The trip was fantastic. The real magic of Disney is that they are able to create an entirely commercial environment, charge you to enter it, and simultaneously convince you to suspend your cynicism...to believe, if you will.
I honestly don't care that they are profiting from children's happiness because the children are so happy. Even the adults are happy. I was happy to be there. It's just fun.
I'll spare you a play-by-play of our entire vacation, but here are a few highlights:
- Breakfast with Mickey (Contemporary Resort) - Like most adults, I was not thrilled by the idea of having a meal surrounded by people dressed up as cartoon characters. However, my aunt (the Disney expert) insisted it was a must-do and she was right. The awe and joy that my boys experienced when Mickey Mouse himself came to our table to meet them was worth every minute of screaming babies and every bite of mediocre buffet food.
- Being co-pilots on the monorail - Again, my aunt's expertise made this possible. The drivers ("pilots") of the monorails have seats inside the cockpit and if you ask nicely, they might just let you sit in them. It just so happened that we got to sit in the cockpit on my boys' very first ride on the monorail, taking us to their very first visit to the Magic Kingdom. Imagine a panoramic view of the horizon as you zip along the track. Now imagine seeing Cinderella's castle rise up before you on that horizon. "Magical" might be the best word for that experience.
- The Wishes fireworks (Magic Kingdom) - You know pretty much every commercial for Disney World, where you see the fireworks bursting perfectly over the castle while thousands of children's eye grow wide? That really happens. It's a bit like walking into a postcard. It sounds cheesy (hell, the whole park sounds cheesy) but it's amazing. And the gasps of wonder emanating from every child in the park makes it that much better.
- Teppanyaki in Japan (Epcot) - I love the entire World Showcase. It's fun to be able to stroll through 10 countries (plus America, for some reason) in a matter of hours. But I'm singling out Japan here because we had dinner at Teppan Edo, the teppanyaki restaurant there, complete with Japanese chefs and servers. By far the best meal of the trip, made even better by the fact that our kids were enthralled by the cooking and therefore inspired to eat everything on their plates. And Owen is still bragging about trying (and liking) the hot mustard sauce.
- Toy Story Midway Mania (Hollywood Studios) - Thanks to the merging of Pixar and Disney, all your favorite Pixar characters are now part of the magic. The Buzz Lightyear ride and Monsters, Inc. show at Magic Kingdom are both great, but this new ride over at Hollywood Studios (which is otherwise not that great for small kids) suggests that the imagineers actually went inside my children's brains and set out to combine their obsession with carnival games and their love for Toy Story. You put on 3D glasses, get in a car and are spun around to various midway games where you must use a toy "gun" to shoot targets, knock over ducks, toss rings, etc. all to earn points. We wanted to ride again and again, but sadly the line was 30 minutes long.
Those are just a few of the great moments we had. I'm sure my kids would also list the pool, the mini golf and the sugary cereal my aunt stocked in our hotel room as highlights of the trip.
Here is where I could tell you that I wish we hadn't had to leave and how hard it's been to adjust back to the mundane, but the truth is that I'm kind of in an ideal little pocket of my life at the moment (excluding the self-esteem crushing job search) because I had a wonderful family vacation and just six days from now I get to leave for a long weekend getaway with a couple of my BFFs. More on that in a later post.
For now, I'm still basking in the magical glow that Disney has cast on my family. I'm hoping not all the pixie dust washes off.