My family went to Walt Disney World this winter and I promised I would write about it. Part one of this Disney World diary is here, this is part two. I previously wrote 12 lessons for parents at Disney World back in January of 2013. You can read that here. I also ranked the hotness of the Disney princesses back in 2013.
Yes, I am very mature.
Here we go with part two of the Disney World diary.
After an opening Saturday at Magic Kingdom, we are going to Hollywood Studios on Sunday morning.
1. My wife sets an alarm for Hollywood Studios so she and the boys can get there early enough to sign up for Jedi Training.
About 10-12 times a day twenty kids can train to be Jedis via a class that lasts about a half hour.
The kids get to dress up in a Jedi robe, fight Darth Vader with a lightsaber for about ten seconds, and receive a lapel pin certifying their Jedi training.
But it requires you to be in the park when it opens because there are only a couple of hundred spots and they fill up quickly.
So my wife takes our oldest two boys and I stay back with my parents and our two year old. Yes, we are all staying in the same "villa" at the Wilderness Lodge. It has one king size bed, two queen size beds and a pull out couch. We also have a full kitchen and a washer and a drier in the room. This is how I'm making do with only four tshirts and two pairs of shorts on the trip.
This room is over a thousand dollars a night -- I stopped asking for details once my wife told me this price point -- but we're all in the same place and on site at the Disney resort.
Yes, we could have saved money by staying somewhere else, but we would have had to rent multiple cars -- or one big van -- and have paid every day to park and everyone would have had to leave at the same time. By staying on site and riding the buses, you are able to provide yourself some flexibility. I think it's worth the cost.
Plus, all week long we never had to wait longer than 10 minutes for a bus and most of the time it was even less time than that.
2. We arrive at Hollywood Studios and immediately go stand in line to meet Kylo Ren.
Hollywood Studios, which was originally designed as a park that would pay homage to the movies -- and compete with Universal Studios in Orlando -- has pivoted of late to become primarily a destination for Star Wars fans.
Honestly, it would make more sense if they just redid the entire park and named it Star Wars Land. (There is a 14 acre Star Wars expansion coming at Hollywood Studios that should open in 2019. Here are some of the details.) But why not redo the entire park and make it all for Star Wars?
My boys, like their parents, are huge Star Wars fans and within minutes of entering the park we see storm troopers marching down the Hollywood entrance to the park. It's a bit of an incongruous pairing, but credit where credit is due, the decision by CEO Bob Iger to buy Pixar, Marvel, and the Star Wars brands, is helping to cushion Disney as ESPN's business collapses.
This morning they have Kylo Ren and Chewbacca characters that you can meet and have your picture taken with. We stand in line to meet Kylo Ren, who is in character as an angry adolescent embracing the dark side, and Ren immediately terrifies my two year old.
As you can see from this picture.
(I should mention this too, it's a great deal to pay for unlimited photos in Disney. With the new Disney Magic bands you can pay something like $45 and get all of the photos they take of you and your group sent directly to your phone. Seriously, do it.)
3. The challenge with Hollywood Studios is there isn't really very much to do.
That's why I strongly believe they need to just turn this entire place into Star Wars Land.
We have three fast passes for the day and we have signed up for the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular show, the Great Movie Ride, and Star Tours. My wife initially signed the boys up for the Tower of Terror, but they both, ages 6 and 9, said it was too scary for them. So we switched to the Great Movie Ride.
There is also a roller coaster and a few additional shows, but, again, for over $100, you don't really have that much to do at this park. Indeed, I asked my wife to quantify what we did and what that cost was to us. If you break down your per ride expenses you're paying $20 or so for every ride that you do.
We also have another character lunch, which is insanely expensive. You get to eat at a buffet and your kids get their pictures taken with the Disney characters.
After riding Splash Mountain, the Dwarf rollercoaster and Big Thunder Mountain, my six year old asks as we get on the Great Movie Ride if there are any drops. He will do this for every ride at Animal Kingdom and Epcot too.
4. "My favorite Disney villain is my wife," shirt.
This long with the state of Florida in the shape of a gun will be my two favorite park tshirts I see today.
One bit of praise, compared to 2013, there are fewer fat people on scooters cutting the lines. I mean, don't get me wrong, there are still tons of fat people eating foods that cause you to be fatter on their scooters, but I think my business idea of renting a fat person to avoid standing in line has been curtailed.
5. Hollywood Studios is desperately in need of modernization.
Having spent months in Los Angeles with Fox Sports over the past several years, Hollywood Studios does have a cool, old school LA vibe, but how much interest is there in this today?
The Great Movie Ride, the signature ride in the park, is designed for people over the age of sixty.
As a central element of the park, it would be better to scrap this ride entirely and make it over with scenes from the Star Wars movies.
My boys are six and nine and they couldn't have been more bored on this ride. Hell, I'm 37 and it seems horribly out of date for the modern era. I'm sure there would be some griping if you did away with it entirely -- not to mention the expense -- but the park is a living thing, you either modernize or die.
And The Great Movie Ride seems close to death.
6. On the flip side, my two oldest boys love the Jedi training.
Idea: what if it were possible to just sign your kids up for Jedi camp and have them spend all day with Disney training to be a Jedi? Do you know how much money they could charge for this? Instead of a half hour, give us a half day of peace.
Bang, the park has a purpose.
Here's a video of this training.
My kids are, however, really tired today. Flying down to Orlando on Friday and spending the night at the pool, then spending all day at the Magic Kingdom on Saturday, followed by an early wake up on Sunday and a trip to another park, where it's presently over 80 degrees, has all of them prone to fight and argue. Which makes parents more prone to fight and argue.
My advice -- if you have young kids schedule days where you can just hang out and go to the pool or relax. For instance, tomorrow we have nothing scheduled, then we have Animal Kingdom on Tuesday, nothing scheduled on Wednesday, back to the Magic Kingdom on Thursday, and then Epcot on Friday before we leave for home on Friday evening.
If we went to the park every day it would have been very overwhelming, especially for kids this young.
So after two days at the park we will take a day off Monday, hit a park, and then have another day off, presently a day when it's scheduled to rain when we will go to Splitsville, a Disney bowling alley and restaurant, at Disney Springs.
That schedule makes pretty good sense.
7. The Indiana Jones stunt spectacular entertains the boys.
What kids don't love Indiana Jones or Star Wars?
We started my second oldest son on the Star Wars movies around the age of three -- his oldest brother was watching them at five and he got dragged along. This has led to an embrace of all 1980's era culture. My now six year old loves the "Back to the Future" movies, Star Wars, the Indiana Jones movies, and all 1980's wrestling matches. Just last week I told him that we were going to France this summer on a family vacation that doubles as his mom's birthday present and he pumped his fist and said, "Yes! Andre the Giant is from Grenoble, France!"
Not surprisingly, he loved Han Solo -- we do not watch Episode 7 in our house -- and when we showed him "Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark," at the age of four the first time Harrison Ford came on the screen he said, "Why is Han Solo pretending to be Indiana Jones?"
So my now six year old decides that he needs to buy a fake snake in the Indiana Jones shop. When I ask him if he's sure he wants to buy a fake snake and carry it around all day, he says, totally seriously, "Dad, what would Jake the Snake Roberts do?"
So he buys the snake and asks me to SnapChat him being Jake the Snake Roberts.
Ten minutes after he buys the snake, he decides it's heavy and makes him hot, so he asks me if I can wear it around my neck instead.
8. Did I mention that my six year old insists on riding around on my shoulders everywhere we go in the parks?
So I'll spend five days carrying him on my shoulders.
He weighs right around forty pounds so effectively I'm carrying around a barbell everywhere I go for five days. Crossfit: Disney.
This is what dad strength is made of.
At Hollywood Studios I have a snake draped around me and then a six year old sitting on top of the snake.
9. My six year old has to poop so I take him to the bathroom.
While he's in the toilet, I do what dads everywhere do, I pee and then stand around awkwardly leaning up against the wall in the bathroom looking like a sex predator.
Every dad has been there.
You go in the bathroom because you're afraid someone might do something to your kid while he's in there, but then what the hell do you do? Every now and then you can call out, "You okay in there?" and get a response from your kid, but you still look like a pervert.
I usually take out my phone and check email, but that also looks strange. Why is this grown man leaned up against the wall checking his phone in the bathroom? With, mind you, a fake snake wrapped around his neck too?
And when your kids poop it seems like it takes forever. And then inevitably they don't wipe well enough and they're already scratching their asses when they come out of the stall and sometimes you have to take them back into the bathroom to wipe better. (Are girls also bad wipers? I have three boys and all three of them are the world's worst ass wipers. I'm convinced this is a boy thing.)
So anyway my six year old comes back out of the toilet and I can tell he didn't poop and I ask him what happened and he says that he didn't like the way the toilet felt on his bottom and he couldn't go.
So I ask him what he means because I know my wife is going to blame me for him not pooping -- as a husband you become inured to the fact that anything your kids do that isn't perfect is your fault -- and he says, "I don't like the toilets that aren't complete circles."
(Come to find out he likes toilet rims that are complete circles as opposed to the ones with openings at the front. I swear to God I have never even noticed this on toilets before.)
100% poop diva here.
So we go back outside and I tell my wife that he didn't poop because he didn't like the toilets and my wife says, "And you didn't make him poop?!" Like I was supposed to be in there in the stall with him screaming at him Bobby Knight style until the poop came out.
My six year old won't poop for the rest of the day.
10. It's afternoon now and it's hot and we take the boys on Star Tours while our two year old sleeps in his stroller.
While my six year old won't poop, my two year old is a poop fiend today and we've run out of diapers so we have to find diapers in the park. (Disney sells them in the park entrance.)
My wife, who has scheduled our entire Disney vacation on an Excel spreadsheet -- this is what happens when your insanely intelligent wife doesn't work anymore and just throws her 99th percentile brain into other issues. Later I'll ask her how long she spent planning our Disney vacation and she will say, "Not that long just 15 or 20 hours."
15 or 20 hours!
So we're buying new diapers and my two boys are fighting -- seriously, my two oldest boys fight all day long, every day. I didn't have brothers, but I'm told this is common. It's still uncanny how much they fight -- all the time -- and what they fight over -- literally everything.
Right now they are fighting over who poops more.
The sun is going down and the weather is perfect now, but my parents make the smart decision to take the youngest one, who is in full meltdown mode, back to the hotel.
Our nanny, who is from Orlando and was there for a wedding the same weekend our vacation started, is coming to the hotel room to join us tonight.
Our Disney crew will now be me, my wife, our three boys, my parents, and our nanny.
I swear to god, this is why I can never take a day off. At one point I was just one dude, I didn't need much money. I wrote all of my first book, "Dixieland Delight," for less than $5k. And that included travel and tickets to every SEC football stadium as well as meals, hotel, and drinks, gas and being on the road for an entire fall.
Now I've got eight people with me at Disney World and I'm going to spend way more than that for a week.
In twenty years they're going to do a "Behind the Internet," and it's going to be a story about me making millions on Outkick and radio and TV and now I'm going to be penniless like all these musicians. Only instead of all these insane stories of music excess, it's just going to be morosely staring into the camera saying, "I don't even know where the money went. I just took my family to Disney World."
11. We take the boys on Star Tours and after Star Tours, in typical Disney fashion, you exit into a Star Wars themed gift store.
This is different than the other Star Wars themed gift store in the park where, and I can't believe this, they will sell you Star Wars toys and then deliver the toys to your hotel. Just so parents like me can't say, "That's cool, bud, but do we really want to carry that ship around all day at the park?"
NOW THEY SHIP THEM TO YOUR HOTEL ROOMS IF YOU STAY AT DISNEY.
And your kids all know this because they are smarter than you.
So when I try to avoid buying toys using the time honored parental excuse of we don't want to carry that toy around all day, my six year old immediately retorts: "Dad, they can ship to the hotel!"
So we buy a starfighter jet or something in the first Star Wars shop.
Then in the second Star Wars gift shope there are two unique options: you can make your own droid and you can make your own lightsaber. The make your own lightsaber is so popular that THERE IS A LINE OUTSIDE THE GIFT SHOP FOR PEOPLE TO PAY TO MAKE THEIR OWN LIGHTSABERS.
Later I walk past the line and see so many parents there, sweating, close to giving up on life. These are the same parents that ten years ago had so much free time and robust social lives outside of work. They could even go to movies and have alcohol during the week. Now they're on family vacations sweating their balls off waiting in line to buy lightsabers.
That they have to make themselves.
My two boys make their own droids.
Included are culturally insensitive sombreros for your droid. (Note, this is a joke, I don't really believe that the sombrero is a culturally offensive appropriation, but MSESPN does.)
12. It's now evening and my wife has scheduled a Star Wars firework viewing that features food and drink and a reserved firework viewing area.
We walk into the party area -- you have to prebook and check in with a security guard to enter the area, the same place where we met Kylo Ren earlier in the day -- and they have lots of Star Wars themed treats, drinks, and, mercifully for the parents, mixed alcoholic drinks.
My wife and I just start pounding these drinks. I don't even know what they are, red and orange Star Wars juicers. The area is made to look like Moe Eisley's cantina.
In fact, at one point I go back for double drinks and two guys in stormtrooper uniforms walk up and ask to see my ID.
There are also two jawas running around that my kids love interacting with.
After an hour or so of eating and drinking we are led by a group of stormtroopers to a roped off viewing area in front of the Grauman Chinese theater replica. And then a Star Wars fireworks show featuring scenes from all the movies happens.
And it is simply phenomenal.
The boys are agog -- including my six year old who is watching, predictably, from my shoulders -- and my wife and I are both blown away too.
It's the best thing we've seen so far at Disney.
As we file out at 8:30 to ride home on the bus -- it's standing room only and my boys get into a shoving fight over something that threatens to bring down 30 or 40 standing people of all ages -- I have to pull my six year old away and get between he and his brother.
As the bus ride continues, my six year old tugs on my arm. Thinking he has something important to tell me about how incredible our second day has gone, I squat down beside him and look into his dark brown, saucer like eyes.
"What is it, bud?" I ask.
"Dad," he says, "I really have to poop bad."
So ends day two at Disney World.