Friday, April 23, 2010

Spring Break recap part I

This was our first year of traveling during elementary school spring break and it was quite the adventure. I will break down our trip into two parts, the first being the Disney portion of the trip. I will start by saying I don’t think this portion of the trip could have gone any better. Well, maybe Mac’s allergies could have been better and you will notice in the pictures how he progressively gets worse as the trip goes on. Poor guy is so allergic to all kinds of pollen you can see his eye go from bad to worse to eventually where he wears his sunglasses all the time. But as far as the trip went, all things seemed to work out just as we hoped!

The first step was getting on the road early on Saturday morning. We had only planned on going to the Magic Kingdom for one day. Since this was the boys first trip to Orlando, we didn’t want to overload them and it was a conscious decision to only spend one day in the park. But we also wanted them to enjoy the resort some as well. So we took off early on Saturday so we could be at the hotel as soon as we could check in. You may think, "why is leaving early such a big deal to Alan", well if you know us, you know we have trouble being punctual when we travel as a family. Anyone with kids knows what I am talking about. So getting on the road early is a big deal.
We arrive right at check in time to the Contemporary Hotel. We check into our very modern and comfortable room. After the boys jump on the beds for a while we put on the bathing suits and hit the pools. The boys loved the fountains, hot tubs and slides. Even Henry took a few rides down the big slides. They wouldn’t let me ride down with him but he went anyway. It sort of scares me that he is so brave! Mac must have gone down the slides 50 times, he just loved them!

After several hours of fun in the sun at the pool, we went in to change to go to dinner. We had reservations at one of the restaurants in the Contemporary called The Wave. This was our first experience with the food at Disney and I will say we were pleasantly surprised. But not with the kid’s food. Their choices were limited and was not very impressive. They pretty much served the same things throughout the different restaurants we tried on the Disney grounds. But the adult food was pretty good! It seems the kid’s food was mass produced off site and sent to all of the eating establishments, but the adult food was more independent of the restaurant and actually prepared in the kitchen. Meg and I ordered a few different seafood dishes (after all, we were at a restaurant called The Wave) and they were all delicious. We ordered crab cakes filled with rock shrimp and crab meat, seared sea scallops and grilled halibut all of which was wonderful. We paired this seafood feast with two different Pinot Noirs from New Zealand that went very nicely.

(A quick note about the restaurants in the Contemporary Hotel, they serve wine in relation to where they are on the globe. So, The Wave which is on the bottom floor only serves wines from the Southern Hemisphere. You will have a choice of wines from Australia, New Zealand, Tanzania, Chile and Argentina. While at the California Grill, which is on the top floor of the hotel, you will have a choice of wines from the Northern Hemisphere. There are obviously wines from California, Oregon, Washington, France, Germany and Spain.)
After a nice dinner, we went back to the room to attempt to get the boys in bed, but that was easier said than done. They were both very excited about the next day exploring the Magic Kingdom. We woke up early so we could take advantage of the Magic Hours. We actually got in the park about 40 minutes before the park officially opened. Even then it seemed crowded! But as we made our way back to Fantasyland the crowds seem to disperse some. We had already mapped out a plan for the first several rides and that plan worked out great! We didn’t have to wait more than 5 minutes for the first 5 or 6 rides. We hit Peter Pan, It’s a Small World (yes, it is still creepy!), Dumbo, Winnie the Pooh, Snow White’s Scary Adventure and the Tea cups all in the first hour or so we were there. We then made our way to Tomorrowland to ride Buzz Lightyear, the Astro Orbiter and the People mover (Tomorrowland Transit Authority). Then the lines started to get long and we decided to use the Fast Pass on Space Mountain.
Mac wasn’t sure he wanted to do Space Mountain and Meg and I weren’t sure we wanted him to do it either, but he noticed some other kids about his age in line and thought he would give it a try. Now I haven’t ridden Space Mt since I was about 12 and I remember it being pretty intense. I tried to explain to Mac that it wasn’t like Peter Pan or Winnie the Pooh, it was fast and dark and you don’t know what is coming next. He seemed a little nervous but said he would be fine with mommy. Since Henry was too small to ride the coaster, we did the child swap which couldn’t have worked out better. We not only passed the extremely long line by doing the fast pass, but we were moved to the front of that line since we did the child swap. So that meant Mac and Meg rode first while Henry and I went to the unloading area to wait for them to finish their run. Mac seemed petrified once it was all over and he didn’t want to do it again with me, but if you ask him today what his favorite ride was, he will say Space Mt! After I passed all of the people again and rode the ride, it was close to time for us to get some lunch. Meg had planned ahead and got us a reservation at Tony’s Town Square restaurant. For those who aren’t in the know, Tony’s is an Italian restaurant based on the restaurant from the Disney movie “Lady and the Tramp”. So far the day had gone exceptionally well and it was about to get better. As we were seated out on the front porch of Tony’s we realized that we were going to have prime seats for the parade. The food there was decent but nothing to write home about. Also, a quick note about the Magic Kingdom, it is the only park in Disney that doesn't serve beer or wine. We found that out the hard way!

As Henry finished he free birthday ice cream sundae, the parade started. We had the most comfortable seats for the parade and the boys loved seeing all of the different Disney characters. Once the parade was over, we headed towards Frontierland to hit the Jungle Cruise and Pirates of the Caribbean. At that point the crowds were horrible and the boys were in dire need of a nap. So we decided to go back to the room for a while and rest up so we could go back later.
After a couple hour nap taken by all of us, Meg tried again to get us in for Chef Mickey’s dinner. This time instead of getting a flat out “No, we are booked” she was told to by to get on the waiting list. So we headed to the 4th floor of the Contemporary Hotel to get on the waiting list. 10 minutes later we were being seated for the character diner. Our good luck streak continues!
We had just ordered our drinks when Donald Duck came to our table. At first both boys were a little hesitant on talking to or getting near Donald, Henry even asked me why Donald didn’t have any pants. That has always bugged me about Donald Duck, why would he wear a jacket but no pants? But eventually they started to enjoy all of the characters which included Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy and Pluto. They really got excited as each one stopped by to not talk to us (keep in mind, the characters don’t talk). But they did do a good job of communicating with us. We all knew what they were trying to say! After hanging out with some of the characters for a while we headed back to the Magic Kingdom
Once back in the park, we realized it was close to time for the first night time parade. So we made our way towards Liberty Square to get a spot on the parade route. We were lucky and got a spot right up front on the rope. The boys just loved the lights and seeing the other Disney characters. Pluto even walked over and gave them high fives. They were convinced he did that because he remembered them from Chef Mickey’s earlier in the night. How cute is that!
After the amazing parade, our good luck started to fade. We went to ride Thunder Mountain but it was closed for service, as was Tom Sawyer’s Island. So we decided to go back and ride some of their favorite rides again. Back to the Fantasyland area to ride the boy’s favorite ride, Peter Pan, but the bad luck stuck with us. We had to wait about 45 minutes to ride it again! That was the only ride the entire day that we had to wait more than 10 minutes, so I guess it was not that big of a deal. As it got later and the park started to clear out, we were able to ride several of their favorite rides again. We were also able to take advantage of the magic hours again and stay in the park after normal closing hours. But since we had a full day, we didn’t stay too much longer.
We finally got back to the room around 1:30am and were all exhausted. After getting a good night sleep we woke up and called for a late check out. Once that was granted, we grabbed a quick breakfast and hit the pools again. We were able to swim and slide for another couple of hours before having to clean up and pack up. We checked out and headed over to the Wilderness Lodge to check out that hotel and have lunch. It really is a beautiful place and we might stay there next time. Also, if you ask for a refill at the restaurant there, this is what you get!
After lunch we jumped in the car and drove to Ft. Myers. Overall our trip to Disney World was wonderful! It seemed that we were sprinkled with Disney magic dust as we arrived and we were able to do everything we wanted. Having short lines and getting the reservations were great, but nothing beat the looks on the boy’s faces when we arrived in the park, while riding the rides and then meeting the characters. Also, since it was just days from Henry’s 3rd birthday, he had on a birthday pin and all of the cast members were extra nice and went out of their way to wish him a happy birthday. That was truly a special trip for everyone!

(I hope to have a beach recap soon; I promise it won’t be as long as this one!)

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