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I want a magical Disney experience.
But I don’t want to experience the scorching heat, long lines and sweaty dehydrated children.
My kids are 3 and 1 now. So an entire July day of walking around a theme park in central Florida – sounds like a nightmare. (even if it’s the most perfect magical place on earth. Which Disney World is – FYI.) But my 3 yr old daughter has been wanting to see “mickeys house”. So we did a “low-cal” version of Disney in one day. It was just about all the Disney a little girl and boy could handle. AND… I didn’t break the bank. The whole trip cost under $200. That included meals and souvenirs. That didn’t include a hotel stay because we bunked with family. But honestly if you find a reasonable hotel – you can definitely do a cheap “taste of Disney Weekend” without the theme parks. And trust me, the little ones will NOT know the difference. So here we go….
Start your day off at a Character Breakfast. We had reservations at 7:45am at the Cape May Cafe in the Disney Beach Club Resort. (Parking is free if you have restaurant reservations.)
The Cape May Cafe is super cute in a New England Beach theme. We had a private side table tucked away from the incredible breakfast buffet. I have never seen a breakfast buffet like this one! Everything was fresh and delicious. There was a chef making crepes upon request with custom ingredients. It had so many gourmet items! This classy buffet was incomparable – I will go back one day just for this breakfast. Seriously! Then the characters came! The whole event is called “Minnie’s Beach Bash Breakfast!” So it features Minnie Mouse, Donald, and Goofy all dressed up in their beachy best! My daughter LOVED IT. My son was terrified – it was hilarious. But he warmed up towards the end.?
Then we walked out of the Cape May cafe to explore the rest of the Beach Club Resort. The resort is huge and beautiful. You might also want to check out “Storm-Along Bay pool” with sand bottom floor, a lazy river, and water slide. It’s very unique. The resort is connected to the Boardwalk and Swan & Dolphin hotel. Take a stroll down the boardwalk and check out a cool outdoor playground and ping pong table at the Swan & Dolphin that is open to the public.
As the sun rises higher in the summer sky and the temp begins to rise – hop into your vehicle and drive 3 miles east on Bueña Vista Dr to the new & beautiful Disney Springs. (Formerly named Downtown Disney) Disney Springs is a huge semi-outdoor mall with lots of shade and every Disney themed store you need! It opens daily at 10am. Parking & entrance is free! (Yes – freeee! So far the only thing we’ve paid for is Breakfast. ?)
The west side of the mall is mostly restaurants and clothing shops. The East side is more for kids and we stayed mostly on this side. We started at the halfway point and started walking east. Most of our time was spend indoors in the crisp Disney air conditioning. Here are a few key things to hit up that kiddos will LOVE.
– The Lego Store, just the entrance is a sight that will impress your kids. It features a giant LEGO statue of Buzz Lightyear and Woody. Two Star Wars themed Life size characters mid-battle. Completely made of Legos! Inside there are play tables and kits for purchase. You can honestly spend an hour+ here.
– Behind the Lego store is the Dinosaur themed restaurant named T-REX. Off to the side of the hostess is a “dig site”. For free, the kids can dig up and uncover pretend dianosaur bones in a sand pit. Bring out your inner Dr. Alan Grant!
– The World of Disney Store. The entrance features a big character Stitch that squirts water as you enter. (A little cool off) This is also one of the biggest Disneys stores in the world. Anything and everything Disney for kids is under this roof.
– If you want to browse/buy some more grown up Disney merchandise – check out Mickeys Pantry & Marketplace Co-op. It has Disney theme kitchen, home, & travel merch. It’s definitely more adult and less colorful. I bought a beautiful drinking glass that has “Believe in Magic” etched in gold.
-DO NOT MISS the Ghirardelli Chocolate Shop! They pass out free samples of premium chocolate – just for walking in!
– Next to the Ghirardelli Chocolatier is a natural scrubs and soaps shop called BASIN. There are sinks all over the store to sample and wash the free chocolate of your sticky sweaty summer hands. Now hold newly exfoliated hands and take a stroll down the rest of Disney springs!
– Once Upon a Toy! This store is wonderful! There are tons of toys to play and try out. It’s the biggest Disney or non Disney toy store I have ever been to. The star wars section is quite impressive. There is even a Mr Potatoe Head assembly tower! Let your kids loose to play and play and then when it’s time to go… “put the toy back, leave it there because that’s where it lives.” (Yup, you can borrow that line. ?)
– Goofys Candy Co. Is next. Watch candy being made in front of you. They also have free sample of Goofys melted glaciers (which are just flavored slushies, BTW they were freezing, sugary and refreshing. This store is so cute you will feel like you are in a cartoon!
– Rainforest Café. This is a good place to stop for a snack or lunch. You can also just browse the gift shop decorated like the Amazon Rainforest. Every few mins or so there is a pretend thunderstorm. Daisy loved that. Walt was more in love with the archway aquariums – plentiful with fish.
– Lastly before you take off – cool down at the Marketplace Splash Pad. It is small and hidden behind “Goofys Cando Co. Next to Once Upon A Toy. It’s a nice place to cool off in the blistering central Florida heat.
So there you have it – A Disney experience without spending all day in the theme park, overheating in the sun, or breaking the bank! It’s one of the best ways to “do Disney” in the summertime. I had a great time and Daisy still thinks she went to Minnie’s House for breakfast. ??