The Magic Begins!

Disclaimer: I’m on cold medication and currently feeling a little like death, so if this post veers into the fantastical and absurd… well, it was Walt Disney World, so it could be that. Or it could be that I was drugged and exhausted. Take your pick, and enjoy!

So, here’s the truth. I am a firm believer that every trip to Walt Disney World MUST start at the Magic Kingdom. Sure, the other parks are great and all, but when you’re looking for classic Disney, there’s no other place to start. And there’s just something about rounding the corner of the train depot, stepping onto Main Street USA, and seeing Cinderella Castle that just screams, “We’re finally here!” (Wes is usually screaming the same thing around this point, so it just all comes together, as you can imagine.)

We began our first full day at WDW by arriving at the Magic Kingdom, right before it opened. Dressed in our matching shirts (kudos to my brother-in-law for humoring us on this one), we arrived just as they were finishing up the welcome song. We began the trek towards Fantasyland, stopping along the way for a group picture.

All of the kids were actually looking at the camera at the same time. That Disney magic was already at work!

From there, we rode Dumbo, the Teacups, Pooh’s ride, the carousel, Peter Pan, and (of course) Small World. Last year, we managed to ride Small World about fifteen times (eeeeeekkkk!!!), and while I can assure you that we got by with much less this year, Ana and Emma were insistent that we ride it at least once every day we were in the Magic Kingdom. Fortunately, once we got off this first time and the girls were prepped to start chanting, “AGAIN! AGAIN!,” it was lunchtime. Whew!

And now for a commercial for my favorite counter service eatery in all of Walt Disney World. The Columbia Harbor House is tucked away in the emptiest part of the park (Liberty Square), sells the most specific type of food (fish and chicken, rather than the “little bit of everything” that they serve everywhere else), and has a fairly boring exterior. All these combined create the perfect storm during a hot day in the Florida sun because when you step through the doors and go up to the second floor, the crowds are GONE. The food is great, the AC is always on, and there’s a lovely view of both the Haunted Mansion, Tom Sawyer’s Island, and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Which was an immense help to me as I successfully convinced my niece that the Haunted Mansion didn’t look scary from the outside and she should TOTALLY ride it. Our girls have ridden it on our past two trips, but I was worried that they would lose their courage, just as they had at EVERY character encounter we had done so far that day. (Seriously? These are the same kids who would RUN to big costumed characters last year! Why were they cowering in fear every time a fur character approached them? Oh, well.) Having Kendall march on into the Haunted Mansion with them was a great help, and everyone had a blast. Especially Connor, who fell asleep during the ride.

From there, the girls continued on in their bravery, riding Big Thunder Mountain. (Well, Ana opted to play in the toddler area under Splash Mountain. But Kendall and Emma were brave!) We had FastPassed the ride, so when we went through, unbeknownst to us, no one was checking heights, so Emma boarded with Wes without issue. (Later on in the week, she would be turned away from the ride because she was too short. So, this first go was totally illegal. Emma Ruth Faulk, age three — breaking Disney laws!) Kendall rode with me, and at one point near the end, she said, “Aunt Jenn, is this ride almost over?!” Still brave, even if she was anticipating the end. I think Emma had her hands in the air during the whole thing, but that was likely because she sat next to Wes, who doesn’t believe there’s any other way to ride it. (Wes, Chris, and I were able to ride it a second time with more FastPasses, where we discovered that sitting in the front car is actually the worst place because you almost stop entirely while waiting for the back of the train to push you through the twists and turns. Wes would throw his hands up, the train would very nearly stop, and he’d just look silly. Ha!)

Next up was my all-time favorite ride, Pirates of the Caribbean. This time wasn’t so fun, though, because Emma kept insisting that she had to go potty, even though she had just been potty. (This would be a recurring theme with Emma, and even though she’s been potty trained for a while, I still jump and run when she says she’s got to go.) After the ride was done, we took her to the potty (again) and got in line to meet Ariel. With the demolition of ToonTown and half of Fantastyland (which I’ll blog about later), meeting princesses in somewhat of a beating these days because they’re all in the same area with super long lines. Wes came to the rescue with a game of “Papi Says” that kept Kendall, Ana, Emma, and a couple of other people’s children entertained as we waited for our turn with Ariel and Eric.

Then, it was on to the Magic Carpets and the Jungle Cruise. After that, we headed back to the front of the park and caught a boat to the Wilderness Lodge for our dinner reservation at Whispering Canyon Cafe. Because we spent our first vacation staying at the All Star Movies resort, everything else looks really impressive as a result (not that ASM is bad, but it’s not like the other hotels on property), and we were VERY impressed with Wilderness Lodge. When we’re rich and famous, we’ll stay there. (We say this every time we visit a different hotel at Disney. Just wait and see.)

The meal was great, but at some point, Ana mortally wounded herself somehow (I can’t even remember now what she did*), so she and I spent the end of the meal wandering the very detailed lobby. She posed for a picture by this interesting totem pole.

*Ah, yes, now I remember. If someone needs ketchup at Whispering Canyon, the waiters yell about it, and all of the kids in the restaurant run over to their table with ketchup. Ana did this and fell on the bottle she was carrying. Aunt Kerry assured us as she brought a distraught Ana back to the table, “That’s not blood — it’s ketchup!”

A couple of bus rides later, we were all back at Port Orleans, where I don’t think anyone had trouble falling asleep. (This would also be a recurring theme for the rest of the vacation.)

Up next… Hollywood Studios! Also known as the place where Ana the Grouch fell asleep in the stroller and missed an entire afternoon!

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