Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Disney - Days 10 thru 14 - Universal, Disney Studios & going home

Click here for Days 1 - 3....travelling and Epcot
Click here for Days 4 & 5......Prime Outlets and Magic Kingdom
Click here for Days 6 & 7.....SeaWorld and Magic Kingdom
Click here for Days 8 & 9.....Aquatica and Animal Kingdom

And finally, today is the last Disney post for Days 10 through 14.

Saturday (Day 10) - Universal Studios Islands of Adventure
Today was sooooo fun! Nathan & I and Shaun & Linsay left our kids at the house with grandma and grandpa (5 kids in total) and went to Universal Studios Islands of Adventure for some adult roller coaster fun! I'm not sure who was looking forward to the day more - us or the kids :)

We made sure to get there early so we'd be there for park opening. We started off with the Incredible Hulk Coaster which was probably the best of all the coasters, except I found it to be a bit jerky and my head kept hitting the restraints. Then we headed to The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman which is a cool 3d ride that we really liked. I had to close my eyes at one part so I wouldn't get dizzy - I'm not good with that kinda stuff. Then it was off to Doctor Doom's Fearfall - I gotta say, the anticipation of this ride was better than the ride itself, and it was really short and not as scary as we thought it would be. Then we trekked across the park to Dueling Dragons which is actually two coasters - Fire Dragon and Ice Dragon - that run simultaneously! At two points during the ride you actually come to within 18" of hitting the riders in the other coaster. It was pretty cool.

The good part of getting there so early was that we hardly had to wait in line at all. The bad part, was that we managed to knock off all 5 of those rides within one hour - and we paid for it. We totally had to sit down and get a drink and rest for a bit to regain our completely destroyed equilibrium!

After a rest, Linsay and I were tempted to go on the Jurassic Park River Adventure ride. We didn't really want to get soaking wet though, so we watched several of the boats come down the ride and noticed that as long as you sat in the very middle of the ride, it looked safe. So we went and it was really fun, and we did not get wet at all! Well, our hair did slightly, but not our clothes. Linsay actually got "spit" on by a dinosaur right in the face, it was funny. Anyway, we got off and managed to convince the guys to go with us (cause they wouldn't get wet), but when we got there the ride had stopped working. We waited for awhile and they ended up giving us a fastpass type ticket good for any one ride in the park.

Our one mistake was our lunch restaurant choice. We had seen a Hard Rock coming in, but we thought it would take too long to go out there, eat and then come back to the park for a couple more rides. So we stopped at the first restaurant we saw which was in the kids area - Circus Magurkus - what were we thinking?! Yeah, it wasn't great food, but thankfully it wasn't too busy either.

After lunch we saw The Eighth Voyage of Sinbad stunt show which was quite good. We walked by the Jurassic Park ride again on our way out but it still wasn't working, so we went back to the Incredible Hulk coaster and rode it one more time using our fastpasses. What a great time!

Here are our superheroes!

Not that we need any :)

Spent a bit of time in the shops and then headed home to swim and then go to Uno's for supper.

Sunday (Day 11) - Disney Studios
Today our "little" family headed off bright and early to our last Disney theme park - Disney Studios.
And Emma & Sophia went on their very first upside down rollercoaster!!! I was so proud of them! We headed straight for the Rock n Rollercoaster and I got a child swap pass while Nathan took Emma on the ride. The rest of the kids and I headed straight to Toy Story Mania to pick up fastpasses to use later, and by the time I got there there was a 15 minute wait just to stand in line to get fastpasses! (55 min wait for the ride itself) Crazy how popular that ride is.

Anyway, I texted Nathan to find out how Emma had liked the ride. I was a bit nervous because it's in the dark (neither girl is a fan of dark rides), and you can see the scary takeoff while waiting in line to get on. But she loved it! That was great because I could reassure Sophia while we were heading over there that Emma had liked it and she would too (I hoped!). Right at takeoff I heard a scared voice yell "MOM!" and so I put my hand on her leg and yelled "You're OK!" over and over for most of the ride. When the ride ended Sophia looked at me and asked "Is that it?" She didn't want it to be over! I asked her if she was scared, or if she had yelled for me, and she said no. Must've been some other kid :) oh well! ha ha.

Then we went to see a bunch of shows - the timing of which was perfect! We headed for the Little Mermaid show (waited maybe 10 mins), when we got out of there the High School Musical outdoor musical had been underway for maybe 2 mins so we watched that.

Then I took the girls straight to the indoor American Idol Experience while Nathan took Jacob to see the Cars characters (which he absolutely loved! He threw a fit when they had to leave, so he didn't get a souvenir there).
The girls LOVED American Idol - Emma was just sorry she was too young to try out to be a contestant on the show. I texted Nathan to go get us seats for the Beauty and the Beast show (like Rainbow Stage theatre production, just shorter) and we headed right over as soon as AI was over. I think we missed the first 30 seconds of that one.

Everyone was tiring out by this point, but we went back to Toy Story Mania to use our fastpasses to get on that ride and we were glad we did - the kids loved it! (Jacob too). It's like a 3D midway ride where you shoot at different targets as you move to different stations in your car. It was fun, but I sure wouldn't stand in line for an hour for it!

After that we headed home for one last afternoon swim and then to Olive Garden for supper.

Monday (Day 12) - flying back to Minneapolis
In the morning Nathan took the kids to IHOP so I could pack. They came back and I think they swam for a little bet yet. Then it was off to the airport. At which point we realized that we couldn't find one of the ipods and 6 of the girls ds games. We eventually figured out that I had left them on the airplane on the way down already. Yep, almost $400 down the drain. Not impressed.

We got to the airport, returned our rental vehicles and went through security. We were waiting at a different gate because it was emptier and I guess we just weren't paying attention to the time, or to the people at our gate. All of a sudden I thought I heard our names being called. We went to go check and sure enough - they were calling our party cause everyone else had already boarded and this was our last call or they were going to leave without us! But Nathan, Emma and Sophia weren't even there, they had gone to pick up something for us to eat on the plane! I immediately texted a frantic message to Nathan that we had to leave right now! Thankfully they were already heading back when he got the message and they were there in the nick of time. Ack!!! WAY too close for comfort.

We checked into the Staybridge Suites (so thankful we changed to a hotel with extra bedroom suites after our disastrous night at LaQuinta on the way down) and headed to Chili's for supper, then came back and swam for a bit.

Tuesday & Wednesday (Days 13 & 14) - driving back home
Tuesday we stopped in Albertville quickly where we realized that Nathan had left his credit card at Chili's in Minneapolis (I phoned and the mailed it back to us). After picking up a few things at the UnderArmour store (runners for $35!! Nathan checked and the same ones were over $100 here) we headed for the City and went to McDonald's for lunch. Nathan's parents and Shaun & Linsay drove straight home that day, but we stayed another night - did more shopping and relaxing and generally just delaying the end of the vacation. Oh, and Jacob got to "ride" a tractor.
We got back Wednesday to a freshly painted house! We decided to have our complete main area redone while we were gone - easy for the painter and for us. Nathan's other sister had gotten in from Alberta the night before, so we went to Nathan's parents for supper (I still didn't have to cook!) after getting a bit of the house put back together and stuff unpacked.

Home sweet home!

Monday, 24 May 2010

Disney - Days 8 & 9 - Aquatica and Animal Kingdom

Edited to add pictures!

Click here for Days 1 - 3.
Click here for Days 4 & 5.
Click here for Days 6 & 7.

Read on for Days 8 & 9!

Day 8 - Thursday - Aquatica!
On our last trip two years ago, we didn't go to any waterparks. This time we decided to do Aquatica - SeaWorld's waterpark.

We had a blast! There are 2 different kids areas. One has several kid-size waterslides (Kata's Kookaburra Cove), and the other has a gigantic water play structure (Walkabout Waters). We set up beside the water play structure and the kids had such a blast!

We took turns going on a couple adult water slides, while other adults in our party watched the kids. That water play structure area made it easy to keep an eye on everybody. Nathan's sister and I went on two rides - Dolphin Plunge (a tube ride that goes through a dolphin aquarium - which happens too fast to actually see anything - rather overrated) and Tassie's Twisters (very fun!!). Nathan and his BIL went on 2 other rides. We also went on both the lazy river (Loggerhead Lane) and the more rapid river ride - both very fun as well. The more rapid one is harder to get out of cause the water moves pretty fast right there. All of us (including Emma and Sophia) went down Taumata Racer several times - where 8 racers fly down the fairly steep slide face first on a mat - super fun! A couple of the others checked out the wave pools as well.

This park was a lot of fun and definitely highly recommended!

We went back to Macaroni Grill for supper, also highly recommended :) Here we are at our impromptu photo shoot upon our return from supper..

The ladies, the men....

and the babies!
Day 8 - Friday - Animal Kingdom

Today we were all up bright and early to go to Disney's Animal Kingdom (this is the only Disney day that Nathan's parents and sister/bil went on with us).

As usual, we got there before the park opened and headed right for Expedition Everest, a high speed outdoor rollercoaster featuring the yedi - Emma & Sophia went on this as well! They didn't like it very much though because the part where you go backwards in the dark made them feel a little off. They recovered quickly though and off we went to the Kilimanjaro Safari, stopping to see Terk along the way. Kilimanjaro Safari is a jeep ride (huge jeep!) through an African wildlife preservation - lions, giraffes, elephants and more to see along the way. After that we took a quick trek through the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail (zoo type thing)and then headed to Camp Minnie/Mickey where the kids got Chip & Dale's autograph

as well as Donald's before we saw The Festival of the Lion King in a round theatre - just as good as last time! Fabulous show. We were debating about going on Expedition Everest again (just the adults), but it was really hot and crowded, so we let the kids play in The Boneyard play structure for a few minutes and then we headed home to our pool!

We went to TGI Friday's for supper again today.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Disney Days 6 & 7 - SeaWorld & Magic Kingdom

You can read about Days 1-3 here and Days 4&5 here.

Day 6 (Tuesday) - SeaWorld

SeaWorld was the girls' least favourite park, but that was partly our fault. First thing when we got there Nathan and I, Linsay (Nathan's sister) and her husband Shaun, went to ride Manta, the new crazy fun rollercoaster. You're strapped in sitting down, and then the floor drops and you're tilted forward until you're completely horizontal, so you're flying through that roller coaster! We were the second group to get on the ride that day, but it took a little bit because they had to run a few more test rides before they let us start riding (scared much?). The kids weren't impressed with waiting since they literally had to just sit and wait with Nathan's parents, as there were too many kids and not enough adults for them to go do something while they waited.

Next we went to see the dolphin show "Blue Horizons" at the Whale & Dolphin Theatre. It was absolutely amazing! This was by far the best show at SeaWorld hands down! So many dolphin tricks, constantly something to look at, great people tricks too - diving and some aerial acrobatics as well. If you only see one show at SeaWorld, this is the one to see.
Next we went to see "Clyde & Seamore Take Pirate Island" at the Sea Lion & Otter Stadium. This show was a disappointment for us. I don't know if it was because the dolphin show was so good, or if this one was bad, but none of us really liked it. We kept thinking - it must get better, but it never did. There were 3 actors in this one and 3 animals. The animals did some good tricks I guess, they just weren't as entertaining or spectacular looking as the dolphins. And the show was supposed to be a comedy, but the actors weren't overly funny. We would not go see this again.

Then us adults went on Kraken, the other crazy roller coaster - while the kids again waited rather impatiently.

After this we had lunch. This was a somewhat frustrating experience because they have no lids or straws for their cups. Seriously. Now, I'm all about saving the planet and the whales and what have you, but saving my sanity takes priority at an amusement park. Four kids and no lids/straws makes for an unhappy mama. So, take note and bring your own!

We had to hurry lunch in order to make the Shamu show "Believe" as it was a bit of a trek to Shamu Stadium. We made it a couple minutes late. Also - take note - for all these shows, the soak zone signs are there for a reason - if you don't want to get wet, don't sit there! :) We stayed far away from the soak zones! This show was pretty good, still not as spectacular as the dolphins though. We were sitting fairly far away, so maybe if we had better seats we may have appreciated the sheer size of the whales more, but the tricks itself were just more fun at the dolphin show.

After this we went to the kid section, but by this point the girls were really hot and tired and a bit bored, so I think they maybe did one or two rides before they decided they just wanted to go home and swim in the pool.So, next time, we would skip the adult rides, and probably do more of the zoo type activities which I think they would've liked better - and the dolphin show of course! :)

In the evening we went for supper at Tony Roma's and then went back to Prime Outlets for a little more shopping.

Day 7 (Wednesday) - Magic Kingdom
Today our little family headed out to Magic Kingdom again. We had to take the ferry across cause the monorail wasn't running for some reason. Here's a picture of the castle from the ferry.

We went straight back to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and rode that thing about 4 times in a row. We also collected some child swap passes (cause Jacob couldn't go) to use later when it got busier. We were there early so we virtually walked on the ride all 4 times. Then Emma, Sophia and I went on Splash Mountain (wearing ponchos! Yep, we cheat and are proud of it!) while Nathan took Jacob and Olivia on the Magic Carpets of Aladdin.

Then we headed for the Tomorrowland section of Magic Kingdom which we've never even been in before (it's more boy oriented) and straight for the Tomorrowland Speedway - where Jacob got to drive a racecar (not sure if it can actually be called a racecar considering how slow it went!). He loved it. You can barely see his cap peeking over the driver's seat. Then we headed into ToonTown where Jacob got to ride his first ever rollercoaster (our local mini rollercoaster not withstanding)- Goofy's Barnstormer! He just BARELY cleared the height restriction. He seemed to really like it. The girls loved this ride last time we came to Disney, and they still liked it now - but after riding Big Thunder Mountain, this one felt really short and just not as good (all true!).

We then walked through Mickey's house and Minnie's house which the girls just loved! They're doing a lot of renovations in Fantasyland and ToonTown at Magic Kingdom and I think these houses are going to be taken down.

Jacob also really enjoyed Peter Pan and Winnie the Pooh (using the FastPass system is crucial, especially when you have young kids that aren't going to survive constant long waits in line).

After the kids were done with rides, we headed back to the house for a quick lunch, and swimming in the pool! We finally took the girls' hairdo's out after this swim.

We all went to TGI Fridays for supper and then our little family headed back to the Magic Kingdom for some more rides (guess which ones?!) and to watch the fireworks and the parade. Looks who's tired while waiting for the parade!

Since the fireworks were first, the park seemed to empty out a bit before the parade, and it didn't seem too crazy getting out of the park afterwards. When the fireworks are last, the show is over and then everyone heads straight for the park gates. But when the parade is last, it's a long route, and it ends at different times for different people, which makes for an easier exit. Makes sense to me anyway!

Anyway, we had missed out on the fireworks during our trip two years ago, resulting in many tears, so I was determined that we wouldn't miss them this time. It's an excellent show. It starts with Tinkerbell flying down from the castle, it's narrated by Jimminy Crickett with a storyline and music to go along with the fireworks, which at one point are even in heart shapes. So fun!

Monday, 10 May 2010

Disney - Days 4 & 5 Magic Kingdom

In case you missed it, you can find Days 1-3 here.

Day 4 (Sunday) - shopping!
Today we slept in and went shopping at Prime Outlets. I think Nathan fell in love with the UnderArmour store.

We had lunch at the food court, did a bit more shopping, then went home to swim and rest/nap.

Then we headed out to Uno's for supper - hmmm, hmmmm, good. There were a few mistakes on our order - we had ordered two different deep dish pizzas (deluxe for Nathan and pepperoni for me and the girls). Unfortunately she (and by "she" I mean our waitress who was likely in her 60's, by the sound of her voice she had been smoking since she was 12, and her name was Storm. I kid you not.) brought us two deluxe pizzas. Not good for us picky eaters. They brought us another pizza, but it took awhile.

Did I forget to mention that we're not above bribery to ensure a peaceful shopping experience? Nothing like a stroller and a lollipop to keep Olivia within eyesight.

Day 5 (Monday) - Magic Kingdom - Bibbity Bobbity Boutique, Cinderella's Royal Table
This was the day the girls had been looking forward to for a long time! And fortunately I double checked my reservations. I had originally been trying to book everything for Tuesday, but it didn't work out as well as Monday so I had booked Monday, but for some reason I kept thinking it was Tuesday. Can you imagine if we had missed it?! The horror!!!

Anyway, Nathan dropped us girls off at the Magic Kingdom ticket and transportation centre where you have to take either the monorail or the ferry across the lake to get to Magic Kingdom. Then he headed to Kennedy Space Center with everybody else. We took the monorail across the lake and were there early enough to get good spots to watch the welcome show that several actors and characters perform to open up the park.

After rope drop we headed for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. On the way we spotted Goofy and Donald so we made a quick stop for autographs before continuing on. I wanted to make sure the girls tried a medium rollercoaster before attempting Expedition Everest at Animal Kingdom. Anyway, they loved it!

After that we headed to the castle for our 9:40am appointments at the Bibbity Bobbity Boutique inside Cinderella's castle. Each girl was given an invitation labelled Princess Emma (etc). It had 3 hairstyles to choose from - all 3 girls picked the traditional fairytale princess hair style. We had chosen to do the Crown package which includes hair style, shimmering makeup, nails painted, and a sash for $55. Each girl was assigned a makeup station and her own fairy godmother-in-training who would perform the makeover. They were each assigned chairs beside each other which was perfect for me and my camera :)

They start with the hair - putting so much goop in there that the girls wore that hairstyle for 3 days before washing it out, even after swimming! Next the girls got to select two colours for eyeshadow and a nail polish colour. All the makeup and polish is light and sparkly - very tasteful for children. Each girl gest to keep the eye shadow kit and both nail polishes along with a comb and stickers, all in a pretty pink to-go bag - for touchups throughout the day (or, more realistically - so they can play BBB when they get home!).

All transformations are done with the girls looking away from the mirror. Once they are complete, the fairy godmothers-in-training wave their magic wands over the girls, saying "Bibbity bobbity boo" and sprinkling pixie dust on them - then they twirl them to face the mirrors for the magical and exciting reveal! We went across the street where the girls got their photos taken in a studio - and here they are.
After our appointments, we had about 3 hrs to kill before our lunch reservations so off to the rides we went!

The girls wanted to go straight back to Big Thunder Mountain, but on our way we stopped to get the coveted autograph of Disney's newest princess - Tiana and her prince Naveen (Olivia was thrilled that the prince held her hand!).

Here they are back on Big Thunder Mountain for a couple more rides...
We then went on the Peter Pan ride where you ride on a flying sailboat over the scenes from the movie - another one of the girls favourite rides. And then Cinderella's Carousel a couple of times since it had a short line.

And then it was finally off to Cinderella's Royal Table for lunch.
Going to the BBB or eating inside the castle is the only way you can go inside and see what it looks like. The girls were so excited!

First you go in and meet Cinderella for autographs and pictures near a large fireplace. A 6x8 print of Cinderella's castle, one 6x8 and four 4x6 prints of your picture with Cinderella are included. There are probably 40 different crests scattered throughout the castle - quite amazing.

Once our reservation was called we went up the red carpeted spiral staircase to the second floor which is where the dining room is. It probably seats around 50 tables. Shortly after we were seated the princesses started arriving to royal introductions and applause. Each princess stopped at each table to talk with the kids, sign autographs and pose for pictures. The day we went featured Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Princess Ariel and Belle - I think this is the first time the girls have gotten Snow White's autograph and the first time they've gotten pictures with Belle in her "street clothes".
The food is all you can eat, but plated, so you order your food. Click here for the breakfast, lunch and dinner menus. The girls all had chicken fingers and mashed potatoes and/or rice. I had the pork tenderloin with rice. Drinks are included, as well as dessert. The girls got sundaes with chocolate crowns and I got a huge muffin shaped chocolate cake with a cream cheese filling - it was delicious!! Each girl also each got a wishing star and a magic wand (boys get a sword).
After lunch we saw "Storytime with Belle" - there's a little nook type area by the castle where Belle tells her story with some acting help from selected audience members.

We happened to stumble upon the afternoon parade as it was almost wrapping up. The girls couldn't really see, but I managed to get a few pictures.
We went on a few more rides, including the Magic Carpets of Aladdin. Your traditional ride, and exactly the same as the Dumbo ride (also at Magic Kingdom), but the lines are WAY shorter. Not sure why the Dumbo one is so popular, but it is.

We were going to see "Dream Along with Mickey", a musical style live production with Mickey/Minnie, numerous princes and princesses and other characters (we saw it last time and they loved it!), but it started to rain. Thankfully we had brought along our Dollar store ponchos and the rain started literally just as I was finishing putting the last poncho (mine!) on. I hadn't thought it would rain that much so I hadn't put the extra poncho over the stroller, which turned out to be a mistake. At the bottom of the stroller is where all the BBB and castle paraphanelia was stored (including their complimentary pictures with Cinderella) and I was so worried that they would get wrecked. The pictures were fine - the folder they came in and the BBB invitations are wrecked though. I was planning to stop by the castle and ask if we could get another one, but we never got around to it. After the rain let up just a little, we decided to head to the Winnie the Pooh ride - I figured we may as well wait inside for a ride instead of just huddling under a shelter doing nothing! Most attractions are built with the lines inside for a good chunk of the time. The wait was quite short, and by the time we were done the ride the rain had stopped. And then we went back to Big Thunder Mountain for one more ride - can you tell it was a favourite?!

Then we hurried back to the parking lot where Nathan was waiting to pick us up after a long and marvelous day! We were at the park from 8:40 to about 5:15 that day and we all had a blast - it was so fun seeing how thrilled they were with the magical events of the day.

We all went to Giordano's for supper and then back to the house, all tired out after a fantastic day.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Our Disney trip - Days 1-3 (travelling & Epcot)

Day 1
Thursday, April 15th we loaded up the van (virtually everything was packed the night before), and drove 3 hrs to the Big City where we stopped for lunch at Paradiso before continuing our treck to Minneapolis. We had made the decision to drive to Minneapolis and fly from there, because we got a killer deal of $200 including all taxes/fees for a direct flight to Orlando - instead of around $600 for a 2 connection flight from here. Times 6 people, that's a big savings, even after hotels, gas and restaurants.

We had decided to stay at a La Quinta, in just a regular room cause it was cheaper (and we were having trouble finding a hotel that suited both our family and our travelling companions' needs/wants/price point - Nathan's parents and his sister and BIL with their 1 yr old daughter). Big mistake. We always stay in at least a 1 bedroom suite when we hotel it with our kids and this night comfirmed that that is the only way to go for us. We virtually got no sleep. Not La Quinta's fault though, so don't let that stop you from staying there should you just need a place to crash and you like regular hotel rooms. The pool area did not look inviting but everything else looked just fine (breakfast included).

Due to the size of our rooms we decided to vacate the premises for the evening. We went to Chili's for supper and then headed to the Mall of America.

Day 2
After our disastrous night, we had a complimentary breakfast (waffles, fruit, etc) at LaQuinta and then boarded the free shuttle to the Minneapolis airport.

Can I just rant a bit about the ridiculous check-in policies right now? You have to pay for You know what that means? Lots of carry-ons. Which ends up being the same amount of luggage in the plane and a whole lot more hassle for the passengers and the flight attendants (whom I would certainly guess make more $ than the luggage loader guys so I fail to see the logic of this plan). This policy meant that we checked 2 large pieces of luggage ($50 bucks total) and then we took 5 carryons, plus 2 strollers, 1 booster seat and several purses onboard the plane. After getting through check-in and security, we ended up checking 4 of the carryons (for free) so there would be less luggage in the carry-on compartments. Again - see how this new plan is just not working?

OK, rant over. So, we grabbed some subs from Quiznos to bring on the plane with us and away we went! The flight itself went well. We weren't quite able to get the seating arrangements we wanted, but it worked. Nathan sat with Jacob and Olivia and I sat across the aisle. Emma and Sophia sat with Grandma and Grandpa sat across the aisle. The kids all did great. After eating lunch, Jacob ended up sleeping for at least half the flight, and Olivia played her DS and slept as well. Emma and Sophia ate their lunch, played their DS and listened to their ipods.

After arriving in Orlando, we got our rental vehicles (we were upgraded for free to an SUV!) and set out for our amazing rental home through Romancing the Mouse. Quite honestly, I don't know why anyone would opt to stay onsite at Disney in a little hotel room, when for the same price or often cheaper, you can stay in a 2000 sq ft home with your own pool and hot tub! We stayed with them last time and loved it, so it was a no brainer to go with them again. Excellent customer service - they personally meet you at the house, give you the keys, go over how everything works, give tips on grocery shopping and anything else you'd like to know and leave their personal cell ph# for you to call should you need anything. This time we stayed in the 6 bedroom 4 bathroom home. Each couple had their own bathroom, and the kids shared the 3rd one - perfect set up for us! Plus we were really close to the parks - literally 10 mins from the time we left our driveway till we were parked at Animal Kingdom.

After settling in at the house, the guys went to Target to pick up groceries and supplies while the girls swam, and then we went for supper. We went to Ci Ci's which was a mistake. It's a pizza and pasta buffet, but we're just not buffet people (well, unless it's on a cruise ship!). The kids, on the other hand, LOVED it and begged to back for the rest of the trip, to no avail. :) The pizza just wasn't that good (little toppings, lots of crust), the pasta was really not good, and it wasn't quite as clean as we prefer our restaurants to be. The cinnamon buns were really good though.

After discussing our plans for the next day, we turned in relatively early for our first big day at Disney.

Day 3
Our family got up early and got to Epcot before the park to beat the rush. Armed with a touring plan (so worth it!) we hit the park! Unfortunately I had forgotten to put autograph books on the list of things to get at Targe, so instead of paying $2, we bought them at the parks while standing in line for $10. They are nicer, but still - argh. After we were through the turnstiles we saw Daisy so we quickly went to get her autograph. Once the rope dropped and the park was officially opened, Nathan and Jacob went to grab fastpasses for Test Track while the girls and I headed to the Character Spot to get in line for autographs with Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Pluto and Donald. Nathan made it back as we were about half way through the characters so Jacob got to interact with a few of them too - he was so excited!

Then we saw Soarin' using the child swap - Nathan took Emma & Sophia (Olivia didn't want to go) while I took Olivia and Jacob on the Land of the Living (boat tour about farming) - Olivia loved it! Once we were done I used my Child Swap pass to get in the fastpass line with Sophia and Olivia (the girls convinced her she would love it and she did!). You can take 2 riders with you when you use the Child Swap pass. On Soarin' you're buckled in and lifted up in front of a giant Imax like screen and you feel like you're soaring through various landscapes and famous places - very cool!

Next we all went on The Seas with Nemo and Friends. You sit in a compartment shaped like a shell and move sideways through the ride while watching a very condensed version of the movie. After that we went to see Turtle Talk with Crush. This is an interactive film with the surfer dude Crush from the movie. It starts off like a film and then the turle begins to have live conversations with audience members - and the guy is hilarious! I think the adults enjoyed it as much as the kids.

We then began the long trek around the worlds, trying to find the princesses in their native country. We found Sleeping Beauty in the UK right away (Sleeping Beauty LOVED Jacob!),but unfortunately after that they all went on a 20 min break. By the time we had made it around to China, Mulan was out, so we got her autograph too.

This conveniently (but not coincidentally - I'm such a planner!) took us to Test Track where we used our fast passes and the child swap pass to ride (without Jacob cause he's not tall enough). The Child Swap pass is so convenient - the kids get to go two times with virtually no lines! For this ride, you're in a car and you go through a course with lots of different testing, including turns and sudden stops and, of course, a really fast speed test! While waiting, Jacob got to play in the Test Track showroom, which is filled with cars and trucks. He was in his glory!!! They didn't mind if the kids were inside the cars, so he basically went from one vehicle to another.

The kids were all tired after this and we headed back to the house (around 2:30) to swim while Jacob napped. We met the rest of Nathan's family at Macaroni Grill for an amazing supper (so nice after the previous night at Ci Ci's) and then went shopping at Kohl's in the evening.

Here's a picture a stranger took for us of our "whole" family. The little guy got cut off - he's sitting in the stroller :)
Stay tuned for more Disney adventures!


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