Our day began early on Thursday, departing the house at 6am while Leah was still sleeping. We made good time to the airport and checked our bags for our first flight on Southwest out of Grand Rapids. Our plane was about half-full, so we had no problem securing seats together and the SWA staff onboard were friendly and helpful.
We arrived on-time at MCO and got our bags with almost no wait at the luggage claim, then crossed back over to the other side of the airport to board our Magical Express bus to the resort. This was only our second time using DME, as we typically rent a car so we can control our own destiny and not have to wait for buses, but since this trip was only for two nights, we opted not to rent a car. Sometimes this worked in our favor, sometimes not. We board the bus quickly, using our new magic bands to identify ourselves in Disney’s system. We waited about twenty minutes before the bus left MCO, but we enjoyed watching the movie as the bus made its way to WDW.
A cast member checked us in with no wait at Beach Club Villas, where we were assigned room 325, a handicapped studio very close to the elevator at the center of the BCV building. During the day, there is iced lemon water available on the first floor near the elevator, which is a big plus when the heat index is over 100, as it was both days of our visit. This is completely selfish, and I’m glad they have plenty of HCA rooms in the Disney resorts, but this is probably the third or fourth time we’ve had a HCA room and I would much prefer a standard room.
That’s enough selfish griping for now
We changed into our swimsuits and headed over to Beaches & Cream for lunch. B&C is a small 50s-style diner right off the massive Beach Club pool. They’ve got great burgers and shakes, and a variety of old-time ice cream treats, including the massive Kitchen Sink, which is actually served in a sink. We started with an order of tasty onion rings, which Aly said “Ewww” to, at least until she discovered that the onion could be removed from the ring, then she dipped the ring in ketchup. I had a barbecue-bacon-blue burger and fries, which was very tasty. Rachel had the Turkey Club, which was very good.
Bloated with greasy goodness, we went outside to Stormalong Bay, which is the massive pool, er, waterpark at that Yacht & Beach Club. It’s actually three resort-size pools, including a whirlpool, two hot tubs, a lazy river, and a sand bottom pool. There’s also a large water slide called The Flying Jib that begins out on the beach at the top of a large pirate ship. Aly was very excited to try the water slide, at least until we climbed up to the crow’s nest and she discovered that the slide begins with a long enclosed tunnel that passes over the sidewalk below. We knew she’d love it if we could get her to try it, so we used that most creative of parenting skills: bribes. I offered to buy her a new Disney pin if she tried it, while Rachel, who hadn’t heard me say that, offered her two new pins. Oops! She accepted both our offers and got into the slide, where giggles emitted from for the next five seconds or so as she made her way down. We joined her and at the bottom she yelled “That was AWESOME let’s do it again NOW!” After several rides down the slide, we convinced her to explore the rest of the pools, so we hit a hot tub and took a few laps around the lazy river and spun in the whirlpool.
We went back to our room and changed, then headed over to the Beach Club’s bus top, where we waited 30mins for a bus to take us to Magic Kingdom. Three Downtown Disney and three Animal Kingdom Buses came while we waited for one MK bus.
The real problem, however, didn’t start until our bus had passed the entrance to the MK parking area, where both lanes of traffic were backed up all the way to the beginning of the parking lot. It took more than 30 minutes to get from there to the light by the TTC, where our bus driver opted to turn left and pass by the Polynesian and Grand Floridian to take the back route around Magic Kingdom. That was also quite busy, but definitely saved some time, as the normal road was completely blocked. When we finally arrived at MK, 75 minutes after we’d arrived at the bus stop, I asked the driver what the cause of the backup was. He said “There’s something wrong with the bridge. That’s all we know.” He was referring to the bridge which carries boat traffic between Bay Lake and Seven Seas Lagoon, which the road dips under. We never did hear what happened there.
It started raining just as we exited the bus, and the sky above us was split into glimmering blue sky and black storm clouds, with the split almost directly overhead. We got rained on a bit as we made our way into the park and made a right turn towards Tomorrowland (Paging Mr. Tom Morrow) to take our first ride on the Astro Orbiter, one of Aly’s favorites. The line was fairly short and indicated a 20-minute wait, so we queued up and waited for our turn to board the elevators that take you up to the ride. Once we had gotten our flying passes and were in the holding pen for the elevators, things really slowed down, as the cast members working the upstairs part of the ride had no clue how to move people efficiently. Aly chose to ride with me, and flew me high in the air, despite my pleading to keep our rocket nice and low.
Our dinner reservation was approaching and we were all ready to eat, so we wandered back into new Fantasyland and checked in for dinner at Be Our Guest. Remember when I was rudely told I couldn’t peek inside back in February? Well, they’re now keeping everyone without a reservation off the bridge that approaches the restaurant, about 100 feet further back than even before. We checked in and waited on the bridge, were we took some pictures of the girls trying to make sad faces alongside the sad gargoyles.
We also got a good look at the construction progress of the Seven Dwarves Mine Ride, which looks to be coming along nicely. Note the black sky in the background.
Be Our Guest is fantastic! We were seated in the Ballroom, but encouraged to get up and explore the other two dining rooms if we wanted. The main Ballroom is a large dining area with giant chandeliers and windows with lazily falling snowflakes outside them. The West Wing is darker, features loud rolling thunder and also The Rose, with petals falling from time to time. The third room is lighter and has a large rotating statue of Belle dancing with The Beast, as well as large pictures of character favorites from the movie. There is also a meet & great area where we took pictures with The Beast after dinner, which means The Beast passes through the dining rooms from time to time as he takes breaks from receiving guests.
The food was top-notch. I began with Potato Leek soup, which was excellent, with just the right amount of salt. As usual, Aly destroyed the baguettes when the arrived, though we all thought they were tasty. Aly departed from her normal fare and ordered the grilled steak kids meal, which came with green beans and another vegetable cut into strips that none of us could identify. She first thought her steak wasn’t very good, but changed her mind once she started salting each bite individually. I ordered the grilled strip steak, which is finished with a garlic butter sauce and was excellent. It came with delicious green beans that had sauteed onions and with thick-cut fries. Since this was a French restaurant, the fries came with a garlic mayonnaise dipping sauce, which was a treat. Thanks, Frenchies, for fries with mayo! Rachel had the Chicken Provençal, which was quite tasty, but she thought it wasn’t quite her thing. I tasted it, and I’d order it though.
The highlight of the meal, however, was dessert. Desserts are brought to the table in a lighted cart, offering a choice of cupcakes: triple chocolate, strawberry cream cheese, and lemon. They’re all beautiful and there are a few other choices in the case as well. Once you choose your dessert, the server plates it, adds sauce and serves it to you right there from the case. Aly choose the triple chocolate cupcake, and I chose the “grey stuff”, which is a cookie bar covered with a rich grey moose that is utterly delicious. Don’t believe us? Ask the dishes. Though it was a bit pricey (~$89 with our Tables in Wonderland discount for two adults and one kid), we all give Be Our Guest dinner service an A+. Lunch is a completely different experience, which we haven’t tried yet, but will try on our trip in January. We met with The Beast on the way out.
Which beast is hairier?
We exited Be Our Guest to find the sky still split between threatening black clouds and twilight blue sky, and Aly took a spin on Cinderella’s Carousel.
We next hit our favorite attraction, Mickey’s Philharmagic, a “4-D” movie which should not be missed. It’s in a spot that many people just pass right by, but any Disney fan should consider Philharmagic among the must-do’s of Magic Kingdom. We next made the short walk to Haunted Mansion, where Aly acquainted herself with some old friends.
Aly’s love/hate relationship with Splash Mountain was our next task to tackle. It was now nearly dark, which is a great time to ride SM as the castle glows various colors and can be seen from various points along the ride. As we waited in a short five-minute line, Aly kept asking where the last chicken exit would be, and if she had to ride SM. We told her it was up to her, but it was obvious from her rising stress level that she was not settled. She decided that if she was going to ride, she was going to ride with me, so Rachel donned a poncho to protect the camera and our park bag. Even as we boarded our log, Aly was still wavering, so I finally said “Sit down, you’ll be fine” and pulled the safety bar down while she protested and said she wanted to get off the ride. She found the first small hills to be very stressful, and her heartbeat was pounding so hard that it almost bruised my hand as I squeezed her tight for each hill we descended.
As we approached the final big hill, she became very panicky and said she wanted to get out of the log and onto the stairs. I said that was not possible and she said “My tummy feels sick, Daddy.” I said “No it doesn’t. Take a deep breath and we’ll be done in twenty seconds.” She buried her face as we clicked up the hill under the watchful eyes of the top-hatted Brer Vultures, and screamed as we flew down the final hill. Which she then said didn’t bother her at all, and she loved the big hill, but not the small ones. We hadn’t gotten too wet during the ride, but we got stuck in traffic next to a waterfall and I got completely soaked while we waited our turn to head back to the loading area.
We exited the ride around the time that the Main Street Electrical Parade was starting, so we crossed the parade route and headed to Pirates of the Caribbean, with only about a five-minute wait before we boarded. As usual, Aly enjoyed the drunken pigs and the filthy pirate feet, before spotting Jack Sparrow on his throne in the final scene and asking, “Who’s that?”
The most important part of the day was next: pursuit of the Dole Whip. A highlight of every trip to Magic Kingdom, Aloha Isle in Adventureland has these awesome treats: pineapple soft serve ice cream floated in pineapple juice. On our way to Aloha Isle, we noticed that The Magic Carpets of Aladdin had no line whatsoever, so the girls hopped aboard a magic rug and got spit on by a camel before we got our delicious Dole Whips. While we ate them, we cross the Main Street parade route just ahead of the parade to head back into Tomorrowland. We gave Aly her choice of one last attraction, and she chose the Tomorrowland Indy Speedway.
She drove a car with Rachel while I road solo behind them. Aly is a crazy driver on this attraction, bouncing the car hard into the guide rail as much as possible. This, of course, means you drive somewhat slowly, so I had the opportunity to bump them many times around the track. Which is against the rules, but too fun to avoid. I highly recommend it, though you run the risk of cast member scorn, so don’t say I didn’t warn you. Feel free to say I encouraged you, though.
As we made our way toward the front of the park, Aly asked if we could ride Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, and I consented. Rachel whipped both of us as usual.
We exited the park passing through the throngs of fans waiting for the Celebrate the Magic show, which beams movies onto Cinderella Castle, to be followed the the nightly rendition of Wishes, the fireworks show. We waited about 15 minutes for our Beach Club bus to show up, and Aly’s exhaustion was starting to show as she asked every thirty seconds when our bus would arrive. We finally made it back to our room and crashed to sleep.