Disney World in Florida can be an overwhelming experience. So much to do, always too little time. I had one evening and one day and the advantage of being with my niece Ms J who knows her way around very well after living and working on planet Disney for 3 months.
I went to Disney Land in LA many years ago but this was my first Florida encounter so I felt like a newbie (I never did get my ‘It’s my first time’ badge). We visited Disney Springs for an evening of eating, shopping and people watching, then spent half a day in the Animal Kingdom and the other half in the Magic Kingdom. It was March and the parks were not super busy but we still had to plan our time to minimize queuing and make sure we did everything we wanted to.
These are my observations about the Magic Kingdom and Disney in general. The Animal Kingdom and Disney Springs deserve a blog of their own.
1. Starting at the end, the firework display over Cinderella’s castle just before the park closes is worth hanging around for. It’s also a light show beamed onto the castle and in true Disney style there’s a warm fuzzy story to be told. The best time for photographs is during the grand finale so don’t waste your time watching the whole thing through the lens of your camera.
2. When I first went to Disney you could bump into Characters (I feel they deserve a capital) as they walked about in the Magic Kingdom but that hasn’t been possible for a long time. Bigger crowds makes it more efficient to schedule appearances at specific locations and times where people wait in line for a photograph or a hug. Go to watch how the Characters gently interact with the shy kids and how they spend special time with disabled children (and adults). We saw Baloo and King Louie dancing in the street with a group of autistic children. It will warm even the most Disney-hardened heart.
3. Definitely buy a Disney magic band not just because it’s cool to wear but it makes being at Disney even easier… booking fast passes (see #5), restaurant reservations, shopping (no money needed!), building your itinerary, you name it your magic band will help you do it. Of course Disney have turned this mind blowing technology into a shopping opportunity … there is a band for every one of your favorite characters and you can collect them all but you don’t have to.
4. The Magic Kingdom really is the fairest of them all so there will always be a queue of some sort but the size of the areas set aside for queues for some of the rides is sobering. You don’t want to get stuck in one of those holding pens (I’m sure Disney has a better name) even if the entertainment is pretty cool. Our longest wait was 45 minutes for Space Mountain but it was only 10 minutes for the Pirates of the Caribbean and we walked straight onto Thunder Mountain. Want to know why?
5. Fast pass is the answer to that question. I was skeptical at first. After all, if it’s possible to get a pass that allows you to walk on without waiting, why wouldn’t every one do that thus creating a new queue? Because only a certain number of fast passes are allowed every hour. Gee those Disney guys and gals think of everything. Fast pass really works although you can book only 3 per day per person no matter how many different parks you visit, unlike Universal Studios where you pay extra $$s for as many fast passes as you want. Maybe the Disney folk didn’t think of absolutely everything.
6.We were on our feet for 12 hours and walked 15 kilometers on the day we were in the park. Believe me, it’s easy to do. Be smarter than me and take a refillable water bottle and also ask for a water cup instead of a soft drink cup when you order food and have fun finding where to fill it. It’s harder than you think.
7. Beware the buggy pushers. Placid people become raging monsters with a huge sense of entitlement when they are pushing a buggy in a Disney park. The ones pushing double and triple buggies are just plain dangerous.
8. People who would normally never leave their belongings unattended in a public place, will happily abandon their buggies, often with rucksacks and shopping bags attached, while they go on a ride. Maybe the magic keeps all the bad people out of the kingdom.
9. Outside the restaurants that require reservations where I assume more than burgers and hotdogs are on offer, the food experience is just like any other fast food outlet except the servers wear cute costumes and the decor is interesting.
10. Don’t underestimate the rides that are aimed at kids … the Peter Pan and Winnie-the-Pooh rides are charming and give your adrenal glands a chance to recover from the battering they got on Space Mountain. The same is not true for the Mad Tea Party which (in my opinion) is the most nausea-inducing ride of all time.
11. Be aware that if you visit It’s a Small World you may never get the song out of your head.
12. Shot glasses (available in all the Disney stores) are called toothpick holders in the Magic Kingdom because Mickey doesn’t drink. (Interesting fact courtesy of Ms J.)
13. And above all, remember that it all started with a mouse.
Categories: An American Adventure