Grad Nite in Walt Disney World Orlando: A Great Senior Trip Idea

One of the best high school senior trip ideas in the United States is for a class to attend Grad Nite in Walt Disney World Orlando. There’s also a Grad Nite for high school seniors at the Disneyland California location, for students that find travel easier to a West Coast location.


On Grad Nite, Magic Kingdom is closed to everyone except high school seniors on the cusp of their graduation — and the park is theirs all night.  In 2011, Grad Night is slated for April 29th  and 30th  and May 6th  and 7th at Walt Disney World Orlando.  In order to reserve a place at Grad Nite, teachers and trip leaders scheduling this type of senior trip will want to plan at least six months in advance, and start making commitments by the end of 2010.


There are lots of reasons to recommend Grad Nite to parents. Many senior parties near home may include the opportunity to consume alcohol. This is a concern for many parents who do no allow their children to drink and certainly do not want them driving if they do consume alcohol. The event occurs in one place and transportation is provided to and from the park.  Grad Nite is alcohol free and monitored by adults and employees of the park.


High School Seniors enjoy dancing, going on rides, video games, and dining in a closely monitored, public environment.  They get to spend the evening with their high school friends and engage in activities any teenager might enjoy.  Students travel to the event with chaperones, and with some educational travel companies, security is provided while the group is resting at the hotel.  When security is provided at the hotel, it gives additional piece of mind to parents and teachers.


The Grad Nite event is designed to appeal directly to high school seniors, with the entertainment selected with their tastes in mind.

In 2011, Grad Nite in Orlando is scheduled to include the following:

–    DJ Pauly D, who plays dance mixes with electronic sounds that appeal to this age group, will     occupy the Cinderella Stage.
–    Live music is also scheduled for the evening, with two bands slated to perform:  Taio Cruz and 3OH!3.
–    Seniors get to hang out with their friends and dance in an alcohol free environment and meet graduating seniors from across the U.S.
–    Access to interactive video games gives students a pleasurable break from dancing or rides and another way to celebrate with friends.
–    Students can take as many rides as they like Space Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, and other popular Magic Kingdom rides.
–    Near the end of the evening, a fireworks show is provided to honor graduating seniors.  This show makes the group of traveling high school seniors feel like the center of attention.

For seniors who want special mementos to remind them of their Grad Night experience, Walt Disney World sells keepsakes commemorating the evening.  They can also take photos or have them taken by a Disney World photographer.

Student travel discounts are available for groups of ten or more students and are best obtained by working directly with an educational travel company that specializes in booking group tours.  Grad Nite fills up fast, so book early to ensure a group reservation.

For information about booking a high school senior trip to Grad Nite in Disney World Request a Quote or email

Class Trip on History of California is Funded by Major League Baseball Player

by Howard Clemens

Parker Lefton is a retired history teacher for Maclay Middle School in Pacoina California, just outside of Los Angeles.  He continues to work as an educator in his role as the volunteer coordinator of the Determined to Dream Foundation.  Garret Anderson, a recently retired Major League Baseball player who spent most of his career with the Los Angeles Angels, funds the Determined to Dream Foundation.  Anderson and his wife, Teresa, were once students at Maclay, and they have been actively funding and planning special projects at the school since 2003.

Garret Anderson’s Foundation Funds Reading Initiatives and Educational Trips
The Determined to Dream Foundation is the funding source for Maclay Middle School’s reading initiative and educational trips. Each year a group of students takes an educational tour on the East Coast to Boston, New York City or Philadelphia. Lefton also takes an annual trip with a group of students to historical and geographic points of interest in California. “I feel it’s important to expose kids at this school to the outside world.  Many of the kids who go to Maclay have not had the opportunity to get outside of L.A.,” commented Lefton.

Hunting for an Educational Travel Company that Offers Flexibility
When he first began hunting for an educational travel company, Lefton said he was disappointed to find that many of the companies he interviewed had definite itineraries that were not changeable.  “I didn’t necessarily like the tours other companies presented,” noted Lefton, “so I finally said yes to the company that was open to arranging the tour any way I wanted.”  Educational Travel Consultants was willing to customize the tour to match his curriculum. Consultants work with teachers to create educational tours that parallel teaching objectives. Pre-packaged tours of popular destinations are also available to school groups.

A Student Tour of California is Created
Lefton helped to create a six-day tour of California. The journey begins at Maclay Middle School near Los Angeles, continues up through the Sierra Nevada Mountains near Lake Tahoe, makes a stop in the San Francisco Bay area and Sacramento, and proceeds down the California coast through Monterey and Santa Cruz, then back to Los Angeles.

Students Travel to Sierra Nevada Mountains
Lefton wanted to begin the tour with an overview of the geography of the state.  The school trip starts with a visit to Mammoth Mountain, the site of the ancient volcano that erupted some 57,000 years ago. Students then proceed to nearby Lake Tahoe, another geographic wonder — a large and deep mountain lake that sits at approximately 6,225 feet in elevation and is located on the border of Nevada and California.  While touring the area, students also visit Coloma Valley, the place where gold was first discovered. This discovery triggered the 1849 California Gold Rush.

Touring Sacramento and San Francisco Bay
After spending a day in the Sierra Nevada Mountains the school group heads west to Sacramento to visit the California State Railroad Museum, where they learn about the construction of the transcontinental railroad. Here, the first of two educational exercises on the trip begins with an information hunt. Students work in pairs to find specific information in the Museum. The winners receive Target gift cards. While visiting Sacramento, students also tour the California State Capitol building, where they gain insight and perspective into state government.

Next on the itinerary is the San Francisco Bay area, where students visit Alcatraz Island Prison by boat, walk across the Golden Gate Bridge, tour Fort Point (an old Civil War era site), see the Maritime National Historic Park and take a walking tour of Chinatown.  In the evening the student group dines at a restaurant on Fishermen’s Wharf.

Santa Cruz & Monterey
The next day the school group moves south from the San Francisco area and visits Santa Cruz, where they see one of California’s redwood forests, and make a stop in Monterey, the first capital of California. Here, students consider the Mexican period in California history, visit the Monterey Aquarium, and see the Big Sur coastline from the vantage point of Point Lobos State Natural Reserve.

A Student Tour of an 18th Century Mission
On the way back to Los Angeles, the bus stops at Morro Bay, where a tour of the Museum of Natural History offers a visual and educational overview of the coastal area.  At their final stop, they tour La Purisima Mission, a wonderfully preserved example of a mission as it would have been in 1800.  Part two of the information hunt occurs at La Purisima, where students are tasked with finding specific details about mission history while on tour.

Competing for a Place on the California Tour
Funding limitations do not permit all students at Maclay Middle School to attend this grant-funded trip. So, Lefton and the Andersons have created an academic competition with winners awarded a place on the California tour.  The contest helps them to strive for better grades and also involves the element of luck.  Students are given tickets for a drawing for each acceptable grade in the A,B, and C range. “The more good grades they receive the first semester of school, the more entry tickets they have to enter the drawing,” says Lefton. Fourteen names are drawn from all of the entries, and these lucky students tour their home state.

This unique trip was created because a history teacher wanted to develop an educational tour that gave students an opportunity to engage in some active learning about their home state.  The California tour is ambitious in all of the sites it encompasses.  Students studying California history, geography, and social studies will benefit from a trip designed like this, or even one that is quite similar.  The tour could be scaled down to three or four days instead of five or six and still offer many learning opportunities.

For more information about scheduling a student trip of California, Request a Quote or email