Visitors (pt.1)- Kaylee!

While I was at Disney, I had a few visitors. It was always very exciting for me to show my friends and family where I was working and all of the things I had discovered, I felt like a super cool tour guide. The first person to make the trip down was my best friend Kaylee! I had been down in Florida for close to two months when she came down, and it was such a welcome sight to see her face. I was still struggling with intense homesickness and having one person I knew be there with me made it a little easier to call that place home. Fair warning: long post ahead!

Kaylee arrived on April 5th, a Tuesday afternoon, and left that Sunday, the 9th. I took an Uber to the airport since we had the intention of renting a car for the week. I remember standing around waiting near the bag retrieval for her to come down from her gate, and we even shared a really cheesy “run-and-hug” moment. It was a truly joyful reunion! After a small debacle at the car rental, we were on our way home- or to my apartment to pick up my things, and then to the shady hotel where we stayed for the week. I had a few friends who wanted to go see Zootopia (highly reccommend), so we drove to Disney Springs and enjoyed dinner and a show at the AMC theater, then walked around and looked through some of the shops. A nice end to a long day, but the fun was only just beginning!

The following day we were up and at ’em at 8:00 so we could catch the opening show for Magic Kingdom. While we both looked absolutely adorable, adorned with classic Disney ears and red lipstick, we missed the opening show by about 5 minutes and as the ferry pulled into the dock, the fireworks burst above the train station signaling rope-drop and the beginning of the day at Magic Kingdom. Not to be discouraged, be hopped off the boat and made a bee-line for the front gate- we were going to hit every park today, even if it killed us!

I had been to Magic Kingdom several times, but to be there with Kaylee was simply magical. To see her face light up when we were walking down Main Street was the best gift, and we she saw the castle we both turned to each other smiling like fools. Disney really is for any age. We decided to go meet Mickey because I hadn’t had the chance yet and his line was pretty short. Now I know that some of you will laugh it off, but there really is something to be said about meeting your favorite characters. When I met Ariel for the first time I was almost cried, it was a childhood dream come true. To meet Mickey, my “boss”, made me nervous and excited, and it was such a lovely experience. He showed us a magic trick, gave us both huge hugs, and when I showed him my Mickey watch, he commented on how swell it was! We left the meeting hall feeling giddy and high on the magic. By now, it was nearing 11, so we decided to leave Magic and possibly return later in the day or another day altogether. Heading off to Animal Kingdom, we said goodbye to the castle and hello to our next adventure.

Now, let this be a lesson to you kids- if you’re going to write about something, write about it immediately. Either that, or make really good notes for you to return to. Now, nine months later, Kaylee and I have spent a couple hours combing over what details remain to try and piece our few days back together. Upon arriving at Animal Kingdom, we know that we went into the Tree of Life and watched the Bug’s Life 3D show. From there, I’m pretty sure we walked the Pangani Forest Exploration trail where we saw many different animals including gorillas, meercats, and various birds. When we finished the trail, we ate at one of the quick service locations, and then moved on to Expedition Everest. Kaylee had not been able to ride Everest when she was at the park as a child, so now was her chance. I didn’t tell her much about it, I just let her enjoy the scenery and the experience. Expedition Everest is a fairly new rollercoaster at Disney which features a train ride through the mountains and a guest appearance from a Yeti. She definitely enjoyed the ride, and had the line been short enough I think we would have rode it again! That wrapped up our time at Animal Kingdom, so we headed for Epcot to enjoy the world showcase, and perhaps a few adult beverages.

When we arrived, it was probably around 3 in the afternoon. We decided we really wanted a margarita from Mexico, so we headed down to the showcase right away, got our drinks, and proceeded to walk around the big circle, commenting on the architecture and the detail in every country. We may have popped into a shop or two, but by this time we were dragging a bit. We needed our second wind, and we needed a short break. We headed over to Living with The Land and the Finding Nemo ride, took a quick tour through the ocean with Dory and her friends and then enjoyed watching the dolphins and sharks for a short period. Around this time we were realizing that we wouldn’t make it back to Magic Kingdom in time if we also went to Hollywood Studios. We decided that we would use Kaylee’s fourth and last day for a second run at Disney instead of using the time to explore Orlando, so we headed off to Hollywood knowing we had bought ourselves and additional four hours to enjoy at the park.

The first thing we did when we arrived was check the wait times for the Tower of Terror and the Rock n’ Rollercoaster. The coaster had a shorter wait, so we hopped in line and cruised the backstreets with Steven Tyler. After the ride, we realized we were starving. We hit up the Backlot Express and I enjoyed an amazing caprese sandwich, one that just cannot be replicated. After dinner, we went to meet Kylo Ren and Chewbacca, but unfortunately Chewie’s line was about a two hour wait. We really wanted to catch the fireworks, so we met just Kylo instead(an experience in itself), toured the gift shop, and then found the perfect spot for fireworks, setting up shop just outside of the Great Movie Ride. We both purchased outrageously expensive BB-8 cups(but they sure are cute!) and thoroughly enjoyed Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular! We left Hollywood Studios and went back to the TTC to retrieve our car and bug some of my co-workers. We rode the trams a bit, and then headed home. Exhausted but having had a great day, we fell into bed with ease, excited for the following day- beach day!

We left for Cocoa Beach around 11am and arrived shortly before noon. It was myself, Kaylee, and my roommate Katie. We stopped at a Publix to pick up snacks and then headed down to the water. The sun was hot, even being early April, and despite putting on plenty of sunscreen, we all left with some amazing sunburn. We enjoyed the ocean and the beach for most of the afternoon and then ate dinner at a small seaside restaurant, enjoying the view from the roof. When we got back to our hotel, we made a trip to Walmart for food and drinks, but ended up passing out before we could really enjoy anything we had just purchased. This day marked the beginning of a terrible cold for me, one that I thought was just sun-poisoning but plagued me for the entire month of April until I returned home in early May for a wedding, one that turned into an upper respiratory infection, but that’s another story. We fell sound asleep after our beach day, and woke up around 9 the next morning preparing for our final day at Disney. We had decided it would be all Magic Kingdom, and we were going to make the most of it.

We had already labeled our first day at the parks “DisneyDay2k16,” so it seemed appropriate to keep that theme, but just slap Pt.2 at the end. As part two took off, I was dragging but trying desperately to keep up, knowing by the end of the day I would be absolutely dead but that it would be totally worth it. We arrived a little later on day two, probably around 11 and our first stop was to the candy shop to get Kaylee a birthday button, and then off to Gaston’s Tavern for a cinnamon roll. We tried to catch Gaston himself, but his set ended at 11:30, and he didn’t come back until 3:30. Instead, we headed over to Ariel’s grotto to meet the princess, and then rode her Under the Sea tour(one of my favorite rides because of all the colors). After meeting Ariel, we wandered around Fantasyland trying to decide what to do, landing on Small World since Peter Pan would be out for a meet and greet soon. We timed it perfectly, enjoying Small World and exiting just in time to hop in a relatively short line for Pan. Kaylee was so excited to finally meet her childhood hero, I swear she almost dropped dead! Peter Pan made a few jokes about Kaylee growing up, and then offered her a high five. Walking away from meeting Peter, we were riding the high that comes from a magical moment, and decided to hop on the Haunted Mansion.

By the time we exited the ride, the Festival of Fantasy parade was working its way down the road, so we found a bench to stand on and watched some of the floats go by. Festival of Fantasy is always one of my favorite parts of a day at Magic Kingdom because it really sets the mood for the day- seeing your favorite characters interacting with the crowd and hearing the catchy music just puts a pep in your step. After FOF, we went to have a late lunch and then walked through the Christmas Shoppe(an absolute must). We headed over to Tomorrowland to ride Space Mountain, and the Carousel of Progress, and then over to Adventureland. We had lucked out during our time in the parks since they had been empty enough to allow us to ride many attractions, but at the beginning of that day we chose a FastPass for Space Mountain instead of Jungle Cruise, so when we arrived at the gates of the latter, we found a 100 minute wait. Deciding we had just enough time, we entered the queue, but 30 minutes later we realized that we weren’t going to have time to eat if we stayed in line. Fairly ungracefully, we exited the line(ducking under ropes, unhooking some chains, and butting through some lines) and made a beeline for Casey’s Corner. We ordered mini-corndogs and went to sit outside to wait for the nighttime entertainment to begin.

We had a pretty good spot to watch the Electric Parade, and then enjoyed Celebrate the Magic, the now retired laser light show. Finally, it was time for Wishes! Standing with the crowd and watching the fireworks was always one of my favorite things. Nothing else quite made me feel like I was really at Disney World than being surrounded by families and children all watching in awe at the fireworks bursting above the castle. It was close to 10:30 by the time Wishes was over, so we ran over to Tomorrowland and managed to ride the People Mover three times in a row as the park emptied out. We stopped at the ice cream shop and got ourselves a treat on our way out(Kaylee got extra chocolate on her ice cream cone because of her birthday button), making sure to take some candid pictures of each other, and even saw the encore of the Electric Parade as we left the park. It was a truly perfect and magical day, made even better by being able to spend it with my best friend.

We were going to bother more of my coworkers at the TTC after we left, but decided we were both entirely exhausted and headed back to the hotel instead. The next morning we left with enough time to return the vehicle to the car rental (which was a journey it itself), and then said a tearful goodbye at the gate. It was so nice to have Kaylee there with me for a few days and as she walked away I realized that I was once again alone here in this strange place. Within the next month, I would make real connections with my coworkers and my homesickness would give way to sadness upon the end of my program, but at this moment I was just sad to have my friend leaving. However, not five minutes after we separated, we were texting one another and my fears were set at ease.

With my next program approaching, Kaylee has vowed to visit again, so I have a feeling a “Kaylee-visit part two” will be coming eventually, but for now I can finally rest easy knowing that our great Disney Day 2k16 adventure has finally been chronicled!

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