We had the most magical time on our latest trip to Disney. This time around we flew and we visited Universal Studios!
We set off for Detroit on a Thursday afternoon after picking up the kids from school. All of the bags and luggage was packed and we were ready to go!
Our 3:30 a.m. wake up call came quickly and the kids were fantastic about getting around. Jane insisted that she help with the luggage.
This was the kids’ first time flying and their first time in an airport. I hadn’t flown since I was pregnant with Henry – 11 years prior. Jon has flown several times throughout the years and was used to it being just him, so having four extra humans along for the ride and baggage to check was a new experience for him.
Henry and Eliza were extremely excited!
I, on the other hand, well, I was anxious and nervous and not wanting to fly.
This little one kept me occupied…
Here we go…
The pilot offered to have Jane wear his Captain’s hat and sit in his chair! She refused, but how cool that he offered. He even got out of his seat and everything. Still an amazing experience!
A quick unmasking for a photo op!
I finally looked out the window as we were descending in Florida.
On our way to the resort. Jane passed out almost immediately.
The kids counted down as we drove under the Disney sign! Our driver loved it and even joined in!
As we arrived the kids were each given a special 50th Anniversary wooden token with GF (for Grand Floridian) on it. This lively gentleman then walked us inside and assisted us with our needs. Of course we all look absolutely exhausted, but I’m sure they get that all day…it’s Disney after all. Tired is Disney’s middle name. LOL!
Inside the lobby…
Jane’s 1st Visit Button! I made sure to ask for one.
Our room wasn’t quite ready. In fact they asked if there was a room we preferred. I jokingly asked, “Why?! What do you have available?”
Since our room wasn’t ready we headed over to a quick service dining restaurant, Gasparillo’s, that was nearly empty every time we went to grab some food. It was a perfect hidden place for a quick lunch/dinner.
As we walked over to grab lunch, Henry spotted the castle. I knew I’d want a picture of Jane the first time she saw the castle I just wasn’t expecting it from this vantage point. We had been to this resort once before so I just figured we’d have to walk to the lake in order to see it, but we had never walked over to this spot, so I had no idea what to expect!
I quickly grabbed my phone and snapped some pictures!
I love this picture of the kids. It reminds me of an old 1980s type picture of everyone being exhausted and hot and trying to get used the weather all while the sun is in their eyes…and the castle in the background helps, too!
This little corner became our spot since it was usually empty. I’m not sure what’s going on with Eliza, but I’ll just say that she was hungry…or excited? LOL! She’s hilarious!
We had changed our Michigan winter clothes to our Florida clothes in one of the bathrooms on property – it wasn’t the easiest task, then we headed over to find a pool and to change our clothes yet again in order to get in some swimming. Packing for one change of clothes and swim gear proved itself to be challenging, but it somehow worked out well.
We left the pool above for the pool below, which was more mellow and not as loud. We loved this pool.
Jon and I had afternoon drinks and were able to actually sit while the kids played.
Our room was finally ready.
Now, I must say that I thought we were going into an entirely different building.
As we passed said building I thought, “Oh cool, a different building.” We headed up to the third floor and based off of how the building was set up I knew that if we went right, we’d get a view of the castle and if we went left then we wouldn’t or we’d get a pool view. Believe me, I was soooooo happy to be there and I 100% thought we’d turn left. Remember when I jokingly asked what they had for a room at check-in??? Well, I’m wondering if that mattered…because we turned right…the park view!!!! Jon told us the room number and I couldn’t believe it!!! So then we attempted to use our Magic Bands to get into the room, but they weren’t working.
Of course then I thought, “Yeah, they must’ve messed up giving us this room – there’s just no way.” Then, a House Keeper came around the corner to ask if we needed assistance. He asked us some information and then unlocked the room for us.
Had we just been pixie dusted?!
So as we walked in, I knew…I just knew how we were situated. In slow motion I walked up to the balcony doors and I just lost it. I was crying. Like, really crying.
Now let’s rewind for a second…
I remember looking at this location over 20 years while on vacation with my parents and looking from the monorail over to this spot that I was now standing. It was surreal and it meant so much to be experiencing it now with a family of my own. I could cry all over again.
It was one of my favorite moments of the entire trip and probably one of my favorite moments of any trip I had ever been on. It was a moment for this mama – that’s for sure.
Jon, of course, had to flex! LOL!
Later in the day we had reservations at the Grand Floridian Cafe and had these Magic Moment pictures taken and every time I see these pictures I crack up. I don’t know what it is about them, just how tired we all were, Jane’s face, Eliza’s sudden 1980’s hairstyle! LOL! I love everything about it!
Once back in our room the kids all fell asleep rather quickly. I adored how Jane fell asleep on my chest, especially since that never happens anymore.
Once everyone was in dreamland, Jon and I went out on the balcony to check out the fireworks…
and I cried…oh, I cried.
I don’t remember which night we first noticed, but we could see Tinker Bell fly across the sky, too! It was absolutely amazing.
The fireworks were followed by the Electrical Water Pageant.
I just… I just couldn’t believe we were watching this!
The next morning we woke up nice and early and left for Universal Studios.
We had a Gryffindor, a Hufflepuff and the cutest little Slytherin (mostly because Jane picked the color green). LOL!
Once we were inside we tried our best to understand the park and where to go…
We made it inside. We walked to Islands of Adventure first and I’m so happy we did – while there we visited Ollivander’s, we rode on the Flight of the Hippogriff, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey (Henry rode this twice due to child swap), Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, Hogwarts Express, The High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride, One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, The Cat in the Hat, we watched the Hogwarts light show and we ate at Three Broomsticks for dinner. We used Express passes, which helped a ton. Although Hagrid’s didn’t allow for Express Pass usage.
These two were excited beyond excited!
Our first stop – BUTTERBEER…at 9:00 a.m.!
The Butterbeer helped us wait in line at Ollivander’s, but once it was gone, this is how I spent our wait; holding Jane up like this instead of carrying her. I wasn’t sure what this meant for future lines to come, but we made the best of it!
I cried. I cried again. After 14 months of reading the Harry Potter series with Henry and Eliza in the middle of a pandemic and having made that choice to commit to reading aloud and understanding, we were finally there – in Ollivander’s. I think Harry Potter will always have a special place in my heart. It was our escape from a world that was full of the unknown. It was my escape to reconnect with Henry and Eliza after months of tending to Jane. It was Henry and Eliza’s escape from the world of online learning – to imagine in a different way, to connect at a deeper level. I’ll be forever grateful for those precious months that we spent snuggled up together.
I could tell Henry thought he’d get chosen in this room. He took his hat off and was beaming. He didn’t get picked, however it was another great lesson, one that Harry Potter, himself, would’ve learned from, as well. 😉
No worries, though – each kiddo of ours secured a wand.
We got on a few rides and then headed over to Universal Studios via the Hogwarts Express.
There was a phone booth, so of course we took advantage!
They loved the walls. They were completely immersed…
The kids remembered this advertisement from the movies, but I couldn’t remember it at all. They insisted on a picture…
We rode more rides at Universal Studios but apparently I barely took any pictures over there. We rode Gringott’s and Despicable Me, we ate lunch and then decided to head back over to Islands of Adventure…
The Hogwarts Express was a different ride both ways! What a fun adventure!
Waiting on the Hogwarts Express to arrive…
We ate dinner at the Three Broomsticks and then the kids used their interactive wands. We also bought a chocolate frog from Honeydukes and Jane almost broke a glass canister. Oops!!!!
This picture really doesn’t have anything to do with anything except that I looked over and thought about how much I loved this girl at this moment. She looked all grown up and I didn’t want to forget it.
At this point of the day we weren’t sure if the Hagrid’s ride was going to happen. It had been at a 90 minute wait mostly the entire day, so we went to Dr. Seuss Landing to buy us some time until the crowds started to clear and to see if it’d be something we wanted to do. I had even turned off my MapMyRun at this point (I loved having it on while in the parks to see how far we walk).
I think we thought we were leaving. We had tickets for the next day, but it’s like Jon and I really, really wanted to get on Hagrid’s without telling it to one another.
In the meantime, we enjoyed all the Dr. Seuss attractions…
We decided to check the app again to see if Hagrid’s had gone down in wait time. It had dropped to 80 minutes so we walked back to the ride to check out the line. It didn’t look too bad so we hopped in line and agreed to wait just a bit to see how the line was moving. People were suddenly flocking to Hagrid’s and the line filled up quickly. Jon had to get rid of the stroller and it was nuts because as I was waiting for him people were passing in front of us like nothing I’ve ever seen! It was a crazy 60 seconds or so! We were moving along in line nicely and before we knew it we were in the thick of it.
We were able to catch the Hogwarts light show as we were in line, so that helped tremendously. We couldn’t see all of it as we were constantly moving, but the view from up high was breathtaking and the fireworks were awesome!
We also had some fun people in line with us! We didn’t talk much but I was grateful to have young men who respected that we had little children and the group ahead of us would randomly joke that entry to the ride was right around the corner…it never was – thank goodness for great people!
Jane passed out about 30-ish minutes into our wait (around 8:00). At this point we figured we “only” had about another 45-ish minutes to wait.
We took turns holding Jane. A sleeping 27 pound 2 year old is not an easy thing to hold, BUT it only occurred to me later how easy it was to wait in such a long line with a toddler who was sleeping rather than a toddler that was awake and tired, so it really turned out for the best!
I gave in multiple times and sat on the ground. Normally I’m an “eww” type of gal with things that fall on the ground and dirty shoes…and all of that jazz…but I was sitting…oh was I sitting. I told the kids to sit, too. Jon eventually gave in, as well. In fact, just as we were about 10 minutes from getting to get on the ride, it shut down, and I’d say almost everyone around us was sitting by this point. We were all inside a very tight/skinny part of the attraction and there was really nowhere to go except to leave out the emergency exit, which about a dozen or so of people ended up doing. Jane kept sleeping until the line started to move again. Jon and I realized that girly hadn’t had a diaper change all day… we felt terrible. So, you betcha that we gave Jane the fastest and most efficient diaper change ever and luckily I brought a diaper equivalent to Pull-Ups so that I didn’t need to put her on the ground. Nobody saw a thing and it was full of proof that Jon and I are indeed parents. If we were judged on teamwork we would’ve received a 10/10! LOL! Even the young men behind us commented on it. Don’t worry, Jane was covered up and safe and I sanitized my hands immediately. We were so happy for her to feel more comfortable!
We finally got off the ride around 9:30. We waited for well over two hours. We used the child swap option with Jane. I rode with Eliza and Jon rode second with Henry.
I’m not a rollercoaster type of gal – but I’m telling you that this ride was one of the best I’ve ever been on. EVER!
Here’s Eliza and myself after riding! So much fun! We were high-fiving! I had marks on my palms from holding on so tightly…
The park closed at 9:00, so it was empty as we exited. Normally we would’ve been taking more pictures, but we knew we needed to get out of the park and find a ride home. We were supposed to head back to Universal the next day after Jon’s CE conference, too. We had spent a surprising 13 1/2 hours at Universal and we were pooped.
As we left, we were able to see all of City Walk lit up. It was very cool, but we could also tell that it was more for adults at this time of hour. It’d be cool to go back with Jon to check it out, but at the time we knew we needed to keep on keepin’ on.
We checked out VooDoo Doughnuts as we left. We soooo wanted to grab some, but the line was basically wrapped around the building, so we took a picture instead.
We eventually found a ride back to the resort. Jon’s CE was bright and early the next morning so we all hit the hay immediately.
I woke up the next morning with the kids and we just took our time. At this point I still thought we were going to Universal in the afternoon, but I was secretly hoping we could just have a slow day at the the resort.
Come to find out, Jon was thinking the same thing! He ended up calling Universal during one of his breaks and kindly explained our long day and how the Hagrid ride took longer than expected. He asked if there was anything they could do about out tickets – and guess what?! Universal will be letting us use them some other time in the future! Jon and I were both relieved! We wanted to go back to explore more, but we were completely parked out for the day and now, instead of using our full day park day park ticket for only a half a day, we’ll use it for a full day someday in the future!
We were both so happy about this. The kids swam. We ate lunch poolside. I attempted to reserve a last minute dinner, which proved itself to be impossible, but I tried. We took the monorail past Magic Kingdom (so that the kids could see the castle up close) and over to our favorite arcade at the Contemporary. We then hopped on it again and visited the Polynesian and bought Dole Whips (so that we wouldn’t need to in the park) and then we slowly walked back to the Grand Floridian – it’s a lovely walk by the way – totally worth a monorail ride to explore the grounds!
Jane’s little face had us cracking up!
I just noticed the Mickey ears on the seat behind Eliza! OMG! I love Disney!
These two! LOL!
On the walk back to the resort! It’s all so pretty.
Back at the hotel, Jane sat in the little chairs…
…the kids had a little meeting…
Be still my heart.
Somewhere in there we grabbed some dinner and then decided to head out one more time to the pools. The little kid play area had just opened back up!
I kind of knew this would probably be our last time using the pools since we had a busy week of Disney parks ahead of us, so I’m so grateful we just went for it. This was also the most we’ve ever used the resort pools while at Disney. It was all so relaxing and magical!
The sun was bright for Henry I think. Ha!
Jane never meets a stranger…
Case in point.
We then went back to the room. I cried over the fireworks again, we packed up all the goods for the next morning, showered, set out clothes and lunches and went to bed. The next day was Magic Kingdom day and Jane’s first time inside a Disney park! Everyone was excited. We were so grateful for a rest day…
…and Jane fell asleep holding onto my arm. Love her.
There you go! Phew! Thanks for scrolling through!!!
Those were some busy and exhilarating days! Next up – Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom!
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EEK! Marie!! I can't believe the view from your room!!!! So dang magical. I'm just so glad y'all had the best time. I'm already excited for your next recap!!
Thanks so much! I still get teary eyed thinking about it! I know now that you can request any room/room number! I had no idea! I guess if you arrive early enough and check in at the front desk you have a really good chance of getting the room you want, versus using the digital check in…and you can request online when you first reserve your resort, as well. I'll forever request a particular room. Oh Disney, you with all your magic!!!
What a fabulous room! It sounds like a wonderful start to your vacation.