Disney World: Day 5

We took the kids to Disney World in March 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 fifth and final part in a series of each day of our adventure. You can see the other posts here.

On Monday, it looked like monsoon season at the Polynesian. We got to sleep in a little bit this day because we had a 9:20 reservation at the Grand Floridian for breakfast with Mary Poppins. This was a fun-filled raucous buffet with characters rolling by one after the other. We saw Mary Poppins, Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Alice, and the Mad Hatter. Our waitress recognized Nicholas’ birthday button and brought him out a cupcake with a candle and we sang happy birthday to him.

The Boys with Pooh Bear

After breakfast, we hopped on the monorail for the Magic Kingdom. It wasn’t terribly crowded, but it certainly wasn’t empty. We headed for Fantasy Land and got our FastPass for Peter Pan (2 hours later), and then aimed for some short line, no rain attractions like the Hall of Presidents and the Country Bear Jamboree.

We arrived at the Hall of Presidents about 15 minutes before the next show, and there was a small line beginning to build that turned out to be a photo-op with Mickey! Anyone who’s been to Disney World knows that Mickey isn’t the most visible character in the parks outside of special events like parades, etc. So we jumped on the line while Mickey was having a piece of cheesecake, so he wasn’t there to attract a line yet. After a couple of minutes, it was the boys’ turn to have their picture taken with General Washington Mickey, and that was pretty cool.

The Boys with General Mickey

Once that was done, there was only a few minutes to wait before going into the Hall of Presidents show. Nicholas enjoyed it and Tommy wasn’t scared of it, so I think it counted as a win for everyone. After that we headed over to the Country Bear Jamboree which the boys really wanted to see going into the trip. Of course, Tommy started saying he didn’t want to go and that it would be scary. Even though after it was over, he said it was scary, I think he still enjoyed it.

Now it was time for lunch, so we went next door to Pecos Bill’s cafe and ate on the cheap. A side of chili for myself, a kids’ cheeseburger for Katie, turkey sandwich for Nicholas and PB & J for Tommy. Lunch in the park for under $20!

After lunch we headed back toward Fantasy Land to ride Peter Pan, which, once again, Tommy was scared to go on. However, after riding it he loved it and wanted to go again. Unfortunately, the next FastPass time was for 5:00 or so, which conflicted with our 5:10 dinner reservation at Germany. We all rode the carousel, and then Katie decided she’d swing over to Peter Pan and see what the FastPass time window was up to after she got the stroller from stroller parking. She got one for 5:40 – 6:40 while Nicholas, Tommy and I rode the carousel again. Not a much better time, but we figured we had it just in case.

Knights with Invisible Swords

Now it was time to head to EPCOT to do some of the pavilion stuff before dinner at the BIergarten. We avoided much of the rain (and the parade) by walking back through the Emporium on Main Street, USA. We got the boys some souvenirs and then boarded the express to the TTC. However, Nicholas became a wet poncho and wanted to just go back to the hotel. Tommy was asleep in the stroller and we argued with Nicholas for a while before just giving in and heading back to the hotel. By the time we arrived at the hotel, it was about 4:00 and we had to wait until 5:00 before we could walk into Kona for dinner.

The boys sat and played army guys and watched a Donald Duck movie in the lobby lounge area until it was dinner time. We gave our Peter Pan FastPasses to a family that was headed to Magic Kingdom, and they said something that struck me as odd: They had wanted to ride Peter Pan the few times they were there, but the line was too long. Did they not know about FastPass? Do people really not know about how that works?! Either way, they were grateful for the tickets, and we were grateful to eat.

I clearly overate at our last large meal on vacation, having wings followed by a pork chop. My belly hurt for a while, and Arwen my trainer is going to kick my arse when I get back to the gym :-( Either way, we headed back to the room, dried off, and began packing to go home.

Disney World: Day 4

We took the kids to Disney World in March 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 fourth part in a series of each day of our adventure. You can see the other posts here.

After a quick breakfast at Captain Cook’s, Hastings picked us up at 9:00. After hearing about Tommy’s stuffed Big Puppy on Saturday, he arrived with a stuffed Pluto for Tommy, which Tommy absolutely loved. We promptly headed off to Hollywood Studios to check out the Toy Story ride. This is one of Disney’s most popular attractions. It’s a 3D shooter of sorts, in which your car stops at a number of carnival games. Your gun changes from shooting tennis balls to baseballs, to confetti and is really done quite well.

Hastings checked on the meeting times for Mater and McQueen from Cars, and it turns out they were available, so we headed over there to see them. Tommy got scared by McQueen’s engine, but Nicholas was brave enough to hang for pictures with each of them.

Nicholas shooing Mater & McQueen
Nicholas shooing Mater & McQueen

We headed back to Toy Story again, but Tommy still didn’t want to give it a shot, so Katie went on with Nicholas. On our way out at 9:45-ish AM, I noticed the FastPass times for that ride was 4:30 – 5:30 PM.

With the only good things for kids as sensitive as Tommy and Nicholas knocked out at the Studios, we headed over to EPCOT. After driving around behind the whole World Showcase area, We parked behind the Seas. We saw Turtle Talk with Crush, which is really pretty cool, although the boys didn’t want to sit in the special kids area. After that, we headed over to ride the clamshells through the aquarium. I expected this to be a little longer with more time looking at the aquarium, but alas, it was pretty short. Apparently, Disney is adding the Seas with Nemo technology to the interior staterooms on the Disney cruise lines. Since those rooms can’t have portholes, they will be equipped with live feeds from under the water and then Nemo and Dori will be superimposed onto the feed.

Nicholas in the mouth of a shark

After enjoying some more of the aquarium, we had lunch in the Land building. All of the food here is fresh, and nothing is fried, which was a nice departure for Disney world. Nicholas and I shared the seared tuna with Asian noodles, Katie had a roasted beet salad with goat cheese, and Tommy enjoyed the mac & cheese.

After lunch, it was time to ride the Land attraction, taking us on a tour of the history of agriculture. Tommy liked to see the old-time farm and even the modern “farmers” working in the crop area where they grow lots of the food for use in the Disney restaurants.

Across the pavilion from the Land ride is Soarin’. We tried to convince Tommy to hang with Hastings while Katie, Nicholas and I rode Soarin’, but he wouldn’t have it. Alas, Nicholas, Hastings and I rode. I was concerned Nicholas may chicken out or get sick on the ride, but he didn’t – in fact, he absolutely loved it! It’s a really cool ride and very well done.

After leaving the Land, we headed next door for Journey into the Imagination with Figment. I recall this being a really fun ride, but it didn’t seem the same, even after they brought Figment back. Nonetheless, the kids enjoyed it, so that was good.

Next, we headed on to Mexico to ride the Three Caballeros ride, which Tommy really enjoyed. I think he liked the fact that around every corner was another huge TV with Donald Duck on it. Next, we stopped for a quick ice cream to tide everyone over for the walk back to Spaceship Earth. Nicholas loved Spaceship Earth, maybe just for the fact that we got to go inside of the huge ball.

Spaceship Earth marked the end of our time at EPCOT for the day, and the end of our time with Hastings. He drove us back to the Polynesian and we went our separate ways. Using the VIP Tours at Disney World may be expensive, but when you consider how much you can do in a given day, you can condense several days into one. Further, because they pick you up and drop you off at your hotel, you can stay further out at a much less expensive hotel and not have to worry about catching buses to get around. Factor in the savings of a budget hotel, and you could probably get away with an amazing VIP experience for around the same price as staying longer at one of the Deluxe hotels.

We got settled back in the room for a few minutes, then threw on our bathing suits for some pool time. Nicholas and I detoured to the marina and took out a SeaRaycer for a half hour, taking a spin around the Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake. I used to love taking those out in the afternoon when my dad would take a nap in the hotel, and Nicholas had a great time seeing the area from the water.

Tommy Splashing Around

After we docked, we headed back to the pool for a refreshing swim. and then headed back to the room to get ready for dinner. Dinner this evening was back in EPCOT at Les Chefs de France. We started with the cheese plate and the pate & charcuterie. Nicholas thoroughly enjoyed the pates and the cheeses. We followed that with salmon for Katie, the tenderloin of beef for myself, and Nicholas and Tommy had a burger and pasta with chicken, respectively. I neglected to mention that we’d like a cake for Nicholas, so they didn’t have it prepared, but the waiter brought a slice of chocolate mousse cake with a candle in it for Nicholas, so we were covered there.

Nicholas and I with cake

Next, we headed for stroll around World Showcase, although we didn’t really get a chance to see much, as the lights were beginning to go down ahead of the Illuminations: Reflections of Earth fireworks show. We found ourselves a spot near the United States pavilion for the show, but had to abandon our post shortly after it began because it was just too loud for the boys. So, we hightailed it back to the monorail station for the ride back to the TTC, and then on to the hotel. However, when we got back to the TTC, Katie and Nicholas wanted to go to the Magic Kingdom, so we jumped onto the express and headed that way. Tommy was asleep in the stroller, but the plan was to head up to Peter Pan, which we didn’t get to ride yet. When we got to the Magic Kingdom, however, I checked the Lines app and it showed FastPass time for Peter Pan was 2:30 AM, and Nicholas decided he wanted to just go back to the hotel. So, we hopped over to the Resort monorail and headed back to the Poly for bed.

Disney World: Day 3

We took the kids to Disney World in March 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 third part in a series of each day of our adventure. You can see the other posts here.

Day Three of our Disney World adventure was a big day for everyone. To start, it was Nicholas’ sixth birthday, which was why we chose the weekend we chose to go. To make his birthday even more insane, it was also the first day we took advantage of Disney’s VIP Tour Guide service. Again, Nicholas and I were up and dressed first, so when Tommy got up, they immediately began playing and fooling around. But we were on a schedule, so in order to expedite, Nicholas and I got out of Dodge and went for a walk while Katie and Tommy got ready.

Early morning at the Polynesian is gorgeous. Nicholas and I wandered down by the beach and enjoyed the cool calm before the madness began. Nicholas enjoyed shooting the scenery, and I enjoyed watching him do it. Little Man’s six, and that’s awesome.

Magic Kingdom from the Polynesian, shot by Nicholas

We eventually headed back to the room and Katie and Tommy were ready to roll, so we headed over to Captain Cook’s (the cheap restaurant at the Polynesian) for a quick breakfast of Tonga Toast (I want to go to there!) and Mickey waffles. With our coffees filled and ready to roll, we headed outside to meet our guide.

Now, most people don’t know about the Disney VIP Tour Guides program, and I didn’t either until my brother and his family went to Disney World last year and tried this out and told me about it. The website indicates that their “team of vacation planning professionals customizes your vacation so you can spend your time playing, not planning”. Your guide is a guest services cast member who knows the ins and outs of the parks, the best way to get from point A to point Q, and can get you priority seating for parades and other events. My brother raved about it, saying he’d never do Disney World again without it, so I figured we’d give it a shot.

Our guide’s name was Hastings and he presented Nicholas and Tommy with their very own plush Mickeys, as well as an extra Donald Duck for Nicholas since it was his birthday. He showed us to his Suburban, we climbed inside and we headed to the Magic Kingdom.

Since the park had just opened, we were already ahead of the crowds and we quickly headed over to Adventure Land to ride the Magic Carpets. Nicholas enjoyed that and rode twice, once with me and once with Katie, while Tommy almost went on the second time, but then opted out at the last minute. We headed from there over to Pirates of the Caribbean, which scared both of the kids a little bit, but Nicholas warmed up to it; Tommy wasn’t too into it. In his defense, Pirates has gotten darker and gloomier since the movies came out, so it was a little crazy.

To lighten things up a bit, we headed over to It’s a Small World. Tommy was a little gun shy after the last boat ride attraction, but he decided by the end that he liked it and wanted to go again. So we went again. Next up was the Teacups, but when we got there there were a few workmen working on it and they couldn’t tell us when it would be back up, so I think we then moved on to Winnie the Pooh. This scared Tommy a bit on Thursday, so he didn’t want to go on with us, so Nicholas, Hastings and I went on and had a blast. Nicholas loves the bouncing Tigger part.

Tommy & Pinocchio

We headed over to check out Peter Pan’s Flight, but that was “101” (closed). Hastings informed me that the usual cause of a ride closure is what they term a “protein spill” (someone threw up). Since they can’t clean the ride while it’s running, they need to evacuate everyone from the ride, close the whole thing down, turn the lights on and get cleaning. Instead, we hit the Carousel (Tommy’s favorite ride anywhere in the world) and rode that twice.

Tommy on the Carousel

I think, while we were on the carousel, Hastings ran over to the teacups to see if they were running again, and they were, so we went over that way to hop on board. Tommy really wanted to go on the tea cups, but when we finally got there, he decided he didn’t, so just Nicholas and I went.

Phew! We got through that stuff by about 11:30 or so. We entered Tomorrow Land to check out the TomorrowLand Speedway. This was one of my favorites as a kid, and the boys loved it. After our race, we grabbed ice cream and rested for a few. We actually skipped lunch on this day so as to maximize our time with Hastings, so the kids snacked throughout the day. On our way to the bathroom, a trash can rolled up to Nicholas and sang him Happy Birthday.

Up next was Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin. This ride was pretty cool, where you shoot lasers at little targets as you zoom through space. The boys loved that as well, so we rode twice and then moved on to a relaxing cruise on the Wedway People Mover (I’ll never call it the TomorrowLand Transit Authority People Mover). The PeopleMover goes through the side of Space Mountain which is always cool. This time, Space Mountain was closed and the lights were on inside, so we got to see the whole superstructure inside. Pretty cool, actually!

Inside Space Mountain

To close the rest of the day out, we headed back over to Adventure Land to ride the Jungle Cruise. The kids enjoyed this since it’s so mellow and fun, and it was another nice rest. Once we finished here, the plan was to finish the day out on Splash Mountain (the big log flume). I love log flumes, and I figured Nicholas would really enjoy it as well. Tommy was too small to go, so he and Katie went to a meeting spot to grab a snack and hang while we rode Splash Mountain. Nicholas was stoked to ride until we were literally in the little queue area where you’ll get into your log, at which point he said “I don’t want to go!” I told him we couldn’t back out now, and that the only way down was on the ride, so he got on, but he was freaked out. “It’s too dark!”, “It’s too steep!”. And then we finally made it to the 50′ drop at the end and we got soaked and he was pissed. Talking to him now a few weeks later, he said he really liked it, but that he was just scared that he was going to fall out on the big drop. I think he’ll dig it next time we go.

We met Katie and Tommy over by Liberty Square and grabbed a quick hot dog. Nicholas was grumpy, Tommy was sleeping, and it was just about time to head out anyway, so we opted to do that. Hastings guided us back toward Tomorrow Land as we avoided the 3:00 parade, we exited out a door marked “Cast Members Only”, and we drove back to the hotel. Since we had him booked again for the next day, we decided on 9:00 again the following morning and we went our separate ways.

Now, we did a ton of stuff in six hours in the Magic Kingdom on what was deemed by the guide blogs as a busy day at the Kingdom, so we were all pretty beat. But we weren’t done yet! Now it was time to get ready to get over to Fort Wilderness for the Hoop Dee Doo Revue. We had tickets for the 5:00 show and they ask you to get over there 30 minutes ahead of time. We called the front-desk and they said it could take an hour to get there by the time you catch the ferries, etc, which means leaving by 3:30. We looked at our watches and it was 3:45 so we freaked out. We got dressed super quick and high-tailed it over to the dock to catch the ferry to the Magic Kingdom, in order to transfer to the Fort Wilderness ferry. We just missed the MK ferry, so we waited for a bit before deciding to head up to the monorail and go that way to the MK. We only wound up having to wait for about 5 minutes for the ferry to come, so we wound up being in pretty good shape.

We arrived at Pioneer Hall and waited in a short line before heading in and being seated. The Hoop Dee Doo is a good old time: All-you-can-eat salad, fried chicken, ribs, potatoes and vegetables served up in metal buckets; unlimited Bud Light in frosty mason jars; old-timey singing and dancing, and a fair amount of hooting and hollering. One of the Pioneer Hall Players sang Happy Birthday to Nicholas, and a good time was had by all. Tommy even played the washboard!

Before we knew it, the show (and our strawberry shortcake) was coming to an end. After a half hour or so of the kids playing on the playground at Fort Wilderness, it was time to head back to the ranch. We opted to take the resort ferry back to to the Contemporary, and then take the monorail back to the Poly from there. The line was much shorter, and the journey was considerably quicker.

Once again, all were sufficiently exhausted, and we were all in bed before 9:00, almost too tired to consider the craziness that was in store for the following day.

Disney World: Day 2

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 second part in a series of each day of our adventure. You can also read Day 1.

Our first full day at Disney World started with a character breakfast. The Polynesian’s ‘Ohana restaurant hosts breakfast with Lilo & Stitch and other characters, so we made that part of our itinerary. Nicholas and I were the first ones awake due to the iHome alarm clock’s insanely bright light in our faces all night. Tommy was the next to wake up and when we told him we were having breakfast with Stitch, he exclaimed “Hey, I know… I love the Stitch!” So we dressed and made our way toward the Great Ceremonial House.

After a brief wait, we headed in to our table that looked out over Seven Seas Lagoon toward the Magic Kingdom. ‘Ohana’s meals are all served family style, and breakfast was no exception. A huge bounty of eggs, bacon, sausages, biscuits and of course, mini Mickey waffles. The food was very good, but the main attraction was all of the characters that paraded their way by our table. Much to Tommy’s delight, first up was Stitch, followed of course by Lilo. To my surprise, Mickey was making the rounds. I don’t ever recall seeing Mickey in person at Disney World, so either we hit the jackpot, or he’s just making more facetime with his fans. Either way, the boys liked seeing him. When Tommy saw Pluto walking around, he said “and Big Puppy’s here too!” (Tommy has a stuffed dog he calls Big Puppy).

The Stitch

Once we were sufficiently stuffed on the all-you-can-eat bounty of food, we caught a bus to Animal Kingdom. Our awesome timing streak was still on fire because the Animal Kingdom bus appeared almost immediately after we got to the bus stop. It seemed we were the beneficiaries of some bus dispatching mishap because when people realized it was headed to the AK, there were lots of groans and even a perturbed “Again?!”. Whatever.. they’re not on my vacation, so I’ll let them be angry. We’re going to Animal Kingdom!

Our first order of business was to get a FastPass for the Kilimanjaro Safari ride. Now, I’ve heard mixed reviews of Animal Kingdom. I’d heard that it’s just a big Bronx Zoo, but I’d also heard that the Safari is pretty solid. Nicholas had a thing for safaris at one point, and both of the kids love animals, so I figured this would be cool for them. We acquired our FastPass with a window starting about an hour later. We took some time to lather up with sunblock and then we checked out the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail. This is a walking trail through an area next to the safari that lets visitors come across lots of exotic species. We saw several monkeys, lots of birds, and gorillas, among other things. This took us over an hour to complete, as there are plenty of places to stop along the way and check things out.

We finally made it back to the front of the safari ride and we got in the FastPass line. We had to wait a few minutes as the line wound its way in, but it was substantially shorter than the standby line. When we finally made it on, we got front-row seats in the truck. The whole theme of the ride is that you’re on a safari in Africa. There’s also a subplot about poachers and that we’ll need to keep an eye out for them. Well, the safari is really pretty solid. I was told later on by a cast member that the entire Magic Kingdom can fit inside of the area used for the safari with room to spare. We saw a ton of animals, including elephants, giraffes, white rhinos, cheetahs, and wildebeests. The only animals who weren’t out at the time were the lions, which we were all bummed about, but we saw a ton of stuff nonetheless.

Giraffes on the savannah

Now, if you ask Nicholas about the safari, he’ll tell you he loved it, but they need to close it down so the workmen can fix a broken bridge that we had to drive over. Said bridge is being “held together” with a little bit of extra cable, and as we drove over it, the whole thing rocked back and forth. Of course, we shouldn’t have been driving over the broken bridge, but the normal way through had been washed out by heavy rains. Either way, I highly doubt it’ll be fixed by the next time we ride it.

Up next for our adventurous crew is lunch. Yay! It was lunch time, and the offerings in the Africa area were less African and more American-themed with an African flair. They also all had huge lines, so we headed back toward the center of Animal Kingdom and found a nice air conditioned spot in Pizzafari (yes). After some pizza, mac & cheese, and an Italian sandwich, we got ourselves organized and headed over to the train that takes you up to Rafiki’s Planet Watch. The train ride was enjoyable for the kids, and it actually takes you around the back-side of the safari, so you can see some of the behind-the-scenes areas of the park.

Rafiki’s Planet Watch is an area for kids that’s geared toward environmental awareness. This is also where a lot of the vet facilities are at the park. Lots of bugs and reptiles to see, and even a hands-on moment with a python! Outside there’s a petting zoo (known in Disney parlance as an Affection Station). Interesting to note, they don’t have any feed dispensers here like regular petting zoos. What they do have are countless brushes that kids can use to brush the animals. Tommy made friends with a blind goat who was enjoying the warmth of the sun.

Tommy and the Blind Goat

After killing some time up at Rafiki’s, we took the train back to Africa and then wandered over toward Asia to check out the Finding Nemo show. This is apparently a musical version of the entire movie. By the time we made it over there (after the obligatory bathroom and ice cream breaks), the next show still wouldn’t be for another 45 minutes. We were all pretty tired, so we opted to skip this and try to come back and catch it another day (I’ve been told that the first showings of both shows at Animal Kingdom have the shortest wait times). So, we ambled back to the bus stop to catch the bus back to the Magic Kingdom hotels. Naturally, the Polynesian/Contemporary bus was sitting right there at the stop waiting for us to board.

It seems the bus ride back to the hotel was just the right length for a power nap for the kids, since they rebounded with a ton of energy as soon as we got back to the hotel room. Unfortunately, neither Katie nor myself could move. After a fair amount of harassment by said children, we finally got up, suited up, and headed to the pool. The pool at the Polynesian is volcano themed and even has a water slide that winds its way through the volcano and into the pool. Nicholas tried riding it the day before, but chickened out when it was just about his turn. However, this time, he was feeling up to the challenge. I went down first so I could catch him at the end. My biggest fear was that I’d get down, and then he’d go and get stuck or something. But alas, after what seemed like an eternity, his excited laughter sounded from the end of the tunnel and then he appeared around the corner, and finally splashed into the pool. Like any kid who just rode a water slide and loved it, he wanted to go again. This time, Katie went up with him and I hung out in the pool with Tommy.

Tommy hassling Katie

Lots of reviews of the Polynesian said the pool is just too small for the amount of use it gets, and I’d agree with that. It got very crowded, especially since the other pool was closed while we were there. It’s also fairly shallow, never getting deeper than around 3-1/2 feet. Busy or shallow, the kids didn’t care– they had a great time every time we went to the pool, even though they each injured themselves once.

Since it was Friday and it was Lent (I know.. bacon, sausage, Italian sandwiches. Hey, I sing in the church choir so I figure I’m covered a little bit), we wanted to hit the UK pavilion’s fish & chips cart for dinner. We got dried off and dressed and walked over to the Transportation & Ticket Center (TTC) which is conveniently close to the Polynesian for the monorail ride over to EPCOT. Our trip coincided with the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival which brings a ton of extra topiaries and other flower themed fun to the parks. All of the flower beds are re-done in even brighter colors, and the whole place is that much more colorful and crazy. We happened upon a huge Lightening McQueen made of flowers. I think even his tires were made of moss. Really cool stuff.


We walked over to the UK pavilion and hit the line for Fish & Chips. The Yorkshire County Fish cart sells nothing but fish & chips, extra chips, shortbread cookies, Bass Ale and Harp Lager. That’s a menu I can live with. They do have tables outside of the UK pavilion, but the whole seating area was closed for a private party. While we were on line, the British Invasion (Beatles/Kinks/Stones cover band) show ended so the line exploded, but the park benches in front of the stage that were jammed were now empty, so we sat down and enjoyed our meal. The kids split an order of fish & chips and Katie and I each devoured our own (plus a little left over by the kids). And a tall cool Bass washed it down quite nicely. As a note, this is the same fish & chips you’d get inside the Rose & Crown pub (the sit down restaurant), but it’s a few bucks less from the cart outside.

After we ate, the kids ran around the knot garden for a while with a bunch of other kids. Then, as it began to get dark, the area filled up again in anticipation of the final British Invasion set of the evening. So, we stayed on our front-row bench and rocked out to classics like Come Together, All Day and All of the NIght, Satisfaction, and Nicholas’ favorite, “Shakin’ the Baby” (aka Twist and Shout).

The British Invasion

Now, at some point throughout the adventure, Nicholas saw a kid who had a pirate sword and decided he wanted a sword too. However, he’s not all that into pirates. He is, however, into knights and castles, so I told him at the hotel (where they had pirate swords in the shop), that we should hold off on the pirate sword, because there might be cooler medieval stuff found in England or France or Germany at EPCOT, or even near the castle in Magic Kingdom. Well, we hit the jackpot in the UK, and the boys both got these great sturdy foam swords and shields.

The fireworks were getting ready to begin, and the kids aren’t all that into fireworks, so we headed back toward the monorail station. We caught the Tronorail (a monorail wrapped to promote Tron) back to the TTC, and walked the quiet path back to our room for the night.

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.