Earlier this month, my family and I visited the Magic Kingdom. Although the park was busy, we had an awesome day.
Festival of Fantasy Parade photos
On December 9, 2017, my family and I attended the Blue Man Group Autism Friendly show benefiting Autism Speaks. Our son Zachary is non-verbal and has autism. This was our third year attending their modified show and we had a fantastic experience.
Our son was very excited as he posed for photos before entering the theater and while in the theater in anticipation for the show to begin. Throughout the performance by the talented Blue Man group he smiled, laughed, and at times, loudly expressed his squeals of excitement in appreciation of the music and unique entertainment.
This autism-friendly Blue Man Group show is one where we as a family do not have to be concerned about our son's loud shrills, happy outbursts, rocking in his seat and his wearing headphones. All the guests and the performers at this show understand that a significant part of the audience are on the autism spectrum and may exhibit non-typical behaviors. We view this wonderful show as a way for our family to enjoy quality entertainment in a judgement free, welcoming environment.
We were thrilled to meet and greet some of the performers after the show.
If you've never seen the uniquely entertaining, thrilling and sensory-filled Blue Man Group performances at Universal Orlando Resort, I highly recommend that you plan for it the next time you are in Orlando.
This performance was part of a national partnership between Blue Man Group and Autism Speaks, in which Blue Man Group hosts autism-friendly shows in Boston, Chicago, Las Vegas, New York City and Orlando. For more information, visit blueman.com/autismspeaks.
"We’ve heard from many families affected by autism that their children responded to the Blue Man character in a very moving way. We are thrilled to provide a safe and welcoming environment and are often quite moved by the emotional response to the show,” says Phil Stanton, Blue Man Group co-founder.
To find out more about Autism Speaks please visit autismspeaks.org.
As part of our holiday tradition, my family and I went to Universal Studios to see Universal's Holiday Parade Featuring Macy's. We then went to Islands of Adventure to view the new The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts projection show.
This year the Universal Holiday parade has new floats, balloons and music. It was fantastic! We stood along Hollywood Boulevard watching the 20 foot tall colorful balloons float by. Afterwards, we walked toward the Horror Makeup Show and watched the parade again from another direction.
My family and I attended Epcot's Food & Wine Festival this past week. It was a delightful culinary experience for my husband and I. Our son is somewhat of a picky eater so he just ate his usual peanut butter and jelly sandwich and snacks that we brought from home. However, our son did enjoy Remy's Ratatouille Hide and Squeak scavenger hunt.
Our June 2017 visits to theme parks included the Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida!
Our visit to the Magic Kingdom was a lot of fun. We made sure to take many photos with the park photographers since photos are included with our annual pass. Plus we also wanted to wish Donald Duck a happy birthday while we were there!
We were lucky enough to be in the front two rows for our ride on Seven Dwarfs Mine train that day.
Recently my family and I registered for Disney's Annual Passholder preview of the new Pandora – The Land of Avatar section of Disney's Animal Kingdom. All information in this blog post is based on our visit. As with any newly opened attraction, aspects of the attractions and new area may change during its test run phase. We will update this blog if anything changes or new information becomes available.
My family and I visited Universal Orlando Resort recently to enjoy the December Holiday Festivities of Grinchmas and the Macy's Holiday Parade.
Whimsical decorations are found throughout Seuss Landing in Islands of Adventure.
One of our family's holiday traditions is to tour the Walt Disney World Resorts to see the beautiful decorations. This season we visited three resorts: Animal Kingdom Lodge, Grand Floridian Resort and the Wilderness Lodge.
Our first resort was the Animal Kingdom Lodge. The magnificant Christmas tree and holiday decorations in the lobby were stunning.
When we walked into the lobby, we heard invigorating drummers entertaining the guests.
My family and I began our traditional theme park holiday activities at SeaWorld's Christmas Celebration over Thanksgiving Weekend.
Prior to our visit, we purchased the reserved show seating package online for the Christmas Celebration in order to minimize our waiting in the lengthy shows’ lines and to ensure a good view for the shows.
For our new seies, Theme Park Tuesdays, I recently visited Disney Springs. I was pleasantly surprised at how much it has changed since I last visited.
I parked in the newly opened Lime garage. Parking is free at Disney Springs. A great feature of the parking garages is the sign indicating available spaces on each level.
As part of the ongoing AutismAtTheParks’ series, Theme Park Tuesday, I visited Animal Kingdom on a beautiful November day. Crowds were low to moderate with posted wait times of only 15 minutes for Expedition Everest roller coaster and 30 minutes for Kilimanjaro Safaris.
I arrived at the park later than anticipated and decided to reschedule my first Fastpass+ (FP+) for later that afternoon. I logged into the My Disney Experience (MDE) app and easily modified my FP+ for It’s Tough to Be A Bug for a different time. Guests who do not have a smart device can visit the FP+ kiosks to make FP+ reservations and adjustments.
Recently, my husband and I visited Epcot's Food and Wine Festival as part of AutismAtTheParks’ Theme Park Tuesday. It isn't often that we are able to visit a theme park without our son but we were able to make arrangements for a parents’ day out. It was a beautiful day with temperatures in the mid-80's. The crowds in World Showcase were moderate and we usually waited less than 5 minutes to purchase our food at the kiosks.
We obtained a festival passport (free to all guests) once we arrived. It is an excellent guide to the more than 30 Food and Wine Festival offerings found throughout World Showcase, the Festival Center, Odyssey Center and Future World. The passport also includes information about the Eat to the Beat daily concerts, specialty offerings and activities designed especially for kids. Inside the passport you will also find stickers to adhere to each listed marketplace you visit. Also, vegetarian and gluten/wheat-friendly items are indicated on all menus in the passport.
My family and I recently visited Islands of Adventure at Universal Orlando Resort. The weather was wonderful with sunny skies and temperatures in the low 80's. The crowds were moderate.
We needed to renew our son's Attraction Assistance Pass (AAP) this visit. The queue for guest relations was extended outside and it took us approximately 20 minutes before we reached a Team Member at the counter. Universal Orlando Resort has recently become more stringent regarding who can qualify for the AAP. For more details and our tips about using the AAP, please visit our website here.
The Magic Kingdom was my destination this week as part of AutismAtTheParks’ new social media and blog series, Theme Park Tuesdays. It was a beautiful day with highs in the 80’s and relatively low humidity. The crowds were moderate, with wait times ranging from 15 minutes for Haunted Mansion, 20 minutes for Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin, 45 minutes for the Jungle Cruise and 70 minutes for one of the more popular Magic Kingdom attractions, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.
I took the Ferry from the Transportation and Ticket Center to the Magic Kingdom. My family and I usually walk up to the top deck of the Ferry but this morning I decided to stay on the lower level. I noticed the ferry’s engine noise was much louder on the lower level than the top level which could disturb some guests with sound sensitivity.
My family and I recently enjoyed a visit to Epcot. The main purpose of our visit was to experience character dining at the Garden Grill restaurant in the Land Pavilion. We fit in some FP+ reservations before our 4:30 pm dinner reservations for the Epcot Character Spot character meet and the newly updated Soarin’ Around The World attraction.
Our new social media and blog series, Theme Park Tuesdays, was launched this week! Each Tuesday we will be visiting a theme park and posting live on social media with a follow up blog and photo report. This week's theme park was Disney's Hollywood Studios (DHS).
Crowds at DHS were heavy-much more than I expected for a Tuesday in October. At one point I had difficulty walking from one attraction to another because of the sheer number of guests. One reason for the noticeable crowds was probably due to the limited number of open attractions at this park now with all the construction going on resulting in more people walking around. It was also Columbus Day week, with some schools out for their fall break. Wait times for attractions varied with 90 minutes for Toy Story Midway Mania, 25 minutes for the Great Movie Ride and Star Tours at 50 minutes. The temperatures were great with highs in the low 80's and skies were overcast.
Disclosure: Orlando Insider Vacations provided my family's lodging at no cost in exchange for this blog post and social media posts during our weekend stay. I did not receive any other compensation and the opinions in this blog are my own. Read our Disclosure Policy here.
Recently my family and I were excited to receive an invitation to stay at Orlando Insider Vacations' vacation home, Serendipity at Indian Creek. The home is located in a nice, quiet residential neighborhood just 10 minutes from Animal Kingdom. Ample shopping and dining are conveniently located close by on Highway 192. We were thrilled how quick our commute was to Epcot and the Magic Kingdom from the vacation home. We were also curious how our son with autism would react to staying in a vacation home rather than a hotel or time-share condo environment.
Serendipity at Indian Creek is a lovely 5 bedroom home (3 with king-sized beds), 4 full baths, a dining room that seats 8, an eat-in-kitchen, a large family room with a sofa bed, large game room, covered lanai, screened private pool and hot tub. The back yard is enclosed with a delightfully adorned privacy fence. Charming Disney artifacts are found throughout the tastefully decorated home.
I recently applied and was accepted to be one of 100 participants in a two day Social Media event and launch of the OSIRIS-Rex sample return mission at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It was an amazing behind-the-scenes experience at Kennedy Space Center culminating with a picture perfect launch.
"NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission is the first U.S. mission to retrieve a pristine sample of an asteroid and return it to Earth for further study. The mission’s target is Bennu, a carbon-rich near-Earth asteroid that is also potentially hazardous to Earth.
Asteroids are the leftover debris from the Solar System’s formation process that began more than 4.5 billion years ago. Studying Bennu will revolutionize our understanding of the early Solar System and teach us much about planetary history and the origin of life. The OSIRIS-REx mission will expand our knowledge of the hazards and resources in near-Earth space and will serve as a precursor to future asteroid missions."
The mission will take seven years from launch to return. The encapsulated sample will land in the Utah dessert in September, 2023.
Throughout the two day social media event, we were provided behind-the-scenes tours at Kennedy Space Center. We also observed and participated in question and answer sessions with NASA scientists and administrators. Two of these sessions were broadcast live on NASA TV. We were given ample opportunity to photograph and video all of our experiences and encouraged to post them on our social media accounts. You can search #NASASocial or #ToBennuAndBack on social media to find the postings.
Will this be your first time experiencing the magic of Walt Disney World, the thrills and adventures of Universal Orlando Resort or the education and entertainment at SeaWorld? Or was your last visit to Orlando’s theme parks in the previous decade, before the advent of Magic Bands and the DAS, prior to the opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter or preceding Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin? We’ve compiled six common mistakes, along with some tips, to avoid making during your visit to Orlando’s theme parks with a family member with autism.
To celebrate Father’s Day this past weekend, my family and I visited SeaWorld. It was a hot but beautiful June day, and the crowds were moderate.
For several months, my family and I planned a visit to the Magic Kingdom on World Autism Awareness Day, April 2, 2016. We designed new Autism At The Parks t-shirts promoting our website and decided to give away Autism Awareness pins to anyone who asked. We were very excited and hyped for our adventure!
My family and I recently visited Epcot and had a wonderful time! We saw Baymax from the movie Big Hero Six, hunted Disney Eggs throughout World Showcase, and thoroughly enjoyed the beautiful scenery of the Flower and Garden Festival.
Pulling into the parking lot on this lovely Friday morning, we noticed the option of Preferred Parking available for $35.00 ($15 if you have an annual pass). Regular parking is $20.00. For an extra $15.00 you can park a little closer to the entrance. We didn't feel the need to use preferred parking.
My family and I were very excited to attend Universal Studios and the Mardi Gras celebration this past Saturday. The weather was fabulous, with temperatures in the 70's and beautiful blue skies. The park was busy that afternoon but wait times for attractions were moderate.
We recently went to Disney Springs (formerly known as Downtown Disney) . We haven't visited this shopping, dining and entertainment venue since last summer and we were looking forward to seeing the changes and updates.
My parents are visiting us from out of town. They both have mobility needs and are assigned a disabled parking permit. We parked in the disabled parking lot next to valet parking on the West Side of Disney Springs. Parking is free, disabled spaces are on ground level, clearly marked and were plentiful that day. However, it was a weekday and I'm uncertain how full this disabled parking lot is on the weekends. If you do not need to park in the disabled parking lots, currently you have the option of parking in the Orange Garage for free or valet parking for $20.
Our family spent Valentines Day at Disney's Hollywood Studios. It was a beautiful day with temperatures in the low 70's. The crowds were moderate.
After we arrived at the park, my husband went ahead of us to get a DAS return time for the Tower of Terror and my son and I took our time walking down Hollywood Boulevard.
Maureen is married and has a son with autism. She and her family visit an Orlando Theme Park nearly every weekend. Maureen created AutismAtTheParks to help vacationers who have a family member with a developmental disability to better navigate and enjoy the theme parks. She is also a contributor to the Unofficial Universal Orlando Podcast. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Periscope.
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