Friday, May 9, 2014

Be Our Guest...

After a long morning at the Animal Kingdom and a quick nap back at the hotel, we headed over to the Magic Kingdom yet again for their evening hours.  Since we didn't have to use any of our FastPass+ reservations during the Animal Kingdom portion of the day, we were able to quickly change those over to the Magic Kingdom.  But, before rides, our first priority was our dinner reservation at Beast's Castle!!!  Everyone has been raving about dinner at Be Our Guest online, so I was so excited to score a reservation to the popular new restaurant in the Kingdom!

Mimi seemed to have packed every Disney stuffed animal in her suitcase, so Georgia loved waking up from her nap daily to discover which little friend had joined our party that day.  When she woke up after her nap on that particular day, she discovered Pluto.  He HAD to join us for dinner!!  What a lucky pup - he even got some dinner roll to eat!






But not too much roll because our princess saved those mostly for herself!



Mimi whipped out a crown for dinner!

Be Our Guest was an interesting experience.  The restaurant is beautiful.  Luckily, we were seated in the main ballroom.  There appeared to be a back room, which was much darker and "experienced" thunderstorms during dinner.  Our room was more lit and had soft snow falling in the background.  Georgia was still cranky from getting up from her nap and needed some coercing to sit and get ready for dinner.  We had just gotten her seated and ready to go when the host of the evening, the Beast himself, was announced and strolled through the dining room.  HE WAS HUGE!!  And Georgia was absolutely terrified just by the sight of him.  Adorably, she kept asking, "But where is Belle?"  They kept announcing that you could meet Beast after dinner and Georgia wanted to make sure that it was not in our plans at all!  Up until this point, we didn't have to whip out the iPad at all.  However, in order for her to separate from me for just one minute (aka - I wanted to eat my food), we bribed her with some iPad time!  

Tip #28 -- Although you can't request where you sit at Be Our Guest, be prepared that some of the experience may spook younger kids!  

As for the food - it was fantastic!  Like all our other dinners, a chef immediately came out to take our order and ensured that Georgia's meal would be safe for her.  I'm not sure how much she actually ate, but she definitely managed a few different dinner rolls!  We ordered her some cookies for dessert, but our very sweet waitress also brought her out some sherbet with a candle for her birthday!  The waitress didn't even put down the sherbet when Georgia immediately blew out the candle.  AND she wanted it re-lit.  Thank goodness she is cute!  The waitress also brought out a super sweet birthday card signed by Beast and Belle.

Tip #29 -- Make sure to stop by guest relations at the beginning of your trip and let them know if you are celebrating any special occasion.  They will give you a pin and Disney's cast members will go out of their way to greet you and make your day special.  We noticed lots of "happy birthday" pins, so Mimi made sure that Georgia got a special pin for her birthday too!








You may notice a shadow on G's right cheek in a lot of the pictures.  Poor baby - she went to exit the monorail one day and somehow misjudged the gate.  SLAM - gate to the face!  It immediately swelled up and turned a nice shade of purple within a day or two.






We passed on dessert since we had already eaten our amazing cupcakes earlier in the day at Animal Kingdom.  We also passed on meeting Beast since Georgia was still less than thrilled with his presence!  But that was okay because we had a scheduled date for our last ride on Dumbo for the trip.  We hadn't ridden on him at night and all the lights were so fun!




Waiting patiently




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We managed quite a few more rides "one last time" before Georgia tired out.  It was bittersweet leaving the park that night knowing that we wouldn't be back.  With only one more day of vacation, that was our final night at the Magic Kingdom.  We absolutely loved the new Fantasyland and Georgia enjoyed so many of the rides!  We were lucky enough to catch one last fireworks show and debated staying for the later electric parade, but Georgia didn't have enough steam left in her for that.  So, we jumped on the monorail and headed back to the hotel to rest up for our final day... at Epcot!

Tip# 30 -- Definitely take a few different days to explore the Magic Kingdom if you have a toddler.  Georgia loved riding some of the same rides multiple times and we really enjoyed the park atmosphere at night with the fireworks going off and the whole park lit up in magical colorful lights!

FitBit count for the day -- 9.2 miles walked!


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Safari Day...

Continuing on our Disney adventure, we next hit up the Animal Kingdom (or as we explained to G, "we're going to the zoo!").  Again, we aimed to be there right as the park opened.  When our bus pulled up, the gates were already open.  Our plan included heading all the way back to the Africa section of the park and boarding the Kilimanjaro Safari as soon as possible.  We had already planned out our FastPass+ for the day, but we ended up not needing a single one.  Amazing!  Since we knew we were going back to the Magic Kingdom for dinner, we were able to cancel all of our Animal Kingdom ride reservations and switch them to all late night Magic Kingdom ride reservations after our dinner.  

The park has definitely changed a lot since I was last there in 1998 (the year it opened).  More big changes seem to be on the way including a whole new section of Animal Kingdom called "Avatar Land" and they are planning on a new river laser light show for the evening.  As of right now, people tend to leave Animal Kingdom early since there is no night entertainment.

Our ride on the safari was amazing and we got to spot some really cool animals...



I loved the lazy lion hanging out on top of the rock!


After we disembarked from our safari ride, we started walking towards Asia so Nick and I could jump on Expedition Everest before the extra magic hour ended.  We were able to get right on the roller coaster, so we managed to squeeze in two quick rides before we reunited with Mimi and Georgia.  Again, the photo from the ride camera was epic...



I either dropped something or thought that staring at the floor would prevent the inevitable drop?!?


We headed over to DinoLand USA and Georgia was completely 100% smitten with the boneyard sand pit and playground.  We easily could have left her there for the week!  Nick and I managed to jump on a few more rides while Mimi and G just hung out in the play area...




Showing Daddy the bones she was digging up!


Animal Kingdom's play area is awesome...











Tip #24 -- If you have time and a toddler, don't skip out of the playground at Animal Kingdom.  It was awesome for kids of all ages and a nice respite from rides and the usual craziness of the parks.



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Getting her out of DinoLand was NOT EASY!  But, we wanted to check out a few more things, including the "It's a Bug's Life" show.  Ironically, it was the ONLY ride/show that she got scared during and actually cried.  It only lasted for about 5 seconds, but she was completely freaked out by the final part of the show where "stingers" come out of the seat to bite the audience.  She managed to survive the pitch black, the scary insects, etc., but the stinger freaked her out!  I've never seen her jump out of a seat faster in my life.  

Tip #25 - "It's a Bug's Life" might not be the best choice for young kids.  It's definitely intense!

We also checked out the "Finding Nemo" show, which was very cute.  Georgia has such a poker face, so it's always hard to tell if she is having a good time or completely hating something.  Luckily, we realized she was hungry right before we went into the show and she inhaled two Cocoa Loco bars as we were walking into the auditorium.  

After the show, we ate lunch at the fabulous Flame Tree BBQ.  Again, I have to give rave reviews to Disney's chefs.  I love that they come out to talk to parents individually and then go back and immediately back the meal themselves.  And I LOVE that the allergy meals come out on a separate tray that is color coded to indicate allergy food.  Georgia inhaled a chicken leg and the rest of us loved our food. 

Tip #26  -- In my opinion, Animal Kingdom, had the best allergy options.  They even have their very own kiosk that is completely dedicated to serving and providing information about the allergy options in the park!  Call me impressed.

After some more play time at the playground, we decided it was time for a snack, so Nick and I whipped out the iPhones to google some snack recommendations for Animal Kingdom.  The same little place kept getting mentioned - Kusafiri Coffee Shop in the Africa section of the park.  So, we headed across the bridge to re-enter Africa and were greeted with a fun street show.  We fought our way over to the coffee shop and had some tough decisions as to what special treats we wanted to try.  I went with the Paw Print Brownie (think - brownie + buttercream frosting).  It was AMAZE!!  My mom went with the White Chocolate Elephant cupcake - again, beyond rich.  Nick got some other massive cupcake.  Basically, everything was fantastic.  Nick ordered an iced coffee, which I didn't give a second thought too.  Until I tried it.  Iced coffee is ruined for me... forever.  Ever since our return, I have CRAVED this iced coffee!  I don't know what creamy goodness is in there (I suspect half a gallon of heavy cream), but I have found my true love and it is the iced coffee from Animal Kingdom!

Tip #27 -- Go to Animal Kingdom, even if it is just for the food!!  Don't skip the afternoon snack at Kusafiri WITH an iced coffee.

Our final adventure at Animal Kingdom included jumping on the Wildlife Express Train from Africa to Rafiki's Planet Watch.  I don't remember much about the ride because I was too busy enjoying my iced coffee!!  

Georgia was starting to get a tad bit sleepy when we arrived, but she managed to rally when we got over there and she enjoyed running around the trails and exploring...







And then we spotted Chip n' Dale!  Georgia was still talking about them since her encounter with them on Day #1 during the parade.  She instantly remembered that one of them had touched her nose.  The problem -- they were going away for a few minutes.  So, Georgia decided to pout and the Disney photographer had a great time snapping a few candid pictures of her...






While we waited for Chip n Dale to return, a lovely gentleman began to serenade Princess Georgia.  I dove for the camera and managed to capture most of it...




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Luckily, the famous chipmunks returned a few minutes later and Georgia joined the other kids playing a game with them before getting in line to grab a picture.  By then, EVERYONE knew Georgia's name - the photographers, the handlers, etc.  Everyone was asking why she kept pointing to/holding her nose, so we had to keep explaining WHY she refused to let go of her nose while visiting with the guys...







By the time we visited with "the boys," it was high time for a nap.  So, we headed back on the train to Africa and started our hike out of the park.  We easily could have spent a few more hours exploring the park.  The parade was about to start, but since we had dinner reservations for later that night, we knew a nap was an essential ingredient!





Sunday, May 4, 2014

Be a Star and Swim with Your Clothes On!

On Friday morning, we headed out for our first adventure beyond the Magic Kingdom.  We boarded a bus bright and early and got shuttled over to Hollywood Studios for the rope drop.  In comparison to Magic Kingdom, it was quiet at rope drop and I would estimate only a hundred people in line to get into the park.  

We had our plan in place, which included Nick and I hammering out the Tower of Terror (which Nick declared his "most favorite ride of the week!") and the Rock n' Roller Coaster.  It was actually a great plan since Nick and I were able to ride both of the big thrill rides within 10-15 minutes of the park being open.  Mimi and Georgia hung out in a nearby store and hid from some mist that moved in just as the park opened.




Surviving the Tower of Terror







Since Hollywood Studios is primarily a series of shows all day long, we didn't have too much on our "to do" list for the day.  We did pretty much everything that was appropriate for a toddler.  The hardest part for Georgia was learning all about 3-D glasses and how to wear them!



Ready for the muppet show!


Georgia loved The Little Mermaid show, the Disney Junior Show, and especially the Toy Story Mania ride.  We were a tad hesitant to take her on the The Great Movie Ride, since we knew a scary alien jumped out, but she took it like a champ and barely blinked!  Her favorite thing at the park - a random classic car...







Family selfie!



Checking out how animation really works!


After another show or two, we hit up lunch at Mama Melrose's Ristorante Italiano.  The primary reason we booked a lunch reservation was because they offered a VIP package for entry into the Fantasmic fireworks/water show.  We had heard nightmare stories about having to line up hours early for the show, so it sounded like a good opportunity to both eat and not have to wait in line for hours!  At least... that was the original plan.

Tip #21 - Check out the VIP Fantasmic lunch/dinner packages online for reservations!

By the time we got out of lunch, which was FABULOUS, we headed for the front of the park to catch the shuttle bus back to the resort for nap.  Unfortunately, as we were about 100 feet from the bus, it pulled away!  Hey - you're obviously not using your cell phone time, driver!!  So, we decided to call an audible and jump on the shuttle bus to the Magic Kingdom (knowing that we could jump on the monorail to the Polynesian and walk back to Shades of Green).  Yes - we took the long way home, but at least it was on an air conditioned bus!

Tip #22  -- Have a back up plan for transportation!  There can be long waits between shuttle buses, so know which resorts are around and how quick you can walk between places!  Disney is spread out over a fairly huge chunk of land, so things are not always a quick walk or ride!

As we finally walked into our resort, the sky opened and Florida graced us with an absolute downpour and thunderstorm!  I vaguely remember hearing it as I myself climbed into bed for a nap!  Out cold...

No one quite wanted to wake up later in the afternoon, including Georgia.  We had a quick pow-wow about going back to Hollywood Studios for the Fantasmic show since it was still drizzling and everything was very wet outside.  Knowing it was a long ride back to the park  and not being 100% sure of the evening weather, we vetoed returning and decided to instead walk over to the Polynesian for a drink!  It was by far the warmest and most humid night we had in Florida and we loved being outside and watching the fireworks from the Polynesian beach.  What a view and the weather ended up being perfect for the remainder of the evening! 

Tip#23 -- If you don't want to go all the way into the Magic Kingdom for the evening fireworks, head to the Polynesian beach for a fabulous view!  And you can DRINK while you watch them.  Total bonus!



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Georgia, on the other hand, was more interested in the Polynesian pool.  She was seconds away from throwing herself in... clothes and all!



Daddy playing the lifeguard!



Wading in, but not a fan of wet pants!  We tried to convince her to just do it and jump in, but she wasn't thrilled with the idea of swimming in her clothes.









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As we headed back to the resort, Georgia spotted her new favorite - Dumbo.  We had been telling her all week that Auntie Sherrie had sent her a gift card for her birthday, but she was struggling to commit to a certain toy/item.  However, this was love at first sight.  Meet Dumbo, the world's largest pillow pet!  He almost needed an extra seat on the flight home...



















FitBit count for the day -- 7.1 miles walked!