Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Disney 2: Magic Kingdom!

On our first full day at Disney, we headed to Magic Kingdom. Magic Kingdom is the park that most people imagine when they think Disney.  It's the home of 3 of the 4 very visceral memories of my own trip to Disney as a kid!  I've seriously started this exact sentence five times already because it really is hard to actually put it into words so forget any further introduction and let's just go for it.

First of all, it was actually Halloween day, so the girls wore costumes. They dressed as ballerinas which was perfect for a day at the park in the upper 80s! The girls and I waited outside the gates while Lou went and got our tickets. Anticipation was high and we were already happy little clams. We arrived by shuttle from the hotel and there was a little patience in order.

And, just like that, we had tickets, the gates opened and in we went.  Here's the thing, it's worth being there when the gates open. They blast this song about pixie dust and making memories and it sort of sets the whole "happiest place on earth" stage. So, we put on our mouse ears (literally and figuratively) & through the gates we went! Bells were ringing and music was playing and people were clapping and everyone who works there was waving hello and saying "Good morning Princesses" to the girls and it was ON!

Pluto, who was the main guy Bea wanted to see, was right there at the entrance.  After a very short wait, the girls bounced up to him - autograph books in hand & we were all just bursting with the thrill of it all!

(Can you believe they sell butterfly princess mouse ears that perfectly matched their butterfly ballerina costumes we brought with us? Well, they do. Because they sell about a zillion types of mouse ears.)

This was about the same time that the girls looked beyond Pluto and go their first look at Cinderella's Castle. You're just going to have to trust me that they have never been happier in their little lives.  (If you ask my mom about our family trip to Disney when I was about Josie's age, she'll tell you that this moment - the moment we rounded the corner and saw Main Street & the Castle spread out before us - is one of her favorite memories. Seeing that through your child's eyes, it's a hard to describe feeling.)

The park was set-up for Halloween, so this photo was kind of obligatory. 

Like I said, we were all beaming.

And then we took our first steps down Main Street and into Magic Kingdom.  I'm not kidding, the air smells like cotton candy, everyone's smiling, the lights are twinkling and it's a child's dream come true - giant candy store fronts, sparkling lights and a man holding so many balloons that he looks like he might fly away. In our case, there was the extra magic of bright blue skies and sunshine when it was cold and dreary back home in Cincinnati.

Then, this happened.

Storytime: So there's the trolley and it comes scooting down Main Street right as we are walking. We're sort of unsure what's about to happen so we stop to watch. And the Disney Cast Members (as they're called because 'employees' doesn't quite capture it) are telling the girls, "Pardon me Ballerina" and gently escorting us to the sidewalk. And then wouldn't you know, the people on the trolley just burst into song! The girls both just stand there in total awe. Lou put his arms around Josie then whispers to me, "Oh my God Carri, feel Josie's heartbeat." It was absolutely beating out of her chest! I'm not kidding. The trolley folks were singing and Josie's heart was beating out of her chest and the lights were twinkling in Bea's eyes, and Lou grabbed my hand, we both teared up and we had only been in Magic Kingdom for a total of 10 minutes max.

A few more quick photos and then it was time to hit AdventureLand! It's important to say here that because it was October and because it wasn't even 9:30 in the morning, we just walked onto the rides. We hit them all! There aren't pics from many of them because we were too busy playing and I really didn't want to experience Disney from behind a lens. Here are some from the Jungle Cruise - which was hilarious. As you can see, Bea was entranced!

Disney is just a "yes" place. It's set up to let kids do the stuff that wouldn't normally happen in their normal lives. You'll be seeing lots of evidence of this as we move along.

With a couple of crazy late nights planning with Lou using crowd-sourced tips from our friends on social media, we had a pretty good itinerary sketched out so we wouldn't miss anything. Magic Kingdom in GIGANTIC, so while you would think "hey, if there's a parade, we'll see it" that's definitely not the case. We knew this parade was happening so we high-tailed it back to Main Street and I'm SO glad we did!

It was our first real glimpse of some Disney favorites - up close & in action. This was a very interactive parade, in fact it's called something like "Main Street Dance Party" and we took them up on their offer to participate fully!

The first view of the real Mickey & Minnie. It was a big moment!

Dancing with Bea in the street along with Chip & Dale with Minnie & Mickey in front of us and Woody & Buzz behind us is one of my favorite Disney memories.  Like I said, Disney is a "yes" kind of place, which means we said "yes" to ourselves too. I can be a little reserved in "real life" but I can assure you I threw myself into that Dance Party with the reckless abandon of a 2 year old!

Speaking of Chip & Dale, meeting them was great fun. They were super interactive, and it was really cute when they realized the girls were dressed as ballerinas and starting twirling around doing ballet moves themselves. They cracked us all up. The girls were totally tickled. 

This brings me to an important point. You hear about "Disney Magic" and, trust me, it exists. Being the researcher that I am, I tried hard to get to the source of it. One big part of it I think is that the whole place is truly oriented around kids. All of the adults cater to the kids. Waiters at the restaurants move out of the way when a kid is skipping through the restaurant, rather than shooting a frustrated look at the parents. Every cashier and ride operator smiled, interacted with the kids, and made them feel special. And, as excited as the kids were to meet these characters, the characters acted like meeting Josie and Bea was the best thing that ever happened to them. The kids just absolutely ate that up!

Now, on to the Country Bear Jamboree. I remember some things from my trip to Magic Kingdom as a kid very vividly and these bears stick out in my mind's eye of childhood. It was so fun to take the girls into the show - although Bea was a little spooked out by them and had to leave. In fact, it's possible that the reason I remember them so well is that they spooked me out a little as a kid, too. In fact, it's pretty likely.

More fun on lots of rides. These girls were the PERFECT age for the Magic Kingdom rides, and it's really cool that even the kids' rides are suitable for adults. Lou & I had just as much fun as the girls!

Pirates of the Caribbean was "too 'pooky" (that's "spooky" if you need the Toddler-To-English translation).  I felt like we were inside Goonies. Jack Sparrow at the end looked insanely life-like.

Speaking of things that freaked us out, Josie was determined to ride the big coasters. Our girls are total thrill-seekers. We got the fast pass for Thunder Mountain instead of waiting in the 30 minute line (still totally short considering what it would be like during peak season) and walked right on during our fastpass window. Josie was a little nervous! Then cheered and happy-screamed and wanted to immediately ride it again. That's my girl!

Somewhere around this time we had an early lunch at the little diner-ish kind of place on Main Street where we had reservations. They had pretty delicious vegetarian sandwiches and the girls drank a gallon of berry lemonade between the two of them. Then were ready to get our FantasyLand on!

You guys - The Teacups!  Over our time at Magic Kingdom, we rode them 8 times - if you count the times Lou & Bea rode them while Josie and I were riding bigger rides, then that number easily pushes double digits.

The Teacups were one of the rides we told the girls all about so getting there and seeing them spin and knowing Lou & I promised we'd spin them as fast as humanly possible - well, they were super eager and super excited!

The Ariel ride was absolutely adorable! It was probably the ride we waited the longest for - at around 20 minutes.

So this is a little bit more about my own childhood Disney memories than I expected it to be, but I just have to say I was SOOO excited to take Lou & the girls on "It's A Small World"since it was one of my standout memories from my youth.  I kept trying to explain it to them, and then finally gave up and said "you just have to see it."

This is Bea's "WOW" face. A friend who grew up in Orlando recently remarked that the Small World ride is how she imagines Heaven - all the people from all over the world singing and smiling together. How's that  for Disney Magic?

Mr. Toad's Wild Ride is now a trippy version of Winnie the Pooh. Not our favorite, but hey, you can't win them all.

Ahhh, Dumbo's Flying Circus.  It's one of the rides that stands out as a Magic Kingdom icon. So, as we were standing there looking up at it, it felt a little surreal like, wow, look where we are right now!

It was getting Hot, Hot, Hot and this splash park was calling our names. We didn't have swimsuits, but the girls were conveniently dressed in leotards so we pulled off their tights and went for it.

We were soaked! (Like I said, it's a "yes" place.) And, fortunately we brought a change of clothes!

After a snack and a wardrobe swap, it was time to meet some VIPs. It was more smiling and hugging, and autograph signing and making Josie and Bea feel like the most important people on the planet. You can see just how happy this whole scenario made the girls. They aren't Disney Princess fans, but they love Mickey Mouse & Friends!

Belle's Village is really lovely. We randomly wandered into Gaston's Tavern looking for pretzels and ended up with some magical potion called "LaFou's Brew" that was the nectar of the Disney Gods. I'm not even sure exactly what's in it but it's some combination of apple cider, pineapple and marshmallow fluff. We are all still talking about the stuff!

Bea's obsession with fountains was generously fed.

Did I mention that we rode Small World more times that we could count? 

When I close my eyes and think of our trip to Disney, this is the exact image I see.

It had been a FULL day at Magic Kingdom and it was only about 4pm. Because we knew the kids would be exhausted and because we didn't want to fork over the extra bucks to stay at the Halloween Party at 7pm and because we couldn't afford to pay for another park but wanted to at least check out Animal Kingdom and because a generous friend gave us a list of awesome recommendations that included the vegetarian fare at Saana.... we left Magic Kingdom at about 5pm and hopped on the shuttle.  We had an absolutely delicious dinner that all four of us really enjoyed, and as an added bonus we got to walk around the Savannah and get a taste of Animal Kingdom

You can also roast marshmallows outside with the animals after dinner but we were way too exhausted and needed to rest up for Days 2 and 3.  When we got back to the hotel, it was all decked out for Halloween. They had stations set up throughout the hotel for decorating pumpkins, trick or treating, and doing crafts.  It was a total surprise to all of us and really fun!

Josie's pumpkin -

Bea's pumpkin -

Our first day at Disney had come to a close. We all pretty much fell asleep as soon as our heads hit the pillow - except for Poor Louie who toughed it out to watch the Bengals game.  The girls were so happy and so grateful and so in awe that we had two more whole days of this ahead!  The next morning we would head for a very special breakfast with some of their very special characters, and the Disney dreams they were dreaming were about to come true!

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