Trail at Art of Animation

Disney’s Art of Animation resort is the newest addition to the value resorts and is a great place for families to call home during their vacation stay. But you don’t have to book a room to take in the fun atmosphere there. Wander the grounds to see the terrific themed areas and to find a cool learning opportunity.

Head straight to the back of the resort, past the Big Blue Pool and playground area, to Hourglass Lake. There you’ll find a 1.38-mile trail around the lake (sponsored by New Balance) that’s suitable for walking or jogging. It’s great for getting in some exercise or taking in the sunset, but this trail also provides some fun facts to learn on your way.


Signposts along the trail share info and trivia about the four Disney films that are represented at the resort. These facts range from how characters got their names to the type of equipment that was used to animate the films. And it doesn’t matter which direction you choose to head on the trail; there are different facts going in both directions.

IMG_3973The trail is great for film buffs. Be aware that there are smoking areas situated at a couple of spots along the trail. It also connects to the trail at Pop Century, making a full loop around Hourglass Lake.


STEM Topic:


Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop

Downtown Disney is a great place to do some serious shopping, dining, and even dancing. But it’s also a fun place to search for learning opportunities. Even we were surprised when we happened upon this one.

Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop is the place to satisfy your sweet tooth. The sundaes range from traditional to tremendous, and they offer a wide range of shakes, floats, and cocoas.

GhirardelliIf you make a restroom stop here, check out the posters in the hallway. One poster describes how Domenico Ghirardelli came to San Francisco to start his chocolate business in 1852 and what made his chocolate process different from others of the time. Another poster shows that process in more detail. And a third tells about the distinctive marketing campaigns that the Ghirardelli company started in the late 1800s to ensure that homemakers all over the country knew its name.

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Learning something new is a great excuse to stop in for a bit!

BoardWalk Art

Disney’s BoardWalk Resort is full of fun, turn-of-the-century styling from the feature pool to the indoor bar to the art and artifacts on the walls. You may be surprised to find original art and prints from the time period, many of which depict life and leisure on the boardwalks of New York and New Jersey.

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Just outside of the Belle Vue Lounge are some great examples of this artwork. Plaques explain that the prints were published for magazines and “view books” using an engraving process. This technique was common and popular before photo reproductions became mainstream. The prints on display date back to 1890 and 1900. Be on the lookout for more historical prints throughout the resort.



FL Sunshine State Social Studies Standards:
SS.1.A.2.1, SS.1.A.2.2
FL Sunshine State Visual Arts Standards:
VA.1.H.1.3, VA.1.H.2.3, VA.2.H.1.1, VA.68.H.1.1



The Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover is a great way to tour Tomorrowland while resting your feet. The 10-minute ride takes you above and into some of Magic Kingdom’s most popular attractions like Space Mountain and Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin.

IMG_3840Keep your eyes peeled for a piece of Disney history during the tour. One of the first dark areas you enter houses a model of Progress City, an early concept for EPCOT. This model shows us what Walt Disney’s idea of an Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow might have looked like. Even though Progress City never really came to be, a lot of the ideas made their way into today’s Walt Disney World.

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As you ride along, you may also notice the linear induction motors embedded in the PeopleMover’s track. These magnets are what keep the trains moving forward and control their speed. Truly environmentally friendly!

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STEM Topic: Technology, Engineering

Echo Lake Architecture

Echo Lake is one of the eight sections featured at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. It represents a time and place in California history when the movies were still young and the dream of living in Los Angeles attracted many. Looking around at the buildings here, you’ll see several architectural styles, both residential and commercial. Some of the buildings are modeled after real ones from the 1930s through 1950s.

There are two can’t-miss pieces of architectural fun that represent the California Crazy style: Min and Bill’s Dockside Diner and Dinosaur Gertie. Plaques outside both buildings explain California Crazy architecture and the inspiration for each.

Min and Bill’s Dockside Diner is a tribute to Min and Bill, a 1931 MGM hit comedy that took place around a waterfront. The steamboat is fun to look at and includes some spinning and water-spouting features. And if you know your nautical flags, there’s a message spelled out above the smokestack. (Incidentally, they serve up a mean frankfurter, too!)

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Across the water is Dinosaur Gertie, a larger than life brontosaurus shaped building that occasionally serves up ice cream. Gertie is based on a cartoon from the early days of film, one that also inspired Walt Disney.

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FL Sunshine State Visual Arts Standards:
VA.K.H.1.1, VA.K.F.1.2, VA.1.H.2.1, VA.1.F.2.1, VA.2.H.2.3, VA.4.H.1.1, VA.4.H.2.3, VA.5.H.1.1

Caribbean Beach Bus Stops

Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort is a beautiful, tropical, and fun retreat. There’s no shortage of recreation here among the pools, beaches, boat and bike rentals, fantastic jogging path, and picnic areas. But you might not realize that there are educational opportunities here, too.

This resort consists of six themed island villages: Aruba, Barbados, Jamaica, Martinique, Trinidad North, and Trinidad South. Each village sports vibrant Caribbean colors and architecture similar to what would be found on that island.  There are bus stops at each village where Disney transportation will pick up and drop off. And it is here where we find our learning moments.

IMG_3339Each bus stop has a poster with fun facts about that island. They might describe the climate, location, natural resources, languages, or history. They are all different so take some time to seek out all six.

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FL Next Gen Social Studies Standards:
SS.K.G.1.4, SS.2.G.1.4, SS.3.G.2.4, SS.3.G.3.1, SS.3.G.3.2, SS.3.G.4.2, SS.912.G.2.1

Earl of Sandwich

Downtown Disney is a great place for shopping and dining with the whole family. But you may not know there are some hidden learning opportunities here, too!

Earl of Sandwich is one of the most popular locations to grab a quick bite to eat. The dining room is almost always bustling. But head to the left of the order line, toward the connecting doorway into Mickey’s Pantry, and you’ll come upon a quieter corner with barstool seating.

This spot also boasts some interesting artifacts. The walls are decorated with maps and sketches of Captain James Cook’s travels to Polynesia, including the Sandwich Islands. (Now you understand the connection.) Placards help describe the routes he took, and sketches of his ships give you an idea of how they were designed. There is even a model of the HMS Endeavour, the first ship Cook sailed on his Voyage of Discovery to Australia and New Zealand.

IMG_3262 Earl SketchA portrait of James Cook and historical information about the Earls of Sandwich round out the presentation. Anyone interested in sailing or engineering will appreciate this bit of history.


STEM Topic: Engineering
FL Next Gen Social Studies Standards:
SS.K.G.1.2, SS.K.G.1.4, SS.1.G.1.2, SS.3.G.1.2, SS.912.W.4.11