Friday, May 2, 2014

Castle Dinner...

More Georgia birthday updates after the weekend, but for now, back to Florida...

After a nice nap, we jumped back on the monorail to head to our exciting dinner reservation for the night... Cinderella's Royal Table in the Magic Kingdom.  Interestingly, lots of people told me that it would be virtually impossible to get a reservation at this restaurant in the heart of the Magic Kingdom.  However, we either got lucky or really lucky, because we had a few different options for dinner reservations with Cinderella!

Tip #17 -- You can book dining reservations without having bought your tickets to the park or even booked a hotel or flight yet.  So, if you are even thinking about going a certain week, start searching for reservations on the Disney website.

Practicing our monorail safety on the way to the Magic Kingdom!

When we left the resort, we asked Georgia if she wanted to bring her Princess Sophia dress that Mimi had bought her for Christmas. Her reply was "No way!"  Riiiiiight.  So, we threw it in the bottom of the stroller as a just-in-case scenario.  As we checked in for our dinner reservation, Georgia took one look around at all the other kids in their pretty dresses and she immediately demanded her dress!  Thank goodness for back up plans.  So, out came the dress and a princess was born...

The first thing any princess should do... practice her twirling!

And then Mimi whipped out a crown and the look was complete.  Now introducing her royal highness, the Duchess of Clarksburg, Princess Georgia (do recall the kid was born on the day Kate/Will wed in London!  Maybe she'll go to college with Prince George or something in the future)...

We were called in for our reservation and immediately greeted by the beautiful Cinderella!  Notice how much taller and straighter Nick stands in the company of royalty...

No fear this time - she marched right up to Cinderella!

We waited a few minutes in the lobby before they called us up to the main dining area.  The inside of the castle is gorgeous and you are treated like royalty!  I now prefer to be called "Lady Jennifer!"  Georgia was immediately presented with a magic wand, Nick with a pirate sword, and Mimi and I with our own wands.  The whole set-up is quite impressive and we had a great table right by the rear windows of the castle.  We overlooked the carousel and could see Beast's castle in the distance.  It was great to see the lights coming up all over the park as darkness descended upon the kingdom...

Again, a super friendly chef came out to visit our table, as well as several other nearby tables.  He had no problem whipping up a chicken leg for Georgia with some rice and veggies!  Thank goodness for safe dinner rolls because Georgia ate her weight in them over the course of the week.  

And then the introduction of the princesses began!  Georgia had a slight diva moment as one of the princesses approached our table and G didn't have her crown ready.  She nearly knocked over the table as she swiped her hands back and forth and cleared the table as she grabbed her crown to throw it on her head before the princess arrived.

The first princess to arrive was Snow White.  She was LOVELY.  Georgia immediately took it upon herself to do introductions.  Did she introduce her mother or father?  NOPE!  She introduced her Mimi.

Perhaps my favorite picture from the trip...

Miss Georgia and Snow White

Tip #18 -- Take your time eating your dinner at the castle.  The whole visiting princess routine can definitely interrupt your dinner, especially since they all seem to come in rapid progression.  At times, it can feel like a battle between actually eating/inhaling your food and photo ops!  I'm not sure I even remember what my steak tasted like at the castle.  It seemed like the princesses came upon our area of the restaurant just as our food was being served.

Our next visitor was Sleeping Beauty herself, Aurora.  Georgia loved showing her the blinking Minnie Mouse sandals that Mimi gave her before our trip...

Even though Georgia had met Ariel earlier in the day in her grotto with her mermaid tail, she was psyched to see her again.  And this time she was wearing her fancy dress.... with her legs!  Georgia was so excited to show Ariel that she was on her autograph book wearing the same dress.

Our final princess visitor was Jasmine!  We joked that Georgia made herself at home right on Jasmine's chest...

Georgia was so not done with princesses after this epic adventure.  She demanded to find Rapunzel!  Luckily, I had my iPhone on me, so I quickly logged in and found out that Rapunzel was currently appearing in Princess Fairytale Hall right next door to the castle!  I quickly booked Mimi a FastPass+ for when dinner ended, since we still had a leftover pass from earlier in the day.  

As soon as we got out of there, Nick grabbed the FastPass+ and headed inside to say hello to Rapunzel while Mimi and I hung around outside and checked out the pictures and videos from our dinner.

There are typically two visiting princesses in the hall, so Georgia also got a second visit with Snow White!

Tip #19 -- Elsa and Anna from "Frozen" moved into Fairytale Hall during our stay at Disney.  It is one of the hottest FastPass+ selections right now as it's the only place to meet them in the parks!  We missed them by a day or two.  Luckily, Georgia never asked about them.

Since we still had Nick and I's one FastPass+ left, we made a quick decision to hit Space Mountain before we left the park for the night.  As always, Nick has the best candid shot from the roller coaster and my scream is classic...

As we emerged from Space Mountain, the nightly fireworks were starting up and we actually had a fabulous view from TomorrowLand!

Tip #20 -- If you aren't that interested in fireworks or you've already seen them earlier in the week, take advantage and jump on the big rides!  Most lines disappear during the fireworks, but immediately resume right after they are done (as in, within a minute or two!).  Another little known fact - there is a GREAT view of the fireworks from TomorrowLand.  We think we got a better view of them night #2 standing in front of the speedway vs night #1 when we crammed in with thousands of other people in the front of the castle!  We had a fabulous view, were all alone, and we were able to ride several rides while they were going off and immediately afterwards.

Fireworks over the tea cups

Even young Princesses have a bedtime (though massively delayed), so after the fireworks, we slowly meandered our way to the front of the park.  We decided to try a new way back to the hotel, so we jumped aboard the boat that was heading for the Grand Floridian/Polynesian and enjoyed a leisurely ride across the lake.

FitBit count for the day -- 8.4 miles walked!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Three, Three... Oh to be Three!

Just a quick break from our Disney recap to wish our little princess the happiest of 3rd birthday's!  Georgia was so excited to wake up this morning.  She spotted a special balloon I sneaked into her room overnight and immediately started singing "happy birthday" to herself.  She got to bring in some special cupcakes into her class to share with her friends today, so we decorated those last night and added lots of sprinkles!!

It's getting harder and harder to remember the day of her actual birth three years ago today.  Luckily, I blogged about it!

Those NICU nurses made some interesting predictions about our feisty little peanut way back in the day.  Most, if not all, seemed to have come true!  She is 100% passionate... about everything... good or bad!  Georgia feels emotions all the way.  There is no middle ground.  She is spirited and independent.  She is a loyal friend who loves deeply and madly.  She gives the best hugs and her "I love you" could melt even Elsa's frozen heart (yes, total "Frozen" reference).

Her likes at age 3...

  • Anything purple or pink
  • Anything Minnie, Mickey, Pluto, Goofy, etc.
  • "Frozen" (particularly "Let It Go!")
  • "Cars" - McQueen still rules!
  • Trains and train tracks
  • $1 bills - she gets quite angry if she gets a card and there is no money in there (Sorry!)
  • Reading and being read to
  • Taking showers
  • Chicken nuggets, especially dino or letter shapes
  • Snow peas
  • Cocoa Loco bars from Enjoy Life
  • Skittles
  • Coloring, especially with big girl markers -- but she only likes to use one color/page
  • Singing in the car, but we're not allowed to sing along too!
  • Pharrell's "Happy"
  • Dinner rolls (she ate her body weight in them at Disney!)
  • Watching videos of herself
  • Helping, which is really defined as her attempting to help you and increasing the length of any project by threefold!
  • iPad, iPhone, any other electronic device
  • Tinker Bell
  • Dance class
  • Soccer class
  • Playing with our neighbors - Jeyson, Juliet - and her other friends in the neighborhood
  • Riding her bikes
  • Balloons
  • Cuddle time with Daddy before bed
  • Sleep (Thank god, this kid still LOVES to sleep!)
  • Sprinkles!
And so much more than I'm sure I'm forgetting at the moment!

Happy birthday, G!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Magic Kingdom - Day 2

We spent day #2 of our vacation back at the Magic Kingdom.  After a successful day #1 and night #1, we were excited to try out some new rides, new foods, and explore the other half of the park.  

I must admit, the early morning wake-up call on day#2 was slightly harder than day #1.  Again, Magic Kingdom was having extra magic hours for guests staying at Disney World resorts (luckily, for us, Shades of Green, is considered a Disney resort for this aspect), so we planned to take advantage of the short lines!  

Following our own tip #1 from the other day, we skipped the transportation bus and walked the few minutes down to the Polynesian so we could jump aboard the monorail directly.  We were lucky enough to arrive just as Mickey and the gang were pulling up to the gates to perform the welcome show.  Fireworks and music can be a tad overwhelming at 6:55am, but they certainly do get you in a festive mood!  If you have little ones, this was a fun little show with the music blaring, the characters dancing, and the rope dropping to let everyone into the park.

Like the previous day, we had done our research and had a plan in place for our FastPass+ reservations.  We planned for...

  • 10:05-11:05am - Journey of the Little Mermaid
  • 11:20-12:20pm - The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
  • 12:25-1:25pm - Pirates of the Caribbean
However, we already knew that we would probably alter our day again if we could hammer out some rides early in the morning before the crowds showed up.  We detoured towards AdventureLand, but didn't realize that particular section of the park didn't open until 8am.  So, we turned right around and headed back to Fantasyland.  Georgia was more than happy to pass the time riding some of her favorites from yesterday, including repeat rides on Dumbo, tea cups, and the motor speedway...

Private early morning ride on Dumbo

Mommy & G posing with one of her favorites -Mr. Dumbo

We were able to quickly pass the hour and then headed back to the entrance of AdventureLand for rope drop.  Again, being first to enter a certain area definitely has its advantages - we quickly rode Pirates of the Caribbean, explored the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse, rode the Jungle Cruise, rode Aladdin's Magic Carpet ride, and even watched the Enchanted Tiki Room show!  Within 60-90 minutes, we had virtually completed all of AdventureLand without a single line to slow us down.

Cruising through the Jungle...

Taking some time to smell the flowers

One of the few requests that Georgia had made before we departed for Disney was that she wanted to meet Tinker Bell.  After some research, I found out that Tink and a visiting fairy greeted guests daily in AdventureLand.  So, off we went in search of Pixie Hollow.  After waiting in a brief line (our only one of the day, so far!), we got to meet both Rosetta and Tinker Bell.  Georgia wasn't so impressed with Rosetta, but she was psyched to see Tink!!

Tip #12 -- Like a lot of other theme parks, Disney has photographers stationed all over the place to capture those "magical" moments for you on film.  I assumed that since we were carrying 3 iPhones and 2 digital cameras, we wouldn't be using their PhotoPass services.  However, during character meet and greets, it is much easier to have them take your pictures and then just log into your account later in the day to see which photos you want to keep.  When we got home after the trip, I ended up just ordering the whole lot of them since they managed to capture quite a few great shots of Georgia with her favorite characters.  Definitely investigate the PhotoPass before you leave for Disney!

Meeting Rosetta

Less-than-thrilled Georgia with the rest of the gang!

Nick and G checking out Tink's cool shoes!

Tinker Bell was quite intrigued by Georgia's t-shirt!

I happened to spot the Aloha Isle snack shack as we emerged from Tinker Bell's visiting spot and since it was already mid-morning, it was time for a snack.  During all my Disney research, I kept reading about the popularity of Dole Whips - pineapple juice mixed with soft serve?!?  Yes please!  Who doesn't need an ice cream treat at 10am???  While we snacked, we re-evaluated our FastPass+ options.  Since we had already ridden Pirates, we quickly switched that out so that Nick and I could instead grab a FastPass+ for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.  That left us with Mimi's FastPass+, so we swapped her out for a visit to meet Ariel at her grotto in FantasyLand, which we had heard was always quite a long line.

We left AdventureLand for nearby FronteirLand so that we could jump aboard the railroad for a quick ride over to FantasyLand.  Georgia adored the train and could easily have ridden it all day long.  

Tip #13 -- If you need to get to a different area of the park ASAP, jump aboard the railroad.  There are times of day that the park is ridiculously crowded and trying to get from one side to the other takes quite awhile, especially if people are lined up and they are prepping for the parades.  The railroad rides along the outskirts of the park, so you miss all that foot traffic.  There are 3 places to board the train - FrontierLand, FantasyLand, and Main Street.  

We headed straight over to Ariel's castle for a ride on Journey of the Little Mermaid using our FastPass+.  I then stole Mimi's FastPass+ to bring Georgia in to meet Ariel herself.  Again, we were never quite sure how she was going to react to characters, but Georgia LOVED meeting Ariel!

Ariel signing Georgia's autograph book while she waited patiently

One of my favorite pics from the week!

No idea what she told Ariel, but they both cracked up!

While Georgia and I were waiting to meet Ariel, the Florida sky opened up for a quick drizzle.  When we met up with Nick and Mimi again, we decided to take refuge in Gaston's Tavern.  Nick sampled the LeFou's brew, the signature drink of the house.  If you're a fan of frozen apple juice, definitely give it a try!  It was delish.  By the time we finished the drink and checked out some souvenirs, the rain had stopped and it was time to find some lunch!

Tip #14 -- For a less insane lunch option, consider eating BEFORE 11:30am.  We found that we were able to walk into most restaurants between 11-11:30 before the chaos and lines really started!  Since we were getting up between 5-6am, an early lunch was needed to refuel anyway.  When we were walking out of the restaurants 30-45 minutes later, the lines were always much longer.

We walked into the nearby Pinocchio Village Haus, but I almost turned us right around since most the menu consisted of pizzas.  Dairy allergy = no pizza for Georgia!  But, after talking to the chef, she guaranteed us that she could make Georgia a dairy/nut free safe option.  Yea for pizza!  We grabbed a seat overlooking the "It's a Small World" ride and Georgia had a blast waving to the people heading into the ride.  The staff had a small dance party while our lunch was being made, so Georgia and Mimi joined the party...

We decided to wrap up our morning by using our FastPass+ to ride the thunder mountain railroad while Georgia/Mimi explored the playground, Laughing Place, near Splash Mountain.

Tip #15 -- Disney doesn't really advertise it's playground sections, but we stumbled across quite a few different areas with slides and other fun equipment in the parks.  It's a nice break from rides and characters and to just let kids be kids and play for a few minutes in some shade.  Georgia had a blast playing with other kids while Mimi supervised and Nick and I rode the roller coaster.  

Front row on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

By the time our ride finished, it was time to start heading for the front of the park and to head back to the resort for nap time.  We stopped on the way out to buy a few souvenirs and a water for the ride home.  It was one of the few times that we actually had to buy water in the parks, since you can carry your own food/drink into the parks, which is a great feature. 

Tip#16 -- Pack lots of snacks and treats for yourself and the kids!  Nothing seems to quell a bad mood or a brewing temper tantrum faster than a calorie pick-me-up.  We packed lots of allergy safe snacks for Georgia and we also packed water bottles for ourselves.  You can ask any Disney restaurant for ice cold tap water, which they will gladly give you for free!  We would pour it into our water bottles and be set for the day.  I also made muffins the night before our departure and we would snack on those in the morning while we waited for the bus, rode the monorail or as we were walking into the park.  It saved a ton of time since we never "stopped" for breakfast, although we definitely grabbed Starbucks most mornings for a cup of coffee or a snack.  I know that lots of people recommend the character breakfasts, but when the park is opening up super early for extra magic hours, I think it is better to get in/out before the peak crowds and take advantage of all those rides without lines in the AM vs eating a big breakfast and not getting into the park until mid-morning.

We attempted a quick photo with the castle in the background as we exited the park, but Ms. Sleepy wasn't having it...

Off we headed back to Shades of Green.  We had a VERY important night ahead of us - we were having dinner with the princesses in Cinderella's castle!  Everyone needed some beauty sleep before that engagement.

Practicing more monorail safety on our way back to the resort!