For most, the phrase "guys weekend" conjures images of a trashed hotel suite in Las Vegas or a naked Ken Jeong wielding a tire iron. On the opposite end of the spectrum... One and 3/4 adults taking a 3 year old to Disney World. It's safe to say the days of my brother and I climbing to the top of Caesar's Palace with a bottle of Jaegermeister are long gone, not to mention that nobody is going to mistake either of us for Brad Cooper. And yet this recent trip to the Happiest Place on Earth turned out to be the most fun, eye-opening, and memorable "guys weekend" that I've ever experienced.
We made an early start of it and arrived at "The Big Hotel - also known as the Walt Disney World Dolphin - before McDonald's had stopped serving breakfast. It didn't take long for me to realize this would be very different than my usual - read: childless - trips to Disney.
It was right about now that I questioned my ability to adapt to these unfamiliar circumstances. The words "Uncle Deej, I have to potty" are enough to send me into a mild panic. Pushing a stroller through the Magic Kingdom was simply inconceivable. But addressing that fear would have to wait... The Dolphin's pool was first on our itinerary.
After a hearty lunch of french fries, mac & cheese, and a chocolate chip cookie, we piled back into the car for a trip to my favorite hotel in the world... "The Temporary." Our plan was to rent two of the water sprite boats for a ride on Seven Seas Lagoon, but after Old Sport laid eyes on the monorail we had to call an audible. A short ride aboard Monorail Red later, we arrived at the Grand Floridian and headed for their marina.
Admittedly, I didn't fully think through the water sprite idea. In my excitement to introduce Old Sport to one of my favorite activities at Disney, I failed to take into account one crucial detail... It was 112 degrees outside. He was about as excited to be on that boat as sitting for a formal family portrait, so we cut the ride a little short and decided to enjoy another one of my beloved past times....
The hotel lobby.
I tried to convince him that sitting in a comfy chair in a hotel lobby was a blast, but he wasn't buying it.
Fully recovered from our water sprite misadventure, we climbed back aboard Monorail Red for the short trip to the Magic Kingdom. As luck would have it, we walked through the turnstiles and onto Main Street USA just in time for the 3:00 parade. Old Sport was beside himself with excitement to see his favorite characters up close...
Little did he know that we'd be visiting the man himself just a few minutes later. That is, after his dad and I found a little liquid courage at Starbucks.
The Mickster said he was glad to see him - I still find the talking Mickey to be a little freaky - and he was nice enough to give Old Sport his first Disney character autograph. And with that, regardless of what else happened on this day, our trip was officially a success.
And yet it was far from over...
We hung out with Pooh and Tigger in the Hundred Acre Wood...
And took a ride on my personal favorite, the PeopleMover.
He drove his first car at the Tomorrowland Speedway...
Practiced his handstand in Fantasyland...
And searched, unsuccessfully, for Chip & Dale in Liberty Square.
This trip to the Magic Kingdom taught me a very important lesson when it comes to travel with little kids.... You just never know when the best memories are going to be made. For example...
We booked Mickey's Philharmagic as a filler attraction between seeing the Mickster and the race cars. It turned out to be the highlight of my weekend. From Old Sport yelling "HEY!" at the top of his lungs when Simba came on the screen, to his proclamation at the end of "Uncle Deej...I saw Aladdin" in a tone which really said "Trust me dude, this is a big deal." I'm not sure if future visits to Philharmagic will ever be as great, but I do know I'll drag him to it until he's 37 in hopes of repeating this special time.
After a whirlwind 12-hour, no-nap day, we made our way back to the car. Or at least we tried to... Old Sport wasn't too keen on the idea of leaving.
So I did what any self-respecting uncle would do... I bribed him with french fries.
And then the next morning we were back at it once again, beginning with my most sacred of morning routines at Disney... The stroll over to the Swan for coffee. Note: They have the best cold brew iced coffee this side of the Mason Dixon.
Inside the Swan, we surprised Old Sport with the two words every kid loves to hear, whether 3 or 34.... Character Breakfast.
While I detest the phrase "hidden gem" the Garden Grove at the Swan is the very definition of one. Not only do they have great characters - Chip & Dale, Pluto, and Goofy - but they are first come first serve only. We walked up at 8:45am and were taken straight to a table. Try doing that at Chef Mickey's.
Luckily, Old Sport's meal was free because, and I quote... "I don't want to eat. I just want to see my friends."
I couldn't really blame him.
We had finally reached the dreaded part of the trip when that awful reality sets in... It was time to go home. The greatness of this "guys weekend" had been exceeded only by the number of memories my brother and I would take from it. Neither of us wanted to break the sad news to Old Sport, so we squeezed in one more stop before heading home...
"The best playground ever."
Old Sport's third birthday brings with it a looming milestone for any family as obsessed with Disney as we are... With the turn of the calendar, his days of visiting Mickey's kingdom for "free" are officially over. But as for his adventures with Uncle Deej and Mickey... Well, we're only just getting started.
Happy Birthday, Old Sport