Brace yourselves, this is going to be a long one.
We’ve returned from the most magical place on earth! And magical it truly was. We had the most amazing time. 5 days at Walt Disney World, 4 parks, 3 days in Tampa, 2 VERY tired parents, and 1 deliriously happy daughter. I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat. I had so many lump-in-my-throat moments, just watching her take it all in.
Saturday, Feb. 10: We leave 6 degrees and snow in Indy for 70 and sun in Orlando. After checking in to our digs at the All-Star Music resort, we head to the Grand Floridian for dinner with Cinderella and Friends. Elena met Cinderella, Prince Charming (hubba hubba), the mice and the Fairy Godmother. We walked around Downtown Disney for a bit, before heading back to our room to rest up for our big day.
Sunday, Feb. 11: Magic Kingdom! We got there early so we could be there as soon as they opened the gates. The look on Elena’s face when she saw Cinderella’s castle was priceless. She loved every ride in Fantasyland, especially Dumbo, Peter Pan’s Flight, the Teacups and It’s A Small World. She was especially excited to meet Mary Poppins. Don’t they look practically perfect in every way? We all loved the 3D movie "Mickey’s PhilharMagic." It was Elena’s first experience with 3D. Mike and I about died, watching her try to grab stuff out of the air. Don’t miss this if you go! By lunchtime Elena was feeling really brave. Mike got her to go on Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain! We spent all day in the park, saw the parade and fireworks, and then crashed big time that night.
Monday, Feb 12: We woke up to rain. But warm and rainy is a hundred times better than cold and snowy, so off we went. We spent the morning and early afternoon in Animal Kingdom. We did a really cool safari ride, where we got to see lions, giraffes, crocs, warthogs and more. We tried another 3D movie – "It’s Tough To Be a Bug" – and Elena’s love for 3D took a nosedive. Freaked her out big time. We saw a great live show about the Lion King. Elena’s bravery surprised us once again – she wanted to go on Kali River Rapids with Mike. Needless to say, they were soaked! They rode it twice in a row, and she would have stayed on all day if we let her. We could have spent lots more time at Animal Kingdom, but we had a big night planned, so it was back to our room for a rest and some dinner. That evening we had tickets for the Pirate and Princess Party. This is a special even Disney is doing through early March. You buy tickets, which are roughly half the price of regular admission. The party begins at 7:30, but you can get into the park as early as 4. They close the park at 7 to everyone else, then you have run of the park until 12:30. Part of the park is pirate-themed, with special entertainment and characters, while the other part is princess-themed. Throughout the park there were special stations set up to collect treasure (beads and candy) in special treasure bags. The best part was that the park was practically empty. We were able to walk on most rides, and ride them as much as we wanted. Elena got to ride some of the things we missed the day before, as well as ride her favorites again. I think she rode Goofy’s Barnstormer roller coaster 3 times. Of course, we also got to meet her favorite princesses. They did a special evening parade, Mickey show and fireworks, too. The fireworks were breathtaking. I’ve never seen anything like it before. Here’s Elena with Minnie (in princess garb, of course). Elena insisted on wearing a princess dress with her Minnie ears . . . Sleeping Minnie! MGM was OK for us. Not a lot of rides like Elena was used to, and the few we went on seemed to be a little scary for her. Mike did Tower of Terror and Aerosmith’s Rockin’ Roller Coaster and was impressed. We stayed for the evening show (Fantasmic). It was pretty cool, other than the fact that you have to stake out a seat an hour before the show. They projected laser images on walls of water, plus there fireworks, and boats with characters on them. Part of the story is that Mickey is having a nightmare (lovely for the kiddos). Elena got really freaked out when the dragon from Sleeping Beauty lit the lagoon in front of us on fire. Poor kid will probably have flashbacks of that like I still have flashbacks of the fire-breathing Pete’s Dragon from my trip to Disney as a kid.
Tuesday, Feb 13: We take a much needed lazy morning and sleep in. Today we hit MGM. Elena about has a heart attack when we see Lightning McQueen and Mater drive in. They stop for about 10 minutes, and the kids mob them like rock stars. Here she is, proud as punch to be touching Lightning.
Wednesday, Feb. 14: Happy Valentine’s Day! We spent our last full day at Disney in Epcot. The very first ride proved to be our favorite: Soarin’. You’re lifted up, feet dangling in front of a huge projection screen to make it look and feel as if you’re flying over different parts of California. Elena also did Test Track with Mike, and said it was one of her favorites, even though she ducked down most of the ride. We had a really neat lunch in Norway at Akershus with the princesses (just can’t get enough of those princesses). Elena and Mike were both in awe of Jasmine (Jasbeen, according to Elena). Elena loved her jewels, Mike loved her . . . well, we won’t go there. Wish we had more time to explore the countries, it’s one of my favorite things in Disney. Here’s Elena in Morocco:
We spent the rest of our trip visiting friends and family. We spent one day and evening with my friend Lisa Barry and her boys in Valrico. Elena and Kyle have known each other since they were 1, and haven’t seen each other since August. They had a lot of fun together. Lisa took us to the Museum of Science and Industry, and Elena had a blast. It was nice to let her do something a little less regimented than Disney.
After that we headed over to Dunedin to visit my Tia (Aunt) Hortensia and Uncle Bill. Other than getting car sick on the way there (lovely), Elena had a fabulous time. She played with her second cousins and got to go to the beach. Here’s our lovely redneck on the beach in Clearwater. Yes, those are boys briefs she’s wearing. And no, it is not swimming weather. It was probably only around 65 that day. If I looked that good in tighty whities, I’d probably prance all over the beach, too.
We returned to reality yesterday. While we were gone, a massive snowstorm hit the Midwest. Something like 17 inches of snow fell in one day. Add that to the snow already on the ground from the week before, and that’s a lot of snow. We pulled into our street to find my dad digging a path for us to our front door! God bless family. So I’ll leave you with what Home Sweet Home looked like today:
Back Home Again In Indiana!
Home of the World Champion Colts (you didn’t think I forgot, did you??)