Art of Animation Resort

Art of Animation Resort
Art of Animation Resort, Disney World, Florida

During our most recent trip to Disney World, we stayed at the Art of Animation resort, and I wanted to take the opportunity to share my thoughts/reviews of the property. This marks the third time I have stayed at Art of Animation Resort. The first time I stayed in the Cars family suite with a group of 6 fun loving girls on a bachelorette trip! The second time was with my family of 3 plus my mom+dad+and sister when our daughter was newly 2. We stayed in 2 adjoining Little Mermaid standard rooms. And this last time was just my family of 3 and our dear daughter was 2 (almost 3), and we again stayed in a Little Mermaid Standard Room!

Resort: The Art of Animation is a value resort hotel, and opened in 2012 making it the newest value resort on property. Art of Animation celebrates the animation and fantasy of 4 beloved Disney movies: Cars, Finding Nemo, The Lion King, and The Little Mermaid. The resort is divided into sections with The Little Mermaid section offering standard hotel rooms. The Cars, Finding Nemo, and Lion King sections offer family suites with interior halls/doors. In addition, the family suites are in closer proximity to the resorts main hub, Animation Hall whereas The Little Mermaid section is a bit of walk. It took us appx 10 minutes each day to walk from our hotel room to the buses with a stroller and tot in tow from The Little Mermaid section. The hotel also features 3 pools (more comments later), an arcade, a quick service food court: Landscape of Flavors, a souvenir shop: Ink & Paint Shop, a playground with slide for bambinos, and standard Disney amenities including Disney bus transportation to/from parks, Disney’s Magical express transportation to/from airport, and Movies under the Stars.

Rooms: The family suites can sleep 6, and have a designated bedroom with a door in addition to 2 full sized pull out beds in the living area of the suite (1 in the couch, and 1 pulls out from the wall and doubles as a table/bed). The suites also offer a kitchenette and 2 bathrooms! The Little Mermaid rooms have 2 full sized beds, and can hold a max of 4 people, but if you get adjoining rooms like we did you can technically fit 8, although I think it would be extremely tight. The rooms are fashioned after the themes of each movie and are fun and vibrant. If you are not into animated Disney decorum then you may feel the furnishings are cheap and cheesy, but we found them to be whimsical, and our 2 year old loved every second at the hotel!

The property: In addition to the rooms, each section is designed on the outside to reflect the movies’ setting. The Cars section has the cozy cone motel sign as well as cars parked outside. The Finding Nemo section has my husband’s favorite touch, the squalling seagulls that caw “mine, mine, mine” from the humorous dialog on Finding Nemo at set times throughout the day. This really brought out the inner kid in him as he would want to wait to hear their very loud caws ūüôā¬† The Lion King & Little Mermaid sections have your favorite character statues including a rather scary over sized statue of Ursula – might need to give little ones a head up on this!

Little Mermaid Art of Animation
Ursula Statue, Art of Animation

Pools: There are 3 pools at Art of Animation. The Big Blue Pool, The Cars Pool, and The Little Mermaid Pool.

The largest pool at Disney World is the Big Blue Pool in the theme of Finding Nemo. There are underwater speakers in the pool for music. The pool has a splash pad area for younger kids as well as a poolside bar and beverage station. The hotel also hosts weekly activities at this main pool including outdoor movies and games, etc. The pool is located directly behind the Animation Hall providing convenient access to the food court as well.

Big Blue Pool, Art of Animation
Splash Pad Area, Big Blue Pool

The Cars Pool is the smallest pool at Art, but it has cabanas which are first come/first serve.

The Little Mermaid pool is a good size, but nothing extra special about it. It is a nice pool area, and has laundry facilities (fee), bathroom facilities, and vending machines in the poolside buildings.

There is not a pool area in the Lion King area; however, I do not view this as negative since there is no pool noise to work around. When we stayed in the Little Mermaid rooms once it was April and once it was January. For January we had a room overlooking the pool, and it was lovely as it was cold during our visit and not too many people were swimming. However, in April every evening once people would return from the parks the pools would be packed out with tons of noise. My tip for this is to request a lake view room if staying in the Little Mermaid section! When we stayed in Cars it was also cold during the month of February, and we also experienced no pool noise so I am not sure how loud this pool area gets during peak months.

Restaurant: Landscape of Flavors is a great quick service counter restaurant as it has multiple options, and a good variety in terms of food fare. There are 5 service areas. There is a dedicated build our own salad/ sandwich counter, build your own pasta counter, a pizza counter, a burger counter that offers a wide variety of options on burgers and toppings, and the last counter is international fare options including chicken tandoori, chicken curry, ribs, and fish. There is a wide variety of kids meal options, and they also have an entire wall of coolers which contain pre-made pastries, sandwiches, fruit & veggie cups, on the go snack and drink options. You also have the option to order pizza in your room! For breakfast, there are lots of options ranging from a breakfast platter, build your own omelette, pancakes, Mickey waffles, etc. Most of the time the lines were manageable; however, I will say, if at all possible avoid eating dinner here right after the park closes. It is a mad house. The set up is that you order your food and then go thru a cafeteria style line to pay for what is on your tray. One night we opted for this, and once I got my food I stood in line to check out for 20 minutes. By the time I checked out, all of our meals were cold. ūüė¶

Ink & Paint Shop: We think this is a fabulous little souvenir shop. We have found some souvenirs here that we did not find elsewhere in the parks so definitely check out what they have. Also, if you purchase something at another store in the park, you can always return here as well so that is extremely convenient as well. You can also have anything you buy in the parks sent back to your resort hotel, and you can pick up inside this Ink & Paint Shop.

Fun Extras:

Draw Class: Art of Animation offers an area where kids can learn how to draw their favorite characters with a Disney artist. This is held in the little activity center adjacent to the check in area 3 times a day: 11am, 2pm, 5pm.  You also have the opportunity to bring your sketch of your favorite Disney character to the front desk to enter a contest as the hotel picks a winning sketch daily. You can also get art supplies from the front desk.

Jogging and Biking: There is also a free jogging trail around Art of Animation that links it with Pop Century. You also have the opportunity to rent a single or double bike from the property.

Coming Soon: Sky high Gondola: Construction was already underway when we visited last month (Jan 2018) for the new gondola transportation system which will allow you to enjoy an ariel view of Disney World. This system will link Art of Animation, Pop Century, and Caribbean Beach Resort with Hollywood Studios and the International Gateway at Epcot. This is something exciting and unique for these 3 resorts!

Overall: We have really enjoyed staying at Art of Animation, and highly recommend it! We have chosen to visit this property repeatedly because we really feel while our daughter is still little this is a really fun atmosphere for her! She loves all of the attention to Disney films. Some of her favorites are:

  • The shower in the Little Mermaid rooms is is designed to look like Ariel’s grotto where she hides all of her treasures. It has all of the treasures printed on tiles in the bathtub which is a blast for a 2 year old.
  • The cawing seagulls in the Nemo section just like her father.
  • The slide/playground area in the Nemo section

    Playground Art of Animation
    Playground, Art of Animation
  • The chance to draw on easels in the nook inside reception.
  • The outdoor movies
  • The statue of Rafiki in the Lion King section which we discovered last trip has now been removed. ūüė¶
Art of Animation Directory
Art of Animation Directory
Hourglass Lake, Art of Animation
Hourglass Lake, Art of Animation Resort

Yosemite, CA


Having been to Yellowstone twice, I did not do research on Yosemite as I thought since both were National Parks that they would somehow be similar. I was wrong, and never have I been more disappointed in my lack of trip preparation. I love both parks, and while they do have some similarities they are also vastly different.

Yellowstone seems to have the upper hand when it comes to wildlife, thermal springs, and more easily accessible 2 lane paved roads making travel in Yellowstone more efficient. Yosemite seems to have more hiking trails and varied terrain. Yosemite is also home to the famed sequoia trees. Both parks boast gorgeous landscapes, but Yosemite, only in my opinion, is more majestic and truly a marvel to behold. Yosemite is full of natural, rugged terrain that is awe inspiring. It seemed around every turn there was another postcard view waiting. Yosemite is big (roughly the size of Rhode Island), but it is still smaller and more compact than Yellowstone. Yosemite 1190 square miles appx compared to Yellowstone appx 3,468 square miles.

I traveled to Yosemite in October with my 2.5 year old. We only spent 2 days in Yosemite which is not enough time!!! We loved Yosemite so much that my husband and I are already planning a trip back with our daughter to Yosemite, hopefully within a year, to stay at least a week in a camper van!!! What an adventure that will be!

Entrance to Yosemite is $30 per car. A yearly Yosemite visitor’s pass is $60 which is a great deal if you plan on visiting the park more than once or for longer than the 7 days allowed in the $30 entrance fee. Info can be found here:¬†

Travel: The closest airport is Fresno, and the drive will take you an appx 1.25 hours to the South Entrance. Public transit is also available from Fresno airport via Yosemite Area Regional Transit System (YARTS). From San Francisco the drive will take you appx 2.5 hours to the Big Oak Flat Entrance. We actually traveled via car from Lake Tahoe, and the drive took us appx 2.5 hours via the Tioga Pass to the Eastern Entrance. However, the Tioga Pass is closed during various times of the year as the road is not safe so this will need to be checked prior to route planning. You can call the National Park’s service for a daily update about road conditions at 209-372-0200. From the Eastern Entrance, we had to drive 2 hours to the Valley Floor where the more popular sites are, but we did stop at several stops along the way.

Logistics: The roads in/out of Yosemite are very windy. The Tioga pass was especially curvy. We were, after all, driving across a mountain. My daughter and I suffered from car sickness, and had to pull over several times on the side of the cliffs to allow ourselves to re-calibrate. This increased our travel time. Yosemite has a network of one lane roads which can be problematic if you pass your destination so keep this in mind, and mark your map beforehand.

Hotel: We chose to stay at The Yosemite Valley Lodge directly across from Yosemite Falls. The property was very family friend as is convenient right in the middle of the Valley. It has a cafeteria style restaurant on site, and a dining room with a proper menu. I found the options in the cafeteria to be very good and enjoyable. Someone travelling with us also ate in the dining room, and raved about the salmon. For breakfast they also have a simple self serve express lane in the dining room with barista made coffees in addition to the full selection in the cafeteria. The shuttle also picks up/ drops off at this hotel.


Little Cub Program: You can buy the handbook at the visitor’s center, and it encourages kids to complete the activities to earn a button as a little cub!

Junior Ranger’s Program: Geared towards children ages 7-13, you can be pinned as a junior ranger. You can purchase the handbook at a visitor’s center. Your child must complete the book, collect a bag of trash, and choose one of the seminars they offer to attend. I saw some kids really engaged in this endeavor, and serious about that pin!

Tenaya Lake: Near the eastern entrance of Yosemite on Tioga Road is Yosemite’s largest natural lake, Tenaya Lake. Due to its location appx 1.5 hours from the Valley Floor, we found this lake/area to be much less populated. The lake is absolutely stunning, and our daughter enjoyed climbing on lots of the rocks present. We also enjoyed a picnic here. There are 2 picnic areas available, but we chose to picnic on the rocks! This lake is easy to get to as well with a tot in tow as it is steps off the main road. You can also kayak and swim in this lake! The water is crystal clear! This was my favorite stop in Yosemite!

Tenaya Lake, Yosemite

Sentintel Meadows: We enjoyed watching the sun set here in the meadow. My daughter also found it amazingly fun to run up and down the wooden foot paths. You can see a great views of Yosemite Falls and Half Dome! This meadow was close to our hotel which made it a convenient stopping point for burning off energy before heading into the hotel!

Sentinel/Cooks Meadow, Yosemite

Yosemite Falls: The largest waterfall in North America! A must see in Yosemite! And luckily for us, right across from our hotel. We found this hike to be easy. The entire path is paved, and we pushed the stroller the entire way. My daughter also walked for a good portion. We spent a good amount of time in this spot. Children will need constant supervision as the rocks present are very slippery. With help from my father, my daughter was able to climb to the bottom of the rocks and play in the stream and rocks for at least an hour!

Bridal Veil Falls: The stunning waterfall that you see in all of the tunnel view photos! This was an easy hike for the 2 year old and took appx 30 minutes round trip with her. We did not take the stroller. And the leaves were all falling while we were there in October, and this was the biggest hit. She collected tons of leaves and carried them with her to the falls! She kept proclaiming “beautiful” looking up at the waterfall!


Mirror Lake Hike: Due to my lack of research beforehand, this ended up being a bit of a challenging hike for us. I did not realize that there is a completely paved road that you can hike all the way to Mirror Lake which is stroller accessible. Instead, I ended up taking the stroller and daughter on the wooded hiking path, and abandoning the stroller appx 1/2 way in. My father, being gracious and benevolent, went back for the stroller and crossed the woods to bring the stroller to me on the paved pathway. So many people passed us trying to yank that stroller up rocks and rugged terrain. Now realizing the paved road runs parallel to the wooded trail makes me realize they thought us crazy.  This hike took us way longer than needed, but it states the full round trip hike can be completed in 1 hour. Mirror Lake was low during our visit since it was fall. The lake has the highest water level in spring after all of the snow melts! The reflections on Mirror Lake though were still beautiful, and we could see the full reflections of the cliffs.

Mirror Lake, Yosemite

Swinging Bridge Yosemite Valley: This is a great easy hike across the bridge, and down to the Merced River. This is a great spot for picnicking, swimming, or wading. There is also lots of room to run. This attraction was also close to our hotel which was a perk. The bridge doesn’t actually swing though. In order to visit an actual swinging bridge in Yosemite, you would need to go to the Wawona Swinging Bridge.

Valley Visitor Center: Beware! This is quite a long walk from the parking lot! I was ill prepared for this, and did not bring the stroller. Bring your stroller if you have tots! Otherwise the visitor center is nice with a great history display. My daughter actually loved this area and spent a great deal of time climbing under the rocks and looking at all the exhibits. There is also an Indian village in the back and museum to view that is free. You can also collect your official US Parks “Yosemite” Passport stamp here!

Also of note: you can rent bikes during select times of the year at the Yosemite Valley Lodge with bike trailers! In the winter there is ice skating at Half Dome Village! We also found the Half Dome Village Gift and Grocery to be great. We were able to get lots of groceries and souvenirs including snow globes in this store!

We covered a lot of ground for 2 days in Yosemite with a 2 year old, but we also missed SO MUCH. Next go around, a definite on our list is Tunnel View. Since we entered via Tioga Pass, we missed this iconic view. Also next time, we will not miss the Sequoias! Please offer up your favorite activities with kids in Yosemite as I would love to include them in our next camper van trip!

2 ADDITIONAL TIPS: BEARS ARE A LEGITIMATE CONCERN. Pay attention to all of the warnings and information. They told us to remove even scented chap stick from our vehicles while staying at the lodge. They have videos playing of bears breaking into cars!

BATHROOMS AND HIKING WITH A TODDLER: As any parent knows, a potty trained toddler may need to potty in the middle of a drive around a cliff or during a hike where there are no facilities. My absolute favorite contraption is my toddler’s portable potty with bag liners by “Potette Plus”. It has made our life so much easier. The potty folds up small enough to fit in a purse or backpack. The liners are absorbent and easy to throw away. Do yourself a favor, and buy this potty. This is by no means a paid endorsement, I really just love this travel potty that much! The things that excite a mom!¬† ūüôā


Mirror Lake Hike, Yosemite

Virginia City, Nevada



Virginia City V & T Gold Hill Train

We visited Virginia City¬†with our 2 1/2 year old in October (or as she calls it Jimminnie City), and it was a fantastic day with our little one! With 2 million visitors a year, Virginia City is the United State’s largest National Historic Landmark. Most remember Virginia City from the iconic film series “Bonanza.” ¬†Virginia City was founded in 1859 with the discovery of the Comstock Lode which produced over 400 million (equivalent to billions today) in silver and gold. Mark Twain got his start here as a reporter for the newspaper. San Francisco was built from Comstock silver, and this city helped finance the Civil War. To say this city is steeped in rich American history is an understatement, this city IS US History. The town is built into the side of a mountain with wooden sidewalks, sprawling views, and an underground network of tunnels and shafts remaining from this authentic Wild West Town during the mining glory days! This town is a must see, and a great destination with children!

Travel: Virginia City is located in Western Nevada, and can accessed via car or train. From Reno, the drive is appx 40 mins. From Lake Tahoe, the drive will take you appx 1 hour. Carson City is an appx 30 minute drive, or can be accessed via the train from May thru October via the V & T (Virginia and Truckee) Railroad. This train ride takes you along the original route thru old towns, tunnels, mines, and alongside beautiful scenery. This is a 3.5 hour trip with a stop over in Virginia City available on Fridays РSundays from May thru October. The best time to visit with kiddies in tow really is from May РOctober as after this period many attractions close due to the weather.

Hotel: We chose to visit Virginia City as a day trip from Lake Tahoe. However, if you wish to spend more time in the area there are a few local inns/ hotels to choose from. A great list of accommodations can be found here:


Comstock Train: This is a steam powered¬†train with century old, wooden open air and closed passenger cars that operates from May¬†thru October. You can take a 35 minute/ 4 mile roundtrip ride from the original V & T 1870’s depot located on “F” Street to Gold Hill. As many as¬†45 trains a day used to depart from Virginia City for Gold Hill. Today, 7 trains run daily on the hour between 10:30 am – 4:00 pm. The tour is fully narrated (and quite funny)¬†and will take you thru old tunnels and Comstock mines and mills. This is a beautiful ride, and our 2 year old daughter loved the train. This is a great adventure for old and young children alike. There is also a cute little general store beside the train departure where we bought ice cream! The price is $12 per person, and children under 5 are free. ($5 for children 5-12 yrs.)


Barrels O Candy: A candy store filled with huge barrels of old fashioned candies, ice cream and a truffles and nut bar. What’s not to love? Our 2 year old daughter enjoyed getting her basket, and filling it with a few candies from all of the different barrels. This is a great shop to visit! There is so much candy in this store it is amazing. Some of these candies I never even knew existed!


Bernadine the Donkey: Outside the Virginia City Antique Mall was Bernadine the donkey and her owner, “Stinky”. Our daughter enjoyed meeting Bernadine, and feeding Bernadine carrots which we donated funds for! ūüôā

Virginia City Mining Company: Pan for Gold!!! Allow your kids to find their own fortune. Located in the center of town next to the Territorial Enterprise Building (seasonal) you can pan for gold.

Dancin Crystals Mining Company: This is a neat little shop on “C” Street where you can pan for precious gems.

Virginia City Antique Mall – This is a great store full of treasures. They sell mystery goodie bags for $1 which was a big hit with our 2 year old.

Fourth Ward School: Located on “C” Street, this is an iconic historical landmark. This school was ahead of its time with indoor plumbing and heating,¬†and was home to 1000 students. You can visit the vintage classrooms, and ring the school bell!

Territorial Enterprise Building: Mark Twain got his start by working as a¬†reporter for the Territorial Enterprise newspaper in Virginia City from 1862¬†– 1864. It was during this time that Samuel Clemens began to use the penmanship name, Mark Twain which he had dreamt up from his previous work on river boats where he would¬†mark twain¬†when measuring 2 fathoms. There isn’t much to see at the Enterprise Building, but it is still standing in the center of Virginia City. You can view¬†Twain’s old desk, and view the commemorative placards street side.


Miner’s Park: Located on “E” Street this little park is cute with picnic tables and a playground to enjoy!

Chollar Mine: Older children will certainly enjoy the Chollar Mine tour. Chollar Mine is one of the original Comstock mines. The tour takes about 30 mins. The tunnel is narrow and low, and you will experience total darkness once they extinguish the light so prepare younger kids for this beforehand.

Ponderosa Mine Tour: Another mine tour located in the back of the Ponderosa Saloon. Guided 25 minute tour of the Best & Belcher Mine.

Old Time Photos: If you want old timey western photos which would certainly be a kick for kids then visit this store on “C” Street.

Comstock Adventure Pass: Of note, is the Comstock Adventure Pass which can be purchased from May – October. This pass allows you to enjoy several local attractions at a discounted price. This pass can be purchased at the Visitor Center on “C” Street. The “Silver and Gold Adventure Pass” includes V & T Truckee Railroad, Virginia City Trolley Tour, and Ponderosa Mine Tour. The “Wild West Adventure Pass” includes the Wild West Comedy Show, Comstock Gold Mill, and Shooting Gallery. There are several other pass options including a combination of various attractions.

Virginia City Jerky Co: This place really is just very good. They make homemade jerky in house, and serve up tasty BBQ. We had the pulled pork and mac & cheese which was fantastic! I ended up eating my toddler’s mac & cheese because it was really that good. I also¬†purchased all types of¬†jerky for tasting, and it was great. The spicy¬†chili jerky was¬†very hot!¬†Be advised they DO NOT serve fries. This is mentioned about 10 times inside the restaurant on their signage! ūüôā Obviously many have asked which I find very humorous. ūüôā




New York

We visited New York in the month of May, and our daughter had just recently turned 1 year old. We conquered New York with a tot, and had a lot of fun along the way! Our daughter also learned to walk in Central Park which was memorable, but also made for a busy remainder of our time in NYC.

Travel: We arrived via 2 Delta flights. My daughter travelled as a lap baby, and even got her first pair of wings. I have plenty of tips for flying with a child that i have blogged about here!

Arrival: We chose Kids Car New York. This allowed us to setup our transfer from the airport to our hotel ahead of time and guaranteed a car seat. They have an app and are super efficient. They even had toys in the car for our daughter.

Hotel: We chose Hotel Beacon on the upper west side for our stay. We have stayed at numerous hotels in NYC pre kids, but this area seemed right for our family of 3, and ended up being great. It is close/walking distance to Central Park. The hotel rooms are bigger than standard rooms with a sitting room and kitchen. The hotel is also located across the street from a grocery store which was fantastic for stocking up on juice boxes, etc. There are also some great airbnb rentals we almost decided on which could be an alternate option. Levain bakery is near Hotel Beacon which was fabulous. Any big or tiny human will love their decadent cookies and sweets!

Logistics: Navigating New York city with a stroller in tow was a bit difficult especially in the subway which led us to ditch the stroller for the remainder of the trip, and I used my baby carrier. ( I use Lille, and it changed my life :)) This made navigation much easier when travelling by subway. We still used the stroller in Central park and near hotel.

Activities: As we visited in summer, activities could differ depending on the time of year.

Central Park: We spent a great bit of our 1 week stay in Central Park. Here were some of our favorite days. Biking central park and stopping along the way. We stopped for the central park carousel, boat house, playground & splashpad, and Summit Rock. Biking is a great way to see the park. We passed at least 6 playgrounds on our bike path, and just decided along the way where we would like to stop.

We got to go orders from Tavern on the Green to go window and picnicked in Sheeps Meadow. We also visited Central Park Zoo on a separate day, and also visited Alice’s Tea Cup near Central Park for afternoon tea. Alice’s Tea Cup is great for little ones as they have a wee tea, and they provide fairy wings ūüôā

Also of note in Central Park is the Belvedere Castle & Marionette Theater at Swedish Cottage where you can watch real puppet shows.

As we have a daughter, we also made a trip to The American Girl Doll Store for a bitty baby. The store is massive, and could be an entire day expedition in reality. It is complete with a dining room and beauty salon for girls and their dolls. Also near by is the lego store which would make any child’s dreams come true!

We also visited the look out at the Top of the Rock with our daughter in her carrier.

Since, we had visited NYC previously, we skipped out on some of the “must do” tourist attractions this time around, but they could also be done with a tot in tow!

I hope these tips help others enjoy the Big Apple with bambinos in tow!