February 2013 Florida road trip – part 6

Thursday, February 7, 2013

There are too many attractions at Magic Kingdom to attempt to cover the entire park in a single day, so we visited for two days to see everything (and repeat a few favorites!) at this park. Unlike our EPCOT day where we had a solid plan of attack, our plans were much looser at Magic Kingdom since we had more time. We just knew that we would explore Tomorrowland on the morning of day 1, save all of New Fantasyland for day 2, and fit everything else in as necessary!

Yes, it’s barely 9:00 AM and Jasper is already snacking.

Magic Kingdom had Extra Magic Hours on this day, opening early at 8:00 AM for guests staying at Disney hotels (whee! that’s us!). We knew we couldn’t get the boys up and out so that we’d be standing in front of the gates at 8:00 AM when they opened but we still managed to arrive before the extra magic hour was over.

This morning shot reminded me of Fuller in Home Alone.

Since the boys love trains, I knew they’d be excited about the monorail. This was one of the things I prepared them for most! They enjoyed the ride in and we walked through the gates around 9:00 AM, still getting a head start on the masses who were only allowed to board the monorail at that time.

We headed straight to Tomorrowland where we knew we could take the most advantage of the early arrival and short lines. First up was Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger spin. We walked right on! This ride always hilariously brings out Gmummy’s inner competitor, but she managed to finish only second to Jeff who earned the highest score in our group while shooting one-handed, filming Gavin with the other, and not even realizing he could spin his vehicle. He’s a pro space ranger for sure! Gavin even managed to rack up 1,000 points! I tried to explain to Jasper that he should shoot the targets, but he never caught on yet still managed to have lots of fun.

Kristen, Jeff, and I then walked over to Space Mountain while Gmummy and the boys boarded the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover (although we still call this the Wedway PeopleMover since it’s simpler to say!). A ten-minute wait time was posted at Space Mountain but we had no waiting at all – it simply took about ten minutes to walk through the massive corridor to the loading area! When we exited the ride, Kristen realized the water bottle that had been nestled in an outside pocket on her purse was missing so she continued her tradition of losing personal items while on Space Mountain (she lost sunglasses years ago). Whoops!

We met up with the PeopleMover riders and decided to try the Astro Orbiter next. Jasper was too short to go on this ride, so I was excited to bring Gavin on his first rocket ride! This is an attraction we’ve often overlooked in the past. I only recall going on it once before and boy, it’s scary! It’s high and fast and the rocket is tilted at such a sharp angle that I felt like we were going to fall out! Gavin and I ended up being wimps and maneuvered our rocket to a lower orbit so we didn’t tilt so much! This is honestly the scariest Magic Kingdom right for me – even more nail-biting than any of the mountains!

Our group reassembled again and all headed to the race cars at the Tomorrowland Speedway. I’m using the term “race cars” loosely because we drove very slowly! Those little cars are tough to steer, but even more difficult when leaning over from the passenger’s seat and trying to avoid little toddler hands that refuse to let go! (“I want to driiiiiiive, Mommy!”) Jasper and I are still recovering from the whiplash from being thrown from side to side against the center guide track as we tried to keep our car under control!

We ventured to FantasyLand and rode one of Jasper’s favorites – the carousel. All of the horses on this carousel have waist straps so Jasper was able to ride alone for the first time. He loves it! And I was actually able to enjoy a carousel for the first time in recent memory since I’ve always stood beside him on the Pullen Park carousel!

By now, the lines at the rides in Fantasyland were quite long and we decided to leave them until the next morning. We walked over to the new Storybook Circus area of New Fantasyland and ride the new flying Dumbos. The Dumbo ride that had been located next to the carousel was moved and a second ride was added along with an interactive queue. We were given an electronic pager and the boys played in an indoor playground until the pager indicated it was our turn to ride. The Disney Imagineers are simply genius with all of these new interactive queues! The boys adored the ride. Jasper road in an elephant with me (of course).

Next to Dumbo is a new rollercoaster, the Barnstormer with the Great Goofini! Jasper JUST made the minimum height requirement for this ride (yay! the first height restricted ride he could actually go on!). The coaster is very short and not terribly daring, but it was scary enough for the boys and both ended up crying and making it very clear that they did not want to go on again! I was happy that they both wanted to experience a roller coaster and actually went on their first roller coaster rides, even if they ended up hating it!

Gmummy is nervous already and the ride hasn’t even begun yet.

Uh, nope, don’t think that’ll be happening again anytime soon!

No-so-happy campers! ha!

Well, after putting them through the Barnstormer trauma, we went right to one of the most anticipated attractions – the Walt Disney World Railroad that circles the park. The Fantasyland station is right beside the Barnstormer and we wanted to get over to the other side of the park for lunch, so we hopped aboard to Frontierland station.

As we approached our destination, we saw Woody and Jessie signing autographs and taking pictures next to Splash Mountain so we simply had to take a small detour and meet our favorite Toy story characters before lunch! The boys patiently waited in the half hour-long line and had their autograph books signed. While Jasper was shy, Gavin posed for a photograph, unlike the day before when he refused to pose with Pooh and Tigger. The boys were both so excited to have met Woody and Jessie.

The character meet-and-greet was in an open area beside Splash Mountain which, unfortunately, was closed for refurbishment during our visit. Next door, we picked up FastPasses for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad before heading to the Columbia Harbour House, my favorite quick-service restaurant at Magic Kingdom, for lunch.

With tummies full, we walked across the path to the Haunted Mansion. I have vivid memories of this ride on my first visit to Disney World when I was Gavin’s age. The ride broke down as our “Doombuggy” stopped in front of a door with exposed hands shaking it from the other side and ended up falling asleep! Well, turns out Gavin has his mom’s young fear of this ride and he buried his face in Gmummy’s side the entire time. He missed the entire ride! Jasper rode with me (again) but wasn’t phased. He’s still too young to understand that all the ghosts in the ride were supposed to be scary. I love this ride, though, because it’s one of the few remaining rides that has not changed since my first trips to Disney World as a little girl so it was wonderful for the boys to experience some of the same Disney magic that I did!

Our FastPasses were now valid, so Jeff, Kristen, and I quickly boarded Big Thunder while Gmummy watched with the boys from her usual viewing area near the ride exit. We love her location because we always see her during the last few turns of the ride and can wave. It was so cute to see the boys watching with her this time! Kristen and I both had the same realization on this particular ride: It’s our favorite Magic Kingdom ride! We always liked it as much as Space Mountain, but Big Thunder definitely took the lead on this trip.

We continued on to Adventureland and Pirates of the Caribbean. When I described this ride to Gavin before our trip, he thought it sounded scary and didn’t want to go on it, but both boys enjoyed themselves. As I said before, they loved all of the slow-moving boat rides!

A trip to Adventureland wouldn’t be complete with a Dole Whip, so we stopped at Aloha Isle for an afternoon snack and then walked to nearby Liberty Square to pick out Christmas ornaments at Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe.

This looped us right back around to Fantasyland. Peter Pan had a posted wait time of an hour so we decided to try again first thing the next morning and went to It’s A Small World instead. This is Gmummy’s favorite ride and the boys loved this, too. “I like the boat ride with the singing dolls,” Jasper would say.

Deciding that the rest of Fantasyland was a bust for the day, we went back to Tomorrowland (man, we sure got a workout on this day!) to one of Kristen’s favorite attractions – the Carousel of Progress. I love how dated this attraction is and Gavin, “liked it when the building moved.” Weeks later, he was still talking about the moving building and that it was one of his favorite rides!

We chose Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe for a typical cafeteria dinner of burgers and chicken before we all rode the PeopleMover one last time  – the first time of the day for all of us! Jasper, in particular, was so done with the PeopleMover by this point!

We walked through the Emporium on Main Street on the way out of the park where Gavin chose a plush Mickey Mouse and Jasper selected Pluto. Exhausted, we all piled onto the monorail and went back to the hotel.

 

Daily Disney Summary – Day 2: Magic Kingdom

  1. Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
  2. Space Mountain (Kristen, Traci, Jeff) / TTA PeopleMover (Gmummy, Gavin, Jasper)
  3. Astro Orbiter (Kristen, Traci, Gavin) / TTA PeopleMover (Gmummy, Jeff, Jasper)
  4. Tomorrowland Speedway
  5. Prince Charming Regal Carousel
  6. Dumbo the Flying Elephant
  7. Barnstormer with the Great Goofini
  8. WDW Railroad to Frontierland
  9. character meet and greet – Woody and Jessie
  10. Columbia Harbour House – lunch
  11. Haunted Mansion
  12. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
  13. Pirates of the Caribbean
  14. Aloha Isle – snack
  15. Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe – shopping
  16. It’s A Small World
  17. Carousel of Progress
  18. Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe – dinner
  19. TTA PeopleMover (all of us!)
  20. Emporium – shopping
Total distance: 14.7 mi
Max elevation: 236 ft
Min elevation: -121 ft
Total climbing: 2592 ft
Total descent: -2589 ft
Total Time: 11:35:57

February 2013 Florida road trip – part 5

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

photo by Kristen

We started our Disney adventure at EPCOT. We figured that this would be the least intimidating park so it would ease the boys into the Disney experience. It’s the largest park with lots of open space so it’s less crowded and not overwhelmingly overrun with characters. Plus, we assumed that the boys would enjoy Magic Kingdom more so we didn’t want EPCOT to be a let-down if we visited Magic Kingdom first! We wanted to keep our schedule flexible (anything we do with a two-year-old needs to be flexible!) while still making sure we saw all of the main attractions since we had lots of ground to cover in just one day. We arrived just as the park gates were opening at 9:00 AM and since World Showcase didn’t open for another two hours, we had a solid plan for covering Future World first.

a two stroller day – photo by Kristen

We started at Soarin’ in The Land since it’s one of the most popular attractions (translation: longest line) so we hit the line first while it was the shortest it would be all day. Jasper was too vertically challenged to ride so he waited with Daddy outside. Gmummy, Aunt Kristen, and I accompanied Gavin on his first-ever Disney ride! I held his hand the entire time and told him to sit criss-cross applesauce in his hang glider seat instead of dangling his feet over the edge to make it less scary. He loved it! We took advantage of the Ride Swap perk for adults accompanying children too small to ride when the ride was over and Jeff and Kristen (again) were able to jump onto the FastPass return line and walk on with little wait. While they rode, the boys, Gmummy, and I went on Livin’ With The Land – Jasper’s first-ever Disney ride! They both thoroughly enjoyed this slow boat ride.

Next, we grabbed FastPasses for Test Track and headed to Spaceship Earth. No matter how many times we correct him, Jasper calls this “The Spaceship of Earth.” Jasper wasn’t thrilled during the dark parts of this ride, but cuddled beside me the entire time. We shared a time machine vehicle with Daddy and Gavin in the back.

As expected, our FastPass return time window had just opened so we returned to Test Track (I had an immense feeling of planning satisfaction that this whole FastPass plan worked!). Again, Jasper was too short, but Gavin surprised us by being unintimidated by the racing cars and screaming riders on the outside track (even after we told him, “Do you hear those people screaming because the car is driving so fast?” so that he understood!). Test Track was recently redesigned so it was like being on a new ride for all of us. Gavin wasn’t scared during the ride, even during the fast track outside, but he told us he didn’t want to go on it again. Kristen and Gmummy had watched Jasper while we rode, so we switched  and looked at all of the new Chevys in the ride exit area while they enjoyed the ride. I think the boys enjoyed sitting in all of the new cars more than the actual ride!

Gavin designing our test car…

We opt to take a picture of the picture instead of buying the snapshots for sale because we’re classy like that…

By now, World Showcase was open and, thanks to our planning, we were just around the corner from starting our journey in Mexico. I’ll note here that Jasper’s diaper was changed at this juncture only because I used the awesome baby care center at the Odyssey. Never visiting Disney World with a toddler before, I had no idea that each park had one of these luxurious baby centers that featured the largest and most comfortable changing tables I’ve ever seen, small movie viewing room for kids who just need a quiet break, kitchen with microwaves and kid snacks for sale, small dining area to eat snacks… really amazing place!

With so many delicious food choices around World Showcase, we knew we didn’t want to load up on a heavy meal at any one location, so we chose to eat our way around the world! It was nearing lunch time, so we began a with small mid-day meal of loaded nachos and tacos on the Mexican waterfront at La Cantina de San Angel.

photo by Kristen

We remembered that we wanted to document our “eating around the world” adventure only after we were nearly done with our Mexican mini-lunch. We were really hungry!

We purchased each of the boys a Disney autograph book, planning on requesting an autograph from one cast member in each of the countries around World Showcase. I’d read about this activity on many “EPCOT tips with toddlers” web sites in hopes that it would make World Showcase a little more fun for the boys since they’re really too young to appreciate the architecture, shops, and entertainment that the countries offer. While eating in Mexico, a custodial cast member happily assisted us by cleaning fresh bird doo-doo off our table and left his post to bring me two large cups of ice water when I merely requested the location of the nearest water fountain to refill our water bottles. Immediately, I knew that Leo should be our representative from Mexico! I helped the boys ask him for his autograph and he was thrilled to sign for them!

photos by Kristen

We continued our visit in Mexico by taking the Gran Fiesta Tour boat ride. This is a slow boat ride inside the enclosed pavilion featuring Donald Duck and the Three Caballeros. The boys enjoyed this, as they enjoyed every slow-moving boat ride at the parks!

Next up was Norway. In years past, we’d wait up to a full hour in the hot, outdoor queue and then inside. On this day, we literally walked right onto the ride. It almost made us a little sad to see what was once among the park’s most popular attractions go practically unnoticed by guests. As expected, the boys weren’t thrilled with this ride. It’s a little dark at times, a little loud, a little fast, a little scary (polar bears!), and maybe even a little wet. But they need to step out of their comfort zones occasionally and I knew this ride would stretch their comfort level while not being too scary. Neither was begging to ride again but I know in a couple of years they’ll love this ride! The movie afterward is always one of our favorites and the odd-looking seats are actually extremely comfortable.

It wasn’t much past noon, but we were ready for our first snack of the day. Norway’s Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe serves one of our favorite foods in all of Disney World – school bread! I still remember the first time we ever visited this cafe when none of the selections seemed to stand apart from the rest so we asked the cast member behind the counter what she recommended. Without hesitation, her answer was, “school bread!” Since then, eating school bread has been at the top of our EPCOT “must do” list every time we have visited! It was just as delicious as we all remembered.

photos by Kristen

 

photo by Kristen

photos by Kristen

We passed by China, beat a few drums at the African outpost, walked through some of the shops in Germany, and grabbed a signature in Italy before settling in at The American Adventure. Outside, a patriot fife and drum band was playing and we followed them inside after they concluded, taking a seat on the floor around the inner oval and waited for the Voices of Liberty.

Their sound was incredible, as usual, and the boys behaved so well for their up-close-and-personal concert. We’d continued collecting signatures along the way and chose one of the singers for our America signature.

photos by Kristen

We filed into the theater and chose seats up front so the boys could see the animatronic figures easily. Jasper quickly tired in the darkness and eventually fell asleep in my lap. Even after the show concluded and I jostled him around to a more secure position over my shoulder, he didn’t wake up! For a boy stopped taking afternoon naps long ago, he was in a surprisingly deep sleep!

We transferred him to the stroller and continued on to Japan, the country with the largest shopping mall on the lagoon. Kristen had been begging us to try sushi for several months and decided that EPCOT’s Japan would be the perfect place for our first taste. We shared a plate of California rolls at the Katsura Grill. I’ll admit that they were delicious, but still don’t understand why so many people go ga ga for sushi! I really adore the Japanese pavilion now that I’m older, though. I don’t recall ever spending much time there when we were younger (we usually skipped the countries that only offered food and shopping without any attractions), but the grounds are beautiful, the shopping is fantastic, and now we know that there is great food, too!

At this point, we gave up on the quest for autographs. The boys were disinterested after the first two or three and too shy to ask. So, we quit seeking out the KidCot tables where we obtained the remaining autographs and saved their books for any Disney characters we might bump into along the way.

Up next was the pièce de résistance: France! This is by far my favorite country at EPCOT – the movie (my favorite attraction at the park), food, and architecture with beautiful gardens are incredible! Jasper woke up when we arrived at the Impressions de France movie and I extracted him from the stroller. Inside the theater, I urged him to rest his head on my shoulder. He kept stirring because he couldn’t turn completely away from the 180-degree screen, but he quietly rested the entire time. Both boys were so well-behaved in all of the movie theaters we visited at EPCOT, particularly at this France movie which has little commentary and is mostly gorgeous French classical music, often quiet and exposed. It’s easy for little ones to get restless and we’ve watched often when other kids have started making a fuss. I was so proud of them!

Out in the daylight, Jasper was now fully awake from his afternoon nap as we visited the newly renovated pastry shop for more goodies. The boys each got huge chocolate chip cookies while Jeff and I shared a delicious almond pastry and Kristen and Mom shared a couple of desserts. Rather than eat in the crowded dining hall or cramped tables just outside, we brought our goodies over to the park beside the International Gateway waterway. It was a lovely, quiet place to enjoy our sugar-filled French goodies.

The sun was getting lower in the sky so we hustled through the rest of World Showcase, stopping for some shopping in the United Kingdom where we stumbled upon a Pooh and Tigger character meet and greet (and the boys actually wanted to meet them and get signatures but not pose for photos!) and passing by Canada. As we were standing in the brief line to meet Pooh and Tigger, Gavin told me he wanted to know what Pooh’s foot felt like. Sure enough, when it was his turn, he crouched down and touched his plush foot while Pooh signed his book!

Back in Future World, Captain EO was next on our list. Oh, how we were thrilled that this movie had returned! We knew the boys wouldn’t be interested in a loud 3D movie, so Jeff took them on the Journey Into Imagination ride right next door while Kristen, Mom, and I watched the movie. Just recently, Gavin told me, “When we were on the imagination ride with Daddy, Figment wanted us to listen with our imagination instead of our ears.” Weeks later, he’s still mentioning little moments like this from the trip!

photos by Kristen

After an afternoon of sporadic snacks, we were ready for a real meal so we returned to The Land for dinner at Sunshine Seasons. We usually end up eating one meal there every time we visit EPCOT because of the large selection and relatively healthy options. We enjoyed chicken and rice dishes from the Asian counter.

And now, this is where our perfect EPCOT day came crashing down to a disappointing end. Well, it wasn’t that dramatic, but part of the general plan that I mentioned three hours ago in the first paragraph of his blog entry was that we would save The Seas With Nemo and Friends for the end of the day. The pavilion is at the front of the park, so it should either be done first or last and we quickly decided to close the day with Nemo because, even if the boys were really tired, they would still likely want to visit Nemo at an aquarium. It seemed like the perfect plan … until we arrived at the entrance to The Seas just a few minutes past 7:00 PM and were told that the attraction closes at 7:00 PM. AAHHH! In all my planning (and I spent a LOT of time planning!) I never noticed an earlier closing time for The Seas.

They look a little tired … ha!

Fortunately, the boys were quite tired and seemed more confused than disappointed that I’d been talking about “going to find Nemo” for the previous hour and now we weren’t. Instead, we closed our EPCOT day with a trip to the park’s largest gift shop, Mouse Gear, for souvenirs. The boys were allowed to choose one souvenir for each day at the parks. Today, Gavin chose a plush Lightning McQueen that he’d seen earlier in the day at the Test Track gift shop and, after a few initial selections, Jasper finally decided on a stuffed Rex.

Jeff, Gmummy, and the boys headed back to the car and the hotel while Kristen and I stayed to explore World Showcase after dark and take photos. We didn’t want to get stuck in the Illuminations crowd, so we just visited the UK again and returned to France. Finally, we headed back to Test Track one more time to ride in the dark and then drove back to the hotel before the boys were even asleep.

The UK at night…

On to beautiful France…

Our rooms at the hotel had connecting doors which was wonderful on these evenings when we could visit between the rooms. We could read bedtime stories to the boys and then they could head right next door for good night hugs and kisses! In our room, Jeff and I shared a king bed with Jasper (which went surprisingly well – he never kicked us or woke us up once!) while Gavin slept on a folding bed. Within five minutes of lights out, the exhausted boys were both asleep.

Daily Disney Summary – Day 1: EPCOT

  1. Soarin’
  2. Livin’ With The Land
  3. Spaceship Earth
  4. Test Track
  5. Mexico – lunch at La Cantina de San Angel
  6. Mexico – Gran Fiesta Tour
  7. Norway – Maelstrom
  8. Norway – snack at Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe
  9. Germany – shopping
  10. The American Adventure
  11. Japan – shopping and sushi at Katsura Grill
  12. France – Impressions de France
  13. France – snack at Les Halles Boulangerie & Patisserie
  14. United Kingdom – shopping and Winnie the Pooh character meeting
  15. Captain EO/Journey Into Imagination
  16. The Land – dinner at Sunshine Seasons
  17. Mouse Gear shopping
  18. Pictures and Test Track again for Kristen and Traci
Total distance: 9.18 mi
Max elevation: 223 ft
Min elevation: -417 ft
Total climbing: 3048 ft
Total descent: -3061 ft
Total Time: 11:24:09

Jingle Bells

I have a large backlog of blog entries to write (Thanksgiving hasn’t even been blogged yet! Yikes!) but, no, this video isn’t part of the plan to catch up on the past three months. This is actually Jasper singing Jingle Bells in February – Valentine’s Day, to be exact. This is one of many undercover videos I’ve taken of the boys because they’ll stop whatever activity I’m attempting to capture if they knew I was eavesdropping.

Criss-Cross Applesauce

Here’s a video of Gavin doing what he likes best: telling his little brother what to do (sit “criss-cross applesauce” and flap their “butterfly legs,” in this case).

And Jasper is doing what he likes best: doing whatever his big brother does.

It’s really a win-win situation.

A Morning at the Museum

Several days before Christmas, the four and us spent the morning downtown taking photos around the capitol, visiting the NC Museum of Natural Sciences, and eating lunch at The Pit.

I asked the boys to stand in front of the sign. Of course, their interpretation of my simple instruction was slightly different…

Inside the museum, the boys demonstrate their immense talent at taking posed photographs. I don’t like to attempt posed photos, of course, and prefer to capture the action instead, but they were so quickly moving from exhibit to exhibit that I had to stop them a few times so that they weren’t motion blurs in every shot.

The frog exhibit was among their favorites…

We’ve visited the museum several times over the years, but not since the new Nature Research Center opened across the street. The enclosed pedestrian bridge across Salisbury Street was another highlight for the boys.

Gavin was excited to see his reflection in the mirrored hubcap inside this tire.

Not sure how these guys work this way. I would be so annoyed by having strangers gawk at me while trying to work all day long!

Jasper thought this man looked sad and kept hugging his leg.

The boys always love the butterfly conservatory on the top floor. The butterflies loved Jasper on this day and kept landing on his jacket. Fortunately, we didn’t arrive back home at the end of the day with any new pets.