Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Disney: Journal and Notes

We stayed at Port Orleans Riverside in a Royal Room (kids loved the fireworks headboards). Future visit, I'd like to be closer to a park (Caribbean Beach Resort, for example).

First night, we did Chef Mickey's. Won't do that again. It was too much to have a day of travel and then hit the ground running and deal with transportation and everything. Next visit- check into the hotel and then just chill, hit the pool, etc.  It was fun to meet characters - but the dinner was late, the kids were tired and it was the one time we had a less-than-friendly server.  Add to it the frustration of a long wait for a bus back to our room and it was just a really long and late night for a quick and so-so dinner.
We did 1 park per day and would do Park Hopper next time. We were up and at 'em for Epcot on Weds and it would have been better to take that morning to ease into the day. Maybe hit Animal Kingdom first since it's more shows and entertainment and a zoo like feel - less new and overwhelming.  Animal Kingdom also closes earlier and doesn't have the late night entertainment - we were done with the park well before it closed.  So I think it's ideal for a first park or less-than-full-day option.
Day 1 was EPCOT.  We didn't start having actual fun as a family until the evening at Epcot - after a midday rest. Table service at Coral Reef for dinner helped set the tone for a good evening.  But the morning was rough.  The kids were overwhelmed and tired.  They had their own expectations for what Disney is supposed to be... and who knows if it met their expectations or not.  I didn't stick to my plan and that was also a problem.  Instead of going for Fastpasses right away, we went to the Seas area.  It was a great area to start out in but with each kid taking turns having snit fits and such... it wasn't as awesome as it could have been.  We liked the Nemo ride.  We loved Turtle Talk with Crush.  Zach and I loved the aquarium area - Teagan was less impressed and busy having a mini-meltdown with Dad.

Zach had a meltdown at our snack stop at Seasons.  A fly landed nearby.  And he fell apart.  Big crocodile tears.  it was the beginning of what felt like the end.  Disappointment abounded as we tried to do Captain EO (both kids had to be removed from the theatre) and then tried to do Journey into Imagination with Figment but it broke down.  We headed toward World Showcase, picking up the Agent P mission along the way - which was not a hit with the kids.  However, the 3 Caballeros ride in the Mexico pavilion was a huge hit.  We grabbed lunch in China.  We enjoyed some fun in Italy with Sergio.

Then a quick ride on a Friendship Boat and back to the resort for a desperately needed rest time.  Back to Epcot for dinner at Coral Reef.

You can see that some of us were NOT having a good time...

But we got over it and ended up enjoying Epcot after a lovely dinner.  Unfortunately, we learned (too late) that many of the rides close at 7:00 so I missed my chance to ride Soar'n or Living with the Land.  However, Teagan became a big fan of Spaceship Earth (the ride inside the big ball).

Day 2 was Magic Kingdom and it was great all around. Midday rest again. Got there early (before park opened at 8 for Extra Magic Hours). Hit Mommy's plan exactly so we got to do the major things right away and utilized Fastpass for things. We really learned how to make Fastpass work for us! No table service this day - just did counter service at the park for lunch (Cosmic Ray's) and at the resort for a late dinner (came home before dark, though).

Teagan was chosen to play Belle's father, Maurice, in the telling of the story of how Belle and Beast met.

Tilting at windmills in It's A Small World

My Prince Charming!

One of the best snack credits we spent!

Loved riding the train around Magic Kingdom!

Zach especially loved the Country Bear Jamboree!

Day 3 was Hollywood Studios and Star Wars Weekend. Fun to see the characters around but didn't feel like there was much super special about the Star Wars thing. Didn't feel like there was a lot for us to do at HS - maybe when the kids are older. Missed the backlot tour and the lights, motor show and Beauty and the Beast show and want to do those next time. Had our awesome magic moment when the kids got picked to be Junior Directors and kick off the Indiana Jones Stunt Show! Left before the Hyper Space Hoopla and missed out on Fantasmic. Dinner was Sci Fi Drive In Theater - enjoyed it.
We did, however, love Toy Story Mania.  We also really loved the Magic of Animation area.  Jeff would have spent the day in the Animation Academy.  His drawing of Mickey Mouse was awesome!  This was also a great place to meet characters - Mickey, Mr. Incredible, Wreck It Ralph and Venelope, and Pluto!  Teagan and Dad enjoyed the Muppets 3D experience (Zach was overwhelmed by it so we had to leave).  
I felt most lost in Hollywood Studios.  It seemed like it was hard to know where to go and how to get around.  Plus, it was VERY crowded (due to Star Wars Weekend).  We tried to play in the Honey I Shrunk the Kids playground and couldn't hardly move through the space so bailed on it quickly.
However, the most important lesson I learned came from Hollywood Studios so that alone was worth it.  
Stitch stole Zach's hat!

Day 4 was Resort Day. Slept in, went to Downtown Disney on a boat, bought souvenirs, came back to hit the pool and thunderstoms rolled in so we hit the arcade instead. Lunch at Portobello's Downtown. Dinner at the resort.
Day 5 was Animal Kingdom. Tusker House for breakfast/lunch. Liked the animals (like our Zoo experiences better - safari was fun but you zip through. We like to stay still and watch the animals and feel like Indy and Cincy and Louisville Zoo all get you way closer to the animals). Loved the shows (Festival of the Lion King and Finding Nemo: The Musical) and the parade.

That's me in the red shirt and the hat - dancing to the african drums!

Jeff - checking out Goofy's bum

Teagan participating in Goofy's little parade around Tusker House

Yup - we're the family that snuck a pic of Rafiki's blue bum and totally laughed about it!

She was pretending to be scared - this lizard really enjoyed getting attention up by the glass!

Parade - Zach was excited to see Donald and give commentary on Donald's float.  Had we known how much he'd love the parade, we would have hit the parades in each park!

Day 6 we did breakfast at 1900 Park Fare and then flew home.  Love this character meal - Mary Poppins, Alice in Wonderland (who talks 90 mph and did a great bit at our table about not eating the biscuits because they make you grow).
Next time, I'd most likely add some days so we had more rest and recovery time. Fly in, quiet evening, easy morning, hit a park for dinner and fireworks. Now I know about the dinner and Fantasmic packages at Hollywood Studios, for example. Would totally do that next time.
Favorite restaurants - Coral Reef and Portobello and Sci Fi and Tusker House. Really liked all of those. Not sure I'd repeat any of them - just because I would want to have different experiences next time.
Favorite attractions - loved the shows at Animal Kingdom. Loved Enchanted Tales with Belle and loved watching Zach fall in love with Country Bear Jamboree and It's A Small World. Loved that Teagan was eager to be brave. Loved that Zach used glow sticks and bracelets to combat fear of dark rides. Loved that Teagan fell in love with the classics like Carousel of Progress and Spaceship Earth. Loved that Zach "won" on the Buzz Lightyear ride (highest score in our family). Loved watching Jeff crack up in the Monsters Inc Laugh Floor. Loved that Teagan and Jeff did Haunted Mansion together and that Teagan had been so excited for it and fell in love with it.
I don't have any particular favorite rides - I skipped over the things I would have loved like Space Mountain and the coasters and the more thrilling rides. I am the only one in my family that would go for that. I wish we could have enjoyed Epcot more - we missed Soar'n and Living with the Land and Jeff wanted to do Mission:Space. We also missed Journey into Imagination because it broke down - boo! I wanted to see Figment!
Totally loved the movie at Hollywood Studios about Walt Disney's life. Kids loved it, too. We wanted to go back and watch it again but ran out of time and energy. I had to miss out on the Muppets experience because we learned that Zach cannot handle anything 3D without a freak out.
The main way we kept the kids happy - dry feet, distraction, and feeding them regularly.
Future character meal - Crystal Palace (all the Pooh friends), Akershus (princesses), Garnde Grill (Chip and Dale and Mickey and Pluto).
Future restaurant plans - dinner and a show combos for Fantasmic and for IllumiNations. Also, had to cancel our Ohana reservation because it was WAY too late. Killed me to cancel it - it was one of my top things I wanted to do. So it's top of the list for next time.

Jeff's observation was that he felt like we were overly scheduled for being on vacation.  So planning more down time would be good.  He understood that to eat at certain places, a reservation was really necessary.  But it felt like the reservations drove us on too much of a schedule.

So that's it - a basic run down of our trip and our observations!  Jeff and I would love to go back on a "just us" trip - the kids totally cramped our style.  And a future family trip might happen in a few years - when both kids are more adventurous!



Jaime said...

I'm loving your trip reports! I completely agree about Animal Kingdom - we have such amazing zoos here in the midwest AK can seem like a letdown. In fact, we didn't even go there on our 2012 trip. And we also do park hopper - I know it's a ton more money, but it's worth it for us since Connor still napped. He could never do a full day at Epcot - Scott calls it the land of really angry three year olds. :) And a trip sans kids is on our list too! Scott doesn't like the big rides either - maybe we can plan our grown up only trip at the same time and we can hit Space Mountain while the boys take on It's a Small World! LOL

Tracy said...

Park hopper is definitely worth it. We usually do the early morning hours at whichever park has them then switch to a different park once they let everyone in. Also we only do one character meal a trip. I hated having to be on a schedule for eating. Much easier to be spontaneous when you see that a certain ride has fastpasses that are a great time and you can jump on that choice.

Nancy said...

You forgot one of your favorite parts in MK....bumping into your friend!! I am so glad that you had a great time.

Garret said...

What an awesome family vacation. I bet you need a vacation from your vacation?

Leigh Powell Hines said...

Fabulous observations. At first, I laughed because you are supposed to be at the most magical place on earth and then the kids are unhappy and have meltdowns. I know exactly what your husband means about being overscheduled.