Look at these handsome guys, ready for some theme park fun!
So, Hollywood Studios! I think I only ever passed through there once in my life before, and I really had no memory of it other than that is is home to the Tower of Terror, which sounds like a horrible ride to me so that was hardly a pull. What really drew us to Hollywood Studios was the character meal offered at Hollywood and Vine, which included an encounter with Ellie's hero du juor: Doc McStuffins! We had an early afternoon reservation to make all her little dreams come true, but we had some time to wander the park before all that took place.
So, we kicked things off with a ride on The Great Movie Ride—E.J.'s first ride! He did great, and the ride was fine, but Ellie was TERRIFIED. It got too loud and she flipped. Poor thing. Lesson learned: no more rides and/or loud noises, if we could help it. (And so we saw our dreams of the Magic Kingdom fireworks display drifting away...)
Footprints in the cement (a la the Chinese Theater) in front of the ride
A spectacular journey into the movies!
E.J. riding on through the land of Oz
Ellie holding Eric's hand on the ride
After the ride we made our way over to the restaurant. We had some time to kill while we waited for our table, so E.J. grabbed a quick snooze in the stroller while Ellie admired both her race medal and a katydid on a bench outside the restaurant.
Ready for lunch at Hollywood & Vine
I remember readings reviews of strollers, and people talking about how great it is if the seat reclines, because the baby can take a nap on the go. That always made me LOL because Ellie was so NOT a sleep-on-the-goer. E.J., on the other hand, made good use of our stroller recline for the very first time!
Kicking back, admiring the fruits of her efforts
Big ol' katydid!
After a short wait we were brought in to our table, and the magic started happening right away. Doc McStuffins was the very first "celebrity" to visit our table, and Ellie nearly exploded with joy. She was just beside herself.
Look at that face!
The highlight of her little life thus far.
Ellie showing off Doc's autograph! (She really is very excited, this is just what happens to her face when you ask her to "smile.")
As we ate, we were also visited by Handy Manny, Jake of the Neverland Pirates, and Sofia the First. Most of them commented on Ellie's medal—she's very impressive, after all! In addition to each character visiting our table multiple times, they also did a couple little song and dance numbers from time to time. And, you know, we also ate some food. It was a lot of fun!
Pleased to make your acquaintance, Handy Manny!
Hugs from Sofia
E.J. is not buying what Sofia is selling.
Ellie is not so impressed with Jake, apparently.
E.J. and his #1 Dad
Song and dance!
After lunch we went over to Star Tours, where we caught the tail end of a show featuring Darth Vader and a couple of storm troopers. We snapped some pictures and then Eric and I took turns riding the ride while the other one stayed with the kids. It's a 3D simulator ride that puts you in different scenarios based on the different Star Wars movies. Eric's was based on Episode I, so he went underwater with Jar Jar Binks, and mine was from Empire Strikes Back so we were flying through the snow. It was cool!
Darth Vader himself
Outside and inside the Star Tours ride
The best way to sightsee on Endor!
If you don't mind, I'd like to take a moment to toot my own horn. I made a couple of different slipcovers for my baby carriers for this trip. For Hollywood Studios, I made a cover for my mei tai out of Star Wars fabric. I was quite pleased with how it turned out!
Testing it out before we left home
After Star Tours we did a little more walking around.
E.J. getting his very first look at NYC!
I was wishing my nephew Santiago was with us - he loves Cars!
We tried to wait in line to meet Buzz Lightyear and Woody, but the line was very slow-moving (Buzz and Woody took an insane amount of breaks) and although we almost made it to the front, we had to leave the line before we actually met them because we had Fast Passes to the Disney Junior Live On Stage show that we didn't want to miss out on.
Ellie playing around in line
So, we left the line and ran over to the theater to get our seats for the Disney Junior show. It was pretty fun - with the exception of one performer, it was all puppets. The concept was that Mickey and the gang wanted to throw a birthday party for Minnie, but needed help with various tasks. They called on the other Disney Jr. hit shows (Doc McStuffins, Sofia the First, Jake and the Neverland Pirates) to help. Each part of the show also had its own little effect that rained down on the crowd: "snow" for Sofia, bubbles for Doc and gold (tissue paper) coins for Jake. Ellie was a little spooked by one part of the Sofia section, but she loved the Doc part and even danced along a little bit!
Disney Junior Live on Stage
Doc McStuffins, Stuffy and some bubbles!
Jake and the Neverland Pirates
After the show, we decided it was time to hit the road. We really wanted to stay and do a little more, but we knew we were lucky there hadn't been any major meltdowns yet, given how underslept both children were. We knew we needed to get going, check in to our hotel, get ourselves situated and get everyone fed and to bed. Sure enough, both kids passed out almost immediately upon getting in the car!
A last photo of the Sorcerer Mickey hat - they began tearing it down after our trip! I'm not sure what is taking its place, but the hat is no more.
One last family photo!
We stayed off-campus this time, at the Lake Buena Vista Resort Village and Spa, which was excellent. It was just a few minutes from the parks, and thanks to an especially amazing Black Friday deal, we were able to stay in a three-bedroom suite for less than we would've paid for much smaller rooms at any of the Disney resorts. That meant everyone had their own bedroom, plus we had a full kitchen, separate living area and even a washer/dryer. I mean, this hotel room was literally more square feet than our current house. I do not exaggerate. It was HUGE. And the master bathtub! Oh, that tub. There is not much I wouldn't do to have a tub like that in my own house someday (and someone to pay my water bills for me, because I am a grown-up now and have to think of practical things like that).
Top row: the living area and kitchen; Middle row: the room Ellie slept in, the washer/dryer, and E.J.'s room; Bottom row: the master bed and bathrooms
This tub came equipped with jets and DISCO LIGHTS.
We got ourselves settled and the kids off to bed, then Eric and I relaxed a bit and hashed out our plan for the next day.
Coming up next: Magic Kingdom!
(If you'd like to see more photos from Hollywood Studios, you can see the full set here.)