2:00 a.m., Thursday May 5th. Anyone not working the graveyard shift was sound asleep and dreaming, except my husband and me. Our alarm was bleating for us to wake up and gather our packed bags to head to the airport. Our plane would be leaving at 5:30 for Orlando, and soon we'd be arriving at Disney World for our third trip there in three years: a now-annual pilgrimage to the place that brings us so much joy!
We booked our resort room at Art of Animation. We stayed there for our first trip in October 2013, and we were absolutely smitten with it. AoA's Little Mermaid rooms have gotten a lot of flack for being a far walk away from the main building and the buses, but if you're traveling without kids, and you enjoy a brisk morning walk through gorgeous Lion King themed statuary and exotic tropical plantings, it's not an issue. We stayed at Pop Century last trip, since we'd heard many good things about it, but for us we find the rooms at AoA to be well worth the extra $100-200 over the course of the trip.
But anyway, when we arrived at the resort of course it was only 8:45 in the morning, and our room wasn't ready. Bell services was able to take our carry-ons and get them to our room along with our checked bags that would be arriving later via Magical Express. We packed what we needed for the park day in our backpack, grabbed a quick breakfast in the resort cafeteria, and then left for the Magic Kingdom.
On the bus there, we had one of those meta Disney moments where we started a conversation with a mom and her two daughters who were on their last day of vacation. It is such a bittersweet thing to me that on every given day at Disney, one person is ending their joyful stay while another person is just arriving. On the last day of our vacation, we struck up a bus conversation with a mom and her kids who were, you guessed it, on their first day of vacation. And so on it goes.
When we arrived at the Magic Kingdom, it was 9:30, and the crowds were crazy. The bag check line was quite long, but we finally got through it and into the park for our first dramatic look at Main Street and the castle! That's always a special moment, but this time around Tom pointed out to me that the Mayor of Main Street was mingling with park guests right near us. We stopped the Mayor so I could get a picture with him, and had a short conversation. He asked us where we were from, and said his "favorite ex-wife" was from Ohio.
Tom and I love our traditions at Disney, and one of ours is to start our vacation by visiting Merida in the Magic Kingdom first thing. But first on our way to her area, we saw a Photopass photographer taking pictures at a neat location to the right side of the castle, and had her snap a few shots. This was the first time we went into our vacation with the Memory Maker option already purchased. Last trip, we brought our nice DSLR camera and thought we would just skip the expense, but we wound up buying Memory Maker after the trip, as the photographers' cameras had improved since 2013, and we loved a lot of the pictures. So this trip, we went into it keeping an eye open for photo opportunities to utilize our Memory Maker. These shots were a great example of that. The Olaf ones make me smile.
Merida was charming and really fun. I gave her the button I had brought with a picture of Mum-Bear and Merida, and showed her my magic band, on which I had painted a couple of Mum-Bears and flowers. I'll do another post sometime about our magic bands, but yes, I paint art on our magic bands, and it lasts through the vacation quite well using the technique!
In this photo below, Tom was pointing out a stray arrow above the wall, insisting that there's no way she was the one who put it there, since she never misses. She agreed.
From Merida, we meandered over toward the Beauty and the Beast area of New Fantasyland. While passing by the castle-like structures near the carousel, we saw that Anastasia and Drizella were doing meet and greets. I was under the impression that they no longer met at the parks, but apparently it's just Lady Tremaine who was eliminated. We waited in the line for a short while, but the sisters left for a break, and we moved on to the Beauty and the Beast area, stopping by Beast's castle to get a few more photo pass pictures.
Since Gaston is so insanely popular his line is often cut before he even arrives for his meet and greets, we went ahead and sat down at the front of the area where he meets a half hour before he was due to arrive. And sure enough, the line was cut before he even got there. Gaston's meet and greet was rather underwhelming. I gave him a button that said "Winner of the No-Belle Prize" and apparently he didn't have as much of a sense of humor about that as I had hoped. But we got our pictures and moved on.
We meandered over to the Storybook Circus area and waited in line to meet Goofy, Donald, Daisy, and Minnie in their circus attire. Last trip, we had prepared a "Goofy Yell-Off" to perform for Goofy, with him as the judge of whose yell was superior. We decided to go ahead and do that again this time, and it was just as much fun this time around. This time though, we got a video.
When we met Donald, Tom asked him when he was going to put a ring on Daisy's finger. So of course Donald responded by blocking Tom in the group photos.
I complimented Daisy on her lovely ensemble, which I told her (and I meant) I would totally wear in a heartbeat. Gorgeous fortune teller, silk brocades, and a corset? Yes. Totally my "Flower Crowns and Disney Bound" style.
Minnie we told that we meet her more often than we meet any other character in the parks, because every time we see her in a new outfit, she looks so cute we have to get another picture with her. This is totally the truth, and she seemed flattered.
We still had a little bit more time before our first Fast Pass (we scheduled them for later in the afternoon since we knew we'd be traveling our first morning and had no idea what time we'd arrive), so we went over to Monster's Inc Laugh Floor. Where we proceeded to have a life goal met: I was one of the audience members chosen to participate!! During a segment, the monster on screen started to say "I need a female audience member...and I think she's going to be near the doors" (at this point I just kind of had this feeling) "and she is probably thinking right now 'don't pick me, don't pick me'"...then of course the light shone on me, and there I was on the screen! I about died with mortification and glee. He had me choose a number between 8 and 20, then asked me to send him the number telepathically. I put my index fingers up on my temple to indicate I was sending something, and he said "uh oh, we better hurry, she's getting a headache." He had me put up my index fingers above my head like antennae, and say "beedee beedee beedee." Then Tom got in on the fun. "The guy next to her who has staples in his arm" (apparently Tom's circle of ankh's tattoo looked like staples from the stage) "you do it too!" Then everyone around us got called on to make the same gesture and noise. He didn't guess my number correctly though.
It was awesome...definitely a moment of Disney magic special-ness.
We then went over to the tables on the end of Main Street and ate a couple of Mickey ice cream sandwiches (our favorite classic Disney World treat) while staring at the castle.
Finally it was time for our first Fast Pass of the day, meeting Ariel in her Grotto. She was quite lovely, and I gave her a button I had made for her that had a picture of her smiling coyly in her underwater mirror with her sisters around her, with the words "I woke up like this." She seemed to enjoy that.
I also pointed out that she was on my shoes (Disney princess shoes! Available in Target stores, so cute!!) and showed her, much to her amusement.
Next, we decided to head back up to the front of the park to see if we could meet Tinker Bell, but since we were near the back of the park in Fantasyland, we decided to take the train to the front of the park. The line was a bit longer than we expected, and by the time we got up to the train station at the front of Main Street, the Festival of Fantasy parade was about to start in a few minutes. "Ooh," I thought. "Wouldn't it be fun to try watching the parade from up above in the train station?" We ran out front where a few guests had already assembled, but managed to get a spot near the railing. However, the best area, right in the middle of the train depot overlooking Main Street, was roped off for VIP guests. Bummer. But at the last minute, right before the parade (which starts in Adventureland at 3:00 but doesn't make its way to the front of the park until about 3:20) arrived, the Cast Member who was guarding the VIP area decided "let's just narrow down these ropes a little bit," since there were only four VIPs that day. Essentially, that meant that since I immediately jumped on the new space, I got a VIP view! I live-streamed the parade on Facebook, but I made a conscious effort to not live through the screen, and made sure to really look and take-in the gorgeous parade from a view that not everyone sees.
And Snow White waved at me and gestured that she loved my ears, asking if I made them! I suspect that from her view below, she might have thought they were Snow White ears (they were, after all, blue, yellow, and red, which are her colors) but I still got a tickle out of her attention.
By now, it was later than we had anticipated, and so we hopped right back on the train to go back to the Fantasyland area for our second Fast Pass, the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. We really love this ride, but it is the longest wait of any ride in the Magic Kingdom (most of the time), so when it's time to make our Fast Passes (60 days before the first day of your vacation, if you're staying at a Disney resort), we try to get at least one Mine Train Fast Pass each day we are in the Magic Kingdom. This trip, we rode it 5 times, and I believe we were in the back mine car for every time except this first one, when we got to travel in the front for the first time. It was a different experience, but I definitely prefer the back of the mine train, which swings wider and faster.
So now that our Fast Pass was done, NOW we went back to the front of the park and checked on the wait time to meet Tinker Bell. I've met Tink twice before, and both times she just didn't seem to be in a mood to deal with grown ups. It was a disappointing experience, but I refused to give up on Tink. After all...I am the Deputy Editor for a publication called Faerie Magazine for cryin' out loud.
The third time was the charm, though. Tink was absolutely adorable, cheerful as heck, and perfectly fun. We talked about my flower crown ears, and she lamented that there wasn't such a thing as green roses, since she loves the color green so much. It was a cute conversation. I try to have something prepared to talk to the characters about, but you also have to be flexible, because sometimes something they see you wear or do inspires them to go in a totally different direction for your time together. Whatever the case, it always ends up being a magical moment.
Look at her eyes squeezed shut so adorably in this picture!!
So three cheers for *finally* accomplishing an enjoyable Tinker Bell meet and greet!!
I mentioned how much Tom and I love our little Disney World traditions. Another tradition is to eat our first dinner of our vacation at Be Our Guest restaurant, Beast's castle from my favorite film of all time, Beauty and the Beast. You can guess that this was the reason why I dressed in Beauty and the Beast theme for this day of our trip. (You'll see as the days go by that I tried to coordinate my wardrobe to our vacation plans every day of the trip)
We also always tell the check in desk that we are perfectly willing and happy to wait whatever amount of time it takes to obtain a table in the West Wing. We feel very strongly that the West Wing is the best and most atmospheric dining experience at Be Our Guest. There are two other potential seating areas: the jewelry box room, which has a massive rotating jewelry box of Belle and Beast in the middle of the room, and art on each wall, but otherwise just isn't that directly immersive into the story. Then there's the main ballroom, with tall gothic windows enchanted to look out on a twilight night with falling snow. The main ballroom is straight out of the movie, and every time I walk through there and look up, I end up crying; I'm not ashamed to admit it. But...the acoustics in this room are sadly lacking, and the tables are all set up on the "dance floor," which leads to a cacophony of sound and lack of privacy if there are a multitude of guests dining. The West Wing, by contrast, is far more intimate. It has the enchanted rose in one corner, with the torn portrait of Beast nearby. Every ten minutes or so, a thunderclap sounds, and the portrait changes from prince to Beast. A different soundtrack plays in this room, with instrumental versions of the movie's songs played in a minor and darker key. It's incredible, albeit so dark in there you end up needing to use your cell phones as flashlights. Well worth the wait.
Every time we go to dinner I look for hidden Mickeys. I think I found one in the pattern on these roof beams.
After dinner, we met Beast. This is the only place to meet Beast anywhere at Disney World, and only with dinner reservations. And when he's from your favorite movie...he's well worth it. I had a pin for Beast, though I totally spaced on giving it to him. That's ok...next trip.
Our last Fast Pass of the night was for the Haunted Mansion, my favorite ride or attraction on any Disney property ever. (How's that for a very concrete statement?) While we were walking through the queue, I saw that there was a Photo Pass photographer at the exit near the hearse and made note. Oh yes. Photos in front of my beloved Haunted Mansion? Yes please.
When we got on the ride, we got stuck for a couple of minutes in the casket room. So I had Tom snap a quick photo with my phone. (With, of course, "no flash photography, please. We spirits are frightfully sensitive to bright lights.")
After our trip to the Haunted Mansion, we saw that things were getting into gear for the evening castle shows. Since we had been up since 2a.m. and it was now after 8 at night, we decided to go ahead and call it a night, going back to the resort to make sure our bags had arrived and our room was ready. The room was indeed ready, and was in the building we had requested (Ursula, building 7, where we stayed our first trip, with a lake view and closest access to the walkways back to the main building). We unpacked our stuff, decorated our resort window, which I'll share with you on the post for our second parks day, and collapsed into the (deliciously comfortable...I mean, we slept like babies) bed.
And that was the end of day 1 of our trip!
Stay tuned for day 2 of our 6 day trip, when we go to Epcot for the Flower and Garden Festival!