Its Disney Day – Kind of …

I had been waiting for this day for over a year now, Disney Day!   Well, sort of … its more like “drive halfway to Disney Day” but its exciting, nonetheless!   The kids really wanted to be checked out of school, but since they are already missing 3 days (and quite a few tests and assignments), I had to settle for checking them out 30 minutes early … of course, Hayden was in the middle of a test anyway, so we had to wait a few minutes for him to finish.

From school, we stopped at the house for them to change, grab some last minute items and tell Wade bye … then we were on our way somewhere around 4pm.  I had pre-booked a hotel in Marianna, Florida, so I knew we had about a 5  hour drive ahead of us.   We hit a little traffic in New Orleans East, stopped for dinner at Panera in Slidell then had an uneventful drive the rest of the way.   We got to the hotel around 10pm and went straight to bed.   Between the excitement of the next day, being squished between the kids in one bed and hearing all kinds of noises, I didn’t sleep AT ALL.   Damn anxiety … I just kept picturing waking up to a broken windshield and my car being broken into (post traumatic stress from our Houston trip maybe??)

4:30 am took a long time to get here but it was finally, officially, DISNEY DAY!  We were on the road right on time with a 4 1/2 hour drive ahead of us … we had an 11:30 Be Our Guest reservation so it was important that we arrived on time.   We stopped for breakfast at Krystal and for gas and to use the bathroom a couple of times but with the time change, we were cutting it close.   We arrived at Yacht Club around 10:45am, parked, grabbed our bags and rushed into the room … no “arrival” photos or videos, we had to get to Magic Kingdom!   We changed, grabbed our park bags and headed to the bus stop.   I considered calling a Minnie Van, but the Magic Kingdom bus was pulling up when we got there, so we hopped on (not realizing we still had to make stops at Beach Club and Boardwalk).

I’ll back up just a second to talk about our room and the Yacht Club, even though at this point, we still haven’t really explored it.   The room is beautiful … 2 queen beds and a sofa bed, so we each have our own bed.  Emelyn is loving her little sofa bed!   The rooms here have been recently renovated so there is laminate flooring, tons of storage / shelf space and everything is very streamlined and nice.   There is a subtle nautical theme to the room – navy blue curtains with constellations, nautical prints on the walls and sleek, dark wood furniture.   You know how most  hotels have a shortage of outlets?  Not here!   Every surface has a built-in outlet with USB ports!   The nightstands, the desk and the dresser all have these built-in outlets … its perfect for all of our electronic charger (the kids each have cameras, Hayden has a GoPro, I have a camera and a GoPro, we all have phones / iPads plus the external battery chargers) … electronics everywhere!   Oh, and the view … we have a balcony overlooking the Yacht Club’s amazing sand-bottom pool with Epcot in the distance … last night, we watched Illuminations from the balcony!

Back to our first day on property … we arrived to the front of Magic Kingdom around 11:45 and pretty much ran to Fantasyland … the Christmas decorations on Main Street are incredible and I was so amazed, but more on that later.   I knew that we had a little grace period for our reservation and I think we JUST made it … but before we knew it, we had our Be Our Guest pre-order rose and were waiting for our turn.   I highly suggest pre-ordering …. we walked right past the long line of people waiting to get in and into the much shorter, pre-order line.   We waited about 5 minutes for our turn, then we were given our receipt and told to find a place to sit.   We chose the music box room and had our food within a few minutes (this is such a cool system, how they just know where you chose to sit and your server “magically” shows up at your table with your food!)   The food here is delicious and we all enjoyed it … Emelyn had the kids pulled pork, but didn’t like the gravy, so she picked around it.  Hayden had a turkey sandwich (he’s a “Disney adult” now) and I had the french dip sandwich …. all very, very good!   We were full and recharged, out the door by 11:25 and I quickly realized how miserable it can be to arrive at Magic Kingdom in the middle of the day … the park was CROWDED.   Wait times were up, people were everywhere and I was exhausted from not getting much sleep the night before.   My excitement quickly turned to stress and annoyance but I was determined not to let it ruin my day.  We had a couple of fun FastPasses then the plan was to go back to the hotel to rest, then to return for the “surprise” I had booked for the kids and evening extra magic hours, so I just told the kids that they were in charge and we would do whatever they wanted to do.

First stop was a Mickey ice cream bar for Emelyn, then we just wandered over to Frontierland.   We had a Big Thunder Mountain FP coming up and Hayden wanted to do Tom Sawyer’s Island … it took a ton of self-control on my part, but I forced myself to slow down and just go with the flow … Tom Sawyer’s it is.   Our Disney trips in the past have been very stressful and exhausting with lots of fighting and frustration … I didn’t want that to happen this time.  I want them to remember this as the best Disney trip ever!  We hopped on the raft over to the island and I let the kids lead me around the island, taking photos and videos of them as they explored.   They really loved this place!   The caves, bridges and forts are fun to explore!   We headed back on the raft and to our first ride of the day … Big Thunder Mountain!   I was so thrilled that the kids have finally agreed to try all of the “big rides” … neither of them have ever been on BTM before, so I was so excited for them and they LOVED it!   Yay!   Thrill ride #1 for the day was a success!

We then moseyed over to Tommorrowland for our next FP, Space Mountain.  We walked through Adventureland and the kids did one of the Pirate Adventures on the way.   We had a little more time to kill, so we went to Carousel of Progress first, which is a favorite of everyone (I’m so proud that my kids love this ride, I think it would break my heart if they didn’t!)   I wasn’t sure how Space Mountain would go over because of the way we have to sit and I was right … Emelyn wound up in the very front with me behind her and Hayden behind me … I held on to her shoulders the whole time, trying to reassure her but when it was over, there were tears streaming down her face … Emelyn is NOT a Space Mountain fan!  She didn’t like the darkness and being in the front … oh well, we are 1 for 2 on the thrill rides!

After Space Mountain, it was time to head back to the hotel to rest and get ready for our late night.   I managed to get Emelyn to take a nap and I took a short nap myself (until a man started talking loudly next door and woke me up).  Somewhat rested / recharged, we headed back to the park around 6pm.  This time, we were able to take our time and soak-in the beauty of Main Street at Christmastime!   Its really incredible … and the castle lights were already lit up so its just beautiful!  The weather was perfect as well, chilly and clear.  We headed back to Fantasyland to start getting some rides in, but the lines were still kind of long at this point.   Our “surprise” was at 7:45, so we had a little bit of time to kill.   We did “Its a Small World” first b/c the posted wait was fairly low and I figured we could just get it done quickly … its a must-do ride for Emelyn and I.  We waited about 20 minutes, Hayden complained the whole time, but we got through it without getting stuck (for long … our boat stopped for about 2 minutes at the end).  At this point, it was time for the surprise, but we still needed to get Emelyn a jacket, so we ran to the Emporium to pick up one (note to self, find out prices before getting to the register, her hoodie was $65 dollars!!!).  Then headed back to Tomorrowland for the kids’ surprise …

I had been debating on booking a Happily Ever After dessert party for months … I knew that our time in MK was limited and the last thing I wanted to do was spend over an hour to stake out a good spot for the fireworks.  In our past trips, the fireworks were somewhat ruined by people standing in front of us and the kids not being able to see well … I didn’t want that to happen this time.  So, I finally decided, why not … lets make this super special for them!  We arrived at Tomorrowland Terrace a little after 8pm and the kids were amazed – “We get to just eat all of these desserts for free???”  (Not free kids, trust me, I paid for this …).   Our server made me feel like we were late and not going to get a good spot, so I asked if we were allowed to take our desserts out to the viewing location … the answer was yes!   He grabbed us some to-go boxes and we packed them up with desserts, grabbed some drinks and headed to the plaza garden viewing area.

I’ll stop here to discuss the desserts for a second … there were all kinds of little bite-sized items – cupcakes, chocolate covered strawberries, cheesecake, brownies, fruit and cheese.   There was a kids area with cookies and cupcakes that they could decorate as well as a “do it yourself” kabob.   There is also ice cream, but we didn’t get any.  For drinks there is coffee, hot chocolate, apple cider, juice, water, milk and tea.   The kids LOVED every second of this … especially, our viewing spot!

The plaza garden viewing is located in the new area of the hub that was recently completed … we were in a gated area in front of the Plaza ice cream shop.  There was plenty of room to spread out, no one stood in front of us and we were able to relax on the grass and eat our desserts, waiting for the fireworks.  I think we waited about 30 minutes and had an amazing view of the castle, projections and fireworks.  Once they started, we stood up and the kids sat on the garden railings to watch the show.   It couldn’t have been more perfect – I cried (as usual) and even though I took some photos and videos, I made an effort to put down the camera and just soak it all in.   I watched the kids’ faces as they watched the show and sang along … it was one of those magical Disney moments that just make everything worth it – cheesy, I know, but 100% true.

After the fireworks, there was about 30 minutes until park closing, then the extra magic hours were from 10-12.   A large part of the guests head out after the fireworks, so the lines went down quite a bit after fireworks … we headed to Tomorrowland and hit Buzz Lightyear (we got stuck on the ride for a while, the lights even came on at one point!) then the PeopleMover (another one of our favorites).  Then it was over to Fantasyland to do as many rides as we could … by this point it was 10:15 so regular park guests weren’t allowed on rides … it was Extra Magic Hours!!!   They do check your MagicBands at every ride once this starts and the wait times are drastically reduced … this is absolutely my favorite time to be in Magic Kingdom!   We did Winnie the Pooh with about a 10 minute wait, Under the Sea, Haunted Mansion and Philharmagic.   I don’t remember what time it was at this point, but it was close to midnight.   We decided to check 7 Dwarves and the wait time was posted at about 30 minutes (I think).   We didn’t have FP for this ride and I didn’t really want to use party time on Friday to do it, so we decided to go for it.   The line moved pretty quickly and we were done with the ride and headed out of the park by 12:30am.   What a cool time to be in Magic Kingdom … we got some neat shots of the castle, Partner’s Statue and the Main Street Christmas tree … as exhausted as we were, our first day was a complete success!

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Disney Do-Over – Day 1

A few months ago, Wade’s company scheduled him to travel to Paris on a business trip.   Since this was such a once-in-a-lifetime chance, he asked me to go with him so we arranged for his mom to stay with the kids and bought my ticket.  A few weeks before the trip, they cancelled it because he didn’t have the right pre-requisites for the class.  I was pretty disappointed, to say the least and I just kept thinking that there should be something I could do instead, especially since Wade’s mom was still flying in.  I finally decided to ask Wade if I could take Hayden to Disney, just the two of us and he reluctantly agreed.  I booked us a package for 5 days at an All Star Resort and that was it, we were going to Disney in just a couple of weeks!  I was so excite to share this special trip with just Hayden and I knew it would be something we’d never forget.

We left on a Sunday afternoon and I had decided I would just drive until I was tired.  We stopped about midnight in a town just a couple of hours from Disney world.  Hayden has always been a good traveler, so I had no problems with him.  We got up super early and made it to the hotel by around 8am.  We were checked in and getting on a bus for Hollywood Studios before we knew it!

As soon as we got there, we made our way back to Pixar Place to get fast passes for Toy Story Mania … there are very few must-dos as Hollywood Studios for me and this is one of them.  After we grabbed the fast passes, we walked across the street and got in line to meet Woody and Buzz.  The queue was cute, there were lots of little “photo ops” along the way.

After that, we just kind of walked around, exploring the Studios.  We checked out Muppet Vision and played in the Honey I Shrunk the Kids Playground (which I hated, way too easy to lose kids in that place!).  We tried to go on the Backlot Tour, but it was shut down.

Walking from there, we ran into Mater with only a handful of people in line to meet him.  I was excited because I had read that McQueen and Mater were closed at that time.  Hayden loved him and decided he had to rock out after we took our photo:

We checked out the Art of Animation area where Mickey and the Incredibles were signing autographs … we waited for Mickey, but Hayden didn’t wan to see Incredibles :-(

After Mickey, we decided to check out the Lights, Motor Action Stunt Show … I knew I’d be a bit bored, but that Hayden would probably love it, and he did.  Its the on thing he still talks about all the time!  You coul dsee the excitement on his face the entire show!

By this point, Hayden was starting to ask if we could go to Downtown Disney and see the Toy Story figures at our hotel.  THis was killing me, of course, because I just wanted to stay in the parks.  But I had told him it was his trip and we’d do what he wanted but we did have a late lunch reservation to go to so we had to stick around until after that.

Our reservation was at the Sci Fi Dine-In, which I thouht Hayden would love, but once he saw that they showed scary movies, he didn’t want to go.  I had to beg him to sit down and eat, but once he had a huge chocolate shake and saw that there were also cartoons playing, he was fine.  Its such a cool atmosphere in there!

We also still hadn’t used our Toy Story Fast Passes and had a bit of time to kill before our window, so we checked out the Playhouse DIsney show … Hayden loved Jake and the Neverland Pirates!

Finally, we were able to ride Toy Story Mania, which was a blast … I love this ride and so did Hayden!

After that, as promised, we headed back to to the hotel to see the Toy Story area of it (our room was in the Toy Story section of the hotel)

From there, we headed to Downtown Disney to do some shopping.  Hayden had been wanting to go to the Lego store really badly!

From there, we headed back to Hollywood Studios to catch the last showing of Fantasmic.

I had never seen it and knew it was a popular show, so we got in line about an hour ahead of time.  Some cast members came out and said the second show never fills up and we didn’t have to wait there, so Hayden and I walked around a bit and noticed that they were having a soft opening for Star Tours.  I’m usually not a fan of this type of ride, but I knew it was a pretty special thing that it was open.  It wasn’t scheduled to actually open until the end of the week and there wasn’t a long wait, so we did it.  It was a lot of fun and didn’t make me sick at all … a very smooth ride for a motion simulator!

Fantasmic was a great show, we both enjoyed it even though Hayden was scared during a few parts.  It was very late by the time we got back to the hotel that night and we both crashed, ready for our early morning at Magic Kingdom!

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