Surprisingly, our whole family was up and ready to go even earlier than the day before, despite the high level of energy we had used up! The early start helped us get started on activities in the park sooner than we might have expected, and with the sun shining down on us, we were eager to take advantage of the better weather.
Having learned our lesson about the characters not being available for autographs/pictures until 10 a.m., we chose to stay together this morning and simply walked to the back of the park after getting our stroller. We did the Dumbo ride first, since we had had to skip out on it the day before. Then Ted took the kids to ride the carousel and the tea cups again while I went to stand in line for the opening of the Toontown area. So, by 10 a.m., the kids had already been on 3 rides, and we had a great spot in line to see the princesses!
There were 3 of them to see: Ariel, Cinderella, and Belle. Ted and I were quite impressed with the kind and gentle spirits shown by the characters. The ladies were all so sweet with the children. The boys were almost as excited as Charis was to meet the princesses and posed very sweetly for pictures.
After this, we walked through Minnie Mouse's house, then found Tigger just as he was walking out for pictures, so we added his autograph to the kids' collection. We unanimously decided to view Mickey's Philharmagic movie again because it was just that cool, and then we crossed to the other side of the park and climbed a replica of the Swiss Family Robinson's tree house. Very cool! It made Ted and me want to see the movie again, and perhaps the kids are old enough to watch with us sometime. It also has pirates in it, so I'm sure that will be enough to entice Tobin. :-)
Speaking of Pirates, we then rode that ride again, then escaped the heat to view a rather silly show with animatronic birds--but at least it was cool inside and we didn't have to wait to get in. We did wait to ride Aladdin's flying carpets, a huge mistake, as it was extremely hot and the line was much longer than we anticipated. The kids were quite grumpy and bickered a lot in line, and we were relieved to end the ride and move on. We took them to Donald Duck's water play area, and Ted left us there to go on a secret mission to purchase personalized Mickey ears for each child. Meanwhile, the kids began by rolling up their pants and taking off their shoes and socks. They ran through the little fountains, giggling and enjoying the cool water. I ended up letting the boys take off their shirts, and soon, I reluctantly let Charis take her shirt off as well. (There were a number of buck naked little kids running around, and I just couldn't bear to make Charis get all of her clothes wet.) Arden's pants came off next, leaving him in only his underwear, but hey, the kids were wet, cool, and happy! They definitely needed this break.
Ted successfully completed his mission, and we gathered up the kids and took them to Belle's story hour, where they enjoyed an interactive telling of the Beauty and the Beast story, complete with child actors that were picked from the audience. It was very cute.
Then we went back to the entrance to the park and picked a shady area to sit and wait for the Dreams Come True parade. Ted treated us to Mickey Mouse ice cream bars, which were only slightly less messy than the ice cream cones from the previous night. :-) The kids loved them, though, and we got a great picture of the boys with their chocolate faces that I'll have to post here when we return home. The parade was tons of fun. I loved watching the children wave to all the characters, shouting out, "Hi, Mickey! Hi, Pinocchio!" and so on. Now and then they would turn to us and exclaim, "There's so-and-so!" It was so exciting for them.
By now it was close to 4:00 and quite warm, so we went back to the hotel again for a rest time. I think Tobin is the only one who napped...well, I may have fallen asleep a bit myself, but I can't remember. It's all kind of a blur now.
For dinner we went to a more casual restaurant in the hotel, and Ted presented the kids with their very own Mickey ears. When he was about Charis's age, his parents took him and Joel to Disneyland, and he remembers their Mickey ears being very special to him and Joel. He recalls wearing them often over the next few years, and he wanted our kids to have something special to remember our trip. He had great fun picking out unique hats for each child. Charis, of course, got a pink princess hat. Tobin got an adorable pirate hat, complete with red bandana (which actually covers up his name on the back, but oh well) and earring. Arden's is very colorful and features Mickey on the front, Donald Duck and Goofy on the ears, and Pluto on the back. The kids were delighted with their gifts and were excited to wear them as we went back to the park.
Our return, however, was delayed slightly after Tobin dumped his lemonade, and he and Ted had to go back to the room and change. But we did make it back in time to do the Buzz Lightyear ride again, which was a huge favorite with all the kids. Then we took Charis to shop--she had been saying she wanted to buy a Minnie Mouse with her spending money. The boys had decided to purchase items from the AAFES store (Army-Air Force Exchange) in the hotel, which was just fine with us, as the prices were better than WDW and we didn't have to pay tax. But Charis ended up with more spending money anyway, since she's the only child who gets an allowance at this point, so I took her into the Minnie store only to have her tell me that each Minnie Mouse was "Too much!" Then she remembered that she had seen a stuffed Lady dog (from Lady and the Tramp), so we spent some time searching for the dog and finally found the ONE that the store had. Though Lady was only $2 less than the largest Minnie that Charis had looked at, and was in fact $4 more than a medium Minnie that she had looked at, Charis promptly decided that Lady was the love of her heart, and we carefully counted out her $1 bills for the lady at the cash register, who seemed impressed that Charis had saved her money and was paying for the item herself.
Then it was time to watch the fireworks! We found a place close to the castle and settled in for the show. And what a show it was! Tinkerbell "flew" from the top of the castle across the sky, and the kids squealed as they watched her. The fireworks were truly the best I have ever seen. Disney must spend billions of dollars on fireworks every year. I remember being at Epcot a few years ago (courtesy of Stampin' Up--it was part of the Manager's Reception when our convention was in Orlando) and seeing the fireworks there. That was also quite a treat. Disney definitely doesn't skimp when it comes to entertainment! We all enjoyed this part of our WDW experience tremendously.
After it was over, however, it looked to be quite stressful getting back to the front of the park. It's amazing how many people were there during what is supposedly an "off-peak" time of year! I'd really hate to experience WDW during a PEAK time of year! Since we knew we could sleep in the next morning, we decided to go to the back of the park and ride the Tea Cups again. We had thought perhaps we could get on the train and ride back to the entrance, but unfortunately it had closed down prior to the fireworks show and wouldn't run again. But, by the time we finished our ride, the throngs had thinned somewhat, and we were able to get to the park entrance faster than we would have if we had stayed to shuffle along with the pack.
The lines for the monorail were insane. Ted and I decided to forego getting in line for the express monorail, which would have taken us directly to the Ticket & Transportation Center, where we had to get on our hotel shuttle. Instead, we opted to take the monorail on the other side, which stopped first at one of the other resorts, then went on to our stop. We couldn't believe that more people didn't figure this out--we only waited for a couple of trains before getting on, and if we had gotten in line for the "express" ride, we definitely would have been waiting at least 45 minutes. Crazy!
We made the right choice. When we got to the transportation center, it was about 10 p.m. We waited with a number of other Shades of Green people for 30 minutes before the LAST shuttle of the day arrived. We aren't sure why it took so long, nor why there was only one shuttle. The driver looked rather alarmed when she saw how many people were waiting for her, and frankly, I think we probably doubled the maximum number of people allowed on one vehicle, but by that point no one cared. Arden had promptly fallen asleep in my arms when I sat down on a bench to wait, and Tobin was having meltdowns over every little thing. We were so glad to get into our room and get the kids in bed just before 11 p.m.!