We had a fantastic time in Orlando this year. It was a much-needed time of re-connecting as a family, and of simply having fun–both of which were lost to us this year.

My favorite parts of the trip were having fun with the kids, making memories as a family (I came here so many times as a kid, it’s so fun to take my kids on the same rides my parents took me!), and taking pictures.

I always like going to Downtown Disney. We ate at the new T-Rex restaurant–great food, fun and creative ambiance. And we stopped to get a personalized Christmas ornament–a tradition for me every time I go to Disney. This one was to commemorate Joseph’s birthday, which we celebrated while we were in Orlando. He even picked out the ornament! We also stopped for ice cream at Ghiradelli ice cream store and let our imaginations run wild at the Lego store. Niki and I have concluded that Downtown Disney is one of our favorite “parks”–it has all the magic and fun of a theme park without the admission cost!

We went to Animal Kingdom, too. Saw lots of animals–a delight for Joseph. We even spotted a lion and a leopard up in the rocks on a safari. Very cool. The kids got to dance with the cast of the Lion King show. A highlight for sure. We took pictures with Mickey Mouse. I really enjoyed the ingenuity of the Everest roller coaster, and particularly appreciated the creativity of creating the “set”, if you will, of the different regions and cultures hilighted in the park. It was very well done, from the lamposts to the signage. My favorite part, though, was not losing the diamond in my wedding ring–which is what happened the last time I was there!

Magic Kingdom was a hit as well. The park was less crowded than usual, so we got to hit nearly every ride we wanted. I enjoyed taking the kids on Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, and Pirates of the Carribbean. I love fast pass and not having to wait in line. Remember waiting for 1-2 hours for some of these rides as a kid, and now getting to just go straight to the front?! Amazing! Going to Tom Sawyer’s island was incredible, too, because I read the book to Button and Siah earlier this year. So they lit up to see all the places they read about–from the white picket fence Tom painted, to Aunt Polly’s house, to the cave where Tom found the treasure. Siah’s outdoor adventure side came out and he took off. Wasn’t long before we lost track of him. I wasn’t worried–it’s an island so there’s only one way off!

We also had dinner at Cinderella’s Table where 5 princesses meet you during dinner and you get a special pre-dinner photo with Cinderella beforehand. This is a new discovery and one of my favorite parts of the trip. I liked it more than Button did. Maybe more than Siah did — he was pretty excited about all the princesses calling him “charming.” What I realized is that really my Disney dream is to go to the Bibbidy Bobbidy Boutique, get all dolled up like a Disney princess (gown and all) then go to dinner at Cinderella’s castle!

We ended the trip at Legoland on opening day. Wow. It was chaos. Very creative park. Prfectly geared towards kids our age. But the lines were insanely long. We dropped an extra $70 for a fast pass that let us go to the front of every line. Totally worth it. It was really fun to see the kids drive their own cars around on a street (no track, nothing preventing them from running into each other)–it was like watching 5 year olds play ice hockey. Great laughs! I also liked the castle-themed roller coaster. The Lego displays in there were impressive. And I could have spent a couple hours admiring the buildings and countries they built in Miniland. But I don’t think we will be going again…

I also loved loved loved seeing our dear friends, Kent & Neha, April & Josh, and Will & Juniece. Those were the most enjoyable parts of our time there. But the kids would disagree–for them it was the bunk bed in the hotel room!