Well, we did it. The Holy Grail of parentdom. That's right. We hit Disney World. Orlando. Stayed at the Nickelodeon Hotel. Drove a minivan with a DVD player. And played nothing but Looney Toons DVDs, too. Oh, we did the kid thing all right.
Now I want my BMW 325i.
Because I deserve it. And I saw a really nice one in Palm Beach, which is where we went after Orlando to visit Mike's dad. And, quite frankly, considering the breadth of luxury vehicles cruising around that town (Bentleys in assorted colors, Jags on every block--convertible or not, your choice--your basic Rolls Royces) I think a four-door Beemer is pretty low-key of me. And, can I just say, there's nothing like checking out Bentleys and Rolls' while driving a Pontiac minivan with two kids who are trying to spit on each other. Class-saaay.
But, back to Orlando. We checked into the Nick Hotel at about 1:30 in the morning. Because we chose to fly out of Newark at 8:30 at night, landing us in the land of Mickey around 11 p.m. Then we went to the Alamo counter for about an hour to get our minivan. Good thing I pre-registered online for the van.
Mike, aka Mellow Yellow, was ready to jump the counter and either punch the computer keys or punch the clerk, I'm not sure which. Anything to make it go faster. Then I remembered a key pearl of wisdom my mother once told me after spending a couple of months in the Sunshine State--don't try to make them move faster in Florida; they'll only get ticked off and shift into reverse. I think I witnessed just that.
Ryan napped on the plane, so he was revved when we got on the minivan. He wanted us to dig out a DVD from our luggage, so he could get in some quality Bugs Bunny time in the 20 minute ride to the hotel. Cara, of course, didn't nap. Not even a disco nap. Yet she was wired. She'd waited for this trip for years. See, she was the one who begged for a baby brother or sister when she was 3. She got us to agree to it when she was 4. Ryan was born when she was 5. And we told her she wasn't seeing Disney until he was potty trained, was done with naps and didn't need a stroller. Well, at least he's potty trained....
DISNEY FOOD & OTHER CRAP
We spent the first day in Orlando at the Nick Hotel. The kids were LOVING IT. Two resort-style pools (bars at each one for the grown-ups). One had two-story tube slides that lead right into the pool, jacuzzis, rope-pulls that dumped water on the kids heads. The other had a beach-style wade-in area that led to a huge pool and a huge slide/spray/climbing apparatus. After a couple hours of playing, Ryan took a snooze. His demand.
That night, we went to Downtown Disney where we had one of the three good meals we ate in Orlando. We were there for five days. I don't know what the deal is with Disney, but they really need to outsource to better food services. Their coffee: Nescafe. I thought that went out of business circa 1972. Seriously. I hadn't tasted coffee that bad since I made a cup of Folger's instant and mistakenly used only half the required amount. Talk about awful. And this is what Disney was selling. I swear, Starbucks should mount a takeover. I mean, if there's a time when parents need a high-octane cup o' joe, it's at friggin' Disney. Let's get real, people!
So, the first good meal was at Fulton Crab at Downtown Disney. The second good meal was at the Palio restaurant at the Swan resort, which we walked to on another night from the Disney Boardwalk. And the last good food we had was at the Epcot World Showcase places--a Morrocan sandwich, real coffee, German hotdog. Unfortunately, we had wasted our appetites on the cafeteria type garbage they sell at the Electric Umbrella food place in Epcot's main area. The only food worse than that was the gruel served up at Disney MGM Studio's fake drive-in restaurant. Barf-o-rama. Anyone who reads this column knows my hatred of all things chain (except my beloved Starbucks), but TGI Fridays could move in at Disney and there would be a lot of happier campers. We, the Salfinos, wouldn't be ecstatic, necessarily....but happier.
DISNEY PART TRES
But, leave it to us to go to Disney and care about food. Let's talk rides.
Splash Mountain: Awesome. Cara and Mike sat in the front seat and got completely and totally drenched. We're talking squeezing-water-out-of-the-shirts wet. Mike's-shorts-were-still-wet-when-we-left-the-park-hours-later wet. I bought Cara a T-shirt and sweatpants. (Note: Do NOT put wet clothes in a Disney bag, leave the bag with the other souvenirs for remainder of the vacation, and then open bag upon returning home. I'm surprised those clothes didn't crawl home on their own.)
Thunder Mountain: Awesome. Ryan screamed "Yeah, baby!" the whole time.
Pirates of the Carribean: Eh. A ride.
Alladin's Magic Carpet: Jokingly short.
Space Mountain: I screamed so much I couldn't scream anymore. Super awesome. Since Ryan was too short to ride, he stayed to the side with me while Mike and Cara went for a ride. Then, when they got off, Cara got right back on with me. Space Mountain back-to-back. Insane.
Jungle Cruise: Fun. The guide had a bunch of good, corny jokes.
Haunted Mansion: Scary for Ryan, cool for the rest of us.
Buzz Lightyear: Surprisingly fun. Really.
The other parks:
I didn't do Mission: Mars because Ryan was too short and the whole "Warning: this ride could just about kill you" kind of scared me off. When Mike and Cara came out, she looked shaky and Mike looked like he was going to upchuck a woodchuck chuck.
Soarin' Over California: Super fun. But this was me before we went on it, "We've been to California. We've flown in a plane over California. Why should we bother with this ride?" And then I loved it. Typical.
Test Track: When you see you're going 65 mph with no roof over your head and no brakes, it's pretty wild. Totally dug it. But the guy next to me was a real wuss. (Not Mike this time; some other guy.)
Indiana Jones: Okay, I have heard that making a movie can be pretty boring; it's just people sitting around the set all day waiting for something to happen. SO WHY RE-CREATE THE EXPERIENCE?!?
Now the real deals:
Rockin' Rollercoaster starring Aerosmith. TOH-HO-HO-TALLY ROCKS OUT! Again, Ryan was too short so Cara did it back to back with Mike and then with me. She wasn't doing too well after that. But the ride is awesome.
And finally, the Tower of Terror. Cara was too freaked to do that one two times in a row. So Mike and Cara went, and then I went on my own while they stayed with Ry. I got so freaked I grabbed the arm of the woman next to me! Nothing like it! Feeling like you're in a falling elevator and SEEING THE OUTSIDE OF THE BUILDING AS YOU'RE FALLING. It rocked.
Now, I'll admit: I haven't been on anything scarier than the Big Bird rollercoaster at Sesame Park in years. So maybe I'm a sucker. But the rides were fun. And I figured what could happen? Disney wouldn't let a ride go sailing off the tracks so they could get a billion dollar lawsuit slapped against them. Right?
Still sound like a sucker, huh?
--Catherine Schetting Salfino