, and we greatly enjoyed the sandwiches and drinks that we were served. However, there is another eating establishment in the back section of the ground floor that is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The menu provides a typical array of American foods including salads, hamburgers, and appetizers.

The Executive Lounge

The executive lounge area has excellent views of the nearby park. Although these vistas were not very different from what we could see from our room, they nonetheless provided a nice accompaniment to the meal. The buffet found here contained a small assortment of cereals including Rice Crispies, Kellogg’s Cornflakes, Raisin Bran, and Special K. There were also pastries, muffins, and bread provided along with cubed melons and yogurt. Bagels and a small selection of preserves served to complete the repast. Beverage choices here were limited to numerous types of Bigelow brand teas and also coffee.

Autism Travel Tips 

There don’t seem to be any safety handles in the tubs at this location, so travelers should be aware of that fact.
Likewise, handicapped persons may also want to bring along a bath mat to provide traction if they need it as this is not supplied by the hotel.
Like in all hotels families with autism should ask for rooms that are not facing the pool and away from the executive lounge and floor elevators.

 

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