Sunday, April 29, 2012

Zoo for two

For the last couple of weeks, Grace has been asking to go to the zoo.  We have a zoo pass and our local zoo is small enough that you can go for 1-2 hours and not have to make a full day trip out of it. We took advantage of a beautiful spring day when Kyle was at soccer to go "just the two of us".

Grace has been to this zoo so many times that she knows where everything is and she feels really comfortable leading the way.  She told me as we entered that we needed to run on the rope bridge (check), ride the merry-go-round (check), ride the train (check), and make sure we saw the lions (check).

I also negotiated with her before we went ("What does negotiate mean, Mommy?") so I would be able to play with my camera and take some photos.  I love a few that I got of the animals.

This one of the flamingo could be my favorite.
But I like this one, too.  I just wish I had his eyes 
in focus as well as the paw. 
A professional wildlife photographer I know said you need to get the eyes when you photograph animals.  I can imagine how hard that must be in the wild.  It is a little easier at the zoo, I suppose, when you are lucky enough to find the animals awake and engaged.  A lot of the time, they just seem bored.

Grace is still my favorite subject to photograph.  Especially when she cooperates!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Tea, anyone?

As Alice said in Alice in Wonderland, "When I get home, I shall write a book about this place...if I ever do get home", Disney is the kind of magical place you want to write home about.  A week after our return, Grace is still enchanted with our trip and adventures and is already telling me what we should do when we go back next time.

Grace wasn't too fond of the Mad Hatter.
But she and Nana loved the Tea Cup ride 
so much they rode it two times in a row!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Lighting up the night

We were thrilled to see Disney's electrical parade ONCE while we were there.  We never expected to see it TWICE, but that is exactly what happened.
The 9:00 show went just as we had planned.  We found a great spot along the parade route in Frontierland where we met Billy, a Disney employee who normally drives one of the floats in the parade. It was his night off and he was there watching the show with a date.  So we knew we were in a great spot to see it up close.
My favorite float was this dragon that had smoke coming out of its nose.  But, they all were pretty amazing.  I really have never seen anything like this before.  It was so well done - definitely an example of "Disney magic"!
The second time we saw the electric parade was by accident.  We were heading back to the hotel a little before 11:00 when Grace said she was hungry. We thought we were going to find a place for a snack but when we came around the castle and headed toward Main Street there was the parade starting for a second time that night!  We ended up getting another spot right up front to see the spectacle another time.  None of us minded.  But it did mean we didn't get back to the hotel until around 12:30 - after a snack, of course!
Playing with my camera settings to get some different effects.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Hoop-dee-doo revue

On our last night in Disney we made a spontaneous decision to go to the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue at the Fort Wilderness Campsites.  I figured it was going to be kind of "country bumpkin" but was pleasantly surprised by this fast-paced, entertaining show with foot-stompin' music and interactive comedy that got the audience involved from the very beginning.

When we disembarked from the water taxi in THE WOODS I wondered what was in store for us inside the theater. We were seated upstairs along the railing where we had a fantastic view of the stage and the tables below.  The entertainers didn't leave the guests in the balcony out...several times during the performance they came up to include us in the jokes and songs.  Grace loved it so much, I had to keep reminding her to eat dinner!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Move it, Shake It, Celebrate It!

The "Move It, Shake It, Celebrate It" street party is an interactive parade the moves up Main Street and along the circle in front of Cinderella's Castle.
The parade magic kicked off as an emcee invited us to dance and sing along with the Disney characters, stilt walkers, and other performers who rode on floats that looked like giant, colorful presents.  As the party stopped in front of the castle the packages opened to reveal some of our favorite characters including Genie, Lumiere, and Sebastian.
The driving, contemporary beat of the music had everyone dancing!  We were sweating in the almost 90-degree heat, but it was a lot of fun!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Hotel Happenings

There are so many advantages to staying at a Disney property.  You certainly can't go wrong at the Grand Floridian.  Despite the "look" and the Victorian theme, the hotel is surprisingly laid-back and relaxed.  Everyone is walking around in shorts and flop-flops - even in some of the finer restaurants.  You definitely get a beachy, resort feeling when you stay here.
Thanks to Nana's resourcefulness, we had a wonderful room overlooking the main pool.  It was perfect for the right combination of fun and action (you could see the nightly movie from our balcony and listen to the music at the pool) and peace and quiet (when we closed the sliding door). The quick service restaurant, water taxi, and monorail were a short walk away making everything we needed fast and convenient.
Magic Kingdom was one stop on the monorail, but we liked riding the boat.  We took it several times to Magic Kindgom, to transfer to another boat for a dinner show at Fort Wilderness, and to connect with a bus to Downtown Disney.  There is a lot going on in the lakes with other boats going by, birds and fish, and the electric water parade each night.

Grace loved both of the pools at the Grand Floridian.  She went on the slide at the beach pool but for some reason, she preferred the main pool.  I think it was because this was where they played music and games in the afternoons.  When we gave her a choice, this is the pool she chose....and so did the ducks!
It was funny to see a duck swimming in the pool.  Several of the children tried to get close to it at different times, but the duck evaded them.  It could have easily flown away, but it must have liked it too much in the cool pool water to make the effort to find another place to go!
Inside the hotel, they had a musician playing a grand piano.  It was wonderful for Grace to see him play.  One evening when he was taking a break she sat down at the piano to pretend she was playing. Hmmm...Can you picture her performing in Carnegie Hall someday?
Even after a long, tiring day (and we had a few of them!) it was a welcome, beautiful place to come "home" to.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Princess Parade

Last year when we visited Disney we didn't see ANY princesses.  Well, that is not exactly true. We saw Snow White at the opening ceremony but then she went down a ramp and back behind a fence so we never got to meet her.  This year, we were determined to meet some princesses so I booked two character meals - Cinderella's Happily Ever After dinner and Cinderella's Royal Table lunch in the castle.  This way, we were guaranteed to come up close and personal with some of our favorite story heroines.
At the dinner, in addition to meeting Prince Charming and Cinderella, we met a few of the other characters from the story - Lady Tremaine and the two evil stepsisters, Anastasia and Drusilla.  At first we thought they would be rude, but all three turned out to be sweet and pleasant.  I guess they are only mean to Cinderella!

Lunch in the castle was AMAZING!  It was totally worth planning 6 months in advance for this special event.  Cinderella greeted all her guests inside the castle where our Snow White had her portrait taken with the princess.
I was shocked that Cinderella remembered Grace from dinner the night before.  As she was signing Grace's autograph book,  I overheard her say to Grace, "You were at dinner last night with me and Prince Charming".  That is pretty impressive, considering Grace had a different costume on the day before.  They have to meet hundreds of little girls every day!
At lunch, four of Cinderella's friends visited our table.  We met Jasmine, Aurora (Sleeping Beauty), Belle, and Ariel.  They each were very nice and took the time to talk to Grace.  Many commented on how much she looked like Snow White and Belle told Grace that she only wears her yellow gown when she is with the Beast. 

Disney must have some rule about the characters posing for photos together.  They are always alone in the photo and last year I remember asking some of the characters at Chef Mickey's to pose in the same shot and they declined.  

The only ones who posed together were Ariel and Prince Eric.  This was before we went to the castle and since Ariel is Grace's current favorite princess, we HAD to wait to meet her!  She was outside in her own little area near Tinker Bell and her fairy friend, Terrence.  (No, I had never heard of him before this day!)
Earlier in the day, the wait was about 40 minutes to meet the fairies. But our strategy to go at night right before the fireworks allowed us to enter their enchanted garden with a very short wait time because everyone else was getting ready for the fireworks show.