Our more leisurely start time allowed us to wake up refreshed and ready to go!
This little Minnie Mouse is ready for more Disney fun!
After checking out, we drove back over to Magic Kingdom for what we assumed was the last time. Instead of parking at the Contemporary Resort, this time we opted to go mainstream parking and take the ferry over to the park. Was it less convenient? Sure. But, it was a good thing we did that, because the ferry ended up being Ellie's favorite ride of the whole weekend. As soon as we disembarked at the park, she started repeating over and over: "Bye, boat! I love you, boat! Hug, boat! Kiss, boat!" and then proceeded to regularly ask if "I ride boat?" whenever we were at/near the entrance to the park. That kid does not forget anything, my friends.
Eric and Ellie on the ferry
We're coming, castle!
Oh, and hey, guess what? IT WAS A BEAUTIFUL DAY AND I'M NOT SAYING THAT SARCASTICALLY.
SUNday at Disney!
Do you see any clouds in the above picture? No? THAT'S BECAUSE THERE WEREN'T ANY. It was glorious. It was warm and sunny and exactly what I had been hoping for when we planned a spring Disney trip. Gone was the rain and the wind and the chills. Hello, Florida sunshine. We missed you.
Let's do this sunshine thing!
We had a couple of FastPasses to use that morning, and we planned to use our first one before making it to our 11:40 lunch reservations at the Crystal Palace (dining with Pooh Bear and friends!). So, upon entering the park we immediately returned to Fantasyland to Ariel's Grotto, where we started off our last day with one of Ellie's favorite princesses. As usual, her face just couldn't hide the joy and delight she so obviously felt:
Actually, this one isn't bad. She looks like she might almost be thinking about possibly smiling.
We still had a little bit of time to kill before lunch and there wasn't much of a line at Pete's Silly Sideshow, so we decided to pop in and meet Daisy Duck, one of the few main Disney characters we hadn't found yet. We got a little held up in the line, as the line moves from Daisy to Minnie and Minnie went on break, causing a back-up (during which Daisy put on quite a show). But, all we needed was Daisy so we went ahead and got her out of the way then skipped out on Minnie's station. Ellie loves Daisy (or as she calls her, "Daisy Guck") and she really had a great time goofing off with Daisy.
Daisy hamming it up for the crowd
Sure, Eric's arm is photobombing this picture, but look! A smile!
On our way back towards the Crystal Palace, we had to stop to try our hands at the Sword in the Stone. Sadly, neither Eric nor Ellie were destined to be the king of England in the fictional middle ages.
Great effort, though.
We arrived and checked in at Crystal Palace, but I had misremembered our reservation time so we were a bit early. We killed time hanging out on the porch, peeking in at what was to come, walking up and down the steps (this was Ellie's favorite time-killer), dancing and admiring the scenery.
Peeking in at the friends she was about to meet!
VIDEO: Ellie passing time with stair-climbing practice
It was during this waiting time that we got my most favorite picture of the entire trip:
Then, at last, it was time to eat. They took us in to the Crystal Palace and this time, we had an awesome table! We were right up against a window with a perfect view of the castle.
Welcome to lunch!
The view from our table
And right away, the characters started arriving. This character meal was one of the highlights of the trip for sure. Ellie has loved Winnie the Pooh since she was very small, and I was so excited to see what she thought of this. Answer: LOVED IT. Like, you don't have to take my word for it this time, because you can actually see it on her face. LOVED it.
It was nice that our timing worked out so that the characters were coming right around our area just as we were seated, so we didn't yet have food. That meant we could fully enjoy our visits with them without worrying about Ellie's messy hands or having her be trapped in a high chair. She was able to hug them and interact and play with them, which was adorable.
First to arrive was Eeyore, who was greeted with a hug and a smile. No fear there whatsoever!
Hugs for Eeyore
She was SO excited.
Next up was Pooh Bear, and Ellie gave him a hug so big, I thought she might not let go.
Then Piglet stopped by...
Cuddling with Piglet
...and then Tigger, who was the most fun of them all. He played with Ellie for quite some time, giving her kisses and making her laugh. He also had kisses (face licks, really, which was a smidge awkward) for Eric and me, and he played with Ellie's autograph mat after signing it. Also, he was the one "person" who signed who had a marker color preference! I had planned to give him green (sadly, I didn't have orange), but he insisted on purple. I had no idea Tiggers loved purple. Lesson learned.
Laughing at Tigger
Look at all those autographs!
After we greeted all the characters, we were able to hit the buffet. They had a nice selection and everything was pretty good. Ellie even ate a few things she wouldn't normally eat, so we'll chalk that up to a Hundred Acre Wood high or something.
Some of our lunch
After lunch we stopped for a quick family photo...
With a blue sky!
...then went to use another FastPass, for the Dumbo ride. Unfortunately, we didn't plan this very well: we all went on it at once, but what we should have done was take turns taking Ellie because she loved it. Her face doesn't show it in the pictures (shocker!), but she cried when we had to get off and kept asking, "again, Dumbo?" If given a little freedom in that general area, she would hightail it back towards the Dumbo ride, all the while shouting, "again, Dumbo!"
The flying elephant himself!
On the ride!
Someone let this poor child back on that ride!
It was at this point that we started to talk seriously about staying another night. We figured Eric could play hooky the next day and we could get a room for the night at the Nickelodeon Suites (where we stayed for last year's Sea World trip), which would allow us to possibly stay for the fireworks again that night and then spend the morning at the pool before driving back to Jacksonville.
Look at that face. How could we possibly make her leave the park on such a beautiful day? We had to stay longer!
Eric called Nickelodeon to see if they had any rooms available and if so, when the room would be ready. We figured if they could get us in right away (it was a little after 2:00 p.m.) we would just head over to the hotel so Ellie could nap. If they couldn't, we would hang out at the park until check-in and then play the nap idea by ear. The hotel representative Eric spoke to told us they had a room for us and it was ready right away, so we could come check in whenever. Given that the afternoon was wearing on, we decided it would be perfect to leave the park right away to check-in, get Ellie down for a nap and then return to the park that evening. So, off we went.
Holding on while riding the monorail back to the parking lot
Unfortunately, upon arrival at the hotel, the woman at the front desk informed us that no, we could not check in until 4:00 (it was 3:15 by this point, so we were 45 minutes "early"). She said the only way we could get in early was if we paid $50 extra to "upgrade" our room. Eric and I ended up going a little "good cop/bad cop" on her for that, with me reluctantly playing the Bad Cop/Mama Bear. My kid needed a nap and we were told we would have a room upon arrival, regardless of time! I told the associate that I understood the 4:00 check-in policy, but if they're going to stick to that policy than all employees should be aware of it and we should not have been told otherwise on the phone. During some back-and-forth I told her that we were disappointed, because we left the park early solely because we were told we could get in to our room right away, but now we would be spending 45 minutes sitting in their lobby. If we had just been given correct information on the phone, we would not have tried to come early and would've still been enjoying ourselves at the park. When the associate responded with a very dismissive "that's fine," I got pretty upset. It may be fine for her, but it's not fine for us to miss out on our vacation because they gave us bad information! But anyway, after a good bit of the good cop/bad cop routine, the bad cop won out and we found ourselves in the "upgraded" room for free right away. I hate having to do that sort of thing, but I was glad that in the end it paid off. Sadly, it put a bit of a sour taste in our mouths regarding the hotel, which is a bummer because we planned to return there for lots of future Orlando trips. But after having such a seamless, pleasant experience checking into our Disney resort four hours early (with no one even batting an eye), it made me miss that Disney service. That will definitely be something to keep in mind in the future.
But, the Nickelodeon hotel does have good suites for cheap and Ellie loves their pool. Our room this time had a mini kitchen, living area, master bedroom and kids' room with two twin beds. The kids' room didn't leave much space for Ellie's Pack 'N Play, so we decided to give Ellie the master bedroom for the evening and Eric and I bunked camp-style in the twin beds. With the giant SpongeBob mural staring at us. Romance!
Ellie kept saying we were at "Spongebob's house!"
Testing out the beds in the kids' room
Also, Ellie actually did take a much-needed nap, so all our insistence with the front desk paid off. Mama Bear for the win!
And not only did she sleep, but she slept a lot. We finally had to wake her in order to eat dinner (pizza from the hotel food court) and get back to the park in time for our evening plans, including a second attempt at the fireworks (remember, our first try was fogged out!).
When we arrived at the park, we first decided to just meander through some of the areas of the park we hadn't yet made it through. Most of our time had been spent in Fantasyland and immediate surrounding areas, as that seemed to be the location of the most Ellie/toddler-friendly attractions. But, we wanted to at least walk through the rest of the park, so we did just that.
Our first stop was a meet-and-greet with the fairies, because by that point we were autograph-hungry fanatics and hey, there was almost no wait. Ellie went into the whole thing not knowing anything about fairies in general or Tinkerbell in particular, but thanks to a little fairy movie that was playing while we waited, she became a Tinkerbell fanatic and now often pretends she is Tinkerbell.
Another "trust me" moment.
We also stopped for a Mickey ice cream bar, because you have to, right?
To quote Ellie: "Mickey ice cream yummy!"
By that time the Electrical Parade was about to start, but as we were arriving at the last minute, there really wasn't a good place for us to stand to watch it. So, we hung back and just waited for it to pass so we could be ready to grab another prime photo spot for the fireworks.
All went according to plan, and Eric once again found his perfect location and got all set up. I enjoyed watching the light show on the castle again.
The castle looking pretty in purple during the light show
The Frozen part of the show
And then, we finally got to see the fireworks! It was a beautiful display and the clear, fogless, rainless sky allowed Eric to get some really nice photos.
By the time the show was over, poor Ellie was beat. It was a really late bedtime for her, so we made our way back to the hotel. We had parked at the Contemporary Resort again (still using our Disney resort parking pass for the day), which meant our exit was speedy and easy, a much appreciated contrast to the hoards of people we saw heading for the monorail and ferry. We made it home quickly and put our tired little princess right to bed.
And that was our time at Disney! I'll wrap things up next week with a recap of our last morning in Orlando, but our days at Disney are officially in the books. It was really a magical vacation (so cheesy to say, but so true), and we made some wonderful family memories. We already can't wait to go back again!
The usual note: If you'd like to see more pictures from our second day at Magic Kingdom, click here.