Today is Mikaela’s last day of 2nd Grade. For comparison’s sake, here are the pictures we took of her first day of Second Grade, and one we took this morning.
The adventures of my extended family
We had a great Memorial Day Weekend. It started a bit rough on Friday night, as a Jonathan meltdown cost him his movie night. But Mikaela and I enjoyed ourselves with what has become our regular Friday night hangout at Take Five Coffee + Bar.
On Saturday, we headed back out to World’s of Fun (we’re doing our best to get our money’s worth out of these season passes – at this rate, they’re going to amortize down to about $5 each per visit). As usual, Jonathan and Miriam hung out in Planet Snoopy, while Mikaela and I hit the thrill rides. Jonathan is really loving the new Peanuts Playhouse and the Wacky Worm kiddie coaster. Meanwhile, Mikaela found a new favorite in the super-spinny Finnish Fling. It spins around until it generates enough centrifugal force that when the floor drops out, riders stick to the wall. I drew the line at two consecutive rides, but she insisted on coming back for a third ride (after our usual diet of roller coasters and other spinny rides). And for the second visit in a row, we left around 1 p.m. and the rain started just after we got into our car. 🙂 Saturday night we dropped the kids with Grandma Marcia so that Miriam and I could go out for our week-delayed anniversary dinner at the always-excellentGaslight Grill.
Sunday bought the annual Memorial Day Weekend Pool Party at the Rooks’. Good food, good friends, and the kids swam themselves to exhaustion. The plan had been to take it easy on Monday until dinner at Aunt Judy & Uncle Lloyd’s, but the kids were getting restless and the weather was gorgeous. So we headed down to walk around the Plaza. As I pulled the car out of the garage, it dawned on me — this was our first family trip to to the Plaza in 8 1/2 years that DIDN’T include a stroller! We walked around a bit, ate some lunch, and walked around a bit more. We checked out a couple of new (or at least new to us) stores – Sur La Table cooking supplies store and Zoom toy store. The kids both really enjoyed checking out the big puppets at Zoom.
We wrapped up our Memorial Day Weekend fun with dinner at Aunt Judy and Uncle Lloyd’s. The kids had a blast with Rick and Margo, playing T-Ball. Neither Mikaela nor Jon had hit off of a tee before, and both did quite well for their first time. They also both were able to make contact with a ball that was hand-tossed. Mikaela had the hit of the night, smacking one all the way across the street (much to her own surprise). She also showed good catching and throwing skills. Jon showed a pretty good arm himself, when he wasn’t trying to shoot the ball with lasers.
OK folks, here’s the deal. I got WAAAAYYYYYY behind on the whole blogging thing. I could make all kinds of excuses, like things getting busy at work (two trials in the last seven months), or getting caught up in my new blogging project over at Disdads.com (which includes hosting the bi-weekly Dis Dads Podcast – that’s an iTunes link). But I won’t. I’m sorry I let this slip. Thank you for your patience (if anyone is still reading this). I’m not going to go back and try to do any more fill-in. I just couldn’t let that Disney World trip report remain not-quite-done. And with summer beginning, I’m going to do my best to keep things more up to date around here.
Quite conveniently, the Swan is very near Hollywood Studios. Even though we arrived a couple of hours before check-in time, they had a room ready for us and we were able to get moved into our new room and get everyone down for a nap quickly. The goal was to get to the Magic Kingdom around 4:30 p.m., since they start letting party guests into the park at 4:00 p.m. (even though the party doesn’t technically start until 7:00 p.m.). But we napped pretty hard, and it took a bit longer than expected for the kids to be ready with their costumes, so it was after 5:00 p.m. by the time we got to the Magic Kingdom and we were hungry, so we headed to Cosmic Ray’s for dinner. We still managed to get in a few “bonus” rides before the official party start time – another ride on the Tomorrowland Speedway, Mikaela and I took in the Monster’s Inc. Laugh Floor, and Jon begged Miriam to go on the dreaded Stitch’s Great Escape. Mikaela and I had fun at the Laugh Floor, but Jon dragged Miriam away from Stitch as soon as the pre-show ended.
By that time, the party was starting. First order of business, free face painting. Even Jon agreed to have his face painted – voila! Pirate Buzz Lightyear! There is so much to do during MNSSHP, it’s difficult to decide what to do next. The face painting line was kind of slow, but it was surrounded by treat trails, where the kids could collect trick-or-treat candy. We knew we wanted to wait and watch the second (late) parade, because the crowd for it is much smaller, but we also wanted to have a good vantage point for the HalloWishes fireworks show that takes place between the two parades. So we pretty much kept ourselves busy in Tomorrowland.
Mikaela and I got in another Space Mountain ride, and then Jonathan convinced me to take him up on the Astro-Orbiters. We boarded this with much trepidation on my part, as I’m both afraid of heights and not much of a fan of spinny rides. But even I have to admit that Astro-Orbiters at night is amazing. You get a beautiful view of the entire Magic Kingdom, all lit-up. A couple of rounds on the PeopleMover provided a break from walking around. Mikaela even got to dance with Stitch (she tried to get Jon to dance too, but he was being character-shy again).
Once again Miriam and Jon (and Jon’s “rollercoaster”) managed to secure us a good spot for the fireworks right along Main Street. Shortly before the fireworks started came the special MNSSHP “Villains Show” – this is the one time of the year that many of the Disney villains are seen in the parks. The show was a lot of fun – good music and dancing and it sets the stage for the “story” of the HalloWishes fireworks
(of the villains trying to take over Cinderella’s Castle). We allowed Mikaela a bit of independence during the Villains Show, allowing her to move up into the Hub by herself to get a better view. She promptly managed to get herself “lost”, but did exactly as she’d been trained to do, and went to a Cast Member showed the CM Miriam’s cell phone number on her wristband, and quickly reconnected with Miriam. (Miriam’s position was off by one lamppost, but Mikaela’s count).
The HalloWishes fireworks that followed were the most spectacular fireworks show I’ve ever seen. Though similar to the regular Wishes fireworks show in the Magic Kingdom, they include perimeter fireworks from all around the park, special Halloween-themed music and storyline, and special castle-lighting effects. After the fireworks came the first exodus from the park, as many families head home having already seen the first parade. This instantly gave us a better vantage point for the second parade (though Jon was starting to fade at this point). I did use this break as an opportunity to head over to the Main Street Bakery, where I spent all of our remaining snack credits on breakfast goodies – muffins, cinnamon rolls, croissants, and chocolate croissants.
The Boo to You parade is heralded by the Headless Horseman galloping down the parade route. It’s an engaging parade, with fun music and lots of villains. I didn’t really get a great picture of my favorite part of the parade – the dancing gravediggers. There are a couple of shots in the Gallery, but neither of them really capture the spinning dance and the sparks generated as they scraped their shovels in unison on the pathway. After the parade, I offered to take Mikaela on a couple more rides, but she was wiped out (and her feet were sore, as she stubbornly refused to change into shoes that “don’t go with the costume”). So we all headed back to the Swan for our last sleep at Walt Disney World.
Day 8 – the last theme park touring day of our vacation – was a split day (in more ways than one). The plan was to spend the morning at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, transfer our stuff from the Polynesian Resort to the Swan, take a nice long nap, and then go to the Magic Kingdom for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. With so many things that could have gone wrong to mess up our plans, it all went amazingly smoothly.
We got almost all of our things packed up the night before, so when we woke up in the morning, it wasn’t too much of a scramble to finish getting packed up. We went ahead and put all of our things in the rental car trunk, checked out at the Polynesian, and drove over to Hollywood Studios. We arrived just minutes before rope drop. I positioned myself to join the mad dash for Toy Story Midway Mania FastPasses, while Miriam and the kids followed behind at a somewhat more leisurely pace. What a madhouse! FastPasses in hand for a return time around lunchtime, we went ahead and got into the TSMM standby line (with about a 30 minute wait). The Green Army Men do a great job entertaining the crowd, especially during the morning rush. They were also just about the only characters (other than Stitch) that Jonathan was willing to interact with the whole trip.
Though the standby line at TSMM was long, the oversized toys in the queue line provided fun distractions while we were waiting. After our ride (which was very cool – essentially a totally immersive video game experience), we headed across the street to the other side of Pixar Place for the Toy Story character meet and greet. Jonathan insisted that he wanted to meet Buzz Lightyear and Woody. Of course, after waiting in the VERY slow-moving line for another half-hour or so, Jonathan refused to get close enough to either Buzz or Woody to take pictures. Mikaela did get a few photos with Buzz and Woody. But Jonathan was content with a few photos with the “set pieces” that are situated at various points along the queue line.
Unfortunately, while we were in line for photos, I found out that Rockin’ Roller Coaster was down (thanks to the Lines smartphone application from TouringPlans.com). With Rockin’ Roller Coaster down, and Star Tours already down for a refurbishment, that meant the one remaining “big” ride at Hollywood Studios, Tower of Terror, was swamped. And we couldn’t stay at DHS too long if we were going to get enough of a nap in to be awake for the late parade at Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. So after pictures, we headed to our only remaining Hollywood Studios “must-see” attraction – MuppetVision 3-D (just back online from a refurbishment itself). MuppetVision was awesome – as good as TSMM is, I really think MuppetVision was our favorite attraction in Hollywood Studios. It’s a terrific 3-D movie, the humor works on multiple levels (like all good Muppet humor) and there is so much going on all over the theater that even antsy Jonathan was caught up in the show.
We wrapped up our too-short day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios with a quick lunch (one note: we were ready for lunch by about 11:00 a.m., but most DHS counter-service restaurants don’t open until 11:30 a.m. We wasted energy not being prepared for that, and wandering around looking for a place we could eat), and then used our FastPasses from the morning for one last ride on Toy Story Midway Mania. It had been a hot day, so by the time we got back to the car shortly after Noon, we were all ready for the nap that awaited us at the Swan. More on the Swan (and MNSSHP) in the next post.
We decided to spend Mikaela’s birthday in Epcot, culminating with dinner with the princesses at Akershaus. By this time, we had the morning routine down pat – wake up, get dressed, breakfast in the Concierge Lounge, fill the water bottles, and get on our way to our theme park for the day. We were at Epcot via Monorail for rope drop, and I fulfilled my usual role of Fastpass runner, dashing ahead to grab Soarin’ Fastpasses.
But this was a much better day to be touring Epcot, and the crowds weren’t nearly as bad as they’d been the other day. So we held on to the Fastpasses and rode Soarin’ from the standby line. After Soarin’, we headed downstairs to Living with the Land. I was afraid the kids might get bored with it, but Mikaela was really intrigued by the greenhouse – it truly is amazing. Jonathan enjoyed riding in the boat, and finding the funky-looking stuff growing all around him.
Next up with the Living Seas, and we rode both The Seas with Nemo and Friends and Turtle Talk with Crush. Mikaela was disappointed that she didn’t get picked to ask Crush a question, so we stayed and watched the show a second time. Sadly, she didn’t get picked the second time either 🙁 While Miriam and the kids explored the aquarium area a bit more, I dashed over to Test Track for more Fastpasses.
By the time I got back with the Fastpasss, everyone was hungry for lunch. I’d heard not-so-good things about the Electric Umbrella, but it was really the only viable choice. Epcot is so spread out that any other choice would have left us with lots of extra walking back-and-forth across the park to get back to touring. As it turned out, lunch was actually pretty good and the break was perfect timing. I was surprised that Test Track turned out to be a big favorite ride. Jonathan, of course, refused to admit that he liked the ride. Despite his huge smile, when asked if he liked it, he said, “I didn’t like the bumpy part.” At the end of the ride, Jon was totally mesmerized by the GM showroom at the exit. While he (and Miriam) explored the cars, I took Mikaela over to Mission: Space.
Despite my telling Mikaela that I would only ride the Green side of Mission: Space (spinny ride issues again), she INSISTED on riding Orange. So I waited in the Mission Control lounge while Mikaela found a family that was short a Navigator to tag along with. She had a great time, and I think her one real disappointment about the Walt Disney World trip was not getting to ride Mission: Space more.
After Mission:Space, and one more ride on Spaceship Earth, it was time to head back to the Poly for our afternoon break. We all got a good, if somewhat too brief rest, and then it was time to head back to Epcot. We had dinner reservations for Princess Storybook Dining at Akershaus at Norway in World Showcase. Mikaela insisted on dressing for the Princesses.
I think we all enjoyed the food at Akershaus. The appetizer buffet was the probably the highlight. Various meats and cheeses and some VERY good smoked salmon. The entrees and desserts were just OK, but the real draw was the parade of princesses who came around to visit each table. Mikaela was thrilled to meet Belle, Cinderella, Ariel, Jasmine and Mary Poppins. Jonathan’s attitude about being surrounded by all of those princesses was a bit different.
After dinner, the plan was to wander around World Showcase a bit until Illuminations. But it quickly became apparent that we’d have to skip Illuminations on this trip. The tired started bubbling to the surface quickly. Mikaela, completely out of the blue, started sobbing. When asked why, she told us that she missed Spike, the dog that we’d given away nearly a year ago, and who had died some time ago. As we started to head for home, a Cast Member saw that Mikaela was crying and stepped up and tried to comfort her, even giving her a beautiful pin to try and cheer her up. Mikaela was fine by the time we got to the Monorail, but it was clear that she’d had enough for the day.
The original plan for this day was to spend it in Hollywood Studios. But I really wanted another full day at the Magic Kingdom, and the more I looked at our plans, the more it seemed we could be happy with a 1/2 day at the Studios. I was a little worried that we’d have a hard time getting going in the morning, after Mikaela’s issue from the night before. But apparently we did a good enough job making sure everyone was hydrated before bed, because everyone was in good spirits and ready to roll for another rope drop at the Magic Kingdom.
This time, we decided to start in Tomorrowland, so I made my rope drop dash for Space Mountain Fastpasses. Then I met back up with the rest of the family to get in line for Tomorrowland Speedway. Let’s just say that I’m happy to wait AT LEAST another eight years before worrying about Mikaela driving a real car on real roads. Next up was Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin, and this time, Jonathan was ready to ride with us. All of a sudden, he couldn’t wait to, “shoot all the Zurgs!!”
And what should we stumble across as we walk out of of Space Ranger Spin? Stitch was just strolling by — and Jonathan RAN up to him and gave him a huge hug! The kid who has been hiding from characters for the last five days was suddenly thrilled to hang with Stitch for a couple of minutes!
Mikaela and I went and used our Space Mountain Fastpasses while Miriam and Jonathan enjoyed another Space Ranger Spin. As Mikaela and I came back from Space Mountain, we saw that Jonathan was eating ice cream. Apparently, Jonathan had randomly run up to the Cast Member at the ice cream stand near the Speedway and given her a hug. When Miriam went to pay for his ice cream, the CM said, “nah, this one’s on Mickey.” 🙂
Next, Miriam and the kids got in line for AstroOrbiters (allowing me to take a pass on the tall spinny ride) while I did a Fastpass dash to the Mountains in Frontierland. I managed to make it to Frontierland and back just as they were coming down the elevator from their ride. Mikaela wanted to meet Jasmine, so we headed next for Adventureland. Both kids wanted to ride the Magic Carpets, so they got in line to ride with Miriam (yep, it’s another spinny ride). As soon as they got off, Jonathan wanted to ride again — which was fine, as just as they were getting off, Jasmine, Aladdin, and Genie came out for their meet and greet. I sent Mikaela to get in line and started digging through the stroller pouch for the autograph cards. I managed to find them just in time.
We picked up a quick lunch at Pecos Bill’s, and were pleasantly surprised when a CM noticed Mikaela’s birthday button and led a rousing chorus of Happy Birthday in her honor. But we were having a great park day, so we didn’t waste any more time in Pecos Bill’s than we had to before heading back out for more rides. Jonathan and Miriam went to explore the Swiss Family Treehouse and soaked in some atmosphere while Mikaela and I used our FastPasses at Splash and Big Thunder Mountains. Mikaela took special notice of a little girl in the seat in front of us on Splash who was not entirely sure she wanted to be on the ride, and did her best to help distract her by pointing out the cool animatronics all around.
We met back up in Adventureland for Pirates of the Caribbean. We continued on our Jonathan-enjoying- rides roll, and (despite my concerns that it would be too scary for him) Jonathan LOVED it. The crowning glory on his day came when the Photopass photographer outside Pirates of the Caribbean handed him a sword to play with, to set up these pictures.
We capped the day’s touring with a ride on the Jungle Cruise. I’d really been looking forward to this one – it fits my punny sense of humor and it’s a classic. Unfortunately, we didn’t get a particularly enthusiastic skipper, and the ride didn’t seem so much “classic” as “dated”. By the time we finished the Jungle Cruise, we were definitely ready for an afternoon break. Mikaela was definitely exhausted, but Jonathan fought his nap. I told Jonathan that he should rest, so that he wouldn’t be too tired for fireworks in the evening. Jonathan answered, “Da-ad. NOBODY’S too tired for FIREWORKS!”
The kids never did really sleep, so we headed to the Concierge Desk and borrowed a movie – what could be better to watch while at the Polynesian than “Lilo and Stitch” – and they did lay quietly and watch the movie until it was time to head to the Great Ceremonial Hall for dinner at the Kona Cafe. It’s hard for me to evaluate the Kona Cafe, because the lack of a real nap caught up with Jonathan BIG TIME at dinner. I think I remember eating a steak of some kind while trying to keep Jonathan from either ruining other diners’ experience or tackling passersby (the Kona’s openness to the lobby annoyed me much more than I thought it would). It was clear after dinner that there was no way we were heading back to the Magic Kingdom to watch the fireworks, so instead we watched them from the Concierge Lounge (and enjoyed a few complimentary adult beverages).
Next up? Mikaela’s 8th birthday!
OK, a little background is probably in order here. The decision to go to the Main Street Electrical Parade and Wishes fireworks show caused a major shuffling of our plans. Part of that shuffle was that this day was all kinds of problematic. Against my better judgment, I decided that we’d go ahead and make this an Epcot day. Both of the online resources I’d be using to help me plan – Tour Guide Mike and TouringPlans listed Epcot as a “park to avoid” on this day, at least partially because of the scheduled Extra Magic Hour in the morning. I figured we were going to sleep in, and just go to World Showcase (which opens later anyway), so the EMH wouldn’t really affect us, right?
Well, let this post serve as both a warning to others and an apology to my own family for not heeding the advice of the professionals. Don’t get me wrong. We enjoyed our day at Epcot. But the crowd made it more difficult, and we weren’t able to enjoy as much of World Showcase. But now I’m getting ahead of myself . . .
We let the kids sleep until they woke up on their own, got dressed, and headed for the monorail to Epcot. The idea for the day was to just ignore Future World (we’ll be back in a couple of days for that) and head to World Showcase. But we got to Epcot before World Showcase opened, so there was time for a bit of Future World first. Miriam and the kids jumped on Spaceship Earth while I headed to The Land Pavilion for Soarin’ Fastpasses to use later (and a quick stop at Innoventions to pick up a Kimmunicator reservation, so they kids could play the Kim Possible adventures in World Showcase). The kids loved Spaceship Earth so much that they wanted to ride again when I got back with the Fastpasses.
After Spaceship Earth, we headed toward World Showcase, but couldn’t resist a pit stop for a drink or two at Club Cool. Club Cool is sponsored by Coca-Cola, and offers samples of soda flavors that Coca-Cola sells around the world. Some of them are really good – Jonathan was especially a fan of a German orange cola called Mezzo Mix. Some are not so good, like the infamous Beverly from Italy. Hmmmmmmm, which could Miriam have possibly tasted here? Whatever it was 😉 Mikaela thought Miriam’s reaction was hilarious.
The plan for World Showcase was to build our touring around Kim Possible missions. Thanks to Netflix Instant Viewing, Mikaela and Jon have both become big Kim Possible fans. Our Kimmunicator reservation sent us to Germany, so we took a friendship boat across the lagoon. Picking up the Kimmunicator was quick and painless, and the Mission was fun. If you follow the clues correctly, pressing a button on the Kimmunicator causes items in the pavilions to react – I’m going to skip the details, so as not to spoil the
adventures for others. The downside was that we only picked up one Kimmunicator. I had assumed that Jonathan wouldn’t be ready to do the actual missions. While that was probably a correct assumption, the adventures did involve chances for two things Jon finds irresistible – cell phones and annoying his big sister. He wanted to see the clues, even though he can’t actually read them. And if Mikaela didn’t share the screen, he would get upset. We completed missions in Germany and China, and then decided it was lunch time. Mikaela convinced Miriam to buy her a Chinese umbrella with her name written on it in Chinese, and we stayed just long enough for Mikaela to meet one of her favorite Disney characters – Mulan.
The kids’ meals on the menu at the counter service spot in China were disappointing (the kids were really hoping for Lo Mein noodles), so we headed for Norway for lunch. We filled up on sandwiches and pastries from Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe. The original plan was to enjoy tastes from Food & Wine Fest booths for lunch, but the Extra Magic Hours crowd meant long lines at the booths, and the kids didn’t have the patience to piece together a meal with a bite here and a bite there. Luckily, lunch at Kringla was excellent, and we all had a fresh burst of energy.
We told the kids we could do one last mission, so I dialed up a mission that I’d heard good things about, and we headed for Japan. It was a long walk back around World Showcase, and there were drums along the way – so of course Jonathan found them. It was worth it when we finally arrived in Japan. The Japan Kim Possible mission was terrific, and as a bonus we arrived just in time to see/hear the ceremonial drummers performing. Once we’d completed the mission, it was time to start the long walk back around and through Future World. We continued on around toward the Land Pavilion side of Epcot and used our Soarin’ Fastpasses. I’m in love. There were a lot of highlights of this trip, but riding Soarin’ with the whole family together may have been my favorite. We all enjoyed the ride, though of course when we asked Jonathan if he liked it his response was, “I didn’t like the helicopter or the fireworks.”
We ended up not getting back to the Polynesian until nearly 3 p.m., a full hour later than planned. It had been a hot day, and we were all wiped out. I asked Jonathan, who was wearing a pull-up, if he was wet. He answered, “No. – Are you wet?” Sigh. I didn’t think the sarcasm muscle was so well-developed yet in three-year-olds. We crashed for a couple of hours to rest up for our 6 p.m. dinner reservation at Boma, which is at the Animal Kingdom Lodge.
Dinner at Boma was kind of a blur, which is disappointed, because it was one of the dinners I was most looking forward to. Jonathan was tired and cranky, and Mikaela was lethargic. I had mentioned on our reservation that Miriam and the kids don’t eat pork or shellfish, so the chef very kindly came out and gave us a tour of the buffet, pointing out which items contained pork or shellfish. The buffet has a wonderful variety of foods, and I tried a bit of everything. But it’s hard to recall specifics. As I mentioned, Jonathan was a handful (we almost had to just take him out of the restaurant). And then, just as we got Jonathan calmed down, Mikaela excused herself to go to the bathroom.
She came back from the bathroom and informed us that she’d just thrown up. I don’t think it had anything to do with anything she ate at Boma. I think she was probably suffering from heat exhaustion. In any case, we cut our dinner at Boma short and headed back to the Poly, getting everyone to bed earlier than we had since that first night at the Hard Rock Hotel. Guess it’s a good thing we hadn’t planned on going back to Epcot for Illuminations.
I was a little concerned about our early start this morning, after the late night at the Neverland Club the night before. But the morning routine we’d established the day before getting ready for Animal Kingdom went off without a hitch. We breakfasted in the Concierge Lounge and loaded up our water bottles there, and boarded the monorail to the Magic Kingdom from the Ticket and Transportation Center (TTC) right on schedule.
The Magic Kingdom was decked out in its Halloween finery.
We were through the turnstiles nearly half-an-hour before rope drop. The kids started to get fidgety, but it was worth it to see the reaction when the welcome show started.
Since it was our first ever visit to the Magic Kingdom, we headed straight for Fantasyland. Just like at Animal Kingdom, I dashed ahead to grab the first Fastpasses for the day – Peter Pan’s Flight. I met back up with Miriam and the kids after they came through the castle. Lady Tremaine, Anastasia and Drizella came out for a Meet and Greet just then, and Mikaela was excited to meet them (and there was virtually no wait). We had some fun character interaction, as Miriam gave Mikaela the “personalized” autograph cards for everyone – except for Drizella, whose card we couldn’t find. So Drizella got a generic card, and she was mightily offended.
The plan had been to start with Dumbo, because Jonathan had ridden a similar (though admittedly smaller) spoke-and-wheel type ride at a county fair just a month or so earlier (and LOVED it). But he
was in his, “not leaving the rollercoaster” mood, so we adjusted on the fly. Mikaela and I went ahead and got in line to ride The Many Adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh, while Miriam and Jonathan explored Fantasyland. By the time we were exiting the ride, Jonathan as ready to try Dumbo, so Miriam got in line with the kids. (So as not to waste time later, while they were in line for Dumbo, I made a run to Frontierland for two Big Thunder Mountain Railroad Fastpasses and two Splash Mountain Fastpasses).
After that initial reluctance, Jonathan enjoyed the ride.
After Dumbo, Mikaela and I used Peter Pan Fastpasses. Jonathan didn’t want to ride Peter Pan, but he and Miriam ended up riding Pooh while we were riding Peter Pan. We rode Pooh one more time, all together, after Peter Pan, and exited to find another of Mikaela’s favorite characters with a not-too-bad line next to the Carousel. We stopped for an early lunch at Columbia Harbor House, before continuing on to Frontierland. Lunch was good, and CHH was roomy and comfortable. We sat at a table upstairs, by a window, and had a nice view of Liberty Square. It made for a nice break on a day that was hotter than we’d expected. After lunch, Mikaela and I headed for Haunted Mansion and the Frontierland Mountains while Jonathan and Miriam went to check out the Liberty Belle steamboat and Tom Sawyer Island.
Jonathan thought the riverboat was cool, but he didn’t want to ride on it, just look at it. Tom Sawyer Island was another story. He gave Miriam quite the workout (and nearly broken glasses too), chasing him around the Island. He was especially excited to defend the fort. Meanwhile, Mikaela had a blast on Big Thunder and Splash. Her only disappointment was that she didn’t get wetter on Splash (though I was plenty wet). But Haunted Mansion may have been her favorite of the three. I was concerned that she’d be frightened by it, but I found the right “hook” for her on our way in – I told her that the ghosts reminded me of the ghosts at the Death Day party in Harry Potter. Once she had a context, she was perfectly comfortable with the ride.
At this point, it was definitely time to head back to the resort for a rest. The kids were fading hard, and we were planning on coming back for the Main Street Electrical Parade and Wishes after dinner. Mikaela didn’t want to head back yet, but we bribed her with the promise of ice cream on the way back through the park. Jonathan didn’t even last until he got his ice cream.
The kids were completely wiped out by the morning in Animal Kingdom. How wiped out? How about this wiped out. (Sorry for the crappy cell phone picture – clearly I was just about as wiped out as they were).
I had been concerned about our fairly late (7:15 p.m.) dinner ADR at California Grill since I made it. On the way back to the resort on the bus, Miriam and I decided that the best way to deal with the late ADR was to make it an adults’ night out dinner. As soon as we got back to the resort, I went and talked to the Concierge Lounge staff at the Poly about the Neverland Club. The Neverland Club is the “kids club” at the resort – sort of a drop-in daycare, but open in the evenings from shortly before dinner until midnight. I gasped initially at the cost ($11.25/child/hour x 2 kids = $22.50/hour x 4 hours = $90.00), but quickly decided that we could use the adult night out at least $100 worth.
While I was at the concierge desk, Miriam was trying to get the kids to take a nap. Mikaela was ready to sleep for a bit, but Jonathan was fighting it HARD. So to keep Jonathan from keeping Mikaela awake, Miriam took Jonathan for a walk. As he dashed into the concierge desk area, Miriam rolled her eyes for the concierge staffer and said apologetically, “I just can’t get him to nap.” In response, the staffer just smiled and said, “Ma’am, you’re at Disney World.” For the remainder of the trip, whenever we started to get frustrated by the kids, one of us would turn to the other and simply say, “Ma’am, you’re at Disney World.”
Once Mikaela had gotten in a short nap, we changed and took the kids out to the Volcano Pool. Jonathan appreciated that the “blocano” pool is relatively shallow. He’s a pretty good swimmer for a three-year-old, but with the ability to stand up in the pool, he could really play around and enjoy himself. Meanwhile, Mikaela was fixated on the slide.
After swimming, we took the kids back to the room and went ahead and got them bathed. A couple of quick notes about the Neverland Club. We hadn’t planned on being able to use it, because when I had checked initially the Neverland Club only took kids ages 4-12. But just before we left I noticed a thread on Disboards.com message boards that mentioned that the age had been dropped to 3, as long as the child was potty trained (and could use the bathroom himself). Well, Jonathan isn’t completely potty trained, but he can go by himself. And the accidents are fewer and farther in between. So we gambled and put him in underwear and packed him off with Mikaela for the Neverland Club. When we checked the kids in at the Neverland Club, they took the kids’ dinner orders (both opted for the Mac & Cheese), got a cell phone contact number from us, and then the kids were invited back into the club (they enter by climbing through the “window”, like the kids in Peter Pan). During times when there is childcare, parents are not permitted into the Club at all. We were concerned that this might freak out Jonathan, but he and Mikaela were both excited for the Neverland Club, and dashed through the window with no hesitation.
It’s amazing how quiet the world suddenly became as Miriam and I walked away from the Neverland Club toward the Great Ceremonial Hall to pick up the monorail over to the Contemporary Resort. We found the check-in desk for the California Grill with only a bit of random wandering around (the lobby at the Contemporary can be a bit confusing for the uninitiated). We shared the express elevator to the restaurant with two other couples and were invited to relax at the bar until our table was ready. But after taking about two steps toward the bar, they were ready to seat us. The tables did seem a bit crowded together, but we ended up seated in a nice spot right by the window, across from the bar.
Our waiter was attentive, but never pushy. We had both let ourselves get a bit dehydrated at Animal Kingdom and the pool, so we skipped wine in favor of iced tea. We decided to indulge ourselves with an appetizer. I had an order of sashimi and Miriam ordered the goat cheese ravioli. As we were waiting for our appetizers, one of the waiters announced, “LADIES AND GENTLEMAN, THE CALIFORNIA GRILL PROUDLY PRESENTS, THE CALIFORNIA GRILL SUNSET!” They had every reason to be proud. We looked up and the sunset from that vantage point was gorgeous.
While the sashimi was very good, I was a little jealous of Miriam’s ravioli. She shared a taste with me, and it was wonderful – probably the tastiest thing we ate there. For our main courses, we both ordered the Filet of Beef. I figured I’d already had my “fish course” with the sashimi. While the filet was very good, it didn’t blow me away. I think I’m a little spoiled when it comes to great steaks, coming from a beef town like Kansas City. In retrospect, I probably should’ve gone with one of the fish entrees.
By this time, we were both stuffed, but dessert is included on the Disney Dining Plan, and those desserts did look sooooooo good . . . we ended up ordering the Valrhonna chocolate cake and something else (I can’t remember what it was). The chocolate cake was oustanding – incredibly rich and tasty. When we were done, I felt a bit like Mr. Creosote. If someone had offered me a wafer-thin mint, there could have been real trouble.
We had planned on hanging around to watch the HalloWishes fireworks from the Cali Grill’s observation deck, but after going out to the observation deck to look around, we noticed that it was getting pretty chilly up there. And we still had plenty of time to get back to the Poly, so we decided to head back and watch the fireworks from the Concierge Lounge. That turned out to be a good choice. With the kids still at the Neverland Club, we got a taste of the romantic side of the Polynesian Resort. We had a nice view of the fireworks and the Electric Water Pageant, which we could enjoy with a (no extra charge) adult beverage.
I went and picked the kids up from the Neverland Club a bit before 11 p.m. I was afraid that we’d left them too long, but they were reluctant to leave. They were happy to be the last kids there! Mikaela had made a large collection of masks of various Disney characters during Arts & Crafts time. Jonathan had made a Stitch mask, and was thrilled that the movies for the night were Toy Story 1 & 2. Also, Jonathan managed to make it until pick up time without having a big accident (though he was “damp” by the time we got back to our room). It wasn’t cheap, but the night out was well worth it, and the kids asked if they could go back to “their” Club several times during the rest of the trip.
Next up, the Magic Kingdom (on an EMH night).