Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Most Magical Place on Earth

As promised, here is my blog post on Disney World. I'm sure you all have been glued to your computer screens eagerly awaiting this day. Just a warning: This post is going to be LONG! I have so much to say!


In February my husband had to go out of town for a MONTH for his job. It was terrible. I've never missed him so much. We spent our first Valentines Day away from each other in 6 years. I know that's a cheesy holiday and not a big deal, but it was still kinda sad. I sent him with a little gift, though, and he left me with one. I thought my gift to him was the best but I was definitely wrong. For his gift I got a deck of cards and wrote 52 things I love about him on each of them. Each card had tiny pictures representing each reason. I connected all of the cards with a little ring found at Michaels. I put it in a heart-shaped box and it was surrounded by Reasons candies. That was my attempt at being clever. He loved it, but I think I loved his gift to me a little bit more. 


Ever since our very first date I've been talking to Matt about how much I love Disney World. I've been dying to go there with him ever since. He had been once in 2001 with his family and I had probably been 20 times. My great-grandmother lives right outside Orlando so I grew up going down there. Well, we opened our gifts together via FaceTime on Valentines Day. This is what he gave me:


He gave me a billion chocolates, 4 Disney movies, and a sweet card. The end of the card said "P.S. FaceTime me for the rest of the gift" with a little Mickey head next to it. We were already FaceTiming and he told me that WE ARE GOING TO DISNEY WORLD! I was so excited. I may have run laps around the house screaming. No one can understand my deep passion for the place. I don't care how old you are. It's so magical! I immediately started planning. He had already found our hotel and bought our plane tickets. We were scheduled to leave the day after I graduated. I was supposed to graduate on Saturday and we'd leave Sunday morning. Well of course the Grizzlies won some games and long story short they ended up having to play in the FedEx Forum the day of my graduation. Since they have first dibs on the place my graduation was pushed back to that Sunday (aka the day we were leaving for Disney). I was disappointed but that still didn't put a damper on my excitement. The U of M is letting me walk in the August graduation ceremony so I'm thankful. It's kind of anticlimactic walking in your graduation 3 months after you graduate but it's okay. While my classmates were wearing mortar board graduation hats I was wearing my Minnie Mouse ears. So much better in my opinion.


So now onto my review! 

Let me start by saying that we had the BEST time. It was so much fun. When we were flying there Matt told me that I need to really take in the trip because we probably wouldn't be returning for 10ish years. He fell in love with the place. The first thing he did when we got back home was research where we're going to stay next. I don't think he'll let 10 years go by. We now share a deep passion for WDW! I love it!

We went the week of May 12-May 17, 2013. It was the perfect time to go. It was before school got out so there was literally no one there. The families that I saw were mostly families with tiny kids (because they weren't in school yet). I've never been when it was so empty. It was also wasn't hot! It's in central Florida. When is it not hot? It was a tad bit toasty in the direct sun but it was really nice in the shade. At night it was chilly! I remember being cold way more than I remember being hot. A lot of the rides are indoors and they made me cold. Normally when you get on the rides you're trying to escape the heat and it feels so good. When I got on them I got chills. WHAT? It was so nice. Wasn't complaining about that at all. It was also perfectly sunny. No rain or overcast. Seriously. It was wonderful. If you're planning a trip for next year I definitely recommend going then.

I spent months preparing for the trip. I made a very detailed itinerary  We didn't even need it because the crowds were so small. We did EVERYTHING we wanted to do, most of the things between 2-10 times, and we did things that we were certain that we wouldn't get to. There were time that we didn't know what to do because we had done everything so many times. When does that happen at Disney World???

I definitely recommend getting the Nonofficial Guide to Walt Disney World before your trip. My brother and sister-in-law went in January and got it and loaned it to us. It was really helpful. It seriously covers everything you need to know. It tells you which parks are least busy on which days and optimal times to ride each ride (when they're the least busy). I took all this into consideration when we went. The crowdedness of the parks on specific days was definitely correct in the book. I didn't have to do the ride times thing though because there was hardly a wait on any ride! 


I pulled out some of the things that I found useful that I'll share with you. I'll share my tips with you via category and place based on our experience. 

Transportation:

You get so many benefits from staying at a Disney resort. One of the many benefits is transportation. There is free transportation from every place to every place (this is actual available to any guest staying in a Disney resort or not). Do you have any idea how many Disney places there are to go? A bus is guaranteed to be where you are to pick you up every 20 minutes. We never waited that long for one. They're just always going. No need to rent a car. PLUS if you did take your car, without the buses you'd have to pay $14 a day for parking. It saves a little money. Also, another benefit is Disney's Magical Express (You must be a resort guest for this service). Yes, it's as magical as it sounds. If you fly there they have FREE transportation from airport to hotel and hotel to airport. If you know anything about Disney prices you know that not much is free. This actually is a really nice perk to staying with them. 


Let me tell you, they have the magical express down. They are so organized and on top of things. You have to go to the Disney World website a few months/weeks before your vacation and sign up for it. They mail you a little brochure (Keep this and bring it with you on the plane in your carry on. You'll need it to get on the bus) and baggage stickers. You can choose to put the yellow stickers on your checked baggage. If you put the sticker on your checked baggage they will pull it aside when they take it off of the plane at the Orlando airport. It will NOT show up on the conveyor belt. If you put the tag on your bag it will leave your possession at the airport when you check it in and it will show up in your hotel room at your Disney resort. Pretty magical, ehh? You don't have to wait for your bag at the airport. You get off the plane and go straight to the Magical Express section of the airport. It's pretty massive. I was unaware that I wouldn't even see my baggage until it got to our room. I thought that the luggage would still come out on the conveyor belt and we could get it or not. I should've done a little more research on that one. Our tennis shoes and sunscreen were in it. Oops. Once arriving at the airport, you need to give the Disney people 3 hours to have your bag at your hotel. We didn't have 3 hours! We needed to get there ASAP. I was about to explode with excitement and definitely couldn't wait that long. Therefore, I had to wear my flip flops to the park and I wasn't wearing sunscreen. I got 5 blisters on my feel and a nice sunburn the first day. Most magical blisters and sunburn ever. It was actually pretty unfortunate but it's okay. I think the Magical Express brochure says to pack things you will need immediately in your carry on bag. I wasn't thinking. Totally my fault. 

There's a map of where to go in the airport to get there in the brochure so you won't get lost. They scan your brochure that they mailed you earlier and direct you to one of like 10 lines. You then wait (not very long) to get on your designated bus. Our bus took guests to all 3 All Star resorts and Coronado Springs Resort. The bus ride was about 40 minutes but it was comfortable AND you got to watch a video about Disney World the whole way there. It really gets you excited. 

The Magical Express also picks you up from your hotel and guarantees that you'll get to the airport early enough before our flight leaves. Also, the day before you leave THEY CHECK INTO YOUR FLIGHT FOR YOU. Whaaa? My husband went to check into our flight the day before we left and saw that it had already been done. When we got back to our room that night we had our departing Magical Express info (like when to be down to the lobby, etc) and it had our boarding passes printed waiting for us. Seriously? They think of everything! When we went down that morning to leave they had a little station by the bus dock where you check your bags. You pay your $25/per bag fee and give them your bag and you won't see it again until Memphis. When you get to the airport you go straight to security. So cool! You check your bag at your hotel 40 minutes away from the airport and you pick it up at your final destination. I was so impressed. 

Hotel:


We stayed at Disney's All Star Sports Resort. It was only about $70 a night. Crazy!! The All Star resorts (they have All Star Music and All Star Movies as well) are the cheapest Disney hotels. DEFINITELY stay on the property. Disney hotels are the way to go fo sho. (I was going to start using initials for the name of the hotel to save me some typing time but I quickly realized that that wasn't an option). All Star Sports  is the best if you have to choose because the buses to the parks stop there first. If the bus fills up at All Star Sports (which it often does) it goes straight to the park. This means that people waiting for buses at the other All Star resorts have to wait longer for another bus to show. The bus goes to Sports then Music then Movies. You're more guaranteed a spot on the buses when you stay at Sports. In addition to that, the place was magical! I've stayed in All Star resorts as a kid but don't remember them much. I was expecting them to look cheap because they were so cheap. How dare I underestimate Disney! It was a magical place as is everything with his name on it. 

We were immediately greeted upon arrival and they have the sweetest cast members (don't call them employees...they're cast members). Our room wasn't quite ready and I was too impatient to wait on it so we gave them our extra bags to hang onto while we went into the parks. They even delivered the bags that we gave them to the room when it was ready. We didn't get to our room for the first time until about 1:30 AM (we're serious Disney-goers) and our checked bag and all of the stuff we gave them upon arrival was in our room for us. 


We did have a problem with our toilet. When you went to flush it it would make the noise but it wouldn't actually flush. It'd say it was pretty inconvenient. We told them on our first morning there and they sent maintenance to look at it and they said they fixed it but they didn't. They sent them again the next day and it was fixed! 2 days later it broke again though. Weird. Something is just wrong with that toilet. That was the only problem we had. The room was really spacious, we had a comfy King-sized bed, nice bathroom (minus the toilet), a lot of storage for clothes, a TV, mini fridge, and desk, and 2 bedside tables. One of my favorite things was that they had a light switch right next to the bed so you didn't have to get up to turn it off. So nice. We even had a Mickey towel on our bed when we got there!


We didn't swim but the hotel had a HUGE pool. Also, like every night they were showing a Disney movie at the pool on a blow-up screen. They had a bar by the pool as well if you wanted to indulge in an *ahem* adult beverage. They had a huge gift shop and restaurant there as well. If you have kids into sports this is the perfect place for them. Right outside our building (the resort is made up of like 10 different themed buildings) there was a massive football field with astro turf. Our building was called "touchdown." I found it rather appropriate.


Another perk of staying at ANY Disney hotel:  If you buy something in the parks and don't want to carry it around with you, you fill out this short form at the time of purchase and they deliver the item to the gift shop AT your hotel. So cool!! I like to buy ornaments everywhere we go. In Liberty Square in Magic Kingdom they have a Ye Old Christmas store. Matt saw the store and immediately started walking towards it before I even said anything. He just knew I'd want to go there. He knows me a little too well. I got a cute glass Mickey head ornament. It was kind of bulky to carry around in my backpack and I didn't want to break it. The store people wrapped it up really nicely and put it in a box and 24 hours later it was at my hotel waiting for me! 
Yet another awesome aspect of staying on property is access to Extra Magic Hours. Every day a specific park either opens early or closes late. The only people who can go during these times are resort guests. We were at the Magic Kingdom the first day we got there until 1:00 AM. It closed to the rest of the guests at 10 PM but we got to stay. The parks often open at 9 AM and Extra Magic Hours are from 8-9 for resort guests. It's definitely less crowded at these times.

Last cool thing I'll mention (I could go on and on) is something that will blow your mind it's so magical! Well I thought it was. (I'm not going to apologize for over-using the word "magical" in this post...every time I say it it's 100% necessary). When we checked in we loaded our credit card onto our ROOM KEY! It's called "Key to the World." They gave me one and Matt one. Our room keys even had our names printed ON them. We created a pin number and could use it just like a debit card. It just immediately charged our credit card each time we used it. The most magical thing about it was that to use it you don't swipe it. At each place where you would pay (ie a restaurant, shop, etc) there is a Mickey head. You simply TOUCH the card to the Mickey head and the head lights up green. You enter your pin and you're done! The door to the hotel room worked the same way. You touch the key to the Mickey head on the door and it magically unlocks. These are the things that simply amaze me. Only Disney World. Here's an example of what a Key to the World looks like:


*Note: The Magic Kingdom is further away than the other 3 parks. It's a 20 minute bus ride from the All Star resorts. Keep that in mind if it'd be a problem or if you want to spend most of your time in this park. It also makes it a little more inconvenient if you take a hotel break in the middle of the day with napping children or a pool break. The travel alone there and back is 40 minutes. It wasn't a problem for us because we never left in the middle of the day but it may be a problem for you.

Now for the good stuff, PARKS!

Fast Passes

These are wonderful. Beside popular rides and attractions they will have a "Fast Pass Distribution" Center. There are magical boxes that you put your park ticket into and it spits you out a Fast Pass. The Fast Pass will have an hour-long time period in which you can return to the ride/attraction with little to no wait. The catch is that you can't get another Fast Pass until the time located at the bottom of the Fast Pass arrives. Most of the time you can't get another Fast Pass until the time-slot of the ride to which you currently have the Fast Pass for arrives. For example, if your Fast Pass time slot for you to return is 10:05-11:05, you often won't be able to get another Fast Pass for another attraction until after 10:05. Sometimes it's before then, though. You just have to refer to your fast pass ticket to see. On popular rides like Soarin' in Epcot and Toy Story Midway Mania in Hollywood Studios you want to get a Fast Pass ASAP. When all of the time slots fill up the Fast Passes are no longer available and they shut down the distribution centers. Soarin' and Midway Mania fill up very quickly so get those as soon as you get to the parks to ensure that you can ride it without a forever long wait. It's not unusual for the wait for either of those rides to be 2 hours long. Especially during the summer and at peak times. Overall, Fast Pass is a great invention if you time everything right. 


The word on the street is that they're about to implement a new system. Go here to read more about it:

Be PrePAREDDDD!

Just a few things you need to prepare yourself with for the parks.

I carried a cross-body purse and a backpack. It didn't hinder me one bit. I carried our park tickets in my purse for easy access (you need your park tickets to obtain Fast Passes). I also packed water bottles from our house that I filled with water from the hotel sink and chilled in our fridge over night. Those definitely came in handy. I brought granola bars, poptarts (to save some money on breakfast) and snacks (like chips and Cheese Its)  in case we got the munchies. I also carried Advil, Dramamine (just in case), wet wipes, hand sanitizer, sunglasses, park maps, etc. It's just nice to have a backpack. There are no rides that they would get lost on unless you didn't brace them in some way. I just put my leg thru a strap and sat it on the floor of the ride. No problem!

Pack bandaids! They were a lifesaver for my blisters. I almost forgot them and added them to my toiletries at the last minute. Glad I remembered. You never know when the blisters or booboos might strike!

I also got a Disney wait times app. It was a true miracle. If you wanted to know what the wait is on the other side of the park without walking all the way there, you had an app on your smartphone to help! Believe me, your legs and feet are going to be tired. You need to save up all of the energy that you can. I used the app called WDW Waits. I had a few more but didn't use them. You pull up the app then select the park and it has all of the rides and their wait times. Pretty cool!

This is obvious but bring your camera! They have castmembers all over the parks in the most photo-worthy spots. They have their own cameras but they'll take pictures with yours as well. I have this tripod whom I named Targus who I always take on trips with me. Matt HATES Targus. I didn't have to bring him. Of course I wouldn't have risked being that person with a tripod in the middle of Disney World, but I did see one of those people while we were there. But yeah. They take your picture with no charge AND they give you a PhotoPass card with loaded pics of you that they took with their fancy cameras. You can go online and login and see those pictures. You can order actual prints or the digital files. They start at $14.95 which is kind of alot in my opinion for one picture. You can order a photo cd if you'd like with every single picture that was taken of you. That, of course, costs like $150. My advice is to just get them to use your camera but whatever floats your boat!

Take pictures of your tickets with your phones AND make copies of them. If you lose them it's good to have this information so that they can be replaced.

Magic Kingdom


Of course I have to start with the park that started them all. Magic Kingdom, in my opinion, is by far the most magical park. It's also definitely the best for children. 

Main Street USA
Town Square Theater- Meet princesses like Cinderella, Rapunzel and Aurora as well as Mickey Mouse. I recommend getting a fast pass if the wait is long. When I went to get my picture taken the wait said 35 minutes and it took a solid hour. Worth it! Little girls around me LOVED meeting them. They're all so in character. It's amazing really. Each one of them personally related something about me to their individual stories. For example, Rapunzel saw my Vera Bradley bag/satchel and asked if I thought I could fit a frying pan in it. Aurora saw the little birds on my shirt and said "Are you friends with the birds too?" Of course I am! You can't break them. They're such magical people. They bring stories alive for children AND adults. And yes, I, a 22 year old woman, waited in line for an hour surrounded by 3 year olds in Cinderella dresses to get my picture taken with the princesses. Tangled is my all-time favorite movie. Don't judge. I find it utterly hilarious. I WILL be a Disney princess one day.


Shops- If you want to buy a souvenir or get a delicious goodie this is a good place to do it. There's a shop after shop after shop and they have a bakery and a few places to get food. If you're leaving the park at closing (most of the time right after a parade or fireworks) Main Street is CRAZY! There are people everywhere trying to get out of the park. I suggest going though the shops. They're all connected and way less congested. 
Magic Kingdom Railroad- We normally don't have time to do this but this trip we did. It's a nice little ride around the whole park. It goes from Main Street to Fronteirland (by Splash mountain and Thunder Mountain Railroad) to the New Fantasyland and back to Main Street. A train comes every 6-7 minutes. 

Tomorrowland
Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin- You can't not love this. It's an interactive moving ride. There are targets placed throughout the ride and you shoot them with your own gun. At the end you see your score. It's just a lot of fun.


Monster's Inc Laugh FloorDon't miss this. I went as a teenager and found it hilarious. The kids around me loved it.
Tomorrow Land's Transit Authority People MoverHardly ever a wait because it's so overlooked and a great little ride to just relax on. If your kids need a quick nap or if they are tired you should ride this. If there's no wait they often let you stay on and go around and around. It's takes 10 minutes and it just moves around Tomorrowland...it even goes through Space Mountain and other popular Tomorrowland attractions. It's cool and relaxing.

Astro Orbiter-This is so fun. You ride around in little spaceships and you get to control whether they go up or down. You can ride 2 people to a spaceship. Matt and I rode in the same one. You get a great view because it's so high.

Stitch's Great Escape- This tends to terrify children. You get strapped in a seat but it's not a moving ride. I went when I was really young when it was called "Alien Encounter" and I was screaming. It's a little more child-friendly now but it's practically the same thing and I'm still not a huge fan. We didn't do it this trip. Older people and some kids will like it but take proper precautions. 

Space Mountain- SO fun!! It's a roller coaster in the dark. Kids might find it scary but it is definitely the most thrilling ride at Magic Kingdom. It's pretty fast and it's more for older kids but it's so fun.

Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress- This is a nice little relaxing thing that takes 20 minutes. Another good resting spot for kids. I seriously doubt they'll enjoy it because it's more for adults but if they want to sleep or rest it's a good place to do it. The only downside is that you'll have the theme song stuck in your head for days! There's a great big beautiful tomorrowwwwww.

Tomorrowland Speedway- We've never done this but you just putt putt around in a gocart. It looks pretty slow. They're on a track so you can't go around wherever you want but little kids like it because they get to "drive" their own car. 



Fantasyland 

It's a Small World- A classic, slow-moving, relaxing ride. Another ride you'll never stop singing the theme song of. Matt actually saw someone he knew on this ride. IT'S A SMALL WORLD AFTER ALL!

Pinocchio Village Haus- We ate here for dinner the first night. It was really good! No need for a reservation. It's a counter service restaurant. It also has a large window in it that overlooks It's a Small World. The people on the ride love to wave at you before they embark on the happiest cruise in the world. Always a fun activity when you're stuffing your face.

Mad Tea PartyAnother classic. Spinning tea cups. Who could resist? Actually they're closed right now for construction but I'm sure they'll reopen soon.

The Many Adventures of Winnie the PoohI was obsessed with Pooh as a kid but I don't know if kids now really know him. If you're kids like Pooh they'll love this! It's a classic story-book ride.

Peter Pan's FlightThis is another classic, slow-moving, magical ride. You ride through the story of Peter Pan in a flying ship! What could be better? It's always crowded so you might want to get a Fast Pass for it. We got one and it was definitely worth it. The wait is always 30 min-2 hours. It was about an hour when we were there and there weren't waits on like any rides. Crazy.With a Fast Pass we walked right on though. 

Mickey's Philhar Magic- Seriously...don't miss it. One of my favorite things in the park. It's a 3-D movie of Donald Duck and Mickey going through different Disney movies. It's like an IMAX. There's a massive screen and if feels like you're in the movie. When you're flying on Aladdin's magic carpet air is actually blowing in your face. When Lumiere holds out a pie during Be Our Guest you can actually SMELL it. It's very well done and so magical. It's cool too if you need a break from the heat.

Prince Charming Regal Carousel- Sure you can find carousels in any mall but can you find Prince Charming's carousel in any mall? NO! Yes it's a carrousel but it's a magical carousel so it's better.


New Fantasyland

Flying Dumbo- Always fun for little kids and now they have 2 of them!

Barnstormer- We didn't do this but it looks like a fun roller coaster for kids. 

Under the Sea-Journey of The Little MermaidLittle Mermaid storybook ride in the new Fantasyland. Don't miss it! Since it's new you'll probably need a Fast Pass because the wait tends to be a little longer than other rides.  (Note: the Fast Pass Distribution center is next to Philhar Magic..save yourself some walking)












Enchanted Tales with Belle- We didn't do this but my favorite Disney-loving friend has been and said it is so magical and little girls love it. If you have kids it's worth a go.



Gaston's Tavern- This place has a really yummy drink called Leofu's Brew. It's frozen apple juice with a fruity foam on top. SO GOOD! We didn't get a pork shank here but I hear it's delicious.


Be Our Guest Restaurant- DON'T MISS THIS! It was the first thing we did upon arrival. Dinner reservations fill up many months in advance so try and get them ASAP. I looked in February and they were already full everyday we were there in May. Sad but you can still eat lunch there. They serve lunch 10:30-2. You order at a magical touch-screen kiosk. After you place your order and pay, you get a magical rose with a GPS in it. You then go sit down where you please in the magical ballroom or the "West Wing" where the Beast keeps the rose. It's just like in Beauty in the Beast! There are huge windows in the ballroom and France is outside and it's snowing. Pure magic. You'd never guess you were in Central Florida when you're inside. The servers then find your table based on your rose location and serve you your food on a rolling cart (just like in the movie). We arrived at the hotel, checked in, then got on a bus to get there in time. We got in line at 1:45. We made it with 15 minutes to spare. As long at you're in line by 2 then you're good. The lady said the wait was like 45 minutes but it was really like 25. Not too bad! I HAD to eat there. HAD to! The food was incredible. I want to go back right now!





*One thing that was frustrating was all of the construction. They're in the process of building Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. I am SO excited about this addition that will be opening in 2014 but it was a very large construction site and it was really inconvenient to walk around. It'll be worth it in the future, though. 



Here's the magical version of the layout of the completed addition. The big thing in the middle is the incomplete 7 Dwarfs Mine Train.


Tangled Rest Area- Sure this is only a rest area (chairs and a bathroom) but it's still magical. It has Rapunzel's tour, lanterns, and horseshoe prints with the name "Maximus" in the concrete. It's located between the old Fantasyland (By Peter Pan and It's a Small World) and Liberty Square. 













Liberty Square

Haunted Mansion- I love this ride but it might be a little scary for little kids. My parents used to force me to ride it when I was little and I cried every single time beforehand but came out loving it. It's one of those things. It was always worth it in the end but getting them to do it might be the hard part. It's not morbid I'd say. It's just a clever ride and so much fun. It's Matt's favorite ride in the world. He decided that on this trip. We rode it I think 8 times. They also added a new little interactive courtyard thing out front where the line is. So cool! 




Hall of Presidents- This is a show about, well, presidents. I find it boring but relaxing. It about 30 minutes. I almost fell asleep in it but Matt loves that stuff. At the end there is an animatronic figure representing each and every US president. Obama was added not too long ago and he's like the most advanced animatronic figure in the world. His movements are so fluid and life-like. It's crazy. 

Liberty Square Riverboat- We never do this but it's exactly what it sounds like. A big riverboat that floats down a little river. 

Columbia Harbor House- We ate here for lunch one day. It's counter service and it's great. I think I read somewhere that it's like the highest rated counter service in Magic Kingdom. Located right across from the Haunted Mansion.

Liberty Tree Tavern- I looked a lot into where to eat before we left for our trip. This place had great reviews so I made reservations back in February. It was delicious AND it was all you can eat! 3 courses! It was like having a Thanksgiving meal. Definitely recommend and make reservations ASAP.






Adventureland

Jungle Cruise- Definitely do this! Kids will love it. It's often crowded so you might want to get a Fast Pass.

Magic Carpets of Aladdin- Fun kid ride and a camel spits water on you as you ride it. Who wouldn't want that to happen? It's just like Dumbo and Astro Orbiter with a different theme. 

Pirates of the Caribbean- This isn't really scary. If your kids like pirates they'll love it. They'll definitely come out singing "Yo Ho Yo Ho." Just another catchy tune to get stuck in your head for forever.

 Swiss Family Treehouse- I think you just explore a big tree house. We never do this but it might be fun!

Enchanted Tiki Room- We don't do this very often but it's a fun little show.

Aloha Isle- Dole Whips! I'm sure you've heard of them. I had never had one until this trip. I'm not a huge fan of pineapple juice but if you are your head will spin around. It's like ice cream and pineapple juice. The ice cream is so yummy. Worth a try. They're pretty yummy. 




Fronteirland
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad- Again, smaller kids might like this but it's more for older kids. It's the second most "thrilling" ride after Space Mountain. It's so fun. 
Country Bear Jamboree- We went to this all the time when I was a kid. I don't remember much about it but I know I loved it. We don't go really anymore. But again, it's indoors if it's hot!
Tom Sawyer Island- We never do this either but it's an island that is Mark Twain-inspired. You go and explore it at your own pace. 
Splash Mountain- This has one big drop but that's the "scariest" part. The ride is pretty long but the inside is so fun and kid-friendly. The drop isn't as bad as it looks. But be careful. You might get wet!!




Wishes!
Magic Kingdom likes to go out with a bang. They have a beautiful firework show every night. Get to a good spot where you can see the castle and the fireworks. We sat on the walkway from the castle to Tomorrowland. It was great. 




Disney's Electrical Parade
Definitely stick around for this. Some nights they have it twice in one night at different times. The later parade tends to be way less crowded because families with small kids go home after the first one. Pure magic. We sat on the ground right in front of the castle for the 11 pm parade (there was also one at 9). There was literally no one there. We went to a good viewing point (that we read about in the Unofficial Guide) and there was no one to be seen in either direction of us. We didn't want to be the only ones watching so we found the people who were all in front of the castle. It was more magical that way anyways. 



Celebrate the Magic Castle Projection Show
I didn't know what to call this so I decided that "Pure Magic" was a good choice. I found it online and saw that it's called "Celebrate the Magic." I was close. I knew magic had to be in the name. I just happened upon this before a parade one night. I was in Liberty Square and looked down and saw people staring at the castle with cameras. I couldn't see the castle so I went there to see what the ruckus was about. How do they do this?? How is this place so magical?? There was a projection onto the entire castle and stories were being portrayed and I don't even know! My video isn't very good so I found one on YouTube uploaded by someone else. When you go find out when/if they'll be doing this. You definitely won't want to miss it. Disney Imagineers, man! 



Keys to the Kingdom Tour
Matt at I decided to do something a little different and go on a tour! I made these reservations in February for when we went in May. This particular one was $70 per person (after you buy park admission for the day), it included lunch, and it was 5 hours long. It was incredible. The tour guide, who literally knew everything that there was to know about the place down to why the ground on Main Street is red, was amazing. We walked 2 miles in a large circle. The tour was basically to show us behind the scenes of the Magic Kingdom. We got to see where the parade floats are kept and learned all about them. We went BEHIND Splash Mountain and saw a little of how that worked. We rode 2 rides (Jungle Cruise and Haunted Mansion) with her and she pointed out things to us. And lastly, we went IN the underground tunnels! I don't know if you know but the Magic Kingdom was built on top of a series of tunnels called the Utilidors. These tunnels are the reason why you never see cast members dressed in their attire from one land in another. For example, you'll never see a cast member who works on Thunder Mountain Railroad in Tomorrowland. Ever. They access everywhere they go through these tunnels. It was incredible. I'm sad that we weren't allowed to take pictures. I don't know if kids are even allowed to go but DON'T take them. It'll ruin their magic. It didn't ruin my magic though. It made me appreciate it even more. There are 5,500 castmembers who work in the Magic Kingdom alone every single day. Think about that plus appx 20 resorts, plus 3 other massive parks, plus 2 water parks, plus Downtown Disney, plus bus drivers, plus Disney's Wide World of Sports, etc. I can't even fathom how many people work there each day. Makes sense why it's so expensive to go there. It's crazy. So yeah. The tour was DEFINITELY worth it. If you have extra time, GO! We got these little "keys to the kingdom" at lunch. They had our names on them though. It just gives you a whole new appreciation for Walt and Roy Disney and their vision and everyone it took to make the place what it is today. Incredible. You can access a list of their tours on the Walt Disney World website and call and set it up. Most people don't even know that they have tours. They do!


Epcot



In my opinion, the second most magical park. It's separated into 2 worlds: Future World and the World Showcase. Future World has all of the rides, with the exception of one, and the World Showcase has all of the countries. This park is more for adults. There are definitely things for children but I think it's primary focus was on older folk. This park was Walt Disney's baby. He actually built Magic Kingdom so that the revenue for that park could be used to build his Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow. Bet you didn't know that's what Epcot stood for! The tour taught me so much! Walt actually died before Magic Kingdom even broke ground so he never saw it. So sad. I think he'd die if he saw what it was today. In a good way. Moving on.

Future World
Spaceship Earth- You know. The big golf ball! This is a continuously moving ride that takes you through changes in human communication. It starts with the cavemen and ends with the future. It's very interesting. They even added a cool interactive part at the end. I'll let that be a surprise. And what you make during that *surprise* (hint: it's a video of that YOU star in) you can EMAIL to yourself at the end! It sends you a picture and the video. Crazy. It is future world, after all!


Ellen's Energy Adventure- This is a story/ride thing that is narrated by Ellen DeGeneres and Bill Nye the Science Guy. Another good napping thing that is in air conditioning. It lasts about 35 minutes. It's kind of weird but I like it.
Mission: Space- This ride has the large potential to make you sick and/or claustrophobic. Seriously, if you're claustrophobic don't even try. It a simulated ride to space. I personally love it but I don't get motion sickness easily and I'm not that scared of tight spaces. There's an orange/intense version and a green/less intense version. The orange one spins incredibly fast in a circle. They have barf bags in their just in case. If you look in front of you at the screen you don't feel like you're spinning. You feel like you're going up. If you look sideways, however, you definitely feel like you're spinning. Have your Dramamine ready just in case. We rode both versions to see the difference. I preferred the orange one personally. It's still magical. I love it but I can see why a lot of people don't.


Test Track- I wasn't expecting what I saw with this ride at all. I had ridden it probably 10 times before but it was totally redone. It's extremely futuristic now. I hate to say that I kind of preferred the previous version but it's still really fun. You get to design your own car and it's just really cool. Don't miss it. 



The Sum of All Thrills- We didn't do this but basically you design your own roller coaster then ride it in a simulator. I've done things like that before and it's pretty cool. In my opinion, if there's a real one near by, why not just ride that? Personal preference.
Journey Into Imagination with Figment- This is a nice little ride. It's just...happy. Figment is a little dinosaur and you just take a journey into his imagination. It's as simple as that. Kids will love it. 
Club Cool- Go here. It's in the center of Future World. You can try different Coke products from all over the world. Oh and it's FREE! Most of them are truly terrible but it's fun to go anyways.
We didn't do The Circle of Life film or Captain EO "3-D cosmic crusade" so you're going to have to fend for yourselves on those ones.

The Seas:
The Seas with Nemo and Friends- This is another classic storybook ride through the story of Finding Nemo. Really cute. I love this ride.
Turtle Talk with Crush- This along with Monster's Inc Laugh Floor (Tomorrowland in Magic Kingdom) are just incredible. Technology these days is astounding. Kids will love both of these things. Crush comes into this room and actually interacts with and speaks to the children. He's animated but I guess someone is somewhere speaking his voice. Just do it. Again, I'm 22 and Matt is 24 and we loved both of them.

The Land:
Soarin'- This ride is unbelievable. Anyone can ride it. It's not scary at all. You get on a "handglider" (it's really just a chair that flies) and you soar in a concave Imax-like screen over California. It was cool to ride it this time because Matt and I went to California for our anniversary last year and we had seen a lot of the sights. When you fly over an orange tree grove you smell oranges and such. It's like Philhar Magic in that way. Incredible. We got to Epcot before it opened then like ran to Soarin'. The line is so long all day. We immediately got a Fast Pass and got in line. At that point the wait was only like 5 minutes. When we came back an hour later to use our Fast Pass the wait was an hour. Timing is everything! 
Sunshine Seasons- This is a great place to eat for lunch. So many options!! Matt had Asian food and I had a Caesar salad with mac n cheese. Mmmmm.


Living with the Land- Ummmmmmm....that's really all I have to say about that one. If you're interested in gardening and how plants grow and the environment I'm sure you'll love it. It's very educational. It's a little boat ride through the land I guess. You go through a green house at one point. It's pretty long. It's indoors right next to where we ate and there was no wait so we hopped right on. I guess it was good for settling food. 

World Showcase
This part of the park is more for adults. There are things for kids to do though. There's a Perry the Platypus thing that they can do. I don't know much about either of those things but they'll keep your kids entertained if you want to eat and enjoy yourselves. Here are the countries in order:

Mexico
(REALLY yummy frozen margaritas...alcoholic or nonalcoholic)
*Note:  Epcot and Hollywood Studios are the only parks that serve alcoholic beverages. Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom are alcohol-free. I overheard some person in Magic Kingdom asking a cast member where the alcohol was. Lolz.



Norway 
(Norway has a viking-inspired ride called Malestrom. It's aight. Worth it if there isn't a wait. Not worth it if there is.)



China



Germany
(Yummy Bratwurst)



Italy
(We had reservations for dinner here at Via Napoli. Oh my goodness it was so yummy. I'd recommend it 100 times. They even import water from Italy to make their pizza. So authentic!)



America
(They have yet another movie called The American Adventure. Nice place to enjoy a rest and soak up some American history. They also have great turkey legs there!)


Morocco
(Didn't get a pic because they were don't construction and it wasn't as pretty as usual)

France




United Kingdom


Canada
(Canada has a steakhouse called Le Cellier that I hear is incredible. It's really expensive so we didn't go, but if you're into steak you should make reservations ASAP. I think it was rated like the best restaurant at Epcot)


It's fun to walk around and take in the culture of each place. Also, each cast member in each land is actually from that country. Pretty authentic, eh? We enjoyed it alot. 

Illuminations: Reflections of Earth- The fireworks show at the end of the night. They shoot them from the lagoon in the middle of the World Showcase. Pretty cool! We watched it from the bridge between China and Germany. It was a great viewing spot. The Unofficial Guide gives more optimal viewing points for this and Wishes/parades (Magic Kingdom).



Hollywood Studios


The THIRD most magical park that has my 2 favorite rides: Tower of Terror and Rock'n Roller Coaster. 

Hollywood Boulevard
The Great Movie Ride- This is a nice ride literally through the movies. It may be scary for kids though because it's kind of interactive and they might think it's really. They also go through the movie Alien which they might find scary.

Echo Lake
The American Idol Experience- We didn't do this this time but I've done it before. It's cool if you're a big Idol fan. It's like you're really there. We're not huge fans so we didn't waste our time but you might like it!
Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular!- This is fun. Even if you're not an Indy fan I think you'll enjoy this show. There was an appx 3.5 year old sitting next to me screaming his head off during it but I'm not sure why. It really isn't scary. Most kids seemed to really enjoy it.
Star Tours- We loved this simulated ride. It was like you were really in a spaceship with R2D2 and C-3PO.



50's Prime Time Cafe- I made reservations to eat here one night too. I love it when the servers are mean to you on purpose. Loved this place. The theme, cast members, food! I got pork chops and they were utterly delicious. The dessert menu was on a little picture reel thing (see picture below). Make reservations ASAP. 



Backlot Express- We ate here for dinner one night. It was great counter service. Yummy food right next to Star Tours.

Streets of America
Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show- This show is great. Little boys and men will love it. It's a bunch of vehicle stunts. And there's FIRE! There's also a great view of the park overhead.


Studio Backlot Tour- This was really interesting. I liked it. You got to see a lot of props from a lot of different movies including Titanic and Sound of Music. I like that stuff. It fascinates me. It's part walking, part riding.




Pixar Place
Toy Story Midway Mania- This is a MUST! Such a fun interactive ride. It's a lot like Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin (Magic Kingdom) in that it's Toy Story and it's interactive but it's totally different. Go here first and ride it and/or get a Fast Pass. The line gets long fast. We got there at like 10 AM and the Fast Pass time was already at 3:45-4:45 and it wasn't very crowded. It's where everyone wants to be.

Mickey Avenue
The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow- I had no idea what this was, so we did it. It was the longest wait I think we waited for something. It wasn't even a ride! If the wait is short, do it. If it's long, don't. You just stand in this cool pirate shipy room. It's interesting and all, don't get me wrong. I just wouldn't stand in a long line again to go stand in a crowded room. I wish there were chairs or something. Younger kids would definitely find this terrifying but older kids might like it. All depends on the kid really.
Walt Disney: One Man's Dream- This was a nice little exhibit to walk through. At the end there's a video of Walt's life that's really interesting. It gives everything a new perspective. He was just a normal guy and he built this empire that is Disney. Crazy. They also have models of different things around Disney World that are really cool. Here's a picture of the New Fantasyland:


Animation Courtyard
Voyage of the Little Mermaid- I love this little show. Something about it is just so magical. It's only about 15 minutes and well worth the time.
The Magic of Disney Animation- This is a great place to get pictures with some characters and learn a little about animation. We got our picture with Mickey!


Sunset Boulevard
Beauty and the Beast- Like The Little Mermaid show, this one is also magical. It's outside but it's in the shade.



Rock 'n' Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith- I love this ride so much! It goes 0 to 60 mph in 2.8 seconds. It's so much fun. Older kids will love it too. It does upside down a few times but it's pretty smooth. All while listening to Aerosmith! Walk this wayyyyyyy. 


The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror- I love this ride too! It has the theme like Haunted Mansion (except it's a haunted hotel) but it has a thrilling aspect to it that the Haunted Mansion doesn't . It's not that scary. Those rides at the fair that take you really high and just drop you are SO much scarier than this. Older kids will really enjoy it. We rode it probably 10 times because we just kept walking right on. One time a 4 year old little girl was sitting in front of us. She wasn't the least bit scared. Brave kid!



Starring Rolls Cafe- We ate here for lunch. It wasn't bad at all but it was probably our least favorite place that we ate the whole time we were there. There's really only one thing to eat for lunch and the rest is sweets.  We had sandwiches that were mediocre but the dessert was SO yummy. I got a banana split cake. Mmmm. Note that it closes at 2 pm so go before then if you want to eat there.



Fantasmic!
This is Hollywood Studios' nighttime show. It's pretty cool. Get there early if you want a seat though. People were lining up 1.5 hours before it started. It's in a stadium-type thing. It's a stage in the middle of a body of water. Sorcerer Mickey defeats the Disney villains  I especially love how they project pieces of Disney movies onto water screens. So cool and creative. Little kids might find pieces of it scary so be aware of that.



Animal Kingdom


Last, but certainly not least. I'm not an expert on this park so I don't have that much to say. We only spent half of a day here because there's not that much to do. I'm just going to mention things that we actually did instead of everything the park has to offer.

Camp Minnie-Mickey
Festival of the Lion King- This was a fun little interactive show that kids will love. We thoroughly enjoyed it. 


Africa
Kilimanjaro Safaris- I had never done this before and I was pretty excited. Don't get me wrong, it was really cool, but if you've been to a zoo before it's not THAT exciting. It's pretty long and you drive through the African terrain in a safari bus. They have all of the typical animals that you'd think to find on a real safari and they did a great job of making it look and feel authentic. We went here first thing to get a Fast Pass. The wait tends to get pretty long.

Asia
Expedition Everest- This ride is SO fun!!! It's a roller coaster and it even goes backwards for a while at one point. It's great. It would probably terrify younger kids but older kids would like it. You're on a quest to find the Yeti. Great ride. Worth going to the park for alone.


Yak and Yeti Local Food Cafes- Don't get this confused with the Yak and Yeti Restaurant. They're different. This one is counter service and it's much cheaper. The other one is a sit-down restaurant. We loved it. Matt got Asian beef and broccoli noodles and wouldn't stop talking about them.
*Just a warning. I've never ridden Kali River Rapids but I've heard about it and have seen people get off the ride and they are SOAKED! For that reason, I don't risk it. Having to walk around all day in wet clothes and shoes is miserable. If you're scorching hot, ehh maybe. I'd rather not though.

DinoLand U.S.A.
Dinosaur- This ride is fun but intense for little kids. It used to terrify me. It's really loud but lots of fun. Older kids yes. Younger kids, if they're up for it.

In Conclusion

Are you tired of reading yet? I've literally been typing for like 5 hours straight. This trip that we had was SO much fun. I wouldn't trade the memories of it for anything. That's one thing that Disney wanted to always succeed in: Making memories and making them last. That's why when you walk into the Magic Kingdom the first thing you really see is a sign that says "Let the Memories Begin."


One thing that I was talking to Matt about when we were leaving was why Disney World stands out when it comes to amusement/theme parks. Other parks such as Six Flags and Universal Studios have MUCH more thrilling rides. Why aren't they as special as WDW? The answer is simple:  They lack the magic. Disney did what most people will never be able to accomplish. He created timeless stories and then brought them to life in parks. It has to be magic! The theme is so pronounced everywhere you turn. Think about the tunnel system. The cast members have costumes (not uniforms) and they're only allowed to be in their specific place wearing them. On our tour we learned how Disney wanted the park to be a big show. If you pay attention to the windows on the Main Street buildings you see names and words and all sorts of things. Everything you read has a meaning. It's just like the opening credits to a movie. Those are the people who made Disney World what it is today. The very last building on the right side of Main Street has the name Walt Disney on it and it's overlooking the castle. Ya know, saving the best for last? Powerful stuff, in my opinion. It also far exceeds other parks on cleanliness. Every single night when they shut the park they stay up and steam clean every inch of the place. If you stay at a resort by Magic Kingdom (like Contemporary or Polynesian) you can actually see the steam rising from the park early in the morning. The parks are simply incredible with their consistency and great use of theming. Each ride is a whole new experience. That experience starts when you step in the line. These people are dedicated to what they do and they're dedicated to making those parks the best they can be. They're definitely keeping Walt's name and reputation alive.

Below I've attached a copy of my itinerary that I made for the trip. It includes the best times to ride each ride as well as the days of the week that each park is busiest. It's a great start for you filling in your own information based on your interests and when you're going. Click on the "Download File" below.

Download File

I hope you found this somewhat helpful! If you have any questions about really anything please feel free to ask. I may can help you out. I love Disney World and have been going my whole life. It really is the most magical place on Earth.

KatieCHedge@Yahoo.Com

2 comments:

  1. After reading many, and I mean many Disney articles on what to see and what to do, yours is by far the best and most in depth article I have read! It was so helpful!!
    I am 30 and planning my first trip and I am so excited to take my 7 year old son with me! We are both easily amused and love everything Disney! Needless to say we are gonna be in awe with just the sights!
    I plan to use your itinerary to plan our visit!
    Btw, I also love your writing style! It's like you're actually having a conversation with your reader! I have a similar writing style! :)
    Thanks for all your help!!
    Trish

    ReplyDelete
  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete