If you saw Brian North... A LOT... last week - the entire 5:30 show and the entire FOX Eastern Carolina show - yep, that's my fault! :) I was on vacation at the most magical place on earth!!! (and after viewing the week through my daughter's eyes, I do believe it IS the most magical place)
I spent the week with my husband and daughter at Walt Disney World, celebrating my daughter's fourth birthday. Now, the fact that I have a four-year-old daughter could be a blog post all to itself - holy crap, where did those four years go? - but I'll stick to the highlights of our trip and some of the observations of a person who has not been to Disney World in more than 15 years. We did four parks in five days, one day at each and two days at the Magical Kingdom, which (no surprise) was my daughter's favorite. We also were in on the test phase of the magic bands. Don't know what those are? I'll get to that in a bit.
First day, the Magical Kingdom for my daughter's 4th birthday. We got there before the park opened because we had 8:15 a.m. reservations at Cinderella's Royal Table inside the castle. It was very expensive for a breakfast but worth every penny because my daughter dressed up like a princess (Cinderella somehow knew what hotel room we were staying in and left a dress, tiara and wand - hee, hee, hee) and loved going into Cinderella's castle! If you ever do it, I HIGHLY recommend the reservations before the park's 9 a.m. opening (as long as there are no early magic hours). You'll have to reserve it about 180 days out during busy times, and you'll have to set your alarm for about 6 a.m., but it was amazing to walk through the park with no one there! Perfect way to start our trip and my daughter's birthday. She met Cinderella, Ariel, Jasmine, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty and had a special chocolate slipper dessert. So what if it was 9-something in the morning -- it was her birthday so chocolate was in order!!
Her first ride ever at Walt Disney World - the carousel.
My daughter's favorite ride at the Magical Kingdom - Big Thunder Mountain. I have a speed demon on my hands, folks. Watch out when she turns 16!
We ended our first magical day with a birthday dinner at the Liberty Tree Tavern and a Minnie Mouse birthday cake. Yes, you can order a special cake through Walt Disney World and have it delivered to your table. And no, it's not cheap, but it was tasty!
Some of our favorites at the Magic Kingdom: It's a Small World, Big Thunder Mountain, Ariel's Grotto (where you meet her), The Barnstormer, Dumbo the Flying Elephant, Mad Tea Party and Enchanted Tales with Belle (she tells a story). I also love the Main Street Electrical Parade and the Wishes Fireworks Show.
Before we get to day two, if you're planning a trip to Disney World, get the Magic Bands if they're offered to you. I loved them! Right now, you can only get them if you're staying at certain Disney resorts as they're still being tested. It basically puts your park tickets, your room key, your fastpasses and your credit card on this waterproof band around your wrist. You don't have to carry it all - it's so conveinent. You select a private pin, so if you lose it, someone can't just pick it up and start using your credit card. And it gives you three Fastpasses at one time, which you can choose in advance. If you're familiar with Fastpasses, you know how awesome that is. Just a note from me though, I found most Fastpasses I had for the morning (11 a.m. and earlier) were wasted because the waits were not long yet and you could just do standby.
OK, so sidebar done - day two was at the Hollywood Studios. It's not my favorite park, but this was my daughter's and my husband's first trips - so I wanted them to see it all. We had lunch at the Hollywood and Vine because it's a character lunch with Jake from the Neverland Pirates, Handy Manny, Secret Agent Oso and June from the Little Einsteins. My husband fell in love with the lobster mac-n-cheese there, and my daughter likes watching the Disney Junior shows, so it ended up being a good pick. It was fun.
Some of our favorite rides/shows here: the Beauty and the Beast show, Star Tours, Toy Story Midway Mania, Fantasmic (very good, but didn't live up to the hype for me) and Disney Junior Live on Stage.
Day three - Animal Kingdom. Having been to Disney World a dozen-plus times in my lifetime (I was born in Florida), the Animal Kingdom is the one park I had not been to as it was still under construction the last time I visited WDW. So this one was a first for all three of us, and I really liked it. Do the safari ride first and early! When we got there at 10 a.m., there was already a 65 minute wait. Thank goodness we had a Fastpass+ for it. (It is one of the few rides I found was good to have a Fastpass for in the morning) It was a nice (but bumpy) ride, but my husband's and my favorite thing at Animal Kingdom was Finding Nemo - The Musical! It was fabulous!
Some of our favorites here other than Nemo: Festival of the Lion King and Kilimanjaro Safaris. Our daughter also got to meet several character here - fun!
Day four was Epcot - a place where you can travel around the world as you meander around a small lake. I remember not being so fond of this park as a kid, but there are some new rides here to make it more entertaining for the younger set and the International Food Festival just happened to be going on, so there was a lot of great food to try out. My daughter's second favorite ride out of all the parks is - surprisingly - at Epcot. It's new since the last time I was here, so it was also a first for me. It's called Test Track. You "design" you own car and then "test drive" it. The ride goes through stops and starts and turns inside, and then goes outside where you take a turn at 60 mph! I thought my daughter would start crying, but instead, she let out the happiest laugh ever! So cute. I would also recommend a Fastpass - it had a long wait early. As did Soarin', another newer ride. It was awesome! It had a 60+ minute wait by 9:45 a.m. Can we say Fastpass? I had also read somewhere that Epcot has the shortest lines of all the parks to meet the characters - ummm... no. Only Sleeping Beauty had a short line, so we met her... again. We met her three times on this trip, and funny, she looked a little different every time! :)
Some of our favorites at Epcot are definitely Soarin' and Test Track, and I personally like Journey into Imagination with Figment, but I think that's because I loved it as a kid.
Day five, our last at WDW - sniff, sniff - took us back to the Magic Kingdom. We caught some of the things we missed on day one there, and we still didn't get to do all the rides/shows I had wanted to catch. Oh well, that means we have to go back again, right? We did leave the park by 5:45 p.m. to catch our last dinner reservations of the trip - Chef Mickey's - where my daughter finally got to meet Mickey and Minnie! And mommy got to meet the dessert buffet...
Having gone to Disney so many times as a child and young adult, returning to Disney with my own daughter certainly held its fair share of magic. That this trip was for my daughter's fourth birthday made it all the more special. I don't know if it does the same for everyone, but WDW certainly brought out a little bit of the kid in me. I was anxious to get to all the rides, find the Disney characters and search out the special sweets and treats that are scattered around the parks. Is it the most magical place on earth? Well, I guess that depends on you - but in my daughter's eyes it was ALL magical (she even thought fairies came to our room every day to straighten it and arrange her stuffed animals) and that made the entire trip just perfect.