Markels Making Magical Memories–Day Nine

Magic Kingdom; 22,219 steps

Epcot is (I think) my favorite of the Disney theme parks, and we all had an amazing time at Hollywood Studios, but there’s something special about driving up to the Magic Kingdom:

And that first view of the Castle looking down Main Street USA is breathtaking!

While we were still near the entrance on Main Street, we saw some of our favorite storybook friends in a horse-drawn trolley:

We finally found ears at the Emporium Shop:

Our first stop (after buying ears) was at the Mad Tea Party. Bunny, in particular, was very excited about this classic ride!

While we were in the area, we also stopped for a snack at the Cheshire Cafe:

We tried the Cheshire Cat Tail (an amazing donut) and the All Mixed Up Slushy, which was wonderfully cold and refreshing:

As much as Bunny wanted to ride the teacups, that’s how much Chickadee wanted to ride Dumbo the Flying Elephant. I have to admit I was also really looking forward to this ride, because when I went to Disney World as a child, it was shut down due to storms right before it was my turn to get on, and I never got back to it.

We also saw some of the big parade on Main Street, but since we were planning on seeing it later in the day, I didn’t take any pictures of the floats (spoilers…we never saw it again). The reason we were back near the entrance? Ryan had scheduled a session with a Disney photographer, and we got a lot of great pictures!

We also caught a bit of the Dapper Dans act, which I really enjoyed!

At this point, we split up for a bit. There was no way I was going to go on Space Mountain again (my bad memory from my childhood trip to Disney), so I took those who weren’t interested in the roller coaster to instead ride the People Mover (which is a low-key favorite of mine) and the Astro Orbiter:

After we found each other again, we set out for the other side of the park, which meant we got to catch some of the show outside the castle along the way. I was especially excited to see Daisy Duck in her 50th anniversary outfit. (Chickadee was excited that characters from both Tangled and Frozen appeared in the show!)

We didn’t go on any rides in Adventureland, but we did have one Very Important Stop to make there, because I wasn’t leaving Disney without trying a Dole Whip. We also got a Dole Whip float, complete with Tiki sipper, for good measure!

While we waited for the parade that never took place (thank you afternoon storms) we tried a lobster roll from Columbia Harbour House in Liberty Square

And then we headed to the Haunted Mansion. I wasn’t too interested in this one, so I was really surprised by how much I liked it! It wasn’t scary at all…just silly and fun!

Following the Haunted Mansion, we split up again for a bit…I took a jaunt to Disney’s First Aid (which is a really nice facility!) with a child who had irritated eyes due to the copious amounts of sunscreen we were wearing, while everyone else who wanted to took a ride on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. This also gave me a chance to admire the castle from different angles!

We might have missed the big parade, but we did catch the Disney Adventure Friends Cavalcade, and we learned that we were there for a very exciting event…Mirabel made her debut that day! (And did I mention that 6/26 is also “Stitch Day”? We were very excited to see Stitch join in the parade!)

I finally got to ride It’s a Small World, which was designed in part by Mary Blair!

After attending Mickey’s PhilharMagic, we of course had to ride the carousel:

We’ve had Mickey Bars at home, but our trip to Disney wouldn’t have been complete without sharing one at the park, too!

I think Fantasyland was my favorite, probably because it felt like what I imagine Europe feels like.

Even the back of the castle is pretty!

We took another walk down Main Street as the lights were starting to come on:

And Ladybug bought a “Banana Boom” at the Plaza Ice Cream Parlor, which she kindly shared with all of us (it was huge!).

We then claimed a spot to watch the fireworks…there’s something so special about seeing them over the castle!

The Magic Kingdom is open later than the other parks, so we didn’t have to leave right away. Instead, we rode the teacups again, and then took a ride on the Tomorrowland Speedway, which gave us a great view of Space Mountain all lit up:

One last look at the castle…I’m so glad we got to see it all dressed up for Disney World’s 50th anniversary!

Up next: Our “rest day” at Disney Springs.

Markels Making Magical Memories–Day Eight

Hollywood Studios; 14,624 steps

We finally made it to Hollywood Studios, the park everyone was most excited to visit…you’ll see why in a minute! I loved the mid-century feel of the gates:

It really did feel like being in Hollywood (well, as far as I can imagine, anyway)!

One of the best parts of our trip to Disney was sharing the experience with a friend! I’m so happy the children got to make so many memories with their godfather!

We were most excited about exploring Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. It really feels like you’re in one of the movies!

Where else can you see the Millennium Falcon?!?

I won’t even try to describe it all now…I’ll save that for a full post later. But we built lightsabers at Savi’s:

And we built droids at the Droid Depot:

Plus we picked up a job flying the Millennium Falcon to Corellia for Hondo Ohnaka (I was a pilot, which was probably a bad idea, but I got to engage the hyperdrive!).

We also got to see Muppet Vision 3D and explore that area of the park:

And we checked out the hand and footprints by the Chinese Theatre:

Before lunch, we spent some time relaxing and taking in the sights around Echo Lake:

Our other big event for the day was our one fancy meal on vacation…lunch at The Hollywood Brown Derby. It was just like I remembered it from my childhood, and one of the best meals I’ve ever had (full details to come):

We didn’t go on any of the rides in Toy Story Land, but we did enjoy walking through it and seeing everything!

We did have a fun ride on Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railroad…and we were very happy to see that Goofy was recognized as Employee of the Month!

Another evening, another lights and fireworks show:

And a night photo of the Fab Five with their lightsabers lit up:

It was a great day full of amazing experiences!

Up next: A day at the Magic Kingdom!

Markels Making Magical Memories–Day Seven

Epcot; 24,760 steps

We thought this day would never come! We finally made it to Disney World and EPCOT (this would be the last and only time before my final park entrance that I didn’t get flagged by the metal detector)!!!

The had a really cool camera set up at the front of the park that took a very unique photo of the Fab Five:

I was so excited when I realized that the EPCOT International Flower and Garden Festival would still be going on while we there…there were amazing topiaries everywhere!!!

My family tells me I ran to hug Minnie Mouse…I thought I was walking at a perfectly normal speed. I don’t know what actually happened, but I will say that I was not expecting to be so excited to meet Minnie…it was a total thrill!

After going on the Frozen ride in Norway we went on the new Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind roller coaster (our song was “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”). I was not prepared for how, um, intense the ride would be, and I can’t say that I’d go on it again. I’m glad I got to experience it with my family, though, and I’m really happy they all loved it (except for maybe Chickadee, who was about as thrilled as I was).

We then made our way back to the World Showcase, which is definitely my favorite part of EPCOT.

We tried to experience something special in each country. I was surprised to discover that one of my very favorite things was the Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros in Mexico. It was such a chill, fun boat ride, and it inspired us to watch The Three Caballeros pretty much as soon as we got home!

We saw a mime in Italy:

We didn’t eat a full meal at EPCOT, but we sampled foods in several different countries…here’s a look at a few of of the things we tried: Kringla in Norway, a Mickey Mouse shaped pretzel in America, and a ni├žoise sandwich in France (not pictured: pretzel bread with ham and cheese in Germany, chicken potstickers in China, and fish and chips in England):

This may be as close to Germany as I get!

There was quite a bit of rain while we traveling the world (although we did get a chance to dry off a bit while we waited to ride Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure), so we were still pretty soggy for the rest of our visit. We enjoyed walking around the rest of the park, anyway, and took in the sights inside and out:

The geodesic sphere that houses Spaceship Earth (which we road before the fireworks show) looked beautiful as the sun was going down:

And stunning reflecting off the water after dark!

The fireworks were amazing…the whole show was choreographed so well, the musical choices were excellent, and the reflections on the water were gorgeous! It was probably the best of the fireworks shows we saw (although it’s hard to compete with the display over the castle at the Magic Kingdom!).

One last look before we left:

Up next: Our most hands-on day at Disney World when we visited Hollywood Studios!

Fireworks Season

Pretty much the best thing about August is the Sunday night fireworks shows in Animal Crossing New Horizons. Here’s a look back at each of the five shows I’ve enjoyed this year. I dressed up in a different kimono (with coordinating kimono sandals) each time to really capture the Japanese festival spirit, and once I even carried a parasol, mostly because Roald was concerned that the fireworks were so bright, we’d need “fireworkscreen.” I also branched out a bit and designed a few more fireworks myself, including a pair of them to commemorate Tokyo 2020.

Now that the big, in-game summer event is over, I guess it’s time to start looking forward to fall!

Fireworks!

As part of this year’s 200th birthday celebration, Belleville actually had an Independence Day fireworks display. On the 5th of July, but still…this is the first time Belleville has had fireworks since we moved here eight years ago!

The show started late, but it was worth the wait…I hope our town considers doing this every year!

Fourth of July Memories

The Fourth of July is one of my favorite holidays every year, and I think it’s because of where I grew up–Wheaton, Illinois. I truly believe that town has the finest Fourth of July celebration outside of the east coast. As a child, there was always something to look forward to on the Fourth, in addition to the standard BBQs/picnics/family events.

First, is the Wheaton Municipal Band’s patriotic concert. This occurs on the Thursday before the Fourth, (my favorite years were when that Thursday happened to fall on the third of July, kind of an Independence Day Eve celebration), and features all kinds of patriotic and American music, including my personal favorite, “Stars and Stripes Forever.” They are a truly talented group of musicians, and the Wheaton concert always helped me feel better about not getting to attend the Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular.

Then there’s the Fourth of July parade. It was once billed as the biggest Fourth of July parade in the state. I don’t know if that’s still true, but I do know I have many fond memories of the parade from my childhood. Bands, floats, horses, dozens of flags…even the shopping carts that are so common in parades…it was all there. Dignitaries, too. It wasn’t uncommon for the governor to march in the Wheaton, (and the later-in-the-day Glen Ellyn), parade. One year, he even stopped in at the Hallmark store I worked at to pick up a thank-you card–how cool is that! (This was before the troubled state of the Governor’s office in Illinois.)

And, of course, it wouldn’t be the Fourth without fireworks. Wheaton also has an excellent fireworks display, held at the county fairgrounds. Once I was old enough to drive, we often would park in the Target parking lot near the fairgrounds, and watch from there. It wasn’t unusual for the spectacle to last for 45 minutes, and every time you thought that certainly the finale had come, there would be another grand display. It was pretty impressive for a town of 50,000!

You can see how I grew up loving the Fourth of July. And even though our celebrations are a little different, living in a different place, it’s still a huge deal to me, celebrating our great country’s birthday!

How to Celebrate Independence Day, the John Adams Way

I have loved this quote from John Adams regarding Independence Day celebrations ever since I read it last year:

“I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty; it ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”

Even though he said it over 200 years ago, it describes perfectly our Fourth of July celebrations today!

  • Pomp and Parade? Check! Between speeches and patriotic music, I think we’ve got pomp covered. And I do love a good Independence Day parade!
  • Shows, Games and Sports? Check! The shows might be a little different from what John Adams had envisioned, but who doesn’t love an opportunity to watch Yankee Doodle Dandy? Or The Patriot? Or 1776? Or Independence Day? And the Fourth of July is a great time for families, friends, and neighbors to get together and play all sorts of games, or to watch a sporting event on TV.
  • Guns? Check! Between cannon blasts, and fireworks, (which are really just colorful guns), this is probably the most anticipated event of any given Independence Day.
  • Bells? Check! If not church bells ringing, then bells in concerts all across the country. Big or small, bells are ringing all around America for the Fourth of July.
  • Bonfires and Illuminations? Check! There are those fireworks, again, and lights in general, as everyone stays up late to celebrate America’s birthday. Even backyard bonfires are not uncommon, as families huddle around them, and talk late into the night.
  • From one end of the continent to the other? Check! I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t love at least some aspect of the Fourth of July, whether it’s the fireworks or the time with family, the food or the parades. And it doesn’t matter if you live in a big city or small town, (or even on a farm in the middle of nowhere), east coast or west, north or south–Americans all over this country are celebrating today–celebrating our strength and our freedoms, celebrating all of the things that make this country great!