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Brian Bennett

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Disney / AAA Welcome Center - Photo Tour

Join me for a photo tour of Disney's Welcome Center in Ocala, just off of I-75.  This won't be a very long tour, as there just isn't that much to see.  However, if you're planning a driving trip to WDW, and want to save as much money as you can on your room accommodations, this is a place you need to know about! 

The Disney / AAA Welcome Center is located just off I-75 in Ocala.  This is not a huge place, but you will find that this is a nice place to stretch your legs, use the restroom, make room reservations, purchase park admission media, and even do some shopping at the gift shop.

The Welcome center is nicely decorated.  It has large two-dimensional images of Mickey and Minnie if you want to pose for some pre-WDW pictures.  The windows are also decorated (much like the ones in the Emporium on Main Street) with characters from the most recent Disney films.

Once you enter those doors, though, you'll see that this is not the typical AAA office nor is it a typical roadside rest area.  This is a very nicely maintained that can give you just a little touch of magic even before you get to Orange County.  If you have little ones with you, they'll enjoy seeing the character cut-outs.  You might get them to pose for you in that little car (it's in the middle of the "road" in the picture above, but mostly obscured by the man in the zebra outfit. Check out the ceiling panels.  It's not every building that can boast it's own clouds.

Just inside the door of the building is a small theatre.  If you want another dose of pixie dust, catch the film that runs here on a regular basis throughout the day.  It's intended to bait travelers that are not visiting WDW on their vacation into doing just that.  If you're already on your way to Walt Disney World, it can provide a nice overview (especially if you've never seen the most recent WDW Trip Planning Video), but for even occasional visitors, it will not tell you anything you don't already know.  Again, though, if you need a break from the car...and want to give the kids a chance to see what they're in for over the next few days, enjoy the show!

Just beyond the theatre is the welcome center's shop.  Again, you're not likely to find anything here that you won't find many, many times over at WDW itself, but you might enjoy a brief stroll through.  If you're actually heading North (after your WDW vacation) when you stop in, you might find that last minute gift for your friend that took in the mail or that water your houseplants or whatever.

But the big claim to fame for the welcome center is the reservations center located in the very back of the building.  Here you can pick up those tickets or make on-site hotel reservations or get park guidemaps (that can be fun, if someone wants to study them in the car during the last hour and a half or so of drive time.

There really aren't any guarantees, though.  You might come across a great deal for your room...or you might not.  Your best best is getting a great deal (50% off) on a premium hotel room in the slowest times of the year.  During the busier times, you might not get any deal at all.  Let the buyer beware!

Is the welcome center a good place to stop?  Sure it is, if you want a brief break from driving.  Are you guaranteed a great deal on accommodations if you stop?  NO!  But it still may be worth asking.  You never know until you do.

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