The only word that comes close to describing the feeling of waking up in the “happiest place on earth” on my son’s third Birthday is surreal. We had waited so long for this moment to arrive and now it was finally here! If you have been following My Beautiful Adventures for a while, then you will know of the love Joaquín has for all things Disney. Some of his first words were the names of Disney characters. Thus, we knew a visit to “Mickey Mouse’s House” was eventually going to happen, we just did not know when. Then out of nowhere, I was contacted by Experience Kissimmee. They were eager to promote the city of Kissimmee as an alternative to Orlando; the starting point for all Disney adventures and more. Even though I had lived in Florida as a young girl and visited Disney countless times, I must confess I had never heard of Kissimmee before. I was super excited to take this mission on and the timing could not have been more perfect, as the trip would be the same week my son turned three.
For those that do not know, Kissimmee gets you even closer to all of the parks than Orlando. We stayed at the glamorous Melia Hotel, a Spanish inspired luxury resort less than ten minutes away from all of the Disney action. The city has world-famous shopping, dining, sports, and natural wonders. You can expect year-round sunshine, an array of accommodations, and the friendliest people you can imagine. I quickly found out why families return over and over again to Kissimmee, since it is a destination that truly captures your heart. We were already planning our next trip there before the end of the first day of our vacation. Trust me, when you get the Disney itch, look into staying in Kissimmee versus Orlando. You will be so grateful you did!
Our first day also happened to be Joaquín’s Birthday, so we dedicated the entire day to the Magic Kingdom, the park we knew he would like best. As we drove there, my husband and I sang to him “Happy Birthday” and of course we were both overcome with emotion. If you are celebrating anything special when you visit Disney, make sure to mention it to the person that you pay the parking fee to. They will give you a pin to wear and every time someone working at the park sees it they will mention it. I think a thousand people must have said “Happy Birthday” to my son! Also, I highly recommend paying the extra fee to park closer. You will be walking and waiting in plenty of lines once you enter the park and this indulgence is totally worth it. Take a picture of where you parked, because I promise after a long day you will forget.
Prior to our trip, we decided to invest in a better stroller. The one we had was doing its job, but it was not comfortable to push, especially not for hours on end. We hated to spend the extra money, but it was the smartest decision we made. It was actually a pleasure to push it and I highly recommend thinking about this before you depart for Disney if you have children. Remember to double check that your diaper bag is packed perfectly. Yes, you can buy stuff at the parks, but you will pay for that convenience. On that note, if you are potty training your children, think about putting them in diapers for the day. The bathroom lines are always long, which could result in a disaster. Another thing that helped a lot was having an external battery charger for our phones. Between taking photos and letting Joaquín play with them during the long lines they died quickly.
I will never forget Joaquín’s eyes when we first walked into the Magic Kingdom. Whenever I am having a bad day, I remember that moment. We had no plan for the day, rather we wanted to go where we felt pulled. I think if you have older children you should talk as a family about who wants to do what and set goals. The parks are so massive, you have to have a plan of action. However, if you are there with younger children just being there is enough. It can be really overwhelming if you feel like you have to do and see everything. Remember not being able to do and see everything gives you a reason to return!
Even though we were visiting during the off-season, the park was still packed. We were only able to ride three rides (lines averaged over an hour for each one) and I was elated that Joaquín’s favorite was mine as a child: It’s A Small World. Having said that, we saw two of the shows at Cinderella’s Castle. You have to make sure you attend at least one of the show’s while you are there (the schedule will be posted all over the park). The shows are spectacular and both you and your children will be singing along to the famous Disney songs performed. While we were there they were focused on Frozen and my son was in heaven!
We really wanted to stay until the fireworks in the evening, but Joaquín was exhausted by 4PM (as were his parents). I will not lie, my heart broke a little as we left the park even though I have no doubt we will be back again. It was so just so magical and my expectations were definitely exceeded. My biggest regret is that we did not investigate the Fast Pass+. You can find out all about it here. Do not go to the parks without it like us.
After a little break back at the hotel, we decided to venture out again to Disney Springs. It is a must-visit if in Kissimmee. We ended up making it our nightly ritual while we were there. At Disney Springs you will discover an eclectic mix of unique shops, one-of-a-kind restaurants, and lively entertainment. The best way I can describe it is as a massive outdoor mall. On our first night, we all got ice cream and walked around looking for Disney souvenirs for friends and family. Eventually, none of us could walk one more step and we called it a day and retreated back to our hotel. Even though we were tired, we had a hard time falling asleep due to the anticipation about visiting the Animal Kingdom the next day. We knew we were in for another day of unforgettable memories!