It didn’t take long after we left Myrtle Beach for the “suggestions” to start. As Sid, Sloan, and I started our evacuation to Jacksonville, my wife started to pitch me an idea.
Before we had even entered Georgia, Sidney had made her case that visiting Disney World while we escaped Hurricane Florence would make perfect sense. With mid-September a relative tame time by Disney standards and with Jacksonville only 2.5 hours away from Orlando, she had a point. With time to spare and a Disney-obessed wife along with a Mickey Mouse-loving daughter, I really couldn’t say no. By the time we rolled into Jacksonville on Wednesday night, I told Sid we could go. By Friday morning, we were walking through the Disney World gates.
That left us with a short amount of time to prepare. On Thursday, we hatched our plan. We would make it a day trip and only visit Magic Kingdom. Sidney did research all afternoon and we purchased tickets that night. If someone told us a week prior that we would be going to Disney World in the near future, we would have laughed.
We left early Friday and made it to the Disney World parking lot by 10 a.m. We had to take a shuttle from the parking lot followed by a ferry boat ride to actually get inside the park. Once inside, the three of us found ourselves on Main Street USA right in front of Cinderella’s Castle. It was a surreal feeling.
The “how crazy is this moment?” soon passed as I realized something: It was hot! Like really, really hot. But the heat discomfort soon became an afterthought as I realized something else. Sloan was laughing and clapping her hands wildly as she watched a bunch of Disney characters and other cast members perform a dance number right in front of the castle. With a giddy Sidney crouched by Sloan pointing out everything that was going on, I knew at that point that we had made the right decision to go.
With the impromptu Disney trip already off on a great note, we started to explore. We visited a couple of the different lands and rode Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, and It’s A Small World After All. Except for a couple antsy moments when Haunted Mansion stalled midway through, Sloan loved the rides! She sat between us and enjoyed every minute of the classic Disney attractions.
Wait times for all the rides were 25 minutes or less. However, time flew by. After riding those three attractions and walking around, it was already lunch time. We ate at a Pinocchio-themed, air-conditioned restaurant.
After lunch, we went back to Cinderella’s Castle and enjoyed probably the best part of the day. We had front row seats to the daily parade that showcased both classic Disney characters (Mickey, Donald, Goofy, etc.) and the movie Disney characters (Aladin, Frozen, Beauty and the Beast, Snow White, etc.). As the big floats passed by and the characters engaged with Sloan, I truly felt the Disney magic.
On a high from the parade, we went on more rides – Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, Ariel’s Undersea Adventure, and Dumbo the Flying Elephant attraction. With the heat starting to take its toll, we decided to seek out shelter.
We entered a structure made to resemble a large circus tent. Once inside, Sloan had the opportunity to meet Daisy Duck and Minnie Mouse. Although happy to see them at first, she would retreat to Sid as they crept closer. It didn’t take long for Sloan to eventually embrace them, following the lead of her mommy who hugged each one to show her that it was okay.
Did you think we would do Disney World without eating ice cream? Sidney got a Mickey ice cream sandwich and I got something called a Dole Whip, which is ice cream and pineapple fused together, a Disney World specialty I am told. Of course Sloan enjoyed generous portions of each.
Time continued to go by at a rapid pace. Because of a Halloween event that night, Magic Kingdom closed at 6 p.m. With only about 60 minutes left, we headed back to Mainstreet USA to pick out a souvenir. Sloan chose a baby Dumbo stuffed animal. Around this time, another parade was taking place. This particular one had an international flavor but still included all of the classic Disney characters. As the parade concluded, we watched as military guests retired the American flag and performed the Star Spangled Banner.
It was time for the grand finale! With just a few minutes to spare, we stood in line for our personal visit with Mickey Mouse. We were extrememly hot and looked absolutely miserable but I assure you that we were happy inside. Sloan constantly says “Mickey Mouse, Mickey Mouse, Mickey Mouse,” so it was a big deal that she could meet him in the flesh (or perhaps I should say in the furry costume?).
After changing Sloan’s diaper it was back on the ferry boat and the shuttle. We got in the car and our daughter dozed off. The whole drive back to Jacksonville, Sid and I talked Disney non-stop, looking up various Disney-related Wikipedia articles along the way.
That night, before we went to bed, Sidney whispered to me, “Thanks for making my wish come true.” I am not the biggest Disney fan, but to hear my wife say that along with the joy I saw on Sloan’s face the entire day made me really happy that we visited the happiest place on Earth. We will hold these memories tight forever. Don’t Blink.