Hollywood Studios

Our visit to Hollywood Studios was on day four.  While it was lacking in rides and is undergoing a lot of construction it also had some of our favorites of the trip.  The park itself was also not very busy, so we were able to go on a few things multiple times.  We took advantage of extra Magic hours that morning.  This was the first morning that we had some trouble with the shuttle services.  The wait time kept increasing and by the time the bus got to our hotel there were too many people for it.  We decided to take a taxi to the park.  While not an option for every trip, we were glad we spent the $15 or so to not have to deal with the shuttle.

STUDIO_STDENTR2_7674417766

The main ride that we had to use our Fastpass for was Toy Story Midway Mania.  It consistently had 60 minute plus wait times throughout the day.  We had a Fastpass for it in the morning.  While we used our Fastpasses they really weren’t necessary for any of the other rides.  Upon arriving at the park we booked it over to Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster for Brian and I to ride it.  I think we did the rider swap but it wasn’t necessary as the park was just opening.  We really liked that ride.

Eilam absolutely loved riding Star Tours.  We went on that ride three times.  He and his daddy also got to make their own Light Sabers after one of the rides.  He was too little for the Jedi Training though but loved seeing all the characters walking around.  When we were leaving the Great Movie Ride, many of the characters were marching by on their way to one of the many Star Wars shows.

20160501_125838

Toy Story Midway Mania was an Eilam favorite (and a parent favorite too).  We had a lot of fun shooting the targets.  Another ride that was a big success for us was surprisingly the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.  We were worried because of how most of it is in the dark, but he sat between the two of us and held hands.  He still talks about the elevator drop ride to this day.  Whenever playing with his stuffed toys, they usually go to Disneyworld to go on the elevator ride.

studio_sunset2_7673886729

Other highlights of this park, was Eilam finally giving Mickey a hug.  Once he met Sorcerer Mickey we took him to get his Mickey ears.  Brian found a great drink of cider with a shot of Fireball dropped in it.  We also had some delicious chocolate Star Wars cupcakes.

STUDIO_VIPMOUSE_7673976881 (2)

After lunch we went back to the hotel having ridden/done everything we wanted to do.  So our plan was to lounge after nap and go back to Disney Springs for dinner.  However, when I was playing with the Disney app a Fastpass time came up for Midway Mania.  I snatched that time up and back to the park we went for a late afternoon ride.  We were very lucky to go on this ride twice without having to wait in line.  We still ended up heading over to Disney Springs for dinner.  Which we had a very hard time finding someplace that had an open table and we ended up just eating at a quick service type restaurant.

20160501_120735

While Hollywood Studios was definitely smaller than the other parks, we really enjoyed the rides/experiences they offered.  Hopefully with the updates and expansion it will be a full day destination in the future.

I think I have finally finished recapping our Disney vacation..only one year after going.  While I was worried about taking a three year old to a full week Disney World vacation and spending serious money on something that he probably won’t remember, we had a fantastic time.  He was such a trooper with the long days and constant stimulation.  He still talks about our trip and his favorite rides and things he saw.  Overall, it was a very fun trip and we look forward to someday doing it again with older children.

Advertisements

Animal Kingdom

The third park we visited was Animal Kingdom.  We had our Fastpasses reserved for Expedition Everest, Dinosaur, and Kali River Rapids.  Unfortunately when making reservations for this day there was limited availability so everything was just a one time ride.  Also, this park has the shortest hours so that limits the options as well.  While the park itself is huge, there is limited rides and attractions.  We skipped a Fastpass for the Kilimanjaro Safari as we were getting there early with the extra Magic Hours.  The plan was to head straight there to hopefully skip the line and see the animals first thing in the morning.  If this is an option for you, I HIGHLY suggest doing it this way.  We were some of the first people in park.  When we got back to the entrance of the Safari there was already a huge line, well it actually wasn’t a huge line it was just extending out into the park as they hadn’t opened the actual entrance yet.  Once they started allowing people in, we walked (all be it in a very Disney twisty walk) straight onto the ride.  The animals were all out, active and eating.

20160430_082703

After the Safari we had dining reservations at Tusker House for a Donald Duck hosted character breakfast.  We thought that by the third day Eilam might warm up to the idea of meeting some of the characters and breakfast food is his favorite.  We tried meeting Mickey on day one at Epcot and he was not a fan.  He really enjoyed the breakfast and watching Donald, Mickey, Goofy and Daisy dance around.  He was definitely still apprehensive and shy when they came around to meet him though.

20160430_094927

Brian and I loved Expedition Everest.  That was a fantastic roller coaster.  Even though Eilam was tall enough for Dinosaur, we decided at the last minute he should forgo that ride.  We ended up doing the rider swap and both of us agreed that was the correct decision.  We enjoyed the Kali River Rapids as it was late, late afternoon and felt nice to get splashed.  Unfortunately Eilam and I were seated in the two seats that got the most wet.  He enjoyed the ride up until the huge wall of water crashed into us.  Everyone else was just nice and splashed but we were drenched.

We spent a long time at the Boneyard play area in Dino Land.  All the slides and rope walkways and things to climb on were a great break from walking around the park.

While we enjoyed all the rides we went on and seeing all the animals, we felt for the size of the park it was lacking in attractions.  This was last year though, I know they have extended their hours with Avatar land opening soon and they were starting a nighttime show as well.  It is a park I would like to go back to in the future with older kids.

AK_RPWCOURTYARD1CHARACTER_7673123666AK_ENTR_7673593077

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Magic Kingdom

We planned for two days at Magic Kingdom as it seemed like it had the most rides and activities to offer younger children.  Again, we planned to go there for the morning extra Magic Hours.  We utilized the extra Magic Hour to go on the Seven Dwarf’s Mine Train so we didn’t have to use a Fastpass for this ride.  We were at the park when it opened and headed to the ride.  While there was a lot of people there, the time in April we went was considered low season.  Magic Kingdom was the busiest of all the parks during our visit.  We were constantly utilizing the Disney app to update and look for Fastpasses which really helped our line wait times.

mk_msathclb_7672083998_edited

Our plan was to concentrate on half the park one day and the other half on the second day thinking it would be a lot like Disneyland.  However, we were surprised at how small it was.  We ended up riding almost all the rides on the first day and utilizing the second day to ride our favorites again.

MK_MINETRAIN_7672126434
He really did like this ride.

Eilams’s favorite rides at Magic Kingdom were Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin and the Tomorrowland Speedway.  He loved steering the car on the Speedway.  Luckily for us the only ride he wasn’t big enough for was Space Mountain.  So while one of us was riding that the other was enjoying ice cream and a rest with Eilam.  He liked all the fast rides and did well on The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Splash Mountain.  Splash Mountain Magic Kingdom is a lot better for kids as you can smush them inbetween you unlike Disneyland where you are seated front to back instead of side to side.  The only attraction that was a major failure throughout our entire trip was Stitch’s Great Escape.  He was tall enough for it but the entire experience is in the dark and Stitch is big with lots of scary noises.  There were a lot of tears throughout the experience and we felt really bad that he was so scared.  So I highly suggest skipping this one if your kids are little.

MK_MSCASEYS_7675498910
A little bit of Disney magic.

Magic Kingdom was definitely the most little kid friendly of all the parks.  I think we went on almost every ride.  We didn’t make time to see any of the parades.  It just wasn’t a priority for us this trip.  There were no fireworks for us either as that was just pushing it a little too late for Eilam.  No Dole Whips for us but we did stop in at Gaston’s Tavern for a giant cinnamon role.  We also did not have any dining reservations at this park.  We ended up eating at Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Cafe for dinner both of our days here.  It was seriously good Mexican food at a quick service restaurant over in Frontierland.

 

Epcot

During the planning of our Disney vacation, I was unsure of how well Eilam would do going all day at the parks.  We had a full five days to visit the parks and the afternoon of our arrival.  Our plan was to visit one park each day and visit the Magic Kingdom twice.  Our arrival evening we were going to visit Disney Springs.  We went in with the attitude we would be at the parks when they opened and then go back for an afternoon nap and then just play it by ear.   If Eilam was up to going back we would, if not we would spend the evening at the hotel and go swimming and relaxing.  We were pleasantly surprised at how well Eilam did.  We would go back for an afternoon nap but whenever he got up he was ready to go back to the parks and go on more rides.  We would usually get back to the hotel between 7 and 9pm.  So we only ended up going swimming only one evening.

We planned each park that we would visit based on the extra magic hours.  So our first day was at Epcot.  Epcot was lacking in the younger kids rides but Eilam did enjoy the Finding Nemo ride.  He was exactly 40 inches which meant he could ride most of the rides at all the parks.  While Brian and I did the rider swap or used Fastpasses for anything that he couldn’t go on.  He did really well on the Chevy Test Track and we went on it twice.  We were able to go on Mission Space in the morning when there wasn’t very many people around and did the rider swap, even though at that time it wasn’t necessary.  We both just walked right onto the ride.  After nap, then we ate and drank and walked around the World Showcase.

The character meet and greets were not a success.  For a kid that loves Mickey Mouse Clubhouse he was not excited to meet Goofy, Mickey or Minnie.  We tried each day until he was comfortable though.  Epcot is feeling outdated and we could have done a half day at this park but Brian and I wanted to go around the World Showcase.  Which we really enjoyed, Eilam had fun but definitely wasn’t his favorite part of the trip.  (Note we went to DisneyWorld before the Frozen ride opened.)

20160428_080123
Someone is excited to be at Disney World
20160428_165203
Our Test Track creation
20160428_181309
World Showcase
epcot_wscitalyicon_7671931183
Goofing around in Italy.

Maine

In mid-October we took a couple days off work and road tripped from Arlington, Virginia up to New England.  We went as far north as Bar Harbor and then down to Portland over through New Hampshire and Vermont and then back down to home.  We wanted to see the fall foliage and check out Acadia National Park.  Our itinerary was pretty aggressive as we only had five days for this trip and we were driving.  This was a pseudo last minute trip so accommodations were sparse which went into our itinerary decisions.

img_7858

We left on a Friday morning very early, around 5:45am.  We wanted to miss DC, Baltimore and hopefully New York traffic.  Our plan worked, the worst traffic we met was on the freeways outside of Boston, which was late afternoon.  We drove up I95 through Maryland, New Jersey turnpike and all the way through Providence, RI.  The Rhode Island detour probably added an hour to our trip but we had never been to Rhode Island and figured we couldn’t bypass it.  We kept going on 95 until Highway 1A turn off to Bar Harbor.  We stopped for a sit down lunch in Connecticut and dinner along with multiple potty stops and leg stops.  The whole day took about 14-15 hours.  Drive time alone would have been close to 12.  It was a long day but we were glad we powered through this day so the rest of the trip didn’t have as much time in the car.

We stayed at the Hampton Inn in Bar Harbor.  Bar Harbor has limited chain accommodations and this weekend we were only able to get reservations anywhere for Friday and Saturday nights (thus the 15 hour drive day).  Eilam really did great on the long trip.  He was definitely bored at times but we kept telling him that the next day we could go hiking and play outside which seemed to appease him some.  The hotel was very nice with a nice continental breakfast.  It was set up on a hill above Bar Harbor view a nice view of the surrounding areas and the water.

Saturday was our Acadia National Park day.  We were really lucky with the weather on Saturday.  It started out foggy but the sun broke through and it was a beautiful day.  The National Park pass is good for 7 days.  After purchasing one in the morning at a visitor center, we started on our exploration of the area.  We drove the Park Loop Road with many stops at beaches and lookouts along the coast.  We went on a hike/walk along the Carriage Roads at Jordan Pond.  After a late lunch in Bar Harbor and we went back to the park and drove out to the Bass Harbor Lighthouse.  We went on another small hike out there and then headed back into town for a lobster roll dinner.  The area was beautiful and we would have taken advantage of the numerous hiking trails but many were not kid friendly, or at least preschool age friendly.

img_7914
Hiking along the Carriage Roads

Our plan Sunday was to get up, check out and drive up to the top of Cadillac Mountain.  We did do this but unfortunately it was blowing rain so hard that you couldn’t see 10 feet in front of you.  We drove along the coast part of the way towards Portland.  We stopped at Pemaquid Point Lighthouse.  It was still raining but not quite as hard, so we wondered around some.  Then it was back into the car for the remainder of the drive down to Portland.  We didn’t book a room downtown due to cost, so we stayed at the Doubletree out by the mall area.  It was still raining so hard, we just headed to the mall to stretch our legs there.  Dinner was at Sea Dog Brewing Co where Brian enjoyed a full lobster dinner.

img_7961
Playing at Pemaquid Lighthouse

Monday we got up and drove through the downtown area of Portland and then headed on to our trip through New Hampshire and Vermont on the beautiful sunny day.  The trees driving through New Hampshire were just beautiful.  All of the colors were so brilliant.  I never realized how many shades of oranges and red there are out there.  Lunch was at Whetstone Station Brewing in Brattleboro, Vermont.  After lunch we headed north with a stop at Hamilton Falls.  The trail head isn’t very well marked but it was a nice little hike down and a good place to stretch your legs.  Our day continued into New Hampshire with a stop at a state park where we were able to run around a big field and a lake.  After a break with kept heading south down into New York for the night.  This left a short 5-6 hour drive on Tuesday to home.

img_8023_edited
Perfect timing capturing a fun moment.

Overall, the trip was quick but enjoyable.  Acadia National Park was beautiful and it was a nice time to be there.  The foliage was in peak condition and really breathtaking.  The National Forests in this area were quite unlike the National Forests we are used to in the Pacific Northwest (much higher population density).  We are glad we were able to make the trip and Eilam was an excellent car traveler.

Wreaths Across America

On December 17th people across the country gathered at cemeteries to lay wreaths for our fallen servicemen and women.  We had the honor of participating at Arlington National Cemetery.

20161217_112926

Unfortunately we had a spell of bad weather during the night and morning before, so the opening ceremony was cancelled.  It was really an incredible thing to take part of.  They estimated 44,000 people made it despite the weather to lay 245,000 wreaths.  They bring in semi-trucks full of wreaths which are stopped throughout the Cemetery.  Volunteers go up to the trucks and get as many as they can carry and start laying them out.  The Cemetery opens two additional entrances to help with foot traffic, so you can enter through the main entrance, close to the Pentagon or close to the Iwa Jima Memorial.  We parked at the Pentagon Row shopping center and walked the 0.5 mile to the Pentagon entrance.

img_20161217_112848

We were there about 45 minutes and were only able to lay two arms full of wreaths.  It was a wonderful event to volunteer at and I think this would be something that we would look for no matter where we lived as events are Nationwide.

20161217_100644
Semi full of wreaths and lots of volunteers
20161217_093939
On our walk through the icy, icy side walks to get there

The White House

wh7

After months of trying to set up a White House tour through our Congressman that worked with our work and travel schedules, a date finally came available on the morning of December 14th.  Here is the link about White House tours and also how our Congressman has tour requests set up on his website.  Our tour time was 8am and we were to meet one of his interns.  It was a cold morning and we didn’t want to deal with the metro, we decided to drive and find public parking.  There are quite a few garages around the area and very limited street parking.  Street parking would be much cheaper but we were fine with paying for a garage ($20) for the convenience of not worrying about the metro during rush hour.

 

We were outside the tour entrance area on Pennsylvania and Hamilton at 7:45.  Since the tour was so early  there was no time to drop Eilam off at school and get there on time, so he came along as well.  Luckily the intern was already there along with one other person who the Congressman was able to get a ticket for.  She was actually from upstate New York.  When the members of Congress get tickets and have openings they will share between a few so hopefully all spots are taken.  Since everyone in our party was there we were able to get in line, which meant we were one of the first groups through.

Prior to your tour day, you will get an emailed “boarding pass.”  It has all the directions and the prohibited and permitted items.  You are not allowed bags inside but cell phones are allowed.  You must have an ID to enter.  Since it was so cold we all had our big winter coats on, so husband had his wallet and I had my ID and phone in my coat pockets.  Exactly at 8am they opened the line up to enter the premises and proceed through security.  They checked IDs and names on their lists at two points.  You walk through a metal detector and a radiation detector.  Eilam was grumpy and cold while waiting beforehand but he sure did like the security screenings.  He kept saying it was like a maze and like the airport.

Once through everything you enter the House and get a seasonal pamphlet with information about all the rooms that you will see and a message from the President and First Lady.  Eilam was thrilled to get this “book.”  Since we were there in December the entire place was decked out with Christmas trees and decorations.  It was really gorgeous to walk through.  It is a self-guided tour, so you can walk through at your own pace.

wh1
Looking back at the entrance.

The whole tour took us maybe 30 minutes.  We walk through these things fast and with a three year old there isn’t a lot of looking around and reading every detail.  It was a great tour and if you are able to set one up while out here I would highly suggest it.

wh10
A symbol of American resilience.