We are back, after 4 days spent in the Happiest Place on Earth (at least to some). We went for C's 3rd birthday -- something he reminded us about on a near-daily basis for the past month, at least -- and really, we had a blast.
There is just something so special and magical about seeing your kids having -- well, just SO. MUCH. FUN. They were so active and so happy (99% of the time, anyway) and the energy was just effervescent.
Hotel - we stayed at Art of Animation, a Disney property in the "Value" category.
* PROS - spacious rooms, great play areas for kids, Fast Passes come with your stay.
* CONS - somewhat lame food options (big cafeteria that was crowded), not on the monorail or within walking distance, kind of had a college dorm/barracks feel to it, had all of these sculptures that were really climbable (i.e. tempting to the kids) with "no climbing" signs next to them. Ummm - very annoying for a kid-centric resort!
I happen to be a bit of a hotel snob so I'm not sure this would be my first pick for next time, but it worked.
HUGE character sculptures at Art of Animation resort
We drove - it's just 3.5 hours from Miami Beach though the way home took more like 4.5. I think Annabel slept most of that 4.5 hours (!). They were pretty happy in the car, watching shows and playing some games on the iPad which is a MAJOR novelty for them (literally never allowed in our house and only reserved for plane flights and long road trips).
sleeping kids + a serious driving face
Family: We went up as a big group just as we did in 2015. Josh's parents, his sister/BIL, their kids, and our 2 made up a total of 10. I am sad I did not get a good group photo this year!!
Our stay: We did 3 nights:
- Friday 2.17 was travel & Animal Kingdom, with dinner at Boma (highly recommend!)
Highlights: Mt. Kilimanjaro Safari ride, TriCeraTop Whirl (not terribly exciting but Cameron thought it was amazing), the kids meeting Minnie & Mickey
on safari with C
- Saturday 2.18 was Magic Kingdom
Highlights: Breakfast at Belle's Castle, Annabel going on Big Thunder Mountain with Josh, Small World (because . . you just have to), Little Mermaid ride, meeting Ariel, the carousel
not exactly sure where this was :)
- Sunday 2.19 was Epcot
Highlights: Soarin' (virtual-reality type ride where you really feel like you are flying over the world - amazing!!), the play area after the Figment ride, the countries -- including a snack in Norway (DELICIOUS pastries) and dinner at Chefs de France, where Cameron managed to charm some random strangers and we all proceeded to spend the entire meal cracked up over his antics.
- Monday 2.20 we had a character birthday brunch for C (it was his actual bday!) at Ohana
Cameron was not tall enough for Soarin' or Big Thunder Mountain so . . . next time.
1) Disney TIRES KIDS OUT! (And adults, which makes sense because we covered an average of ~10 miles on foot per day). Both kids were passed out 3 out of 3 nights on the way back to the hotel. Major win. They didn't sleep in, though.
2) The food is just okay (mostly: exceptions on our trip were Boma and Chefs de France, which we really liked). But it's okay because a) there's always ice cream! and b) food generally tastes good when everyone is having fun. The kids ate SOOO much sugar on this trip. Come to think of it, so did I :) I'm confident we'll all recover.
delicious pastries in "Norway"
3) The character experiences really are magical. They do such a nice job, and the excitement in both kids' eyes at meeting these stars in person was just priceless.
C with Belle
Annabel demonstrating a tail-wiggle for Ariel
Can't forget Mickey
4) There will be moments. Things won't be 100% perfect. This was a CROWDED weekend and we definitely became frustrated at times that we couldn't go on as many things as we would have liked. But staying calm & moving on works. Also snacks can help too. And the memories are still so sweet.
Don't worry, she recovered.
So that's a wrap! I think we'll probably be back in 2 years -- that feels like the right interval for us. It was definitely much easier and more fun with a 3 year old C than a 14 month-old C (last time).