By the time we got back to the line for the monorail it was crowded! Some people stood in line while others thought lines didn't apply to them as they crammed their way to their position of choice. I tried to concentrate on the sunrise and the castle that was slowly appearing through the fog in the distance, but panic over losing a child (mainly my free spirit Cora) was creeping in. I demanded their wrists and sharpied each of them with my cell phone number, giving myself a little peace of mind. FINALLY our monorail arrived and we were herded (yes herded...I resisted the urge to moo) to the loading platform. We got to the park right after it had opened to the general public, so luckily we didn't have to wait in another line. We were in!
We walked down main street stopping to get our picture in front of the castle, and that smell! It smells so good when you walk in. I kept saying it was like a mixture of popcorn and cake. We headed straight to our first ride, the 7 Dwarfs mine train. We weren't able to get a fast pass for it so even though we got there first thing we still had a 20 minute wait or so. Sylvie was too little for this one, so she and Luke went out in search of Dumbo. In reality, they actually got to ride Dumbo, the teacups, and the carousal all while we were in line! I will say that the wait for the 7 Dwarfs was almost as cool as the ride itself. It was set in a beautiful little wooded area complete with Snow White's cottage. Then once you enter the mine there are tons of interactive games to keep you entertained as you move through the line. There was mining for jewels, barrels of lighted gems to spin and make patterns on the ceiling, and a water feature that played music when you put your hands in the water. The three of us had to split up when we got to the loading area. Cora and I were in front with Beau right behind us. I was nervous, but luckily the ride had more curves and turns than it did big drops. The kids loved all 20 seconds of it.
|Sylvie and Daddy time|
|Spinning on the teacups|
|Cora's first real rollar coaster ride|
Afterwards we met up with Luke and Sylvie took another spin on the teacups, and headed over to Mickey's Philharmagic. There wasn't any wait and as we were ushered in to the doors Beau needed to use the bathroom....now. We played a round of really? are you sure, can't you wait? before Luke gave in and took him out in search of a bathroom. Sylvie, Cora and I saw the show without the boys who used the bathroom and then went to use our fast pass on Peter Pan. I wasn't sure what this show was about, only that it needed 3D glasses, and I'll admit I contemplated skipping it so we could stick with the boys. In the end we stayed and it was awesome! This is the first 3D adventure that Sylvie has ever kept the glasses on for and having her sitting on my lap was just as amusing as the show! She was ducking, trying to grab things, and popping bubbles. Not to mention jumping 10 feet when Donald threw a bucket of water accompanied with actual water splashing the crowd. When we met back up with the boys afterwards we told them they had to check it out and they took Sylvie again while Cora and I went to use up our Pan fast pass.
We finished before they did so we spent a little time exploring that area of the park, which was still relatively uncrowded. And let me say I LOVE this part of Disney World. It's like going back in time to my childhood. Except I was actually IN one of the stories my parents read to me over and over and over. My favorite was the Rapunzel area decked out with flags and lanterns complete with Rapunzel's tower in the distance. There's no actual attraction here, just a bathroom, but it's my favorite bathroom in all of Disney World. :). Even after wandering around the bathrooms with goofy grins on our faces we still had time to kill so we took a quick spin on the carousal. I absolutely loved having a few minutes of free time to spend with Cora. The lighter crowd allowed us to skip and spin and dance and twirl and just let Cora's infectious happiness take over.
|Family teacup ride|
|Hanging out by the Rapunzel potties|
|Sooooo happy :)|
When we got to the restaurant we realized that the reservation was actually more like the time you're allowed in the gates, not your table. We still had to wait in a long line to order our food. Our youngest was beginning to show the effects of a 2 year who's gone napless for 4 straight days and we were trying desperately to keep her pacified with band aids. (I knew that first aid kit would come in handy). Once we got our order in the restaurant was very cool, especially to Beauty and the Beast fans! You walk into the ballroom complete with sparkling gold chandeliers. That room was getting pretty full so we headed into the dreaded West Wing! It was dark and looked like the Beast had gone into a rage clawing at all the drapes, tapestries and paintings. Every few minutes there would be a storm complete with lightning and thunder, and in the front of the room was the magic rose where if you watched closely you could see a petal fall. Our food was good and it was a nice little rest from the heat and the crowds. Plus, it was one of the few restaurants where we could refill our fountain pop before we left, score!
We started our afternoon by using our fast pass for Dumbo, Sylvie already knew what this one was all about so she was super excited! Afterwards we decided to ride the train back to Fronteirland for Splash Mountain (since ya know my 11pm fast pass wasn't going to work out). Now this was quite the process and walking would have definitely been easier, but we're at Disney, we have to experience it all, and that includes the train! It is not, however, stroller friendly. You have to fold it up, and since our stroller was carrying enough cargo to get us through a week in the wilderness this was no easy feat. We looked like a family of pack mules. The train dropped us right by Splash Mountain and Luke took the Beau and Cora to begin 2 hour wait. Sylvie and I got the stroller all arranged and set off in search of a fast pass station in an attempt to salvage our final fast pass. I had given up Enchanted Tales with Belle which was now out of fast passes. I knew we had to find an actual kiosk, how hard could this be. Well we found one all right, way back in Fantasyland, and oh. my. goodness. The crowd was absolutely insane to get there. Up until now it had been crowded, but not like this. People were elbow to elbow and your every move was at the mercy of the crowd. I found myself being ever so thankful that my crowd loving husband was waiting in a nice organized shaded (although never ending) line. Even I (who am much more comfortable in a crowd by comparison) was very near hyperventilation and eternally grateful that I only had one child who was strapped in the stroller (albeit screaming) and didn't have to keep track of my other two scampering day dreamers.
We found what I thought should be the kiosk, but I thought I was mistaken based on the winding line we stumbled upon half a mile away from our destination. I asked the people in front of us what they were in line for. "The fast pass kiosk." WHAT! Nowhere in my research did they mention insanely long lines for the kiosks!! I'm not sure it saves any time since you could just go stand in line for the actual attraction vs the fast pass line. They should have fast passes for the fast pass kiosk! But we had time to burn and the line was giving me less anxiety than being herded along in the crowd, so we waited. When we finally made it to the front there was a Disney cast member to assist us. I scanned my band and, as quickly as I could, scrolled through the fast pass options. Still trying to salvage our touring plan I was searching for a ride that was already in our plan. I got to the end of the very short list of remaining fast passes and the cast member asks which one I want. Ahhhh, ummmm, (resume hyperventilation as I try to ignore the hundreds of impatient eyes boring holes into the back of my head, and the tapping foot of the cast member) ahhhh....HAUNTED MANSION! And so folks that is how we came about having a fast pass for the scariest ride in the park.... Cora had almost recovered, might as well scare her a little more. But hey, at least it was a ride we could all do! Once we had everything squared away Sylvie and I began our trek back to Frontierland where the rest of our family was still shuffling toward Splash Mountain.
We found a fence post to sit up against so we could feast on goldfish and watch the ducks (who, it turned out, also wanted our goldfish). Sylvie was surprisingly content during this bit of downtime, but after about 15 minutes of fighting off the ducks I was ready to meander. It took all of 28 seconds for me to remember that meandering is not something you do during spring break at Disney so we settled for a change of scenery and leaned up against the rocks to watch the boats come down Splash Mountain. We dug out the bubbles and entertained those around us with a little bubble show. I quickly made peace with the fact that Sylvie's idea of bubbles was spitting on the wand and spilling the actual bubbles all over herself. I'll take a sticky, slimy, happy, squealing 2 year old over a clean tantrum throwing one any day! We ended up lucking out though because as we were standing there the afternoon parade went by! We were by no means in prime parade viewing position (think 12 rows of people deep) but if I stood her on the rocks and stood on my tiptoes we could see the heads of the princesses on the tall floats. It didn't really matter, there was lots of music and excitement so we were caught up in the fun. As long as I was excited and pointing at things she was excited too. Plus, since it was just Sylvie I didn't have the other 2 rolling their eyes at me. Honestly I'm not that embarrassing, I just have a strong Disney side.
Finally we saw them float by in their log. For a minute I thought we missed them, but once they didn't come out I realized they were just going in to the ride. We stood there eyes glued to the drop waiting, and waiting, and waiting....turns out, this particular log flume ride includes 18 minutes of Disney magic before you are plunged down the fall. Finally, about the time I figured we must have missed them again, they came crashing over the edge. I watched, peaking through my fingers with my hands over my eyes. I was terrified I was going to see Cora flying out of the seat somersaulting through the air (an actual pre-Disney nightmare I had).
I'm happy to report they reached the bottom safe and sound, full of giggles. They ran up to us each trying to out talk the other about their Splash Mountain experience. Which, I would have been delighted to hear all about if Sylvie hadn't suddenly started screaming with an emergency need to use the bathroom! I nodded and "uh-huh ed" my way through the crowd, my tunnel vision focused on the restroom sign. As we went under the bridge to the restroom entrance we passed by a beautiful little shaded toddler playground. "You have got to be kidding me!!! I just bent over backwards for 2 hours entertaining a toddler with goldfish, ducks, and bubbles in the scorching sun while this little oasis was right under our noses?!" Due to the offensive nature of the actual words that streamed through my head, this is actually the cliff notes version of my thought process. I suppressed the tantrum building and just shook my head as we regrouped at the bathrooms. Well at least we didn't miss the pressed penny machines standing adjacent to this toddler paradise (which was almost empty I might add).
After that marathon line session Beau and Cora needed a break, but Sylvie just had a two hours of downtime so we had to do something. Luckily once we got through Splash my touring plan came through for the rest of the afternoon with attractions that you didn't have to wait in line for. See....trust the plan. We took a little raft ride over to Tom Sawyer Island and just told the kids to explore while we followed. It was great! There was hardly anyone over there with lots of nooks and crannies for the kids to explore. They even had bathrooms on the island! A fact we were grateful for since within 5 minutes of our arrival Cora had to go to the bathroom. Never mind the one we just left 10 minutes ago! We crossed bridges, peeked in windows at the old fashioned fort, snuck through passageways and explored dark caves complete with the noise of wind and squeaking rats and bats. The kids had a great time and we were all thankful to be out of the crowd.
|Exploring Tom Sawyer Island|
Once they were tired out from their exploring we decided ice cream was in order before we headed over to the "Country Bear Jamboree". This was also one I contemplated skipping, but there was no line so we gave it a go. It's definitely not an attraction I would choose to see again (think huge animatronic bears singing really bad country), and I'm pretty sure Luke fell asleep. But it was air conditioned and oddly enough Beau thought it was hilarious, laughing hysterically as he clapped along with the music, so of course Cora followed suit. We took a ride on the Riverboat in Frontierland (again no line) which gave Sylvie time for a much needed nap. She continued to sleep as we collected some pressed pennies on the way to our fast pass for "The Haunted Mansion".
Just to be clear, the kids did not want to go on this. They whined and tried to talk me out of it right up until we were entering the attraction. At which point they cram you all into this tiny little room so you can listen to a creepy story. The whole time the walls appear to be stretching and the pictures are turning to skeletons and various scary things. Just before you enter the ride lighting and thunder crash and the ceiling disappears to reveal a person hanging from a noose. Really Disney?.....I sighed, defeated, picked up a now crying Cora and buried her head in my shoulder as she begged me to get her out of here. Sylvie and Luke boarded the first car with me Cora, and Beau right behind. Before we saw anything else scary I convinced Cora to put her head down in my lap and close her eyes. Beau just looks at me, shakes his head and goes "Mom! I told you we shouldn't go on this!" Oh be quiet and pay attention to this graveyard we're entering!!! He was terrified, but was a good sport and mustered up all the eye rolling and "that's not scary" that he could manage. Cora didn't make a peep or attempt to lift her head until about half way through the ride when it got really cold. That's when I hear a muffled voice "Mom, why is it so cold?" "Because sweetie, we're surrounded by ghosts, keep your head down." We all survived and headed over to Pinocchio's village to reward our brave little ones with pizza.
|Holding hands on the way to Belle|
After supper we headed over to Enchanted Tales with Belle. This was the fast pass I sacrificed with my Splash Mountain mix up. It was a wait, but the kids had full tummies and they were happily entertained climbing on the rocks and fences as we made our way to Belle's cottage. They were probably just relieved to be waiting on a fairy tale vs a horror show! Once you arrive at Belle's cottage you are free to explore until the door opens for your turn to enter the attraction. I say explore meaning you can look around since being crammed elbow to elbow in a tiny room doesn't leave much opportunity for other types of exploration. Just as we're next up Cora has to go potty (why did I let her have pop with supper?!). I gambled and told her to hold it. Once the door opened they called our group through the doors into another tiny room and told the kids to come sit up front. That was a good thing since we were in the very back of the room but I had to mentally calm myself thinking "up front? Way up there where I can't see them?! Ohhh I hope Cora doesn't pee her pants!" They played a little Beauty and The Beast trivia with the kids before calling their attention to the magic mirror in the front of the room. At that point the mirror magically transforms into a doorway leading you through the Beasts castle to the library. Now, I'd read about the attraction and knew this was going to happen. But I was thinking more along the lines of cover the mirror with a curtain and slide it out of the way to reveal a door sort of magic. Oh no, the mirror actually sparkles and transforms in to a doorway that we walk through. How? I don't know, magic. It was very cool and made the whole attraction worth the wait. Or so I thought until the next turn of events, which completely trumped the magic mirror.
The remainder of the attraction was a little play the kids put on. They were given props and had to practice their action before performing for Belle!! Beau didn't want a prop (of course), and Cora was given the part of Chip, the teacup. She had to hop on cue so it was the perfect part for her....perhaps her need to use the bathroom even enhanced her acting skills! I was praying the entire time that she didn't pee her pants, seriously how embarrassing would that be for the poor girl! Anyway not only did the kids get parts but two lucky Dads were required to be the knights (you see where I'm going with this??).
The first knight was chosen and then you guessed it, none other than LUKE for the second knight! Now, my husband is very animated and LOVES to be the center of attention. For those of you that know him, you know that I'm lying through my teeth and are now laughing along with me. It's quite possible that he's the least animated person I know. He is, however, a very good sport and loves his family dearly so he galloped and squealed with the best of them, all with a smile on his face. But lets just say that when that cast member handed him his knight prop there was no stifling my laughter. At the end of their little show each of the "actors" got to have their picture taken with Belle leaving me with one happy 5 year old.
|My knight in shining armor|
|"Performing" for Belle|
By the time we were finished with Belle it was time to find a spot for the Wishes show. This show was so awesome! Cinderella's castle transformed with music and animation from Disney films old and new, along with a sweet story narrated by Jimminy Cricket. The wishes show is followed by the iconic fireworks above the castle. I don't think the kids were quite as smitten with the show as I was just because it was hard to see and they were EXHAUSTED by this point. Luckily they got their second wind after the show.
I wanted to stay for the electric parade so we went back over to the nearly deserted park to ride a few rides before it started. We rode the Barnstormer roller coaster with no line (thank goodness because the ride couldn't have been more than 15 seconds long). Beau and Cora loved it though and they got off jumping around and refreshed with their second wind in full swing. We took advantage of their new found energy and rode Winnie the Pooh. This ride had a fun little interactive wait with the kids' favorite being the screens that looked like dripping honey. You could smear your hand on the screen and bees would follow you while it looked like you were smearing the honey around. I couldn't get past how many other little hands had been smearing various substances on the screen for long enough to actually touch it myself. I'm happy to report that I did not let my germophobia interfere with their childhood joys....however I did give them each a healthy dose of antibacterial hand gel once we were on the ride. Ugh, I still shudder thinking about it and I'm really not usually the type to get all skittish about germs....but ewww.
Now we had to get moving to find a spot for the electric parade. As much as I really really really wanted to check all of our touring plans steps "complete" before we went home I had to come to terms with the fact that we were going to have to skip "It's a Small World" if we were going to make the parade. We wandered around for quite awhile and eventually ended up walking all the way back to Frontierland to get a spot for the parade. This is in the complete opposite direction of the exit so Luke was having a mild anxiety attack by this point. I was grinning ear to ear because as Luke was pushing Sylvie she kept turning around saying "this fun Mom! I happy Mom!" I mean really, what more do you need than that?
I'd like to say her happy demeanor lasted through the night but by the time we got to our selected parade seating she had morphed into Princess Sylvie Stroller Diva and was allowing no one to come near her stroller seat. At this point Beau was done and began to throw a tantrum of his own over always having to give up the stroller for his sisters. I gently reminded him that he is the oldest, however my speech had very little conviction. We were both well aware of the fact that he had been a trooper the entire trip. He bent over backwards almost as much as Luke and I in and effort to keep his sisters happy and keepthe public tantruming to a minimum. In the end I took a screaming Sylvie into the corner shop that we were standing next to. Which just happened to be.... are you ready? A CHRISTMAS SHOP! Yes I was standing in a Christmas shop with fully decked halls in the middle of Disney World. Even a screaming toddler couldn't stifle my excitement. By the time we made a lap around the store we were all feeling better and made it back outside for the start of the parade. The kids loved the parade, although Cora had to settle for Cinderella instead of Elsa. After the parade I couldn't help thinking that had we kept that fast pass we could ride Splash Mountain right now. Even without it the line probably wasn't that long at this hour. I don't think my family shared quite the level of Disney stamina as I however, so we began our lengthy trek back to the hotel. We began by elbowing our way to the park entrance, boarding a ferry, hiking to our car, and finally driving the short drive back to our hotel. Cora fell asleep in the stroller, and after a brief screaming jag I was carrying a sleeping Sylvie. I attempted to concentrate on the fact that my arms were going numb in order to silence the sad voice in my head reminding me that our vacation was half over and we would eventually need to leave this magical place. On the way back to the hotel all three kids fell asleep in the car, and let me just say that is magical in and of itself!