Walt Disney World Vacation – Magic Kingdom

After taking a warm-up lap in EPCOT, it was time to set the pace for the entire vacation by heading to the Magic Kingdom (I swear, this whole post is not going to be full of running metaphors, as writing this is going to be a marathon, not a sprint). This was the main event during our last trip to Walt Disney World (WDW) and we were anticipating it was going to be the same this time around. The girls, the grandparents, and I were all pretty pumped and nothing was going to stop us from getting our vacation back on track and enjoying the heck out of the park. Magic Kingdom and the best day of our entire vacation? Yeah, this is going to be a long post…

A dozen pictures at this location and this was the only one where Gabriella even remotely smiled

As always, I got up super early to get everything prepared so that there was little to do once the girls woke up. With the daypack full of snacks, mobile chargers, and the girls’ cameras, we were well-prepared for the day ahead. And checking the weather right beforehand, which gave a slight chance for rain, I threw the ponchos back in the bag, just in case.

The amount of stuffies will continue to multiple, even by the end of the day

Prior to waking the girls, I purchased the Genie+ tickets for the five of us and booked our first ride. Given that this day was likely going to get the most use out of the service, it was a good choice.

Dressed for success

Once the girls got up, we got into our Disney gear. Elaina choose Minnie Mouse apparel while Gabriella went with princesses, both solid choices for the Magic Kingdom. And they both had their Minnie ears that Grandma bought them, of course.

Pre-breakfast snack of Pixar gummies… *sigh*

After having a brief snack (the girls did not really eat a traditional breakfast at WDW until the last day, but instead chose to mostly snack throughout the day), we were ready for the day’s adventure.

“Bye, Grandma and Papa! See you there!”

After a quick bus ride to the Magic Kingdom, we stood in line and they got ready for Dad to throw them on his shoulders and to run to our first ride.

“Bring on the rain!”

And then it started pouring. Good thing I checked the weather right before we left, right? We immediately threw on our ponchos and started laughing at how the weather was trying its best to keep us from enjoying our vacation. It was not going to bring us down though. Considering the rain keeps people from going to the park and/or walking around, we were going to use this to our advantage (and we certainly did).

Yes, we are absolutely as soaked as it looks.

After the rope dropped, just like our last visit, I picked up both of the girls and hurried to the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. And our rush paid off, as our 20-minute wait was nothing to compared to what it would have been if we had procrastinated (the line had swelled to more than two hours by noon). Unfortunately, we were so wet that most of my pictures in the queue line came out blurry, including the girls playing with the oversized gems and Gabriella dancing in the rain. Either way, the ride was amazing and our day was off to a great start. After exiting the ride, we headed across the path to The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, instantly walking on to it (which disappointed the girls a little, as they did not get to play with the activities in the queue line for very long). As we got onto the ride, Grandma and Papa texted that they had entered the park.

30-minute wait for Peter Pan’s Flight? Yes, please!

After we linked up with Grandma and Papa, we immediately headed back to Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, as the line was still only about 40 minutes. By the time we got there though, it was having mechanical issues and the cast did not know when it would be back up. Not a big deal though, as we just moved over to Peter Pan’s Flight. While the girls did not seem to understand why we were so excited at the prospect of waiting half an hour to fly in a pirate ship, it was a steal knowing how long the queue can get during peak hours.

Elaina’s favorite ride: The Haunted Mansion Queue

We then headed over to the Haunted Mansion, which is Elaina and Grandma’s favorite ride, walking into the foyer after only a few minutes. With EPCOT being the test run, I was pretty proficient at using the My Disney Experience app by Day Two, so we were constantly going from ride to ride with minimal waits, especially in the first few hours of a park opening.

Goodbye Height Requirements!

After thoroughly enjoying the Haunted Mansion (which we only went on once, instead of eight or so times like our last visit to WDW), the girls wanted something a little more thrilling, so we headed over to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.

Let your roller coaster education begin!

This was a big step for them, as the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Slinky Dog Dash are the only “roller coasters” that they had ever been on. But that changed during this trip, starting right here. They absolutely loved it, getting off the ride screaming “Again! Again!” Trust me, Girls, we will certainly be back for another round. By now, we were absolutely soaked from the rain, which only meant it was the perfect time to go on Splash Mountain, which was just across the path and had a five-minute wait. Jackpot. While I spent most of the ride explaining to them what movie Brer Rabbit, Brer Fox, and Brer Bear were from (“Sorry, Girls, but it is not on Disney Plus.”), they had a good time, nonetheless. After the plunge though, it was clear they were starting to get a little cold. Talking it out with them, I made an executive decision that we were going to head back to the room for an hour to get warm and regroup. The girls’ health is always my primary concern, and besides, we had already had a pretty productive day so far, so we were ahead of schedule.

Wait… there was only one stuffy here this morning…

But, because of priorities, the girls wanted to stop at the Main Street Emporium first to pick up their stuffy for the day (they got pick out a toy or souvenir each day, and they seemed to settle on Disney Baby stuffed animals pretty early). Elaina chose Baby Nana and Gabriella chose one of the puppies from 101 Dalmatians. After that, we took the bus back to the French Quarter resort with the girls cuddling with me for warmth the entire way.

TV, Eeyore, and layers of covers. A tried-and-true method for getting warm.

Once we got back, the girls threw off their wet cloths and got under the covers, after which I quickly ran over to the resort’s laundry facilities and threw the clothes in the dryer. They watched a little TV, had some snacks, and by the time our clothes were dry, they were ready to get back to the Magic Kingdom.

“Please slap my hand to show that we are bonding.”

Once we were ready, the grandparents emerged from their room as well and we headed back to the bus stop (they had the same great idea to return and left a few minutes after us); Papa was still not 100% up on sleep, so any little bit helped.

Happiness and energy are keys to a successful vacation at WDW

When we hopped onto the bus, it was still raining and we were hoping that it was not going to ruin the second half of our busy day.

Walt and Mickey are photobombing!

But by the time we arrived at the Magic Kingdom, the rain had subsided and the clouds were starting to part. Time to get in some pictures before it comes back.

I remember them being a lot lighter…

As promised from our last trip to WDW, the girls got their bubble makers (one of my few regrets from our previous vacation) from Papa, and they used them all day… to fight with each other. They loved them, but they each also got them taken away a few times due to shooting bubbles at their sister at point blank range.

Time to crank it up to 11

After completing some rides in Tomorrowland, Elaina and Gabriella again were looking for something a little more thrilling. So while the grandparents went on the Carousel of Progress (Hey, that is not a joke on their age, as I absolutely love that attraction!), the girls and I stood in line for Space Mountain.

Why are we still shocked at this?

While not a particularly interactive queue, the girls were excited the whole time and the wait seemed like just a few minutes. Also, me having to explain the entire ride from start to finish helped to pass the time. “How fast do we go?,” “Where are we flying to?,” and “Does Dame Judi Dench narrate this ride too?” were all questions that came up.

Elaina is scared, I seem to be in shock, and Gabriella has her hands up screaming for more… classic.

While Elaina did not like the dark and Gabriella did not enjoy the loud music on the ride’s soundtrack, both girls overall enjoyed the roller coaster; all the extras just seemed to get in the way though. Either way, I was really proud of them for going on it. Three mountains of WDW down (Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Splash Mountain, and Space Mountain), one more to go (Expedition Everest).

Pretty sure she is going to use that as a weapon at some point

After that, we all needed a break from excitement, so we headed over to Fantasyland and hopped on It’s a Small World.

It’s a Small World, now with more bubbles!

And although it is a slow-moving boat ride, the girls enjoyed having their bubble makers light up the way. Plus, you cannot go to WDW without going on It’s a Small World. It is, like, science or something.

I still have no idea why she is holding up three fingers

After this, the day was honestly kind of a blur because we were so busy and time flew by so fast.

There is a lesson here, Kids: Do not run from one attraction to the next!

We ended up taking in the Country Bear Jamboree (I still love the attraction, but the animatronics are starting to get into Munch’s Make Believe Band-levels of creepiness), then went on the rest of the rides in the Adventureland area, including the Jungle Cruise (Genie+ for the win!), Pirates of the Caribbean, and The Magic Carpets of Aladdin; unlike my parents, I refuse to subject my children to the utter torture that is the Enchanted Tiki Room.

Gabreilla: “Upsies! I need upsies!”… for the entire trip

I especially enjoyed the updated Jungle Cruise. I was skeptical at first, as I do have a lot of great memories from most of the classic Disney rides and do not particularly like change, but all the updates were amazing and did not “ruin the ride” for me at all. In fact, the boat captains seemed to have dramatically updated their script, leaving in some of the classic lines, which made the ride feel new and fresh.

Yes, they finally waved to you!

So, if you want to get me off on a rant, talk about theme park parades. While my Mother will likely talk on and on about the last time she saw the historic Main Street Electrical Parade (“Is it happening again? I do not care.”), all I know is, as a kid, that darn thing always blocked my paths to more rides. Well the pandemic actually forced Disney to do something amazing regarding their parades. Instead of a large, pre-planned parade that basically would shut large parts of the park down, they now conduct what could almost be considered “flash” parades. Without warning, one to three floats would pass by, music would play, characters would wave, and supporting cast members would dance. After about five minutes, it was on its way and you went back to enjoying the park unimpeded. We all loved them, and since they did not happen very often, it caused the girls to be super-excited every time they saw one. You got me to enjoy (small) parades; truly well done, Disney.

Elaina: “This is not real Mexican food.” You are correct.

For our only sit-down meal of the day, we chose the Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Cafe. As Elaina pointed out, I definitely make better carnitas than them (Thanks, Honey!), but they both ate their food without a fuss, so I was happy. And it meant that they got dessert on the way out, so double win!

18 years in the Army has prepared me for this exact moment.

Trying to get in a few more rides before the fireworks show, we then headed over to Tomorrowland to get on the Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin (which, while fun, is no Toy Story Mania) and the PeopleMover. While the PeopleMover is admittedly not the most exciting ride, it is a very nostalgic one for me, as my brother and I literally would spend hours on it during our past WDW trips as children. Just happy that Elaina and Gabriella appreciated, even though it is “kind of boring,” how much it meant to me.

And what do you know, we won!

At Grandma’s request, we then headed over to the Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor. Although they did not choose my joke, a good time was had by all. Our feet were starting to hurt a little too, so the attraction gave us a good excuse to sit down and drink some coffee.

Fun with bubbles!

It was starting to get a little late, so we headed over to the castle to get our seats for the fireworks show.

One of those pictures where you know they had a good time

Given how amazing the last one was and that this was for their 50th Anniversary celebration, we were certainly not going to miss it.

Elaina: “We beat you, Mountain!”

But after seeing the wait (or lack thereof) for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and after listening to the pleas from my daughters, the grandparents looked for seats while we got in one last thrill ride. Sorry for leaving you, Grandma and Papa, but it was definitely worth it.

This is already turning out to be a great family vacation

They found a nice spot across the bridge on the Liberty Square side of the castle. We took some pictures, relaxed, and ate funnel cake with strawberries as we waited for the fireworks to start.

Fireworks time!

And as expected, it was amazing. Since this was going to be my only time seeing it this trip (we did not purchase a park-hopper), I decided not to ruin it (for me) by taking pictures or videos, but instead just enjoying it in real-time. The girls enjoyed it as well. It did not have the same emotional punch that the last fireworks show at the Magic Kingdom had, but we have made it as a three-person family now, and those days where we were still finding our footing seem so far away.

This day (or the cupcake) receives the Elaina Seal of Approval

After the fireworks, we tried to get on additional rides, but it looked like our time was up, as the park was closing down for all except those who were part of an exclusive after-hours group. We stopped by the Main Street Confectionery, where Gabriella got plain M&Ms (really?), Elaina chose a cupcake, and I got a Mickey cookie, rewards for all of us being good and eating our dinner. We ended up meeting back up with Grandma and Papa at the entrance, where we got some great use out of our Disney Photopass (again, highly recommend, especially if you want to be in your own pictures). We proceeded to get on the bus and headed back to the resort to get a full night’s sleep.

Poor Gabby was just exhausted from a very full day

This day turned out to be everything that we wanted it to be. We rode a lot of rides, got out of our comfort zone with thrills and parades, and we did it all together. Even the rain made us continue to evaluate what our real priorities are, that being our health and happiness, as opposed to making sure we “get our money’s worth.” It was a great day at the Magic Kingdom and it brought our vacation back to a high-level where we would work to maintain it. Two laps down, we were at pace, and heading into the final two laps of our trip. Animal Kingdom, here we come!

Christmas Card Ready

Thanks for checking in on us.


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