Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Vacation Memories: Florida and Disney

You know it's not going to be nearly as sweet as the misleading title implies.

Disney World.  Yes.  We'll get to that.  But first, upper Florida and my mom needing to be taken to the ER.  THAT was fun.  She smoked for fifty years & has been wheezing for many years and we all knew she probably had emphysema, but refused to see a doctor.  So finally, on the drive over, I got a call from my sister that things were happening.  I got there and basically had to bully my mom into the car by threatening to call 911 if she didn't get up and go.  It took over an hour to get her loaded into the car; I told her every foot was ten bucks of non-ER ambulance fees.  When we got there, the admissions nurse raised her eyebrows at my mom's oxygen levels and wheeled her immediately back, even though the ER was full. 

Luckily, she's doing better and is fighting with the nurses in her rehab for the lung disease she indeed has.  So far so good. I took her a tiny Christmas tree with lights and we left for Orlando.

It wasn't a bad drive, but the kiddos were restless.  We got there, the hotel was nice, etc.  Disney was the next day.  The hotel's advisor said we'd probably like Disney Hollywood because it would be less crowded.  Well, yeah, but Sean hated the shows; they were too scary for him.  He started crying and we left pretty early.  We had to coax him back onto the bus that night to go to the shopping/eating area called Downtown Disney.  After a nice night, it got better again the next day.

Magic Kingdom for Christmas Eve.  It was pretty crowded as the day wore on, but it was nice.  And the actual night was, at times, pretty amazing.  They had a snow machine going on the "Streets of America" section-- little bitty flakes swirled around and melted before hitting the ground.  The fireworks & light show was very nice once we finally found a spot.  We spent a lot of time trying to figure out what to do. 

Maia loved the roller coasters, the rides.  Once we discovered the magic of the "Fast Pass"-- a way to skip the lines with some planning-- things were a little better.  Sean boycotted all rides that were mysterious or scary looking and we ended up on the train that circles Disney several times. 

But the crowds!  Oy!  Our friends had warned us that Christmas was a crowded time but it was way too late for us at that point to change it.  There were so many people, and sometimes parents on their last nerve.  I kept thanking the Disney folks for being there so we could enjoy it; they seemed surprised & pleased that someone actually realized they were choosing to give up their "private time" so we could have the park on a holiday.  There was one really funny girl who ran the Jungle cruise ride who was also sick that day; I couldn't help but think of how the people who work there feel about working in a place like Disney.  A lot of them seemed very sensitive to anything you said to the kids-- if it sounded at all crabby, it's like they wanted to remind you (the parent) why you came there in the first place-- for the kids-- and not to be crabby with them, even if they WERE riding your last possible nerve.  I imagine they see some pretty bad parenting examples there; I opted to not be one of them, but there were moments with a headache, in a long line, where I could see someone really snapping.  Even I, who am usually pretty darn cheerful, needed to leave in the afternoon for that naptime release.   

I kept thinking of my friend Alex, and how much he would have HATED it.  There were moments on the last day when it was absolutely pouring rain and the majority of the crowds were huddled under whatever cover they could find while we cruised the then empty pathways that I genuinely had fun.  Very few people would go out in the rain (it's not like it was cold but it did eventually get to be too much, even for us).  So in spite of getting wet (which, honestly, if it had been ten degrees warmer people would have been paying to do at a waterpark) we were fine.  My toes got a little waterlogged while Andrew & Maia did their last cool ride and Sean & I waited to go.  The Disney gift shops made a killing on rain gear.  They sold out of the adult sizes so we were all wearing kids'.  Sean refused to wear one so he ended up with my soggy flannel. 

The driving there and back again was fine, for the most part. Long. And I am so glad to be home, but not unhappy to have gone there.  I think it was a good time for us to go but it will be many years until (if) we do it again.  It's not that I am inherently opposed to the "corporate Disney" experience but it's a lot of money for something that is not all that different, in the long run, from just your basic state fair, which we had far more fun at. 

Overall, I recommend the experience but only if you do the research and find out when it's actually really not busy.  The crowds are just too much, and it's a nice theme park, but two days would have been enough for us.  I hear summertime, when it's pretty hot, is the best, least crowded time.  If you can stand the muggy Orlando heat, it would be worth not standing in so many lines. 

I'm glad we went, but next year, we're opting for something way more low key.  Maybe a beach with warm water south somewhere, and margaritas, and kids rolling in the sand.  Far, far away from crowded places and gift shops.