Disney World: Day 1

We took the kids to Disney World last weekend for NIcholas’ sixth birthday. If you have the opportunity to do a kid’s birthday in Disney World, I highly recommend it. Below is the first part in a series of each day of our adventure.


The alarms sounded at 5:00 am, and Katie and I bounded out of bed, ready to start our adventure. The kids were still asleep, and a couple of inches of snow and ice had fallen to the ground overnight. I opened Nicholas’ window shade to help him wake up, and he sat right up in bed. Our adventure was beginning.

We got the remaining things packed and organized and slapped together a cup of instant coffee. After clearing off and moving the car, the bags came downstairs and I began loading them into the trunk. Katie got Tommy dressed and all were downstairs, raring to go. Given the lack of sleep and coffee, I’m surprised it went as smoothly as it did!

Since it snowed most of Wednesday and into Thursday, the roads weren’t as nice as I would have liked. Nevertheless, it was about 30° out and the main roads weren’t in too bad shape. By the time we got onto the Garden State Parkway by 6:15 or so, there was plenty of traffic heading to work to keep the road from getting too icy. Slow & steady in the right lane and we were on the way to Newark Airport.

We parked the car in economy parking and by the time we made it to the bus stop, the shuttle arrived to take us to the terminal. The fellow at curb-side check-in at Terminal C recognized our yellow Disney Magical Express tags, called out “Orlando, right this way”, and got us checked right in.

An almost uneventful trip through security ended up with yours truly setting off the metal detector for some unknown reason and then being put into “the box” while they called for a male check. The guard who appeared took me to “the machine” where he swabbed my hands for traces of contraband. The whole time, I’m thinking “crap, what if, for whatever reason, this thing comes up positive?!”. Fortunately for all involved, it was negative and we were sent on our way.

Unfortunately, that few minutes of detention made the difference between getting breakfast and not, as by the time we arrived at our gate and got the kids into the restroom one last time, it was time to board the plane. No coffee makes sad daddy.

Nicholas and Tommy were champions on the plane. No complaints, no whining, no arguments… they hung out in their seats, shared the window, and Tommy even napped for a little bit! An uneventful 2.5 hours later, and we were on the ground in Orlando. After a quick bite and more bathroom breaks in the terminal, we headed for ground transportation.

Tommy napping on the plane

We made our way toward the Magical Express checkin area. Since we had our voucher book with us, we were sent straight to the lineup for our bus. The whole ME experience reminded me of the end of Defending Your Life (Albert Brooks, Meryl Streep) where everyone gets funneled to their assigned trams to head into the afterlife. Somewhat surreal, but awesome at the same time.

We were told we made it just in time to catch a bus right before it left, so we had zero wait time in that respect. We popped the stroller underneath and climbed aboard. The only remaining group of 4 seats together was in the way back of the bus. We rode in comfort, looking out at the Florida countryside and enjoying some vintage Donald Duck cartoons. As the girl in front of us got carsick, we pulled into the parking lot for the Polynesian Resort, our home away from home. Talk about timing!

The guy handing out lays wasn’t there to hand out lays when we walked in, so we just headed to check-in. Since I had checked in online last week, I went to the shorter ‘online check-in’ queue. We got our welcome packet and our room keys / park tickets and headed of to the room.

Our room is in the Tokelau building, next to the “quiet” pool, which is noisier than usual since it’s full of workmen rehabbing it. We have a garden view room which grants us a sparse view of the Grand Floridian and something at the Magic Kingdom, although I can’t tell what.

Upon getting settled in the room a bit and changing from our Jersey spring snowstorm gear into our Florida hot-time clothes, we headed out in search of Adventure. And Fantasy. And Frontier and Tomorrow. We made our way to the monorail station at the hotel and boarded. As soon as the doors closed and we began moving, I realized I left the kids park tickets in the room. Your room key is your park ticket, and I figured what do I need the kids’ room keys for?

There’s nothing like a full loop on the monorail to get a good lay of the land for the kids’ first time to Disney World. A quick jaunt back to the room to grab the other two cards, and we were back on the monorail headed for the Magic Kingdom. Upon approaching the second time, Tommy exclaimed “hey, this is the Magic Kingdom.. it IS the Magic Kingdom!” So, we got off the monorail and headed on up to the park.

Our timing, once again, was pretty good, in that as soon as we got through the gate and into Main Street, USA, we walked headlong into a parade! Tommy was super excited to see Woody and Stitch (Tommy likes the Stitch)! Nicholas saw Mary Poppins and Burt, and I think the insanity of the parade was a great welcome to Disney World.

Nicholas taking a photo of the parade

After the parade finished, we wandered up Main Street USA, along the side of the parade. The boys wanted to go on the carousel, and we wanted to try and do Peter Pan’s flight and maybe a couple of other things. Unfortunately, we wound up on the wrong side of the parade and got funneled into Adventure Land, so we headed up Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse. After that, we grabbed an ice cream and tried to find our way around to the carousel (which proved more difficult than I would have imagined.

A sign from the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse

We’d heard lots of cool things about Mickey’s Philharmagic, so we figured we’d check it out. While the boys and I waited on line for the carousel, Katie got FastPasses for it and with them came bonus FastPasses for Winnie the Pooh!

The boys finally got to ride the carousel after waiting not too long, and they loved it. It’s amazing how short the rides in Disney World are. I don’t know if they made them shorter over the years, or if being bigger makes you realize how quickly they go by, but most of the rides that go in circles are only about 90 seconds.

Nicholas and I Rocking the Carousel

It wasn’t too long before it was time to check out the Philharmagic, so we headed inside, grabbed our 3D glasses and took our seats. Now, the kids aren’t terribly keen on things that are too loud and, maybe it was our seats, or maybe it was just the show, but damn, it was a bit loud. Even I thought it was loud and I played in a shitty rock band! That said, the show was pretty cool and very well done. Nicholas enjoyed the 3D aspect of it, but they both hated the volume, so all they wanted was to get the hell out of Dodge.

Next we headed over to Winnie the Pooh which promised to be a lot better. We asked several cast members if it was scary, or loud, etc., and they all said that it would be fine for both of them. Okay, we’ll give it a shot. Nicholas loved it, but Tommy hated the portion where the Woozles and Wizzles are scaring Pooh in his dream. It was pretty surreal with bright colors and more noise, and probably a little intense for a 3-year-old.

With that, we figured it was time to head back to the hotel for some pool time. The Polynesian has a great pool with a volcano water slide and sloped entry to the pool so there are no steps at that end. After a while, it was getting close to time for dinner, so we got ourselves organized and headed into the Great Ceremonial House for dinner at Kona Cafe.

We traveled 1,100 miles to Florida and our waitress at dinner the first night was from Clifton, NJ. Dinner at Kona was good. To start, they had Dogfish Head IPA available, so that made things nice. I had crabcakes and the ribeye, which, as they were coming out to other tables looked enormous. Fortunately, mine wasn’t that big, but it was very good nonetheless. Katie enjoyed potstickers and the Kona salad, while Nicholas had sushi and Tommy had grilled fish.

By this point, we were all sufficiently exhausted, and all were in bed and asleep by 9:30, dreaming of our fun, magical adventures that lay ahead.

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