As recently as two weeks ago we were planning a trip to Florida for Spring Break. It seems crazy now, but we had already booked our hotel in Tampa. We had already asked Jackson which park he would visit if he could visit any, and he yelled, “Epcot!” In fact he passed up Legoland and Magic Kingdom for it. (Universal was not on the table because we haven’t finished Harry Potter yet.) Now all our plans are cancelled, but for a little while we were excited to go to Disney again. We haven’t been in years. Which got me to thinking that I wasn’t blogging back when we first took Jackson to Disney World, so I thought I’d share now. So this is a three-part series of pics and stories from our first trip to Disney in 2016, when Jackson was a first grader. It’s part posterity, part “Look people used to have happy days!” I hope you enjoy. And if Disney is not your thing, just come back in four days.
Now before I dive in here, which is mainly just pics with our favorite character, let’s get real first. I know there are people who do not like Disney, and I get the reasons. You hate people. You don’t like crowds. You can’t get over the cost. You’ve heard horror stories. You’ve been once, and then swore it off ever again because you saw a kid vomit, or a piece of trash on the ground, or the pool was too warm. Whatever the reason, leave that shit at the door with me because I LOVE Disney! Still, to this day, it was one of our best vacations. And sure, it was because we were all allowed to be kids all day, every day, and live out our fantasy of meeting these beloved characters, but so what? We should all be kids sometimes.
We decided to surprise Jackson with Disney, which was of course, a blast. We told him we were going to the beach in Florida. Of which we did. We woke up one snowy January morning (the slowest week at Disney, cause I ain’t no fool) and we headed down to Florida. We drove nonstop from Charlotte to Daytona Beach. We made the drive in about seven hours, and set to exploring. That day we were able to jump in the ocean and visit the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse, which really is a sight to behold. We walked to the top of it, how many stairs, I don’t know, a million? And we were rewarded with marvelous views.
When we got back to our hotel we started asking Jackson what he wanted to do the next day. He said play on the beach, and we were like cool, cool, but here, open this surprise we got for you. We gave him a bag filled with Disney toys and apparel for the next three days. He was opening his gifts, getting more and more excited, then we asked him if he saw a theme. He yelled, “Disney!” And we were like what do you think that means? And he was all, “You know I love Disney!” Ha. He wasn’t getting it. So we said, “We’re going to Disney tomorrow!” And then he threw himself back on the bed in exasperation.
The next day we left Daytona bright and early and were in Orlando in no time. We checked into our hotel, one of the less expensive ones on the Disney property. We chose to go this route because you get extended hours to all the parks, and other perks, like a shuttle ride to the park. Plus, the package deals save you the most money and well, we are savvy shoppers. We ended up in a “Little Mermaid” room, which was ready and waiting for us super early that morning.
I will say this like 800 more times, but Disney has their shit together, y’all. We got to the hotel, checked in, threw out bags in our room, loaded up our backpacks with food (you can bring outside snacks into the park to save on food) and headed to Animal Kingdom. This first picture was of the second morning. Right as we were about to head out for the day, Jackson noticed this dragonfly by our room door. It was the most chill dragon fly. It never moved while we were standing there watching it. I even thought for a split second it was fake. Like Disney had planted it there to make us go “Ohhhh” and “Ahhh” which at this point was something I could see them doing. But it was gone when we got back, so probably not.
I had read all the reviews of all the parks leading up to this trip, and I knew that Animal Kingdom would be the least exciting for our family. We aren’t too fond of zoos. Mainly the whole animals in cages thing, but I knew we had to experience it once, so we decided to knock it out the first day. We had also bought the park hopper tickets, which means that we could visit multiple parks in one day. So we knew we would start our day at Animal Kingdom and end it at somewhere else. Where we hadn’t decided yet. But we were ready for some excitement.
Animal Kingdom, though our least favorite park, did not disappoint! Even a giant zoo was magical at Disney, but Jackson’s favorite part was the roller coaster, Expedition Everest, and meeting Chip and Dale, who brought our attention to the fact that like Dale, Jackson was also missing teeth.
We also got to meet the cast of The Jungle Book at Animal Kingdom and others, while we followed a scouting adventure around all the islands of the park:
By the time the park was ready to close (it closes early on account of taking care of the animals) we knew where we were headed, the park Jackson was the most pumped about, EPCOT! Epcot did not disappoint. It was awesome! Futuristic and technologically driven, just the sort of place our kid likes. Plus, we got there just in time to meet some very cool people. The coolest in fact.
Epcot was epic! There is Mission to Mars, which actually scared the actual shit out of me and I refuse to ever ride again. There is Test Track, where you can design your own car then drive it on “the track.” Coolest thing ever to our gear head.
Then there was the Coca-cola tasting room. The chance (as you can see) to meet Baymax, and fireworks, great food (from all over the world), and a Finding Nemo encounter where Jackson got to meet and talk with the sea turtles. Epcot was also the place that we first caught a glimpse of the Monorail and it had a giant theater that played all the old school Mickey Mouse cartoons like Steamboat Willie. It was a 4-D theater, and we had an awesome time watching the characters come to life right before our eyes. It was by far Jackson’s best, most favorite park, and when we discuss going back to Disney he only talks about Epcot. It is also where Jackson got his Mickey ears and his Test Track “Driver’s License” that he was so proud of. In short, Epcot=Epic. Most epic.
When we got back that night to our hotel room we were actually, 100% beat. We all passed out pretty quickly after walking more than 15 miles that day. But we were up and at ’em the next morning at 7 am, because we heard that if you are one of the first inside Magic Kingdom you can hop a ride in an old car to Cinderella’s Castle. I wasn’t super sure if it was true or not, but we decided to take the chance and it just so happened that it was an “early morning” for those staying at a Disney property. Which means one of those perks I mentioned earlier came in handy and we were one of the first in the doors and check this out:
Yep! We got to ride an old-time car to Cinderella’s Castle. I guess this is a lesser-known secret. As we passed down Main Street, the driver was giving us a tour and honking at people. We were like royalty. People thought we were VIPs. Nope. Just savvy shoppers.
I think this might be a good spot to end in for today. I’m tired just writing about all that we accomplished. Tomorrow, Magic Kingdom!
Thanks for reading!