Christmas Trip Day 1

The first day of out trip was a real whopper; I almost cried twice but for two very different reasons.

After successfully packing everything in all of our carry-on bags (thus avoiding baggage fees), we managed to pile into my grandparents van by 8:03 a.m. only three minutes past deadline. We made it to the airport with a little over an hour before take off: perfect. Self check-in at AirTran was super easy and we were off to security in no time. Grand Rapids is a fairly small airport so there were only 20 or so people in front of us. The TSA dude pacing back and forth was giving everybody helpful hints to speed up the security process.

“Make sure your bag of liquids is in a separate bin,” he said. Check.

“Make sure everything is removed from your pockets including any belts and shoes,” he said. I didn’t wear a belt and left my shoes untied – double check.

“Make sure you have your boarding passes and IDs ready,” he droned. Easy enough, I thought, and retrieved my ID from my wallet. I was ready to go, ID in one hand, boarding passes in the other.

“I didn’t bring my wallet,” Ashley said.

“What do you mean?” I ask.

“I didn’t bring my wallet so I don’t have my ID,” Ashley clarified.

“WHAT!?” I exclaimed. “What are we doing to do? We can’t go anymore! How did you forget your wallet?”

“I didn’t even think about it,” Ashley replied. I usually drive when we go places and we have the same credit card and share a checking account so she rarely brings her wallet – Something that has changed a bit since this incident.

At this point I was freaking out. My hands were shaking, I was fighting back tears and my mind was racing as to what to do with the situation. I had heard of people’s “heart dropping” when they heard bad news but had never experienced it myself. I know it sounds silly because its just a trip to Disney and many, many people have it far worse than me but in that moment my world was rocked. Cooler heads (Ashley) prevailed and we were headed back to the AirTran counter as I was in a daze of anger and disbelief. Ashley talked to the people at the counter while I called my mother. Looking back, I don’t know why I did this; there wasn’t anything she could do about the situation.

She suggested I call my grandparents to see if they could somehow get the ID to us before we left. It was an hour before our flight and it took us an hour to get to the airport so it seemed possible. If my brother could run to our apartment, grab her wallet and meet my grandparents half way, it just might work. Luckily we left a key with my parents in case we needed them to get into our apartment while away. After a slew of phone calls and “Oh, no” and “How did she forget that?” and “Drive fast but not too fast” the plan was in action.

Ashley went back to security, waited in line and informed the TSA agent about her situation. They ran a background check, asked her some questions and somehow we got through security. Ashley asked me to call my grandparents and have them mail her ID to us instead of racing to get it to the airport in time but I still thought we had enough time. After a tense 20-30 minutes of waiting we had five minutes to board the plane with no grandparents in sight. I called them back, realizing they wouldn’t make it in time so I thanked them for all of their crazy efforts, asked them to mail it to us instead and boarded the plane with two minutes to spare.

Whew!

Two and a half hours later and we were walking off our plane in Orlando. The Magical Express took us to POP Century and fun time was upon us.

Christmas tree as you first walk in from the "other" entrance.

Christmas tree as you first walk in from the “other” entrance by the Magic Express drop off/pick up.

Once again, we opted for online check-in so it took all of two minutes to get our KTTW and head to our room, after taking some mediocre pictures of course!

Big Christmas tree in the middle of the lobby.

Big Christmas tree in the middle of the lobby.

POP Century doesn’t go too crazy with Christmas decorations but you can definitely tell the difference between a normal day and a day in November or December. POP has become our favorite value resort. The rooms are comparable (if not better) to the All Star rooms but having a dedicated bus service to just that resort is invaluable. The food court is also a lot nicer than the All Stars and there aren’t droves of football players or cheerleaders reeking havoc on the grounds.

We only took about 10 minutes to settle into our room before splitting (read: inhaling) a turkey ciabatta sandwich at the food court and grabbing a “motor coach” to the Magic Kingdom for a little fun before the Christmas Party. We arrived around 4 p.m. so we had a solid two to three hours before the festivities began.

The Hub all decked out.

The Hub all decked out.

Main Street U.S.A. really is sigh to see around Christmas.

Main Street U.S.A. really is a sight to see around Christmas.

Our main objective during these couple of hours was to check out New Fantasyland. When we went in August only half of Storybook Circus (double Dumbo and Goofy’s Barnstormer) was open so there was a lot to take in. Ashley and I agreed that it was weird yet exciting to see new things at Disney World. It’s weird (especially for me) because we have been a lot and are used to things that are there so new things shake it up a bit. Obviously its exciting because everybody likes new stuff and anything Disney does in their parks are usually top-notch. We set out for Storybook Circus first.

We saw Pooh and Tigger leaving their post on the way. This was the beginning of experimenting with different settings on my camera. I don't know what this one is called but it's trippy.

We saw Pooh and Tigger leaving their post on the way. This was the beginning of experimenting with different settings on my camera. I don’t know what this one is called but it’s trippy.

This sign is gigantic. It also lights up a night. Well, at least some of it does.

This sign is gigantic. It also lights up a night. Well, at least some of it does.

The large crowd to the left of the picture above were watching the clown band. They probably have a proper name but I think clown band is fairly self-explanatory. We didn’t stop to watch but they looked quite entertaining. If nothing else it’s probably a good way to spend a few minutes of your time in the park.

The gift shop in Storybook Circus.

The gift shop in Storybook Circus.

Inside the shop is awesome. There are spot lights and the coolers and some shelving are themed like train cars.

Inside the shop is awesome. There are spot lights and the coolers and merchandise shelves along the outside wall are themed like train cars. Unfortunately, you can’t see any of them very well in this picture. They are along the back wall to the left of Big Top Treats.

Inside Big Top Souvenirs is Big Top Treats. They have the normal treats you would find at other Disney locations: cookies, cupcakes, etc. After not buying any souvenirs or treats we headed for the newest part of New Fantasyland.

Here's a look at the construction of the Seven Dwarfs mine ride. The footprint of this thing is ridiculous.

Here’s a look at construction of the Seven Dwarfs mine ride. The footprint of this thing is ridiculous.

Beast's Castle. When we saw it in August it looked small but we were quite a ways away. Now that we got closer to it, it still looks rather small BUT impressive nonetheless.

Beast’s Castle. When we saw it in August it looked small but we were quite a ways away. Now that we got closer to it, it still looks rather small BUT impressive nonetheless.

We didn’t get anywhere near Enchanted Tales with Belle since the waits were routinely 60+ minutes every time we walked past. The little village Disney has created is quite charming however.

The fountain outside Gaston's Tavern.

The fountain outside Gaston’s Tavern. To the left is the tavern, directly behind the fountain is the walkway to the appropriately themed bathrooms and to the right is the gift shop which probably has a proper name.

The decor is very...manly.

The decor is very…manly.

A wonderful antler chandelier.

A wonderful antler chandelier.

Although it’s a quick service location there aren’t many choices when it comes to food. Your two choices are pork shank or cinnamon roll. That’s it. The pork shank could be a substantial snack or possibly a meal. I’m guessing it’s a sister act to the ever-famous Turkey Leg. The drink of choice in the Tavern would be LeFou’s Brew: a frothy, apple-infused, semi-frozen drink. Ashley described it best saying the “head” of the brew tasted like the fluoride treatment you get at the dentist: YUMMY! Once you get past that though it’s a very refreshing drink. It’s hard to describe the consistency of the drink. It’s frozen but not like a slushie. Instead, it’s very creamy. Whatever it is we both enjoyed it. I still like Butter Beer better though.

Two straws because we ain't swapping spit.

Two straws because we ain’t swapping spit.

I'm not sure if this is THE chair or not but it was large.

I’m not sure if this is Gaston’s chair or not but it was large.

After getting a good buzz going at Gaston’s we went next door to the gift shop. It’s kind of small but they have a good assortment of Beauty and the Beast themed merchandise. I didn’t take any pictures inside but things of note would be the beautiful china and glasses with gold detail along with the awesome, light-up, plastic, crown shaped goblets. I meant to buy one but forgot. It’s okay, I’m sure there are better things I can spend $17 on.

We saw this bad boy on the way to Eric's castle.

We saw this bad boy on the way to Eric’s castle.

The only new ride since our last visit was Journey of the Little Mermaid. If you like constant, slow-moving rides with lots of animatronics, color and music surrounding you, this is the ride for you! Somehow we managed to arrive when there was a meager 15 minute wait so we hopped on.

Eric's castle. The faux rock work is incredible.

Eric’s castle. The faux rock-work is incredible.

My Canon Elph 300 HS has a "Miniature effect" setting on it. I think it's an attempt at  tilt-shift photography with higher saturation.

My Canon Elph 300 HS has a “Miniature effect” setting on it. I think it’s an attempt at tilt-shift photography with higher saturation.

Close up of the rocks.

Close up of the rocks.

There is a waterfall in the outdoor portion of the queue. I can imagine it will get very, very hot during the summer months.

There is a waterfall in the outdoor portion of the queue. I can imagine it will get very, very hot during the summer months.

We both enjoyed the ride. If nothing else it’s fun and air-conditioned. It won’t wow you like other rides or get your heart racing like “The Mountains” will but for kids it’s great and even for two 20-somethings it was a good one. Granted, a good portion of the ride reminds you of The Seas with Nemo and Friends if you removed “Nemo” and replaced it with “Ariel” but at least Scuttle is in this one!

We all know he is better than the "Mine" seagulls in Finding Nemo.

We all know he is better than the “Mine” seagulls in Finding Nemo.

The clam-mobiles.

The clam-mobiles.

I took a video during the big room scene of the ride and it was dark for the majority of the rest of it so I didn’t take many mediocre pictures of the actual ride. I know, I know. I’ll add the video into the post soon though.

Looks like she could use some straps on that gown of hers.

Looks like she could use some straps on that gown of hers.

And 90-X King Triton saves the day. Seriously, I didn't take a picture of it but King Triton is RIPPED in the ride.

And P90-X Triton saves the day. Seriously, I didn’t get a good shot of it but King Triton is RIPPED in the ride.

Between Journey of the Little Mermaid and Storybook Circus is Ariel’s Grotto. It’s where she now meets guests. We didn’t venture over that far because the walkway between the two areas wasn’t open (because it apparently wasn’t busy enough to warrant opening the gates). Insulted, we left and went to Retro Fantasyland. Peter Pan was too busy to ride and it’s a Small World is silly so we continued walking.

Rapunzel’s bathroom and stroller parking area are coming along nicely. I anticipate this will be open when we go with my family in May and I can’t WAIT to urinate here.

Unfortunately, I didn't see Pascal anywhere.

Unfortunately, I didn’t see Pascal anywhere.

We spent the next little bit riding Splash Mountain and Pirates of the Caribbean and just enjoying the atmosphere of the Magic Kingdom. Thanks to Josh I knew there was a spot by Stitch’s (Abomination of a ride that should be bulldozed immediately) Great Escape where we could get our wrist bands for the party without having to go all the way to the front of the park by the entrance. This was extremely helpful since there were maybe 10 people getting theirs in front of us while there were hundreds getting them at the front of the park.

I wore mine the entire trip hoping to sneak back in another night but, alas, they change the color of them frequently.

I wore mine the entire trip hoping to sneak back in another night but, alas, they change the color of them frequently.

I think we rode Space Mountain before heading back to Storybook Circus to see the non-Christmas lights and actually ride Dumbo.

It's way better at night than during the day.

It’s way better at night than during the day.

More "shadow" effect. Not as good as the Pooh and Tigger picture.

More “shadow” effect. Not as good as the Pooh and Tigger picture.

I also discovered I could take long exposure pictures with a point-and-shoot. Marvelous!

I also discovered I could take long exposure pictures with a point-and-shoot. Marvelous!

This one is better. I learned to take the picture right at the end of the ride where it forces your dumbo-craft to raise all the way up for a few seconds.

This one is better. I learned to take the picture right at the end of the ride where it forces your dumbo-craft to raise all the way up to the top for a few seconds. You can even see the second ride in the left side of the picture. I tried to take pictures while on the ride but it…. well, yeah; it didn’t work out so well.

We also moseyed over to Casey Jr.’s Splash Zone for a hot second. It wasn’t as wet as I remember it being in August. Makes sense I suppose.

The overhead string lights add to the circus theme.

The overhead string lights add to the circus theme.

Here's another built-in effect. I'm not sure how I feel about it quite frankly.

Here’s another built-in effect. I’m not sure how I feel about it quite frankly.

At this point it was getting close to party time so we took the super secret passageway behind Goofy’s Barnstormer to Tomorrowland and continued towards Main Street. I found yet another guide animal bathroom area on this trail. So, if you have a guide dog, cat, camel, etc.  make sure you stick around Tomorrowland. There is one bathroom area by the human bathrooms and a second area on the path to Storybook Circus.

Got a decent nighttime picture of Space Mountain.

Got a decent night-time picture of Space Mountain on the way.

And this is the whole reason we went to Disney in December: Cinderella Castle all lit up!

It really is breathtaking.

It really is breathtaking.

When will my reflection show, who I am inside?

When will my reflection show, who I am inside?

They make it snow on Main Street. While it is magical, being from Michigan it's not the same. I'm sure people from the South enjoy it because they don't see much snow but this stuff is a little soap-y for my liking. Still, it's magical in the moment.

They make it snow on Main Street. While it is magical, being from Michigan it’s not the same. I’m sure people from the South enjoy it because they don’t see much real snow but this stuff is a little soap-y for my liking (literally, it’s soap). Still, it’s magical in the moment and it wouldn’t be the same without it.

Here's the "tilt shift" effect again.

Here’s the “tilt shift” effect again.

It turns colors throughout the night. This is while waiting for the Celebrate the Season stage show.

It turns colors throughout the night. This is while waiting for the Celebrate the Season stage show.

As close as I could get without the quality being worse than it already was. The lights are a series of gigantic nets draped over the castle.

As close as I could get without the quality being worse than it already was. The lights are a series of gigantic nets draped over the castle.

The finale of the show. My camera isn't the best at night time pictures. The show was great though. Lots of Disney characters couple with classic Christmas songs.

The finale of the show. My camera isn’t the best at night-time pictures. The show was great though. Lots of Disney characters coupled with classic Christmas songs.

The show was the first real part of the Christmas Party we experienced (since we missed the lighting of the Castle, whoops ). There are a TON of characters strewn throughout the park meeting guests but we didn’t stop to see any of them. If we go back with kids somebody I’m sure we will. Instead, we actually rode a handful of rides during the party if we happened to be walking past them since most had five-minute (non-existent) waits. Splash Mountain was particularly fun during the party because you could see everything all gussied up for Christmas while at the top.

After the show we headed for Tomorrowland as we wanted to avoid the entire area between Main Street and Frontierland because of the first parade shortly thereafter. On the way we stopped for cookies and hot chocolate. The choices were chocolate chip and snickerdoodle. You can get two of either kind or one of each. I opted for one of each every time we got cookies. I enjoyed both kinds. They were soft and chewy and weren’t wafer thin: they had some heft to them. Also, the hot chocolate was quite possibly the best I have ever had. It was extremely rich and chocolate-y and always the perfect temperature: not burn-your-entire-mouth hot or this-tastes-like-bad-chocolate-milk cold. I was impressed with both the cookies and hot chocolate. We were planning on seeing how many we could eat but stopped at six a piece. Or maybe it was four. Or maybe Ashley had four and I had six. I know we got them at Tomorroland Terrace and Columbia Harbour House but after that it gets a bit fuzzy.

Club Tinsel was bumpin'

Club Tinsel was bumpin’

On our avoidance trek we popped into Club Tinsel (Cosmic Ray’s) for a little bumping and grinding. At first I was appalled because Sonny Eclipse had been lowered into the stage and a real, live DJ was imposing on his space. But then I saw Santa Goofy and Pluto poppin’ and lockin’ and I was instantly satisfied. For real though, they had some moves. I think I might apply to be the “Dancing Santa Goofy at Club Tinsel” next year.

They had these projections on multiple buildings throughout the park. This one was on Mickey's Star Traders.

They had these projections on multiple buildings throughout the park. This one was on Mickey’s Star Traders.

We dilly-dallied around for a while before watching the Totally Tomorrowland Christmas show. It featured Buzz Lightyear, Mike Wazowski and Stitch (I booed when they introduced him). It wasn’t anything special but it was entertaining and fun watching the children dance around and be happy, unless that sounds creepy than that wasn’t the case. Compared to the show in front of the castle is was high school musical caliber but since it costs upwards of $60 to go to the party you may as well see everything you can and get your money’s worth.

After the show we bolted over to Main Street for the Magic, Memories and You castle projection show and Holiday Wishes. We got a spot right in the middle of Main Street between Casey’s Corner and the Ice Cream Parlour: it was perfect.

Looking behind us towards the park entrance. It was a wee bit busy.

Looking behind us towards the park entrance. It was a wee bit busy.

The Magic, Memories and You show was revamped since August and obviously had a few special holiday sections added just for the party. It’s an entertaining show and since Wishes comes five minutes after it there really is no excuse not to see it. Seeing different things projected on the castle is pretty cool and reminiscent of the 25th anniversary birthday cake castle that I actually got to see in person. I took the best pictures I could.

Wreck it Ralph

Wreck it Ralph

Ashley's boyfriend, Walt

Ashley’s boyfriend, Walt

I'm not sure what this one is. Gumdrops maybe?

I’m not sure what this one is. Gumdrops maybe?

Gingerbread castle.

Gingerbread castle.

After the first show I popped into Casey’s Corner to get an order of mini corn dogs on Ashley’s instruction. It actually wasn’t that busy and I only missed the first minute or so of Wishes. Holiday Wishes is definitely better than normal Wishes, especially the finale where Disney practically surrounds you with fireworks. Throughout the show there are a few other times where perimeter fireworks are used.

After the fireworks we headed towards the exit to snag a spot for the parade. We had a good hour between Wishes and the parade so I was planning on seeing Minnie and Mickey or shopping or something but we didn’t end up doing any of it. Instead, we trudged up the stairs to the balcony of the train station and shivered for 45 minutes. I mean it was COLD. We had been in Michigan that morning but I swear it was colder in the Magic Kingdom. We both had sweatshirts on and I could have used a coat and gloves. Ashley ended up hiding behind a lamp post as best she could until the parade started.

One thing this spot did allow for was a great angle for mediocre picture taking.

Our view. I hate how my camera turns lights into blurry lights with an aura around them.

Our view. I hate how my camera turns lights into blurry lights with an aura around them.

Main Street U.S.A - "Tilt Shift"

Main Street U.S.A – “Tilt Shift”

Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade was a good one. There are a ton of floats with common and rare characters, plenty of goofy vehicles, Santa and the best part of all, a toy soldier marching band. I have a video of them performing that I will upload shortly. I managed to take a few salvageable photos of the parade itself. Even with the “Night time” setting the pictures are still more horrible than normal.

The Toy Story float. You can see the toy soldiers coming up behind it.

The Toy Story float. You can see the toy soldiers coming up behind it.

Scrooge

Scrooge

Chip and Dale have possibly the coolest float. They get to skate around and throw "snowballs" at the crowd.

Chip and Dale have possibly the coolest float. They get to skate around and throw “snowballs” at the crowd.

Why wait in line to see the Seven Dwarfs when you can take a picture of them during the parade and Photoshop yourself in later?

Why wait in line to see the Seven Dwarfs when you can take a picture of them during the parade and Photoshop yourself in later?

Snow White and Prince Charming, looking lovely as usual.

Snow White and Prince Charming, looking lovely as usual.

Cinderella and her enterouge. The mini horses pulling it must be to keep the forced perspective of Main Street in check.

Cinderella and her entourage. The mini horses pulling it must be to keep the forced perspective of Main Street in check.

Then there is this behemoth. We have Beast on the far left, I think Belle is behind him, Eric and Ariel in the middle, Jasmine and Aladdin behind them and Fairy Godmother at the end.

Then there is this behemoth. We have Beast on the far left, I think Belle is behind him, Eric and Ariel in the middle, Jasmine and Aladdin behind them and Fairy Godmother at the end.

Although we had about 45 minutes before the party officially ended after the parade, we were wiped from a long day of heinous travel so we packed it in for the night and headed for the bus station. We ended up getting on the second “motor coach” out so that wasn’t bad. I think we ended up in bed by midnight so we were happy about that.

We were both pleased with the Christmas party but agreed that if we go to Disney during November or December again before we have kids we probably won’t pay the money to go to it again, especially since it gets more expensive every year. We could go again and see more characters since that was the only thing we didn’t do but I still don’t think it’s worth it. We saw all the shows, went to the Tomorrowland dance party (we didn’t go to the Frontierland dance party but figured it would be about the same just different characters), saw the parade, ate lots of free cookies and hot chocolate, marveled at the lights around the park, marveled at Cinderella Castle dressed in her Christmas sweater and even rode about a dozen rides.

Not going to the party would mean we’d miss out on five extra hours at Magic Kingdom but for the money I don’t see it happening again until we have children.

I would still encourage anybody thinking about going to attend though: it’s definitely something you need to experience at least once upon a Christmastime at Christmas.

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