A Trip to Disney World!

Monday, May 15, 2017

In April, we took our second family vacation as a family of four, and headed south to the sunshine state. We had a wonderful trip, but since our return, things have been...shall we say...an absolute whirlwind. I'm just now finally finding a chance to sit down (ahem...thank you napping children!), sift through pictures, and post about the first leg of our trip! We flew into Orlando for this trip rather than our typical choice of Tampa due to T's work schedule and the best flights available on the day we wanted to leave (as in...we had a three hour drive to the airport before hopping on a three hour flight, so we definitely wanted nonstop, and something that didn't leave too early in the morning). Finding ourselves in Orlando, we decided to make the most of it, and stayed a couple of days to explore Disney World before heading south to Anna Maria Island. We went in with very little expectations, but thought...why not? For anyone thinking of a trip to Disney with littles, kiddos under three are FREE. C was a couple weeks shy of three when we were in town, so there really was no time like the present to take our first trip to Disney!

Hooray! Off to make some memories! The first morning of our trip started bright and early when we got on the road at 8:30 am to make the three hour trek to the airport en route to Florida. We flew out of Des Moines, and were lucky to get off without a hitch. The boys loved to watch the airplanes coming and going while we waited for our flight to board, and G did his best to army crawl as many of the square feet in the waiting area as we would allow. Both boys did fine on the flight - G was certainly more rambunctious than he was a couple of months ago on our visit to the USVI - and we made it to Orlando three hours later after a slightly turbulent ear-popping flight. Cutest memory of the flight was as we were descending into Orlando and passed through some clouds. C looks at the clouds, then looked at me, and dead serious...told me that we needed to shovel. Lol. It was quite the conundrum trying to explain that while clouds might look like snow, they aren't actually snow. So precious.

Upon arrival, it quickly became evident that this would not be a quick experience at the airport. We had to take a train to the baggage terminal, and by the time we finally got our luggage and made our way to our rental car, it was almost 1.5 hours after we had landed. So...while we survived, and didn't have any tantrums to tame, there is definitely something to be said for flying into a smaller airport. The nice lady at the rental car desk told us that of all 52 weeks in the year, this week was the absolute busiest with many people planning vacations around the Easter holiday. Go figure! On the bright side, a dream was realized, and C push T's suitcase all the way from the rental car desk, across the street, up an elevator, and through the parking ramp all by himself. I am so very proud of him! Such a 'big help'! I think we may need to get him his own suitcase for future trips!

After considering finding a bite to eat before heading to our hotel (and failing miserably), we decided to get checked in to our hotel...Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista - Disney Springs...and hit up one of the hotel restaurants, Andiamo, for some pizza. Disney Springs - right across the street - has a plethora of food options, but seeing as how it was already almost 9pm, we wanted something quick and easy that didn't require any extra travel with our already exhausted little people. Andiamo was delicious, and a perfect solution to our dinner situation. If you stay here and are looking for a place to eat, don't hesitate by the lack of patrons. Most of the seating is tucked away behind the main restaurant entrance, and we were very happy with our meals - awesome pizza! Considering we were past bedtime after a long day of travel, C was a biiiiiit of a handful at dinner, but interestingly enough, a table that was seated next to us came over as they were leaving and told us how well behaved our boys were for the time of night it was and how they thought that C did a good job listening when we asked him to use his inside voice. Bahahaha! Their kids had emptied one of the hotel arcade games of its balls, and they offered one to C since they were so impressed with his behavior compared to their own kids at his age. This of course pretty much made C's day, and he had so much fun playing with his ball the rest of our trip. 

The first full day of our trip in Florida was made for great adventures! Throwing naps to the wind, we decided to go all in and attempt our first trip to Disney World as a family of four. Eek! T & I have visited previously both with our families when we were kids, and together as adults, but hadn't been to any of the parks aside from Epcot since we were little. Based on the respective ages of our kiddos (C was just under 3, G was almost 9 months), rather than trying our hand at Magic Kingdom (what many would consider to be THE Disney park), we opted for a smaller, and dare I say...slower paced park, Animal Kingdom. It turned out to be the perfect decision for our family, and we ALL had an absolutely wonderful day. 

We eased into the day relatively slowly as Tuesday's day of travel (3 hrs to the airport, 2 hrs at the airport, 3 hr flight, 2 hrs spent collecting luggage and rental vehicle before making it to the hotel) had left us feeling especially worn out. After grabbing a bite to eat for breakfast at the well-stocked Marketplace in our hotel, we packed up our gear and caught the shuttle bus from our hotel to Animal Kingdom. I'll be honest, with G missing his morning nap, and C right at nap time when we arrived at the park, we really weren't sure what to expect, but at $125 per person ticket price for entrance into the park (under 3 is free, so thankfully, we didn't have to buy tickets for the boys), we were determined to make the most of it. In the end, we really didn't have my issues, and for anyone wondering, seeing how much fun C had at the park, the ticket price would have absolutely been justified for him if his entrance wasn't already free. The boys were champs, and did just fine with missing naps. They were so busy taking everything in that I don't think they even noticed!

For those of you that have never been to Animal Kingdom, I would highly suggest going. The park is separated out into sections (Africa, Asia, Dinoland, Discovery Cove), and there are a TON of things to keep all ages occupied. We got to the park around 1pm, and left at about 6:30pm. It was the perfect amount of time for the little people, and we had a chance to see everything we wanted to. Rather than spend time on rides, we focused mainly on live performances and wildlife. In Africa, The Festival of the Lion King show is an absolute must see, and both of our boys loved it. There are acrobats, dancers, singing, and some of the characters from the movie that are all part of the show. G was pumping his legs to the music so fast that it's a miracle he was able to stay awake the rest of the day! C, meanwhile, was in complete awe, and stared with mouth hanging open at the performers singing and dancing around. After each act, he was quick to applaud and exclaim 'Yeaaa!!!'. I mean...the cutest. I think we'll be spending lots of time at the kids summer theater shows this summer! At the end of the show, one of the performers came up to C and asked him to go dance the final set on stage, but he has some serious 'stranger danger', and decided to watch from our seats near the front instead. (We were lucky to snag a fast pass for this show, and had first dibs on seats - definitely something to consider if you are planning a visit.) Overall, all of us loved the show, and would highly recommend it.

After taking in the Lion King performance, we did some more exploring in Africa. There is a very popular Safari ride we considered doing (you can see some of the big animals like giraffes, elephants, etc), but with an hour wait, we opted for the jungle walk instead, and had just as much fun seeing monkeys, gorillas, hippos, birds and even an anteater. C LOVED the gorillas, and could have stayed for hours watching them play and eat. When we visited, there were about six of them parked right up close to the glass playing and eating, with a couple of baby gorillas running around close by as well. C and I have been reading Goodnight, Gorilla lately, so he was fascinated getting to see the gorillas in real life, and kept telling us that the 'gorilla took those keys from the zookeeper'. A huge hit!

Next up was Asia, where we did anther jungle walk and got to see monkeys, a Komodo dragon, tigers, bats, and LOTS of brightly colored birds in an aviary. The jungle walks had no lines, and had a fair amount of shade and a leisurely pace which was perfect for little kids. T had fun with the bird spotting guide, and G was all eyes at all of the colorful birds flying around.

After Asia, we made our final stop in Dinoland. We pretty much went straight to the Finding Nemo musical, and snuck in right before it started, avoiding the wait. In the end, it worked out great, and we were able to snag a seat in the front row of the upper section in a reserved seating area that ended up with just a bunch of people with little kids since no one had actually reserved the row. #winning The Finding Nemo musical is about a 40 minute show, and leading up to our visit to Animal Kingdom was the main thing that C had talked about. He was so excited to finally 'find Nemo', and again was in complete awe of the performance. G was a little scared of this show as it was pretty loud, but I snuggled him close and we made it work. I tried turning him to face me, but he would push off and crane his neck around to see. Ultimately, I think it was the volume that scared him more than anything, but the show itself was so good that he just couldn't tear his eyes away. Overall, I would say this is a great show for toddlers, but maybe not so much for infants. 

We had a wonderful time at Disney World, and would go back again in a heartbeat!

The following morning got off to a great start when both boys decided to sleep until 9am. Woot woot! They both slept well all night after our busy day at Disney, and I think we all enjoyed sleeping a little extra to recover! Since this was our last day in Orlando...or 'My Lando' as C calls it, we decided to get everything packed up and checked out before venturing out for the day's adventures. Conveniently, we were able to store our luggage and vehicle at the hotel until we were ready to leave town, but in the meantime, we enjoyed walking across the street to check out Disney Springs. Disney Springs is a great area to explore, and it is a nice place to spend a few hours with or without kiddos. 

While we were there, one of our must-dos was a visit to THE Disney Store. The Disney Springs Disney Store is the biggest Disney store of all, so there was a TON of stuff to look at. Unbelievably, the only thing that C couldn't live without turned out to be a new book. I should mention that this particular book is a Golden Book with seven separate Star Wars stories in an easy-to-read kid friendly version with lots of pictures. It was pretty obvious from the start that this would prove to be a favorite for C, and he sat right down on the floor in the middle of the checkout line to get a start on reading it. Such a little intellect this one! In an enormous store filled to the brim with everything from t-shirts to stuffed animals to figurines to light sabers and life sized Darth Vaders, our C picks up a book, and is perfectly content. Proud parenting moment!

After exploring the Disney Store, we stumbled, quiet by accident, onto a live symphony orchestra performance in the amphitheater just outside. Both boys were completely entranced, and LOVED listening to and watching the musicians. C especially loves music, but had only previously seen a marching band in real life, so he was particularly interested in the cellos, violins, and saxophone soloist. The icing on the cake was when for the final song, the maestro whipped out a light saber to direct the orchestra in playing a Star Wars ensemble. Just awesome! I think there will be lots of live children's theater performances on this summer's bucket list!

Next up was Legoland, a visit that was really more about T than it was about the boys! Nevertheless, C loved it all the same. There were all kinds of Lego sets on display, and even several giant Lego sculptures that were fun to see. Of particular interest was the life sized Buzz Lightyear  as Toy Story is one of C's favorite movies. After a 'quick stop' in yet another Disney store (that had an interactive build-your-own Mr. Potato Head - which we did end up purchasing as a souvenir for C, who would have played for several hours building the perfect Potato Head if we would have let him), we hit the road and headed south to Anna Maria Island. Upon arrival, we had a chance to connect with my cousins, and aunt & uncle (who the boys enjoyed immediately renewing friendships with), before finding some dinner and calling it a night to get rested up for the remainder of our vacation! 

Stay tuned for part two of our trip to Anna Maria!

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Thanks for visiting! Let me know if you have any suggestions of recipes I should try, fun ideas to do with the kiddo, or a suggested adventure to add to our bucket list!

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