Tuesday, June 19, 2012

OMG, Aren't You Done Yet? Disney Part IV

I've been taking a rather leisurely pace through this Disney recap, but it's time to wrap it up. So here is the rest of our vacation, in brief:

Day I Forgot What Number: Hollywood Studios

We got to the park before it opened (for once), and the kids had time for a quick photo with Stitch (though I don't think they really know who he is - but hey, an autograph's an autograph, right?):

Quick summary of the day: Ariel's Grotto (show) - thumbs up, but about 3/4's of the movie is glossed over in one 3-minute segment
Jedi Academy: I was SO excited for Finn to do this. You have to sign up for a time slot, and a small group of kids get to experience Jedi training. Then Darth Vader shows up and the kids get to "fight" him. I thought Finn would be SUPER into this. But as soon as he found out that his cousin Ned was too young to participate, he was out. Too shy, not interested in doing it alone. Maybe next time?
Star Tours: I didn't get to see this, as Lucy was too short (40 inch height requirement). I think Finn and M. liked it? It's one of those 3-D motion ride experiences.
Toy Story Mania ride (we used a fast pass): Finn and M. loved it, but Lucy couldn't quite figure out how to shoot at all the targets. So mixed results for us, but most people love it.
Rain: Yuck
Pouring Rain: Really Yuck
Disney Junior Live show: The kids LOVED this. It was pretty cute, though not the most comfortable venue (we all had to sit on the floor in front of the stage. Chairs would have been nice). The Mickey Mouse Clubhouse crew, Handy Manny, the Little Einsteins, Jake and the Neverland Pirates... all the characters the kids like to watch on TV. It was a hit, needless to say.
Lunch at Hollywood & Vine: Good buffet food, and characters were present. Finn met his hero, Jake from Jake and the Neverland Pirates:

Coincidentally, he had begged me for a Jake doll earlier that day

After he saw that I had already purchase Lucy a Snow White doll (since all her cousins were getting princess dolls, too - peer pressure, man, I can't resist it!)

The kids don't watch much Manny, but they were happy to see him. I think his accent is cute, and considered scoring myself a hug (but resisted, I was too busy chowing on the lobster mac n' cheese from the buffet line)

Special Agent Oso. He really is one "special" bear. His show has the unique capability of driving me absolutely nuts. All part of the plan, my ass!

June from Little Einsteins. Her head is enormous.

Finn was so excited when Jake finally made it to our table, and immediately picked up Finn's Jake doll to pose with it. Seventh heaven, let me tell you. Look at that genuine smile!

Lucy's kind of sweet on him, too, though I think she prefers Captain Hook and Mr. Smee.

Finn was being crabby and lazy, so passed up an opportunity to "meet" Mater and Lightning McQueen. Lucy was all over it, though (but insisted on having M. with her). She LOVES Mater.

After lunch and "meeting" Mater and Lightning, we headed to the car stunt show. It was about 10 minutes too long, and involved the hardest wrangling of Lucy I've ever had to do. Girlfriend was DONE, and did not want to sit still. She also kept trying to stick her hand down my shirt.

I wanted to leave then and head back to the hotel (given my vow from the day before to have a less action-packed day than the last two), but Finn threw a fit a the prospect of not seeing the Indiana Jones stunt show. So he and M. caught the last 15 minutes of the one that was already going on, and Lucy and I strolled down by the big kid rides (Tower of Terror and the Rock n' Roller Coaster). Mostly just killing time. Then we met up with M. and Finn and headed back to the hotel. We suited up for the pool and... it started pouring. We all took cover under an umbrella to wait out the worst of it, and then went swimming anyway. It's not like we were going to be dry in the pool anyway, right?

BBQ for dinner, cards, bed, and onto...

Day I Forget What Number + 1: Animal Kingdom

We managed to get to the park just as it was opening, a slight improvement over our first day at the Magic Kingdom, if not as good as the day before's visit to Hollywood Studios. However, we then got stuck in the SLOWEST bag checker line EVER. Gail from Detroit was very, very thorough in her searches. Very. It was not the most pleasant way to start a day at the happiest place on earth.

We recovered, though, and headed straight for the Safari ride, while a few members of our party headed out to grab us all Fast Passes to the Kali River Rapid ride (v. v. popular). The safari was, as expected, quite thrilling. Lots of animals, many that were quite close to the vehicle/jeep/bus thing. My camera was a bit foggy from the humidity, but I managed to capture a few decent photos. The kids had just seen the Lion King the night before for the first time, so they were especially excited to see the lions, warthogs, and the Rafiki-like monkey (too lazy to look it up). Also, I must add that Finn laughed harder at the Lion King than I have ever seen him laugh - it was hilarious to watch. That Pumbaa, he's a character. Anyway, behold (some of) the animals we saw:


A giraffe from afar

A giraffe thisclose to our jeep

Simba and Nala

Simba's rear end

An ostrich head


A rhinoceros eating

Finn posing in front of The Tree of Life (not a real tree)

Other attractions we hit were the Kali River Rapids (we all got soaked, everyone loved it, even Lucy was big enough to ride), the Festival of the Lion King (GREAT show!), and the It's Tough to Be a Bug 3-D move (just eh). We headed home early, and spent some time at the hotel pool. Then we ditched all the kids with various grandparents, and headed (me, M., my sisters, and their husbands) to the California Grill at the Contemporary Hotel for dinner. It was yummy, overpriced, and generally fabulous. It was so leisurely that, despite our 7:40 reservation time, we were still finishing up by the time the 10:00 PM Magic Kingdom fireworks started - we had the perfect view right from our table. Nice way to finish off the day!

OK, I thought I could finish tonight, but I'm tired. One more day left to go, and then it's back to blogging (or lack thereof, lately) as usual!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Disney Part III: Chef Mickey's and Epcot

I'm back after a longer-than-planned break, but at least I'm back! M. returned on Wednesday from Kuwait, so the presence of adult conversation made it tougher to dedicate myself to blogging for the last few nights. But rather than shower my husband with the accolades he is due, rant about the kids (I could definitely get ranty after this past weekend), or go on and on about Finn's "graduation" from preschool (I only cried a little), I will resume my vacation summary efforts.

I left off at the end of our first day at Disney, which we spent at the Magic Kingdom. Our second day was launched with a character breakfast - Chef Mickey's at the Contemporary hotel. Our party numbered 16 - six kids and ten adults. Combine that with buffet-style eating and roaming, larger-than-life animals, and it was every bit as chaotic as you might think it could be.

Only about half of us had already managed to get some food from the buffet spread before we were greeted by our first table-side visitor, Goofy:

After the requisite autograph book signing and photo-taking, we all had time to shovel a few bites of food in before we had our next visitor, Donald:

Sorry the Big D.'s head is cut off in this photo - for each character, a different complement of kids decided they were game to pose for photos, and my kids must not have been that into Donald, because I don't have any nice group photo shots of them with him.

Then we were graced by the big guy himself, Mickey Mouse! All the kids were excited to see him (except JoJo - she stayed far away from ALL the characters), though I still didn't manage to get a group photo:

Finn scored all sorts of hugs

This is her excited face

Ned's, too, if you couldn't tell

Minnie was another winner, especially with the girls in the group:

And finally, we met Pluto, who was pretty adorable, but still scared the crap out of JoJo. Here she is hiding her little blond head (bottom right-ish part of the photo) pretty much in her mother's armpit:

After we had all eaten our fill (finally), we headed off to Epcot for the day. Because of the breakfast, we arrived at the park well after opening, probably around 10:30. We headed off to try to get fastpasses for the two most popular rides - Soarin and Test Track. Test Track was already sold out, but we managed to get some for Soarin, though our window wasn't until late in the afternoon. We then proceeded to see as much of Epcot as we possibly could, while also battling a pretty steady stream of rainstorms. The Seas with Nemo, Turtle Talk with Crush, Spaceship Earth, that Imagination ride with Figment - we did pretty much everything that was remotely little-kid friendly. We had lunch at the food court in the Land pavilion, and (after another rainstorm and the Figment ride), made our way over to the OTHER side of Epcot - the World Pavilion.

The World Pavilion at Epcot is one of my favorite places in all of Disney. I love the way each "country" is so detailed and so different from all the other surrounding countries. There is a LOT to see and do, and if one has the time and inclination, a lot to eat and drink, too.

It's a different experience with kids, though, especially tired and soggy kids. We pretty much raced around the entire pavilion, stopping briefly to watch the drummers in Japan, chug down a teeny cup of wine in France, and ride the Three Amigos ride in Mexico (where we ended up drifting aimlessly for a little while during a period of "technical difficulties"). We also let the kids get their faces painted during one of the rare dry spells:

I have never seen the two of them sit so still (and quietly!), EVER. And the make-up turned out great - the kids still like to talk about it (and beg us for more face painting, of course).

We also got some nice family photos:

M. likes to point out that it looks like I'm wearing a big white hat, and then I like to hit him.

Bonus picture of Finn getting tribal (I think this was part of the Canada section, maybe?):

We dashed over in the pouring rain to use our Soarin fastpasses, where we learned that Lucy was about half an inch too short to ride. So M. took Finn on the ride, Lucy cried, and I bought candy to placate her (it worked). Once they were done, I headed back in with Finn for a turn (we did the "parent swap" option that Disney is kind enough to provide for families with small kids), while Lucy apparently cried a lot. The ride was definitely fun (you are suspended up in the are in an IMAX-like theater, and soaring over the state of California), which was fortunate given all the crankiness that we took on in order to experience it. It was after 5 pm by the time we finally turned our weary feet toward the Monorail and home. But a lengthy delay on the monorail kept us from getting back to the hotel until almost 7 o'clock. The evening before we had managed to squeeze in a quick pool trip after the Magic Kingdom, but there was no way to make that happen on this night. It was a really, really long day. Fun, definitely, but really long.

Baths, dinner with the cousins, and bed for the kids ensued shortly thereafter. And M. and I vowed to try to make the next day a wee bit shorter.