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Disney World kids’ centers give parents guilt-free night out

  The Sandcastle Club at Disney's Yacht & Beach Club Resort offers kids a magical evening while parents have a night out. (Steven Ford/Orlando Sentinel) Recently, my kids got to experience a little bit of magic without me at Walt Disney World. My husband and I dropped them off at one of the six children’s activity centers, where kids ages 3 to 12 are supervised and can play video and board games, participate in arts and crafts, color, read, play with a variety of toys and watch movies. When we arrived, my almost-8-year-old son made a beeline for the wall of Wii and Playstation systems, while my almost-6-year-old daughter admired the dress-up clothes and coloring choices. We had no doubt our kids would have fun, and we were confident they were safe as well. The doors to the center beeped loudly any time they were opened, and cast members were quick to check who was coming or going. The ratio of adults to children was better than average. There were two adults and four kids in the center when we arrived. When we returned, there were three adults and about a dozen children. Parents wanting to rely on more than their cell phones also can request pagers. Most of the centers are open daily from 4:30 p.m. to midnight. Dinner is included for children in the centers between 6 and 8 p.m. My kids loved getting to “order” their dinners. Choices included a hot dog with fries and fruit; macaroni and cheese with fruit; chicken tenders with fries and fruit; fish nuggets with fries and fruit; cheese pizza; and grilled cheese with fries and fruit. You do not have to be staying at a Disney hotel to use the children’s activity centers. Everyone pays the same rate — $11.50 per hour per child with a two-hour minimum. (Children must be potty-trained.) Although walk-ups are welcome, reservations are strongly encouraged and can be made by calling 407-WDW-DINE. Kids activity centers are located in most deluxe resorts: ** Simba’s Clubhouse at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge ** Never Land Club at Disney’s Polynesian Resort ** Cub’s Den at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge ** Sandcastle Club at Disney’s Yacht and Beach clubs ** Mouseketeer Club at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa ** Camp Dolphin at Walt Disney World Dolphin and Swan resorts At the end of the evening, children are offered another treat: cookies and milk. I had my own sweet end to the evening when my daughter said,”Mommy, I forgot all about you because I was having so much fun!”

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More Stories By James Swartwout

Jim Swartwout is a Florida Vacation home owner and the Operating Manager of Florida Gulf Vacation LLC which operates the Florida Vacation Rental website http://www.floridagulfvacation.com. Connecting Florida Vacation rental owners and travelers on the web since 2004, the site allows owners to list their properties for just $6 per month and is free to travelers who can create an account, build wishlists and contact the owners directly from the site.