Samantha and I took a girls' trip to Disneyworld for five days, while Robert and Marcus went skiing. We had quick and easy nonstop flights with Jetblue, no delays at all, and gorgeous weather in Orlando: not a drop of rain, sunny, lows of 72 in the early morning and highs of 87 or so midday. We stayed at the Caribbean Beach Resort, ate lunch with Donald Duck in the Animal Kingdom, ate breakfast with Winnie the Pooh at the Crystal Palace, went to the luau at the Polynesian, went to the Candlelight Christmas Processional concert at Epcot, walked about eight miles a day, and spent three beautiful late afternoons at the hotel pool, playground, and firepit. We missed Robert and Marcus, but we still had a lovely trip!
Samantha's favorite rides were the teacups, the carousel, the flying carpet ride, Dumbo, "It's a Small World," "the 3-D glasses ride" (the Buzz Lightyear one in Hollywood Studios), "the big kid water ride" (Kali River Rapids), the Finding Nemo ride, and "the flying ride where you're not really flying you're just sitting in chairs" (Soarin'). She seems not to mind motion on rides, but she really dislikes the dark, forbidding atmosphere of, say, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and (even worse) Pirates of the Caribbean.
We also went on Living with the Land, Spaceship Earth, and Figment, and we spent a lot of time at the dinosaur playground, the ant playground, the splash area near Dumbo, and the interactive science exhibits in Epcot (especially the color playground area).
She also really loved the "Turtle Talk" show, the Little Mermaid show, a random coloring project in the Japan pavilion, the wilderness explorer activity kit in the Animal Kingdom, a Moroccan storyteller, and the hula dance lesson at the luau. Of course, we saw both Magic Kingdom parades (complete with fake snow and Santa in the Christmas one) and also the show on the steps of the castle.
Our hotel was very spread out, so it was a decent walk from our room, to the beach, over a bridge, over another bridge, to the pool area and then dining area. We fell into a routine of doing the big pool first, usually when someone was leading a round of Disney trivia, then the water playground/kids' water slide area, then the dry playground to dry off a little, and then the campfire.
All of the animals in the parks (the live ones, not talking about the characters at the moment) were a huge hit as well. She spent ages in front of the manatee tank in The Seas in Epcot, watching them and talking about them, and she loved the safari and the different walk-through zoo areas in the Animal Kingdom (where she asked one of the cast members if the two year-old gorilla babies who were there still nursed, and explained that the baby gorilla in our zoo still nurses and is always on his mom). And don't forget about the goat-grooming area, where I think she could have sat in the dirt and brushed that goat for another hour or so.
We ate well on the trip, too--the Japanese chef made a "snowman" of onion slices on the grill, and then delighted Samantha as much by throwing shrimp tails up in the air and catching them--some in his hat--as by quickly cooking some udon noodles and steak teriyaki. At the luau, she ate many pork ribs, and she also discovered the joys of a Mickey waffle in the Crystal Palace.
And then there were the characters. Below left she's seeing her very first of the trip up close and personal (i.e., not dancing on the castle steps), and she was cautious, though smiling from her perch of safety. By the next day, though, she was right in there getting hugs and giving hugs and sitting on Mickey's lap.
Finally, on our last day before flying home, we were standing in line at Hollywood Studios forty minutes before the official (8 a.m.) opening. They started letting people in at 7:30 and we hustled over to the sign-up area for the kids' Jedi Experience (Trials of the Temple). Samantha was wearing her Star Wars dress and was excited about this. I'd explained that she would be one of the youngest kids there, since it was for ages 4-11, and that she'd have to listen to what the teachers said and then she could get to help out telling a Star Wars story on a stage for some other people. We talked about how someone dressed as Darth Vader would come out, but he wouldn't be real (and again, she'd been great with all the other characters, and she definitely knows that Darth Vader isn't real anyway), so I thought this had a pretty good chance of succeeding.
They asked the kids to line up from Yoda size to Chewbacca size, and she immediately ran to the front of the line. Then each kid was given a robe, and Samantha and the other line leader (a four year old boy she felt was not holding up his end appropriately) were instructed to hold the Jedi Training banner as they processed in a parade to the grounds of the "temple" over near the Star Tours ride (which there was no way I was going to take her on, because, dark, etc.--but again, all of the Jedi Training things took place outside in bright sun). Some of the bigger boys were hassling the cast members for calling them "younglings" instead of "padawans," and while the cast members had a technical answer for this, referencing events in the Star Wars universe, the boys were unconvinced. Samantha listened politely and did not, of course, hassle anyone.
She actually seemed thrilled to get her robe, and then to be spoken to by the female Jedi-in-training who was one of the two "teachers" in charge of the class of younglings. Each child was issued a light saber and told to stand on a blue circle on the stage and not to move out of it. Again, while some of the boys were squirmy and started to stray from their circles, she remained patiently in hers as they learned their little routine. Even now she can recite it and show the motions, and the fact that it was so similar to karate (ready position, etc.) really made sense to her.
The light saber was a little on the long side for her, but she definitely went through the routine and practiced carefully. All was going well when the male Jedi herded the children to one side (neglecting to say, "Now, younglings, step away from your blue dots," sadly--she remained on her circle longer than anyone else because she was clearly expecting this to be a trick) and asked them to do a force push to open the doors of the temple. He made sure to say that what they would see inside is not real, and cannot hurt them, but when someone dressed as Darth Vader emerged from the temple, Samantha lost it. She started sobbing, and a cast member whisked off her robe and light saber and hastily ushered her to the side. She sat on my lap in the front row to watch the rest of the show, and even whispered to me corrections of a few of the children (when they each dueled the villain individually, using their pre-rehearsed routine), saying that he didn't block very well, or something, but she was done, and there was no way she was going back on stage at the end to shake someone's hand and get a little pin.
From there, there was nothing left to do except drown our sorrows in a Mickey soft pretzel and go ride the 3-D ride one more time. It was adorable, if sad, but in the long run it seemed less scarring than Pirates of the Caribbean. Did I mention we had a great trip?
Jedi Training, first 9 minutes--until she had to leave the stage:
Watching the Candlelight Christmas Concert in Epcot (super short clip from grand finale):
Learning the hula:
Doing the Moroccan dance:
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Created: 12/31/15. Last Modified: 12/31/15.