Thursday, February 28, 2008

Disney Day 5: Experiencing the Magic, Take 2

There is just something about the Magic Kingdom that is more magical than anywhere else in Disneyworld. So I always expect something a little more. Today was exactly that.

First off, I want to say that today was the most stress free day thus far. That’s because last night we sat down with the map and decided what we still wanted to see. Then I made an agenda and we stuck with it. I must say, that made all the difference in the world …

We woke up the usual time and made our way to Magic Kingdom. We arrived just in time to see Mickey and friends arrive on the train and open Magic Kingdom.

We tried to make our way quickly back to Fantasyland, but that’s hard to do when there is a horde of people with strollers and children everywhere. By the time we got back to Fantasyland our scheduled first ride, Dumbo, was packed. As much as I wanted to ride Dumbo this trip, I also didn’t want to spend an hour in line waiting to do so. The kids saw the nearby carousel, which was empty, so we decided to ride that instead.

Then we went in to see another showing of Mickey’s Philharmagic. It was great again! By the time the show got out things were looking much better at Dumbo.

While we were waiting for Dumbo we realized that Ariel was in her Grotto. We had been dissuaded from seeing her previously because the line was always unbearably long, but not this morning. So I left Brian in line with the boys and Carissa and I zipped over to meet Ariel. She was beautiful, as always, and Carissa enjoyed meeting her.

We got back in line for Dumbo, much to Brian’s relief. He really didn’t want to ride that with the boys! Well, no worries there as the line was moving so slowly. We waited … and waited … and waited. Finally it was our turn. Carissa and I rode in a (surprise!) pink Dumbo and the boys rode in a blue one. We did the obligatory up and down routine and Carissa valiantly attemped to keep Brian from getting any pictures of her on the ride. She would go all the way to the top and sit there. I would distract her and move us down, but as soon as I moved my hand off the control she would do it again.

We said goodbye to Fantasyland and made our way to Toontown for more character greeting. We had seen Mickey but only at Animal Kingdom, where he was decked out in safari gear. We took a quick trip over to his house and finally got the chance to meet him in his traditional attire. Snap, snap, snap and the pictures were over. We tried to go to Minnie’s house next but the lines were really long to meet her so we just let Carissa explore for a few minutes

before take a quiet, almost deserted back path to Tomorrowland.

You can’t leave the Magic Kingdom without having ridden Space Moutain, so we did just that. Then we shot on the Buzz Lightyear ride where Brian, once again, kicked our butts. I think it’s just unfair advantage, him being a trained professional and all. LOL ;)

Next was Monsters Inc. laugh floor. It was funny and entertaining but no one from our group got picked to be on the big screen.

We headed back to Space Mountain for one more ride using the Fastpasses that we had, but it was closed for the moment so we opted to stop at Cosmic Rays for lunch. This was probably the best counter service meal we’ve eaten thus far. It was nice that they had so many selections to choose from and we all got to eat something we wanted.

We were ready to leave Tomorrowland but decided to stop one more time to see if Space Mountain had opened. It had so we rode it one more time before heading to the other side of the Magic Kingdom.

Next up was Adventureland, where the kids got to visit the Swiss Family treehouse. We didn’t go up with them but relaxed near the exit while they explored to their hearts content.

We grabbed fastpasses for the Jungle Cruise before heading over to ride the riverboat around Tom Sawyer Island. It was a nice relaxing ride but we were ready for something more so we found Big Thunder Mountain RR. Since MIL is in a wheelchair we were able to get on with very little wait. We got to ride twice in a row, as we had to wait until our car ended up on the same side of the ride as we got off on. Bonus! Of course, the kids did the obligatory hands-in-the-air riding that has become routine since we came to Disneyworld.
Next up, it was FINALLY time to explore Tom Sawyer Island. For some reason, we just really haven't made it to the island on either of our last trips. Chase had been reading up on it and was anxious to go explore so we took a raft over and spent an hour just playing around and enjoying the scenery and the serenity.We had wanted to go to Haunted Mansion one more time, but the lines were huge and we just didn’t think it was worth it to wait all that time. And the parade was on it’s way so we knew we would be stuck in the area if we didn’t get somewhere else rather quickly. So we crossed back over to Adventureland for a ride on Pirates and to use our Fastpass for Jungle Cruise. When we arrived at Jungle Cruise we found out that we didn’t need our Fastpasses since we had to ride in a special boat with MIL, so I took our 7 fastpasses and handed them out to two families in the LONG line for the Jungle Cruise. It was sort of nice to share the joy with others who were thankful for what we couldn’t use.

By now the day was getting late and we decided to try to find a place to eat dinner. We decided to try The Plaza restaurant. After a short wait we were seated and ready to eat dinner. This was a great meal. It was relaxing to sit down and eat for a change and the food was very good.

Upon leaving The Plaza about 6:15pm, we realized that the parade route was already packed with people. There wasn’t a speck of curbside space available, even though the parade was still 45min away. We looked and looked and finally noticed a place restricted for handicap guests and their parties. So Mom took us in there and we were able to get a nice, albeit somewhat uncomfortable (on the cement!), view of the Spectromagic parade.

While we were waiting for the parade to start the kids decided to buy some light-up baubles for themselves. Carissa bought a conservatively priced light necklace and Chase bought a swirling Mickey ears light up. Tristan had been eyeing the Stitch light up toy since we arrived and he finally got one for his own. Boy, did he love that!

The parade started right on time and it wasn’t long before it made it’s way to where we sat on the Tomorrowland side of the hub. I can’t remember seeing this parade any of the last few times we were here, so it was new for us all. I must say that I really liked it. The music was good, the lights and floats were good and the characters were great. It was wonderful!

As soon as the parade stopped we moved for a bit better view of Cinderella Castle. From here we could clearly see the sky above the castle. We were all set for “Wishes” fireworks. This time Carissa sat on Brian’s shoulders. He talked with her about wishes and told her that if she wished very hard she just might be able to see a fairy. Lo and behold, a few minutes later tinkerbell flew by. Carissa raised her arms up and tried to reach for her. So cute!!! I stood with my arms over the boys shoulders, just enjoying the moment with them. It was such a wonderful show, as always. So magical, so happy, such a reminder of how special and wonderful this time with our kids.

Wishes left us with that warm, fuzzy feeling we always get at Disney and we weren't really in a hurry to leave. Besides, we didn't want to contend with the hoardes headed out of the park so we took our time. We had some photos taken with the illuminated castle

and then slowly meandered down main street, stopping at the bakery for chocolate croissants (YUMMMMMM) and cinnamon rolls for breakfast tomorrow morning. We browsed a bit and enjoyed the beautiful lights
on our way home from this wonderful, magical day.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Day 4 - The kids are animals!!!

This morning I woke up before the clock even rang. I guess I must be getting used to the time change finally. The rest of the family must be too because they all got up much easier this morning.

We had breakfast and headed out for Animal Kingdom. We arrived just as the rope dropped and joined the horde on the way to Expedition Everest. Now, I had seen shows on this ride and thought I really had an idea of what it was about, but it was much better than I even anticipated. I think this could have something to do with the fact that Tristan and I were in the front car and had a clear, unobstructed view of the entire ride. Wow, that just makes it awesome!!! We loaded very quickly and started on our way. The first section was wonderful, but what I really loved was the view from way up there on top of Everest. AMAZING!!! Probably the best view of any in the whole of Walt Disney World. While we knew we would be going backwards, we didn’t know that it would be so quickly into the ride. I must give a huge shout out to the Imagineers at Disney who had us going backwards and upside down in the dark. My stomach always takes it a bit easier if it’s dark and I can’t see anything to judge exactly how we’re moving. After the backwards portion Tristan and I got a birds eye view of the track flipping over to send us on our way forward again. How cool! Soon we were on our way down the mountain, twisting and turning and just having a grand time screaming together. It was all wonderful!

While we would have loved to go again right away we all knew that our stomach’s weren’t sure about a second go round so quickly after the first. We decided to head on our way to see more of Animal Kingdom.

Up next was Dinoland USA. We headed into the fun little carnival like area first. This was being built we were here in 2001 and I clearly remember the big wall closing it off and the top of the dinosaurs head peeking up over the top. Now we were able to walk right in and see what we had narrowly missed during our last trip.

One of the most exciting rides of this area is the Primeval Whirl or, as it’s called online, Primeval Hurl. I can see exactly why it’s called that. It’s a narrow, twisty coaster, which is bad enough in and of itself. But add to that the fact that each car spins around and around during the course of the ride and you’ve got a big problem. I would NOT last on this thing and none of the other adults were interested in riding for the same reason. Thankfully the kids were allowed to go on together. Wow! Their first solo ride.

They rode once and jumped right back in line to ride again. They really enjoyed it. Next was the Triceratops spin, one of those dumbo-like rides where you go up and down.

This was obviously not high on the excitement factor, so we decided to sit down and make a bit more exciting plan for the day.

We let the kids play in the boneyard while we planned. The boneyard is infamous in our family Disney history as the place where 3 year old Tristan got lost during our 2001 trip. He was walking the play structures with Chase and went down the blue slide when Chase went down the yellow slide. Needless to say Chase got worried that his brother didn’t come to the same place he did. Chaos insued and we all went crazy until we found Tristan who was oblivious to the fact that he was indeed lost. Ever since Tristan heard that story he’s been wanting to return to the boneyard to play. They enjoyed a nice little chunk of playtime while Brian and I planned. By the time their play time was up we had come up with my “Nazi Regimine” (so called by Brian because of my tendancy to be pushy and rushing people along). We were on a tight schedule so we finally got down to business.

Next up was Dinosaur. OK, I don’t like scary anything. Roller coasters are not scary to me, no matter how many dips or turns they take. But this ride was scary to me. So scary in fact that I ducked my head a few times, including the time when they took the picture.
It was definitely not my kind of ride. MIL liked it a lot though and the kids thought it was pretty neat. Carissa was concerned about the dinosaur we had let lose during our trip to the past. But we all got through it.

Up next was the Finding Nemo stage show. Another wonderful, magical Disney stage show.

This one was probably even more special than the others because of the puppets. They were made my Michael Curry, a puppet designer based in our little hometown in Oregon. I’ve been for a tour of his workshops and are just so thrilled by all he does. WOW. Oh, and the Emmy on the wall helped to impress a bit too, ;) Anyways, the puppets in this show were really awesome. All the seaweed and plants were costumes, as were the fish and other characters. It was SO wonderful!
The only unfortunate part was the realization that Carissa's brand new beautiful pearl necklace that she had long coveted was missing. The chain itself was still on her but the clasp on the pendant part of the necklace must have opened because the butterfly and pearl pendant were gone. She was devestated! We looked all around where we were sitting with no luck. We stopped at lost and found both here, at Animal Kingdom, and at the park we were at the day before, Hollywood Studios. Again, no luck. I can't even tell you how much Carissa was saddened by this all.
We did have the rest of the day to look forward to though so we went on with our plans, which were to use our fastpasses for Expedition Everest. I loved it yet again.

Next was one of Dad’s favorite rides. … Kali River Rapids. He’s a junkie for water rides and couldn’t wait to go on this one. I was a bit more pragmatic about water rides and suggested we wear ponchos to keep from getting too wet. Dad would have none of that. And he could be relied upon to get the kids on his side. It wasn't a big issue to me so I didn't push it, but I had a bad feeling about exactly how wet we were going to get.
Now, the thing about this ride is that whether you stay dry, get wet, or get really, really wet is all determined by how the raft spins and who hits the waterfall first. The first ride worked out fairly well for me and I was only a little bit wet, but since there was no line we all (including the family from Michigan who was sharing our raft) decided to stay and go on a second trip. This time I got even more wet. Worst of all was that Carissa was thoroughly soaked. And that poor little girl doesn't have an ounce of fat on her so she gets cold easily. By the time we got off the ride she was shivering. Thankfully a nearby vendor had dresses for sale and Carissa got a new one to wear.

A quick (and wet) trek to see the giant fruit bats and the hippos and such
we were ready to take a break for lunch.
Unbeknownst to us, the lines for food were 30 minutes long. Ugh! Seriously?!? No lines for the ride but 30 minutes to eat? Grrrr. Anyways, some chips (Cheetos, given to her for her birthday by a vendor) an apple and an orange helped sate the kids hunger until we could have dinner.

By now we were feeling the pinch on time. We took the Safari ride and got to see some wonderful animals,
but had to hurry on our way to see Mickey and Minnie in Camp Mickey Minnie. Thankfully we were able to finally see Mickey alone (without Pluto I mean) this trip.
We got a chance to see Minnie too. Check our Rissa posing with Minnie and sporting her new dress.
Next up was “It’s Tough To Be A Bug”. Tristan didn’t want to ride this so he and I sat out and shopped a bit. As soon as everyone was done we hightailed it back to Camp Mickey Minnie for the Festival of the Lion King. I had seen some clips of this show on someones trip report and I had shared them with the kids so we were all very excited about seeing it. We were there early but thankfully there were lots and lots of pin trading cast members to occupy their time until the show started. Once they had traded several times they came and sat back down with us to wait. One of the CM’s came over and asked if they would like to help him out. They were up for it so he taught them the "hand jive" and had them teach the audience. While they hadn’t exactly perfected it themselves, they sure had a great time being in the limelight and showing others how to hand jive. The CM took them backstage and made them “magical moment” certificates to help them remember their special moment.

The show started and I must say that it was awesome.

The tumble monkeys were great, as were the other performers in the show. But I must say that my favorite performers were my own children. Once again, the kids were picked to take part in the show, this time in the finale. They circled around the room with shakers and followed the 3 rules given to them: have a big smile, make a lot of noise and have fun.

They did just that and were so wonderful. It was a truly special occasion for them and a fitting way to end our day in Animal Kingdom.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Disney Day 3: Over and Over and Over

Today was our trip to the newly named Disney Hollywood Studios. While the kids still didn’t want to get up this morning, they did finally get motivated and we made it into the studios before rope drop. As soon as the rope dropped we made a beeline for Rockin Rollercoater, staring Aerosmith. None of us had ever ridden this before. They don’t have it in Disneyland and the kids were all too young to ride when we visited WDW in 2001. So it was all a surprise to us.
We walked right into the preshow room and then in a short line to get into our super strech limo. While in line we were finally able to catch a glimpse of the ride in motion. Oh my goodness. You sit at a dead stop and than rocket off into the darkness. We were all so excited to go! I must say that this ride didn’t disappoint us. The takeoff was fast but smooth and you went right into a loop that had us screaming our heads off. A few more twist and turns in the darkness and then you get to the corkscrew … so awesome! The kids all thought it was so cool and, I must admit, Brian and I did too. Carissa's comment was “I could live on this ride.”

Rockin Rollercoaster is only 90 seconds long but so worth the wait in line. We loved it so much that we decided to ride again right away. The lines were short again so we got on fairly quickly. And after that ride we decided to grab some Fastpasses so we could ride again later in the day.

While we could have gone on riding this all day long we let Tristan lead the way to the Tower of Terror.
We LOVED this in Disneyland and rode it so many times while we were there, yet when it’s sitting next to Rockin Rollercoaster it just isn’t quite as good. Sure, we liked it a lot, especially since it pushes the cars horizontally into the elevator shaft - quite a different effect than the Disneyland version. Tristan, who was very apprehensive about riding ToT, since he didn’t like it at Disneyland, decided he’d give it one more try. He was scared from the beginning but he ended up absolutely loving it. Go figure.

We had spent enough time down Sunset Boulevard so we decided to find some other entertainment. We got there just in time to see High School Musical 2. Carissa absolutely ADORED this. You can just tell by the look on her face.

Thankfully she has a really tall Daddy though, as the place we chose to sit (up top near the big sorcerers hat) was the BACK of the show and you couldn't see a darned thing from there. So Brian just put her up on his shoulders and found a place to stand behind the hoardes so that his daughter could see. What a Dad!
We only watched part of the show but were put off by the crowds so we decided to head to the nearby “Great Movie Ride.” Well, let me tell you, we didn’t think it was so "great". *yawn* ‘nuff said.

Next up we were ready for something unquestionably filled with Disney magic, The Little Mermaid. Unfortunately, the Little Mermaid show was having technical difficulties and wasn’t currently open. We did shop a bit at a nearby store filled with girly things, where Carissa bought an adorable charm bracelet for herself.

After the disappointment I bet you can’t guess where we went. Back to RnR, of course! We used our Fastpasses and had another thrilling ride.

Lunch time was here and we were going to try to grab it and catch the next “Lights, Motors, Action” stunt show. We picked up some tasty pizza from Pizza Planet but never quite made it to the stunt show. We found some seats outside and just sat and soaked up the wonderful sunshine while we went through our scheduling options for the day.

After much debate and decision making we decided to forego the car stunt show and instead go to the Indiana Jones stunt show, which the kids all wanted to see. But first we hit the nearby Muppetvision 3D.

Not as good as Mickey’s Philharmagic, but cute anyways.

Next was the Indy stunt show, however I don’t quite think choosing this over the car stunk show was a great choice. Indy was an ok show but really rather slow moving with only 3 short segments of action. Another *yawn* for this one from Brian and I, though it was one of Chase’s favorite parts.

Brian and I actually snuck out of Indy early with Carissa and staked out spots for the soon-to-be-defunked “Stars and Motor Cars” parade. This was quite the task. When we sat down no one was there and it was easy to save seats, but then Brian left to get some frozen lemonade (yum, yum!), people started showing up and Carissa and I had to defend the sidewalk ourselves. Not an easy task, especially since she wanted to pin trade with every castmember who walked by. (She even traded with a dream team member who gave her a free pin for her birthday as well as a birthday card signed by several Disney characters. How cute!). But we were able to secure our spot and wait for Mom, Dad and the boys. And wait we did … and wait some more … and wait even more. The parade was about to start and they still hadn’t arrived. After Indy they had gone on a quick ride on Star Tours before making their way to our carefully planned parade spot. Unfortunately they couldn’t find us. First they were too far up the street, then they were too far down. By the time they finally reached us the parade had just about reached where we were sitting. But at least they made it in time.

We enjoyed seeing all the characters in the parade. Check out Tristan's face when he saw his favorite Disney character, Stitch, in the parade. Priceless!

I was a bit disappointed that Giselle from Enchanted wasn’t in the parade, as she had been found at the parks only in this parade. Thankfully I hadn’t mentioned this to Carissa who would have been sad to miss out on her favorite princess.

As I said, our choice of parade viewing spot was very strategic, as we had to hop right over to the Beauty & the Beast stage show right after. I must say that this was one of those instances when having a handicapped family member was an asset. We got seated in the handicap seating right up front in the 2nd row. Wow! What great seats. The show was a broadway-style production and was just awesome. The costumes were so wonderful, the movie was carefully reshaped into a 30 minute show and the wonderful songs were kept intact.

I really, really loved it and teared up while watching. It was just so magical and powerful.

By now we were running out of steam and I knew it was only a matter of time before we needed to head home. But we couldn’t go home until we’d ridden RnR one more time. So Brian ran to get us Fastpasses and then we all took some leisurely shopping time. Brian bought himself a hat, I bought a shirt, the kids bought some little trinkets too. Of course, shopping means stores and stores means lots of people working there with lots of pin lanyards. The kids had a hayday pin trading with everyone they came across. Chase was lucky to find many, many hidden Mickey pins, which is the only thing he is trading for. Carissa found a plethora of various princess and girly pins. Tristan showed remarkable restraint as there wasn’t much of a selection of Stitch pins to choose from.

While shopping Carissa and Tristan were both asked to send special letters to their favorite chararacter. Carissa wrote one to Belle and told her she was beautiful. Tristan sent one to Stitch telling him that he was cute and fluffy. Then they were given Magical Moment certificates to commemorate the experience.

Not 10 minutes later Carissa, who was wearing her birthday button, was given a set of special Tinkerbelle pins. These are pins that cast member give out with very specific instructions: Keep one special pin for yourself and give one special pin away to another guest. Carissa was so excited to get it. She hasn’t yet given the other pin away but I’m sure it will happen soon.
After we’d had our shopping fill we took our last trip of the day on Rockin Rollercoaster. Again, what an amazing ride. I loved it more this 4th time around than I did the previous rides. I keep thinking I know the track and I know what it’s going to do next but it seems like I never do. It always surprises me, even after 4 rides in one day.

Disney Hollywood Studios didn’t really have a lot going for it in our opinion. Maybe it’s because we didn’t hit all of the shows (we’re headed back in a couple of days for more rides on RnR and ToT as well as The Little Mermaid show and maybe to even catch a showing of Lights, Motors, Action). Maybe that will change our mind. But the two awesome rides are worth the trip to DHS. Even if it is to just ride those two over and over and over again.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Sorry for the delay ...

I'm really trying to get the trip reports added but I think I took too many pictures! (OK, there is no such thing, just in case you think I'm serious.) The pics are taking me forever to edit since there are so many. Of course, this is just compounded by working two jobs, all the kids activities and just life in general. Oh, and Brian has worked every day for the last 14 so that doesn't help either. Anyways, the trip report will continue soon. For now, here is one of my favorite pictures I've edited so far. (This was taken by a Disney Photopass photographer.)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Disney Day 2: Aha, there's the magic!!!

We went to bed early last night, but we still weren’t ready to get up at 6:30am. However, today was Carissa’s birthday and that required some extra special treatment! After a quick breakfast we made our way to the Magic Kingdom for Princess Carissa’s reservation at the Bibbidi Boppity Boutique.

Now, the wonderful thing about having an early BBB reservation is that you get into the park before opening, before the general public, before it gets loud and busy. When else would we be able to get a family photo in front of Cinderella Castle with no one in the background.

And Princess Carissa was able to quietly lead us up the castle walk with no one in her way. That almost made getting up early worth it. It was very neat to experience the Magic Kingdom while calm.

We made our way inside to the BBB, where Carissa's fairy-godmothers-in-training spoiled her with all sorts of lavish attention. She got her nails painted, her makeup done and a very special princess hairdo, complete with glittering tiara and sparkling Mickey head barrette. Carissa was in heaven with all the extra special attention. It was quite a special occasion for her.

After Carissa’s makeover was complete we stopped by City Hall for a birthday button. Carissa wore this and her “Birthday Princess” sash all day long, and right after receiving it she had her first special birthday moment. We were waiting at the rope drop to Tomorrowland so that we could be one of the first on Space Mountain. However, once they realized that it was Carissa’s birthday they decided to let our party in early. So a few minutes before it officially opened they led us through a deserted Tomorrowland and right inside Space Mountain! I don’t think Carissa realized just how special it was to get that little treat. And she was officially the first rider of the day on Space Mountain!

After our special ride we headed to nearby Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger spin where Brian beat us all in this arcade game ride. He kicked our butts really. He had 300,000 while I had just 35,000 and the kids had somewhere around 2,000 each. OUCH! But on our way out we got to see Stitch who also made a big deal about Carissa’s birthday pin.

In keeping up the momentum of the day we rode Tomorrowland Indy Speedway before heading for some rides in Fantasyland. Here the kids and I enjoyed a very spin-y adventure on the Mad Tea Party. A big *bok, bok, bok!* to the rest of the group who didn’t want to ride. CHICKENS!!!

Up next was an attraction none of us had ever been on before – Mickey’s Philharmagic. This was AWESOME! Lots of wonderful songs and cameos by several popular Disney characters, but the best part was all the 3D effects. The kids weren’t the only ones who found themselves grabbing for what was seemingly “in reach”. I just had to try it too. Best of all is that EVERYONE absolutely loved it. It was the highlight of Magic Kingdom for both Brian and myself and one thing that we will be repeating in upcoming days at the Magic Kingdom.

We hit a few other Fantasyland rides, the first being Carissa’s “It’s a Small World”. I call this her ride because if not for her we probably wouldn’t have ridden it. It’s just one of those rides that doesn’t change over time so riding it once or twice ever would have worked for me, but Carissa wouldn’t even think about passing it up! So we all went along with her and listened to 10 long minutes of “It’s a Small World,” which is still running through my head some 12 hours later. Amazing.

We flitted around Fantasyland for a while where Chase tried to pull Excalibur from the stone. He was excited that he could wiggle it, but he wasn't able to pull it out. ;)

Last off in Fantasyland was Peter Pan. We stopped for a quick bite at the Harbour House where we had chicken strips and fries - our most common counter service meal during the trip.

After lunch it was off to a ride we hadn’t ridden in Disneyland, Haunted Mansion. This was the first time for Tristan and Carissa, as Chase had ridden when we visited Disneyworld in 2001. He was only 5 then, but he rode it with me anyways, despite how scared he was. Now at 11 not much scares him – certainly not some computer generated ghosts in a Disney ride. LOL Despite the younger ones fears, it was not at all scary and they rather enjoyed it, especially Tristan who wanted to ride again.

While we would have loved to ride Splash Mountain after Haunted Mansion, that just wasn’t possible. Much to our displeasure, Splash Mountain is closed for it’s yearly refurbishment. So sad!!! Instead we opted for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, another favorite of us all. I was actually surprised with how much I liked it this time. It was great.

A short trek and we were in Adventureland, where we visited Pirates of the Carribean and saw the new updated version for the first time. This time there are sightings of both Barbosa and Jack Sparrow in the ride as well as a very neat vision of Davy Jones. What a fun addition!

We jumped in the short line for the Aladin's Magic Carpet Ride

before heading next door for the long awaited “The Tiki Room - Under New Management” show. The boys have been listening to the “Tiki Room” song since we returned from Disneyland, but we had never taken them in this theater. It was a fun little show! Certainly not as good as Philharmagic, but it let the boys finally see what the Tiki room was all about.

By now things were getting a bit more crowded and we were all ready to take a bit of a break. We staked out a spot along Main Street to wait for the Dreams Come True parade to start.I bought some Mickey head ice creams for the kids (Nestle Crunch ice cream for the rest of the party). It wasn’t too long before Mickey and some of his friends came down the street for the parade. Carissa stood up, dressed to the 9’s in her new Aurora costume and with her hair and makeup all done, and waved at all the passing characters. Well, maybe not ALL the characters. She absolutely refused to wave to anyone from the villain float! Several times the characters saw her birthday button and pointed to her and blew her kisses. It was just so cute! It was a quick parade but a great time and place for some down moments and special birthday wishes for Carissa.

We had thought about leaving after the parade, but a mass exodus began and we decided to stick it out a little while longer. We decided to stop at Toontown, the only land we hadn’t yet visited. We were on a mission to meet some characters and we did just that in the Toontown Hall of Fame tent. Here Carissa met Aurora, Belle and Cinderella. Next was the boys turn, but after Carissa saw who it was she wasn’t going to be left out! So all 3 of them got their photos taken with Pluto, Goofy and Donald. FUN!!!

A ride on Goofy’s Barnstormer finished out our ride day so we got on the train for a nice leisurely jaunt and made our way back to Main Street. We split up for some shopping on Main Street. We went to the Exposition hall so Carissa could got her adorable princess photos. She did a great job and it wasn’t too long before we were shopping again. We hit a few shops and didn’t buy much to speak of but we had a great time anyways. An hour later we were on our way back to the Ticket and Transportation Center and out of the parks, enjoying the beautiful sunset from aboard the boat along the way. We had some dinner at Denny’s … not exactly what we wanted for a birthday dinner but we couldn’t get any Disney dining reservations that night either. So we opted for Dennys’ and then headed back to the room.

Princess Carissa got to open all of her birthday gifts! She got some nice, soft PJ’s, a jean jacket, snowglobes and several other Disney-themed items. We enjoyed a nice, sweet piece of Carissa’s “Enchanted” birthday cake. It was so cute! We demonlished about half of it today and will have the other half to snack on during the week.

All in all a nice, long, productive day for us all. Several times Carissa enjoyed birthday niceties from those around her at the parks. It sure made for a fun and interesting birthday!