Disney's Vero Beach with Kids!
by Michelle Scribner MacLean, ALL EARS® Guest Columnist
This article appeared in the June 12, 2007 Issue #403 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)
In our family, we are creatures of habit when it comes to where we stay at Walt Disney World. Sure, we'll try any new restaurant, any new ride or attraction, but when we choose a place to stay it's always the Beach Club. As Disney Vacation Club members, I guess we feel reassured by the familiar setting, the proximity to the parks, and really connect when the Cast Members greet us with the familiar, "Welcome home!" when we check in. (It makes us giggle every time -- but we love it!)
So we were feeling very adventurous when we decided to try a few days at Disney's Vero Beach. When we told our kids, they were in shock -- living in New England we spend a great deal of time at the beach in the summer, so they wondered why we'd want to spend our precious Disney time at the beach. They couldn't imagine a vacation without attractions and a fireworks extravaganza to top off the night! We checked online and noticed the wide variety of activities available to kids (in addition to the ocean, of course) and decided to give it a try.
We arrived in mid-May and the first thing we noticed on the way down was a storm of bugs. Driving down, our windshield wipers were working constantly as we drove through thousands and thousands of what we later learned were called "love bugs." These darling creatures arrive in parts of Florida from Central America twice during the year and are everywhere! I'm a science teacher and it was even too many bugs for me, but they don't bite and they don't bother humans -- but for two weeks in May and November, they are ever-present. Luckily, this turned out to be the only downside of a fantastic vacation.
Vero Beach is a Disney Vacation Club resort, but is open to the public with rates from $189 to over $1100 per night depending on the size of the accommodations and the time of the year. Room choices run from studios (with or without ocean views) to entire cottages that sleep 12. With the idea that we'd spend little time in the room, we chose a studio with an ocean view, which turned out to be a great choice for our family. The room had a little deck with a gorgeous view (and if it wasn't for those silly bugs, we'd have kept the door open the entire time!).
The resort turned out to be a fantastic place for kids. We have two boys who are 13 and 7 and sometimes finding activities that will please both of them with their age difference is tricky -- but they both had plenty to do. The pool is shaped like Mickey and has a "lighthouse" with a slide that wraps around the outside and dumps into a shallow portion of the pool (about 3'). The slide is "mellow" -- doesn't dump people into the water too quickly -- and is a great family slide. I saw grandparents and 4-year-olds using the slide together. There is also a pirate ship water play area for kids under 48". There is a DJ at different times during the day and food and beverages are available poolside. You could stay for hours and be very comfortable.
Vero Beach Resort is right on the beach. We made it from our studio to the sand in five minutes, with only a stop to use the key card access (only resort guests are permitted on the beach). Towels are free and available near the beach, as well as rentals of boogie boards, kayaks, umbrellas, and a variety of beach chairs. However, we needed none of that as the waves and sand kept my kids very busy. The waves look deceptively tame, but knocked me over when the water was waist high -- but my kids loved it. Evan, 13 years old, spent hours and hours in the water and had a smile on his face the entire time. Liam, my 7-year-old, was knocked over a few times and we needed to stay right with him in the water, but he also loved it.
The beach is also host to sea turtles during the months of June and July, and sea turtles are a recurring theme in the resort. A naturalist named Marianne works there and hosts nature walks and points out various types of sea pods (seeds that float onto the beach from afar), places where the turtles have come to lay their eggs, and places to find sharks' teeth (my kids found about five!). Marianne even provided a field guide to help us identify a bird that we saw.
Eb and Flows is a little place right next to the pool which loans sports equipment, has sign-up lists for various activities, etc. We borrowed rackets and balls (free for DVC members and a small fee for non-DVC members) and made our way across the street, through an underground tunnel painted with characters from Peter Pan, to beautiful tennis courts -- a great option if you want a tiny break from the beach. We were the only ones there and had a marvelous time (although, next time I'd bring my own tennis balls because the ones provided had seen better days).
In addition to the activities mentioned above, the resort has a group of counselors who lead a variety of types of programs at the resort. A weekly guide to activities called Playful Pastimes is available at the front desk so you can plan out your week. Some activities have small fees, but many are free. An abbreviated list of things available while we were there is below:
For 4-Year-Olds and Up
Tot fish find
For 6 and Up
Paper airplane construction
Giant checker game
Create a puppet show
For 10-Year-Olds and Up
Dodge ball game
Pelican Island bike ride
Disney pin trading
Mini golf tournament
Treasure Box Creating
Piano jazz at the Green Cabin Room
Introduction to Wine
For All Ages
Disney family movie with popcorn
Sea turtle information session
My 7-year-old and I went to a cooking class where two Disney "chefs" gave him a chance to decorate his own chef's apron with fabric pens. He decorated his own chef's hat, and then led a very brief overview of the tools he'd be using as he created his own dirt cake complete with gummy worms. The fee for this was $7, but there was only one other boy, so he got quite a lot of attention from the two staff members.
Another option for activities is the Disney Discovery Club. From 5 - 8 p.m. on most nights, counselors provide activities and dinner for kids aged 4 - 12 years old. Our 7-year-old begged us to go into the club after he'd seen other kids doing it. We said, "OK, Liam, if we have to spend three hours alone eating dinner, we'll make that sacrifice!" Our 13-year-old opted to spend time in the arcade while we had dinner at one of the restaurants onsite (Shutters). We received rave reviews from Liam! The counselors were college-age, seemed to really enjoy kids, and kept the 10 kids in attendance busy, safe, and happy. The cost for this is $30 for DVC members, and $35 for non-members.
One of our favorite activities was the Sing-Along Campfire, which happens several nights during the week. At the end of the property there is a dedicated area for the campfire with benches that encircle a small area for the fire. When we mentioned to our teen that we were going to a campfire and that there would be singing involved, he was less than thrilled, but ended up loving it! Our two counselors, Doulin and Eric, were the perfect mix of corny and fun as they hosted lively renditions of P-L-U-T-O (to the tune of BINGO), Chicka-chicka Boom Boom (where they sang as if they were Bob Dylan and AC/DC, among others), and the Mickey Mouse March. The night concluded with everyone making S'mores -- as many as you could eat -- at the campfire. It was a hit with our family and, judging from the cheers from the crowd, was a hit with all other attendees there, too.
With the ocean, the activities, and the "Disney magic," the Vero Beach Resort was a perfect choice for our family. We only stayed three days, but we left rested and entertained with definite plans to visit again... only next time we'll try to avoid the bugs.
About the Author: Michelle Scribner-MacLean is a college professor by day and a Disney fanatic in every other bit of free time. She first visited WDW when she was a teenager and now is a DVC owner who visits Walt Disney World 2-3 times per year. Michelle lives in New Hampshire with her husband and two boys and loves roller coasters, the fantastic food at Disney, and always cries when she sees IllumiNations.
Vero Beach photos: http://allears.net/acc/g_vero.htm
Disney's Vero Beach page: http://dvc.disney.go.com/dvc/guest/resorts/resortDetail?id=ProspectsVeroBeachResortLandingPage
More on love bugs: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/BODY_MG068
Read Michelle's previous articles for ALL EARS®:
Mixing Science and Magic at Walt Disney World, at: http://allears.net/ae/issue390.htm
Navigating WDW with a Picky Eater, at: http://allears.net/ae/issue395.htm
Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.