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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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Someone is excited to be at Disney World
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Our Test Track creation
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World Showcase
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Goofing around in Italy.

Planning for Disney World

Taking a family vacation to Disney World takes a lot of planning and organizing.  I did not realize how much until we had decided to go.  I am not even talking about deciding on a hotel or booking flights, but how each park will be attacked, what Fast Passes to use where and when, what dining reservations to make, shows to see, etc, etc.  The following is a brief overview of what we did and how it worked for us.

Magic Bands

One of the first decisions to make after booking a trip to Disney, is the customization of the Magic Bands.  This involves picking colors and naming them.  Eilam was excited to get his favorite color green.  Magic Bands acted as our room key, park ticket and credit card.  Each adult picked a pin number to enter when using them to buy meals or souvenirs.  They also scan your finger print when entering the park to match the person to the band.  Any time an official park photo (ride, character, etc) is taken, the Magic Band can be scanned and then sent to your Disney account to access later.

Park Tickets

We bought a five day park pass.  We opted not for the park hopper option as we really weren’t sure about how well Eilam would do going all day, every day and the distance between parks.  The plan was a park each day and visiting the Magic Kingdom two days.  It worked out pretty well.  Each day we would be at the parks when they opened for their extra Magic Hours and then take a couple hour break during the afternoon and then go back after nap.

Dining

The only dining reservations we made prior to arrival was for the character breakfast at the Tusker House in Animal Kingdom.  On our Hollywood Studios day, we ended up back at Disney Springs for dinner.  It was really difficult to find a place that wasn’t all booked up for dinner that night.  So we ended up at more of a quick service place, but still good food.  The day we arrived we went to Disney Springs and didn’t have any trouble for dinner.  Every time we ate inside the parks we ate at a quick service restaurant.  At Magic Kingdom we ate at Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Cafe in FrontierLand.  We liked it so much the first night that we ate there again on our second day.  They had delicious fajita plates.  We did make reservations once we got there for the Boma, the African buffet at Animal Kingdom Lodge, which was delicious.  We made this reservation for our Animal Kingdom day as the park closed at 6pm, so we knew we would be back at the hotel.  Again, not knowing how well our 3 year old would do was the main reason we did not want to have set dining plans.

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Tusker House character breakfast

Memory Maker

Disney offers Memory Maker, a Disney Photo Pass option for $149 advance purchase.  It includes unlimited digital downloads of all photos taken in the park.  These include your ride photos, dining photos, character meet photos, and all those photos from the people that line up and down Main Street, in front of Cinderella’s castle and throughout each park.  Since we were going to be there 5 days, we decided to purchase this.  You can link everyone in your group too.  We took our GoPro and our phones for cameras, so we planned on stopping at a lot of people to get our pictures.  Overall, they were really great and we feel like we got our money’s worth.  Some of them didn’t turn out great, but were helped with a little editing.

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Family picture using Photo Pass and Memory Maker

What We Packed Around the Park

Our son really doesn’t use his stroller any more and is a really great walker.  However, with the extra long days and hot sun, we knew he would want to be carried.  Luckily,  my husband really doesn’t mind putting him on his shoulders and carrying him that way.  So we did the five days sans stroller.  It was great to not have to pack the stroller for the plane, the bus transportation, and worry about it at the park.  I bought an inexpensive Jansport two pocket backpack to carry all of the things we would need for the day.  This worked out really well.  It carried an extra pair of clothes for Eilam, my wallet, both Brian’s and mine sunglasses cases, GoPro camera, water bottle, sunscreen, a few snacks and Eilam’s favorite small stuffed animal Bei Bei the panda.  This left room for anything that we bought during the day.

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Eilams’ mode of transportation

Fast Pass+

This was the most difficult part of the planning for our trip was determining the time and rides for our three Fast Passes.  You can make these reservations 60 days prior if staying at a Disney Hotel or 30 days otherwise.  We changed these a lot, even once we got there.  We always tried to have 3 rides in the morning.  Once the 3 rides were up, we were constantly checking for other rides.  This worked out well for us at Hollywood Studios as we went on Toy Story Mania in the mid-morning and when I was checking the app during nap time, Toy Story Mania popped up as open in the early evening.  So we went back to that park just for that one ride and skipped the hour plus wait.  If you don’t want to use the Disney app there are Fast Pass kiosks throughout the park but having the app made it so you could make changes and constantly add them throughout the day.  We selected Fast Passes for roller coasters too and one of us would just go on them twice using Eilam’s band because they all have to be used before you can select another.  Since we utilized the extra Magic Hours there were some popular rides that we hurried to get on during this time instead of using a Fast Pass (Safari ride at Animal Kingdom, Mission: SPACE at Epcot, 7 Dwarfs Mine Train at Magic Kindgom, Rock’N’Roller Coaster at Hollywood Studios).  This worked out well for us each morning.  The Safari was great as it was early in the day and the wait was as long as it takes you to walk through the waiting area maze, same with Mission: SPACE.  We didn’t even need to utilize rider swap there.  Rock’N’Roller we utilized rider swap but there was a small line.  The Mine Train had the longest line but  it was about 15-20 minutes.

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Expedition Everest-Brian’s first time, he went twice taking Eilam’s band for the 2nd ride

 

 

 

 

 

Weekend in Williamsburg Part 1

This past weekend we took a trip down to Williamsburg to see the Colonial settlements.  Williamsburg about 2 & 1/2 hours southeast of D.C.  On a Friday morning there was minimal traffic.  Our first stop was Jamestown Settlement.  There are two Jamestown sites, Historic Jamestowne which is the archaeological site at the original settlement and then the Jamestown Settlement which is a museum and has a recreated fort, Indian village and replicas of the three ships that sailed from England to the Americas in 1607.

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Courtyard at Jamestown Settlement

We decided on just visiting the Jamestown Settlement because of the ships and replica villages.  It seemed more age appropriate for a 3 year old.  Eilam loved it here because of the ships.  As most kids his age, he is a Mickey Mouse Clubhouse fanatic.  One of his favorite episodes is Mickey’s Pirate Adventure which features a pirate ship named the Jolly Golly that looks remarkably like one of the replica ships.  We toured them all multiple times.  Eventually we drugged him away from that and walked through the museums.  They had a great kids activity to explore one of the sections.  Each kid got a card and when they completed an activity they would get a stamp.  He got to load up packages into a canoe and then climb in and row.  There was also a puzzle to learn various Powhatan words.  Overall, it was a really nice place to visit.  We were there almost 2 hours.  Tickets were $17/adult, $8/youth, under 6 free.

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Playing games in a Powhatan village
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The Jolly Golly
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Showing off his super strong muscles

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We left Jamestown and checked into our hotel.  We stayed at the Doubletree in Williamsburg.  It would be a really great location for going to Busch Gardens or the water park.  They were both right down the road.  It was a 10 minute drive to the Colonial area.  Other then just one elevator working, it was a nice place to stay.

The morning drive was rainy but by the time we got to Jamestown it was just overcast.  The temperature was quite nice though.  We took a nap after checking in and when we got up it was sunny and beautiful out.  We thought it could be fun to go miniature golfing and found Pirate Cove Adventure Golf.  Eilam had an absolute blast, well we all did.  It was so funny to watch him play.  Some holes he did quite well, others not so much.  Alas, I guess that is the way golf goes.  They gave out little pirate goody bags to the children.  Eilam got an eye patch, noise maker, pirate flag, ring, tattoo and spinning top.

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Hopefully it curves!

After golfing, we found a Mexican restaurant and sat outside to eat.  La Terraza was a great find.  The food was flavorful and the beer was cheap.

After dinner, we went to Mid County Park which has a giant play structure.  It was a great place to let Eilam run around and play.  There were multiple slides, ramps, walls to climb and another Jolly Golly.  It was a great pirate adventure day for Eilam.

Eilam’s Epigrams

I haven’t posted anything for a while on here.  Life has been busy.  My parents came for a wonderful visit for a week in April.  Then I was working A LOT before a family vacation to Walt Disney World!  We had a great trip and I will get around to posting how it went with a 3 year old later.

Right now I wanted to share some of Eilam’s musings from our trip.  I really do not know where he gets some of these things.  This post is mainly for me to document what our three year old is talking about.

“I’ve had a long day.” 

 -This was a common one on travel days (which were long) and if he was not getting his way.

“You tricked me!”

-No idea where this came from but he doesn’t even say it when we actually trick him.

“Can I pick something out?”

-This was a favorite of his towards the end of the day.  He would be carried on daddy’s shoulders and would be tired.  Eilam would sheepishly ask if he could pick something out.

“Uggg, I don’t know what is going on.”

-Again, do not know where he got this.  Usually this saying comes out after he has dropped something or we are switching from one activity to another.  I think this one is my favorite.  The way he says it cracks me up.

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Making silly faces with Panda while in Germany (Epcot World Showcase)