Combine the magic of Christmas and the magic of Disney and you have a knockout! Being at Disney during the holiday season is not something that I ever anticipated getting to experience. My family was never the type to take their kids out of school for a vacation and my dad really hates Disney, although he's been several times. When we found out we were going to be moving to South Carolina, were within driving distance of Disney, and had a child who still wasn't in school, we knew we just had to go for the holiday season to experience the magical combination at least once. I am so glad we did!
We learned from our first trip down in May that driving the whole way the first day was a big mistake because we'd lose most of our first day in the parks. We chose to drive to Jacksonville on Friday night so we could get up at a more reasonable hour (if you call 7AM reasonable, which I don't), and head to the resort around the time the parks opened. We made it to our resort on the Disney property around 11AM and were fortunate enough to have our room already be ready (check-in usually isn't until 3PM and we just expected to pick up our park passes and head out).
Our first stop was Epcot. It's not generally a park meant for the younger kids like Brady, but since I have a Disney Visa, there is a special location in Epcot where you can get a private audience with characters and a complimentary 5x7 portrait. We got there at noon and never would have imagined that we'd have spent 5 hours there! We got to meet almost every single character we could imagine there and that made Brady the happiest kid on Earth. Andy was hungry when we got there and the plan was to "walk around the world" once, get our free portrait, and get out of there. Lunch was the first thing on Andy's mind, so when we kept stopping for character portraits, he started to get a little more crabby. We finally settled down to eat in Italy.
We left Epcot around 5PM and boarded a bus that would take us to Hollywood Studios (formerly MGM Studios). We got there around sunset, and Brady fell asleep on the bus. He hadn't napped all day and stayed asleep while we transferred him to his stroller. I did a little shopping and we headed to an area to snag some dinner. While we were in line, Brady woke up, had no idea where he was and couldn't see us, so the screaming began. He was completely inconsolable and still overly tired (he napped a little less than 45 min). I had to eat while Andy took Brady outside (where he continued to scream bloody murder) and I took Brady for a walk so Andy could eat. The only time he called down the rest of the evening was when he was waiting in line to see Buzz and Woody.
The cool thing for Christmas at Hollywood Studios is the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights. The have a whole area that is lit up and moves to music. It was really cool. The pictures are below.
Our second day was designated entirely for the Magic Kingdom. We were happy with the portraits we'd gotten on the first day and were excited about our character lunch (a separate post to come) and Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party in the evening (separate post). We just hoped that Brady could get more sleep in so we didn't have another epic meltdown like the day before.
One of the first things we did in the Magic Kingdom was get Brady a set of Mickey ears with his name on the back. I had a pair when I was little although I didn't make it to a Disney park until I was 9. Andy said he and his brothers had them as well, so we just had to do it for Brady. He's picky with hats, so we weren't sure how he was going to react and sure enough, he didn't like it initially. I have plans to work on him later, like all his other hats and the pictures further down show him tolerating him a little better.
I love this shirt. I picked it up at Old Navy after Thanksgiving so it didn't have the huge Disney price tag. It says, "Dear Santa, I can explain . . ." I thought it was very appropriate.
Our first ride was Prince Charming's carousel. I have an app on my phone that shows the wait times, so anything with less than 10 min was a ride we hit ASAP. There was no wait and it was nice because we didn't make it on this ride last time.
We then hit up the tea cups (another 0 min wait). He really likes the rides and was helping spin the cup.
We had ridden Buzz Lightyear twice and Winnie the Pooh once, so we headed over to Dumbo (the longest wait in the park) and took pics in the free-standing Dumbo car instead of riding the ride.
We even managed to hit up the Tomorrowland Motor Speedway before we had to head over to lunch. We rode more rides in the first 3 hours than we rode our whole last trip!
After lunch, we walked around to try and get Brady to nap with a full stomach. Thankfully, he fell asleep a few minutes after we started walking and we stopped in the same little alcove we let him nap in back in May. It had nice seats and just people walking by. Brady slept for two whole hours and even slept through the parade music they blasted (and I mean blasted) over the speakers above our heads (we were nowhere near the parade route). It was nice for us to relax a little and we were glad he napped so long because the Christmas party was from 7PM to midnight and we wanted to get our money's worth (it was a separate admission).
Our final day, we checked out of the resort and headed to Downtown Disney to do a little shopping before we hit the road. We hit up the huge Disney Store and walked through the Lego Store. They always have different Lego displays outside and the one below was really cool, so I had to take a few pictures. We are excited to go to Legoland Deutschland in the spring. When we left Disney in May, we knew we were coming back in December, but then anticipated a long time before we made it back with more kids. Well, the plans have changed ;) We will be traveling to Paris in June and fully intend to visit Disneyland Paris. Brady will be very used to going to Disney every 6 months and when he turns 3, I'm sure he'll be asking when we're going again.
The hardest part about Disney isn't waiting in lines, your kid having a total meltdown from lack of sleep, or tracking down characters. It's wishing you were rich so you could buy everything you want in the shops. There are so many great things and you really have to pick and choose what is most important. It was made much more difficult because of all the Christmas merchandise.
I don't think I've ever come home from Disney without a bag. This one is very cute and I could totally see myself using it in Germany as a purse/diaper bag because Brady will be needing less and less as he gets older.
I had initially intended to come home with the large version of the center ornament (I did some online research before we left), but it was really heavy. I got this set of 3 for only $3 more than it would've been to get the 1 large one, so I was happy.
We got this blown glass ornament in Germany in Epcot. The man was literally blowing glass so people could watch. I purchased an already cooled ornament, but they offered free personalization with no waiting. The man doing the glass blowing was German and when I said to put Trap Family on the left ear, he got very excited. I had to tell him it wasn't VonTrapp and it only had one P. I didn't bother telling him it was short for our last name. I had the year engraved on the right ear.
We got a lot of really great pics with Winnie the Pooh and his friends, plus they were Brady's favorites (no doubt the result of seeing him everywhere in his room), so we got a frame to put one in.
When I did my research online, I wanted to get a few of the larger Mickey ear ornaments. They were huge when I saw them in person and there's no way I could put them on my tree. Instead, I got this set of smaller ones, in blues, whites, and silver. That way, I can scatter them around the whole tree.