The Disney World Post, Part 1: Recap {Saturday and Sunday – Arrival and Magic Kingdom}

{I have been working on this entry for a long time, just here and there when I have a chance to sit down and think about our trip and what was helpful and what was not.  So it might seem a little disjointed.  Also, it is EXTREMELY long, so long that upon finishing the draft I decided that I had to break it up into a couple of entries, and mostly for my own personal memory bank, so please disregard if you don’t like long entries filled with mundane details of events.  Apologies.}

We took our first vacation as a family of four in May.  And being people who don’t like to do things halfway, we decided to head to the Mecca of all family vacations:  Walt Disney World!  I went to WDW with my family as a kid, but it was in the middle of the summer and really crowded so we just went to the Magic Kingdom and to Sea World.  My husband had never been, so he really wanted to go for himself and to take the boys while they were still pretty young and everything would be AMAZING.  And it was.  I am so glad we decided to take the boys at nearly 3 years and 8 months.  Cole was mesmerized by everything and everyone.  To him, Mickey and Minnie and Goofy and Jake and Buzz and Woody were real and right in front of him.  The look on his face every time he met one of his favorite characters made the whole trip worth every penny.

I started planning our trip back in February, which to me felt rushed.  But that’s when the Mister finally decided that he wanted to go to WDW, so that’s when I started planning.  Luckily for me, they had a free dining special when I booked our trip, so that was a score.  But before I even booked the hotel, I went ahead and made advance dining reservations {ADR}.  They can be made 180 days in advance, and the table service restaurants fill up very quickly and I wasn’t able to get into some of the restaurants I wanted, so for our next trip I will make ADR much earlier.  One of the great things about WDW is that it’s not a huge deal if you can’t get into a restaurant that you really wanted, because there are SO many wonderful restaurants.  I also had the benefit of my very own WDW expert in my friend Danielle; she was a valuable resource and sounding board when I was planning this trip and should make a second career out of being a WDW travel agent.

Now let’s dig into the resort we chose.  We budgeted around $2,500 for the trip, and fortunately WDW is the kind of place you can do on a tight budget or go all out and still have a great experience.  For our budget, we ended up being able to book a moderate resort for an entire week and still have enough “play money” to really get the most out of our vacation.  I felt like I got a great value for the room and amenities, and I also felt like we got to really enjoy what WDW had to offer.  I played around on the WDW website for several days, pricing out different resorts and options and tiers of amenities.  After showing my top 3 options to Zac, we decided to go with the Caribbean Beach Resort.  We both love the beach and wanted to have a “beachy” experience while on vacation, so CBR was the best choice.  It had a fun main pool, a nice food court, beautiful grounds, and a lot of onsite activities.  Plus there were several other pools throughout the resort for a quick dip, and sandy beaches with hammocks and plenty of shade just steps away from our room.  The hotel room itself was pretty standard: two double beds, a double sink and closet area, and nice sized bathtub.  I also got a pack and play for Cannon.  I will make sure that our next room has queen beds instead of doubles, because at 6 feet tall each Zac and I just cannot comfortably sleep together in a double bed.  We each slept in a separate bed and Cole slept with Zac, while Cannon started out each night in the pack and play and usually ended up in the bed with me.  For our next trip we will likely stay at a resort that has family suites, like the Art of Animation.  The boys will be a little older and we can each have our own space.

Check-in was really fast.  CBR is located in the EPCOT area and we were racing to make our first table service reservation at the Wilderness Lodge in the Magic Kingdom area, so I really appreciated the speedy service.  All I had to do was go to the Customs House, show my ID, and pick up our welcome packet that contained our Key to the World cards.  With those in hand, we were able to get into our room, cash in our dining plan points, and charge things to our account.  The boys even got their own Keys to the World, even though they were not negotiable.  Still cool for them to have from their first trip.  There was also a coupon book, maps, schedules, and some other freebies in the welcome packet.

We spent a lot of time at Old Port Royale when we weren’t at a theme park.  The CBR main pool was located there, as well as the kiddie pool {with an awesome pirate ship and slides}.  Also in Old Port Royale was the food court and a table service restaurant, snack bar, shop, and arcade.  We stopped by the food court on our way into and out of Old Port Royale several times a day to refill our free resort mugs.  Those came in very handy!  They can also be purchased for $14.95 and refilled for free at your resort.  The quick service restaurants in the food court were all good.  We enjoyed a few dinners there and used our snack credits for breakfast items like muffins and bagels.  The shop was also large and had lots of WDW themed merchandise as well as sundry items that one might need on vacation, from sunscreen to condoms to stamps to lip balm.  There is a concierge desk at Old Port Royale as well as boat rentals, and there were a ton of family activities, like trivia games, silly competitions, and an outdoor movie.  I am pretty sure that all the other WDW resorts have similar activities and a central hub where people tend to gather.  I am looking forward to visiting them all!

Danielle and I pored over park hours and event schedules and Extra Magic Hours and finally arrived at an itinerary that had us trying to hit all of the EMH that the parks had to offer for guests who were staying on-site.  We went with Magic Kingdom on Sunday, Animal Kingdom on Monday, EPCOT on Tuesday, Hollywood Studios on Wednesday, and then used Thursday as a “free day” to go back to the parks to hit up attractions that we missed the first time around.  So here’s our experience with the parks, day by day.

Saturday

Saturday, May 5, was our travel day.  We got mostly packed the day before, except for our bathroom stuff and a few random things.  We ended up leaving much later than I wanted to, around 9:30am, but it worked out okay.  We made four or five stops along the way for food and coffee and diaper changes/bathroom breaks, and twice along the side of the road when the wheel well cover on my car came loose and made a scary flapping noise {nothing a couple of bungie cords couldn’t fix}.  We made it to WDW around 6pm Saturday evening.  The CBR is in the EPCOT area of WDW, and our dinner reservation was for 6:35 at the Whispering Canyon Cafe, which is in the Wilderness Lodge in the Magic Kingdom area.  We had just enough time to get checked in, pick up our welcome packet, and then head over to MK for our first meal at WDW.

The Whispering Canyon Cafe, as I said, is in the Wilderness Lodge, a deluxe resort.  It is definitely on our list of places to stay at WDW, should we suddenly find ourself making a lot of money in the future, haha.  The lobby is a HUGE atrium with all the rooms surrounding it, all built out of giant wood pillars and beams and stone.  The Whispering Canyon Cafe opens to the atrium so it has a really airy feel.  There was about a 15-minute wait, so we had time to change the boys’ clothes and freshen up a bit before being seated.  The staff members were all really friendly, as was the case everywhere we went.  The theme is a Western American, “gold rush” thing, which is really fun.  Lots of yeehaws and yelling and fun.  Every 20 minutes or so one of the cast members would bring out a barrel of wooden horses, and all the kids got to come pick out a horse and ride them around the restaurant for a few laps.  It was utter madness and Cole loved every minute of it.  And the food was SO good.  Seriously.  They give you enough to feed an army, AND you get dessert with every meal.  I got steak and potatoes and vegetables, and Zac got the Canyon Skillet, which is all you care to eat.  He barely made it through one, though.  It had smoked pork ribs, pulled pork, roasted chicken, beef brisket, mashed potatoes, baked beans, and corn on the cob.  Zac and Cole split the skillet and it still didn’t get finished.  For dessert Zac got a bowl of ice cream and I got the most amazing white chocolate bread pudding with banana rum sauce and ice cream.  Holy geez.  I still dream about that bread pudding.  We used our Key to the World card to cash in our dining point and charge the gratuity to our room, which I connected to my credit card so that we could at least earn some rewards points while we were there.

And with our faces stuffed from our first WDW meal, we rolled ourselves out to the car and headed back to the CBR to get settled in and get some rest.  We were in the Aruba village, which was a short walk to the bridge that takes you to Old Port Royale.  Zac unloaded the car {we didn’t get the cast members to do it because it was late and we didn’t want to mess with it} and I got the boys changed into their pajamas and settled into bed.  Fortunately we all got to sleep pretty easily because we were exhausted from the day of travel and the huge meal we’d just consumed.  Zac and I were so excited about the next day: Magic Kingdom!

Sunday

We were up early on Sunday to get prepared and packed up for our first day at MK.  We didn’t get going too early because we knew that the boys couldn’t really hang with it all day long and we took our time getting the stroller packed and ready, so we ended up getting to MK around 10:30.  Just in time to be greeted with a parade down Main Street!  I couldn’t have imagined a more perfect way for Zac and the boys to be welcomed to the Magic Kingdom.  We hustled to find a spot on the sidewalk and watched the parade go by.  The cast members are so energetic and interact with the crowd.  Cole loved it all.  He would point at his favorite characters and shout to them, “Hi, Woody!  Hi, Mr. Incredible!”  He had a blast.  Cannon slept through the whole thing.

After the parade it was getting close to time for our lunch reservation at Tony’s Town Square.  So we hung around Town Square and got some fastpasses to meet Mickey and Minnie Mouse after lunch {more on the fastpasses in a later entry}.  Since Cannon was asleep in the stroller we bypassed the stroller parking area and just parked him at our table with us.  The wait was about 10 minutes, enough time for a restroom break and to wash our hands.  Then we got seated and ordered our food.  I got chicken parmesan, and I think Zac got the baked ziti.  My chicken parmesan was enough to share with Cole, and quite delicious.  Zac’s dish was also delicious, and he had plenty to share with Cole as well.  Dessert was the ice cream bomb {chocolate and vanilla ice cream covered in a chocolate coating} for Zac and a piece of the most delicious chocolate cake with hazelnut filling I’ve ever had.  Seriously, put it on your list.

With our bellies full, we headed out to meet the Mouse.  With the fastpass we got earlier, we were able to skip to the front of the line for our first up-close encounter with Mickey and Minnie.  Cole was armed with his autograph book and could hardly stand still he was so excited.  Mickey and Minnie were in their own private dressing room in the theatre, so we got to take a walk through some hallways and look at a lot of memorabilia.  And then we were there.  Mickey and Minnie were right in front of us!  They called us over to meet them, and Cole ran and gave Mickey the biggest hug.  He was so excited to see them and get their autographs.  Cannon went straight for Minnie’s nose and got some hugs and snuggles himself.  We got autographs and took a few photos, and then we were on our way to explore MK.

Our next task was to find the Baby Care Center so I could nurse Cannon in a comfortable rocking chair and air conditioning.  Fortunately it was on the way to the castle, the hub of MK.  After a quick diaper change and meal for the little guy, we did our tourist thing and got some strangers to take our photo in front of the castle {which I won’t post because my arms look super beefy}.

And then it was off to Tomorrowland!  Zac and Cole rode the race cars while Cannon and I scouted for penny press machines.  Then we got to meet Buzz Lightyear!  This was probably the highlight of the trip for Cole.  He and Buzz did superhero poses back and forth for about five minutes.  I’m sure the other people in line hated us.  Cole and Zac then rode Buzz’s Space Ranger Spin while I took care of Cannon.

 After visiting a few more attractions and grabbing a drink, we headed over to Storybook Circus, a part of the new Fantasyland expansion.  In Storybook Circus, Cole and I got to ride the Flying Dumbo, and then Zac took Cole on the Barnstormer, his very first real live {junior} rollercoaster!

We decided to spend the rest of the afternoon at MK in Adventureland.  There is so much to do at MK that you can’t even attempt to do it all in one day, so we decided to focus on Tomorrowland and Adventureland the first day with high aspirations of going back to Frontierland, Liberty Square, and exploring Fantasyland further on our free day Thursday.  Adventureland was a ton of fun.  We explored the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse, which was my favorite attraction as a child.  I loved climbing the big giant tree and thinking about how fun it must be to live in a treehouse.  Then Cole and I rode the Magic Carpets of Alladin, which is a lot like the Dumbo ride, haha.  Next we went to ride Pirates of the Caribbean, which is a guided boat ride in a “cave” that has various pirate scenes and some incredibly lifelike animatrons.  Cole was very guarded on this ride, and Cannon didn’t know what to think.

Next on our agenda was the Jungle Cruise!  After all the walking we did that day, it was nice to have two rides back to back where we could sit down for awhile.  The Jungle Cruise was a lot of fun.  Our skipper had a very deadpan delivery that cracked me up.  All of the jokes were very punny, and anyone who knows me knows I love a good pun.

After the Jungle Cruise, we explored some shops and I decided to cash in my first snack point for a Dole Whip Float.  AMAZING.  There is a recipe for this floating {haha, with the puns} around on Pinterest, and one of these days I’m going to try it.  It was seriously so delicious and refreshing.  It was getting late into the afternoon by this time and the boys were getting a little cranky, so we headed back to the center of MK to start making our way out.  And then we caught the beginning of another parade!  I seriously loved just walking straight into a parade TWICE in one day.  So we watched the parade and danced and cheered for the cast members, then meandered back down Main Street after another stop at the Baby Care Center.  Zac stopped at the Edy’s store to cash in his snack point and got some delicious chocolate ice cream.  The man loves ice cream.  Then it was back to the bus stop to take us to CBR for a quick service dinner and some relaxing.

Stay tuned for Part 2!


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