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Photo 87/365: Disney diary day 9, headed home



Photo 86/365: Disney diary day 8

Our last full day. Tomorrow we will be sneaking in some pool play before packing up, enjoying one final meal at the resort, and heading home to chilly mud if we're lucky, cold slush if we aren't.

But today? Magic Kingdom take 3!

Since Epcot is our favorite park, you might wonder why MK for a third day? Well, there really is more to do there, plus Calvin was having so much fun with the Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom game that we thought we'd give him some more time to play. Once we knew we'd be here today we booked all three meals plus FastPasses for our favorite rides. And we decided to try our park morning, pool afternoon, park evening plan again. 

But fate and fortune had other ideas. Remember when I said that pin trading, aside from being built-in entertainment everywhere we went all week long, also gave us one very special, very magical extra experience at the end? Well here it is. After a second go at early hours breakfast with Pooh and Friends (a favorite of ours) we headed into Tomorrow Land for a final ride on the People Mover and Carousel of Progress (love!), and were headed back to Adventure Land when we spotted a cast member with lots—I mean lots—of pins. I suggested that we walk ourselves over there to take a gander at his pins, plus the bathroom was right there, too, so win-win. That pin trade turned into a fifteen minute visit about where we were from, what we'd done on our trip, what our plans were that day...and an invitation to be the Grand Marshals of the Festival of Fantasy Parade that afternoon. Yes. Grand Marshals. Um...pool afternoon, or Grand Marshal afternoon? Calvin picked the latter. 

So...hightlights from today???

Breakfast with Eeyore and friends (see what I did there?) at Crystal Palace, of course.

Playing Sorcerers throughout the park

Getting to say goodbye to our favorite Tomorrow Land rides

Amazing lunch at the Jungle Skipper Canteen 

Oh, and being the Grand Marshals of the Magic Kingdom parade! So, riding in the special car, waving at all the crowds gathered along the entire parade route, having our own private photographer for the duration of the parade plus some extra special "cast photos", and extra special FastPasses for the remainder of our evening. Awesome.

The entire day took on a whole new kind of magic for us. Following the parade we were relaxed and happy, enjoying our last dinner (back at Tony's), our last rides thanks to our special passes (more Splash! more Dwarfs! More Thunder! Plus, one last People Mover and even another Carousel). We ended the night, our last night, with a walk through a darkened park, and fireworks.

This was magic. This was heart warming, heart awakening, family time. Not just today, but the whole trip. So. Much. Magic.


Photo 85/365: Disney diary day 7

Epcot take 2!

At this point we've hit the downward slide of vacation. We've been to all the main Disney parks at least once each, so our remaining days are for tying up loose ends: a second chance at favorite activities, a first chance at any missed ones, and of course still trying to collect all those magic shots. Plus the spring breakers have joined us, so it will be busier from here on out.

Since we managed to do all we wanted to do at Animal Kingdom in one day, and squeezed all we wanted to do at Hollywood Studios into the same day as Universal, we were tasked with reorganizing the remainder of our trip last night, which we did online by changing meal FastPass+ reservations. We thought today that we would spend the morning in the park, come home after lunch to swim a little, then head back to the park for dinner. Since Epcot is pretty close to our resort (Caribbean Beach), this was definitely a viable plan, but when we got back the pool was closed due a water issue. Huge bummer. I cannot tell you how thankful I am that our son is so flexible. There was disappointment, but it didn't derail the day. We just headed back to the park early and took a second, and final, spin through his favorite ride (thankfully Figment is fairly line free).

Highlights from today:

Lunch at San Angel Inn Resataurante, in amidst twilit Mayan ruins. Delicious, and very moody.

A final dash through Test Track and climb through Spaceship Earth, plus two trips through Figment's Journey into Imagination, Calvin's favorite. 

But mostly, by far, dinner at Monsieur Paul in France, arguably the best meal we've had yet. 


Photo 84/365: Disney diary day 6

Universal Studios. Where do I start? How about with utter disappointment. Okay, that's a bit harsh, but let's put it this way...we only lasted about four hours before we hoofed it back to Disney double time. 

We got to Universal just as it opened, tickets pre-purchased and ready to go. Our only goal was to see Harry Potter world, but because they've spread the Harry Potter activities across both their parks, it's necessary to purchase park hopper tickets to see both. I smell a money making scheme, but the idea of riding the train between the two was appealing anyhow, so we didn't grumble too much. We headed for Diagon Alley immediately and were pretty excited about the feel of the place. It really felt like a deep, magical alley! And look, there's all the places from the book! We ducked into Ollivanders first, but struggled to understand the layout of the store and the difference between the wands. It took some time to find anyone willing to help us, and ended up getting tips from another guest because Universal doesn't do "cast members" like Disney. To the extent, in fact, that 20 minutes after the place had opened the line to buy a wand was already 20 minutes long, and the cashiers, far from being in character, were obviously annoyed. At this point I just felt sorry for was going to be a longer day for them than me if that was their attitude about it.

But back outside it became very clear very fast that the very things that make Diagon Alley so magical feeling—it's dark, close construction with narrow streets and tall buildings blocking out the sun, were also the things that were going to make it a struggle to enjoy. As the morning wore on the crowds increased exponentially making the alleyway naturally difficult to maneuver. We'd gotten an interactive wand and were having a great time trying it out at the various magical spots. This was at least as good as the interactive games in Disney, because you actually had to move the wand the right way in order to trigger the magic spell, so it was really fun to master. But the lines for each magical spot were becoming almost unbearable, likely because there were no workers there to help kids figure out how to use them so you'd have a kid in the front taking ten minutes or more trying to get it work and becoming increasingly frustrated while their panicked parents frantically tried to save the day they'd paid a lot of money for. And where that wasn't happeniing, you had kids who stood there triggering the magic again and again and again. Staff management would have gone a long way here.

If you're not into rides, which we really aren't, Diagon Alley is pretty much just a very expensive shopping mall, so once we'd finished the wand spots and enjoyed visiting all the stores Harry and friends visited in the book, we had our taste of butter beer (yum), and hopped the train to Hogsmeade. Calvin enjoyed it. I enjoyed the fact that there hadn't really been a line yet, since it was still early. I was looking forward to Hogsmeade and it's open air feeling, but again narrow streets and unlimited admission meant frustrating crowds. We mastered all the wand spots, bought frogs at Honeydukes, considered the hippogriph ride at Hagrid's but decided 60 minutes was too long a wait for so short a ride with no surprises, and decided to have our lunch at Hogsmeade early...until we found that also had over an hour wait just to get in. Say what??? This is counter service! So instead we decided to hop the train back to Diagon Alley and eat at the Leaky Cauldron. 

The return train trip had a 45 minute line, and we found ourselves back in Diagon Alley at just the wrong time to try and get lunch. The line at the Leaky Cauldron was also really long. Now we had some debating to do. Our plan for the day had been to spend the morning in Diagon Alley, hop the traint o Hogsmeade, have lunch, experience Hogsmeade, train back, dinner at Leaky, home for early bedtime. Now that plan was shot. It was nearly 1:00 and we were already done shopping and magicking our wand, and while we really wanted to experience Harry's dining options, the food display was actually almost as unappealing as the long line, plus we'd had enough of the increasingly dense crowds and rude attitudes of workers. This was not Disney. 

So we decided to make our way back to the front of the park and a ride back to the happiest place on earth, figuring we'd find something to eat along the way, only the food options and prices were also unappealing. That's how we found ourselves at Hollywood Studios just after 2:00, hungry, hangry, even, tired, and irritable. Then we found our first Disney photographer and all was right with the world. We put our name in for a table service meal at the Sci-Fi Dine-In (good timing since who eats at 3:00?) and went next door to grab a snack at Baseline Taphouse (counter service, no wait) to hold us over. The food in both places was delicious, cast members everywhere were helpful and welcoming. We enjoyed some Star Wars things, shopped a bit, and because there isn't a whole lot to do at Hollywood Studios either, were back at Caribbean Beach enjoying the pool during everyone else's dinner time. Then we enjoyed a delicious meal at Spyglass Grill while watching park fireworks over the tree tops (yes, a late dinner, but when lunch is at 3, who can blame us?).

And that's how Disney saved our day after Universal tried to ruin it.


Photo 83/365: Disney diary day 5

Back at Magic Kingdom

One thing I loved about this trip was all the time we had, so we didn't have to rush through the parks or worry that we wouldn't get it all in. On our first day in Magic Kingdom we planned to do everything we wanted in Fantasylaand and Tomorrowland, leaving Adventure and Frontier lands for our second day there. It didn't really work out that way. On our first day we were able to do more than we originally planned, and there were things we wanted to go back and do again on our second day. Today's highlights:

Gaming! We had lots of extra time on this second day in the park, so Calvin participated in the Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom game, and he and Jon had a lot of fun mastering the actiivity and fighting villains throughout the park.

Splash Mountain! Arguably the best coaster ride in the park. Definitely Calvin's favorite. Oh, and we returned to Tomorrow Land for our favorite Transit Authority ride, and the Carousel of Progress again. That makes twice.

Tom Sawyer's Island! We love the storybook themes, so this and the Swiss Family Robinson tree house topped our list of fun today. Oh, plus the Enchanted Tiki Room. What a hoot.

And the food. We were smarter this time and had all our meals booked. Actually, we dined with Pooh and Friends in the morning, at Tony's in for lunch, and left the park early to hit up Disney Springs for dinner at Paddlefish. All good, but none of them challenging Tiffin's or Teppan Edo for top of our list.