Thursday, December 29, 2016

Disney trip report: Day 2

We always wake up early at Disney! I mean, who can sleep when there's so much fun to be had! Our goal was to get to the Magic Kingdom by 7:30 or before, because that is when they do their Welcome Show. If you haven't been to Disney or haven't gotten to the Magic Kingdom early enough to see the Welcome Show, you need to! It usually begins 15-20 minutes before the park is scheduled to open and it just gets you pumped up for a day at Disney.

We drove to the TTC (Ticket and Transportation Center) and rode the ferry across the Seven Seas Lagoon to the Magic Kingdom. The monorail isn't usually running that early, but the ferry is a nice, relaxing ride. See the castle in the distance?!

We reached the Magic Kingdom in time to get my bag checked, scan our Magic Bands, and catch a spot for the big show. We got someone to take our picture, because usually we're taking the kids' pictures or just trying to keep them close to us so we don't lose them in the crowd.

After the show, we walked through the train station and onto Main Street U.S.A, with the other 3,000 people who were ready for a full day at the Magic Kingdom. I usually take pictures all the way down Main Street, but this time, I was just trying to soak it all in without my camera screen in my face. Magic Kingdom is always a sight, but first thing in the morning is one of my favorites. All of the cast members stand on the sidewalk and wave and call "Good morning!" as people stream down the streets. You can smell yummy treats as you walk past the Confectionary and delicious, delicious Starbucks as you walk past Main Street Bakery.  And of course, in the distance, at the end of the street, is the glorious Cinderella's castle! 

Our goal was to ride the Seven Dwarves' Mine Train before we did anything else. Although around 2-3 years old, the Mine Train is still one of the newest rides at the Magic Kingdom, and very popular. There was already quite a long line when we reached New Fantasyland, but we were on the ride in probably 15 minutes.

We're such kids at Disney! The Seven Dwarves' Mine Train isn't an extreme coaster by any means, but it is very fun, nonetheless. The individual train cars swing back and forth as you ride and it takes you around twists and turns and through the Seven Dwarves' mine as they sing "Hi-Ho". We love it!

Next, it was time for some breakfast! I had planned what I was going to have for breakfast on this day for weeks beforehand--the Nutella and fruit waffle. 

You can find this little beaut at Sleepy Hollow Refreshments, which is on the left of the castle in Liberty Square. They make these waffles fresh and hot after you order them and put on plenty of Nutella and lots of delicious, fresh fruit. I usually share mine with the kiddos, because it's more than enough for one person. As you can see, the tables beside this little stand also have a perfect castle view.

After eating and Facetiming with our babies for a few minutes, we headed on back to Frontierland to ride another one of our favorites--Splash Mountain! Another thing that was extra fun about this trip was that Michael and I got to ride rides together. Usually, one of us takes the boys while the other one stays with Grace and then we switch.

Next, we headed into Adventureland and hopped on the Jungle Jingle Cruise (they change the name of it for the holidays). I'm one of those people who laugh hysterically at every single corny joke on the Jungle Cruise. 

I think we had a Fastpass+ for Pirates of the Caribbean next, so we did that. I love the smell of the water on this ride; I don't know why. Remember to look for the many Jack Sparrows as you ride through the different scenes. He's hiding everywhere!

Then, it was around 11:00, so we took a quick trip to Starbucks for a caramel praline latte and then back to the castle area to watch the Move It, Shake It, Celebrate It Street Party. I took a little video of that for the kids and then, I think we headed over to our lunch reservation a few minutes early. They let us go ahead and check in, though. We were eating lunch at Liberty Tree Tavern, another one of our favorite spots at Disney.

I don't think I mentioned before, but when you check into a Disney resort, they usually ask what you're celebrating. We told them we were celebrating our 10 year anniversary and received these buttons.

However, they didn't have "10 years" on them yet, so everyone thought we were just married. Well, 10 years is an accomplishment, so when the hostess at the Liberty Tree Tavern congratulated us on being just married and we told her thanks, that it was our 10 year anniversary, she offered to write it on our buttons. 

Our go-to meal at this restaurant is the delicious pot roast. We ordered it on our first trip with Kade in 2011 and have had it almost every trip since. A couple of weeks before Thanksgiving, I read that the pot roast had been taken off the menu and I almost canceled our reservation; then, I read that the pot roast could still be ordered from the kids' menu, so that's what we did. It was a much smaller portion, but still very good--and cheaper, too, so win-win.

For dessert, I ordered the Ooey Gooey Toffee Cake, which is a legend in its own right. It's sort of like Ooey Gooey Butter Cake, but round and with toffee chips and ice cream on top. It's one of my favorite desserts (I have a lot of favorite food at Disney)!

We paid and headed out and over to Fantasyland, where we rode It's a Small World.

I know that there are people who can't stand this ride because of the song, but I love it! We always sing through the whole ride and we always spot something new that we hadn't noticed before. There are so many details!

The last room of It's a Small World used to just have signs that said Goodbye in different languages. Recently (within the past year), Disney added screens that connect with your Magic Band and say goodbye to you personally as you ride by. Semi-creepy, I guess, but really cool!

Apparently, at this point, we walked over to Tomorrowland. We're the kind of people who just zig zag all over the park, doing what we want, even when we have the kids. We wanted to ride the Peoplemover, but it was down for a few minutes, and when the cast member standing in front of it saw our anniversary buttons, he asked what we wanted to ride instead and took us in the back entrance of Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin. Disney magic! 

We also did Monster's Inc. Laugh Floor, which is always hilarious and always different! The premise of the show is that the monster world is trying to fill up a can with laughter from the audience. Before the show, as you wait, there are signs that encourage you to text jokes in to a particular number. During the show, various monsters do stand up comedy acts that are very interactive with the audience. They always share some of the jokes people have sent, too. The gigglewatts in the can continue to rise until, at the end of the show, the can is full. 

At some point, we walked back to the Peoplemover and it was up and running, so we hopped on. The Peoplemover is a nice, relaxing ride that takes you all around Tomorrowland, through the inside of Space Mountain, and has a great view of the castle. 

We stopped and had our picture taken, coming out of Tomorrowland. I'm not exactly sure of the order of things after this, but I know we went to the Country Bear Jamboree in Frontierland, rode Voyage of the Little Mermaid in New Fantasyland, saw the Hall of Presidents in Liberty Square, and I feel like there was something else, but I can't remember.

We did buy Grace this parasol. Is it not the cutest thing ever?!

I will say, we made a huge mistake on this trip. We thought, being the grown adults that we are, that we could open and close the park. Usually, we take a 3-4 hour break in the afternoon and go back to our hotel before returning to the park for the nighttime activities. If I have any regrets from this trip, it's that we didn't take a break. By 8 or so, I was done--and the park didn't close till midnight!

We wandered back up Main Street and walked through the Emporium. We found this trophy and sent it to the kids, hoping we hadn't scarred them too much by going to Disney World without them.

We walked up into the train station and took some pictures.

Ha! We do look tired. Then, we took a ride all around on the park on the train. We got back and debated staying for the fireworks, but like I said, I was done. There's always next time! So sadly, we headed back to the resort and grabbed some late dinner at the food court. I don't even remember exactly what we got, but mine was really spicy. I know it wasn't very late before we were asleep.

We needed a good night's sleep for a fun day at Epcot!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Disney trip report

Hello, friends! Sorry I haven't gotten to post every day of our Advent study, but we've been busy finishing up the first half of our school year and doing and family and church activities. This time of year is always so busy and fun!

I thought I would switch gears for a post or two and tell you a bit about mine and Michael's 10th anniversary trip to Disney! I always enjoy reading reports of other people's vacations--living vicariously, I guess--and thought you might like to hear about our little trip.

We knew we wanted to do something special for our 10th wedding anniversary and Disney is our favorite place, so it seemed like a no brainer. I couldn't help but feel guilty, though, for going on such a nice trip without our kiddos. Ultimately, though, I decided we deserved it (Michael thought we deserved it the whole time ha!). My reasoning was this: On our wedding night, an hour after we arrived at the hotel where we were staying for that night, I developed the stomach virus. By the next day, Michael had contracted it and we spent the next 3 nights sick at a very nice bed and breakfast. On our first anniversary, we decided to try the same bed and breakfast again and, as fate would have it, we both developed the stomach virus on our first day there. On our second anniversary, I was pregnant with Kade and smack dab in the throes of "morning" sickness, so we didn't do anything. On our third anniversary, we had a four month old baby and I made a dry pot roast, which I sobbed over. I think we ended up getting $1 double cheeseburgers from McDonald's. And so on and so on for the next 6 years. We went out to eat several times, but we never spent the night anywhere or did anything really special.

Our anniversary is on December 30, but we knew that would be a very busy weekend at Disney, so we chose the weekend after Thanksgiving, which is still busy, but less so than NYE weekend.  I chose to host Thanksgiving for both of our families at our house this year, so after we had eaten and cleaned up, we finished packing and dropped the kiddos off at my parents' house. Did I mention we couldn't have gone on this trip without the grandparents' help?!

Michael and I are veteran all-night to Orlando drivers. Well, he does most of the driving, but I keep him company so he doesn't fall asleep. We talked, turned the music up really loud and sang, stopped a couple of times for gas and snacks, and were really close to Orlando by around 7:30. We stopped for Starbucks and Cracker Barrel to take a little break.

Then, we were really ready to get there! We started seeing all of the familiar sights that always make us excited to be at Disney World again--Magical Express buses, the Holy Land Experience, Universal Studios, and finally those sweet, sweet Disney gates! We were back "home"!

We checked into our hotel, Port Orleans Riverside, and thankfully, they had a room ready for us! It was beautiful!

We were both exhausted and running on adrenaline, so we decided we'd better take a little nap before we headed out. However, after 10 minutes, we knew we were too excited to sleep, so we freshened up and headed out to explore. One of the things we've never done before at Disney is to go to the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa to see the decorations and their life size gingerbread house. I'd like to say it's my dream to stay at the Grand Floridian but both times we've taken the boys there, we spent half of the time saying, "No! Don't touch that! Don't run! Shhhh, be quiet!" so not anytime in the near future. It is definitely a grand resort, though!

There was a gigantic, beautifully decorated Christmas tree in the middle of the hotel, garland and bows everywhere, and as I mentioned, a life size gingerbread house.

Though we've eaten at 1900 Park Fare, one of the restaurants inside the Grand Floridian, we had never gotten the chance to explore this expansive resort before. Everything was gorgeous!

By this time, we were starving and headed back to our resort to eat lunch. We ate at the food court, which is called Riverside Mill and I didn't take any pictures, but I think Michael had a create-your-own pasta meal and I had a roast beef melt with house made chips. Both meals were yummy! After walking around our resort a little bit and getting ready, we headed out to dinner at Disney Springs. We had a reservation at 6:30 for a new restaurant called Chef Art Smith's Homecoming.

One of the neat things about staying at Port Orleans is that there is a boat that takes you straight to Disney Springs. It was a nice, peaceful 20 minute ride and when we reached the dock, we were greeted by this gorgeous sight--

We checked into our restaurant and were seated about 10 minutes later. From what I had read, it was a very Southern style restaurant, similar to Paula Deen's. They had deviled eggs, fried chicken, cheddar drop biscuits, Hummingbird cake, etc. We ordered some hushpuppies as a appetizer, which came with pimiento cheese and pepper jelly dips. I could have made a meal out of just those! For our entrees, Michael ordered a sandwich called the Hamilton, which was double burger patties on white bread, with chow chow and I don't know what else. I ordered chicken and donuts, which were delicious enough by themselves, but they also came with the best mashed potatoes I've ever eaten. They had a creamy, brown gravy with bits of bacon or ham and chives. I'm telling you, I'm still craving those mashed potatoes weeks later!

Bellies full, we set out to do some looking and shopping (mostly looking, because things at Disney are ridiculously priced and we go for the experience, not the souvenirs). We wanted to bring something home to the kids--guilt gifts, if you will--so we went into the Lego store and found some Lego ornaments for the boys.

Each of the ornaments had a little Lego set inside to build and then leave inside the ornament ball. They've taken them off the tree, torn them apart, and rebuilt them dozens of times already.

Something neat (and new!) at Disney Springs this year was the Christmas Tree Trail. They had an enclosed trail with at least 20 Christmas trees themed to every Disney movie imaginable. There was Christmas music and "snow" coming down everywhere. It was magical!

One of the many nice parts of this trip was that, even though we missed our kiddos immensely, we got to walk around holding hands and just enjoying each other's company without pushing a stroller or making sure no one got lost in the crowd.

We wanted to get ice cream at Ghirardelli's, but the line was literally out the door, so we headed to a place we tried on our last trip--Ample Hills Creamery at the Boardwalk Resort. 

I got an Ooey Gooey Butter Cake ice cream sundae. It had a piece of wam, ooey gooey butter cake in the bottom, with ice cream of the same name, whipped cream, and caramel sauce. Oh my word!

We also got an extra treat! As we sat on the Boardwalk, eating our ice cream, we had a perfect view of the Christmas fireworks at Hollywood Studios.

Full and happy, we drove back to our resort and went to bed, ready for another day of fun!

To Be Continued.......