Monday, May 20, 2013

A Tropical Storm and a Tea Party

I awoke on the morning of our last day at Disney World to the sounds of driving rain and howling wind.  Isaac had made landfall on the Floridian east coast the previous day, bringing torrential downpours to the Orlando area.  Luckily, by the time it slammed into Florida, Isaac had been downgraded to a tropical storm.  Nevertheless, it would be a VERY wet day at Disney World.  Fortunately, we were planning to depart Orlando mid-afternoon and head to Vero Beach for a few days of relaxation before flying home.  The storm was moving inland, so by the time we arrived at Vero Beach, it would be long gone.

Our original plans for the morning had been to visit Epcot's Future World for a few hours.  Then, the girls would depart Epcot in the early afternoon to head to the Grand Floridian Resort where Sadie would attend the Wonderland Tea Party with Alice and the Mad Hatter.  The boys would stay at Epcot and enjoy a few more attractions.  Then, we'd all meet up in the lobby of the Beach Club, gather our luggage, and drive to Vero Beach.  Despite the rain, we all agreed to stick with the original plans, theorizing that the theme parks would be much less crowded than normal due to the weather. 

Tip Time: Even if you're not dealing with the unlikely event of a hurricane on your Disney World trip, it's likely that you will experience rain at some point on your vacation.  Don't leave the theme parks!!  Most of the attractions still operate in the rain, and crowds lighten during a storm.  So, don your raingear and have fun!!  If you are seriously adverse to wet weather, consider heading to Epcot's Future World.  Within each indoor pavilion in Future World, you'll find several attractions, giving you plenty to do inside until the rain lets up.

As I packed up the last of our luggage, my worries dissipated.  Despite my constant self-admonitions to the contrary, I'd been concerned about Isaac for a good portion of the previous five days.  Now, it finally seemed as if everything was going to work out.  We called Bell Services to store our luggage for the day, enjoyed one last breakfast in the Concierge Lounge, and began the short trek to Epcot's World Showcase.

Tip Time: On your departure day, Bell Services will gladly store your luggage until you are ready to leave, allowing you to enjoy every last minute of your vacation.  Call them about 30 minutes before you plan to leave your room.

Approximately two minutes into our walk, I realized that our ponchos were simply no match for the Isaac-induced rain and wind.  To make matters worse, in the mad rush to pack, I'd forgotten to throw our flip flops into our day bag.  By the time we reached Epcot's International Gateway Entrance, our tennis shoes were thoroughly soaked.  In fact, we were drenched all the way up to our waists.  On the bright side, my prediction that the parks would be empty was accurate.  Since there was no mad rush to the headliner attractions, we had plenty of time to slosh over to MouseGears (one of the largest Disney merchandise stores in all four theme parks) for some flip flops.

After a VERY pricey purchase of rain-appropriate footwear, we were ready to start our day of touring. 
Buddying up to Bruce in Epcot's Future World
Because the park was almost completely empty, we modified my touring plan and decided to explore each pavilion thoroughly before making a mad dash to the next one.  By lunchtime, we'd checked off almost every attraction on our morning "wish-list", and the rain was even beginning to let up.  The more bearable weather brought larger crowds, though, so Eric and Jack decided that they would spend the afternoon grabbing a few FASTPASSES and heading back to World Showcase to do some more Agent P Missions.  We ladies had our own afternoon plans at the Grand Floridian Resort.

Tip Time: The Wonderland Tea Party is offered on select afternoons at the Grand Floridian Resort.  For a reasonable fee (especially by Disney standards), girls can attend a tea party with Alice in Wonderland and the Mad Hatter!  Attendees play games, decorate cupcakes, and are treated to a character meet in an intimate setting.  

When we walked into the Grand Floridian Resort, all three of us caught our breath.  The Grand Floridian is, hands down, the most elegant deluxe resort on Disney property.  For those looking for the ultimate luxury
It's Tea Time!
accommodations, the Grand Floridian is the resort of choice.  My mom and I only had an instant to take in our surroundings, however, as Sadie was growing increasingly impatient to change into her Alice costume before the party began.

Tip Time: Girls do not HAVE to dress like Alice for the Wonderland Tea Party, but many do. Purchase an Alice costume BEFORE you leave home to avoid marked-up merchandise prices at Disney World.

After checking Sadie into the 1900 Park Fare restaurant for the tea party, my mom and I headed across the lobby to the Gardenview Tea Room for afternoon tea.  While Sadie partied with Alice, my mom and I sunk into the comfortable chairs in the Tea Room and spent the next hour engaged in uninterrupted conversation, reminiscing about our favorite moments of the trip.  It was the perfect ending to our Disney World vacation.

Tip Time: Boasting beautiful views of the Grand Floridian's lush gardens, the Gardenview Tea Room is the perfect place to take afternoon tea.  If your daughter is attending the Wonderland Tea Party with Alice, consider making a simultaneous reservation at the Gardenview Tea Room.  This way, you'll be steps away from your child while enjoying a treat of your own.

The next hour passed quickly, and soon it was time to pick up Sadie.  She bounded out of that party, a gigantic smile plastered on her face.  During the entire commute back to the Beach Club, she did not stop talking about her afternoon.  She was STILL talking when we walked through the doors of the Beach Club one final time to meet up with the boys, who'd enjoyed their afternoon just as much as we'd enjoyed ours.

As we lugged our belongings out of the Beach Club doors, we turned around to gaze one last time at the resort that had held so many good memories over the last five days.  The bittersweet moment of departing the happiest place on Earth was offset, though, by the knowledge that our adventure was not over yet!!  We were off to Disney's Vero Beach Resort for two days of fun in the sun!!

Meredith McCutcheon
Disney Specialist, Ginger's Getaways: Rochester Hills, MI
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