When we hopped on the monorail to head to Magic Kingdom, the temperature outside was 37 degrees, and had actually dipped below 32 overnight. We noted that the pool was steaming as we walked by, which was not entirely surprising, but we were surprised to see that the entire Seven Seas Lagoon, a large lake, was also steamed by the cold.
We were once again out so early because we had a breakfast reservation before the park opened, this time at the Crystal Palace, which is a quick left turn at the of Main Street USA. We again enjoyed walking through a deserted entrance area, and had but a short wait before we entered the restaurant and were introduced to our comical Aussie server Kip. We barely ordered drinks before our first furry friend arrived.
Are you wondering what the breakfast version of french fries is?
Froot loops! At least on this trip. It’s odd, because Leah is quite a health and well-rounded eater at home, but because of the stress or whatever, her appetite narrowed extremely. The good thing is, the club-level lounge at the Poly had froot loops every morning, so Rachel always filled a couple of to-go containers that we dropped into the stroller to use as emergency snacks throughout the day. After Tigger passed by, we had a minute or two to grab some food, so I got a bowl of fl’s and brought them back, then Aly and I got plates and realized that our next visitor was almost there, so we brought empty plates back to the table.
Piglet was great with Leah. She handed over her little Piglet right away and the two Piglets posed for pictures without our girls for a minute or so – it was hilarious. Then, Piglet was asking Leah for high fives, and Leah was smacking Piglet’s hand with little Piglet instead of her hand, causing Piglet to pretend to be frustrated, again causing all the people around to laugh. It was lots of fun.
After Piglet, we finally went to the buffet and got food. All three of us (excluding Froot Loop Leah™) raided the kids’ area for the stuffed french toast, I also raided it for the Mickey Head waffles. We also sampled some tasty seasonal eggs (swiss, diced red & green bell peppers, sausage), pancakes, bacon (Aly would live on a diet of bacon if allowed) and some other breakfast staples. Leah spotted Eeyore coming next and said she was scared of Eeyore and didn’t want to see him, which we all thought was odd. But she actually was, as you’ll see in the pictures (you’ll also see her belly).
She was willing to hug Eeyore, but you can see she doesn’t smile like she does with the other characters. We kept telling her that Eeyore was a really nice gentle furry donkey, but I guess she wasn’t buying it. Shortly after that, she spotted Pooh on the way and she was happy.
After we’d seen all the characters and finished our sugar and fat-laden breakfast treats, we headed out into a slightly warmer park and over to Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, where we had Fastpass+ reservations to use. Leah absolutely did not want to ride, but Rachel muscled her through her fears and she ended up enjoying herself. Rachel also, in her words, “destroyed” me again, as she had the other day, because apparently, when she told me she scored “49”, that apparently meant 490,000 in the language she speaks. Thus the comment “You must have been in Fantasyland” on that post from the other day – yes, she’s a bit bitter.
As usual, when we exited the ride and looked at the pictures they take during the ride, all four of us had ridiculously intense looks on our faces, ridiculously intense. Aly also wanted to have her picture taken with The Evil Emperor Zurg, so I told her “No smiling, you’re in intergalactic space jail with Zurg” and this is what we got:
I’ve never been in intergalactic space jail, not even as a visitor or as part of a class field trip, but I’m pretty sure that prisoners are not allowed to have Duffy bears in their cells, but oh well. As we headed towards Fantasyland, I pointed out the awesome floating marble “ball” that the kids could get spinning with a little help from dad (sometimes clandestinely). We spent about ten minutes playing here, as both girls were loving it. Thankfully, the water was warm.
After that, we split again. Aly and I headed to the nearby Tomorrowland Indy Speedway cars, while Rachel took Leah to the Dumbo indoor (read: heated) playground.
Aly and I had a fun ride on the Indy cars, but it was different than last time, because we had two girls about Aly’s age driving solo in the two cars directly ahead of us, and they kept stopping and driving slow. Aly was a bit irritated by not being able to go flat out, so we made it more about crashing from side to side instead, which turned out to be just about as fun. When we got to the end part, we bumped the girl ahead of us, and she turned around to look and I gave her a thumbs up and said “bump your sister!”, which she promptly did, and then her sister started bumping their mom. I felt proud to introduce them to the time-honored tradition of bumping family and friends at the end of the ride.
Aly and I then headed into the Dumbo queue playground to find Leah and Rachel. Leah was waiting for Aly to take her up into the Big Top parts of the play area and they played for another fifteen minutes or so, then decided they didn’t even want to ride Dumbo, so we took an exit directly from the playground area.
We then headed towards the back of the park, and as we passed Haunted Mansion, we noticed it had a five-minute wait, so Aly and I jumped in the queue while Leah and Rachel played nearby. Aly, of course, wanted her picture taken with her “other siblings” as she always does:
I sang along with the grim grinning ghosts as usual, we counted the headless husbands, and loved it as always. We took the boardwalk along the water as we headed back towards Tom Sawyer Island, and a character group popped up in the street to do their musical number with their group of relatively rare characters, including Horace Horsecollar, Clarabelle Cow, B’rer Bear and B’rer Rabbit. As we crossed the bridge in front of Splash Mountain, I realized that
Bird crap had struck again
This time, Rachel’s jeans were the victim, so the question was, how long until little Lele was targeted? We boarded the raft Becky Thatcher and made the short overwater trip to Tom Sawyer Island.
We took a path up the hill, went through a mine (with Leah continuously questioning our decision to go into a dark place, and Aly continuously disappearing up ahead after we told Leah that Aly would stay with her and show her where to go), and then found a playground atop the hill.
After ten minutes or so at that playground, we made our way through a windmill and down to the bouncing bridge over to the other island that has the fort.
The fort part has lots for the kids to do, with pretend guns and cannons to shoot, an escape tunnel, and a room with a door that Leah wanted to use to prevent other kids from coming in. So she got handed to me and I took her away from the fort to these awesome rocking chairs that overlook the end of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, where we started waving to every train that passed by, and we’d get nearly every person on the train to wave back. We were joined by the remainder of our party shortly thereafter, and they joined us in our waving task.
It was time to head back across the bouncing bridge and then across the even more fun barrel bridge, where I actually soaked one of my shoes.
Before we were on the island, Aly had spotted this sign and asked who Becky was and why Tom hearted her? I said, “you’ll have to read the book!”
We took the raft back off the island and as we made our way back towards the front of the park, we ran into the same character show we’d seen from the boardwalk earlier, except this time we were right in the midst of it as it ended. Leah got high fives from Clarabelle and it was very fun as the characters scattered all around us.
We headed to Tomorrowland and got some lunch at the Lunching Pad, which is underneath the Astro Orbiter and the loading area for the Tomorrowland Transit Authority. We had two Sweet Cream Cheese Pretzels, a coke slushie, and a Fanta cherry slushie. All were quite tasty.
After that, we had FP+ for the Monsters Inc Comedy Laugh Floor, so we hopped in line and tried to manage Leah’s nervousness and Aly’s know-it-allness. She had been to this attraction several years ago, but had no memory of it, but was still trying to tell me it was not worth our time, that the seats we picked were horrible, etc. Anyway, eventually we got in, and picked seats on the left side in about the fifth row along the aisle and both kids warmed up to the laughter right away. When the two-headed Sam-N-Ella came out to do their comedy bit, for their second audience question, they picked the “two-headed human”:
For all her fear and nervousness, Leah spoke into the microphone clearly and hilariously. When they gave the obviously wrong answer, she gave them a firm “no” in response and then they sang her a very funny song. Aly was dying the entire time but a bit jealous that “only Leah and mommy” were on the screen. She didn’t believe me that she was on the screen at all until I showed her later on my camera’s screen. We loved the whole experience. When I was editing the pictures later, something occurred to me:
That’s Sam-N-Ella on the right, Al-N-Leah on the left. From there, we headed out of the park and back to the hotel for a combination of downtime and pool time before the babysitter arrived. When we got back to the hotel room, we found Aly’s bed had been arranged thusly by Mousekeeping: (yes, our kids travel with an amazing amount of plush, which is but a fraction of the obscene amount of plush community residing throughout our house)
We also gave Leah her birthday presents for the day. Two presents since it was the day before her birthday: a Cinderella dress and a Dopey plush.
As you can see, she was quite pleased, so we sent her down the hall to the lounge to surprise Aly, who was snacking and watching the TV down there. Aly came back to the room shortly and everybody went down to the pool, but only one of us was smart enough not to wear their swimsuit, since it was still freakin’ cold out! That meant, however, that I did have my camera.
Leah was freezing after just a few minutes in the pool, so I took her back to the room to warm up. If you’re wondering how she relaxes after a morning in the park and a few minutes freezing in the pool, here’s your answer:
Yep, naked, eating M&M’s in bed watching Disney Jr. We should all be so lucky. Everybody got cleaned up and the babysitter from Kids Nite Out arrived exactly at 5. We introduced her to the kids, got the details worked out, and then Rachel and I left for the Magic Kingdom with no kids, no stroller, no bags, and just the camera. The park was fairly crowded with long wait times, so we wandered around, hit the Emporium on Main Street, which is the big store in MK, and bought me a sweatshirt, since the next morning was again going to be frigid. We then wandered over to Tomorrowland and rode the Tomorrowland Transit Authority while the sun was just about setting, so we got some spectacular views around the park.
We headed farther back into the park as the sun disappeared completely. We decided that the appropriate way to end our time at Magic Kingdom for this trip was at our favorite attraction in the whole of Disney World, Mickey’s Philharmagic. The 4-D movie experience is almost lost for most park visitors, as they pass it by, but it not to be missed. We especially enjoyed it as the last thing we did before heading over to the Contemporary for dinner. We had planned to take the resort monorail, but as we approached the ramp, there was a long line of people at a time when there should be no line, so we decided we’d turn around and walk over to the hotel instead. We calculated that based on the number of people waiting, we’d be on the third train, so we’d keep an eye on the monorails passing overhead to see if we made a good decision.
The second monorail was still in the hotel’s station when we entered the hotel, so walking was a good choice. The well-lit area at the top of the building is the California Grill, located on the 15th floor. We made our way to the 2nd floor check-in desk and then rode the escorted elevator up to 15, where we giggled at the swankiness of the place while waiting just a few minutes for our table. We were seated at a window, in a very nice location actually, but on the back side of the hotel, away from Magic Kingdom. It turned out to be great.
We started out with drinks. I know that Louis has been big on cidery drinks lately, so I tried one of those and it was quite good. Rachel had some kind of Mai Tai that was also very tasty. Both lightweights these days, our cheeks were red (er, I guess, since the sun had reddened us quite a bit the past two days) in short order.
Next up was our (first, lol) appetizer. California Grill is a place that the menu can change from day to day, and it truly does that. We had a barbecue pork and apple flatbread, and I went today to their website (writing this on Sunday) to find the exact description, and it’s not there today! It was dynamite, with a lot of bite, but the apple helped smooth it over.
After we devoured that and most of our drinks, it was about 2 minutes before 8 (we had a 7:20 reservation for this very reason), so we headed outside to one of the two balconies designed for watching fireworks from the roof of the hotel. They also turn off most lights inside the restaurant and pipe the music in there, so if you have a good view from your table, you can also watch from there. We loved watching from outside, as the speakers outside were right in front of us and very loud, so we actually heard the music better than we do when in MK!
During the week, I had seen Wishes from the Poly lounge (twice), the Poly beach, in MK, and now from the roof of the Contemporary. That’s a pretty good week, when you see the best fireworks show around nearly every night. We filed back inside to find the second appetizer waiting at the table, the beautiful and delicious Carrot and Cilantro Soup.
Here’s how the menu describes it:
Spiced Paprika Oil, Lime Blackened Whitefish, Citrus-Coriander Bloom
This soup was $12, and I’d pay double that – it was amazing. We were both dazzled by the flower on top – can you guess what it is? We could not, but as soon as I ate it, I learned something I didn’t know before – cilantro plants flower. 🙂
We negotiated a bit on ordering our entrees, but decided on a team approach, where we’d order two things we were both considering and then share. Rachel ordered the Oak-fired Filet of Beef, described thusly on the menu: Heirloom Tomato Risotto, Baby Vine Tomatoes, Petite Basil, Tomato Butter
Remember how I mentioned that the plan was to share? Rachel wasn’t into sharing this so much. I got a bite of the steak and another bite of the steak with the tomato risotto, and half of a baby vine tomato, but I think that was it. Spectacular. But mine was spectacularer.
I had the Bell & Evans Chicken, described as:
Smoked Tillamook-Yukon Potatoes, Braised Lacinato Kale, Caramelized Onion Jus
I must preface this by saying that over the last two years, I’ve very much soured on chicken in general, though I can’t say exactly why. So I kind of ordered this because I was being a team player in the “order and share” plan. But I didn’t want to share any more than Rachel did, except in the “OMG, you have to try this” way.
That is, without question, the best chicken I have ever tasted. The. best.
The crispiest, most seasoned, flavorful skin, and that’s sort of to be expected, right? But take away the skin, and the chicken meat itself, so tender, so juicy, so seasoned – it had more flavor than all the chicken I’ve ever had put together, maybe. Seriously, we were on such a food high at this point, I’m not even sure further drinking was necessary.
Certainly, dessert was not necessary.
Warm Homemade Fritters
Banana-stuffed, Cinnamon-dusted Fritters with Toasted Caramel Marshmallows complemented with a Trio of Dipping Sauces (peanut butter, caramel, dark chocolate)
We also had this one (not pictured):
Vanilla Crème Brûlée
Rich Vanilla Custard, Caramelized Turbinado Sugar, and Local Plant City Strawberries
We we fairly well food-stoned and full at this point, so we paid the sizable bill and headed back to the elevator down to the fourth floor where we caught the monorail back to the Polynesian. On our way back to the room, we swung through the lounge to see what desserts were out since we knew Aly would claim to be hungry.
The babysitter reported that all had gone well, with the kids eating a bit at the lounge, then they headed out to the 6pm campfire for a few roasted marshmallows before heading to the arcade, where they spent less than $5 before heading back to the room. Leah had announced she wanted to go to sleep without help from the babysitter or Aly and crawled up onto the bed and hid behind some stuffed animals without getting into pajamas or getting a diaper change. After that, I think Aly just played her 3DS and the babysitter did whatever she did, lol. I took Aly down to the lounge for a quick coconut treat (pictured above) and then we got her to sleep quickly and we followed suit since it was late.
Overall, our first attempt using a babysitter at Disney World with Kids Nite Out was a success and I think we’d try it again. Our first visit to California Grill was amazing and we’ll make this a part of every trip from now on.