I suppose it goes without saying but there are many pictures and stories to come, so skim or skip these posts, they're mostly for Travis and I to remember :) We woke up early (like 6:00am early) on Monday morning so we could make the hour drive and be there when the gates opened. We hadn't told the kids where we were going yet, but they knew we had a special surprise for them! Only with a 2 and 3 year old can you lay out Mickey Mouse shirts for the whole family to wear and NOT have them immediately understand what we were doing!! Ha! We put them in the car and fed them some breakfast, Ava could not understand why it was "nighttime" and what we were doing, but I got the video camera out and we started asking her some leading questions until we got her asking us, "Daddy, can we go to Disney World today??" To which we yelled, "YES!!!"
And then she said two things that cracked us up:
1. After she shrieked with delight, she said "OHHH!!! We have money!!!" Remember in my last post we told her we needed to save money for Disney? Of course she didn't forget that and it was like a light bulb went off! Hilarious! We got a good laugh out of that, and then with each other as we agreed we had enough money for Disney, but maybe wouldn't go so far as to exclaim that we had money :) :) :) Ha ha!
2. After 2 or 3 minutes of excitement, she paused and said (on video) "Oh, I can't wait to tell Miss Ashley. She will love this!" Her Cubbies teacher on Wednesday nights is so sweet to listen to all her stories about princesses, so of course she remembered her in that moment! So funny.
Carter was also excited, although I don't think he really had an idea of what we were about to do. He knew we'd see Mickey Mouse though and that was all it took for him to be thrilled! We followed Trav's sister to the gates of Disney because she needed to be with us to get us her military discount and because she could practically work for Disney! They are annual pass holders and she and my brother in law, Troy, were our Disney experts. She got us in and all set up with our plan of attack and then graciously headed home to let us experience Disney as a family. Seriously, when we pulled up to the gates I thought I might burst into tears from all the excitement!
This would be a theme for the next 4 days...
All Ava wanted was a glimpse of Cinderella's castle and then she fell into a total trance. She was completely overwhelmed for about the first 2 hours, almost unable to take it all in! Because we drove to Florida and we knew Disney was a possibility, we brought our jogger along and we are SO glad we did! Our kids could never have done all the walking without it. Plus, it served as our mobile storage device for snacks, drinks, and our cooler with lunches. It was so great. Kind of pain sometimes too, but mostly great!
We did Disney on a budget, but God gave us major favor in so many details. I really wanted us to have Disney shirts on our first day, totally for the pictures :) Did we need that? No. But I kept that little dream in the back of my mind and after we made the decision to go, I tried to see if I could do it inexpensively. I went to Wal-Mart in Naples and picked up the one and only Minnie shirt for Ava, for $5; I brought a Mickey shirt that Carty got for Christmas from home, for free; I found a Disney Parks outlet store at on our way from Marco to Tampa and scored some cute shirts for Trav and I, both for under $20. Maybe not a big deal to you, but I was so grateful it worked out and fell into place AND that I didn't have to break the bank! Travis was not convinced he needed a Disney shirt or that he loved the grey one I found to match the rest of us, but he wore it to make me happy and I'm not kidding, we weren't in the gates more than 5 minutes and an employee stopped him and said, "I really love that shirt! I haven't seen that one!" Ha ha ha ha ha!! I got a good laugh out of that :) Silly? Yes. But as soon as I saw this picture of us in front of the castle in our shirts, I smiled. God knows I'm a details kind of girl and He loves to delight me when He works those kind of things out. Also, I'm so grateful I have a sweet husband who does things like this to make me happy too :)
My Mom has a love affair with this castle and Ava and I are right behind her!
I could look it all day...I was raised by a romantic at heart and I'm raising one myself :)
Per our game plan to conquer Disney and hit all the "big ticket attractions" efficiently, we made a bee-line for Belle's Cottage, a brand new spot in the princess fantasy land. It is one of the only things that doesn't allow fast passes (more on that later) so we knew we needed to stand in line and wait. It was the ONLY line we waited in for more than 10 minutes during our visit to all of the parks because of their fast pass system and our planning the night before.
Here is my PSA to any of you making a Disney visit in the future: If you attempt to explore a park and do NOT use the fast pass thing, you are CRAZY!! It's free, it's easy and it changes your whole day. Because of the fast passes and our plan to stay on top of them, we did all the major things we wanted to do by lunchtime, then had the whole afternoon free to do the extra things we wanted to do around the park, like shows and parades. I wanted to help all the families wasting their time at the front gates with NO plan for the day, just casually looking at maps and figuring out where things are! That's NUTS!! You will only see a fraction of the park and will stand in long lines for every ride if you do it that way. Just do a little research the night before and it is WELL worth it. Also, we downloaded and used the free "Disney Mobile Magic" app, which became our on the go guide for all of our questions. It had up to the minute wait times on all the rides, schedules for the day, maps, and information on everything. Again, totally helpful!
We were so thankful we didn't have to do many lines because this little guy?? He doesn't do waiting patiently very well! If only we had a rope like this one for every wait :)
Daddy and his princess, who was beside herself to get inside that cottage and see Belle!
The new fantasy land is so adorable. I loved this area from Beauty and the Beast. My only complaint is that I wish it was 10 times bigger! It was so cute to see those parts of the movies come to life. We heard Gaston makes appearances here, but we missed him :) I'm not sure Ava would have been brave enough to get his autograph anyway.
Inside Belle's cottage was a darling "Story time with Belle" that just thrilled all of us. It is set up so well and you get to interact with Belle in a very small setting. This was Ava's first glimpse at a live princess and it was priceless!! She was completely nervous that the Beast was going to appear, but when I finally convinced her it was just Belle, she relaxed and loved it.
After the story time when she caught on that all the kids could get a hug and picture from Belle??
She was dying!! And also, shy :)
Not bad for "No Flash Photography" :)
Her first experience with a princess and it was so cute.
Again, the tears were brimming in Mommy's eyes! Carter was also invited to pose with Belle, but he was too shy and just waved at her instead. Also darling!
Ava has gone through a progression of "favorite" princesses and right now, Ariel holds her heart. This is the scene of "Ariel's Grotto" and I thought it was so cute!
We took a ride in a shell through the grotto and both kids loved it!
Kiss de Girl!
Ava was like this through the whole thing, in a total trance of shock and awe!
After she began to wake up to all the fun in store for her, the good old Carousel brought the first grin of the day!
We did the Peter Pan ride, one of my favorites, and Winnie the Pooh...
And out of total obligation and the need to sit down for awhile...
We rode "It's a Small World", singing all the way!
Because what kind of parents would we be if we didn't expose them to that Disney classic??
Clearly Travis and I enjoyed it and the kids did not know what to think! They were singing by the time it was over, however :)
Ava got a beautiful autograph book from Aunt Shaye and we spotted our first opportunity to use it when we laid eyes on the Fairy Godmother. Ava was completely taken with her and so excited to stand in line and meet her.
My first real tears of the day came after this picture. When I saw the joy in her little heart and her wonder at meeting the "real" Fairy Godmother, I shed some tears too. I couldn't help myself. It was totally cute and brought me right back to my first visit as a girl, when all those characters came to life in front of me and I took it all in. I was told by lots of friends who knew we were going that watching Ava's excitement would make me cry and they were right! Travis wasn't with us for this one, but she couldn't wait to tell Daddy and Carter all about it! We also spotted the Wicked Stepmother and Stepsisters after this, but she was not so thrilled about meeting them. We just took a picture from afar :)
We caught one of the Castle shows in the afternoon and the kids loved it!
We made the mistake of hoisting them up at the beginning so they could see better, and then the world's longest stage show went on and on and on...We were DYING by the end!!
But they thought it was great! I told Travis I needed a break, so we decided to scope out our seats for the parade and take an ice-cream break.
That was a good decision and we got front row seats that were perfect when the parade began!
I video-ed the whole parade, thinking the kids might want to watch it later and they've already watched it several times since!
Nobody does a parade better than Disney!
The waving princesses were a GIANT hit with Ava!
Carter loved all the characters who walked around and came over for a high-5!
We were grateful for overcast skies and a hot day! So far it had been a magical day, but the best part was still to come!
Considering how much we did and that he got no afternoon nap, Carter did remarkably well. He had a few rough minutes here and there, but usually snacks or a diversion thwarted him from a major meltdown.
After the parade, we took a train ride around the park because we knew Carter would love it most of all! His favorite things about Disney World are the Monorail and the Disney Parking Lot Trams! Ha ha! SUCH a boy :) If it had wheels or provided some type of transportation, he loved it!
The BIG score of the day however, was getting fast passes to the Disney Hall of Princesses and meeting Rapunzel Jasmine and Cinderella on the first day!! I thought Ava might pass out from pure joy!! Even Carter was swept up in the excitement of the room :) Right out of the gate, Ava adopted this "hands on her hips" pose while her book was being signed and she would go on to do that for the rest of the trip! It was so funny to us!
Rapunzel was so cute with her, I loved that she wrapped her up in her hair!
Look at that little face!
Jasmine was also a hilarious story, Ava was completely TAKEN with her...
She could NOT stop staring at her! Or even reaching out to "touch" her outfit and stroke her leg. Hilarious. Also, a little nerve wracking for her parents as we tried to tell her, "Ava, keep your hands to yourself!" Ha ha! The poor girl couldn't help it, she was meeting Jasmine live and in the flesh!
Her Disney dreams were slowly coming true, one princess at a time!
The big score was of course, Cinderella, who is like the heavy hitter of Disney. I'm pretty sure she calls the shots when it comes to the other Princesses :)
It was a great catch to get her on our first day!
Not one to waste the moment, my little detailed mini-me cracked us up when she asked Cinderella if she could "See your shoes?" I think she was bummed when she realized there was no glass slipper on that foot, but Cinderella laughed and explained that her glass slippers were in a special place in the Palace :) Of course. Those princesses never break character! And as Travis and I agreed, we're thankful! We paid a lot of money for them to stay in character and sell us some dreams :) :) :)
She was smitten with Cinderella and happy to take a picture and collect another autograph.
What a memory for her...
She looked at these princess pictures over and over on my phone that night! They were real to her and such a treat! Travis and I were also giddy watching her...It was such a special day!
We also fast passed a meet and greet with the star of the whole show himself, Mickey Mouse!!
This time Carter shed his shy demeanor and got right in there to meet Mickey! He loved him and I love this sweet picture. It was the perfect way to wrap up our first day and as they say in Disney World...
"All of our dreams came true!"
It was much different from the Beach, but one of those memories we'll hold onto in our hearts forever. What a great day at Magic Kingdom!! We were tired, sweaty and ready for dinner but brimming with joy too!! We love Disney World!!