Childhood dreams are built at Disney World. Many young girls dream of seeing Cinderella’s castle, where she danced with her prince, lost her shoe, and was left to live after her fairytale came true. While there, one can see Ariel’s grotto, Rapunzel’s tower, The Beast’s castle where Belle is sure to be decorating and dancing. Along with all of that, one can meet not only princesses and mermaids, but also Gaston, who will, without a doubt, win if you challenge him to a push up contest. Visit old Disney by riding the train, soaring through the sky on Goofy’s Barnstormer, go into the mines where Dopey’s eyes glow of diamonds, and visit what tomorrow may have looked like yesterday. Splash Mountain, Thunder Mountain, Pirates, the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse, fun Amazon River tours, Dumbo, It’s a SmallWorld, and Peter Pan too. It’s all there. And more.
And that’s just at the Magic Kingdom. There’s also Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Downtown Disney, water parks, and so much more!
And I’m cynical.
I took my children recently….I say I…but I must credit my fabulous husband for this trip.
It was amazing.
I was magical.
My kids are just old enough to know as we walked through Cinderella’s castle to know that there just wasn’t enough space in there for a princess to live the life required of a princess. Does this mean our little world is too spacious? Does this mean Disney World is becoming outdated in our world of technology, spacious views, and everything at our fingertips? Does it mean they are growing up and beginning to see through the magic of Disney? Does it mean they are becoming cynical as well?
I think it just means they are beginning to understand that magic is what we make it. Magic exists when you feel a spark because something so special has crossed your path.
We all felt that on Main Street as we walked into Disney World. We felt it when we looked across the park to the castle. We felt it on every ride we had the privilege to enjoy. And boy oh boy did we get to ride. We had friends that went just a few months before we did, at the end of the summer season, and we weren’t feeling excited about hours of waiting with small children, only to be able to ride three or four rides each day.
Our first day, we waited an hour for the Mine Train – because we were told it was the best ride, we were expecting hours of waiting anyway, so we figured we should just get the kids used to it right away, and because it was the first ride we came upon after we walked past Main Street and the famous castle.
After the Mine Train, we rode Thunder Mountain, Splash Mountain (first row, right seat…the wettest spot in the whole car…that’s where I sat causing me to be wet – no completely soaked – for hours and hours after), Barn Stormer, the Riverboat, Haunted Mansion, the Train around the whole park, Space Mountain, Tomorrowland Speedway, and Thunder Mountain again. We met Cinderella and Rapunzel. We saw parts of the parade. We walked more than 15 miles, rode a river boat, a ferry boat, a bus and the monorail.
We were amazed.
That was Day one. There is no way we could have done all of this stuff had we gone any other time of year. This was the best time to go. Summer? No way! It was beautiful in February!
Day two brought our little feet 12 miles of walking, Thunder Mountain again, three times, twice on Splash Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, Dumbo, the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse, Cinderella’s Castle, Space Mountain, The Barn Stormer, The People Mover, Buzz Lightyear’s game ride, the Amazon River ride, Mike Wazowski’s Comedy show, and more that I can’t remember. We met Ariel in her Grotto. We walked less and became smarter about transportation. We bought sweatshirts because after our first day of 70 degree weather, we were chilly walking through Epcot where we caught the Monorail again. The day was perfect.
But by the end of the day, we were done with The Magic Kingdom. Our first day’s amazements turned into second day comforts. We hit fewer new rides, but stuck with the ones we really loved from Day one. We didn’t get soaked on Splash Mountain because we were better educated. We sat in the back. And this time, we didn’t die. Well, we didn’t die the first time either, but I thought we might that first time sitting in that front row and dropping fifty feet into a pile of thorns.
Day three brought new adventures at Animal Kingdom. But we were exhausted. And our kids are little, so they didn’t fit the height requirement for many of the big rides. We rode Dinosaur until it was almost boring. But it was so fun going back in time and collecting that Dinosaur over and over again. The African Safari was fun, funny, and left us wondering if the wild animals are trained to cross our path just at the right time. Stopping the vehicle for giraffes to cross our path and look us in the eye was inspiring. The tree of Life was pretty. But the bugs that live beneath deserve some attention. The show was very cool. The elements in the various areas are worth a second look. The African village feels very African. Disney does a great job of bringing people from around the world to show us their culture. It was a neat place.
The afternoon found us back at our resort, The Yacht Club, where the kids wanted to swim. Outside. In February. As Coloradans…no as a warm weather person, I chuckled at this and sat outside in my new sweatshirt and watched my children swim along a beach in a beautiful pool. There were a few other kids there. But I wondered just how packed it would be in the warm summer months. Packed. Possibly unpleasantly packed. It was beautiful. And the children loved swimming. The cast was interactive, getting the kids involved with games and dancing in the pool. Even the local ducks joined them for a swim, and appeared to have a Lifeguard assigned just to them.
Day Four took us to Hollywood Studios where we hit our first rain. No…there was a downpour on Day One, but we waited out the storm on the Peter Pan and It’s a Small World rides, so we barely noticed. The downpour on Day Four was timely. We picked up a ferry at the Lighthouse at our resort and rode all the way to Hollywood Studios. We made it all the way into the park before the rain started. We quickly found cover and watched the cell move over us in real life as well as on our weather apps. The older folks near us seemed quite surprised at how my husband seemed to know just when the rain was going to stop, and it would be clear for us to leave our shelter. Radar. Technology. Sweet stuff there.
Once the rain passed, we caught our first Fast Pass+ ride at the park. The Tower of Terror. I think if my children…okay, and me too…had started our vacation on this ride, we may have locked ourselves in our closet and not come out until Disney Transportation came to pick us up to head home. I think my stomach might still be at the top of that tower. But our entire family did it, even our five year old. I think most of us are pleased and proud to say we did it, but we don’t ever have to do it again. Except my ten year old. She’d be happy to do it again. And again. And, look, Ma, no hands, again. My eight year old might say she did it, but she’s probably not as proud of it. She doesn’t see it as an accomplishment, as much as something she’d like to forget ever happened. But we have the video to remind her…the one where we all stop at zero gravity just before her hair flies up a split second before we all drop. Hollywood Studios offers lots of rides as well, the Great Movie Ride, the Toy Story Arcade game, Star Tours, where my stomach might have been left had it not already been sitting at the top of the Tower. Migraines? Skip Star Tours. Indiana Jones stunt show, cars stunts, character meet and greets…we met Jake and Sofia. It’s a fun place. Our children got to see real ‘Movie Magic.’
Downtown Disney was cool, but under construction during their slower season. Large Lego store, massive Disney Store, and a Disney interactive stage excites the crowd. We were lucky enough to pick the same restaurant two nights in a row without knowing it because they had different themes. The Rainforest Café used to be in our area, but only my oldest daughter has been to one, and she was too little to remember. After our fifteen miles of walking on Day One, the ferry, the monorail, the wet, the cold, and all the fun, we ended up the resort to eat at 9:00pm. The Rainforest Café for an 8:00pm dinner on the second day was just what we needed. We were exhausted. But the food was great. The second trip to Downtown Disney brought us to the T-rex Café where the dinosaurs moved all around, meteor showers crashed through the ceiling, Build a Dino was just around the corner after we ate, and the menu was exactly the same as the night before, except with dinosaur names. I felt like Fred Flintstone ordering a BrontoBurger, but it was damn good.
We did lots more, old fashioned soda shop, more rides, tours, walked the Boardwalk, walked Epcot, but I think it’s important to share a few things. Fast Pass+ is a great tool. Our friends that went in the summer only got to use one Fast Pass a day. We got to reserve three rides a day. Get these reservations done as soon as you buy the admission tickets. Get the My Disney Experience App, and use your phone throughout the day. There were times we found we had a Fast Pass for something, but since there was a short wait, we would switch our Fast Pass to a different ride. We were able to do so much that way. Also, get to know transportation, and utilize all the ways to get around. Boats, trains, buses, and your feet can take you all over the place, but one way may be quicker than another depending on your destination and time of day. If you want to see the parade, line up early. If you don’t want to see the parade, head to the popular rides then, the lines will be short. Go off season. Get and use the Magic Bands, and take no bags. No purses, no bags…nothing. There is a no bags line through security and it’s a breeze to get through. I had days of fun, buying food and souvenirs, and getting around with nothing on me except my Magic Band. Our Magic Bands held information like our names, ages, who was in our party, at which resort we were staying, it was our hotel key, and our credit card. It was our Fast Pass+ guide, and it was amazing to swipe my wrist when we wanted something and not have to worry about carrying a purse or wallet around with us. The other thing I would highly recommend is the Memory Maker photo package. Let Disney create the Magic and the Memories. Anytime you see a photographer, have them photograph you and your family. They can even make magic shots that will surprise you later. We took some photos with a small pocket camera and our phones, but we let Disney fill our photo albums. The ride photos are included in Memory Maker. I learned I have a Roller Coaster face, and it’s always the same, “Oh, blasted, I’m going to die, but this is so fun,” look.
I think next year, if we don’t go to Vegas, and end up at Disney again, we will probably go to Universal Studios. We’ll head to California as well to check out Disneyland and CarsLand, but I can say I went to Disney World, it was amazing, I’ll know how to do it better next time, but for a quick trip with little time to plan, we did a great job, and Disney always amazes.
Disney knows how to do Magic. Now I’m left wondering if Hogwarts at Universal is just as magical. Or is it just a different kind of magic?