Saturday, December 26, 2015

WDW Day Three: Animal Kingdom

We spent our third day at Disney at Animal Kingdom and it was one of the hottest days of our trip. I packed the kids for what I thought December would feel like in Florida - cool, but not warm or cold. Which was wrong for the first half of our trip! They should've been wearing shorts and t-shirts and I had them in pants and long sleeves!

Partway through the day Molly was so incredibly miserable that Selena and I went searching for baby clothes in the shops there in the park and finally found something for her that was light and breathable. From then on you could visibly see her feeling better.

Anyways, we started the day just the four of us and going to meet Mickey and Minnie! When I originally chose our fast passes for the day, I thought I set it up for us to meet Winnie the Pooh & friends - whoops! It was a pleasant surprise though and so nice to see them in holiday clothes. What a cool opportunity!! (Which definitely makes me want to visit at different special times of the year from now on.) 

From there we went on to meet Rafiki and we even ran into Chip & Dale with a very short line! After that we met up with Papa & Grandmommy and we all rode the Kilimanjaro Safari which is something you CAN.NOT.MISS. while visiting this park!!! It is one of our absolute favorite experiences at any of the parks. I love that no matter how many times you ride it, your experience will be so vastly different each time. The animals are so gorgeous and their surroundings are so beautiful.

We had lunch at Flame Tree Barbecue after reading some great reviews which included "the best ribs and barbecue in all of Disney World" so we absolutely had to check this out. Tony and I both got the ribs and holy smokes! Best ribs I've had in a very long time. Just the right amount of tenderness without being too tender. The sauce was just right. It'll be another place we repeat on our next trip! And we had beautiful seats right near a water fountain with all kinds of trees and birds. It really was the perfect spot for a serene, delicious lunch.

This was around the time in the day when Selena and I went in search of new clothes for Molly (hottest part of the day!) while Mike & Tony took the girls into a playground in Dinoland. I'm so glad the girls got to play here - it was exactly what they needed in the middle of a structured Disney trip... some good ole unstructured fun! Another huge bonus was some water in there for them to play in to keep them cool!

SO much happier in her cooler clothes
Some other rides we went on were Expedition Everest (which is an absolute MUST), Kali River Rapids, and we went to see the "It's Tough to be a Bug!" show. The show was so fantastic. Tony and I had seen it on our honeymoon but I forgot how awesome it was. You watch in 3D what it's like to be a bug but it's more than a movie - it's a 4D experience! You smell a stinkbug, you get sprayed by bug spray, you feel the wind from a fly swatter, and you feel bugs crawling around!!! It's hilarious and scary and just perfect.

Animal Kingdom closes early in comparison with the other parks so we headed to EPCOT. We rode Spaceship Earth right as we entered the park. I say this about everything at Disney... "it's one of my favorites!" because honestly, it's all great and fantastic at Walt Disney World!!! BUT, Spaceship Earth is one of my absolute favorite rides if not my number one favorite. So if you're in EPCOT, don't miss out on it! The wait time is usually pretty low so you won't need a fastpass, either. The ride focuses on where we started in the Stone Age and how far we've come since then in all different aspects of life.

After that we were ready to eat and we walked all the way to the American pavilion for dinner at Liberty Inn. I heard some great things about the menu there but I had no idea they'd just recently had a menu change and several of the items I expected to be on there were gone. I ended up getting a delicious bacon cheeseburger! The girls got mac and cheese, of course, and Tony got a grilled chicken salad that ended up being pretty spicy. All in all, pretty tasty!

After dinner Selena and I went to get some drinks at Starbucks. (Starbucks and Disney?! So. Perfect.) We rode a couple rides while at EPCOT that night - including the Nemo ride that the girls LOVED. Especially Molly! She would shout out, "NEMO!" every time he popped up. After the Nemo ride we got to talking to an older couple and found out they were staying in the room next door to Selena & Mike at Caribbean Beach Resort!!! Considering there are a total of 2,112 rooms in the resort - literally what are the odds of finding your neighbor out in the parks? Wow. And to make it even more crazy, a couple days later we got to talking to some people coming from our resort on the way into the parks. We ran into them on the way back to our resort and found out they were OUR next door neighbors on the other side!!! How. Hilarious! Everyone is just so friendly at Disney. It's so easy to strike up conversations or jump into conversations you overhear when you're all smashed together on the same bus or waiting in lines for rides or food. I love love love that about Disney!

So that's it for day three! It was a fun day full of warmth, amazing food, friendly folks, and lots of fun.

To recap, here are the posts on our first and second days at Disney! Lots of excitement coming up in day four, including my new favorite table service meal and character interaction!!

WDW Day Two: Hollywood Studios & CRT

One of the things I was a little bit anxious about in regards to our Disney trip was all four of us sleeping in the same room. I am somewhat of a light sleeper - would I be able to sleep well with so many bodies for so many nights in the same room? Would the girls be able to calm down and go to sleep in the same room together? It turns out that nervousness was for nothing - it went so smoothly! We didn't really observe the girls' normal bed time... we actually kept them up pretty darn late most nights out at the parks! But they did spectacularly! And every night the four of us were so exhausted from the day and showering that we would fall right to sleep - no issues.

So, onto the second day at the parks! Our game plan for the day was to spend most of our day at Hollywood Studios! Our first fast pass was for Toy Story Midway Mania - which was one of my absolute favorite rides on the entire trip. It doesn't hurt at all that Tony marked himself the one to beat for this one and I ended up outscoring him! Not that we are incredibly competitive or anything...

From there we went to For the First Time in Forever, which is a Frozen sing-along. It was ADORABLE. Especially if you are visiting with children who love the movie and the characters... so magical. Presley wasn't in the mood for it but you could tell Molly was so in awe. 

Molly singing along to "Let it Go"

We had lunch at the ABC Commissary - the salmon was delicious all 4 of us adults got it! One of the best quick service meals we had. 

We swung by the Star Wars Launch Bay where Molly and I ran into a sweet little Jawa (that she was terrified of) and the lot of us got to meet Darth Vader! I believe he was one of the only characters we met who could speak... aside from the Storm Troopers. We all loved meeting Darth Vader! He really did give me the creeps. 

But perhaps my favorite moment of our time at Hollywood Studios was riding Tower of Terror with Presley, Mike and Selena. Presley didn't care for it - of course - but she did really well on it. Mike and Selena had no idea what to expect from the ride, I think they thought it would be some sort of rollercoaster or show, so they had NO idea about the drop! It was so great. Selena's purse kinda flew up into the air because she didn't have a real good hold on it. Oh. My. Goodness. One of the best moments from the trip! All three of them are such good troopers, too!!! 
AND we got the front row! You can see Mike, Selena, Presley & me down at the left.

After we were done with our day at Hollywood Studios, we headed back to the Caribbean Beach Resort to freshen up for a late dinner (8:10pm) at Cinderella's Royal Table in Magic Kingdom!!! None of us had ever eaten there before. Let me tell you - WONDERFUL from beginning to end!

Instead of the typical waiting area before being seated, here you get to meet Cinderella and have your photo taken. Not long after that we were heading up three flights of winding stairs up to our table. It's just as beautiful in there as you would expect! We got a spectacular table, too - one with a window seat AND we were the second table the princesses visited in the entire place. In addition to that, we had the best waiter, ever, who stayed in character the entire duration of our meal. He had great recommendations, was so kind, and made our evening full of all kinds of magic. Since Molly is so little she can share off of our plates instead of needing to buy her meals. Our waiter asked what Molly would like and told us he'd bring it out on the house! So incredibly kind, especially at a place where kids eat at $30+! And the food... goodness gracious the food. I got the pork belly confit for my appetizer which had such a tasty squash puree with it and for dinner got the chicken and polenta! I literally ate every single bite.
The view from our seat

Delicious appetizer

Our beautiful window view
Miss Presley was so excited she couldn't stop bouncing up and down!

During our meal we were visited by Snow White, Rapunzel, Aurora, and Jasmine. We also saw someone a few tables away become engaged!!! How exciting! So many items marked off of our Disney bucket list in one meal. If we would have stayed at our table JUST a while longer we would have watched Wishes (the fireworks show) from our table at the window. Instead, we watched it while barricaded at the bottom of the castle. It was incredibly loud and not the best place to see the depth of the show because of how close we were - but still very cool nonetheless! I guess we weren't able to leave the bottom of the castle for safety reasons because the fireworks were being set off so close to where we were.
Tired baby girls
After that we stayed at the park to ride as many things as we could while the crowds were so low due to the late extra magic hours. We stayed out a LITTLE later than we anticipated and certainly later than we should have, but the kids were able to sleep whenever they wanted to in our double stroller. It was such a fantastic day that it was hard to let it end. But, it had to end in order to enjoy the rest of our trip! If you made it all the way to the end of this one - congratulations! You must either be family, a really great friend, or a bit of a Disney enthusiast ;) Either way... I hope you enjoyed and stick around for the rest of the Disney entries to come!

To recap, here is the post pertaining to our first day at WDW.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Florida Vacation & Walt Disney World Day One

Merry Christmas, everybody! I hope you're spending the holidays exactly how you'd like to be spending them.

My family and I just got back from the first vacation we've taken in a while and it was fantastic. We left December 13th and headed to the Memphis airport and flew to Orlando. From there we rented a car through Budget and drove to Bradenton to visit my Gramma. We ate at Anna Maria Oyster Bar (twice!), went to Anna Maria Island, grabbed a crab cake from The Sandbar, stayed at the Shorewalk Vacation Villas (loved them), and had a really great time. When we first got to Gramma's house Presley was so excited she jumped out of the car and ran up to Gramma for a big hug. The girls also loved spending time at the beach. 

We left Bradenton on the 15th to head back to the Orlando airport to drop off our rental and board the Magical Express! I definitely did not anticipate the amount of people who would be waiting to board the Magical Express as well... I should have known better since it was the first day for free dining but we've never been at this time of year or for this promotion before so it was uncharted territory. We got on the bus and made it to the Caribbean Beach Resort - our home for the next week! The bell hop was so great. When we told him we were in a hurry and cutting it extra close for our brunch reservation at Chef Mickey's at the Contemporary Resort, he took our information and had our bags held for us until we returned that evening and told us to hurry along to our reservation. 

After some real hurrying on our part, we made it to brunch 15 minutes late and they fit us in right away. This was our first time at Chef Mickey's and I made the reservation after hearing nothing but great things about the place. And holy moly... it did NOT disappoint. The food was INCREDIBLE for brunch!!! The waffles were incredible, they had macaroni and cheese for the kids, and the salmon was definitely a favorite for me. There was so much food and it was all incredible. I am not a huge buffet enthusiast, but this has got to be the best of the best out there.

Aside from the food at Chef Mickey's, the characters that come to your table to visit is such a huge draw, especially if you have children. When we walked into the restaurant and gave our names we got to visit Pluto and take photos with him while we waited for our table. (Our pager got buzzed before we even got up to see Pluto! Amazing.) This was our first character interaction of the Disney trip and Presley did WONDERFUL. She was so excited to see Pluto and to give him a hug. 

Follow that up with visits to our table from Minnie, Goofy, Mickey, and Donald and it's incredible that we ate any food at all from the excitement! Molly made it very clear that she was not interested in the giant characters and instead was very afraid of them. We'd have to pick her up and hold her each time they came over. By the time Mickey and Donald made it around she would stay seated in her high chair and almost seemed to like Donald by the end of our meal. 

We also had a window seat with a beautiful view at brunch. We enjoyed Chef Mickey's so much that I can't imagine visiting Disney without stopping in here each time.

From there we hopped on the monorail and headed into Magic Kingdom. We didn't get very far into the park when the Festival of Fantasy parade began and we enjoyed the sights from Main Street. What a gorgeous parade!

Molly took a nap in our stroller as soon as the (very loud) parade started. I don't remember exactly what our fast passes were on our first day but I know we didn't ride very many rides as the park closed at 7pm that day if you didn't have tickets to Mickey's Very Merry holiday party thing. (Which we did not.) We did meet up with my in-laws for dinner at Liberty Tree Tavern - which was our FAVORITE meal from our honeymoon! The food was just as delicious as I remember and had just a few alterations since our last visit in 2011. 

Liberty Tree Tavern wasn't either of our favorite meal experiences from this trip, but it was a delicious meal that we really did enjoy!! (What's not to love about all-you-care-to-enjoy Thanksgiving food??)

This ended our evening at the parks as we were all tired from traveling, Magic Kingdom closed early, and we still had to check in to our resort and wrangle up our bags. We (eventually) made it to our room and I cannot say enough wonderful things about the updated, gorgeous, spacious rooms at the Caribbean Beach Resort!!! 

Room 4117 - Jamaica
But more about our resort in another post on another day! There is so much more to share about our amazing time at Disney including what it was like at Disney with an almost-four-year-old and an 18 month-old, what we liked and liked least about our resort, making FP+ and ADR's, and what the heck those letters mean! Stay tuned for more ;)