I’m going old-school and recounting our Disney trip with recap after monstrous recap. You can read about the start of our trip here, as well as Day 2 and Day 3. Our photos from the trip can be found on my flickr page.
Long before we ever packed a single item for our trip, we came up with an itinerary for the week. I did the bulk of my trip planning using the Disney bible, also known as The Unofficial Guide Walt Disney World. I’ll post more on how we planned the trip and my best tips for an enjoyable trip later, but if you have a trip on the horizon I highly recommend this book.
Anyhow, the corresponding website to the book has a section that helps you gauge crowd levels for each park on the days you’ll be visiting. Based on their recommendations, we planned out our itinerary for the week and Animal Kingdom was up first. We’d also made the decision early on to skip any character meals or special dining reservations. Our kids just aren’t that into characters, so we chose to spend the money on tickets to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party instead. We knew going into it that this would be a long day, but we also knew the kids would love it and their enthusiasm would carry us through.
We started the day at Animal Kingdom. We had our trusty Touring Plan in hand and were there before the gates opened, ready to make a beeline for Kilimanjaro Safaris Expedition. In this attraction, you ride through Disney’s version of an African savanna and get glimpses of exotic native animals. One of the benefits of doing this early is that the animals are often more active. If memory serves, the animals were much more abundant and active than what we experienced on our last trip.
Next we tackled Everest. We knew it would be close as to whether Eli could ride or not. He’s thisclose to 44″, depending on his shoes, posture and hair style. Sadly, he didn’t make the cut-off for Everest, so Elena and Mike rode first and then we switched off so I could ride. This had just opened when we were there last time. I couldn’t ride it, being knocked up and all. Holy mother of a roller coaster … so much fun.
(This is right after we rode Kali River Rapids … there are 2 tiny
light spots on my shirt that are dry. The rest of me is drenched!)
The kids aren’t crazy for characters, as I mentioned, but we just had to stop for Russell and Dug from Up (one of my all-time favorite Disney movies).
We also took in a couple of shows, which you can actually make time for if you’re not standing in line for 30 minutes a pop for each and every character you see. The Festival of the Lion King is a must-see. We also saw Flights of Wonder, a live show with birds of every feather. Lots of birds flying right over your head, which the kids clearly enjoyed.
Animal Kingdom is the perfect park to start your trip with. It’s low-key and very different from the other Disney Parks. You can definitely do the entire park and be done at a decent hour, giving you time to head back to your hotel and have a relaxing evening. Or do what we did, and spend an hour collapsed on our beds before heading back out for a jam-packed evening at Magic Kingdom.
Twice a year Disney offers special evening events at Magic Kingdom: Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. The events require a special ticket not included in regular park admission, but the benefit of the ticket is that it allows you to visit the park and enjoy limited rides, shows and fireworks at a reduced cost from a regular park ticket. You can enter the park the day of the event as early as 4 p.m., and at 7 p.m. the park closes to regular guests. If you time it right, as we were able to earlier in the season, you can enjoy some of the most popular attractions with minimal to no lines.
Like Space Mountain. We headed right for it, with Mike hoping that Eli would make the 44″ cut-off. His hair must have been standing just right, because he made it. Now, I’ve never been on Space Mountain. It was closed for refurbishment the year Mike and I went alone, and I couldn’t ride it last trip, being pregnant and all. I didn’t really have any time to contemplate whether or not Space Mountain was a wise choice for a 5-year-old who has never really been on a roller coaster before, as we walked in and were on the ride within a few minutes.
I had two thoughts during the ride: This is ridiculously awesome! and Dear God, please let Eli still be alive and strapped in his seat when this ride is over. He was, and if there was any photo I should’ve shelled out $15 for, it was the Space Mountain one. Think deer-in-the-headlights mixed with sheer terror, kind of like his face here, but with his eyes about to pop out of his head,his mouth open in a silent scream, and white-knuckled hands gripping the handlebar. Needless to say, Eli passed on any more trips on Space Mountain. Mike and Elena rode it 2 more times on our trip.
The other highlights of the evening were the free cookies and hot cocoa (any time something at Disney is “free,” you best partake), a dance party in which Elena and Goofy did Gangnam Style together, and the parade. I’d heard about the Toy Soldiers that march in the parade, but they are a hundred times more awesome in person that you can imagine. I wish we had video, but we were enjoying the moment too much to bother.
If you ever have a chance to visit the Magic Kingdom at Christmas, DO IT. The decorations, the atmosphere, and the lights … it’s breathtaking. When the lights on Cinderella’s castle came on, we all collectively gasped. So magical … and so glad it’s not my job to install them.
It was close to 1 a.m. by the time we were finally in bed that evening, and we were beyond exhausted, but it was worth every minute for the memories we made that day.
Next up: Day 2, in which Mike makes Elena’s Harry Potter dreams come true and I have a Mom Fail which almost ruins Eli’s day.