I originally threw these images up here to show friends and family, and didn’t add much of a story - or at least any that did this trip justice. I’m calling a mulligan here because I miss writing about things that move me.
This was my third trip to Disney World - the first was with my dad and sister my freshman year of high school. The second was with Jordan in April of 2011. I felt so much family love and bonding on each of those in such different ways, and have been itching to get Riley here with us as soon as we thought he’d be interested.
When we were here in 2011, we watched the parade in Magic Kingdom that happened just before the fireworks. I have such vivid memories of that night; one because I took photos, but mainly because of a family that I didn’t photograph. There was a little girl sitting on her dad’s shoulders, and she must have been four or five. The way she watched the sky during Disney’s epic fireworks show - that awe has been burned into my brain and heart and it’s so warming just thinking about it, that it’s the single thing that would’ve brought me back had I not had another memorable experience here.
We always questioned, and so do friends and family, is it worth taking a young child to Disney World before they’re likely to hold memories of that trip forever? Before they’re tall enough to ride the big rides and really understand where they are or who every character they see might be? That question was answered the night I watched this girl’s face lit via fireworks. If the parents are kids at heart like we are, the answer is always yes.
Here’s a peek into our visit, if you’d like to see the magic we experienced. It’s one of those things that can’t be summed up completely in photos. But the pics of Riley hugging Donald might be the closest we can get.
RDU ——> MCO
We stayed at Contemporary, mainly because the monorail runs right through it. The first thing we did was take a monorail ride to nowhere!
With a view of Magic Kingdom (fireworks every night!) and monorails and a lounge just down the hall…we probably could’ve just stayed here and Ri would’ve loved this alone.
We arrived on Sunday, and Monday was our first park day: Epcot!
We did Soarin’ (Ri was nervous - he has a thing about heights and feeling unstable off the ground). Turtle Talk with Crush was a favorite of all of ours. Plus the fountains and the topiaries and the birds that seemed to follow Ri everywhere.
Riley’s favorite spot at Epcot: the outdoor model trains in Germany. He stayed here for a solid half hour, just about forgetting that we were there!
We did Photo Pass so we could get all three of us in pictures, and the coolest thing is they get uploaded straight to the Disney app for you to download. There are photographers all over the parks, and they all have their own styles. Good or bad, we love them all because we’re all in there.
We loved being there during the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival - so much color!
The topiaries! The giggles! The monorail! Always the monorail.
Tuesday - park day number 2: Magic Kingdom
Note Riley’s enthusiasm on the teacups. He got on with us reluctantly because we wanted to, but he was not thrilled. The Tomorrowland Speedway though, he loved. Jordan was so excited to show Ri the Swiss Family Robinson treehouse. We took a ferry to the Polynesian for dinner, then headed back over to Magic Kingdom for dessert and fireworks!
We did the dessert party at Tomorrowland Terrace and had an awesome view of the fireworks show (and Tinkerbell flying over!), and they even brought a separate gluten-and-dairy-free plate of dessert out for me! Bless you Disney, for being so accommodating with every single thing.
Best fireworks show ever.
We started our third park day by sleeping in and having breakfast at Chef Mickey’s before heading out. You guys. Ri was way more stoked to meet the characters than I thought he would be. He was so excited when Mickey came out that he went over to say hi before we could stop him, as another family was trying to get their photos with him. We totally thought he was just going to observe, because he’s never this bold! As you can see by the family’s faces, they were not as understanding as we were hoping, even though he only interrupted to say hi. Sorry guys. He now knows character dining etiquette. ;)
Ri was actually a bit shy when Mickey came to our table, but then Minnie came, and by the time Donald showed up Ri was all in. That huge grin is the best thing I’ve seen in my life. That’s Disney magic and all the feels.
And yet again, Disney magic for me: allergy-friendly Mickey waffles and scrambled eggs! Had I needed it, the chef would’ve come to my table to address specific cross-contamination or other issues. Can we move here, please?
Park day three: Hollywood Studios
We started with Mickey ice cream (strawberry popsicle for me), Star Wars events witnessed (Ri is just discovering and is hella interested and a little frightened by it all at the same time), and Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular attended.
Every time the Storm Troopers paraded through town, Ri had to stop and watch, but it had to be from a good distance away.
So, we ended up making reservations for lunch and dinner the last two days, not realizing they were also character meals ($$$). But we all ate well and Ri got to see more Disney friends, so we aren’t complaining. :)
We saw these bubble blowers at every park, every day. Ri finally talked us into getting him one after lunch. He was lovin it.
Waiting for our bus back to Contemporary. This kid ran back and forth from us to this rail at least 37 times. His last energy expenditure of the day.
Our last park day: Animal Kingdom
This was everyone’s first visit here, and we loved it all. We did the Gorilla Falls trail (Ri loved the naked mole rats and bird watching), the Kilimanjaro Safari ride, and explored Pandora.
We took the Wildlife Express train to Rafiki’s Planet Watch, because it’s a train and because they have an Affection Section. Duh.
Our last character dining experience of the trip, and Ri was pretty much chumming it up with old pals at this point. He loved introducing his new stuffed naked mole rat to everyone, too.
We saw Rivers of Light, and I was so enthralled that I didn’t take a single photo if you can believe it. Then we stopped to watch the light show on the Tree of Life, because whoa.
Our last day here, Friday. No parks, just spash pad and pool fun, and some final monorail rides before flying back home.
Back at RDU, we watched a few planes take off before driving home. Another wonderful adventure with these boys is complete.
Love and hugs, y’all,
~JAM + Ri