Saturday, August 29, 2015

Disney Day 7 - Magic Kingdom Part 2

Day #7 was another early alarm clock because we had a hot breakfast date with some princesses in a castle!

Since our early morning reservation at Cinderella's Royal Table was at 8:25am and the Magic Kingdom wasn't opening until 9am, we had to do some transportation planning.  Some quick googling told us that the monorail typically opens an hour before the parks open.  Unfortunately, when we walked into the Polynesian Hotel around 8am, we found that the resort monorail stops don't open until 8:30am.  EEEEEK.  Total and utter panic as I realized that we wouldn't be making our 8:25am reservation without a new transportation plan.  A helpful Disney employee pointed out that we could either take the bus from the Polynesian or grab their boat.  With 25 minutes to spare, we jogged down to the dock and found the boat pulling in at that exact moment.  Again, Disney kharma must have been on our side!

Mini-tip --- Although the monorail opens an hour before the parks open, the resort stops do not.  Meaning, we could have gone to the transportation center and caught the monorail to the Magic Kingdom (or Epcot).   Always have a transportation Plan B and always give yourselves lots of spare time to get from Point A to Point B in Disney.

Bottom line - not having the monorail available to us on this particular morning ended up leading to a few minutes of panic and then a beautiful morning boat ride across the lake.

A few minutes later and we were entering the Magic Kingdom.  A quick scan of our bands pulled up our morning breakfast reservation, so we were allowed early entrance.  It's always fun to see the park empty in the early morning without the typical hoard heading down Main Street.

No idea what the photographer was thinking with these poses, but we went with it!

Mini-tip --- If you are in the park early, have the photographers take a quick photo for you since you won't have a mob of people in the picture behind you like you will later in the day!

Disney magic!

Another bonus for early morning breakfast reservations, no waiting!  We checked in and were immediately welcomed into the castle.  

Funny little story about Miss Cinderella... apparently she remembered Georgia from our 1900 Park Fare dinner earlier in the week.  As soon as Georgia told Cinderella her name, Cindy said, "Oh you had dinner with me and my Prince a few nights ago, right?"  Bonus to having a unique name!

As always, our reservation was marked with a food allergen, so a special menu was brought over for Georgia.  Disney has been experimenting with these special allergy menus for a few months now and I absolutely LOVED them!  We spotted them in quite a few places and they were so helpful.  A quick glance showed me some safe items for Georgia and the chef still visited the table to let me know that he could definitely work with her allergies.  In fact, I think the Disney chefs encounter so many crazy allergies that hearing peanut and raw dairy/eggs barely even gets a head nod from them!  It's so nice to feel "normal" in a restaurant and it's one of the main reasons why we will continue to travel to Disney while Georgia is young!

Cinderella's Royal Table breakfast allergy menu

Our waitress brought over a complimentary plate of delicious breakfast pastries for our table to share.  The chef pointed out that there were walnuts in one of the items, so he also sent Georgia her own little plate filled with Mickey shaped blueberry muffins and strawberries!  

I know that people complain about how expensive CRT can be, especially with little ones, but I will say - their food is fabulous!  We ate dinner here last year and breakfast this year and both meals were awesome.  Georgia ordered the Royal Children's breakfast (minus the scrambled eggs), I went with the quiche, Nick the beef/eggs and Mimi had the traditional breakfast.  The presentation is beautiful.

Mini-tip --- Even Disney can make mistakes with food allergies!  Georgia's plate initially came out piled high with scrambled eggs.  NOPE!  NOPE!  NOPE!  We sent it back and her plates came out separately, as they should have from the start.  If you are eating with food allergies, be alert and don't let your guard down.  Also, it's typical for a chef to personally bring out the food allergy plates and not your server!

Mini-tip --- Bring some ziplocs or a small tupperware container with you if you have a little one eating at a breakfast.  Georgia's breakfast was HUGE and she barely put a dent in it.  I hated leaving behind the blueberry muffins knowing that they would have made a great snack later in the morning for her!

Another bonus vote for breakfast --- the princesses quickly make their rounds since they know that most people want to get going to rides as soon as possible!  We were visited by all four princesses within just a few minutes of sitting down.

I knew that Nick LOVED the new Seven Dwarves roller coaster and would love another chance to ride so as soon as he finished his breakfast, we sent him and Georgia out to ride again while Mimi and I finished up breakfast. Unfortunately, we were a few minutes too late to get right to the front of the line, so it ended up still being almost an hour wait for them.  However, according to Nick, there was lots to see/do in the line, so they didn't mind the wait.  We didn't even get to see that area since we FP+ the line on our first day in the park.

Spotting Nick and Georgia on the roller coaster

Love that she is clinging to Daddy!

Mini-tip --- If you want to eat in the park for breakfast AND get in line for a popular ride before they officially open the park, you need to eat super early.  Our 8:25am reservation did not quite work out for a 9am opening.  I think 8am (which is a very popular time to eat and a hard reservation to score) would have been perfect for being in line for the 9am ride openings.  Bottom line - know the magic hours, park opening times, and how long it will take for you to walk from the restaurant to the ride!

By 10am, it was BLAZING hot.  I know I've stressed in past posts how hot it was in the parks during August, but the heat just kept climbing all week long.  Luckily, there's lots of opportunities for AC breaks so we hit up some favorites like "It's a Small World"  and the "Country Bear Jamboree!" before we headed to our "Peter Pan " FP+ reservation.  Since we knew now Georgia could pass the 40 inch roller coaster requirement, we also made a FP+ reservation for "Big Thunder Mountain Railroad."

We jumped aboard the Disney train that circles the park to cut down on our walking as we headed back to Fantasyland to hit up the "Voyage of the Little Mermaid."  Even Disney magic struggles on some days and today, Ariel was the victim.  Not sure what was going on with the ride, but we spent quite a lot of time sitting on the ride while a mechanical issue was fixed.  No complaints here - the air conditioning was wonderful and my view wasn't too bad...

Next up... our last FP+ reservation for the day... "Enchanted Tales with Belle."  Luck was again on our side and not one, but two family members got picked to be in the show.  Solider #1 and Chip were a hit!

Our knight in shining armor

Our chip

Next on the to-do list... a dole whip from Aloha Isle.  Nick, Mimi and I enjoyed this pineapple ice cream treat last year on our trip.  It was only after we got home that I learned that they are actually dairy free.  YES!!!!   Don't ask me how this very ice creamish treat is dairy free, but it is and Georgia dug right in.

Just when you think your kid has tired eyes and you're ready to head back for a nap, she gets some sugar in her and is a brand new person!

She begged for Elsa ears and I caved!

Since we used up our 3 allocated FP+ for the day, I wasn't quite sure if we could get any more passes.  Disney cast members are always helpful and pointed me in the direction of their FP+ kiosks that they have all over the park.  We quickly learned that we COULD get another FP+ reservation now that all of ours from the morning had been used.  Georgia really only had one more request... Tink!  So, we made our reservation and slowly started making our way down Main Street.

I turned my back for a minute in the candy store and guess who got herself a free sample of cotton candy...

And then it was time to meet our favorite fairy (whose old home in Adventureland is being upgraded, so she's in a secret location near the front of the park these days)...

We walked out of our Tink meet/greet and the Festival of Fantasy Parade was rolling by, so we took a few minutes to watch.  We saw it last year, so it wasn't on our plans this year (it's smack in the middle of the day at 3pm, so not ideal for families with young kids who want to nap).  However, when it's rolling right by, you stop and dance!

Mini-tip --- Personally, I think the Magic Kingdom is a multiple day event.  I'm sure you could do most of the rides in one day, but if you want to enjoy the character meet/greets, the shows, etc., without dashing around the park, I really think you need to allocate at least 1.5-2 days to enjoy the park and all that it offers.  Plus, 2 days get you to FP+ most of the major rides, which is key to saving time.  

Since we enjoyed a boat ride earlier in the morning, we decided to take the boat back to the resort too.  Disney truly is a boat/bus/monorail/cab/train type of place!

My little Elsa mouse enjoying the ride

We headed back to the resort HOPING that thunderstorms wouldn't roll in later that night.  We had some plans to FINALLY make it over to Hollywood Studios for their nightly Fantasmic show (after being rained out twice in two years!).  Fingers crossed...

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Disney Day 6 - Blizzard Beach and Ft. Wilderness

Day 6 brought us another HOT, HOT, HOT summer day so we decided to head to Blizzard Beach for some morning water park time!  I was pretty psyched to check out this park since it was new to me.

Again, we aimed to grab the early bus so we could be at rope drop when the park opened.  Like almost all of the Disney resorts, Shades of Green's buses first stop at Animal Kingdom before heading over to Blizzard Beach.  Well, Animal Kingdom was a VERY popular place on this particular morning and we barely squeezed ourselves onto the bus.  Luckily, I bumped into some friendly faces.  Remember those cute little girls I squeezed up front for the "Frozen" parade????  Well, their Mamas paid back our favor of letting their little darlings see the parade and managed to squeeze us onto a very crowded bus!  #kharma

As soon as we got to Blizzard Beach, we grabbed some towels (just like Typhoon Lagoon, you can rent a towel for $2/day or bring your own) and some seats and headed up the chair lift to hit the water slides!  Poor Mimi waved bye to us and didn't see us again for a few hours.  We were all over the place hitting up all the raft slides and regular slides while there were no lines.

Mini-tip --- Just like the regular parks, the best time to miss long lines at the water parks is first thing in the AM!

Overall, we thought Blizzard Beach's water slides were far superior to Typhoon Lagoon!  

Mini-tip --- If you have sensitive feet, wear your water shoes.  There was a LOT of climbing again and again and again to get to the top of the water slides.

We forced Georgia to take a mid-morning break for a snack, drink of water and a re-application of sunscreen before heading over to the check out the Ski Patrol Training Camp.  G had a blast pretending to cross giant icebergs!  Again, the Disney "theme" of being at a ski resort that is melting is amazing and so well done.  

Our little fish was right at home in the water.  

And then she spotted "Fahrenheit Drop!"  The Disney website advertises this attraction as "drop in on the t-bar, a zip line that ends with a splash in 8.5 foot deep water (for guests 5 feet and under)."  Yes, this was a KID attraction!  The number of dads being kicked out of line was hysterical!  I missed the cut-off by 3 inches and was horrified that my child was going to go on this thing as I saw kid after kid go FLYING off the zip line.  I think my mother had a mild heart attack while Georgia was in line.

Minutes later, I was PUSHING my daughter off a cliff...

Look at that determination!

STILL GOING (when lots of much bigger kids had fallen off!)...

ALMOST to the end...

Approaching the end, where the t-bar hits an end point and the children go flying off!


Just when I breathed a sigh of relief, she wanted to do it AGAIN!!!

We had to drag Georgia back to the chairs for lunch.  Again, we packed her a sandwich since we weren't sure what would be safe for her to eat at the park.  We wanted to head back to the resort for naptime before dinner reservations, so we finished off our day at the water park by spending some time in the wave pool (Melt Away Bay) and then taking a lap in the lazy river.

When comparing the water parks, the wave pools were very different.  Blizzard Beach had a much smaller pool filled with constant small waves while Typhoon Lagoon had a gigantic wave pool with one massive wave every few minutes.  We couldn't decide which one we liked better since each had its perks.  
Mini-tip --- Watch your toes in the wave pools.  Within a matter of minutes, Georgia was bleeding from scraping her foot, Nick jammed his foot, etc.

Again, if you are headed to Disney in the summer months, don't ignore these parks!  It's an awesome way to spend a day (or just a few hours).  

We grabbed the bus back to Shades of Green and relaxed for a few hours before beginning our next adventure... heading to dinner at the Hoop Dee Doo Revue at Fort Wilderness.  I hadn't been to the show in years and was excited to introduce Nick and Georgia to the fun. Some googling told us the fastest way to get there would be to ride the monorail to Magic Kingdom and then take the boat to Ft. Wilderness.  Luckily for us the afternoon thunderstorms cleared just as we headed out for the night.

**A note about weather --- Yes, it rained every single day that we were in Florida.  We expected it.  We were told it would happen.  We brought ponchos and umbrellas with us everywhere.  The good news is that the weather was BEAUTIFUL in the morning and we always got a lot done before the afternoon clouds would roll in and force us to take a break! 

Nick and I had to be separated due to our unfortunate matching color palate 

Georgia was treated like a queen during the dinner show.  Chef TJ showed up and immediately told us that her food allergies would not be a problem.  She could eat the fried chicken and ribs, but he would bring her a separate salad, bread, corn, potatoes and dessert!  Chef TJ is one of those "celeb Disney chefs" that food allergy parents talk about online and he didn't disappoint...

The girl loves some lettuce and red onion!

When I mentioned that Georgia LOVES her carbs and wouldn't be able to eat the amazing cornbread on the table, Chef TJ ran back to toast her a roll, which she inhaled... with a side of dairy-free butter splashed all over her face.

When we booked the show, I wasn't sure if Georgia would enjoy the humor/singing/dancing that accompanied dinner.  That wasn't a problem.  She was all in and loved watching the shenanigans happening all around her!

I thought the food at Hoop Dee Doo was fabulous and it was the only night that I stuffed myself silly!  And then the giant strawberry shortcake dessert was brought to the table.  Chef TJ didn't forget Georgia either and sent her out a special Mickey sundae...

Overall, we loved the show and the food and it was a perfect break from eating in the parks for the night.  Plus, it's all you can eat and all you can drink (I may have indulged in a few glasses of sangria!).  

Instead of heading right back on the boat, we decided to take a few minutes to explore Ft. Wilderness.  We found lots of horses, including a giant (and open) stable where we walked around and visited all the Disney ponies!  We decided to jump aboard one of the Disney shuttles to check out the main resort hotel, the Fort Wilderness Lodge, which was breathtakingly beautiful.  I truly felt like I walked into the Pacific Northwest as soon as I entered into the massive lobby.

Mimi and G grabbing a rocking chair by the fire

After visiting Ft. Wilderness, we took a bus back to the Magic Kingdom and then jumped on the monorail back to the Polynesian.  As we started our walk back to Shades of Green, the fireworks from Magic Kingdom's nightly show started and we had a great view!

Mini-tip --- If you don't want to go to a park (or don't have a ticket to get back into the park), head to one of the monorail resorts to watch the nightly fireworks and boat parade!  I highly recommend the Polynesian since there is a beautiful beach, dole whips, drinks in pineapples, and a perfect view of the fireworks.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Disney Day 5 - Sea World

After several straight days of Mickey, Mickey, Mickey, we decided to take a little break and explore Sea World for the day.

Now, before I get any hate emails for visiting Sea World...  I am an advanced certified scuba diver who loves spending time in the ocean exploring and learning about the animals who live there.  I have watched "Blackfish" and I have read "Death At Sea World" by David Kirby.  Am I 100% comfortable with the fact that large marine animals are held in captivity?  No.  However, I think seeing these animals up close does provide one with a sense of awe and wonderment and also a sense of respect for these animals.  For our 4 year-old, it was educational, interactive, and exciting.  I can only hope that Georgia develops a strong love and passion for both the ocean and the animals who call it home.

We arranged for taxi transportation from our resort on Disney property to Sea World (about a 15-20 minute trip by car).  Since we arrived right when the park was opening, Nick and I veered off to ride the Manta coaster.  Let's just say that it will be the only time I ever ride that one!  I love roller coasters, but something about being face-down and doing loops did not do it for me.... at all.

Mini-tip --- You are NOT allowed to bring anything on Manta with you.  We had to quickly hunt down my Mom to give her my small sling purse since we were stopped by the staff and not allowed to board with that item (only coaster in Orlando where I was stopped for having my purse on me).  There were lockers available, but it was a mob scene. 

We caught up to my mom and Georgia as they were petting some rays over at the Stingray Lagoon.  Georgia quickly let me know that they can splash you! 

Next up, we hit Turtle Trek and met a baby manatee and its Mama...

The tour guide stated that "manatees are like cows of the sea" and Georgia repeated that fun fact for the next week!

As we were walking out of Turtle Trek, the Blue Horizons show was starting in the stadium directly next to us, so we headed in to watch and enjoy.  Georgia loved watching the dolphins and acrobats in the show.  It was actually my favorite show of the day!

It was very warm during the first 4 days of our trip.  However, day 5 brought the REAL HEAT of the trip and it didn't end until we left.  My mom had packed a portable fan/water bottle and we used it constantly starting at Sea World.  Nick ate an ice cream cone that melted all over him since he couldn't eat it fast enough.  It was brutal and I like the heat.

Since it was so hot, we headed over to Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin to cool down.  It had been almost 15 years since I last visited Sea World and from what I can remember, you used to just walk through an exhibit to see the penguins.  Now, it's a ride.  In my viewpoint, it's sort of an unnecessary ride.  We waited about 20 minutes in line and then the ride promptly had a "mechanical" issue that lasted another 20-30 minutes while we waited patiently.  When we finally boarded you had a choice of a mild ride or a wild ride.  From what we could tell, they are the exact same thing (since we could see the wild version from our mild one) and the wild car just spun a bit more.  The ride dumps you off at the penguin viewing point and we finally got to see the penguins!

Mini-tip --- Bring a sweatshirt with you to Antarctica!  We were in t-shirts and shorts and the staff were wearing large winter coats.  It was a nice break from the heat... for the first few minutes.  Then, it was just downright freezing!

Saying hi to some penguins!

After our extended trip to Antarctica, we decided to take an early lunch break and grabbed some sandwiches at the Lakeside Panini Bistro.  Since most people were in the 12pm Shamu show, the entire place was deserted and we were the only table!  Since we weren't sure of the food allergy situation in Sea World, we packed Georgia a sandwich.  

Mini-tip --- Eat lunch while the rest of the park is in the Shamu show.  Once that show let out, the food places were mobbed!

Since we were the only people at lunch, the local wildlife LOVED us.  I was fairly certain these two squirrels were going to launch themselves at Georgia...  Perhaps we should have obeyed the sign and not fed the wildlife?!?!?

Goober loved visiting the Shark Encounter exhibit...

Then, we discovered Georgia's personal heaven... Shamu's Happy Harbor, which was filled with a ton of kids rides.  

Mini-tip --- If it is going to be a hot day, pack a bathing suit for your little one.  There was a small splash park in Shamu's Happy Harbor that lots of little kids were enjoying.

Riding the Shamu Express while holding Daddy's hand

We loved this area of the park!  Georgia got to ride a roller coaster, a mini drop ride, a spinning ride, etc.  There was also a gigantic net climb that Nick went up into with her while Mimi and I cooled down with slushies.

Next up, we headed to Shamu Stadium for the big show.  It was definitely noticeable that the trainers are no longer allowed in the water with the whales and it wasn't the show I remember from when I was a kid with people and whales flying through the air.  Instead, it was mostly the whales jumping around and a water/fountain show coordinated with water.

Our last main exhibit was visiting the Wild Arctic to say hi to the beluga whales, seals and walruses!

I tried to convince Georgia that she needed to bring home a hat from the Wild Arctic store...

On our way out of the park, we walked past the dolphin nursery (which I remember as being the main dolphin area back in the day) and the dolphins were VERY interested in us...

Unfortunately, you can't feed these guys anymore. That was one of my fondest memories of my last visit to Sea World!  I could have stayed all day just hanging out with them...

Overall, we had a great visit to Sea World and I'm glad we went this trip.  

We actually took a chill out at the hotel night since it was rained/stormed for several hours in the afternoon and evening, so there wasn't much we could venture out to do without getting soaked.