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Sunday, April 10, 2011

What I Did During My Spring Break...Part One

AKA, How I made my children love me for very little money.
Wait. What? You can't buy love? Tell that to my 9 and 7 year old daughters.

AKA, The post that helps you to understand the kind of cheap we are.

We had Spring Break a couple of weeks ago. It started on Friday, which I think just adds insult to the injury of having your kids home for a week. I knew if I didn't keep the kids busy, I'd be in for a terribly long week, so we planned out a couple of things in advance.


 I helped the kids (and our neighbor friends) set up cones for scooter obstacle races (please understand that I am aware that my child isn't wearing a helmet or any other protective gear in this picture, thank you) and taught them to play broom hockey. We also broke out the sidewalk chalk. We spent the majority of our day outside. Lovely.


 We spent the entire day cleaning out the garage. It did, in fact, take the entire day. We own four bikes, one double wide bike trailer, 5 scooters, 1 tricycle, 2 skateboards, and 2 baby "cars." I'm sure I'm missing something. It takes up a substantial amount of room in the garage.

Sunday is church. Church is almost always great. It was!
I had previously begged and pleaded with my husband to take off work a couple of days during Spring Break. I think my exact words were, "Please don't leave me alone with them for that long!!! I won't survive!" He did not fail me. So on Monday... Monday is the day I like to call, "FREE DISNEY."
Well, if you're like us, and can't stand the constant questioning and too much chatter, you don't tell your kids what's happening or where they're going until they figure it out on their own. It makes things much easier on our end and the surprise is great for the kids.
For the record, we packed a lunch and dinner. Lunch was sandwiches, apples, and cheese. Dinner was... well, you'll hear about it later.

We started off the day at Downtown Disney. If you don't know, Downtown Disney is simply a bunch of shops and restaurants that are affiliated with Disney, but it doesn't cost anything to go down and hang around see stuff. That is, unless you want to see a show, or actually eat there. Ha!
So first, check out my crew.

 Yes, they're all mine. Stop counting. Yes, they all have the same father, and no, I'm not the nanny. Thanks.
There is a really cool dinosaur restaurant there. We didn't eat there, we just looked at the SUPER HUGE dinosaur sculptures they've got going on which make Lucas freak right the heck out. It was hilarious. To us. He, on the other hand is severely traumatized.

We walked through DD, where there are a bunch of fun things for kids to see and do like fountains for the kids to splash in, and the next best thing to waiting in line for 1.5 hours to meet your favorite princess (gag me!).
We headed over to the LEGO store (which is currently being renovated) where the kids got to play with Legos! We opted to purchase one self-designed LEGO person for each kid (3 for $9.99) and then headed out to my favorite stop.

Goofy's Candy Company
Honestly, they have THE best caramel apples ever (yes, I'm looking at you Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, better than YOU!). The best part is that you have the ability to pick and choose what you want on it and they make it right in front of you! The kids LOVED watching it and the nice people who work there are so generous! 
 While we waited for the apple to be done, the kids played in the fun mirrors they have in the store.
Instead of taking the apple with us, we had them cut it up for us right then, and we went to town. We split one apple between all seven of us, but it worked perfectly because much more than one or two pieces of that candy loaded apple would have sent me into a sugar coma! Price: $8ish? WORTH IT.

From there we got to go see the Macaws outside the Rainforest Cafe which my kids maintained were fake. Totally real. If you go, be sure to go inside the Rainforest Cafe and take a look around at the amazing fish tanks they have. They're some of the best I've ever seen (I've never been to an Aquarium... judge my parents, not me).

Still Monday. From DD, we left and drove over to Disney's Campgrounds. Fort Wilderness. We've had friends telling us about this place for well over a year. We just assumed they were kidding. It is honestly Disney's Best Kept Secret (that a lot of people know about).

We pulled up to Fort Wilderness and they have a gated entry. The guard asks us our business and we simply said, "We're just here for the day!" To which he replied, "Have fun!"

Here lies our one splurge. We rented a golf cart. It runs about $60 for 24 hours, but since you can't drive through the campgrounds, transporting our whole family would be infinitely easier via motorized cart. We were right. But! You can take bikes in and everything in the Fort is easily within biking distance. You can also rent bikes there and I think their prices are reasonable (though I don't recall what they are offhand).

We rode over to the Horse Barns. Fort Wilderness is the home to all of the horses and ponies that they use at the Magic Kingdom. You can ride the ponies for $5/person (we didn't). We did however go over and take a look at many of the horses, and got to watch two receive a shower/bath (whatever they call washing a horse).

This is Ivan. He was HUGE.
We started to head over to the beach. Yes, they have a beach. I think one of my favorite things was that they had stuff lying around to occupy your time. Like a checkers board on tables, horseshoes, shuffleboard, and even monster sized dominoes for the kids. We played on the playground and finally walked over to the beach.
I let the kids kick off their shoes and wade in as far as they dared. Lucas ended up soaked. Of course.

Matt hates sand, so he took Libby and wandered over to the pier. You can rent boats. I believe that they have motorboats (little ones) that kids as young as 12 can drive by themselves. Crazy cool. There are ferries that are coming and leaving that pier all the time. Guess what, they're FREE.

So, we hopped on the ferry. Did it matter where it took us? Nope. Not even a little. As it turns out, it will take you over to the Wilderness Lodge which is this insanely cool hotel that Disney owns and I would love to stay in OR you can ride the ferry to the Magic Kingdom.

Or in our case, you can ride the ferry to the Wilderness Lodge, have a minor panic attack when Matt can't find his brand new cell phone, hop on the next ferry back to Fort Wilderness and retrace your steps until you realize that you left it in the car (actually it was my fault, sorry Matt!).
The kids loved the ferry. You have to realize how sheltered my kids are. None of them had ever been on a boat before. I quite enjoyed it myself.

Now, I didn't realize it before we left, or I would have made sure to come prepared, but Fort Wilderness has a really nice pool. And kiddie pool. And splash pad. We didn't get to use it because we didn't bring out suits. We are definitely going back. We don't have access to a pool locally (by choice), so it's nice to know that we can take the kids here once or twice a summer for some chlorine. I mean swimming.

Other things Fort Wilderness had that we didn't take advantage of: Charcoal grills (byo charcoal), fishing (bring or rent a rod), volleyball courts, lighted tennis courts, Organized Crafts and Activities. All of these things were available to us even though we weren't staying there.

 The rest of the story is that about an hour before dinner, they sent out Chip and Dale in costume (this is Chip). They played with the kids. It wasn't just "stand in line and get your picture with them". They played soccer with a gargantuan sized soccer ball. They drew sidewalk chalk pictures with the kids (all the kids, mine weren't the only ones there). It was truly a blast. After that, someone lights two huge fires (safely) and everyone is invited to come roast marshmallows/hot dogs (our dinner!) on the fire.  OR you can buy hot dogs already cooked at the concession stand.

After awhile, a "cowboy" came out and we had a huge campfire singalong. And FINALLY, after the singing, they play a full-length feature film on a big screen, outdoors. It was some honestly decent family fun. FOR FREE.

I estimate that the day cost us $100. That includes food, Legos, the golf cart and even the gas to get there. Now, that may seem steep, but when you consider the cost of taking my family to Disney's Magic Kingdom for one day... (hold... doing the math.) $414. Four hundred and fourteen dollars to stand in line for 2 hours to ride the Dumbo ride. Never. Gonna. Happen. That doesn't include food. Or gas. Or parking. Or souvenirs (my kids picked up pinecones and seashells at Fort Wilderness).

I know there are a lot of Disney Fanatics out there, and having gone to Universal Studios today (also for free) and seeing how dirty and sorta run down it is in comparison, I can understand why people like Disney. It's squeaky clean. Nothing is EVER out of place. It really is a magical thing. But not $414 magical. Sorry.

We definitely have plans to go back to Fort Wilderness and even camp there!

Uh... so, Tuesday.  Is this thing still on? We'll talk about the rest of the week tomorrow!


Mia said...

My mom is a Disney fanatic. Growing up she would work part time all year to pay for Disney ticket for the seven of us. EVERY YEAR. We always stayed at Fort Wilderness because it was so cheap and had so much to do. $35 a night for up to 10 people? Can't beat that.

Lindsay said...

Looks like a blast! I'll have to talk Noah into a free Disney day with no lines. He abhors lines!

elizabeth said...

We need to go there for our next Family reunion, it's a perfect match for the "cheap" Eng family:)

Jenny said...

Sounds like a blast. Fort Wilderness sounds like our kind of place!

Jamie said...

Fort Wilderness sounds like so much fun! Thanks for sharing about your awesome family adventure.

Unknown said...

i wanna come to your house next spring break! sounds awesome!
mine's this week and i've been... well, doing a lot of nothin. which is pretty great too, i must say.
maybe kids will motivate me to get more creative.

Sara Lyn said...

Fort Wilderness is the best ever! I remember staying there when I was little once. The movie they showed for free that night was "101 Dalmatians." Glad you got to go!

Rachelle said...

cheap is always best! we have annual passes to D-Land and i don't think we will renew them. it always seems busy (even in off season) and its so much work for just a few rides. honestly my kids would be just as happy walking around downtown disney or wait, the park by our house.

fun times!

Sabra at Sew a Straight Line said...

so fun, Liss! I wish we had something like that closer. Especially the beach part. Can't wait to read about the rest of the week.

Ruth Solter said...

Ok- we're ready for Part 2

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