Sunday, November 18, 2012

disney trip - part 2

So...let's pick things up where we left off. We were half way through our four days of Disney fun and there was still so much we wanted to squeeze in. Day 3 kicked off at the Animal Kingdom. I was looking forward to visiting this park, as it was not built the last time I visited Disney. As you walked into the Animal Kingdom you were immediately greeting by the Tree of Life. This lifelike tree was unbelievable. If you got close enough you could see the many different animals that had been carved into the trunk. It looked so real! So did the tree lady that was posing inconspicuously as walked by.

We took Olivia on a couple of great roller coasters at this park. Her thrill for the big, fast coasters grew over our time at Disney and she wanted to ride them all. The best attraction that we were all able to do together was the Safari ride. It was designed to feel like you were going on a real safari adventure in Africa. What I loved about this ride was how close they got you to the animals. The animals are so used to people being toured around their environment that a big safari jeep tramping through their habitats doesn't seem to bother them.

The highlight for us was seeing the baby elephant run around with his Mommy and siblings while going for a swim. Little "Larry" was so playful and completely adorable! It's not to often that you get to see something like that close up.

I think the Safari ride wore Cece out. She quickly crashed in the stroller as we continued touring the Animal Kingdom, and she gladly used her sister as her pillow.

That was a sign that it was time for Cecilia to head back to the resort with my Mom for a nice afternoon nap. Todd, Olivia and I kept on going though. Our next stop was the Finding Nemo show. This stage show was so much fun! The actors served as puppeteers to the Nemo characters and they seemed so real. We were entertained from start to finish. We were lucky as we received some VIP treatment afterwards. A friend of mine and her sister, from my dance days, both work at Disney. Julie works at the Magic Kingdom and is one of the parade coordinators. Her sister, Audrey performs in the Finding Nemo show and she set it up so we could meet the cast after the show. 

I wish my Mom and Cece could have been with us for this experience, but I am glad Olivia got the opportunity. On our way out of the Animal Kingdom that day we were lucky enough to come across another Disney Parade. I think this was the jungle parade and it was just as entertaining as the Magic Kingdom parade. Olivia would never pass up a chance to see Mickey and friends up close and personal.

After wrapping our day at Animal Kingdom we met back up with my Mom and Cecilia for dinner at one of Disney's nicest resorts, The Grand Floridian. It was one of our fancier meals and although it was challenging keeping Lady Cecilia happy we all enjoyed it. How do you not get excited about a Mickey Mouse dessert sampler platter?

After dinner Todd, Olivia and I headed back to Magic Kingdom. We wanted to experience the park at night and of course, see the fireworks! The castle at night, all lit up, is quite a sight. It was a late night by the time we got back to the resort, but was worth it!

Our last day at Disney was reserved for Hollywood Studios. It was the only park we hadn't been to yet, and one we were all looking forward to visiting. Some of the highlights of our day included the Star Wars roller coaster, The Tower of Terror (one of Olivia's favorites...not ours!), meeting Phineas and Ferb, playing on the  "Honey I Shrunk the Kids" playground, the backstage movie tour and the Toy Story ride.

But there was one thing that came close to topping everything else we did during our time at Disney World. My friend, who performs in the Finding Nemo show at the Animal Kingdom just so happens to be married to "Gaston" from the Beauty and the Beast show. She was kind enough to set us up with front row seats during one of his performances. This half hour show was pure entertainment. The singing, the dancing, the was just delightful! 

The thing that made this experience unforgettable was the private meet and great with Belle, Gaston and the Prince, following the show. We were shown to a back stage area where Olivia eagerly awaited the performers from one of her favorite Disney movies. Just then the Prince greeted Olivia with a long stemmed, velvet rose. He was followed by the beautiful Belle, and charming Gaston. I don't think she could have smiled any bigger if she tried! This was by far one of the highlights of our trip. Not just for Olivia, but for Todd and I as well. My only regret is that my Mom and Cecilia were not there to experience it with us. You guessed was nap time. 

After a full day at Hollywood Studios Todd, Olivia and I went back to Magic Kingdom for a few final hours of fun. We had dinner reservations at the park for our final night and Mom and Cecilia met us for a few last minute rides and attractions. We squeezed every moment out of our remaining hours at our favorite park and we really did not want it to end. We watched those magical fireworks one last time before wrapping up our first Disney family vacation.

After four days of non-stop activities we were relieved to be heading to the beach for a few days of relaxation before heading home. We checked out of our wonderful Disney resort and drove to Cocoa Beach  where the sand and sun awaited! Olivia has been to the ocean many times during her multiple trips to California. Cecilia on the other hand had never been to the beach, so we were excited to see her experience the waves for the first time.

I have some family that lives in the area and they drove down to spend some time with us too. My cousin has a daughter that is close in age to Cecilia. The girls enjoyed playing together at the beach while digging in the sand. Another cousin drove down for the day and spent a few hours with us as well. It was nice to see some of my extended family, while relaxing by the ocean. 

The four days we spent at Disney were unlike anything we have ever experienced. It was an exhausting vacation, that's for sure...but SO incredibly fun! We created so many wonderful family memories and we CANNOT wait to go back. We want to wait awhile until Cecilia is a bit older so she can go on more rides and actually make it through a whole day without having to retreat to the hotel for a nap. Not sure if we can wait that long, but we will try! Thanks for the memories Disney World!

Friday, November 02, 2012

disney trip - part 1

Oh, Disney I miss you! That was one family trip I will not soon forget. We planned this adventure for many months and patiently counted down the days until the last week of September. I think we expected to have a good time, but I don't think any of us expected to have this much fun!

Once arriving in Florida very late we hit the sheets so we could rest up for four full days of Disney fun. With four parks the plan was to spend one day at each park and hopefully any extra time we had available back at the Magic Kingdom. Obviously the first park we wanted to visit was the Magic Kingdom. It is known as the "happiest place on Earth". It doesn't take long to realize why. The last time I visited Disney World I was a kid, so I felt like it was my first time all over again. Walking into that place took my breath away. It is truly is magical!

Our morning at the Magic Kingdom consisted of the following...a ride on the carousel, going through "It's a Small World", a magic carpet ride and meeting Jasmine and Aladdin, with many more rides and attractions squeezed in between.

It wasn't even lunch time and Olivia was enjoying a Mickey Mouse shaped pretzel while sporting her new, sparkly Minnie ears. Cecilia was worn out from all of the excitement and caught a quick cat nap while Todd, Olivia and I went on a few roller coasters. Did I mention that Olivia LOVES roller coasters? Yep...she is quite the dare devil and doesn't shy away from a tall, fast coaster. We went on many over our four days at the parks.

That afternoon we had our first character meal. We had a late lunch with Winnie the Pooh and friends. Over the course of our meal the girls met Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore and Piglet. Olivia was in heaven, now that her fear of mascots is a thing of the past. She waited anxiously for each one of them to come to her table so she could greet them with a big hug and get their autograph. Cecilia wasn't quite sure what was going on, or why all of these big fuzzy animals were coming to our table. She sat in amazement through the meal.

Before my Mom and Cecilia departed from the park so she could squeeze in a good nap, we caught one of the many Disney parades. There is nothing more impressive than a Disney parade. Between the dancers and the characters, it is quite a sight to see...and one that left Olivia speechless.

Todd, Olivia and I spent a few more hours running around the park, jumping on the tea cup ride, taking in a 3D Mickey show and riding a few more coasters. It was hard to think how anything could top our first day at Disney, but our next 3 days came pretty close.

The next morning we headed out for our day at Epcot. There is not much I remember from my last trip to Disney...I was quite young, but I do have the most memories from visiting Epcot. Maybe it is the huge, silver dome, but there were many things that seemed familiar. My Mom, Todd and I all agreed that we would have loved to have one full day just exploring all of the countries, especially since they were in the middle of the International Food and Wine Festival. But since we had the kids we had to stick to the activities that appealed to them the most.

First on the agenda, and most importantly, was our breakfast with the princesses. This was something that Olivia was looking forward to more than anything. We traveled to Norway to have a nice meal with all of the princesses including...Belle, Ariel, Cinderella, Show White and Sleeping Beauty. Olivia was star struck by each beautiful princess that visited our table and Cecilia did everything in her power to make sure each one  noticed her. Check this off as one of the highlights of our trip...hands down!

I could have spent an entire day at Epcot just walking through all of the different countries, going through the shops and attractions. This was not something the kids were all that interested in so we had to settle for a quick walk through. It sure was impressive though.

We took in many different rides and attractions that day, including taking both girls on the Finding Nemo ride. When Cecilia could not ride something with us she would relax and sometimes nap in her stroller, while waiting with my Mom. It is an understatement for me to say that having my Mom with us was helpful. It gave us the opportunity to do so much more with Olivia.

Aside from having breakfast with the princesses, the biggest highlight of our day at Epcot was having a meet and greet with Mickey Mouse and all of his pals. After waiting patiently for 45 minutes we all had the chance to meet them all, take pictures and of course...get autographs.

First in line was Mickey. Olivia could hardly contain her excitement, and if Cecilia could talk I am pretty sure she would tell me this was a dream come true for her. That's how much she loves Mickey! The excitement continued as we met Pluto, Minnie, Donald and Goofy! Cecilia seemed star struck but preferred to enjoy her friends from a distance. Olivia on the other hand did not shy away from making sure she got a hug and autograph from all of her Disney pals! The meet and greet was well worth the wait.

My Mom and Cece headed back to the resort, while Todd, Olivia and I spend a little more time at Epcot. Towards the end of the afternoon we decided to take the monorail back to the Magic Kingdom to squeeze in a few more rides and attractions. On our way out of the park Olivia spotted a few more characters and wanted to add their autographs to her ever growing autograph book. For someone who was still terrified of mascots last year at this tine, Olivia sure has come a long way in a short amount of time. Getting over her fear helped to make her Disney experience much more enjoyable for her...that's for sure!

Once we were back at the Magic Kingdom Olivia wanted to rush over to Space Mountain. After hearing about the coaster she decided it was something she HAD to try! My brave girl rode that ride and didn't blink an eye. I know grown-ups that have a hard time with that roller coaster. According to Olivia it was the "best ride EVER!". After a few hours it was time to call it a day and head back for dinner. On our way out of the park we caught our second Disney parade. 

This street parade had a party theme and the characters were encouraging the kids to get involved and dance. With a little encouragement Olivia got right out there and started shakin' it. It was a great way to end our second fun-filled day at Disney.

With two days left at the parks there was still so much to do. We were having the time of our lives and couldn't imagine it getting much better. I will recap Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios in my next post. I am going to have to start blogging more frequently if I want to keep up with everything going on...Halloween activities, apple picking, Olivia's upcoming's been nonstop since our Disney trip. Whenever things get crazy around here we find ourselves revisiting the fun times we had on our vacation. It was the perfect escape from hectic, everyday life. When can we go back???