Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Disney 2015 - Part One!

Eric and I always dreamed of the day that we would be able to surprise our kids with a trip to Disney World. Long before we took our first vacation, when our oldest girls were just babies, we talked about how we might do it someday. Assuming our kids would all be a little older, we thought we might surprise them by picking them up early from school and just whisking them away for a week of fun! Wouldn't that be amazing? Sigh...someday. Of course, those were all pipe dreams of ours, because we were up to our eyeballs in student loan debt and didn't know that we'd ever see the day that we'd visit that magical place, much less plan surprise trips to return there.

Well PINCH. ME. If that dream didn't come true much sooner than we thought! :) Last year we took a very special vacation to celebrate a milestone for our family. And this year we took a very last minute surprise trip to celebrate...surviving. Surviving a very unexpected summer. While this year's wouldn't be nearly the long thought out trip of the year prior, we still managed to pack in lots of fun in just five days and four nights. We had three full days to spend in the parks, and we chose to spend them at Hollywood Studios, Epcot, and the Magic Kingdom, in that order.

The plan was to leave on a Saturday morning, make the long drive with our four kiddos, and arrive on property by late Sunday afternoon. But before we could go, we had to get about the business of actually telling our children where we were going!

We decided to reveal the surprise by wrapping up our magic bands, our "keys to the world," which we placed in a very Disney display on our kitchen table. I was hoping that our kids would get it right away when they saw those bands in the boxes! I realize video of the surprise would be much more effective in this moment, but for now we'll just have to settle for pictures, haha. :)

When they tore into those boxes and saw the surprise that was waiting for them our smart cookie Evelyn said matter-of-factly, "Why do we already have our magic bands?" She of course was thinking of the trip we have been talking about taking with them next year. Our groggy children didn't quite get it until Eric said, "We're going to Disney World - today!" As if in slow motion you could see the realization dawn on their faces. Soon the girls were squealing and jumping up and down. The more awake they got throughout the morning the more excited they became, spontaneously busting out in dancing and cheers. It definitely made trying to film their reaction difficult, haha. It was more a gradual thing than a huge "Wahoo!!!!" And of course Reagan was completely oblivious.  Only when asked, "Do you want to see Mickey Mouse, buddy?" did we get an enthusiastic, "Uh huh!"

We fed the kids some breakfast and finished packing up the car before heading out just about the time we had hoped we would...pretty impressive for our notoriously late family!

We said goodbye to our town and started the trek south. Eric and I had a list of audio books we wanted to listen to together, the kids had dvd players to keep them entertained, and thank goodness Charlotte ended up being a great little traveler for us. It was a fairly uneventful trip with an overnight stay, and I gotta say...driving really isn't that bad at all. We sort of like that "extra" time it gives us to hang out and extend our vacation by a couple of days.

By day two we were making great time, and we ended up getting onto the property a couple of hours earlier than we did last year. Awesome! But...just like last year, the clouds opened up just as we were about to go under the Disney World sign and we got a nice light shower to welcome us for the week. Thankfully, that first night would be some of the first and LAST rain we would see on our trip. We really lucked out on the weather this time!

Driving around the World this year was what I always dreamed of...I know it sounds totally cheesy. Last year everything was new and exciting, but this year it felt like coming home. Everything was familiar and carried with it precious memories. I felt the same way as we entered each park. The sights the smells...it was just under a year since the last time we had been, and everything looked exactly the way we had seen it last. As a creature of habit, I was loving these familiar feelings. New and exciting is fun, but familiar is what I treasure!

We pulled into the Caribbean Beach Resort once again to check in, and a friendly doorman gave our kids wands and pirate swords as a welcome gift. We decided to waste no time on this first night! The light shower had dissipated, and we planned to use this first evening to check out some other resorts...you know, for future stay research! For MONTHS after our trip last year, Evelyn asked if the next time we went could she get some beignets and gumbo, like Princess Tiana makes. I knew just where we needed to go to find those. Off we went to Port Orleans French Quarter!

You guys. Best moderate resort EVER!! Our family absolutely fell in love with this place! The dining area for this resort is quiet and clean, filled with oversized mardi gras objects...which to be honest, I always thought looked a little garish in pictures, but it's totally not in person. It's really neat gazing around at all of the fun odds and ends. You could play a serious game of I SPY here!

The girls were taking it all in....

The grounds are GORGEOUS. So quaint, and so pleasant to walk around. The French Quarter and Port Orleans Riverside Resort are connected, and there is a lovely walking path along the river that joins the two. We had a fabulous evening strolling around and exploring here. I highly recommend this resort to anyone thinking about a Disney trip!

Also, the FOOD. The French Quarter has delicious food...best quick service we have tried at Disney, hands down. Seriously, I really can't say enough about this place. And yes, Evelyn did get some gumbo and beignets!

This is the French Quarter's "fast food" or quick service food. Best mac and cheese I have ever had!

We knew that there was some more rain coming this evening thanks to the Dark Sky app, but that didn't stop us. We had one more resort we wanted to check out, the new Art of Animation Resort. It was really new when we were here last year, but we just couldn't find the time in our schedule to squeeze it in. Well we had to this time! We have a major Cars lover in our family...ahem, Mr. Reagan, and I knew this would be heaven for him!

We ended up getting drenched this night as the steady rain fell on us, and we did NOT care! We left the world as we knew it and landed right in Radiator Springs, the small town where the first Cars movie takes place. Disney really outdid themselves when planning the grounds of this resort! It's a value resort and any small child's paradise. You literally walk through scenes of popular movies like Cars, The Lion King, The Little Mermaid, and Finding Nemo. Gargantuan characters tower over you in some of the spots...a giant Ursula and King Tritan are most impressive in the mermaid section...but our favorite by far was the Cars.

The Cozy Cone, Luigi's, Sarge's Surplus...it's all here. And the cars, instead of being larger than life, are really to scale exactly the way you would picture them to be. Reagan was out of his mind! He was running from car to car, a new discovery around every corner. He KISSED each car when he saw it. I mean, Eric and I have to beg for kisses from this child, but he was literally loving these characters. :)

It was so worth getting wet!

We had a great first night, and it felt like we had already done so much before we even stepped one foot into any of the parks. But we did pull ourselves away from this bright and fun resort, because we needed to rest up for our day at Hollywood Studios!

Day 2

As an ever-reminder of the reason why we were on this trip, we were decked out in New York Disney gear this week, haha. All of those trips Eric took to the Disney store while he was away actually came in handy. ;)

We really lucked out that we planned our first park day for the very LAST day of Hollywood Studio's "Frozen Summer Fun" event. Special shows, parades, and other events were going on to celebrate this  super popular Disney film. We woke up bright and early to make it to park opening and enjoy the fun!

Before leaving, I always check the lists of rides and attractions that will be down for refurbishment during our stay. I could have sworn the Voyage of the Little Mermaid show was supposed to be closed, but when we strolled by it was up and running with just five minutes until a show time, so we hopped right in!

We didn't see the show last time, and I'm not going to lie...it was a little hokey. Haha. I can totally see why it would be nostalgic for someone who has enjoyed the show for the past two decades, but this was one of those rare occasions where Eric and I looked at each other afterwards with one of those, "What did we just see?" sort of expressions. :D The Little Mermaid had a beautiful voice though, so there was that!

Next we headed towards another part of the park we had never explored, the Honey I Shrunk the Kids play area.

I remember seeing advertisements for this on the Disney channel when I was a kid, and I desperately wanted to be able to play here then! Walking into this place was one of those surreal moments where I felt like I was stepping into a dream. I could just about tear up thinking about how it took over 20 years for me to get here. Couldn't believe I had finally made it! These kids don't even know how lucky they are....

Our kiddos did not want to leave this place that shrunk us down to ant-size. They were having a blast and would have stayed here all morning if we let them. But our rumbling tummies took us to our favorite snack spot at Hollywood Studios, The Writer's Stop. A carrot cake cookie was calling our names!

As we were slowly walking to find a spot to sit and enjoy our morning snack, we began noticing people were lining up on either side of the street. When folks start parting like the Red Sea at Disney, that can only mean one thing - a parade is getting ready to start! It was perfect. We just found ourselves a spot and waited for the fun to begin!

Some of us were already tuckered out! 

We had prime seating for the parade that would welcome Anna and Elsa into the parks for the day. :)

The characters wear microphones so they can actually interact with the crowd as they go by - so cool!

For some reason I don't have any pictures of the ice queen herself going by...I think I was too busy taking video! But she looked at our kids and blew them a kiss, which was so awesome! Haha, it's the little things. :) Of course Disney worked their magic and made it snow on the street for this special parade. It was short but really cute. I'm glad we didn't miss it! After this we had a fast pass for a very special Frozen Sing-a-Long show.

I SO wish we had better pictures of this. It was seriously the cutest thing EVER and one of my favorite things from the entire trip. The actors were great (and so funny!) the kids had a blast singing at the top of their lungs to their favorite songs...it was really well done. And I was so glad we had a fast pass, because the line to get into this thing was the longest we saw all week!

By now it was lunch time, and there was another stop that the kids had been requesting we make. I didn't bother making any table service lunch reservations this day, because they wanted to go to Pizza Planet!

This is standard Disney pizza and salads, which is yummy, and it's worth stopping in here if you have any Toy Story lovers. There are arcade games on the lower level (bring quarters!) and additional seating upstairs, where we found a spot. The only thing I would change about this place is that I wish it looked even MORE like the Pizza Planet in the movies. It's light and bright in here, and in the movie it's a dark restaurant with a starry ceiling that makes it seem like you are in space!

Just after lunch we had the next and very last few drops of rain that we would see for the whole week. (Crazy for September!) We ducked in and visited McQueen and Mater once again!

The rain lasted all of ten minutes and then the sun came out. Ordinarily that would be a very good thing, but Hollywood Studios is a very hot park, and that sun was suddenly beating down. We had been so fortunate all morning to have a very mild partly-cloudy day. It was downright comfortable! But we knew we wouldn't be lasting long in the full sun. We used our fast pass for Toy Story Midway Mania, one of the most popular rides in all of Disney World. It's a super fun shooting game. My only concern with this ride is that it's really jerky and it whips you around, and I didn't know if I would be able to hold onto Charlotte well while on the ride! Wouldn't you know...that stinker FELL ASLEEP while we were riding. She found the oddest times to sleep on this trip, haha.

One thing we can't miss here is the Disney Junior Live on Stage show. We only have a few precious years while our kids will appreciate this one, so it's a must do!

Our kids love it for the raining bubbles, snow, and gold doubloons that come from the ceiling. I love it because it's air conditioned. :)

We decided to make this our last thing in the Studios this day. We were able to enjoy a few of our favorite things as well as few things we had never done before. And still, we haven't seen it all and couldn't fit in everything we wanted to do! That's okay though, because we planned this afternoon to be a pool day, and all you have to do is ask the kids if they are ready to swim and they are all about it!

Last year the pirate splash area was down for refurbishment at our resort during our stay, but we were able to enjoy it this year! We went back to our hotel and did a quick-change before racing to the pool.

We hung out here for quite a while before heading to the big pool, where we didn't get any pictures because...water. Wetness. Not good for cameras. :)

I attempted a picture with Charlotte, and you see how that went. Haha. She later fell asleep while in the big pool. I'm telling you...weirdest nap times for this child.

(Oh my gosh...longest post ever!)

After an afternoon of swimming we went back to the French Quarter to grab some dinner. We could not resist this place! Also, the night before Eric had seen someone making a giant ice cream cookie sandwich there, Eric's favorite Disney treat, so we HAD to go back!

Of course we got some more beignets. How could we not?

Another thing I love about this spot is that there is a coloring table for the kids to hang out at, and our girls spent a ton of time here each time we visited. We had planned to walk around Downtown Disney a bit this night, so after dinner we began to head out for some nightlife. Only...when I turned around Eric and Evelyn were nowhere to be found. The other kids and I waited and waited by the fountain in the lobby. Where were they??

Finally Evie and Eric came strolling around the corner. Evelyn was sporting some new mardi gras beads and a big smile. Apparently as we were leaving she was stopped by a cast member, because they chose one of her pictures to be the picture of the day in the coloring contest they have!

I know this thrilled our little artist! Evelyn has a very strong desire, even more so after this trip, to be a Disney animator someday. That is her six year old dream job. I'm not gonna lie, with her extremely creative mind, I have no doubt in my mind that's exactly what she could do with her life if she wanted to. We will do everything we can to support her dreams as she grows up! :) "Mom, you just want free tickets to Disney World." I mean...okay, that would be a really sweet bonus. Haha.

As usual, Downtown Disney was packed at night! It's hard to maneuver strollers around through the crowds of people. (We would go during the day later on the trip, and I highly recommend that!) But we did manage to make a stop at the Lego store.

Evelyn even tried her hand at building a car for the Lego car race. I had no idea she was doing it. Just walked right up and started creating on her own. 

Her car got last place. She didn't care. It looked really cool. :D Always making things!

When I think back on this day I really can't believe all that we accomplished. A park day, swimming day, resort hopping, Downtown Disney...you could make a full day out of ANY of those things. It was exhausting! Kind of like writing this post! I promise they won't all be this long, haha.

When we got back to our room that night, the girls insisted on forgoing the perfectly good bed they had to themselves for  the tiny pull-out cot meant for one little person. They really did sleep on it, too! It's the novelty, I guess. :) What memories are made of, right?

Whew! A wonderful day in Hollywood Studios and a great kick off for the week! When I closed my eyes this night I truly didn't know how I would muster up the energy for day two, but HELLOO....we were at my favorite place ever so of course we sojourned on! 

Next up: Epcot! 


Heather said...

Man...in 3 years, I am going to be contacting you to set up a trip for me and Cheeks. Start planning!

And hot mama!! I love that swimsuit!! You look GREAT!

Cassie said...

yay! i love this post and i regret not doing some resort hoping. great idea!!

we LOVED the frozen sing along. i thought the two people putting on the show were HILARIOUS. lol.

can't wait to hear more!

Adrien said...

I am giddy when someone asks for help with a trip, so you just call my name! ;)

Cassie, we didn't get to do any of that on our first trip, but it was perfect for the second trip! Looks like you'll just have to go back..soon! Haha. You don't think Jon would want to honeymoon there, do you? ;) Kidding!


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