• Casey Leone

"Welcome Home..." Our Walt Disney World Arrival Day

Updated: Dec 5, 2020

Ok so, a quick recap on our 16 hour road trip pre-arrival day! I spent a week being an absolute pyscho packing and cleaning and cooking (read packing and prepping blog post here). The night of which I call "D day", (this is our final day before we leave to finish all the packing, cleaning and prepping), we went to bed at a decent hour somewhere between 8-9 pm. Well, my youngest, who normally sleeps through the night with minimal problems, kept my husband and I up ALL NIGHT. Teething SUCKS. So instead of getting to bed early and getting up with our alarm at 2:15 am to leave by three, we were showered and ready before the alarm even went off!

We then woke up my three year old, Cecelia, put them both in the truck, grabbed our inappropriately large coffee from Wawa, put on "Spaceship Earth" audio music from my Walt Disney World Official album, and drove straight through DC until we hit a Panera. Long story short, my husband was pumping gas (Jersey people don't do that) and spilled gasoline all over his shoes, pants, and hoodie. The girls handled the car decent as long as one of us climbed into the back seat every once in a while. There was a lot of yelling, snacking, sleeping, singing, potty breaks, cracker barrels, caffeine, sleep deprivation, kitschy gas station souvenir shops, and lots more yelling. Our goal was to reach Jacksonville at a decent hour to get showers, and a good night's rest before we arrive in Orlando. Well, we survived our road trip with "Screamy" and "Yelly"... I mean Cece and Ellie, and made it to Jacksonville around 7-8 pm.

We got a better night's rest, and felt much more refreshed and excited to get back on the road to only have about two and a half hours left! We did our pre-check in already with the Caribbean Beach Resort, but our room wasn't ready yet. Luckily, we had dining reservations at Whispering Canyon in Disney's Wilderness Lodge. We got there a little early, so we had some time to hit the gift shop and walk around the lobby.

The kids needed it, let me tell you! All things considered, they are still so young and can't process time the same way we can, so they really did good for a 1 and 3 year old on such a long journey. The Wilderness Lodge is probably the most nostalgic hotel in all of WDW for me. This is where we stayed when I was a kid, back when they would have animal presentations in the lobby to teach the resort guests about wildlife! My brother and I would get so excited to see the animals especially in such a well themed rustic atmosphere.

Our breakfast was delicious! A great warm up to our trip. I had the allergy friendly eggs, potatoes, toast, and sausage. The family all had Mickey Waffles of course! Prior to each trip, my husband and I have many a conversation about a very important topic. It always begins with, "What will your first drink be, and where?" In this instance, our first stop was breakfast at Whispering Canyon, so we went with some old favorites. My husband likes their Bourbon Sweet Tea and I always opt for a Mimosa to kick off the vacation. Thankful for a full belly, smiling babies, a bubbly drink, and a warm and inviting atmosphere, we always leave Whispering Canyon happy and satisfied. We were able to head over to our resort after breakfast and start the adventure of finding our room and unpacking the car. Thank goodness for that mimosa!

At Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort, you are transported to the islands with brightly painted buildings, the scent of bananas, vanilla and coconuts, steel drum vibes, and relaxation. They have an awesome pool with a slide for the bigger kids and a kiddie pool for the younglings. They have a poolside/dockside bar "Banana Cabana" that overlooks the lagoon but also the Skyliner, Sebastians Bistro, Spyglass Grill, and the Quick Service Centertown Market. A must try at the Centertown Market is their Cuban Sandwich. YUM. We have no photographic evidence of this wonderful sandwich because we attack it as soon as it hits the table and the photo becomes an after thought. Next time we will try to do better but I make no promises.

Once we are settled at our resort, we make our way to Disney Springs for some shopping and dinner. We try to do Disney Springs on our arrival day to make sure we make the most of a park ticket on a full day rather than spend an exhausting half day in the park. We take our time shopping and eating and get back to the room at a decent hour to be well rested for our first official park day.

Now, I must tell you that we have had some Disney Springs heart break. (Que the sappy piano music). Our forever tradition for the past ten years of traveling to Walt Disney World together was to eat at Gloria Estefan's restaurant "Bongos"on our arrival day. It was delicious Cuban cuisine, a fun Latin atmosphere with great music, wonderful staff, and the BEST scratch made mojitos (I appreciate a scratch made cocktail). But, sadly Bongos ended up closing permanently in 2019 and Gloria opened a new restaurant over in the Margaritaville Resort in Orlando. I have yet to try it because alas the convenience of staying on Disney property has kept me from it. I do plan to try it one of these trips, though. Here are some serious pre-children throwback photos at Bongos.

So, we've been on the hunt for a new tradition for the family on our arrival day. This past trip we tried the T-Rex restaurant located right near the World of Disney. We love dinosaurs in this house.

This restaurant was a huge hit as far as atmosphere goes. My Cecelia was beyond excited to see the giant animatronic dinos and my youngest growled the whole meal. We ate in the Ice Age room which had its own unique blue, red and pink lighting. There were real fossils in the bathroom, meteor showers, and fish tanks along with a decently big gift shop. I had the "Triassic Trio" which is Dino-mite shrimp and scallops, a shrimp skewer, chimichurri sauce, a char-grilled 10 oz flat iron steak, steak butter, and "Raptor Rice" with a "Raptor Rita" which is essentially a classic margarita, and very refreshing. Overall, everyone loved their food, service and atmosphere and the kids' reaction was enough to make me want to eat there again!

After our prehistoric adventure, we headed over to Disney's Days of Christmas for all of our Christmas needs, then over to Ghirardelli for all of our ice cream needs. We save the best for last, the World of Disney store. I like to take the opportunity to scope things out and get an idea for the different merch before I make any souvenir decisions ( it really gets to my husband with my hesitation and waiting until the very last minute of our trip to decide what I need to have). World of Disney is great for doing this though because they have almost everything from the parks! You won't find certain merch like the specific ears from the different countries in Epcot's World Showcase, but there's still a great opportunity to find lot of park merchandise. It's one of the reasons why we choose to hit Disney Springs again on our departure day in case there are any last minute souvenirs that we missed out on in the parks.

After we see all that we can before collapsing from exhaustion, we head back to our hotel with a whole new wave of butterflies knowing we get to see our castle the next day. We shower, lay out our clothes and get to bed so that we are refreshed and ready for Cinderella Castle and all the Mickey Bars.

I hope you enjoyed our arrival day journey, and I look forward to sharing the rest of our magical vacation with you! Next stop, Disney's Magic Kingdom!

See ya real soon!

-Casey, The Travelorian