Friday, December 12, 2014

A Trip to Disney

Over Thanksgiving the family took a whirlwind trip to Houston, Disney World, and Cocoa Beach.  With that many stops you know this is going to be a long post.  So grab a cup of coffee and sit back.

First Stop: Houston

We decided to start our trip in Houston and spend Thanksgiving with our Houston family, just as we had for the past several years.  Amy and Lenny were nice enough to host such a large gathering this year and it was all delicious.  Jeremy even made an apple and pumpkin pie and brought it on the plane with us!

Max had fun spending a few days playing with the other kids, and we all throughly enjoyed eating at Torchies, Ninfas, and Rudys.  Ah, texmex and bbq, how I miss thee.  And although I didn't get to do my usual Black Friday shopping trip, I did get up early and do a lot of online shopping and got some great deals on clothes for Max and Jeremy.

A big thanks to the Wellners for letting us stay with them and letting us use their car.

Onto Walt Disney World!

Sunday we caught a morning flight from Houston to Disney.  I was beyond excited.  Like a kid in a candy store.  Or like Max at Disney.  Yea, he loved it.  Anyway...

We decided to take advantage of the Disney Magical Express.  This is AWESOME.  You get off the plane and head right down to the magic express.  No bags, no luggage, no waiting around, just you and your carry on and the kiddo.  Don't forget to bring your magic bands, as you'll need those to board the bus.  You'll also want to take a carry on, as your luggage won't arrive in your hotel room for a few hours.  We made sure to tag all the bags with the yellow stickers they gave us, and bam, they were in the room by the time we got back from dinner later that night.  Sweet!

The Magic Express bus only took about 30 minutes to get to the Port Orleans French Quarter and max loved the TV's and looking out the window.  Our room was nice, a corner room on the second floor.  I also really like the decor of the hotel and how it wasn't too crowded.  When we showed up there was a woman standing out front with our name on an ipad.  Why yes, I am Rea.  I don't know what we did to deserve that privilege, but it was icing on the cake.  Max even got a 1st Visit button which we proudly displayed on our stroller for the remainder of the trip.

The first night we met up with some friends at Downtown Disney.   They were also out for the launch, and it was great to see them after so many months.  We had dinner at an Irish place called Raglan Road.  It was really good and the kids were really into the dancing.

Magic Kingdom

We spent day 1 and 3 at the Magic Kingdom.  Because of some bus issues, we didn't see the opening of the park.  I was pretty bummed out and mad, but as soon as I made my way inside, all that disappeared.  (FYI, the opening show is 10 minutes before the park opens)  First thing we did was wait in line for Pluto and then head down Main Street.  I knew Max wouldn't be able to do most of the rides, and it wasn't too crowded, so we took our time.  (Okay, well I took my time, I'm fairly sure Jeremy felt rushed, but he has no idea).

Let me just take a minute to talk about the characters and the castle.  Max LOVED every minute of it.  Seriously, this kid should be the poster child for this place.  I get the characters, because he sees them on Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, but the castle?  Why?  Every time he would see it (and even now when he sees pictures) he points and screams and babbles.  I don't know what he's saying, but I know he's excited.

The first characters were pluto then chip and dale.  Both he was a
little like "hum, what's this guy" but I think he saw mom's excitement and decided to go with it.  After that he would run up to the character, give him/her a hug and kiss, then do a 180 and pose for the camera.  Then he would interact with them and wave 'bye bye.'  It was like a freaken script, only I didn't even prompt it.

To the right is a picture with him and piglet.  The first day after pluto and chip and dale, we went over and did the magic carpets, pirates of the Caribbean, and small world.  (haunted mansion was closed, boo).  We then headed over to the Crystal Palace for breakfast.  We had a 10:30 reservation and I was nervous that breakfast stopped at 10:45, but that's just when the stopped seating and we were able to eat breakfast until 11:30 then even get some of the lunch buffet before we left.  (breakfast is way better, btw).  I wasn't sure how the Winnie the Pooh characters would go, since he didn't know them, but from the picture here you can see that they obviously went very well.  This is by far one of my favorite places in Disney to eat, so you should put it on your list.

Between the two days we hit a lot of rides... several times.  Tea cups (3 times) and the people mover  (4 times) were among the favorites.  We also enjoyed peter pan, monsters inc, tomorrowland speedway, winnie the pooh, dumbo (2 times), and just walking around.  It was hot enough during the day to play in the splash pad and we also got to have lunch at Be Our Guest.  The restaurant is really cool and the food is good and different.  It was a nice change.  We also saw a lot of characters.  The characters were one of his favorites so we saw them multiple multiple times (like more than 4 or 5 for some of them)  Plus we had time.  It was nice to go when the park wasn't crowded.  The second day we did the animated Mickey.  It was really cool.  He sings and talks and dances with you.  The only creepy part is his closed smile, but I guess that's only because I'm used to him with his mouth open.  Once I asked him to take a picture with his mouth open and he just looked at me, looked at the handler, looked at me again and said "i can say cheese."  I think they can't stop the mouth, it can only open and close in succession.  It was pretty funny to watch the reaction to my question.  The best part about Mickey was them doing the hot dog dance together!  So cute.

On the last night, on the way out the park, we spent a few minutes to find my family brick on the walkway into the Magic Kingdom.  My dad bought this brick for my mom 20 years ago for her birthday and it's still there!  (and mostly readable).

Hollywood Stuidos and Epcot

Our 2nd and 4th days we hit Epcot.  Well, the second day we started with breakfast at Cape May's at
the Beach Club.  Because we had an early breakfast time, we took a Mears Taxi over from our hotel.  It was super easy and they had a carseat as I requested.  Though someday I would like to do Chef Mickey's again, you have to book it so far in advance that I haven't been able to get it the last few times.  Cape May is pretty good and puts you in a good position to get to Hollywood Studios and Epcot with the boat or walking.

First we started at Hollywood studios.  We only spent like 2 hours here, and in retrospect it probably wasn't worth the park hopper, but we did get to do muppet vision 3D and walk around.   Jeremy bought Max a Chewbacca stuffed animal and a Star Wars Mickey & Goofy beach towel.

After walking around and playing in some puddles we took the boat back to the Beach Club and walked from there to Epcot.  My parents and I used to stay at the Beach Club all the time, so the walk has a special place in my heart.

Over two days at Epcot we walked the countries, did some rides (Jeremy got to do Mission to Mars), and saw more characters. Though the last day didn't go as well, I'm pretty sure it was just because the kid was so sleep deprived that he was delusional.  (more on that later).

At each country they have a Kid Spot, where you can color a stick puppet thing and then take it around to get stamped at each country.  We didn't do the stamp thing so much, but Max did enjoy coloring the stick puppet with the markers and then got super mesmerized  by the other little girls that came by the table.

At Epcot we ate dinner in Mexico (San Angel Inn & Tequila Bar), and Morocco.  It was our first time eating in Morocco but it was good and I would go back, though I still prefer Mexico.

As for the rides, Max enjoyed them all, but the Norway boat ride was closed to be turned into a Frozen themed ride (go figure, Disney looks like Frozen threw up in that place).  We found Figment and Nemo to be kinda strange.  He loved the dancing waters and the fireworks (which, btw, have an awesome special holiday ending)

Other Disney

Between the rocket launch attempts, we spent some time at the pool, going down the water slide like a champ, and eating and shopping at Downtown Disney and the Marketplace.  We wound up eating at the T-Rex restaurant twice because we liked it so much.  It's owned by the same folks as rainforest cafe, but it's way cooler and the food is much better.  Max was a little scared during the meteor storms, but otherwise found it cool.  And we got to see our friend Brandon before we left, bonus.

All in all, Walt Disney World was super awesome and I was sad to leave.  Truly, I thought about extending our vacation but I knew Jeremy would have never gone for it.   As a last note, we paid for the Magic Maker photo package and found it to be worth while.  We got a LOT of pictures and basically took them whenever we saw someone, as each only took a minute or two.  This proved key with a toddler who didn't want to cooperate half the time, or when people would accidentally walk into your shot.   You can review the pictures on your phone about 30 minutes after they are taken, so I would just recommend making sure they get up there.  We lost some of our Mickey pictures because they were "having trouble with the camera" at that time.  Fortunately we had already seen Mickey a bunch, but I can't imagine the poor people before and after us who were counting on that photographer.

Orion EFT1 

Jeremy will tell you that the real reason we came to Disney was to see the Orion EFT 1 launch.  I suppose in some way that was true, but details.  The Orion capsule was set to launch on a Delta IV Heavy on Thursday December 4th at 7:05 am with a window extending until 9:44am EDT.  We wanted to get to the causeway early to get a good spot, so we left our hotel in Orlando at 2:00am... both mornings.  Notice I said "both", yea, it was rough.

Jeremy's parents came down for the launch so we met them at their hotel in Cocoa Beach then met up with the Lillard's and headed to the Causeway.  Because Jeremy worked on the entry guidance for Orion he was able to get a Causeway pass, and even got a Space Flight Award!

If you caught onto my word "both" up top, you've probably figured out that it didn't launch on the first day.  It started with a tugboat in the debris field, continued with high winds and unnecessary automatic shutdowns, and ended with overheated valves.  So after spending about 6 hours on the causeway we headed back to Orlando to do the whole thing again the next day.

Well, Day 2, and it launched!  Right at 7:05am.  It was awesome to see, I was so proud of Jeremy and I knew he was so excited to be there.  He was also really excited to watch the launch with his parents and a bunch of our Houston friends who had also made the trip.  I'll post a group picture when I get it.

I had my small camera positioned to take a video of the launch.  It's not the best video because I was fairly zoomed out, but my DSLR had quit working on Day 1, so I was glad I even had this.

Congratulations to the entire Orion team for a successful launch and landing.  It was nearly perfect and they were only 1.5 nautical miles off target (that's like still hitting the bullseye).

For those of you that don't know, this was the first time that America has launched a rocket so far into space (3600 miles) since the 1970's!

For some reason the video won't upload into the blog, so make the jump HERE to see it.  And HERE to see the pictures from the launch.

Here's to a great vacation!  For more pictures and videos from the Disney World part of the trip go HERE.