As a part of our Christmas, my family packed up and headed on a family vacation to Walt Disney World! We went the second week of December which allowed us to see everything decorated but not have to deal with the killer crowds the two weeks surrounding Christmas. I have never been this time of year so I was so excited to see everything decorated and lit up in lights! I mean, Cinderella’s Castle is breathtaking on its own at night but with Christmas lights? Be still, my pixie-dusted heart!
It was such an amazing week and while I could talk about it for days, I will share with you our top 10 Disney Christmas memories (in no particular order):
I thought I had learned a lot about traveling from our first trip to Disney in 2011 but I was not prepared for the winter weather! It was such a stressful day of travel due to bad winter weather. We were flying out of Greenville, SC and my parents were flying out of Roanoke, VA and the forecast definitely had me biting my nails! Flying itself gives me anxiety but the stress of wondering if both of our flights would fly remotely on schedule gave me heartburn! My parents had the worst of the winter weather and while they had a delay, they landed in Orlando before lunch. Our flight was already scheduled to arrive 8 hours after my parents but while we didn’t have horrible weather at our airport, the flights were backed up because of delays elsewhere. We didn’t take off until almost 10:30pm but thankfully its only an hour flight. My parents were ready and waiting at baggage claim to pick us up and get the week of fun started! Aren’t glittery shoes the only way to travel to Disney?
When we took off in SC, the temperature was hovering around 40 degrees but when we walked out of the airport at almost midnight, it was over 80! We were shedding layers as we walked to the car! We could not have asked for better weather the week we were there! It was warm enough to enjoy wearing shorts and skirts but we weren’t melting. It never rained. I’m not sure if we even had any overcast days! My joints were very happy with the warmth and sunshine!
Tower of Terror & Expedition Everest!
I have always, always wanted to ride these rides but being that I was only 4 weeks post-op at our last visit, I wasn’t able to ride the bigger rides.While Abby wasn’t quite tall enough to ride and John definitely wasn’t going to ride so they checked out shows and characters while I got the chance to ride Tower of Terror (Hollywood Studios) and Expedition Everest (Animal Kingdom) with my parents! Oh my goodness! These were amazing rides! I was worried about both of them being too jerky but I was pleasantly surprised! There was only one turn on Everest that was a tad rough (right after you started going backwards) but I was able to keep my hands up the whole time (earning me a $1 from a bet with my dad that I wouldn’t be able to do it). Tower of Terror wasn’t jerky at all surprisingly and the only thing that bothered me was the spinning stars that made me a little dizzy. I definitely give both rides 2 thumbs up! Hopefully by next visit, Abby will be tall enough for both!
The Osbourne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights!
Oh my goodness. Seeing the dancing lights at Hollywood Studios is reason enough to travel to Disney World at Christmas! It was absolutely breathtaking! Words seriously cannot describe it! It was actually the very last year for the Osbourne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights as Hollywood Studios began major renovations removing Streets of America (where the lights were set up) to make room for the future Star Wars area.
I have mentioned before that I think WDW is one of the best places to vacation if you have Celiac disease (or other food allergies) because they are so allergen-friendly. And its not just one or two things that are available at the parks that are gluten-free but a HUGE variety throughout all the parks (Allergy-Free Mouse is a great resource). When you place an allergen-friendly order, a manager takes your order and that is the only person who has contact with your meal from start to finish! That attention to detail to avoid cross contamination issues is worth every minute of the wait! We didn’t eat in the parks much for budget reasons but stopping at Flame Tree Barbecue at Animal Kingdom was not up for debate! Their gluten-free barbecue is AMAZING. ABSOLUTELY AMAZING (and yes, it worth all-caps!). If I could have found a way to box it up and ship it home, I totally would!
This ride was definitely at the top of all of our favorite rides list! Even my not-crazy-about-rides husband loved it! When you shoot out on the outdoor track to hit top speeds, it is a total adrenaline rush! It was so much fun building your car and then being able to check out how your creation would work on the track! Abby took charge of the design process and we basically ended up with a glittery Barbie jeep with a lift-kit! We killed it on all categories except being eco-friendly! Oops! We still earned 1st place!
Meeting All The Characters!
Abby had the opportunity to meet a lot of the characters on our first visit so this year we put the princesses she didn’t have a chance to meet at the top of our to-do list! The top ones on that list were her girls Rapunzel, Ariel, Brave, and Jasmine! Her level of excitement in having her turn to meet the princesses was written all over her face! She was so enamored with all of them! She was wearing her Tangled wedding dress when she met Rapunzel so she thought that was amazing and maybe earned her some extra time posing for pictures! Abby was totally a natural in front of the camera! She ate it up!
Introducing Abby to some “big girl” rides!
Abby has grown quite a bit since our first visit to Disney and she was so excited to cross the 40″ mark so she could ride some of the “big girl” rides! She absolutely loved the Goofy’s Barnstormer roller coaster that is part of the new Fantasyland and the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad coaster in Frontierland! She also thought the Star Wars ride at Hollywood Studios was a cool ride because she got to shoot the bad guys! Two “big girl” ride fails were the Dinosaur ride at Animal Kingdom and Splash Mountain! I had never ridden the Dinosaur ride before but it was quite a dark, rough ride so she came off the ride in tears. Mom fail! The reason she didn’t like Splash Mountain was because she didn’t like her butt getting wet from the seats! Mom scored some points back since I packed some spare bottoms! This is the before shot of Dinosaur when she was all smiles (I am so glad that we do not have an after):
Meeting Anna & Elsa
Meeting the princess & queen from Frozen needed a spot all its own! Throughout the entire week, the longest line we waited in by far was to meet Anna and Elsa! We waited around 1 1/2 hours but a cast member shared that during the busier times the wait was a minimum 2 hours! I cannot imagine what the lines were the week of Christmas! Pure insanity I’m sure! Just before it was our turn to go in, Abby had her face plastered to the glass as she anxiously awaited her turn! When she was greeted by Anna and Elsa, I don’t think anything else in her world existed! You could just see the wonder in her eyes! As we were leaving she turned to me and said, “Mama, that was worth every single minute of the wait!” That definitely made it worth every minute for us too!
Being a Family!
I soak up every minute we are able to be together as a family and there is just something magical about making memories together at Disney. Before we took Abby the first time in 2011, I never understood how people could visit year after year and not get bored. Then we took Abby and I saw the magic. I have always loved Disney but this visit definitely infused my veins with pixie dust for life! One of the most important lessons I learned from our first trip to Disney was to take the time to take it all in and just enjoy yourself! Put down the camera every once and a while and focus on seeing the wonder through your child’s eyes and making memories together is an experience I will never, ever trade for anything. Our first visit in 2011 was a total family affair (which was amazing) but we went this year with just my parents. When you live away from your family, it makes those times together even more special! I am super close with my parents and love any time that I get to spend with them! It was just a magical experience and I honestly cannot wait to plan our next visit!
Now to finally figure out this whole couponing thing so I can start saving and planning for our next trip!