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Backs of Shirts Just as Important as Fronts!

Backs of Shirts Just as Important as Fronts!

Opening Magic Kingdom

Opening Magic Kingdom

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Tickets To Ride. . .To The North Pole!

On Saturday, we headed to Mount Pleasant and the ground of the Old Thresher's Reunion for our annual trip to the North Pole via the North Pole Express!  Our tickets were purchased mid-October via mail in registration for the first train of the day.

When I picked up the tickets at the ticket booth, the outside of the envelop said "Poinsettia" and I figured we were again riding on one of the coaches.  It wasn't until I looked inside the envelope and saw that our tickets were for the Poinsettia Caboose!  We were excited!

A list of offerings at the North Pole along with a map were provided in our envelop as well.

The husband asked if all the trains were sold out and was told "yes."  The trains were running the Saturday we were there and for the next two week-ends. . . the first two week-ends in December. 

We had a few minutes before the the train pulled into the station.  Guests were either too excited or too cold to sit and wait for the train.

You can see the train coming round the path behind the boy.  It was the number 6 Shay!  Nothing can stop the Shay!
Here is a video of the train coming:

Soon we were climbing into the Poinsettia Caboose.  Here is the video:

The husband and the boy decided to sit in the top of the caboose for the trip to the North Pole.

Here is video inside the caboose:

During the ride to the North Pole, a portion of the audio of book The Polar Express, is played throughout the train.  The story ends and the music swells as the train pulls into the North Pole and guests are greeted by a winter wonderland!

Our first stop is Santa's Caboose at the North Pole!

We saw the Snow Princess while waiting in a short line to see Santa.

Santa has a pocket watch with a train!  The boy told Santa what was on his wish list. . . video games for his Nintendo 3DS XL.  Santa took note!

Here is video inside Santa's Caboose:

The husband and the boy were thrilled after seeing Santa and stopped for this photo on the way out of the caboose.  Can you see the bell in the boy's hand?  Each guest seeing Santa receives a bell.  The bell rings for all who truly believe!
Hot chocolate and cookies were next on the list and are included as a part of the ticket.  I believe this photo was taken during seconds!
We visited the Red Caboose Gift Shop next, but not before I snapped a photo of the sign on the door.

Oh, so many things to look at and all train themed.  We can home with an ornament for the Christmas tree to commemorate the event and a small battery operated train set.

One of our traditions at the North Pole is take a photo of the boy with the conductors.  Here are as many conductors as we could gather at the North Pole for this photo.  Each coach or caboose has a conductor for the trip to and from the North Pole.  We appreciate these folks volunteering!

Electric trains were set up for children to take turns running and the boy spent quite a bit of time in this spot while we were at the North Pole.  He got a certificate to bring home, too.

A commemorative photo is taken of every group while at the North Pole and is included as a part of your ticket.  Just remember to pick-up the photo before loading the train back to Mount Pleasant.
Soon it was time to board the train.  In total, we spent about an hour and a half at the North Pole.  Just enough time.  The boy grabbed more cookies and another cup of hot chocolate to take with him on the train for the return ride.
Here we are back at Mount Pleasant after deboarding the train.
We went to get a closer look at the engine. . . the number 6 Shay.
I couldn't resist taking a photo of the manufacturer's stamp on the train.  It was made by Burnham and WILLIAMS Company!

A lovely family from Muscatine, that was with us in the Poinsettia Caboose, offered to take the picture above for us.  How kind!  It was their first time at the North Pole Express.

The boy made it inside the the engine thanks to a familiar face.  The gentlemen in the picture below has been a conductor for a number of years we have been going to the North Pole Express and is now a "fireman" on the train.  It was great to see him!

We have bells from Santa at the North Pole Express dating back to 2006. . . that hang on our Christmas tree.  Each year, the bell is a bit different in size or color, or colored ribbon attached to the bell.

Riding the North Pole Express to the North Pole has become a family holiday tradition.  This year, the boy pointed out that the North Pole was a shed decorated to look like the North Pole, but he had no hesitation visiting with Santa.  The lure of trains may be part of what keeps him coming back and he enjoyed interacting with the other children.  I'm wondering how long this family tradition can continue but am hopeful for at least one more year.

If you would like to a ticket to ride to the North Pole via the North Pole Express, click here for more details.    Mail-in registrations typically begin mid-October and phone sales begin Nov. 1.  Tickets are usually sold out with a day or two of phone sales opening, so plan accordingly.  This is not an event that you can stop by and get a ticket so planning ahead is a must.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Planning Paradise Mail

Disney Cruise Line’s private island Castaway Cay is paradise!  The well themed island, located in the Bahamas, is a stop on most DCL itineraries.  We have been to Castaway Cay four times and plan on two more visits during our upcoming “double dip” 5 night cruise.

During a stop at Castaway Cay, I am planning on using the post office on the island.  No, not to ship purchases home or pay bills, but to mail a bit of paradise to our friends and family. 

Here’s my plan:  I used the image above on some custom invitations through VistaPrint.com.  (the post cards were too expensive and started in groups of 100)  I was able to put our names and a greeting on the back and had 20 of them sent to us with envelopes. 

We will then address each of the cards before leaving home, attach the return labels I had made for free at Walgreens.com, and then take them to the post office at Castaway Cay for a Bahamas’ post mark.

Then, I will check the Personal Navigator for times the post office is open on Castaway Cay and use cash to pay for postage. 

While we have been near the post office on Castaway Cay (it is often a character meet and greet location when not open) we have yet to use it for mail.

When I told the husband the plan, he just had a blank stare and said, “Okay.”  Little does he know that I plan on mailing one to our house, too.  Hoping for a little bit of paradise to find its way back to us in the middle of a Midwestern winter!

Do I Have To Be A Mind Reader, Too?

Do I have to be a mind reader, too?  The question came to mind during a recent Williams family dinner.

Since we are about a month away from our next Disney vacation, the conversation at dinner turned to planning and dreaming.  Who am I kidding?  The conversation could turn to Disney at any time, regardless of how long until our next trip.  Anyway, I was wondering out loud if we might see Merida on the ship.  (We saw Brave on DVD last week-end.)

The question started the husband thinking and these exact words came out of his mouth, “Who is at Hollywood Studios?”

Hmmm. . . now, a novice might be confused by this question, but I immediately went into mind reading mode.  Does he mean which characters will be featured in the location behind the Magic of Disney Animation in Disney’s Hollywood Studios?  I bet he does.

So, in less than a second, I responded Wreck It Ralph and Vanellope.  Oh, he was excited! 

Mind you, I then told him how I had clarified his question in my head, since it was so broad.  He smiled and laughed as of course I knew exactly what he was asking with the initial question.  Yes, I have to be a mind reader, too!

Back to Merida.  If we were headed to the Magic Kingdom, we would have an opportunity to greet her, but since there will be no Magic Kingdom stop on this trip, I was wondering about sightings on the ship.  We will have to wait and see.

I have also been told by my fellas that if the Wreck It Ralph movie is playing on the ship, I must see it.  The Disney ships have 3D capabilities in the movie theaters along with showing first run movies.  We saw Cars 2 in 3D on our last cruise, so I am anticipating viewing at least one movie at sea, which is a decadent delight.

The conversations continue to center around planning for Disney at our house as the anticipation builds for our 5th Disney cruise and 10th trip to Walt Disney World!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

"I Get To Ride The Aqua Duck By Myself!"

“I get to ride the Aqua Duck by myself!” were the words coming out of the boy’s mouth at the pediatrician’s office the other day.  He was there for an allergy med check-up and took advantage of the weighing and measuring to determine his status for the Aqua Duck.

Coming in at 77 pounds and 56 inches, he is both tall enough and heavy enough to ride the Aqua Duck by himself during our upcoming cruise on the Disney Dream.

Oh, he rode the Aqua Duck on the last cruise. . . but either with me or his dad.  No solo riding.

In addition to showing his disposition towards Disney with his comments at the doctor’s office, he confused the office staff.  Both the nurse and doctor were puzzled by his Aqua Duck comment and most likely were thinking aqua duct.  What ten year old plans to ride in an aqua duct?  In the U.S.?  So it took some explaining in the office about the Aqua Duck, a water coaster on Disney cruise ships.  

The next thing he wanted to do was to tell his Dad, so we sent him a text message and he quickly replied.

The newest measurements also mean he has grown over two inches in 16 months.  No wonder he is hungry most of the time and has outgrown his jeans! 

You know you're a Disney fan if. . . you measure life in Disney milestones.  Being tall enough and big enough to ride the Aqua Duck by himself is indeed a Disney milestone.

We are less than a month from our next Disney cruise and preparations are in full swing.  I even snagged a deal on sunscreen while shopping the other day.  The anticipation continues to build!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Hiking Holiday Nights and Lights

Holiday Nights and Lights is a lighted display in a local park sponsored by our community’s chamber of commerce and is typically a “drive through” display.  But once a year on the evening before the display is open for car traffic, people can hike the lights with proceeds going towards developing our local trail system.

Hiking the lights has become a holiday tradition for our family and was part of our holiday kick-off week-end featuring Festival of Trees the next day—click here to read more, and Santa Paws the following day—click here to read more.  It was a trilogy of holiday delights all in one week-end and each one a fundraiser for a local organization.  Win, win!

Each year, the light displays get moved around a bit to new locations.  One of our favorite displays is the Frog Tree.  Check out of the video below to hear the frogs’ song:

The lighted tunnel is another favorite.  Check out the video below:

In my opinion, the only thing the lighted tunnel needs is some music to go along with those dancing lights.  Ah, but that would make it like the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios!

We’ve hiked the lights in a variety of weather conditions, some even requiring boots and snowpants, but this year, the temperatures were unseasonably warm and the crowd for the hike responded accordingly;  higher the temperature the higher the crowd. 

What are your holiday traditions?