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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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 think we rode Space Mountain before heading back to Storybook Circus to see the non-Christmas lights and actually ride Dumbo.
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.
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.
And this is the whole reason we went to Disney in December: Cinderella Castle all lit up!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.