The recent news that Walt Disney World will be closing three of its children’s activity centers this summer has left some guests worried about their vacation plans. If you’re among those guests, know that there is another fun and comparable alternative on Disney property.
The last day of operation for Simba’s Cubhouse at Animal Kingdom Lodge, Sandcastle Club at Beach Club Resort and Lilo’s Playhouse at Polynesian Village Resort is July 31. Apparently the childcare centers were not being used as much, which led to the decision to close them. Certainly that’s understandable, but I have to admit to a little wistfulness upon hearing the news. When my kids were younger, they thoroughly enjoyed the time they spent in the kids clubs, especially the Sandcastle club.
However, my children also really enjoyed Camp Dolphin at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort, and it will remain open when the others close. You do not have to be staying at the Swan and Dolphin (or any Walt Disney World hotel) to use Camp Dolphin.
If you are looking for a fun evening for your child while you have an adult-only evening — or even just an interrupted dinner — Camp Dolphin opens at 5 p.m. each day and stays open until midnight. Located on the lower level of the Dolphin building, the childcare facility is designed just for kids ages 4 to 12.
Camp Dolphin can accommodate up to 18 children with two counselors present. During busy periods, such as holidays, the camp moves to one of the hotel’s ballrooms.
Camp Dolphin has all the basic components for kid fun: Video games, movies, crafts and counselors who will supervise and entertain youngsters in an environment where parents will not worry about their well-being. On the night my children visited, the theme for the crafts was “A Very Merry Unbirthday,” which included card-making and birthday tiaras for the participants. Blackout Bingo was played for prizes, and when we arrived to pick up our children, they were just settling down with a mound of pillows for movie time.
Parents can opt to have their children have dinner while at Camp Dolphin. Counselors take the kids to nearby Picabu (Peek-A-Boo) restaurant, where the meals they have pre-selected from a menu of traditional kid favorites, such as cheeseburgers, mac and cheese, chicken fingers and hot dogs, are served. The cost is $10 per child.
To have their children attend Camp Dolphin, parents pay $12 per hour per child with no minimum time requirement (unlike the other Walt Disney World children’s activity centers). Plus, each adult who orders an entree at Shula’s Steak House, Todd English’s bluezoo or Il Mulino New York Trattoria in the hotel earns two complimentary hours for a child at Camp Dolphin. This offer also applies to an adult who purchases a spa service at Mandara Spa.
Reservations are recommended for Camp Dolphin. To book, call 407-934-4000 or go online to the hotel’s website 72 hours in advance. Walk-ups are permitted if space is available.
For guests who prefer an individual babysitter or need help during other hours, Walt Disney World recommends Kids Nite Out, a service that send a babysitter to your hotel room. Babysitters will watch and entertain kids ages 6 months to 12 years old with games, arts and crafts and reading. You can also reserve a caregiver to accompany your family to the parks if you need a helping hand. The cost is $18 per hour for one child, $21 for two children, $24 for three children and $26 for four children. There is an additional $2-per-hour charge after 9 p.m. and a one-time transportation fee of $10.
To contact Kid’s Nite Out, call 407-828-0920 from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.