in pursuit of magic

Two months, when my folks invited us down to Florida for Christmas, Mitchy and I thought – LET’S DO IT. Let’s do DISNEY.

Mitch ordered about a dozen books filled with area maps, ride revues, restaurant guides, and touring strategies (everything from  to half day honeymoon to where to watch the parade from if you have a child under six  & need to get out before the crowds, etc. ) We poured over them for months.

And on the morning of December 18th, Leila woke up to a special delivery from Santa Clause: three boxes, gorgeously ribboned and wrapped, and a letter from the jolly old man himself. One box contained a beautiful pink princess dress that Santa’s letter instructed, “must be worn for your lunch with the princesses”.

Our girl happily packed up her princess dress (and as many other dresses she could find) and prepared for the magical take-off. Whether we were ready or not, Disney was happening. Mitch and I both took deep breaths and gave each other pep talks.

We arrived in Orlando without too much of a problem, with no winter snow or delays. Our Disney plans were shaping up. We had four days, and Mitchell insisted that we must be very tactical about our arrangements – no spontaneous whims (which i am prone to). I agreed. Logic. We would plan well, execute well. Monday we were going to start at Disney’s Hollywood Studios: we planned to take in a few shows, a couple of rides, and have an easy day, as we knew Lei would be tired from traveling.

But then something happened. I started to feel nostalgic. And I got whiny.

I wanted to ride the teacups, go on the ‘it’s a small world’ boats, and basically re-create my own five year old Disney experience. I didn’t want to go to Hollywood Studios,  I wanted to go to the Magic Kingdom –  see the Cinderella castle, and be carried away by music and floats. I wanted to melt into ice cream sandwiches and blow bubbles with four year olds.

“Mitch, this is what Leila wants,” I argued, “to see the castle and the princesses.”

“Mo, she doesn’t even know about the castle,” Mitch contended. “And it’s eleven o’clock. We’ve already missed the prime time when the books say you need to arrive,” he continued, flipping through our gigantic unofficial Disney guide, wide-eyed, rubbing his temple.

“We won’t have to aim too high,” I said, “we’ll just go and check things out and see where the wind blows us.” I was completely Disney mesmerized, drunk on my own memories. Mitchell gave me one of those looks I know very well. This is a bad idea, Mo, but we’ll do it anyway.

Day One: Disney Disaster

Needless to say, our first day at the Magic Kingdom was far from perfect. The anticipation was amazing – waiting in line from the parking lot for the small ferry which would carry us to the grounds, and seeing that beautiful castle in the distance. Sidewalk chalk lay scattered through the lines of the hundreds of children who waited for the ferry, with things like,  i love you, mickey and my dream come true written by five and seven year olds. I thought i was going to cry.

But when we finally got through the gates, it was 11:45, and the crowds were already rushing around us. We walked rather aimlessly at first, but decided to wander towards Fairyland, soon realizing that Leila was getting hot and tired. She hadn’t even gone on a ride yet, and wait times in the lineups were saying things like: 45 min, 1 hour, or 1:30.We managed to get one Fastpass (Disney’s special cut the line system), and it was for 6pm. And we couldn’t get any more Fastpasses – until that one expired. We wandered into a 3D movie, enthusiastic about the prospects, only to be asked to leave when the projector broke or there was some technical problem. “Mickey’s lost his hat,” the stage manager simply said.

The queue to see Rapunzel from Tangled was also a hundred people thick, with many of the adults not even having kids with them. Leila was hot. And she wanted to go home. We tried to distract her with an ice cream cone, filing in line for over twenty minutes. And for a fleeting Disney moment she was happy. But when i walked away to get napkins, a woman bumped into her and her entire ice cream splattered all over the ground. Mitch rushed to her rescue, and for a moment she was inconsolable.

Then the music started, and all of a sudden, there was Cinderella. Disney was saved!

The days that followed we took all of the book’s recommendations,  adhering to each little instruction. After that first day, our days began at 6:30 am, and we entered the parks by 8. The mornings were cool and the traffic was light. We were impressed by Disney’s Hollywood Studios and spent a full day at Epcot (sun up to sun down!) Day Four was our Magic Kingdom redemption, where we got an early start and everything worked out absolutely perfectly, hitting all the roller coasters and boat rides that Leila could handle, and by 1:00 we  headed home for a swim, returning in the evening for Disney’s crazy electrical parade.

Highlights? Lunch with the princesses at the Norwegian Pavilion – at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall. And was it worth it? Absolutely.

I think in some ways we’re still processing the trip, but it helped that we headed over to the Gulf of Mexico for a few days after to have Christmas with the folks, drink some wine and decompress.

Happy New Year everyone!

And now i want to hear YOUR Disney stories – please share. 🙂


  1. Of course you didn’t want to follow the book! Hahahah. Amazing. I’m glad Disney redeemed itself. I really wish I had gone as a little kid. We went when I was 16 and I still had a great time, but I CANNOT wait to take the boys and see their minds blown. It helps that N is a total Disneyphile. xoxo

  2. Oh, my GOD, I love this…….and I am both ashamed and SUPER PUMPED to say that I am going to Disney in March. With both kids. Aged FOUR-AND-A-HALF, and TWO (and a bit).
    Wish me luck……….

  3. Hilarious… I can just picture you, Mitch, Princess Leila, and the Disney guide book on that first day… glad you were touched by the Disney magic!

  4. I had one faithful reader email me her “Disney story”, and she has given me permission to share it. So thank you! And here it is:

    “With great anticipation and excitement I planned our trip to Disney. Single Mother and venturing out. They said my little boy was too young at 5 but “they” were wrong, it was the perfect age. I can’t speak for him but it was a time I will remember and treasure for the rest of my life and not for a second would I have made the experience any different.

    We left PEi with no other plans than to arrive in Florida in daylight, enabling me to rent a car and find a good motel close and cheap. While on the plane from PEI to Montreal the stewardess noticed that Joey’s ears were red and denied him to go any further until he had a clearance from a doctor. Making a long story short, hours later we had the clearance and were good to go. Trouble was I had planned to get there in daylight and when we arrived we were in darkness. As brave (some may say stupid ) as I was I stopped at the first hotel that I came across (that one night cost us not more than a whole week at our final destination).

    Finally finding a home base motel room we pursued the Disney experience. It has got to be one of the best times of my life, I will never forget “It’s a Small World” is the only one that we repeated. And we did it over and over.

    The memories I have of Disney World are awesome, it’s a dream world and an experience I know I will never forget, I wonder how he feels?? It was worth it to me, was it worth it to him.? I have never asked……

    Those days have lasted in my memories for all these years, I can still to this day picture his face throughout the whole experience and it was worth every penny . My only wish is that I could live those days again.”

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