Blue Lagoon Island – Nassau, Bahamas

When setting sail on a cruise that stops in Nassau, Bahamas, you have a myriad of options for excursions. There is golf, snorkeling, scuba diving, jet and glass bottom boat tours, culinary tours and tours of Atlantis Resort & Spa. For our most recent voyage on Disney Cruise Line we decided to try the dolphin encounter at Blue Lagoon Island.

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To The Stars: Visiting the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

Written by David Smith:

Astronauts

From the moment that Alan Shepard became the first American in travel into space, “Astronaut,” has become a dream occupation of every generation of children since. Sadly, very few grow up to realize that dream, but that doesn’t stop the rest of us from living vicariously through them and continuing to be spell-bound by the human drive to explore space.  Whether interested in this history of spaceflight, or eagerly anticipating the future, there are two locations in the United States that even the most casual space fans need to visit: Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX (aka Mission Control) and Kennedy Space Center in Florida.  One of these just happens to be within driving distance of the world’s most popular vacation destination- Walt Disney World.

Sadly, Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex often gets overlooked in the increasingly crowded list of Orlando attractions.  The question commonly asked is whether it is worth it to take a day from Disney to travel the 75-90 minutes to the Visitor Complex.  During our most recent Disney trip, my family made the trip with the goal of answering that question.  Our travel party consisted of four adults (one huge space program fan (me), one moderate fan, two mildly interested people and three kids ages 11, 7, and 5).  Before answering that though, here are some semi-random thoughts about the experience in no particular order:

  • The drive out was easy enough.  For those renting cars, or with their own vehicles, there should be no problem getting there, although you will go through a few toll booths.  Those without cars should probably arrange a car service.  Since the Center is very close to Port Canaveral, the rates for taxi, car service, or other public transportation will be similar.  I think the Center should consider offering a shuttle bus service from a location in Disney, similar to what Universal provides.
  • To me, the KSC Visitor Complex is a very cool version of Epcot’s Future World.  The complex is organized into buildings focused on different aspects of spaceflight.  Some have a museum feel that will appeal to older guests, such as the Early Space Exploration building, while others, like the Angry Birds Space Encounter are much more interactive and designed for younger kids.  They do a good job of providing a variety of experiences for most everyone to enjoy.
  • Being a certified space junkie, I could have spent all day, and probably several days, in the Visitor Complex.  However, most people will probably be able to experience just about everything within 6 to 8 hours.  Definitely leave some time to visit the US Astronaut Hall of Fame.  The Visitor Complex admission ticket grants you access to the Hall of Fame, but the Hall is actually in a different building about 6 miles away.

On the trip home, we did an informal survey of our party to identify everyone’s favorite part of the Visitor Complex.  Here are the results:

KSC2Grandpa- The Apollo / Saturn V Center.  One of the low-lights of the day was the KSC Bus Tour.  This 90+ minute ride takes you all over the complex providing through-window views of the various launch sites and the Vehicle Assembly Building.  The trip is too long, especially for kids, and can be made even longer by a bad tour guide / driver as we found out.  However, the one and only stop of the bus tour is the spectacular Apollo / Saturn V Center, the former launch control center for the Apollo moon missions.  The Apollo Center starts with a couple of theater presentations describing the program and climaxing in a re-creation of the Apollo 8 launch in the actual control room.  At this point guests are shown into the Saturn V area featuring a full-size Saturn V rocket turned on it’s side and running 363 feet along the main room.  Anyone visiting will certainly have renewed appreciation for the effort and engineering that went into the Apollo project.

Grandma- The Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit.  KSC was selected as the retirement home for the Space Shuttle Atlantis, and they have gone all out to provide a good home for the vehicle.  The exhibit begins with a movie detailing the history of the shuttle program and then guests enter the main exhibit room.  Rather than just part the orbiter on the ground as many museums have done, KSC has suspended the vehicle in the air, opened the large cargo doors, and tilted the whole vehicle towards its side.  This creates the effect of the allowing guests to see angles of the orbiter that only astronauts have seen.  Surrounding the center-piece are many exhibits and interactive displays providing details of the Space Shuttle.

Atlantis

Mom- The IMAX movies.  The Visitor Complex has a large, stadium-style, IMAX theater on-site that rotates between two films and is included in the price of admission.  One tip we learned the hard way though- don’t sit near the front.  The screen is so large that it is really better to site near the back, and with the stadium seating, everyone is assured a good view.

Daughter, 7- The shops.  Seriously.  We have never seen so much space memorabilia and souvenirs collected in one place.  If it’s been made and is related to NASA or the space program in any way, you could find it in one of several shops scattered around the center.  Grandma excitedly bought all three kids astronaut costumes, complete with helmets and gloves.  Our 5-year-old wore his suit the entire day (despite 90+ F degree temperatures) and would have worn it to bed if he hadn’t fallen asleep on the way home.

Son, 5- Besides wearing his spacesuit all day, my son’s favorite activity was going up and down the large slide in the Atlantis Exhibit Hall.  The slide traversed two floors of the building and it took all our powers of negotiation to get him to leave.

Nephew, 11- Angry Birds Space Encounter.  The center has done a good job in using limited space to create a fun interactive area designed for kids.  There are a variety of Angry Birds themed games and activities, but by far the highlight for the kids was the Red Planet Laser Challenge.  The Laser Challenge is a cross between a maze and an obstacle course created with lasers.  The objective is to go as fast as you can to each of the four checkpoints while avoiding the many lasers in the room.  Each laser blocked added time to the final score.  In a nice switch, smaller kids actually had an easier time of this game since they didn’t have to go through as many contortions to avoid the lasers.

angrybirds

Dad (Me)- Rocket Garden.  The first thing we saw coming into KSC Visitor Complex is the last thing we actually did.  The Rocket Garden is a collection of Redstone, Atlas, and Titan rockets standing just inside the turnstile.  These are the rockets that launched the Mercury and Gemini missions leading up to the Apollo launches.  The area also has a few Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo capsules setup so the kids can climb in them as experience the small spaces that the astronauts operated in.  More than anything, this area provided a stunning up-close look at the surprisingly small rockets that started the journey to the moon.  We tend to think of rockets such as the massive space shuttle launch system or the behemoth Saturn V, but the rockets leading up to those marvels have a fragile quality that makes it even more impressive that people willingly climbed inside.

RocketGarden

So, back to our initial question… Is it worth the trip?  100% yes!  For those that travel to Disney multiple times a year, perhaps not every visit, but every family should experience the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex at least once.  There are many things to enjoy for people of all ages and levels of interest in the space program.

For more information, please visit the KSC Visitor Complex web site at: https://www.kennedyspacecenter.com/

The MouseQuest Podcast received complimentary admission for the purpose of writing this review as media. All of our thoughts and opinions are our own.

While in Philly…The Please Touch Children’s Museum

Written By: Marci Smith

**In the Interest of Full Disclosure: Our visit to the Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia was not affiliated with the Disney Social Media Moms event in any way. We were invited to tour the museum and our visit was complimentary. Our thoughts are our own.**

While in Philadelphia for the Disney Social Media Moms Conference, my family and I had the opportunity to visit the Please Touch Museum. I’ve always wanted to bring my kids here, and this was a perfect opportunity to check it out.

The building itself is massive and gorgeous from the outside. We’ve visited several museums in NYC and Washington DC and from the looks of this one I knew it wasn’t going to disappoint as far as space and architecture. It was very nice that although these exhibits are in a large space, the museum did not seem overwhelming, and when visiting with young children, that is an important thing!

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Upon entering the museum, my kids (ages 5 and 7) saw water and immediately ran to it. The River Adventures section was a huge hit, featuring several water tables with currents, bubbles, sailboats and rubber ducks. As a mom I really appreciated the fact that there were smocks available for the kids to put over their clothes. The last thing I wanted was for my kids to get soaked at the first thing we saw! Another part of River Adventures was an interactive rainforest where the kids could play instruments. They loved it!

After riding a pig and a rabbit on a gorgeous Dentzel carousel (separate admission is required), we headed downstairs where I found my absolute favorite area in the entire museum: Wonderland. I LOVE Alice in Wonderland and I seriously want this in my house. We followed a spinning Alice down the rabbit hole and into an incredibly themed maze. There were some really fun visual illusions, mirrors and classic scenes from the story. Costumes were provided for kids who wanted to dress up and play Alice, a playing card, the Mad Hatter and others. We painted the roses red (loved it!), sat for tea and even had a Caucus Race!! Seriously, I loved it. I would come back just for this.

Our next stop was the Centennial Exploration exhibit. If your kids love trains, this is the place for you. Again, the theming is absolutely great. The space is made to look like a train station from the late 1800’s and features a tribute to the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia – a HUGE model of the Exhibition grounds. My kids had a great time playing in the railway themed area, selling tickets, shoveling coal and riding on the train. This is also the place where the party rooms are, and each one is made to look like a train car from the outside. Super cute!

Once we were done with the trains, we headed over to City Capers, which is a miniature city made just for the kids! There was so much to do here, and we all had a lot of fun. The kids were able to dress up as construction workers and haul foam ‘bricks’ to and from a huge truck. They also tried on shoes at the shoe store, gave each other ‘check ups’ at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and (my favorite) went shopping at ShopRite! I really feel that kids love when experiences are made with them in mind, and this one definitely hit the nail on the head. I also wanted to mention that I did notice in many of the sections there were areas specifically allocated for toddlers and younger children. For those of you may have kids of varying ages, the museum made a conscious effort to accommodate multiple age groups and that was something I really appreciated.

City Capers ConstructionCity Capers ShoesCity Capers HospitalShoprite CartsShoprite CheckoutShoprite

Returning to finish what we began upstairs, we visited Flight Fantasy; a Space Station where guests can launch rockets and interact with fun physics experiments. My son is a huge space fan so he especially loved this area. One piece of advice – watch out when you enter the rocket launching room. The bins in the center of the room that hold pieces to build your own rocket is actually a prime target for landing!! (I was hit twice)

Our last exhibit was Roadside Attractions, focusing on different modes of transportation. The SEPTA Bus was especially impressive, and my kids loved taking turns riding and becoming the ‘driver’. In the City Park they became vendors, selling lunch from a food truck and colorful Italian ice from a cart. They also had a great time pumping gas and fixing cars at the Please Touch Garage.

Roadside AttractionsRoadside Attractions Food TruckRoadside AttractionsRoadside Attractions GasPlease Touch Garage

All in all, each of the six interactive exhibits at the Please Touch Museum really engaged our entire family. We spent about two hours in the museum and since it wasn’t crowded that day, we were able to do just about everything. We did not get to experience the Please Touch Playhouse, which offer 20-minute performances of puppetry, music and folklore throughout the day. There is also a museum shop for souvenirs and food available at the Please Taste Café. My kids really enjoyed themselves and are already asking when we can go back and visit again.

The Please Touch museum is open Monday-Saturday from 9:00am to 5:00pm and on Sundays from 11:00am to 5:00pm. Admission for everyone over the age of 1 year is $17 per person and parking is $8 per car. Memberships start at $150 for a family of four and include free parking as well as other discounts. If you would like more information, please visit the Please Touch Museum online at www.pleasetouchmuseum.org.

Disney Social Media Moms “On-the-Road”… I’m Going to Philly!

Written By: Marci Smith

**In the interest of Full Disclosure: I was invited to attend the Disney Social Media Moms Conference in Philadelphia where I received super cool swag and had an amazing time! MouseQuest is not affiliated with Disney in any way and all our posts are our own. **

On June 19th, 2014 I had the incredible pleasure of attending my very first Disney Social Media Moms ‘On-the-Road’ event in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Just to receive an invitation to an event like this was beyond anything I ever expected. It was so exciting!!! The time I spent meeting new people, networking and listening to amazing speakers was an experience unlike any other. Below you will find the TOP TEN HIGHLIGHTS of this special day!

#DisneySMMoms

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10. CREATE SERIES PIECES FOR YOUR BLOG (or Podcast) – We have released many series pieces on MouseQuest and I agree 100% that it keeps listeners coming back. The four series topics recommended by the Disney Parks Blog were: runDisney, Food & Beverage, Technology and Fashion & Merchandise.

9. MAXIMIZE YOUR MOBILE – I loved listening to speaker Victoria Lim, Managing Editor for Walt Disney World Public Relations. She provided many awesome tips on taking photos and video with your mobile devices as well as some super apps to download. Some of them were:

TIPS:

– Clean your lens
– Try different angles
– Zoom with your feet (move forward and don’t use zoom feature)
– Shoot video Horizontally, not vertically
– Be purposeful in shooting

APPS:

– Magisto
– Videolicious
– iWatermark
– Photogrid

8. NEW GEAR– Victoria Lim also specified some great gear you can get for your mobile device to assist in getting great shots. I can’t wait to get my hands on some of these!!

Mobile GorillaPod

Smartphone Camera Lens Kit

Rode Smartlav Lavalier Microphone

Mobile Battery Charger

7. SWAG BAG – Yes, we did receive some super fun goodies. Some of these included a Disney pin for trading, Vinylmation figure, Minnie Mega Puzzle, Character posters, and more!

6. CONTENT IS KING – Whatever form of Social Media you’re involved in, it’s important to reach audiences with posts that encompass your own values. It gives you a solid identity and direction.

5. PHOTOS AND VIDEOS HUGE – Using photos and video to reach your audience is a major component in connecting with people. Posts on Facebook that use a photo receive 104% more comments than posts without one. WOW!

4. STORYTELLING IS KEY – If you’re a blogger, podcaster or anyone else who is trying to connect with an audience, make sure to tell your story. People will better relate to you through personal experiences and storytelling.

3. “EMOTION CREATES SHAREABLE MOMENTS” – So, Disney is emotional. Did anyone really have to tell me that? Nope…but I loved that attention was given to the huge part emotion plays in the Disney Brand. Family time together creates the best memories!

2. I MET GARY! – The social media celebrity of the day was definitely Walt Disney World Social Media Managing Editor, Gary Buchanan. Gary has amazing energy and his fun personality is contagious. MouseQuest had the privilege of interviewing him about the Moms Panel Application Process a few months ago and I was very impressed that he remembered us. If personal interest is the key to connecting with an audience, he has that in spades! If you’d like to listen to our interview with Gary, check out Episode 55 of the show.

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1. THE #1 HIGHLIGHT of the Disney Social Media Moms Event in Philly was actually mentioned by a few different speakers. As parents, we’re busy. Life, work, family…they’re all important and it can be difficult to give our best to everything. I really appreciated the advice to be 100% in the space we are in. Look at the whites of our children’s eyes when they speak to us, and give whatever we are doing at the moment our all. We need to budget time for specific things and not be in one place physically but somewhere else mentally. It takes consistent effort to do that, and it is definitely one piece of advice that I will be using.

I hope you enjoyed my #DisneySMMoms Top Ten!! If you’d like to hear more about Philadelphia as well as the conferences in Chicago and Phoenix, listen to Episode 79 of our show, where we discuss even more details about these amazing events. Stay tuned to our blog and podcast for exciting topics to come! If you’d like to send us an email with questions or comments, please do! We can be reached at question@mqpodcast.com.

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