We stepped off the ferryboat that transported us to Magic Kingdom, and as soon as we entered the gates, I realized what time it was. 3:00 - parade time! Magic Kingdom has been having a parade at 3:00 every single day for decades. And though I thought we might catch a glimpse of it one day while we were there, I didn't make strict plans to see it, and by the time the last day had approached, I had really forgotten about it altogether.
But when we stepped into the park just in time to see it, and when we just happened to find the perfect empty curb spot to sit down at, it seemed like divine intervention and a good excuse to stop walking for a while and enjoy one heck of a show. Really - we couldn't have asked for a better viewing spot and we didn't even have to be one of the hundreds that showed up to the parade route an hour early!
Just like no one does fireworks like Disney, no one does parades like Disney either. It was fantastic. And we were right next to the action.
The best feature of the whole parade was the fire-breathing dragon from Sleeping Beauty.
The parade helped to set the tone for our final night and we enjoyed one magical experience the rest of the day. We visited a number of attractions and rides we hadn't gotten to yet, stopped for hot dogs in Tomorrowland, frightened the heck out of Brandon in Stitch's Great Escape, laughed at that horrible dud of a go-kart in the Tomorrowland Speedway, and laughed so hard we cried when we saw the picture taken of Papa and Nana in Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin.
We scored a view of the park from the train station - the train that would transport us from the back of the park to the front just in time for fireworks.
Starting to get real sentimental at this point. Time's almost up.
Our final ride of our trip. Goofy's Barnstormer rollercoaster. The kids raised their arms above their heads for the entire ride - having come a long ways since Everest when they held on to their lap restraints for dear life. :)
We made it back to Main Street and got ready to settle in for what was my most anticipated hour of the whole trip.
Fireworks around the castle. I wanted that moment with my family so badly. But just as the crowds were gathering in preparation, the storm clouds started brewing.
And I started silently praying so hard that our final night wouldn't get rained out. I wanted these two to experience Wishes. I wanted us to experience it with them. I stayed outwardly positive but inwardly nervous, and Cody has never checked the radar app on his phone more. Our phones died watching the weather on Main Street USA.
But that backdrop sure was stunning. The pictures don't do it justice. The Mickey jack-o-lanterns all lit up. The white lights that lined the street. And the darkest, most-dramatic clouds behind Cinderella's castle.
And then sure enough, 20 minutes before show time, the downpour came. We quickly dashed into one of the gift shops off the curb right behind us, as did everyone else, and prayed for nothing more than a quick Florida shower. As we watched the clock tick closer to 8pm.
And then 7:59 came. The rain completely stopped. And the sky exploded with color. It couldn't have been timed more perfectly. And as the Magic Kingdom transformed itself into the picture of my memories, and the music of Wishes played loud and clear throughout the land, and as Brandon sat atop Cody's shoulders and Jaden and my dad looked on beside me, my eyes welled with the tears I knew would come. This was the moment I had wanted. This was the moment my parents had wanted. This was a night I won't ever forget. Magic Kingdom fireworks seen through the eyes of my kids. My favorite moment of the whole trip.
And then another little surprise when the fireworks were over. For decades now Magic Kingdom has been the host of Disney's Electrical Parade - it used to be called Spectromagic. This parade is one of my very first memories of Disney and the trip we took when I was seven years old. Earlier this fall, Disney announced that this parade would be going into permanent retirement the first week of October. It's been a huge part of the Disney fabric for so long that many of the Disney faithful took to social media to proclaim their anger and disappointment in this decision. And heading into our trip, it wasn't scheduled to run during our night in the Magic Kingdom.
Schedules apparently changed. Just a few weeks prior to its retirement, I watched that parade with my kids. Their first time. My last time. What a perfect and poetic ending to our trip.
And during the parade, Brandon finally got his wish. While Brandon proudly wore his Goofy hat, Goofy looked right at him and waved. He'd been waiting three days for that moment. :)
The trip we'll never forget. Thanks Mom and Dad for making this possible. For the months of joy we had as we planned, dreamed and anticipated. And for being able to see through the crowds and the heat and the cost - to the magic that all of it is at its core.
We don't say goodbye. Until next time, Mickey