Sunday, February 10, 2013

Disney Day 1: First Flights, Pop Century Resort and Downtown Disney

Like I said before, I definitely want to write about our trip and I most definitely want to include any tips that might be helpful to anyone planning to go soon; I love sites like AllEars.net and other 'official' Disney planning sites, but I've found the most helpful tips have come from other 'mom blogs.' So I'll include my 2 cents here and hopefully it will help someone else in the future. I'm going to write out any helpful hints in BLUE so they'll be easy to find and so you don't have to read through every.single.descriptive.family.memory that I will surely 100% blog about. :)

See my little Sambo over there? When he saw that Mommy and Mimi AND Daddy AND Poppa were all wearing glasses, he immediately fetched his fake pair. He won't take them off. So if you don't recognize the 4-eyed boy in the photo, look a little closer.

The day started early! Our flight left at 8am so we had to be at the airport around 6am... which turned into 6:30am. Thankfully there was no line at the Delta check-in (everyone else in the world flew Southwest today.) We made it through security and to our gate with just enough time to sit down for a few minutes before boarding our flight to Atlanta. Note: If you have small children, take advantage of the early boarding! (They will call out for early boarding even before they board first class, and small kids and strollers are a free ticket into this line.) 






The kids were super excited to walk through the tunnel and get on the plane and play with the trays and the window shades and the buckles. We were all 7 on one row of the airplane so Mary Ella and Sam got window seats. They both loved the take-off; Sam started laughing hysterically and literally couldn't stop. It was so funny. Both flights were pretty quick and we were in Orlando before we knew it. One thing to know is that if you fly and are staying on Disney property, Disney's Magical Express will take you to and from the airport for free. Super convenient and fun for the kids, because they play videos of Disney World parks on the bus and it's a great 30-minute drive; it also gives the kids time for a quick cat nap before walking into the resort.




Here's a shot of four-eyed Sambo running at the airport. 
It was so funny, but when we arrived at the Orlando airport there was Disney stuff everywhere, of course, including a few statues of Mickey and Goofy and several large Disney signs. He has learned to recognize the word "Disney" in the Disney font and so he knows it when he sees it. We were heading in the opposite direction of one of the signs and he said, "But Mom!! Dat's Disney Wuh-wuhld!" while pointing toward the sign. Bless, it was so sweet. 


We are staying at the Pop Century - it ended up being the best deal for our family. But I have to admit, when our bus stopped to let a few people out at The Art of Animation Resort, I was a bit jealous! Luckily our kids were asleep during that pit stop and so they never saw the huge Nemo, Ariel, Simba and Tow-Mater that were at the entrance to AofA. Next stop was the Pop Century (literally right across the street) and we were greeted by Disney cast members in Mickey hats and gloves who were blowing bubbles and giving high fives to everyone. Of course the kids loved it. While my parents and Chad checked us in, I took the kids into the food court/gift shop area. They immediately started scoping things out. Mary Ella saw this wall of all things Disney princess and stood for almost 5 minutes staring at all of it while telling me that it was the greatest place in the whole world.


Sam of course was into all things Buzz and Jessie and Mickey. Emma Kate just wanted some cheesy fries. And you better believe we indulged in some of those fries as soon as we could get ourselves into the food court.


We are on the Disney Basic Dining plan, which you can read about here and here, and the cheesy fries counted as a snack credit, so we shared some of those and picked up our refillable mugs before heading to the room. And the walk to the room was full of fun stuff for the kids. Pop Century is divided into 5 sections, fashioned after each decade from the 50's to the 90's. For each decade they have larger than life versions of some of the iconic toys/gadgets/sayings from that particular era. For instance...






We are in the 80's section - of course. And it is rad.

Everyone in our party received a "Key to the World" card, which serves as a room key, a dining plan card and your park ticket. Chad purchased this Mickey lanyard at the gift shop, but of course you can keep up with them however you choose. (You have to have your KTTW card to get FastPasses for each person so it's good to have them handy rather than having to dig them out of a backpack or wallet every hour or so.)


We settled into our rooms and attempted to rest a little. The kids got short naps (an hour or so) before we had to wake them up to go to our dinner reservation. They were not-so-happy after the interruption in sleep.




Our stroller was delivered right on time by Kingdom Strollers, an offsite stroller rental company. It's a City Mini double and the thing is like NEW! I'm so glad we rented one of these. Makes the short walk to the bus stop much easier. Note: Keep in mind if you use the Disney buses for transportation you have to fold up your strollers and take them on board; so your kids have to get out and walk onto the bus (or be carried.) Just something to keep in mind. We've been lucky to have my parents as extra hands.

We loaded the bus to Downtown Disney and arrived just before sunset. I haven't been there since 2003 (I think) and it has changed so much. More restaurants and lots more to do.





Our dinner reservations were at the T-Rex Cafe. It is similar to Rainforest Cafe in its concept, but the food was wayyyy better. I would definitely make a reservation for this place unless you want to wait a lonnnng time. 


When you step inside you are in a completely new world!




One reason I would suggest considering the dining plan is because of the sticker shock you will feel when ordering food at these restaurants. It is pretty pricey.
We all got a NY Strip steak with garlic mashed potatoes - a $32 entree! None of us would have ever ordered that had we not been on the dining plan. It felt pretty good to know we'd already paid for food up front and that we could pick anything we wanted off the menu. So we ate like Kings (and felt like gluttons afterwards.) The steaks were absolutely delicious, too.
The T-Rex is your typical American restaurant, so you'll see things like chicken dishes, pastas, burgers, sandwiches, and steaks. And the portions? BIG. Like, Brontosaurus big.
Since Sam is under 3 he is free at Disney, and therefore doesn't get his own meal plan; but there was more than enough food to share. Mary Ella got to order off the kids menu and ate mini corn dogs and chips and mac & cheese. Emma Kate welcomed any scraps that were thrown her way too.   :)


And ohhhh, dessert. All I can say is that I am glad we will be doing lots of walking here. The dining plan includes desserts with your entrees. This dessert was recommended by our server; it is called The Chocolate Extinction and it serves 4, so we were all able to split it. Brownies, chocolate syrup, butterfinger pieces, vanilla ice cream and whipped cream, with a dry ice volcano to boot! It was as heavenly as it looks here!


After dinner we walked around for a while and visited more souvenir shops and of course the Lego store, which was a huge hit with the kids. I have a feeling Sam will be entering the lego-lovin phase sooner than we think. He loved it.






None of the stores disappoint! Disney's attention to detail is incredible. They go all out, floor to ceiling, in every store, park, restroom, restaurant, you name it. It is unbelievable!


I loved this blue-dress Belle from the moment I saw her. It's rare that you find her in her classic blue dress. Mimi was sweet enough to let this Belle come home with us at the end of the week, and I'm not sure who was more excited - Mary Ella or myself. :)



 And that, my friends, is the end of Day 1. Are you exhausted yet? Just wait! :)


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So excited for these posts! Keep them coming, sweetie!

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