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 boy...it 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 costumes...it 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 it...it 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!