Monday, April 17, 2017

Disney 2017: Day Two

Saturday, April 8, 2017

I think Andrew wanted to kill me when I dragged us all into a taxi at 7:30 in the morning, but I’d made an early breakfast reservation at Be Our Guest, the restaurant in the Beast’s Castle. We got into the park before opening time. Thanks to my research on Disney blogs (there are a million), I knew to order our meals in advance, so we got to go right in without delay. We chose a table in the West Wing, the spookiest area. It was dark, with the sound of thunder, and filled with tattered curtains and a slashed portrait of the prince. Greta was utterly captivated by my retelling of how the prince was so angry at being turned into a beast that he slashed everything in his castle with his claws. She repeated the story many times throughout the day. When she saw a woman wearing (intentionally) ripped jeans, she told me the beast must have slashed them. Anyway, it was fun to eat there, and then we were off.

It was another charmed morning. We barely waited in line to meet Elena of Avalor, and walked right into Ariel’s Grotto to meet Ariel. Then we rode Ariel’s Undersea Adventure, again, twice in a row. Then we rode It’s a Small World. None of this was even a FastPass. It was just…not crowded.

Katherine, Patrick, and Thomas arrived around this time, and we met them at the Enchanted Tiki Room—one of those vintage-y animatronic Disney attractions that has somehow survived for the past few decades. We all rode the Magic Carpets of Aladdin after that, with a FastPass. Then we hoofed across the park to meet Goofy and Donald Duck at Pete’s Silly Sideshow, which once again released us into a souvenir shop, where Greta (surprise, surprise) chose her own Marie and Lucia selected a new Minnie with a candy-print skirt.

I’d taken a risk with two of the FastPasses I booked this trip. The first risky one was Pirates of the Caribbean—definitely an atypical experience for us. Greta was alarmed by the shooting cannons but the girls were mostly okay, if uninterested.

Lunch was a highlight: a character meal for the four of us plus Katherine, Patrick, and Thomas at the Crystal Palace, with Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, and Eeyore. L&G have never been too interested in the Pooh characters, but there’s something about seeing them in “person” that is just so exciting. Bonus: the food on the buffet was, surprisingly, really delicious, unlike most Disney food.

I’d chosen the Haunted Mansion for our final FastPass—which Lucia was really excited about. It was a little too scary for Greta. Definitely not too thrilling for either girl (though I enjoyed it). The ghost that hitchhiked in our little car at the end of the ride was holding a sign that said “New Jersey Here We Come!”

We had a bit of a Disney death march after that, around 3:00pm, trying to get back to the hotel. There is a moment, each day, despite the magic, that I feel a sudden and violent need to get OUT OF THE PARK. It all just becomes too crowded, too much. I wish there was some way for me to anticipate that moment, maybe get about 20 minutes warning, because it took us forever to get to the exit. We were all happy for a hotel swim break.

This concluded my advance, meticulous planning of the trip. We still had the evening ahead, but I hadn’t booked a dinner or a fireworks buffet or anything like that. We ate a casual dinner at the hotel with Katherine, Patrick, and Thomas. Then we took a shuttle back to the park, getting there later than we wanted. Although we were able to make our FastPass for the Magic Carpets (L&G’s choice for their final ride), our plan to ride the Carousel—which Greta desperately, desperately wanted to do—was foiled because, who knew, the Carousel closes half an hour before the fireworks. It had been a long day. Greta’s little lip started to quiver. “I wanted to do this all day,” she said, close to tears. “This was the one thing I wanted to do.” I felt very very bad. There’d been reasons all day to put it off; we assumed there’d always be another chance, and then there wasn’t. Parenting fail.

We’d promised the girls ice cream to eat while we waited for fireworks. But we’d gotten to a spot too late to find any. Still, the fireworks were magical again, and I’m glad we got to see them again because the Wishes show is ending permanently in a few weeks. But then we were in a mass of people afterwards, still trying to find ice cream for the kids. Greta chose cotton candy instead, and then we found Mickey ice cream for Lucia, and then a big piece of the ice cream fell off the stick—ANOTHER DISASTER—and the line to get on the monorail to get to the transportation hub to get our shuttle was just…impossible. It wasn’t even a line. It was a sea of people.

We couldn’t bear that line, so we squeezed free and took another, less insanely crowded monorail to one of the resorts instead and hailed a taxi. Whew. The kids fell asleep in the car. Another 10:30pm bedtime.

On Sunday, we had a day of rest and swimming at the hotel. We went between the Waldorf pool and the next-door Hilton’s lazy river. All three kids had a blast. We had lunch by the pool, and then Andrew and Patrick got some food from a grocery store for dinner in our suite. It was a perfect relaxing day.

Then it was off to Jacksonville for a few days with Andrew’s family, and two days at the beach. The girls wore themselves out. They were so tired the day we left that we could barely get them into the taxi to the airport. Lucia threw up twice on the plane on the way home, declaring it the “worst day ever.” Sigh.

This trip left with more love for Disney. I’m sure we’ll go back. Our experiences there will change as the girls get older, and I’m glad we’re getting these Magic Kingdom trips in now, when the magic of princesses and Pooh and all the rest is still so potent. Soon enough, they’ll be rolling their eyes when a photographer tells them to cup their hands and look surprised—but, at seven and five, you can almost believe they really see Tinkerbell in their palms.

Disney 2017: Day One

Friday, April 7, 2017

Disney, round two! I never imagined we’d be annual Disney visitors, but it seems like that’s the path we’re on. Last week, we flew to Orlando and spent a magical (yes! magical!) weekend at the Waldorf Astoria, with two days in the Magic Kingdom. Lucia and Greta were excited, and so was I. As anyone who’s been to Disney World knows, a visit requires a vast amount of planning, but when the planning pays off it’s all worth it. I planned the heck out of our two days and we were well rewarded.

Though we got to Orlando late Thursday night on April 6, we got up early the next morning to make our 8:25am breakfast reservation at Cinderella’s Royal Table. We had a little time to spare, so we rode Prince Charming’s Carousel, an easy, no-line ride that’s probably Greta’s favorite thing to do at Disney World. (There’s a sad little story that goes along with this later. Stay tuned.) Next, since I was determined to maximize our Memory Maker Photo Pass package, I had the girls’ pictures taken in the Bibbidibobbidi Boutique. These are easily the worst pictures that have ever been taken of the girls. The lighting was terrible, and the poses are everything that’s awful about little girls dressed like princesses. Ah well.

Then it was time for our breakfast in the castle. This is the breakfast where princesses come to each table for autographs and pictures. We did it last year, and it was thrilling. It was still fun, especially getting to go into the castle, but perhaps a bit less thrilling this time. Twice is probably enough for this (insanely) expensive character meal.

Since we were in the park fairly early, we picked up Sorcerer’s Cards back on Main Street and then went to see if there was a line for Ariel’s Undersea Adventure. There was no line. We walked right on, and when the girls clamored to ride again, we walked right on once more. Andrew and I were convinced something terrible had happened in the world and we were the clueless people still riding rides at Disney. But no; when I asked a ‘cast member’ if something terrible had happened, she said we were just there at a good time.

Next up was my favorite ride: It’s a Small World. I love it. Everyone does, which is why we had a FastPass for it. At the end of our ride, as our boat approached the exit, a sign bid goodbye to me, Lucia, and Greta—no Andrew. We wondered if Andrew wasn’t supposed to make it out of the ride. Then we (well, Andrew and the girls) rode the spinning teacups at the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, also a FastPass. But there was hardly any line so they just went right back on for a second ride. Disney magic! No lines!

Thanks to the remarkable Disney app, I saw that there was only a tiny line for meeting Minnie Mouse and Daisy Duck at Pete’s Silly Sideshow, so we went there next. Conveniently, we exited into a gift shop, so we let the girls buy their souvenir of the day. Greta picked a Minnie like Lucia’s that she’s coveted since our last trip. Lucia chose a Marie (the white cat from Aristocats), which Greta of course immediately coveted.

The low point of the day was our lunch at the Skipper Canteen. The girls’ food was terrible and Lucia refused to eat. Alas.

Then the day got back on track with a ride on Peter Pan’s Flight—a favorite of all of us.

After that it was around 3:00—time for a swim break at the hotel. It had to be a rather short break, though, because we had reservations for the Dessert Buffet at Tomorrowland Terrace and Plaza Garden fireworks viewing. Back in the park, we rode Dumbo the Flying Elephant, which is just an ordinary amusement-park-like ride but which the girls loved—it’s on the top of their list to do again next year (!). Then we had a quick dinner of hot dogs at Casey’s, a place we wholly dislike because it’s teeming with far too many people; but it was fast, and we got to see some of a dance parade, and Lucia was overcome with dancing along with the characters.

Finally it was time for dessert and fireworks. This experience was a splurge, one of those Disney price tags you can’t think too much about, but I have to say I’d do it again. The desserts were, as you might imagine, lovely—all kinds of little pastries and cakes, plus coffee and juices, crackers and cheese, and ice cream. L&G were thrilled. We were led to our reserved spot on the lawn around 8:30pm, and I gave the girls a bunch of glow sticks and wands I’d gotten at the Dollar Tree. They made a campfire out of the small ones and roasted glow-bracelet marshmallows. But all that—the entire day, in fact—paled in comparison to the Wishes fireworks show. It was pure Disney: Tinkerbell flying from a window at the top of Cinderella’s Castle; shooting-star fireworks; songs about wishing and magic. Oh my goodness. Lucia and Greta were so overcome that they kept throwing their arms around each other in pure happiness. And as you watch your children’s faces aglow in the fireworks, their eyes wide with the magic of it all, and your own eyes fill with tears as “When you wish upon a star…” wails out from the speakers…there’s only one possible response: Damn you, Disney. DAMN YOU. The emotional manipulation is shameless and constant. No one can escape it.

The girls didn’t get to bed till 10:30pm.