This post is Part Three of our trip to Walt Disney World in Florida in October 2017. You can read Part One, all about where we stayed and our first ever visit to The Magic Kingdom, here. Part Two, covering the fun we had at Pirate Island Adventure Golf in Kissimmee plus what we got up to at Epcot, is here.
After a late night last night following the IllumiNations fireworks at Epcot, this morning definitely needed to be a lazy one so we headed down to the pool at the Balmoral Resort Clubhouse as per the request of the girls. They absolutely loved it there and we spent a good few hours playing on the waterslides, practising swimming in the pool and drying off in the warm sunshine before heading back to our villa for lunch. We pretty much had the whole pool to ourselves again which was just such a treat and having both the resort pool and the private pool at our villa to choose from on a daily basis felt like a real luxury.
In the afternoon we had a little trip out to Celebration, about 45 minutes away from our villa, and somewhere I’d been desperate to explore ever since we booked our holiday. Celebration was built by Disney but it feels a million miles away from Walt Disney World itself. Essentially, it’s a picture-perfect example of small-town America, often described as the ‘American Dream’ town with it’s little ‘villages’ of stunning houses clustered around a tiny shopping area and a beautiful lake. I completely fell in love with it in all it’s idyllic glory and could have spent hours there wandering around the streets.
We began our visit by heading straight for Kilwin’s Ice Cream Parlour, famed for being the best ice cream in town. We weren’t disappointed – the selection of flavours was immense, the potions were huge and it tasted delicious.
From there we wandered around the Lake, following the boardwalk. We passed an elaborately decorated Pumpkin Patch full to the brim of every item of Halloween paraphernalia known to man and stopped at a bench to take in the view back across the lake. There was a flurry of activity going on behind us on the green so I asked one of the men what was going on. It turned out that there were two separate events happening – Oktoberfest that evening in the main high street, with food vendors, live music and more. And then the following day there was a Fall Festival for all the residents of the town. I wished we could have gone to that but he was pretty clear that it was residents only – apparently you’re not even allowed to own a holiday property there so it’s a pretty exclusive place to live.
Once round the opposite side of the lake from the town, the foliage changed and we explored the offshoots of the boardwalk, listening out for different birds, trying to spot alligators and watching out for whatever wildlife we could find. I was also on the lookout for ‘the house with the slide’ – a lakeside residence with a slide going from the balcony on the top floor all the way down to the pool – but sadly we didn’t see it.
Our full circuit around the lake complete, we meandered back up past the shopping area and through the streets towards where we’d parked our car, marvelling at the fantastical ways in which people had decorated their properties for Halloween (I’m talking full on dragons, witches legs sticking out of windows, skeletons dangling from chimneys… the lot!).
I don’t think the girls were quite as enamoured with Celebration as I was, but apparently you can hire bikes and see more of it that way, getting underneath the surface a bit more, so if we go back that’s definitely something we’ll consider.
One of the main things we all wanted to see at Walt Disney World was the night-time fireworks display over Cinderella’s Castle. Because we were in Florida just before Halloween, an event called ‘Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party’ was happening on various nights at The Magic Kingdom. We’d planned to go and then discovered it wasn’t included in the price of our entry ticket and for the six of us to attend would have been pretty expensive. So we decided to give it a miss and returned to The Magic Kingdom on a non-party day instead in order to spend the daytime meeting more characters and trying out some more rides before watching the standard ‘Happily Ever After’ fireworks in the evening.
As it happens, Katie from Mummy, Daddy, Me and her family were at the Magic Kingdom on the exact same day as us but we didn’t manage to co-ordinate being able to meet up, which was a real shame. My three girls have long been fans of her Youtube videos and were really excited at the prospect of meeting Maddie, Lottie and Wren. Next time maybe 🙂
We went into The Magic Kingdom feeling a lot more prepared this time. That first visit can be quite overwhelming, but because we’d been there and sort-of knew our way around a bit it felt much easier. It was even busier than before though because it was a weekend, so the crowds did feel a little stifling at times. Seeing the performance in front of the castle quickly brought back all the magic though. It’s so hard to explain what it feels like – there is something just so special about seeing all the characters brought to life, watching the wonder on your children’s faces, and getting the butterflies in your tummy at the sight of the iconic castle.
We made a beeline for the character spots, and managed to squeeze in a visit with Cinderella, Ariel (in human form), Rapunzel – Lola’s favourite! – and new Disney princess Elena of Avalor who was absolutely lovely. She spotted Mimi was wearing her football kit and was asking her all sorts of questions about ‘soccer’, which made Mimi’s day as princesses aren’t normally her thing. We had to queue for quite a while to meet these princesses but it was totally worth it.
The girls’ autograph books were filling up fast, so next we headed to ‘The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh’, a mild ride. I think under ordinary circumstances we wouldn’t have bothered, but the teenager has loved Winnie The Pooh with all her heart since she was tiny and so we had to take her to meet him. (In all honesty I was super-excited to meet Winnie the Pooh and Tigger too – I have very fond memories of watching the film at my Nana and Grandad’s house on a Sunday afternoon as a child).
We wandered around a little more, soaking up as much of the Disney magic as we could before heading off to find somewhere for dinner so we could get to the Castle in plenty of time to choose a good spot to watch the fireworks from.
I have to admit, after Lola freaking out during the fireworks at Epcot, I was more than a little concerned about how she’d react with these ones, although of course I didn’t let on to her what I was thinking. I very nearly abandoned the whole thing and took her back to the villa because no-one wants to see their child scared and upset, but thankfully the husband talked me out of it, saying it wasn’t really very fair on everyone else who DID want to watch the fireworks. Poor Lola gradually got more worried as the evening approached and darkness fell and whilst we were able to distract her with some games on Neil’s phone once we’d found our spot and waited for the show to start, I knew it was only a matter of time.
At the very first whistle, bang and shower of colourful sparks she completely flipped, bless her, shaking and screaming and crying. In the end the only thing I could do was to sit down on the floor amidst the thousands of people on their feet, protecting her as best as I could from being trampled, covering her ears and trying to soothe her whilst attempting to sneak some peeks at the fantastic display going on in the sky. Sadly she didn’t calm down until it was all over, and even then she was still on edge, the slightest noise making her jump a mile. But I have to say, what I did see of the fireworks display was mesmerising. I love fireworks anyway but these were way beyond anything I’d ever seen before, and coupled with the accompanying light show, the music and the words being spoken by the narrator it was just beautiful (and pretty emotional too – I felt myself welling up at certain points because despite Lola being so upset it really did feel like a dream come true that we were there, in Walt Disney World, experiencing this spectacular and very special moment). If you only do one thing whilst you’re at Disney, make sure it’s watching the fireworks over the Castle. I promise you it’s worth it.
The husband, knowing that I was missing most of the show, filmed pretty much the whole display so I could watch it back later and I’m so grateful that he did that for me. There’s a little bit of the fireworks at the end of the video below.
We didn’t get back to our villa until after 11pm, all four girls falling fast asleep in the car on the way home, exhausted from the day’s events and dreaming of what exciting things we’d be getting up to in the coming days…