Tag Archives: swimming

Disney’s Art of Animation Resort opening Summer 2012 at WDW

It’s all about the swimming pool for this family. When booking any hotel or resort or vacation of any kind, I have to look first at the pool situation. My kids are water babies, and we all four love some play time in the water.

When we visited Walt Disney World in March of 2011, I knew the Parks would take precedence over the pools, but it was still important to have good pools for our downtime. Considering the possibility that this trip may very well be our only chance to visit Disney World, we chose to spend a few days at all three levels of resort at Disney World: Value, Moderate and Delux.

Obviously, I prefer the Delux! We were fortunate enough to get to stay at The Grand Floridian during the Disney Social Media Moms celebration, and it was amazingly wonderful. Just stunning, and lovely. Truly luxurious.

We arrived for the conference a few days early so we could get our sea legs, so to speak, and chose the Port Orleans Riverside for this leg of our trip. We chose a Moderate level resort for these few days for a couple reasons: we didn’t have park passes yet, and we wanted a fun pool experience. Plus it was a short boat ride to Downtown Disney, for which you also don’t need park passes. This resort was great for us: nice pools and amenities. In fact, the pool at Port Orleans French Quarter was our favorite pool at any of the resorts we stayed at. We did in fact spend a lot of time in the awesome pools there, so I know we made the right decision.

I highly recommend the Riverside. The food court was great, the pools were awesome, the rooms were nice, there was a nice running trail that I used each morning, and I liked being able to stroll or boat down to French Quarter to use that pool and grab some beignets. I’d totally stay there again, especially now that they are adding “Royal Guest Rooms” as part of the new Disney Story Rooms experience available at some resorts.

After the conference, we moved to All Star Movies, a Value level resort. The kids really like the giant statues from Toy Story, and the room was perfectly adequate (and a great price), but it was hard not to be disappointed in the amenities after spending a few days at The Grand Floridian. Particularly, the pool left a lot to be desired. It really just felt like a giant bland pool – no slides, no extra features. It’s too bad, because the Value price level certainly is appealing – but I know we couldn’t stay there again.

So I was delighted to see that Disney is adding a new level to their Value resorts! The new Art of Animation resort seems like a good solution to some of the issues we had with ASM.

Courtesy of Disney1. Three pools, with the Finding Nemo pool being the largest pool outside of a Disney Water Park. Awesome.

2. Family suites, for families with more than 2 kids, or if you’re traveling with grandparents or other family members.

Courtesy of Disney

3. More diverse dining areas. Though we had a fantastic breakfast at ASM, the food offerings really felt limited in comparison with the other resorts. Art of Animation will have more healthy options as well as specialty restaurants, such as a Mongolian Grill. My brothers would be thrilled. Maybe it’s time for a whole family vacay?

There will be four different themes at this resort, Finding Nemo opens first, on May 31, 2012. Cars, Lion King and The Little Mermaid will all follow throughout the year. The first three theme areas will be all family suites, and the Little Mermaid will have conventional hotel rooms (opening by the end of 2012).

This resort looks great, and I love that guests can feel like they’re part of the movies. Brian and I had so much fun at Toon Town in Disneyland when we got engaged, and we were looking forward to introducing the kids to that at Disney World. It no longer exists, but I think this Art of Animation experience will make up for that.

Happy Travels!

I attended the 2011 Disney Social Media Moms Celebration at Walt Disney World. Although we paid for our own trip to Disney World, the conference fee included 3 nights at the Grand Floridian, the conference and meals for me, several amazing meals for our entire family, park hopper passes for each of us, and some other fun perks. Disney did not ask me to write about this, and all opinions are my own.


Filed under Family, Travel

Princess Pool Party

I’ve tried to avoid the trap of giant kid birthday parties for as long as I could. Dinner parties with family and close friends seemed more reasonable and fun for the adults, but I was finally busted by Anna: “Why haven’t I ever had a birthday party with anyone other than our family?”

Darn it.

She vacillated between wanting a “Rainbow Party” and a “Princess Pool Party.” She finally settled on Princess Pool Party, because who can turn down swimming in December?

We booked the party room and pool at East Portland Community Center. The package includes a party room adjacent to the pool for one hour, then swimming for as long as you want until the pool closes. Sweet! We booked the room from 1:30-2:30, so we’d have the longest possible time of open swim (the pool closes at 5).

Anna invited our neighbor friends (at least the ones close to her age), all the girls from her Kindergarten class, and a few friends from pre-school. To play on the Princess Pool Party theme, we had a mermaid cake, decorate-your-own-crown craft, plus beach balls that we took in the pool. Anna wore her new Disney Cinderella dress over her swim suit. I love the dichotomy!

She declared the birthday party a success! I just hope I don’t have to top it next year…

{click on a photo for a slideshow}


Filed under Family

Azure Luxury Pool is how I want to live. Minus the annoying club music.

Some girlfriends and I took a long weekend to Las Vegas, and let me tell you – this is how to do Vegas. Something about being older makes me desire a slightly higher level of accommodations and luxury. Of course, I don’t want to pay for it any more than I did 10 years ago, but there you have it.

April (henceforth known by her Vegas name of Rio) wisely signed up for Groupon Las Vegas a month or so before our trip, and happened upon a $20 deal for a $75 value admittance + open bar at Azure Luxury Pool at the Palazzo Hotel (adjacent to The Venetian). We jumped on it, and I’m so glad we did.

The largest pool, and the bar of course. NICE, right??

Once we got there, the friendly and (all very hot) staff informed us that “open seating” was all under a rotunda, while all the cushy lounge chairs were reservable for $50. The $50 was really just a food & beverage minimum though, so it really made sense to do it. In other words, as long as we each spent $50 on brunch and drinks, we wouldn’t have to pay anything for the comfy chairs.

One of these pretty chairs can be yours for $50

But dang it, the club music was so loud and obnoxious! We seriously considered just staying until our Groupon expired and then bailing, but then we discovered…


The Cabana was $250 for the day, and same deal: it was just a food & beverage minimum. AND… the music was noticeably more quiet in The Cabana! In fact, it was tolerable! Except the nasty lyrics, of course, but if I tell you too much about that, you’ll just realize how old I am.

What’s more, The Cabana came with a lovely, helpful Kristin. Kristin made us feel like celebrities, and ensured that we wanted for nothing. Except maybe flatter abs and 20-year-old bodies.

And she was sooo sweet!

We had a BLAST at The Cabana. This is how to do Vegas, we all agreed. I’ve always thought private cabanas were out of range for me, but if it’s really just a food & bev minimum and I have a group of willing participants, maybe I can enjoy this kind of luxury more often!

One of the three lovely pools at Azure.

Rio entering The Cabana

My new profile picture for just about everything, BTW, because I want to remember how relaxed and fortunate I felt that day!


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Filed under Travel

Swim, swim little fishies!


Eric's instructor looked like Audrey Hepburn!

Our kids love swim lessons at the Grant Pool. All winter, they were asking when they’d get to start lessons again! Signing up for lessons online is a royal pain in the tushie, though. The information that the city puts out is not very user-friendly, and we’ve found it’s much simpler to sign up in person as soon as the pool opens for the summer. Seriously, it’s a nightmare online. Even signing in to the site is a pain, and finding the class times or how to register takes a whole lot of diligence. I really wish they’d clean it up, but in the meantime, here are the links to:

create a new account

find a class (you still have to search by age group for the type of class you want)

Like I said, it might be easier to just walk in!

Once we got to the pool, though, it was great. All of the age groups hold lessons at the same time, and lessons last 30 minutes. Our experience has been between 2-5 kids per instructor. At first glance, you wouldn’t even know that lessons were happening, it just looks like loud happy kid chaos.


Loosely-formed groups divided by skill level

The groups are small enough that each kid gets some personalized attention.

Portland Parks & Recreation moves the kids through 12 levels of lessons, starting with bubble-blowing for babies, and moving up to Park Shark II where they swim 500 yards. Eric is finally getting more comfortable putting his face in. He’s not as adventurous in the water as Anna, who is passionate about learning to swim. That girl is determined! She loves it so much, and doesn’t seem to have any fear. Now that summer is over, we’re planning to send them to indoor lessons at East Portland Community Center so they can keep advancing their skills. Plus, it’s great exercise that they LOVE.

Happy swimming,


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Filed under Family, Fitness

New Swimming Hole!

I put Anna's hair in pig tails, which proved to be a stroke of brilliance, as little brown wet heads all start to look the same in a crowded pool. Her piggies made her easy to spot.

I put Anna's hair in pig tails, which proved to be a stroke of brilliance, as little brown wet heads all start to look the same in a crowded pool. Her piggies made her easy to spot.

We found a new great place for family activities, the East Portland Community Center. We attended a birthday party in a room poolside, then we all got to jump in the awesome pool. They have fitness classes, swim lessons, and a variety of other services available. I’m so glad to know about this great place!


Poolside Party Room

The birthday party was in this room. It was really reasonable for a party package. $175 for 30-50 people. The hosts brought in the food and beverages, and everyone had access to the pool.



This pool was awesome. Giant spiral slide, lazy river (which was a little aggressive, BTW), zero-entry beach, and a shark-shaped tiny kids slide.

EPCC Pool 2

The pool splits into a deeper section, there's a hot tub (no kids allowed), and a whole separate pool for swimming laps. Even though it was indoors, there was a lot of natural light so it didn't feel like torture to be indoors!


Eric had to wear a wristband because he's shorter than 48". At one point, I asked him if he wanted to float the river with me. He said, "Nah. Oh wait! This bracelet means we have to stick together, so OK." Sweetest boy!!


We’re going to look into year-round swim lessons (since we didn’t have much of a summer in Oregon this year!), and see what other classes they have to offer. Maybe this would be a good venue for my “naked toy” party idea I’ve been stewing on!

Do you take advantage of community centers? How do you use them?



Filed under Family, Fitness