Living it up at SeaWorld and Disney World

In our final weeks in Florida, we planned to go out on a high note. After packing up all of our belongings (which was harder than we thought!) into “White Shadow” during down pouring rain – we headed for Orlando.IMG_0016

We planned to do a day at SeaWorld, three days at Disney World during week 1 and then back to the beach (this time Madeira Beach) for the second week. We weren’t alone either… our good friends Richie and Katy made the trip from Zurich with their two kids, Chloe and Oliver. 


Homeless Again

After leaving our Ft Myers Beach condo, we were homeless again. Meaning all we owned was in the SUV or my brother’s basement. But, Kelly booked us into a large home in Kissimmee right next to all the theme parks we’d be going to.

The place was HUGE! Better yet, it had its own private pool and hot tub. When our friends arrived, we had the refrigerator stocked with food and adult beverages and were ready for a great week!


First stop… SeaWorld

I was in charge of the SeaWorld planning. I was a bit nervous as I planned it in a day, while Kelly worked on Disney for weeks. IMG_1557The plan worked perfectly and the kids had an amazing time. Insert my pat on the back here!

We started out early in the morning to be there when the park opened. We went straight for the Antartica: Empire of the Penguin ride and hit our first problem. The ride was closed temporarily for repair! We decided to keep the kids in line with the mommys to see how long it was going to be.

Richie and I took the opportunity to head for one of the big roller coasters. We picked Manta, which had a short line. It was one of the most incredible roller coasters either of us had been on. You laid flat and it felt like you were literally flying through the air. Best. Coaster. Ever.IMG_1573

After our ride we met up with Kelly, Katy and the kids. They were excited to share with us how cool (literally – it was freezing in there) the Penguin ride was and they got to see real penguins.

Up next was the Blue Horizons Dolphin Show. It was really cool with acrobatics, flying birds over our heads and, of course, dolphins jumping and doing tricks with the trainers. The kids eyes were glued to the pool and couldn’t get enough. Kelly was also screeching with excitement.

After the dolphins, Kelly and Katy got their chance to ride a roller coaster (The Kraken) while Richie and I took the kids to see Clyde & Seamore’s Sea Lion High show. It was definitely a show for kids. The MC was pretty funny making fun of people as they came into the theater. The sea lions were fun to watch do their tricks throughout the skit.IMG_1598

Next it was lunchtime, so we all met up and went over to the Shark Underwater Grill. The food was amazing and was enhanced by large sharks in tanks all around us. We took our time to recharge and cool off in the restaurant before doing the shark walkway. The kids loved going through the tunnel while the sharks swam over our heads.

After lunch it was starting to rain a bit, so we headed straight for the main attraction – One Ocean at Shamu Stadium. After watching the Black Fish documentary we were excited, curious and a bit terrified to watch the killer whales (orcas) do their thing. But, it was an amazing show. The size of these animals was impressive and the tricks were fun to see. We sat in the Soak Zone, but didn’t get too wet. I have to say that I did cringe every time a trainer fed them a fish!IMG_1578

We spent a couple hours after the One Ocean show at Shamu’s Happy Harbor – aka kiddie rides. Zoe, Alex, Chloe and Ollie all had fun on train rides, jellies (like tea cups) and the Shamu roller coaster.

On the way out of the park we saw the baby dolphin nursery before stopping at Manta so Kelly and Katy could experience the awesomeness of this coaster. Once they were done, they told Richie and I to skip Kraken and do Manta again.

They didn’t have to tell us twice. We headed straight in and with a short line we got in the front row to have unobstructed view while flying through the air. It was even better than the first time. To get an idea check out this video – Manta Front POV.IMG_9927

Unfortunately, Kelly and Katy didn’t have quite as good of a time as 3 of 4 children had a complete meltdown while we were on the ride. It was the end of a long, hot day so we couldn’t blame them too much – so we went home to get rested up for Disney’s Magic Kingdom!


Disney World Rocks!

Kelly was nervous as we got up on Tuesday morning. She had spent weeks planning the perfect Disney experience with minimal IMG_0005ride waits, Fast Passes, and character lunches. The rest were excited to go to Disney for the first time. I was the only one who had been once before, but couldn’t wait to see the kids faces – and Kelly’s – as they saw it for the first time.

After dressing the kids while they were half asleep, we got them loaded into the car and we were off. Parking at Magic Kindom was efficient, but it is quite the process – parking lot to tram to ferry boat. Only to arrive to a bag check and ticket check lines. Then you’re in – phew!

We walked down Main Street of Magic Kingdom in awe of being there. THE Castle was cool to see and kids were giddy. We took a few pictures and headed straight for the Fantasyland area of the park. Our first stop was supposed to be the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, but it was closed temporarily – second day and second road bump!IMG_1632

We just rolled with it and enjoyed the Winnie the Pooh attraction instead. The line was short and it had fun games for kids to play while we waited. Alex and I rode in a honey pot together and Kelly and Zoe in another. It was a bit trippy once Pooh drinks his elixer. Alex couldn’t stop yelling every time he saw Tigger!

Up next was the Under the Sea ride that featured all the best songs from The Little Mermaid. Alex had to cover his eyes when we went past the scary sea witch Ursula, but otherwise he loved it.IMG_1690

We then decided to try out Belle’s Enchanted Tales (of Beauty and the Beast). This was one of our favorite things we did. It starts by going into Belle’s father’s house where you wait in the living room before going into a workshop where a magical mirror transports you to the Beast’s castle.

We were greeted by Madame Wardrobe who informed us that we were to be characters in a play for when Belle arrived. Richie was picked first to be a knight. Zoe was Mrs. Potts and Alex was Chip the tea cup. In the end all kids got a part as a dancing spoon or talking picture frame.

We were then led into the next room where Lumière (the Candlestick) welcomed us to the play. Just then Belle herself walked in and energy from the kids and parents alike filled the room. The kids put on the play for Belle, took photos with her and got a souviner bookmark too. It was our first princess meeting and Zoe and Chloe couldn’t stop talking about it.

Afterward we went to the Barnstormer roller coaster. Zoe and Alex have become roller coaster junkies since we went to Busch IMG_1673Gardens and then SeaWorld, so that was a big hit. Next was the Dumbo ride and they really liked that you can control when you go up and down. We had another bump in the road when we had to recover a lost Ollie (he was only missing for 3 minutes, but those 3 minutes were scarier than any roller coaster of the trip!).

After that drama, we were off to the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique at Cinderella’s Castle itself. We bought Zoe an Anna dress and Chloe wore the Elsa dress that my mom bought for Zoe. They were so excited to get dressed up as real princesses. Alex and Ollie weren’t left out though. They got their hair slicked back with some “Mickey Treausure” (glitter) sprinkled in with shields and swords as they were knighted.

They were all so cute and ready for our next stop – lunch at Cinderella’s castle. This is a MUST
DO when at Magic Kingdom – just make sure you book it 6 months in advance! As you walk in you meet Cinderella, take pictures and get her autograph. Then during a pretty tasty meal, a bunch of princesses come around to you. We saw Princess Aurora (Sleeping Beauty) Ariel (Little Mermaid), Snow White, and Jasmine (Aladdin).IMG_1732

As we left we ran into the Sword and the Stone characters that were going to do their show. The kids got to walk with them all dressed up as princesses and knights, of course. They were very excited and tried to pull out the sword, but no luck.

At this point we decided to go back to the house and get some much needed rest. Once we got there everyone napped to recharge for the night shift. We made dinner at home and headed back to Magic Kingdom.

As we arrived the sun was going down and the Magic Kingdom was starting to light up and the Castle looked amazing. We headed back to Fantasyland to use our first Fast Pass for Peter Pan’s Flight ride. All four of us could ride on this one together and the kids loved it. It was like you were flying through the sky on a pirate ship over London and into Never Never Land. Alex would yell at Captain Hook every time he saw him!

As we left we noticed the wait time for It’s A Small World ride was short, so we headed over and basically walked right onto the ride. It wasn’t AS cheezy as I remembered it from my first trip and the kids really enjoyed it.IMG_1754

Next on the agenda was to watch the Electric Light Parade, but the rain came yet again – this time it was ruining our plans. Katy was nice enough to stay and watch the stuff and hold our spots during the 1 hour delay. Richie took Ollie to meet Mickey Mouse while Kelly and I took the kids over to the Mickey’s Philharmagic 3D show. It was was a lot of fun, especially watching the kids stand up and try to grab the 3D objects flying at them.

As we left the theater the rain stopped, so we walked over to the parade spot. Only a few minutes later the parade started. Tinkerbell lead the charge and all we could hear from the kids was “TINK! TINK! TINK!” until Tinkerbell finally waved our way. Next was Zoe screaming with excitement, “MINNIE!!!!!!”, as Minnie Mouse rode by on her float. The rest of the parade was filled with favorite Disney characters that we all enjoyed.

Our next Fast Pass was the one we’d waited for all day – Magic Kingdom’s new ride – Seven Dwarfs Mine Train roller coaster. Using our “rider switch trick” most of us were able to go on this coaster twice! The ride itself was a lot of fun. Kelly and Zoe got front row as we did some fast, fun and smooth turns on the coaster. It then slowed down as weIMG_1785
made our way through the mine where the dwarfs were “tinking” away at their jewels and singing “Hi Ho” as we whooshed away for some more coaster fun. At the very end you see the evil witch outside the cottage with the poisoned apple. Alex still talks about the “mean witch” and sings “Hi Ho”!

During the second ride on Mine Train by Richie & Chloe and Kelly and Zoe, we split up a bit. Alex and I did the Winnie the Pooh ride again. Katy and Ollie went to the Carousel to maximize the fun. We all met at the carousel and had a ride.

At this point it was 11 PM and the fireworks started (delayed an hour due to the rain). We were right behind the castle and sandwiched between the fireworks over the castle and the big, loud ones that are set off a bit behind. With our heads on a swivel we were overwhelmed with how much fun the day had been. Kelly shed a few happy tears.

But, it wasn’t over! We were right next to where the kids could meet Rapunzel and Cinderella. The wait was short so we went for IMG_1873it. The kids loved meeting them and getting more signatures in their books. As we exited, we noticed the wait was down to 30 minutes for Elsa and Anna (Frozen). Typically the line for these 2 princess exceeds 2 hours. It was midnight, but we went anyway. The kids were beside themselves with excitement to meet the real Elsa and Anna.

We ended the day with a walk out of the park and some pictures of the Castle. We all slept good that night with dreams of more Disney fun to come later in the week.


A much needed day off

After two days of fun at SeaWorld and Magic Kindom, we had a day off to relax. We spent the day at our rental house in the pool, hot tub and relaxing.

Well, almost a day off. Kelly booked us a dinner at Chef Mickey’s at the Contemporary Resort. Dinner was buffet style with lots of good options for the kids and adults. The kids were excited as they knew they’d be meeting Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Goofy, Pluto and Donald Duck!IMG_0053

After dinner it was straight home to bed to get some rest for our next day at Hollywood Studios.


Back to Disney – Hollywood Studios

On Thursday morning, we all got up early to be there by the time the park opened. We were pleasantly surprised that the parking lot was right next to the gates and only involved taking the tram. Much quicker and easier than Magic Kingdom!

As we entered the park, we walked directly to the Rock & Roll Rollercoaster. This was Travis’ favorite ride when he was there IMG_1964years ago. The line was already gettting long, but Kelly and Katy got through fairly quickly. They loved the indoor coaster ride!

Then it was time for Richie and I to go. We used our rider switch fast pass and got in right away. Just as we got into position to get into the coaster the lights turned on, maintenance showed up and the announcement came. The ride was having technical difficulties! Everyone in line had to exit through the emergency area, but we were handed fast passes to come back later. So close!

We met up with the rest of the group and we were off to the Toy Story Midway Mania ride with our Fast Passes at the ready. We cut the line and got into our shooters. I rode with Zoe and she had a blast shooting the bad guys and yelling out, “Look Buzz! Look Jessie!”.

Next was the Little Mermaid show. It was a combination of lasers, actors and stage props to recreate some of the best songs from the movie. To be honest it was a bit dated, but it was a hot day so the A/C was a welcomed change.

As we walked back to the strollers, we caught the end of the Frozen parade and the kids got to see Elsa waving to the crowd. It IMG_2007 (1)was a good segway to our next activity – Sing Along with Frozen show. The kids were excited to see the “real” Anna, Kristoff, and Elsa and belt out their favorite songs from the movie. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see Olaf as he wasn’t part of the show.

Then it was time for another pre-booked character lunch – this time at The Vine. It was another buffet style meal where we were able to meet some of the Disney Junior characters. We met Handy Manny, Jake of the Neverland Pirates (favorites of Alex’s), Sofia the First and Doc McStuffins (favorites of Zoe’s). The kids even took part in singing and dancing all around the restaurant!

After lunch we lined up to watch the Frozen parade – this time from the beginning. Best part was at the end of the parade
Kristoff’s character was mic’d up and talking to the people in the crowd. When he saw Ollie and Alex he said, “Hey guys – us blondes need to stick together, right?” The boys didn’t respond and just stared back at him. After a long pause Kristoff said, “Alright, good talk boys, good talk!” Hilarious!IMG_2076

We then headed over to the back lot area of the park. We were able to jump right into the Muppets 3D movie without waiting so we went for it. It was entertaining and a bit nostalgic for the adults. Our favorite, of course, were the grumpy old men heckling Kermit and the other muppets.

As we exited the theater Alex caught a glimpse of Lightening McQueen and Mater from the Cars movie, so we got in line to get our pictures taken with them. As we walked around some more we got to see Sully and Mike Wazowski from Monsters, Inc., but the picture line was closed.

We went back home for our afternoon swim, nap and dinner and then back to Hollywood Studios. Richie and I went straight for the Rock and Roll Rollercoaster. Even with the fast pass it was a long line, but at least this time they didn’t close it on us. After
being blasted to over 60 mph and flipped around in the dark I was sure this was the best coaster at Disney!IMG_2025

The adults had Fast Passes for the Tower of Terror, but we also wanted good seats for the Fantasmic show. So, we decided to grab seats for the show first and then Richie and I headed out for the ride. Even with the Fast Pass it took a long time and the girls didn’t get a chance to use their pass or go on the ride.

On a positive note, we had great spots for the Fantasmic show and enjoyed seeing Mickey with his magic hat on, stunts, fireworks, boats with charaters floating by and the water spray that doubled as a movie screen. It was a great show and the kids kept jumping up and pointing out their favorite characters. Plus, they served beer.

On our way out of the park the fireworks show started and we stood by the entrance of the park to watch. It was another action packed, fun filled, and successful day at Disney!


One more time!

Friday was our last day for Disney – back to the Magic Kingdom! After the early wake up, parking fiasco and getting into the park, we made our first stop at Mickey Mouse and Tinkerbell character meet and greets. The sign said only 15 and 5 minutes wait, but it was much longer. After the girls took 15 minutes to see Tink, the boys left the line and met up with the group.IMG_2084

We headed straight for Space Mountain to use our Fast Passes and maximized our “rider switch trick” to get some extras. Zoe and Chloe were both tall enough so Katy and I decided to take them with us. Now, I had ridden this ride years ago and didn’t think it was that “scary”.

First of all, I didn’t know it had individual seats – meaning Zoe would have to sit by herself and not next to me. As we entered a dark tunnel with blinking lights and for the couple minutes afterward we whooshed and whizzed around corners in pitch black of this roller coaster ride.  I kept my hands on Zoe’s shoulders and kept reassuring her how much fun it was.

Thankfully at the end both Zoe and Chloe seemed shocked, but no tears. We think they were being brave for each other. But, when Katy and I asked if they wanted to go again with Richie and Kelly we got a simultaneous, “NO!”

IMG_2115Meanwhile, Kelly and Richie took the boys on the Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin ride. They had fun shooting the bad guys and helping out their favorite Toy Story buddy.

Richie and Kelly took their turn on Space Mountain. They had fun, but kept thinking the whole ride – our 5 and 6 year olds went on this!?! Yikes! Even Kelly screamed the whole way down.

Katy and I took all 4 of the kids back to the Buzz Lightyear ride. Zoe and Chloe got to go with each other and we each went with the boys. Alex loved shooting the bad guys and making the cart spin. Unfortunately the ride stopped halfway through and we were all stuck in a room with swirling stars that after 5 minutes got us very dizzy.

It was getting close to our lunch reservations at the Be Our Guest restaurant at the Beast’s castle, so we ventured that way. We saw that the wait for the Under the Sea ride was only 5 minutes so took the opportunity to ride that again before lunch. This time Alex said he wouldn’t cover his eyes when he saw the Sea Witch!

We then had lunch at the Be Our Guest restaurant. Food was ordered and then served to you in one of three areas – we chose the Grand Ballroom over the West Wing or Library. No Beast or Belle sightings though. Bummer.

After lunch we split up a bit to ride Dumbo and It’s A Small World before our Fast Pass for the Tomorrowland Speedway. Zoe went with Kelly and Alex with me in the real go-kart style cars. At first we tried to let the kids steer but after being bounced hard off the rails we decided they needed a bit more help. They loved driving for real!IMG_2134

Next we rode the Disney Train to the other side of Magic Kindgom. Timing worked well as it had started to rain a bit.

Once we got there we rode the Magic Carpets of Aladdin.   The ride is similar to Dumbo, but the kids loved when the camel statues spit water on us. We even saw Jasmine and Aladdin taking pictures, but we were able to convince them the line was too long.

We headed over to Thunder Mountain Railroad to use the Fast Pass/Rider Switch combo. The girls all went first while Richie and I took the boys over to the Country Bear Jamboree. The boys were not entertained much as Alex just kept asking for a snack.

After the show it was the guys’ turn to ride the Thunder Mountain with Zoe and Chloe. In the end we all got to ride that coaster a couple of times. The girls kept saying that it went upside down, but it didn’t. Just showed they thought it was pretty cool.

We then setup on the side of the road to watch the daytime parade. The kids remembered this one from YouTube and were excited to see the dragon from Sleeping Beauty because it breathed real fire!

After the parade we took the Disney Train back to the Dumbo ride area to try to find short lines so the kids could keep going on rides. We had a Fast Pass for 3 people so Katy took Ollie and Alex on Dumbo. Zoe and Chloe (being tired) started to cry that they wanted to go on it too. So, Kelly and I took the girls and waited in the normal line.IMG_2117

All was good until Alex got off Dumbo, saw that both of his parents were going on a ride without him! He screamed bloody murder and kept saying “I want my daddy!” Poor Richie had to walk him around the park with a kid yelling for his real daddy. Luckily Richie wasn’t questioned or arrested! Haha.

At this point the kids were very tired, so we decided to just walk them in the stollers to get them some rest. Then the unthinkable happened – all FOUR of them fell asleep for 2 hours! The parents took this opportunity to ride some rides, so we parked them in the shade and took turns.

Kelly watched them as Richie, Katy and I rode Space Mountain. Katy and I needed a do-over after consoling our daughters during the whole ride. It really is a fun, fast coaster. As we exited we heard an 8-year old boy yelling/crying to his mom, “That was too scary! I thought I was GOING TO DIE!!!” The three of us laughed harder than we had the whole trip, while we were secretly proud of our girls for being so brave!

Next Richie and Katy went into the Haunted Mansion and switched with us after. Even though the ride wasn’t very scary the visual effects were cool. It was also one of the few times Kelly and I got to go on a ride together. Bonus!IMG_2182

Around this time the kids started to wake up. We got them some water and snacks and walked over to the Jungle Cruise where we were able to score some additional Fast Passes. It is a boat ride through a fake jungle scene while the boat captain tells jokes so bad they are funny. Alex and Ollie were young enough to not realize the animals were fake.

Then we ate dinner at Pecos Bill Saloon. We all had a burger that was better than expected and took some time to relax and figure out what was next. Some friends had recommended the Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor show, so we walked back
across the park to Tomorrowland.

We timed the show pretty well and got some good seats. The show was interactive with the audience. You could even submit your own jokes to be read by one of the aliens during the show. Richie got caught on camera too. They showed the couple in front of him with wording that read “There’s a monster behind you” and they panned the camera up to show Richie. HeIMG_9947 was a natural star.

After the show we stopped to take some pictures by the castle, did some shopping on Main Street USA and breathed a sigh of relief as we had just conquered Disney with 4 kids under the age of 6 years old!

As we made our way out of Magic Kingdom for the last time we stated to feel amazed at all we were able to accomplish, how much fun the kids (and parents) had, and that we were still friends in the process. We’ll be back!

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