I somehow managed to convince my husband that it made sense to renew our annual passes to Disney (I tend to abuse them by going way too often and spending way too much money) recently. And we live just about two hours away from Disney, so it’s not uncommon for us to take a spur of the moment trip, which is exactly what we did last weekend.
I was browsing the hotel rates online on a Friday night and discovered that the Swan and Dolphin would let us stay using points and cash, so it ended up being about $75 a night including the taxes, resort fees and parking fees. Sounded good to me, and we needed some distraction from some personal stuff going on, so we booked it for the next two nights and started making plans.
I’d read about the new special Frozen Summer Fun event at Hollywood Studios on the Disney Parks Blog and it sounded like an awesome adventure. We planned to spend Sunday morning at Hollywood Studios (not a park we usually spend much time at with our preschooler). We took the boat from the Swan and Dolphin about half an hour before park opening and were shocked by the big crowds already lined up to get into Hollywood Studios. Anna and Elsa sure are popular ladies!
While we waited, cast members walked around handing out what I thought were fans, they had a cut out of Olaf on a big popsicle stick. Apparently if you take pictures with that Olaf in them having fun during the day and tweet them with a special hashtag (#OlafSummerVacation) then you might get your picture shared at the evening fireworks show.
After letting us through the gates, the cast members still had the main parts of the part roped off until after the opening show at the main stage. Eli’s not a Frozen fan (I know, where did I go wrong?) and he’s kind of freaked out by Olaf, so we went off to the side and didn’t see it happening although we did hear his great jokes such as “What did the snowman say to the customer? Have an ice day!”. They let off some fake snow (I think it is tiny bubbles) and opened the ropes.
We headed over to the pretend snow play area and ice skating area as soon as we got in. It is located just past Toy Story Mania. We got there right when it opened and got in line for playing in the “snow”. Now, I’m a Florida girl, but I have seen actual snow and this was really just shaved ice. It was a big old mound of shaved ice though and it was a lot of fun.
There is no extra cost to play in the snow, but you have to get in a line and wait. We were second in line, but because they let you in for ten minute play periods, they had us wait for a larger group to join but it wasn’t long before they let us go in. There were buckets and shovels and little sand castle forms that you could borrow. The snow was a little slippery, but not too bad. Eli has never seen snow before so he was very impresssed. The snow held together well enough to make snow balls, but because it’s shaved ice, they asked people not to throw then (they really could hurt!). After about five minutes of digging and filling buckets, Eli decided that the most fun part of the experience was running around slipping on the snow.
After we finished (ten minutes was really plenty of time to enjoy the snow), we walked over to the ice skating rink. I wasn’t sure if they’d have skates small enough for him. When I asked, they had a little footprint on a piece of paper to put his foot on to check. It looked just right (he wears a 9.5 in little kids shoes). The adult skates run pretty big. I wear a 6.5 in street shoes and rented a size 5 in women’s skates and they fit just fine. They also only come in whole sizes. You can bring your own skates if you happen to have them with you.
Skating is $10 a person for a 30 minute session on the ice, including skate rental, helmet rental and a pair of socks. I’m fairly relaxed about wearing used socks as long as they’ve been washed but I guess some people aren’t or it’s not worth the trouble to Disney to do it because they are all new socks that you can choose to take home with you or you can put them in a bucket to donate to local charities.
I was hoping they’d have the training skates I’ve seen for little kids that have two blades, but they are all hockey style ice skates with just one blade. We had to sign a waiver for all three of us and everyone had to wear helmets as well. After getting the socks, skates and helmet on (whew!) I walked Eli out on the ice.
I think we were the first people out on the ice that morning which was very nice. I’ve ice skated a handful of times before and can handle myself fairly well, but helping an energetic, excited, estatic three year old on the ice was pretty challenging. I suspect other kids might let you hold on to their hands and glide along, but Eli decided he wanted to run with his skates on. Even holding onto the side, keeping him upright was a serious core, strength and cardio workout. Just once around the rink had me sweating despite the cool temperatures.
When we were about halfway around, a cast member came up and wanted to tighten Eli’s helmet (it was a little loose, but that’s because the kids helmets were one size for all kids and he’s only three). When he put it back on it was too tight and he pinched Eli’s chin. We didn’t realize it until a few minutes later when he started crying and we couldn’t figure out why. We loosened it a little but that was pretty much the end of his ice skating experience.
Even though it ended poorly, he couldn’t stop talking about how much fun it was for the next couple of days. They shut down the ice skating periodically to do an ice skating show and then run the zamboni. Eli thought the zamboni was the coolest thing!
I let Erik do some skating on his own while Eli and I turned in our skates and went back to the snow play area. We had to wait about 15 minutes to play again, but waiting 15 minutes in a nice cool indoor area in July is pretty much heaven! We got to watch the cast members come out and use big rakes on the snow to loosen it up since having all those people walk on it makes it get packed down quite a bit. He had just as much fun playing in the snow the second time around.
This area had two other activities that we didn’t participate in, the Wandering Oaken’s Trading Post with lots of Frozen merchandise to choose from and a snack area with delicious treats.
The whole area was well staged as a winter wonderland with trees covered with snow. There was a peaceful feeling despite all the people.
Some other festivities that we didn’t participate in but that any Frozen fan should check out are the Royal Welcome where Anna and Elsa come in on a horse drawn sleigh down Hollywood Boulevard. There is also the First Time In Forever Frozen sing-a-long which I would have loved to have participated in, but alas, Eli just does not like Frozen at all! Last I heard, you go pick up a pass for a return time later in the day. So if it’s important to you to experience, you may want to pick up your return pass early in the day. Finally, there is a Frozen Fireworks show at 9:45pm. We didn’t stay to watch it, but we were able to see it from the bus on the way back to the Swan and Dolphin from Magic Kingdom. I thought it was a gorgeous fireworks display and hope we can get back to see it before it goes away.
I’m really hoping that they make this a permanent attraction at Hollywood Studios, including the fireworks. I love that it’s a chance for families to be active together. While I suspect that in February it won’t be super exciting for people visiting from Chicago to play in the snow, it will always be fun for those of us from the South!