Once upon a time, there were three little girls who left their small home in the west for the big world of Disney in Orlando, Florida. They flew on an airplane, wandered through an enormously beautiful lobby to find their hotel room, dined with Mickey and Minnie, were transformed into princesses by fairy godmothers, road Splash Mountain nine times, and discovered the unimaginable joy of someone leaving chocolate on their pillow... every... night.
As tempting as it is to write like the Brothers Grimm for the rest of this post, I'm going to snap out of fairy tale mode and tell you, in my own voice, the true story (or saga) of our three little princesses.
The sign at the entrance of the Magic Kingdom reads true. This is the place for memories.
The first night we arrived, we dropped our bags in our room and scurried off to board the monorail so we could meet Mickey and Minnie for dinner. It was the perfect way to begin our stay. The girls were so excited to see Minnie.
Donald was my favorite. When he saw Ali and Sami, he held up two fingers to ask if they were twins. They nodded and said, "We have twin brothers too!" Donald threw his arms into the air, then circled his fingers around his head while gesturing to me, saying, "You must be cuckoo!" I laughed because he was spot on. I am cuckoo.
After dinner we explored our hotel, the Grand Floridian, which was lovely. But here's the scoop when it comes to cost (we'd probably stay somewhere cheaper next time). When you stay here, you're mostly paying for convenience. We were a three-minute boat ride (or one monorail stop) away from the Magic Kingdom. Easy access to everywhere we wanted to go. We could see Cinderella's castle from outside our hotel room and the pool area was fabulous. The rooms were nothing extraordinary, but the lobby and the grounds? Worth swooning over. They had live music every evening. Check out the man in tux and tails sitting at the grand piano, center lobby. He was playing tunes straight out of the twenties some nights. Other nights it was a live band. Charming. And we couldn't help but dance as we made our way to the elevator each evening.
A better peek at the hotel.
The lobby is over five stories high with white gingerbread trim and two stained-glass domes above the chandeliers. This was taken from the second floor, looking up at one of the chandeliers.
Victorian in feel, the Grand Floridian has its own white sand beach and all the flavor of the roaring twenties.
I loved this vintage, rusted ferris-wheel.
This is Ali and Sami, hanging out in the lobby the morning of our first big day. Sami looking up (and up, and up).
Our first stop? Downtown Disney for appointments with three fairy godmothers at the Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boutique.
Here's where the story takes a turn towards saga. I assumed the hairstyling at the boutique would be personalized. You know, look at the girls' hair, use their curls for a cute up-do, put on a crown, and sprinkle with fairy dust.
Well, I was wrong. You have three hairstyles to choose from. That's it. And there's no bending the rules. (I tried.) They are:
Super-slick, bun-on-top-of-the-head, have-a-headache-at-the-end-of-the-day-do
The punk-rocker princess
I hope I don't offend anyone here, but all three were well, not very becoming of all the darling innocents sitting in salon chairs.
We opted for the most subdued look. Super slick bun on top of your head. Wow. I have NEVER seen so much gel in my life. I tried to tell the fairy godmothers that my girls' hair was kinda short and maybe it wouldn't fit up in a bun, and could we leave some of it down and curly? Nope. No can do. They had a plan. And in their defense, I'm sure they aren't allowed to do anything but those three hair-dos.
Lydia here, was very sweet with Ali, and told her all sorts of princess trivia I'd never heard before.
Sami's hair took the longest to pull into a bun. If you could zoom in you would see tiny tears leaking out the corners of her eyes. How she managed not to squeal I will never know. All that pulling and slicking and bobby-pinning. Yeow!
As I watched them transform, blue eye shadow and all, I bit my bottom lip and looked away. I leaned over to Doug and said, "I don't know if I should laugh... or cry. They look like... like... concentration camp victims." Am I awful? Bibbidi-Bobbidi- BOO!
I had to force a smile when they were done. Me, the mom who wears lipstick every day (rarely reapplied in a twenty-four hour window) and mascara on occasion, but that's it. I'm not fussy over make-up and I kinda prefer the natural look (my sisters would say I could benefit from a little more fuss). But yowsers... I wasn't prepared for this.
And I'm not sure the girls were either. When their fairy godmothers spun their chairs around to face the mirror, fairy dust still hanging in the air, the girls smiled but said nothing. I had no idea what they were thinking.
Here they are seeing themselves in the full length mirror for the first time. Stone face. Except for Ali who was making kissy-faces with her newly glossed smackers.
The favorite accessory? This jeweled Mickey Mouse pin that Lydia told them has a colored jewel for each of the Disney princesses.
I was still feeling slightly horrified as we got on the bus to make our way back to the monorail, but the girls seemed happy (albeit surprised) with their princess make-over.
We had a luncheon with Cinderella to attend, and the clock was ticking.
As we passed more and more people, everyone oohed and aaahed over the three little princesses and their new look, and I began to ease up. Everyone else was doing a dandy job of making them feel special. And that's all that mattered, right? If they felt beautiful and special, then Bibbidi-Bobbidi had done their job just fine. So I tried not to cringe every time I looked at that sticky cinnamon bun on top of their heads, and we told them they were the most beautiful princesses in the world.
This moment though? This was worth every minute of gel and combing. When we walked into Cinderella's Castle, a woman told us Cinderella would be out shortly to meet the girls. Seconds later, she whisked past us and the world (for our girls) stopped spinning. They craned their necks forward, their eyes bulged out and their jaws opened. They were mesmerized. And I have to say, Cinderella was everything we hoped she would be. I had to pry their hands off the railing so we could take our turn meeting her. It was truly magical.
So sweet. And don't those New Balance Runners make their dresses shine?
After meeting Cinderella, we took the spiral staircase up to the dining hall where we met...
Belle. (Ali's favorite.)
And Aurora. (Sami's favorite. Sam was already tired of pictures at this point. Can you tell?)
We also met Jasmine and Ariel, and Eliza's favorite (Cinderella), who met us at the castle door. For dessert, they decorated their own cupcakes and waved their wishing wand in the air.
Those fairy godmothers from the boutique must have done more good than I thought because just before we left the luncheon Eliza said to me, "Mom, do you know how to make wishes come true?" I said, "No. How?" Clear as a bell she whispered into my ear, "Best Behavior."
What perfect advice. "You couldn't be more right" I told her.
We rode the Carousel.
Then we skipped over to the tea cups. And it was that minute, while we were skipping and laughing, and I was holding Sami's hand, that the magic of this place caught up with me. Sam, yelled out, "This is the BEST DAY EVER!" And all three girls ran ahead to get in line. I watched them running, their sparkly dresses flying, and suddenly Ali stopped to turn around and reach for my hand. She looked up at me, eyes twinkling, and I thought, "I am so grateful I have children. I wouldn't want to miss this for the world!"
We waited in line for a very long time to see this beautiful Pixie. But it was worth it!
We rode every ride we had time for, the lines were short, and as the moon was rising we made our way past Cinderella's Castle. "When You Wish Upon A Star" was gliding through the air and everyone was happy. What a day.
I just happened to look to my right as we were passing the Castle and saw Tiana and Prince Navine, all by themselves, under a white gazebo. We hurried over to greet them and they were as charming as could be. With no others waiting in line, they took their time asking the girls about their day, their favorite rides, the princess luncheon. Never breaking character (Navine had a very good accent), they made our night.
The Castle, draped in Christmas lights, was something else.
Even Main Street was decked out in Holiday fare.
When we got back to the lobby, a mother and her little girl joined us in the elevator. Her daughter was wearing a princess dress, and her hair was pulled into a darling bun with ringlets hanging down and a simple tiara on top. I raised an eyebrow and asked, "Did you do her hair yourself?" "Oh no," she replied. "We just made an appointment at The Trellis upstairs." The Ivy Trellis is the in-house salon. And guess what? It is cheaper, less wait, and only one stop away from the Magic Kingdom. My recommendation? Try The Trellis.
But would we do it all again? Absolutely.