Archive for the ‘Photography’ Category

Our First Disney Trip: Animal Kingdom

Thursday, June 29th, 2017

Previously: Non-park days, Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Epcot

By Friday, I was afraid I wouldn’t actually make it out of bed. The thought of putting my shoes on made me want to cry. But I also really, really wanted to see Pandora and go on the Everest roller coaster and do the safari ride and meet Donald Duck and, funny enough, none of that stuff was available in my hotel room so off to the Animal Kingdom we went!

Sunrise from our hotel room:

Children NOT interested in waking up:

My original plan for Friday was that we would get to Animal Kingdom early enough to be the first (or almost first) people on Flights of Passage so we would have time to see the standby line, then ride the Na’vi River Journey before our 8:30 am Flights of Passage Fastpass. There’s a lot of stuff to see in the line while you wait, but only while you wait, not in the Fastpass tunnel. But because we slept in a little bit and got to Animal Kingdom right as the opened the wait time for Flights of Passage was already greater than 45 minutes. The wait time for Na’vi River Journey was essentially nothing though, so walking onto that and then using our Flights of Passage Fastpass worked out great.

Pandora was fun to look around and explore. We loved how much there was too look at and explore. I took a zillion pictures but it was really sunny and the kids couldn’t even look at the camera so all I have to share are landscape pics. We somehow lost the family photo the Photopass photographer (booo).

Flights of Passage was the most amazing ride I have ever been on. I let myself get hyped up because I had heard such AMAZING reviews and 30 seconds into the ride I was like “Oh this is really nice but I don’t know if I’m blown away…” and then I was totally blown away.

Ok, so, this is where I want to mention that I almost let something that happened that morning completely ruin our trip. While we were waiting to go into the pre-ride show for Flights of Passage, one of the kids said they needed to pee but swore to me they could hold it. They did not hold it. And I did not handle it well. I feel way worse about how angry I was – I was super embarrassed and expressed that as anger – than I did about the actual situation. Even with the Fastpass the Flights of Passage pre-show plus other pre-show plus ride was at least 30 minutes long and when you’re a kid who really has to pee…that’s a long time. So here is the lesson I learned: EVERY time you see a bathroom, make the kids use it. We had had a couple close calls on the previous days, but I hadn’t yet realized we needed to make a rule about at least TRYING to go every hour. Also, bring extra clothes for everyone, not just the babies. And don’t yell at your kids at Disney World, you’ll just feel like a huge a-hole.

Because of that…delay…we ran out of time for E to rider swap immediately and had to go over to Africa for our Kilimanjaro Safari Fastpass. I took way too many pictures of far away animals. And now I’m going to make you look at some of them!

I let Caroline hold my phone during that whole tour because she REALLY wanted to take pictures of the animals. I’ll spare you any of those. Not that you could tell what they are even if I did post them. Bouncing tram + cell phone + 6-year-old = blurry nonsense.

After the safari we went back to Pandora because E couldn’t wait any longer to ride Flights of Passage. Which is a valid way to feel, it’s incredible.

While E and the kids were using their rider swap, I went to Pongu Pongu to try out one of the drinks I had heard about.

The drink is called a Night Blossom and it’s “a mix of limeade combined with apple and desert pear flavors finished off with passion fruit boba balls”. I loved it so much I drank all of mine and then stole Lincoln’s. He only really cared about the boba balls so I left those for him at the end. The food thing is pineapple and cream cheese deep fried inside…something? I can’t remember what they are called but they were SO GOOD.

Finnegan agrees the pineapple things are delicious.

After my family got off the ride, I made them all buy Night Blossoms too. They agreed it was an excellent decision. Also, it was our last day in the parks and we still had a bunch of snack credits to use up, so using them in Pandora seemed like a good call.

Animal Kingdom is a really big park and I had done the least amount of minute-by-minute planning for our day there – all our Fastpasses were very early – so we had a lot of free time. We ended up crisscrossing back and forth and back and forth around the different countries many many times. There isn’t really a good way to completely avoid that, but I’m definitely going to do more planning if (when) we go back. We rode Kali River Rapids and the kids were disappointed to not get soaking wet. I think they would have ridden it all day just hoping to get splashed.

Some of the walking is unavoidable though. The Animal Kingdom is maybe just a little bit like a really fancy zoo, so we took one of the trails to see the tigers and then just wandered around checking out the cool Disney imagineering.

After some exploring, we checked into our lunch at Tusker House. Shocking information: it was a character meal and a buffet. Other shocking information: it was great. It was also not at all crowded and some of the characters came back around to visit the kids (mostly Lincoln) again. ALSO, they let us bring the stroller into the restaurant because both babies were sleeping in it. Finn slept through almost all of lunch but we woke Linc up. He never would have forgiven us if he missed Donald Duck.

Grumpy 8-year-olds who don’t want to be in the picture don’t stand a chance against Mickey.

After lunch we took the train out to Rafiki’s Planet Watch, where we met Rafiki. Doc McStuffins was also out there, so if you wanted to see her that’s the secret no-wait spot. The train ride was relaxing, the actual area was not super exciting. But it wasn’t crowded, which was super nice!

Caroline isn’t as miserable as she looks in that photo, I swear.

Then we FINALLY made it over to Expedition Everest, which Evan and Caroline were most excited about.

HE REALLY WAS EXCITED. Did I mention this was day 4 of the parks? We were all so tired.

We spent a lot of time in Asia section of the park in the afternoon. It wasn’t too crowded, there were places to sit, and the kids really loved riding Expedition Everest so we rode it a bunch of times. Considering it’s the only real coaster in the park (I am anti-Dinoland, we didn’t ride any of that junk besides the Dinosaur ride) I have no idea why there were always Fastpasses available, but as soon as we swiped in with a FP we’d book another for a little later. I think I rode twice and E rode three times which means the kids rode five times.

Pro tip: $5 bubble gun from the craft store can keep a toddler busy while he waits for the big kids to ride their roller coaster.

The Anandapur Ice Cream truck will make you ice cream floats with any combination they have. The kids got chocolate soft serve and root beer. E and I got vanilla soft serve with Orange Crush. They were all delicious and such a good refreshing snack.

I took more photo at Animal Kingdom than anywhere else. It was partly because our day was a liiiittle less busy, partly because the crowds weren’t bad so I could set up shots, and partly because it took me that many days to get into my photography groove. I even have a roll of film to develop from this day. We also managed to get a couple family photos from the Photopass people:

 

 

Our lunch with the characters was actually part of a package that included seating for the first showing of Rivers of Light. It meant we didn’t have to waste a Fastpass on a 9 pm show and we didn’t have to get in line hours early to get a seat.

Poor Finnegan was DONE by the time we picked out seats at around 8:45. E tried wearing him to get him to calm down but the only thing that helped was letting him just nurse and nurse and nurse until he fell asleep. I had a hard time working my camera around an angry, nursing baby, so a lot of these photos were actually taken by E.

After ALL OF THAT, we still had to head back to Pandora to see it at night.

Pictures don’t really do it justice. It’s so cool. Also cool: one of my friends from high school did some of the lighting! We were in drama together. That last part was probably obvious.

We got a family photo with the members of the family who were still awake:

And then I decided that no matter how tired we were, eating something for dinner needed to be a priority and I really wanted that dinner to be in Pandora. So we stood in a (pretty short) line in the canteen to try the Pandora food.

I got a build-your-old bowl with rice, beef, and creamy sauce. E and Caroline got steamed cheeseburgers. I think Evan got a grilled cheese, but it was gone before I could even take a picture. And then we had these blueberry cheesecake things for dessert.

It was all delicious. I’m still thinking about rice bowl and trying to figure out how to recreate it at home. I also tried the steamed cheeseburgers and although I was skeptical, they were actually really well spiced and the bun was surprisingly good. I’m not sure it would be worth a super long wait, but it was definitely a great use of our meal plan credit and completely different from any other food we had all week.

And then it was time to go home! I tried to take a picture of the Tree of Light waking up on our way out, but nighttime photography needs a tripod and instead of a tripod I was wearing a toddler.

And that is it! Our whole Disney vacation!

I’m working on a post now about what I learned while planning the trip (about stuff like Fastpasses and dining) so if you have any questions feel free to ask so I can include the answers. I’m not a Disney expert by any means but that’s not going to stop me from offering advice based on what worked for us.

This trip was so fun and so magical and gave us all the core memories we could possibly want. If you’re a Disney-person at all, you should go to Disney World.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Our First Disney Trip: Epcot

Monday, June 26th, 2017

Previously: Non-park days, Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios

Our Thursday at Disney World was supposed to be all Epcot: a calmer day to walk around the World Showcase, ride a couple exciting and a lot of less-exciting rides, eat things, drink things, and meet a bunch of princesses. But because our Jedi Training on Wednesday was cancelled, we had Jedi Training at Hollywood Studios first thing in the morning before we even started Epcot. Because Epcot didn’t open until 9 and our check-in for training was 9:40, we actually had a “relaxing” morning. We got to the park right after they opened and E and Caroline got to ride Tower of Terror with only a couple minute wait. Evan did not want to do it again, so he and the babies and I found a coffee stand near the exit and ate donuts the size of our heads while we waited.

Then we headed across the park for Jedi Training, past the lake with the dinosaur. The kids were obsessed with this dinosaur.

Here’s my short review of Jedi Training: I loved it. The kids also thought it was “cool”, but I am not sure it was the super duper awesome amazing unbelievable thing I thought it would be for them.  To sign up, you have to rope drop the park, run to the sign-up area, stand in line and then hope your spot doesn’t get rained out later. It gets rained out a lot, especially in the summer thunderstorm months. I don’t know if we will bother to make that effort if (when) we go back, unless the kids specifically ask for it. Or if Linc wants to do it (he was too young this year).

It was worth it at least once for the photos though.

The PhotoPass photographers took a LOT of pictures of the show too.

That’s the Seventh Sister, she’s a Jedi hunter trained by Darth Vader. *takes off dork glasses*

On the way out, the kids talked us into buying lightsabers. I wasn’t THAT hard to convince. Mostly so the Photopass person could take this pictures.

The park looks really crowded in those photos, which is weird because I don’t remember it being crowded.

Even though we had planned just one day in each park, we had purchased park hopper passes (thanks military discount!) so it wasn’t a problem to get into Hollywood Studios and then hop over to Epcot. We choose to take the 30-minute boat ride instead of the 10-minute bus ride, because I hate the buses. On the boat, we got a nice view of several resorts and we didn’t have to fold up the stroller. I recommend the boat.

Our original plan was to get to Epcot super early – they opened at 8 am for Extra Magic Hours – to rope drop Soarin’, since we used our Tier 1 Fastpass for the Frozen ride. But because Freddie The Best Castmember Ever had booked us those spots in the morning Jedi Training, he also turned our two morning Fastpasses (which were for a character meet and the Nemo ride) into magical, open-ended Fastpasses, good for anything in Epcot. That allowed us to start our day in Epcot with our princess lunch at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall at noon, then use our original Fastpass for Frozen and the two special ones for Test Track and Soarin’.

Our princess lunch was SUPER. I had heard mixed things about the restaurant because it’s located in the Norway pavilion and serves actual Norwegian food. Not everyone is a fan of pickled fish, but the way the menu was set up meant there was PLENTY of choices. You order drinks and a main course and then can eat from the “appetiser” buffet as much as you want. But we could have made entire meals of the buffet – meats and cheeses and salads and fruit and rolls. The non-meal-plan babies ate a TON of food. I had a delicious seafood casserole, E had meatballs, and the kids had pizza and mac & cheese, so don’t be afraid of Akershus.

Also, it was a really pretty building with good light, so my photos of the kids with the princesses look great.

This Ariel was amazing. She spent so much time with Caroline, admiring all the sea animals on her dress and whispering things together.

I mean, look at that. That’s Caroline’s best life.

We were all STUFFED by the end of the meal but dessert is included so they brought us two of these trays. The apple cake in the middle was definitely the winner. It was SO good.

We also met Belle at that lunch! I let the PhotoPass photographer take that one because the alcove was sort of small.

Lunch was right across the pavilion from both the Frozen ride and the Anna and Elsa meeting spot. The ride was really fun and I was super glad we had the Fastpass, because the wait time was around 45 minutes. But for some reason the wait time to meet Anna and Elsa was…nothing, basically. It was amazing. I’m almost sad we just walked through the whole line, because we missed getting to look at all the fun details Disney puts in the buildings so you forget you’re waiting in line. But not THAT sad. When Frozen first came out, the wait times for Anna and Elsa were FIVE HOURS OR MORE. 5 minutes was way better.

 

And then I made Caroline pose for a few photos.

Don’t you love her very authentic crocs with socks look?

After we were done in Norway, it started to look like it might rain and we wanted to make sure we did Test Track before they closed it due to weather. So we headed in that direction with a quick stop in Mexico to ride the dark boat ride there. We managed to knock out Test Track with the FP and rider swap, then Soarin’ with the FP and rider swap, and then Spaceship Earth before it started to POUR. We were prepared with ponchos (although we forgot the stupid rain cover again!), so we dashed across the park to the character spots to wait for Mickey and friends and then Joy, Sadness and Baymax.

I was not expecting Epcot to be the park where we met the most characters, but I think it wins!

The wait for Joy and Sadness was the worst wait anywhere that week – the line moved soooooo sloooooow and it was just a back-and-forth line in a big empty space. We were really tired, and damp, and it was boring, and we didn’t have the stroller so we had to wear Finnegan. I made the kids pose for photos to keep us all amused.

It was only sort of pouring when we left the characters, so we hiked over to the Land and Sea section and finally rode the Nemo ride. It was adorable and there was NO wait. There’s a real aquarium at the end so it looks like Dory and Nemo and Marlin and Crush are swimming with the real fish. There was a ton of stuff in that area that we skipped, so Epcot is top of my list for parks to go back to if (when) we visit again.

We decided it was too wet to try to do anything else right away, so we caught a bus back to the hotel to change clothes, pick up the stroller rain cover, and unload the lightsabers. The middle-of-the-day buses are less terrible than end-of-the-night buses, so it was an easy trip. Right after we got back to the hotel, it completely stopped raining and the sun broke through the clouds. We decided it was a good time to go back to Magic Kingdom to try to ride Splash Mountain (which we had missed the first day because it was broken). We checked the app and there were still Fastpasses available for around 8 pm, so we snapped them up and headed back.

On the bus to the park, we noticed a rainbow. When we got into the park. you could still see the rainbow. And then as we headed towards Frontierland, I realized if I could stand in the right place, we could see the DOUBLE rainbow leading right into the castle. I took probably 300 rainbow photos (as did every other person at the park).

 

Between the sun coming out and the rainbow and the general feeling of magic in the park, we all forgot we were tired. We used our Fastpasses to rider swap Splash Mountain. By the time I got on it was sunset, which was super fun. Then we tried to grab dinner but it was 9 pm and the quick service places were closed. So we decided to go try and see Tomorrowland, since we had missed most of it on our Magic Kingdom day. We also wanted to let Caroline ride Space Mountain, since I had previously told her she was too short but I was wrong. The fireworks were going on as we crossed the park, so we cut through Fantasyland behind the castle. When we got to the other side, we realized almost everyone in the park was still watching the show, so the wait for Space Mountain was almost nothing. E and the kids hopped on. About 5 minutes later, the fireworks ended and at least a hundred people RAN towards Space Mountain. The wait time went from 10 minutes to 45 minutes almost instantly.

Once I met up with the coaster riders, we decided to do the Toy Story ride before we left, just because Linc loves Buzz Lightyear so much and had been such a champ with not riding Splash Mountain or Space Mountain.

Then the park was closed, so we (and eeeeeeeeverybody else) left. The bus was stupid again. It was 11 pm before we got back to the hotel. And no one had eaten dinner. The kids were too tired to care and E chose sleep over food, so I went down to the hotel food court on my own and got a huge plate of pasta and some cupcakes. Finn nursed SO MUCH on this trip, both for comfort and to stay hydrated in the heat, so I was constantly starving. No skipping meals for me.

Because we had such a late night, we adjusted our plan for Friday just a little bit. Although we did still rope drop Animal Kingdom. There were no days off during this vacation.

Next: our LAST DAY in Disney at the Animal Kingdom and the new Pandora world!

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Our First Disney Trip: Magic Kingdom

Thursday, June 22nd, 2017

Previously: Days 1 & 2 in Disney (but no parks)

We planned our first park day for the Magic Kingdom because I wasn’t sure the kids would really understand they were actually at Disney World until they saw the castle up close. It’s also the park with the most stuff and non-negotiable fireworks (meaning we HAVE to stay for the fireworks) so we knew it would be a very long day.

We got to the park an hour before they officially opened because we wanted Main Street photos with the castle before the park got TOO crowded. We also had breakfast reservations at 9:10 at the very back of the park and needed to be at least at the castle by 9 am. Between security and time to take allll the photos, it was a good call. Disney has done a great job speeding up lines of all kinds – E was chatting with a security manager and he said not having a long line for bag checks is a huge priority for them and we could definitely tell – but being prepared to have them slow you down a little is a good idea. So we got into the park before “official” open time and were right at the front of the castle when they did the morning opening show. It is definitely worth catching if you have kids – that first glimpse of Mickey and Minnie blew Linc’s mind and there were a bunch of characters we only saw during that show. I might have (definitely) cried a little.

These are our PhotoPass pictures:

And these are my photos:

The moment Evan saw the castle:

You’re never too cool for a Disney World castle selfie.

Right after that they lifted the ropes and we walked straight back to Be Our Guest for our breakfast reservation. The breakfast system was incredibly efficient. You placed your order on touch screens, scanned your magic band to pay/use your dining credits, and then picked a table anywhere. I wanted to see the West Wing so we walked through the gorgeous main ballroom (it looked exactly like where Belle and Beast dance in the movie) (also it snows outside the “windows”) and got a table RIGHT under Prince Adam’s ripped portrait from the movie.

Every 5 minutes or so there was a thunderstorm and the portrait would flash with the Beast’s picture instead. It was super cool. Lincoln did NOT like it, so if you have a possibly-scared toddler I would recommend just coming in to visit the West Wing and sitting in a different room. Seconds after we sat down, a waitress brought our food to our table. How did she know where we were??? Ther wasn’t a number or a tracker or one of those buzzers or anything that tied us to the order we placed at the touch screen. I might have been more amazed by the service than by the magical portrait or the very awesome magic rose:

After breakfast, we had time for some stuff with short lines – the carousel, Small World, watching the Sword in the Stone show, and visiting Elena before our first fast pass for the Seven Dwarves Mine Train. There are a lot of rides in Fantasyland.

Cinderella’s slipper at Fairytale Hall:

I surprised Caroline with the Elena dress and crown because I knew she was extra exicted to meet her:

Elena photos (and basically all the character meet photos NOT at a meal) are from our PhotoPass. I recommend the PhotoPass.

Linc doesn’t look thrilled in this photo, but he was SO EXCITED about the “diss” from a princess.

This is the part of my recap where I’m going to pat myself on the back a little bit for all that planning I did. It was SO GREAT to be able to tell the kids “don’t worry, we have a Fastpass” for almost every ride they wanted. We also really benefitted from the rider swap system. We would all show up at the entrance and scan our bands to “clear” the FP from our account, then one of the grown ups would go with Evan and Caroline and get a rider swap pass. Sometimes it was a tag, sometimes a ticket, but either way as soon as they got off the ride they passed it to the other grown up and the big kids got to ride again. It was SO GREAT for the big kids, because they got to ride everything at least twice. In theory we could have doubled our FP options with rider swap because only one of us HAD to scan in to get into the FP line. There are other blogs that could explain that method better than me, but we a) weren’t 100% sure it would work on the most popular rides and b) didn’t feel right “cheating” the system even if it wasn’t really cheating. Plus between the Fastpasses I booked 90 days before the trip, shortish lines, and the ability to book more Fastpasses after our first 3 were used, we were fine.

One of the things you don’t need a Fastpass for is Dumbo. They’ve changed it a lot since the last time I was at Disney, so now you go inside to a playground and the kids play (in the air conditioning) while you wait for your turn with a buzzer, like they give you when you wait for your table at Chili’s. It’s great. All four kids got to play while I got to sit down. And then it was time for some classic Dumbo action.

+

Then we met Ariel! Mermaid Ariel, which was very cool.

We tried to watch the 3 pm parade…but the weather turned and they canceled it. Then we made our biggest mistake of the day and got in a 60-minute long line for Haunted Mansion. Ugggh. But it was under awnings so we weren’t in the rain and it moved pretty fast and it was on our must-do list so I’m glad if we were going to waste some time in line it was for something good.

 

The rest of our afternoon was spent in Adventureland and Frontierland. We did the Swiss Family Robinson tree house, and the Jungle Cruise and Big Thunder Mountain and Pirates and Aladdin’s flying carpet and the Tiki Room and…I can’t even remember. All of it, I think, except Tom Sawyer’s Island. We even saw the Country Bear Jamboree, which I don’t think I have actually seen before. It was HILARIOUS. And not for children. But hilarious. I laughed so hard I almost cried.

It was REALLY hot so I didn’t care at all if the kids threw themselves in the fountains.

After we exhausted ourselves in all of the park besides Tomorrowland, we headed to dinner at the Jungle Skipper Canteen restaurant (the eatery themed to go with the Jungle Cruise ride). It was not at all crowded, our server was fantastic, and the bread they brought to serve the table was delicious. They just kept bringing more and more and more bread, so Linc and Finn stuffed themselves with that instead of having to share our food. I was going to order a noodle dish, but the server suggested the steak instead which ended up being a much better choice. After I sucked down my first Diet Coke in like 5 seconds, the waitress said “Oh, mama needs more Diet Coke. I gotcha.” And then for the rest of the meal I never had less than two sodas next to my plate. We tipped her extra.

Caroline accidentally spilled soda on herself so she changed into her back-up clothes. And then after she ate she fell asleep on the bench.

After dinner we planned to finish out the roller coasters. We had a Fastpass for Splash Mountain in the evening, but the ride was temporarily broken. They emailed us to let us know we could either use our Fastpass whenever it started working again OR we could use it on something else. Something else = Space Mountain! First we stopped to watch the 9 pm fireworks show, called Happily Ever After. I definitely recommend watching from Main Street. On a different day we saw it from the back of the castle and you miss sooooo much. Even if it’s crowded, find a spot and stand there for the 18 minute show.

p.s. Even when you think the show is over, stand still for a few more minutes or you’ll miss Tinkerbell.

For some reason I thought Caroline was too short for Space Mountain, so we hung out and watched the second fireworks show while E and Evan went to ride. Then we walked over to wait for them so I could rider swap. A lot of people leave after the first fireworks, so we were able to stand right up next to the castle for the second show.

While I was in line for Space Mountain, I noticed the height restriction was lower than I thought so Caroline could ride. But by the time we got off and met up again it was late and all the kids were exhausted. Beyond exhausted. So we just made a note that if we made it back to the park for Splash Mountain we’d try to get Caroline a ride on Space Mountain too.

My main lesson for our Magic Kingdom day is that it is definitely a 2-day park. Maybe even a 3-day park if you’re trying to do absolutely everything. I’m already making a list so if (when) we go back we can finish everything we missed. We never even did the spinning tea cups!

Up next: Wednesday at Hollywood Studios. Star Wars day!

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Our First Disney Trip: Non-Park Days

Wednesday, June 21st, 2017

We’re back from Disney World! Well, actually we’re not back, we’re still on vacation. But we are no longer in Florida and I’ve finally had a few minutes to look through the 1800 pictures I took and start to recap our trip.

Even with that many photos, I feel like I missed A LOT of moments. It is hard to take pictures while wearing a baby and I was wearing a baby 75% of the time. I knew that going in and promised myself I wouldn’t be disappointed, but I still am a little bit. I do have a ton of cell phone photos and video, plus the PhotoPass pictures the Disney photogs took, so it’s not like I’m actually missing much. My recaps just won’t have as many *good* photos as I wanted.

The first day and a half we were at Disney World we weren’t actually in any of the parks. This was a good choice. We went to Disney Springs the night we checked into the hotel, did some shopping to get our ears and see the Lego store and ride the boat shuttles around, then had dinner. If it hadn’t been raining we would have spent a lot more time wandering around and checking out the stores – we never made it to the pin store or the Christmas store – but it was fun even in the rain.

I had made dinner reservations at Bongo’s Cuban Cafe based on good internet reviews and a lot of interesting menu choices. I almost canceled them the day before, because I wasn’t sure the kids would be able to handle 7:30 dinner at a “grown up” restaurant. I am so glad I didn’t! When we checked in the hostess warned us our seats were on the dance floor and there was a show tonight; would we like different seats? No way! It worked out perfectly. The music was loud (in a good way) and we loved watching the salsa dancers who were right next to our table. The show was interactive so several times Caroline was up on stage with the dancers or doing a congo line around the restaurant. The food was also delicious. I had a giant plate of seafood, E had some sort of meat and even though the kid’s menu offered interesting choices they also had nice safe mac & cheese for Evan. I recommend the kid’s ham croquette appetizer – I would have eaten a dozen of those.

Caroline declared this dinner the “best night of her life”, so I think she would also recommend Bongo’s.

Dessert was this key lime mouse thing. Desserts were included on the dining plan (I’ll write a lot more about the dining plan later) so we ate a LOT of dessert.

After dinner we caught the bus back to our hotel to get some sleep, since we were exhausted from two days of driving.

Note on Transportation: We didn’t drive at all while we were at Disney. We took buses from our hotel, then boats or the Monorail between parks. The buses suck. I mean, they’re better than driving and parking and they’re free and they were consistent. But they still suck. If (when) we go back, we will spend more money to stay at a hotel that offers options besides the buses because folding up the stroller and jamming onto a crowded standing-room only bus at 11 pm is no fun.

On our first full day Florida, we slept in, hung out at the pool, and then did a little resort hopping before our princess dinner.

Finding Nemo pajamas for our Finding Nemo hotel room, obviously. We stayed at Art of Animation, which is a very fun hotel that is very far away from most things. We were lucky and got a room that wasn’t super far from the main building, but if you were in a different section you could be doing a LOT of walking. If (when) we go again we won’t stay here.

A lot of my morning pictures are unusable because my camera/lenses always fogged up. The temperature difference between the inside a/c and the outside humidty was unhelpful. In the future I’ll remember to take my stuff outside 20 minutes before I want to use it.

We did enjoy a fairly peaceful pool that morning though. We were practically the only people there until after 10 am.

We spent the whole morning at the pool, then came inside for clothes and lunch. The food court at the hotel is called Landscape of Flavors and was really good. Those refillable mugs came with our meal plan. I had the combo platter – quesadillas and tacos – and a Mickey cupcake for dessert. A+ would recommend.

art of animation landscape of flavors

After lunch, we packed up and headed out to take care of some errands (trading in our MWR vouchers for actual park tickets, buying the PhotoPass) and resort hopping.

The Monorail was a) not crowded and b) air conditioned, so we rode it a lot.

Resort hopping on the Monorail was fun but tiring. You’re not allowed to use the pools at other hotels, so we mostly explored the stores and lobbies, checked out the food and let the kids trade pins while the grown-ups sat down and enjoyed not walking. It would have been a good use of 2 hours – any longer and you’ll just get super jealous of how nice the deluxe hotels are.

But because Disney is full of magic, being early to our dinner reservation led to being at the Grand Floridian during Cinderella’s Princess Promenade. Cinderella and Prince Charming showed up to greet the kids, take them on a parade through the hotel and participate in a waltz in the lobby. Caroline and Lincoln looooved it, even though we were already going to see those same characters for dinner.

Speaking of dinner, I would HIGHLY recommend the Cinderella Happily Ever After dinner at 1900 Park Fare. Actually, all our character meals were great, but if you’re thinking that this one might be hard to get to because it’s outside Magic Kingdom I promise it’s worth the effort. The buffet was delicious, the strawberry soup was as good as everyone said, and Lady Tremaine and the step-sisters were a hoot.

The only problem with character meals vs meeting the characters in their designated spots is you have to take your own photos. That’s not too bad for me, but almost none of my cell phone shots turned out, so I was glad to have my real camera ready.

Our dinner reservations were for 4:30 so afterward we had time to get back to the hotel and jump in the pool again to cool off and relax. I would suggest jumping in the pool as much as possible during your Disney trip, because being weightless and off your feet feels so good. Then we threw the kids in bed so we would be ready for our first park day in the morning: Magic Kingdom!

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We Went To The Ocean

Wednesday, May 31st, 2017

Ocean Beach is “New England’s finest sugar sand beach”, according to the radio commercials they play all the time. Really, it’s the only beach nearby that has STUFF as opposed to just being a state park. It means it costs more to park (and more to ride the rides and more to use the pool and more for the water slide…) but it’s also easier to spend a whole day there because you aren’t just sitting. E HATES sitting on the beach. He does not know how to relax. And when you’re watching 4 children near the ocean, no one gets to relax. But we still had a good time with our out-of-state relatives last weekend, even if the water was freezing. The children did not care.

The above photo is a very accurate representation of what it’s like to take 6 kids to the beach.

My boys don’t have swim shirts because I wasn’t expecting anyone to actually go in the water. IT WAS NOT WARM. So I totally covered them in sunscreen instead, which makes them look even paler than they already are. It’s sort of ridiculous.

Every time we end up at Ocean Beach I wonder why we don’t go more often*. During the summer they have special kids nights on Mondays (I think) where the rides are cheap. As soon as our summer weather gets here (any day now would be fine, Mother Nature) we’ll try to make it a habit. I love the ocean, even if it’s not super relaxing, and these are exactly the kinds of summer memories I want the kids to have of Connecticut.

*The real answer is I think of New London as being really far away even though it’s only like 20 minutes from the house. It’s also the opposite direction from the lake, so we’re usually headed that way instead.

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