My Disney World Memories – Part 5
When we returned from our Disney World honeymoon in 2003, I had absolutely no intention of coming back any time soon. I enjoyed it. But I had my fill. Mindy and I talked about making a return trip in a decade when we had kids who were “the right age” to enjoy it. It’s now nine years later and we have been back three times with a fourth trip planned for the fall.
How did that happen? I blame the Travel Channel. For months after our trip, I never thought about returning to Disney World. But then I caught some of the Disney World-related shows on the Travel Channel. I recognized all the locations and started thinking about how much fun it would be to go back.
Little by little, that interest began to grow. I started reading about Disney World and I started to realize all of the things we had missed. Or the history that I had been unable to appreciate in my ignorance. The more I read, the more I had to know. Mindy will tell you that I slowly became obsessed. This blog probably doesn’t help my argument at all…
By 2005, I was ready to return to Disney World. But that wasn’t realistic because we had our first baby. I may be crazy, but I wasn’t THAT crazy. I resigned myself to the notion that it would be several years before I could return to Disney World.
My opportunity for a return trip came earlier than I expected. My brother, Jeff, used to judge cheerleading competitions in Walt Disney World. He did it mostly for the free trips. In 2007, he generously offered to let us share his room if we could pay our own travel fees. To sweeten the deal, he figured he might be able to scrounge up a few theme park tickets.
What sane person could pass up an offer like that? Certainly not me. After a three-and-a-half year wait that felt like an eternity, we made our first family trip to Walt Disney World.
We had a few logistical problems setting up the trip. It was all very last minute. The price of air fare was raising by the minute as I tried to clear vacation time. If my boss had waited 15 minutes more to give me the go-ahead, we would have had to cancel due to air fare.
Also, the room reservations were not in our name. This made it tricky to set up Magical Express. I booked a towncar just in case, but at the last minute we were able to get the reservation number to set up the free Disney shuttle. The downside was that I was going to have to handle my own bags.
This made for a bit of a rough arrival day. (We have bad luck with arrivals.) Mindy had Josie (who was not quite 2 years old) and a stroller to deal with. But Josie wouldn’t sit in the stroller. And I had to wrangle all of our bags. Getting through the airport was difficult. By the time we met my brother at the Cornado Springs Resort, Mindy was glaring at me. (She’s an Olympic-level glarer.)
Coranado Springs is an absolutely beautiful resort. The one downside is that it is a sprawling complex. Since the rooms for the cheerleading competition were discounted, they were located at the far end of the resort. The walk to our room was a long one even with Jeff helping out with the bags.
Once we got settled in our room, we decided to grab a bite to eat at the food court. It was another long walk. But without the bags or the stroller (which Josie wouldn’t ride in) it was easier. As we were walking, a cast member pulled up in a golf cart. He didn’t offer us a ride, but he started talking to us. He asked where we were from. That kind of chit-chat.
He asked Josie what her name was. We used to call her Joey at the time (and still do around the house). The cast member responded that Joey was his name too. He asked if he could give Josie a gift. Our family motto is “never say ‘no’ to anything free in Disney World” so we accepted. He gave her a very nice little Winnie the Pooh PVC figure which we still have.
It turns out my brother was able to score a few free tickets for us to visit the parks. So the next day we took Josie to the Magic Kingdom. I wasn’t sure what to expect. Josie wasn’t much for riding rides. And I knew kids her age were frequently scared of characters.
We had some character meals scheduled for the trip, so I wanted to see how Josie would handle them before we showed up. Outside the gate to the Magic Kingdom, either Chip or Dale was doing meet and greets with no waiting. Back then, I didn’t know which was which.
Since there was no line, I took Josie right up to meet the chipmunk. She smiled big and reached out to hug him immediately. So, this was going to be a character-centered trip.
A few steps into the park and we were greeted by Daisy Duck (see picture above in which both Mindy and I are blinking). We made our way to Toon Town to meet some more characters.
Josie did well with all the characters. But the most memorable encounter was with Chip and Dale. They started interacting with her while we were waiting in line. (I actually felt a little bad for the family they were meeting with while we were in line).
Josie started blowing them kisses while we were waiting in line. Chip and Dale pretended to catch the kisses and blow them back. Soon, they started squabbling over who got to catch the kisses. It turned into a whole big thing. All the while, the family they were meeting with was staring like “What the hell is this?” But for us, Chip and Dale have been family favorites ever since.
Once we had made the rounds at Toon Town, we headed into Fantasyland to ride our first ride. I have no idea why, but our first ride was The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Josie wasn’t a big fan of the ride. The storm scene in particular freaked her out. But she did enjoy the play area nearby.
I don’t have these pictures on me at the moment. But I will have to add them to the article if I locate them. Josie saw the sprinklers and immediately ripped off her shirt. She was used to sprinkler play from her day care where they had “Wet Wednesday” during the summer. She played in the sprinklers in her sandals and her diaper.
I don’t think we rode any more rides that day. Eventually, Mindy and Josie headed back to the room for a nap. Jeff and I headed over to Epcot to hang out for a bit. Then I joined the girls back at Corando Springs for dinner. After dinner, we returned to the Magic Kingdom to see the Spectromagic parade.
As we were waiting for the parade to start, Josie became fascinated with a Mickey-shaped balloon. She HAD to have it! I knew there was no way we were going to sit in our parade viewing spot patiently waiting for the parade with all the balloon venders in plain sight without buying a balloon.
I want to say the darn thing was about $20, but I don’t remember for sure. What I do remember is that the girl we bought it from kept talking about what a rip-off they were. She was not wrong. But Josie was happy. She sat and played with the balloon (and munched on overpriced popcorn) while we waited for the parade.
Spectromagic was a big hit. Josie sat on my shoulders and blew kisses to all of the characters. Even the villains. She blew a kiss to the wicked queen from Snow White who scowled back at her. But Josie continued on blowing kisses.
At the time, Josie’s favorite TV show was Little Einsteins on the Disney Channel. She also liked Jo-Jo and Goliath. In addition to calling her Joey, we frequently called her Jo-Jo, so she felt a connection with the character. Girls named Joey are pretty rare.
So the next park we visited was Hollywood Studios for the Playhouse Disney character breakfast.
Once again, Josie loved the characters. All of them got big hugs.
The one character we had trouble meeting was Jo-Jo. Josie was wearing her Jo-Jo shirt and we were not leaving without meeting the character who shared her name. But for whatever reason, Jo-Jo kept passing our table. Josie waved at her repeatedly, but Jo-Jo didn’t acknowledge her.
I understand how these character meals work, but something had clearly gone wrong. Jo-Jo was stopping by tables for a second time and still hadn’t been by to see us. We had finished eating and paid the bill. Mindy was getting angry. And Jo-Jo wouldn’t like her when she’s angry.
I mentioned to the waitress that we thought maybe Jo-Jo had passed us by. She went and grabbed Jo-Jo and brought her to our table so Josie could get her hug and her picture and we could be on our way.
We didn’t ride any rides that day. But we saw a lot of characters. Josie liked them all except Buzz and Woody who scared the heck out of her for some reason. I think it’s because they were unfamiliar. And they were plastic instead of furry like the other characters. Josie also enjoyed the Playhouse Disney Live show and the Honey I Shrunk the Kids playground (pictured above). That was actually her first time on a slide!
We continued our tradition of eating at the 50’s Prime Time Cafe. We didn’t eat out a lot because Josie was really bad at restaurants most of the time. But she was a perfect angel at the 50’s PTC. Her meal came with an assemble-it-yourself salad which she loved. And dessert was a similarly interactive sundae. She kept busy coloring and playing with her food. And she ended up eating every bite.
This is also the trip where I discovered my eternal love of the pot roast at the 50’s Prime Time Cafe!
We didn’t have park tickets for every day of our stay. So we spent quite a bit of time roaming the grounds of the Coranado Springs Resort and Downtown Disney. Josie was fascinated with the ducks she saw everywhere. When I asked her what her favorite thing about the trip was, “ducks” was her response. And she wasn’t referring to Donald or Daisy.
One afternoon at Downtown Disney, we came across the fountains that sprayed water. Immediately, Josie started stripping off her shirt again. While we allowed it at the play area in the Magic Kingdom, we put a stop to it at Downtown Disney.
Later, we were walking past the Virgin Megastore. Josie felt moved by the music. She stopped in the middle of a crowded walkway and started shaking her butt. She was jamming. People were all walking around her, but she wasn’t concerned with traffic flow. She was moved by the beat.
Then she decided it was time to shop. She took my hand and pulled me into the megastore. A short while later she had selected a portable DVD player and a Little Einsteins DVD. I let her have them because I figured it would be handy on the flight home. It turns out the DVD player was a lemon. The battery lasted about 20 seconds.
The last day we had at the parks was at Animal Kingdom. While Mindy took Josie on the safari, I rode Expedition Everest and got Mindy a FP so she could ride it later. It’s a good thing I did. If I hadn’t ridden it on this trip, I would never have seen the yeti in A-mode! If you haven’t seen the ride with the working yeti, you are really missing out.
While Mindy rode Expedition Everest, I took Josie to the Boneyard to play. She had a blast, but her battery was running low. Soon, she was tired and getting cranky. When Mindy returned, we decided we had better stop for lunch.
Since it was close, we went to Restaurantasaurus. It was serving McDonald’s food at the time. Josie got a happy meal which came with a little dinosaur-shaped squirter. Mindy held it up and made a little “roar” noise. Josie was scared out of her mind and started crying.
I took the toy and pointed it at Mindy. I made a “roar” noise and Mindy pretended to be scared. Josie laughed. I had Josie “scare” her mommy. This was the most hysterical thing Josie had ever seen. She laughed her head off. Crisis averted.
On our last day, we took my brother out to O’Hana for breakfast to say “thank you” for what was a mostly free trip. It was a fun character breakfast. When the kids had their “parade” Pluto took Josie by the hand and walked her around the restaurant. Josie wouldn’t go by herself, so I had to walk with her.
When the parade was over, Pluto and the rest of the characters went on break. But Josie wasn’t done yet. She and I walked one more lap around O’Hana in our own personal parade.
That pretty much sums up Josie’s first trip to Disney World. Special thanks to my brother, Jeff for making it happen. We have Jeff to thank in part for our 2010 trip as well.