Yes, we returned from vacation all intact and still talking to one another. Just teasing...it was a wonderful week and we feel so blessed to have been able to take the girls. We began our trip by going to Clearwater Florida to see "Winter" from the movie Dolphin Tale. If your children have seen this movie, you must try to make it to Clearwater Marine Aquarium. It is not an upscale aquarium, but it is amazing. Not only do you get to see the movie star "Winter," you get to see many other animals that have been rescued and are making a new home in Clearwater. The tanks allow you to get up close and personal with the dolphins, otters, and sea turtles. Our girls just loved it. We thought it would be an hour or so, but we ended up spending most of the day there. Clearwater itself is just beautiful. We drove to Clearwater Beach, only 5 minutes from aquarium and walked on the beach. The girls, my husband and I were excited to be able to put our feet in the Gulf of Mexico. Just so much fun!!!
Our next stop was the MOSI museum in Tampa. This was a stumble upon stop but so worth it. MOSI is the Museum of Science and Industry. It has many, many hands on exhibits for the kids to explore and learn. Our girls especially loved the Kids In Charge Building. There must have been 30 hands on activities ranging from a grocery shopping center to a space walk to jump castles. It was another fun, fun day. The highlight was watching my seven year old and my husband do the Sky Trail Rope Course and Zip Line. I myself do not like heights one bit, but it sure was amazing to watch them do it. I have to say I am so super proud of my daughter, because she was very nervous but ended up loving it.
So then off to Disney World we go. We had four days in Disney and broke it up to one day of relaxing, and walking around Downtown Disney. Of course, this turned into a major shopping spree. The Disney store there is so irresistible. The girls were in heaven. Then we went to Epcot. I personally love Epcot. There is not as much for the young children, but they were content walking around seeing the different countries and sights. We all loved the Spaceship Earth ride and of course the Nemo and Friends ride was a hit. Epcot is a great place to see the characters. We were able to see everyone (Minnie, Mickey, Pluto, Goofy, Donald, Daisy, Pooh, Tigger, Chip N Dale, and Country Bears). The character lines were not crowded except Minnie and Mickey. Even there, we only waited about 30 minutes and it went quickly.
We chose to eat in Germany in the World Showcase at the Biergarten. The kids were able to sample some traditional German food while being entertained with the folk music and yodelling. There are many things I love about this part of Epcot but most of all is the folks that work in the different countries are actually from that country. It makes it feel that much more authentic.
The next two days we spent at the Magic Kingdom. We chose to split it up into two days because there is just so much to see and do. With three youngsters, you need all the time you can get. The Magic Kingdom is just that....Magical. I love it. I will never get tired of going or watching my children illuminate while there. There are so many wonderful rides and shows. We were very lucky to have dinner at the Royal Table in Cinderella's castle. This was a major highlight for our girls. They were able to dress up as their favorite princesses and dine among Snow White, Ariel, Jasmine and Princess Aurora. As you enter you get to have an autograph and specialized picture with Cinderella. You truly felt like royalty!
I do have to say I really like the fact that you are able to bring in your own soft coolers to the Disney Parks. We loaded up two soft coolers with water bottles and snacks. This helps a lot when you are traveling with young children.
Another thing we loved to watch was the parades. We were smart this time and one of us went and saved spots on the curb so that we had first hand seats for the parades. My personal favorite was the Electrical Parade in the evening. If your kids still have energy we found that right after the 7pm parade we headed over to Adventureland and were able to do many rides with absolutely no lines. Just a hint...if you are there on a crowded day, it is best to decide what rides you really want to get on and get fast passes. The park only allows you to hold one pass at at time, so we split it up. If everyone didn't want the same ride, it allowed us to get two different fast passes.
As far as souvenirs we found that every where including grocery stores, Walmart, CVS, Walgreens...they all have Disney items at a much cheaper price. We ended up getting our T-shirts at Walmart for half the price if not more than at the parks. Also, this trip I did something different. The girls already have autograph books from previous trips that have sat in their closets...so this time I decided to bring picture frame mattes that the characters signed and then we can put a collage of the pictures in the middle. Also, for the princess dinner we bought white canvases that they signed which is something the girls can hang in their bedrooms.
We did buy some items in the park that I put away for birthdays and upcoming holidays. I can't help myself when I walk through the shops, but there are ways to save money if you plan. As far as the time of year, it was great for the weather. It was on average in the 70's and a bit warmer in Clearwater. We have been there in the summer when it is scorching hot and it is challenging. I like that during the summer months you can swim and also we found that the hot weather usually kept the huge crowds away. I know the ideal "weather" months would be March, April and May but I just can't handle it being super crowded. Personally, I'd rather have cool weather and less congestion.
Overall, it was a wonderful time by all. The kids were very well behaved and we all enjoyed some quality time together. All the warnings to behave properly paid off =) The photo at the top sums up what a great time was had and how exhausting the girls were at the end of the night.
Now, it's back to reality and laundry (bummer) and back to school for the kiddos. I wish you all a blessed weekend. I hope you get to do something you love.
“What ever you do, do it well. Do it so well that when people see you do it they will want to come back and see you do it again and they will want to bring others and show them how well you do what you do.” ~ Walt Disney
Hi I'm Jen, married to my best friend for 16 years and a Mom to 3 beautiful, energetic daughters. My blog is about life, learning to live with Grace and Girls Raised In The South (GRITS). Thanks for spending some time in my small part of the world! I hope you find a story you can relate to and you'll want to come back!
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