We got to Walt Disney World on Wed., April 19. We did not have park tickets for that afternoon but knew we wanted to do some resort hopping. We honestly parked the truck, jumped out and walked away without even setting up camp. We hurried because we had a boat to catch and a princess to meet. That feeling of anticipation and underlying giddiness didn’t leave us until we pulled out of our site on Sunday. While that makes for an excitement-filled experience, it also makes it difficult to sleep! You know how hard it is to rest after a big party—like prom or a wedding? The event is so huge, so special that your brain just keeps replaying all of it over and over and sometimes sleep eludes. That’s Disney. It’s so fabulous and it’s so exhausting and I thought I might collapse from such thorough fatigue but at the same time, I never wanted it to end. I was Cinderella dancing with the prince and Bambi running from hunters all at once.
That day we rushed over to The Grand Floridian (which is super grand and rooms are around $600 a night) to promenade with Cinderella and her Prince. After that we zipped over to the Art of Animation Resort for a drawing lesson. Drawing comes very naturally to Danny and his Mickey was spot on. Both of these excursions were free and you just have to pay attention to resort schedules to participate.
We visited Epcot first and after arriving in the morning, did not leave until nearly dark. We chatted with Mary Poppins in Britain and devoured nachos in Mexico. Enamored by talented Chinese acrobats, we gobbled pot stickers and talked dragons. We meandered through Germany and Italy, ate still more food in America (brisket hash) and made origami cranes in Japan. If you’re going to Epcot please be sure to use a FastPass to do “Soarin.’” It was phenomenal and I wish we’d done it twice. Definitely on our list for next time. Yes, I’m already plotting a return visit! And the ride in the giant ball was actually great because we got to see all of it through our girls’ eyes and just like with “It’s a Small World,” simple is often best and children don’t get caught up in fancy graphics and technology. Give them a story narrated by Judi Dench and they’re hooked (I am, too, for that matter). Epcot celebrates spring each year with a butterfly house and also they put up all these topiaries (in Disney character shapes) and flowers, flowers, flowers all over. I was watching Paige squeal over a blue butterfly near her shoulder when it hit me that I was awash in happiness. Epcot captured us.
Friday we took to Magic Kingdom arriving during Magic Hours to make the most of the place before the general public is let inside. Danny and Paige immediately took on “Space Mountain” and came out practically dancing with glee. Danny has found his roller coaster buddy! We always knew she’d love them but at Six Flags, she’s never big enough to ride. Not true at Disney. She rode every terrifying coaster her little, madcap heart desired and her daddy was right there beside her. Paige also played the part of Belle’s father, Maurice in “Enchanted Tales with Belle” and I don’t think her feet hit the floor after that. We followed it up by meeting Ariel and by then MY feet didn’t touch the floor, either. We had several magical moments that day including stumbling upon performances at the castle, meeting friends from Austin and watching one of the last performances of “Wishes,” the famous fireworks and lights show.
We sat on the curb of Main Street and gorged ourselves on scrumptious ice cream after watching the parade (the dragon blows real flames of fire!). Someone actually wrote in the sky while we were there, “Jesus loves you.” We also wised up and went back to the RV during the heat of the day for a little R&R. We ate an early supper and headed back across the water to Magic Kingdom and partied till way past all our bedtimes. I highly recommend both “Monsters, Inc, Laugh Floor” and “Mickey’s PhilharMagic.” Just trust me. As we left, Reagan kept saying “thank you for bringing us here, Mommy. Thank you.” Paige was passed out, growing heavier by the second in Danny’s arms but I’m pretty sure she felt the same way.
Saturday we overslept but I was determined not to be crazed about schedules so we got to Animal Kingdom later than expected but without anyone screaming or crying or making death threats. I admit I bribed them on Friday. I paid them $2 each to get ready super fast so we could make the 7:30 a.m. boat. Money well spent, friends. Well spent. But anyway, Saturday ain’t nobody was going anywhere at 7:30 a.m. We made it out the door and hopped on our bus barely awake at all.
Oh, we adored Animal Kingdom! We went on the safari first thing to avoid the already-sinister-even-though-it’s-only-April Florida sun. Our driver was hilarious and so knowledgeable. We accidentally showed up at the right time for “The Lion King Festival” and sat on the third row of the elephant section. That whole performance was extraordinary—the music, the costumes, the twirling baton of fire. When it was over and the spell broke, I was sort of surprised to find myself back in a theme park and not actually in the wilds of Africa. Speaking of Africa, Danny and I really appreciated how Disney designed Asia and Africa. Both of these continents are dear to our traveling hearts and we felt right back on some of our favorite adventures. (Disney did not, however, find it necessary to use Asian or African prices). Also, don’t forget to do the river rafting ride. It’s not nearly as exciting as real rafting but we laughed and laughed and got thoroughly soaked which is the point, after all. Made me miss youth group trips to Colorado!
That afternoon we crashed back at Fort Wilderness and Danny took the girls swimming while I cleaned and took a much-needed shower. Then we went back to the park, better rested and less likely to need medical attention. The Tree of Life at night is absolutely awe-inspiring. It’s all lit up and they play movies on the trunk of it, right over the intricate animal carvings. We laughed and screamed through “It’s Tough to be a Bug” and also had fantastic seats (again with the FastPasses) for “Rivers of Light.” This is a new show Animal Kingdom has put together and oh, my! I think my mouth was open about 65% of the time. I know Paige’s was. Lights, music, super sophisticated timing, water fountains, wild animal images and sounds. This was one of my favorite 30 minutes in the entire Disney trip. By the end of the third day, I had really come to expect awesomeness from Disney but this blew me away.
Sunday morning we slept in, obviously. When I put my feet on the floor, my entire body felt it. We packed up and sadly moved on…but we will most definitely return.