Friday, April 21, 2006

Our Disney Adventure

We're in the magical land of Disney! The five of us were invited to spend a week with the in-laws at a Disney resort, complete with Disney park passes and meal plan, so we took the kids out of school (haha) and headed for sunny Florida via Amtrak.

The Auto Train was surreal. We got on, spent a few minutes in our tiny closet-sized room, then spent the rest of the evening in the lounge eating dinner and watching Narnia. I put the baby to bed back in the room, the Boyz watched the rest of the movie and went to bed also, in pull-out bunks above ours. We woke up in Florida, had breakfast and got off the train about 30 minutes from Orlando. Unbelievable!

We met the rest of our group and ate lunch at the Old Key West resort, then headed for the Magic Kingdom. We had a fun luau-type dinner at the Polynesian resort and did a bunch of attractions, but not nearly all of them.
Fastpass is definitely a great thing. We stayed until VERY late, finding it hard to tear ourselves away from the amazing fireworks display at the end, but realizing it might be hours before we got home if we stayed until the end and had to fight the crowds to leave. It was good enough to make it worth it another night, though.

Day 2 was spent at Epcot, which was very cool. Everyone enjoyed the Spaceship Earth ride that traced the history of communication from the cavemen to today - especially me, having spent the last 4 years studying world history with Numero Uno in the homeschooling realm. Also interesting were The Land and The Living Seas exhibits - it's all good stuff. We ate in Mexico and spent a little time looking at the other "countries" in the World Showcase, then came back so the bigger boyz could swim at the resort before bed.

Day 3 was awesome - I got to take Numero Tres for the whole day by myself while the bigger two went outlet shopping with Dad (hey, their choice - I thought they were nuts!) I got to experience The Magic Kingdom through a three-year-old's eyes, which is probably the very best way to do it. I mean, the kid probably really believes we're sailing over London in the Peter Pan ride when he looks down. Unfortunately, he hasn't seen the movie Peter Pan in recent months, so he had no idea who these people were, even when I tried to explain it, which is why my mom has been bugging me to show him these silly movies for the last few weeks...

Well, thanks to Mom, he DID know about Cinderella, so he was thrilled to see her ordeal finally end as she was crowned Princess on the steps of the castle with all of her princess friends in attendance today. We munched on chicken fingers and applesauce near the steps while we watched the festivities together.

Probably the highlight of his day was visiting Mickey's house. The kid sat on the President's lap last year, but that experience has paled in comparison with actually getting to meeet and hang out at the house of his TRUE hero, Mickey Mouse. Today he even had a private audience with the Big Rodent and got his picture taken again with him. Very exciting stuff.

After numerous failed attempts to contact the hubby and big boyz via walkie-talkie (I did manage to contact several other families on the thing though...) we hopped on the Monorail and headed for Epcot. Eventually we met up with the rest of the gang in Germany for dinner, which was a tasty buffet with live Oom-Pah entertainment. Afterwards, we saw the American Adventure animatronic/movie experience which was cool, especially for Numero Uno who believes he knows everything about American history already. We stayed for the fireworks this time, which were spectacular of course.

Day 4 was spectacular. Even Outlet Man spent the day with us at the Magic Kingdom and admitted he had a good time. We spent much of the day together with the rest of the extended family, so it was fun and we had extra help with the kids. We started out with Pirates of the Caribbean and the riverboat cruise in Adventure Land. We rode Aladin's Magic Carpets in the rain, then our own little Savage clan saw the Mickey's Philharmagic 3-D multi-sensory experience movie (the second time for me and Numero Tres, but he still didn't want to wear the 3-D glasses) and everyone liked that. After the Haunted Mansion, the 5 of us did the Hall of Presidents and were very impressed with the life-like animatronics.

One of the best things today was the Pooh character buffet at the Crystal Palace. I knew the baby would love meeting Pooh, Piglet, Tigger, and Eyore, but it was just as much fun for everyone else! Numero Uno has been collecting autographs on his big red, white & blue felt top-hat, and we all marveled at how the Pooh characters could manage to sign their names wearing furry character mittens. We took a LOT of pictures.

After dinner, the grandparents and baby niece went back to the resort and we hung out with my sister & brother-in-law. We did the Peter Pan ride again, then took Numero Dos on the Stitch escapes adventure, which made him cry because Stitch the Alien gets loose and spits water on you while you're locked in your seat in the dark. I didn't like it much either, to be perfectly honest, but I was impressed with the effects. We made it up to him by going on the Buzz Lightyear ride again, which was probably the favorite of the Boyz.
We finally saw the whole fireworks display from a good spot, which was spectacular! It was such a good time, we even stayed for the light-up parade, and wound up getting home at about midnight. It was worth it, though - very magical all around.

Day 5 was spent mainly at Animal Kingdom. It was okay - the highlight was probably the Festival of the Lion King which was amazing - otherwise, we did a lot of walking around looking at animals like you would do at the zoo (and I've been to better zoos, so it wasn't that impressive in that respect). We ate lunch at a place in DinoLand USA which turned out to be McDonalds (ick...) but at that point, who was going to suggest all 12 of us leave the air-conditioning to find another place to eat? Hubby and I took the Boyz to see a 3-D movie about bugs, but the two older Boyz hated it because it got dark and scary at one point. Chickens... We ended that part of the day with a special engagement safari and dinner extravaganza. The food was good, but the safari was just okay - I like Lake Tobias better. No giraffes or elephants could be found and if you've seen one gazelle, well...

The best part of today was after we put Numero Tres to bed and took the two big Boyz back to the Magic Kingdom. Did you know that if you stay at a Disney resort, the park sometimes stays open for you until 3 a.m.? Neither did we, until tonight! We only stayed until 1, but it was a lot of fun, going on whatever we wanted with hardly any lines, no heat, pretty lights and fireworks... it was a good time. After midnight, I think they sprinkle some kind of fairy dust on the place, because we all started to feel quite silly and wacky. Numero Uno finished his collection of signatures on his big hat with Goofy and Donald and we got some really nice pictures.

Finally, it was time to go. I would have liked another day or two - there were a few things I wanted to see at Epcot still, and we didn't go to MGM at all. We took the Auto Train back, feeling more relieved than ever that we didn't have to drive. I am wiped out. They must spray something in the air at Disney World - Pixie Dust or something - that keeps you feeling happy and energetic while you're there. I didn't get a single full night's sleep, but I still woke up feeling good every morning and walked 10+ miles every day without feeling fatigued. Today I woke up on the train feeling groggy, and I've been sluggish all day. I guess I'm feeling Pixie dust withdrawal!

In any case, I was reluctant to go, and I never would have chosen this on my own to do, but I'm glad we went, and I would go back in a few years and do it again. The thing that impressed me the most was the effort that goes into everything - especially the performances, parades & light shows. You leave feeling like this was a really special day - that of all the days to be at the park, this was the best one. Never mind the fact that they do the same fireworks / light show every night - we only got to see it once and it was so spectacular that it felt like a one-time special thing we were lucky enough to see.

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