As anyone who has ever been to Disney World already knows, a trip there is not relaxing. Many people choose vacation spots that involves sleeping late and lounging on a beach while working on their tan. I prefer waking up at 6:30 in the morning, then walking in the heat for twenty miles a day while my skin burns. I should clarify: I don’t prefer to wake up at 6:30… ever. I don’t mind being awake at 6:30, but that is usually because I am about to go to sleep at that time. Unfortunately, when going to Disney World at a busy time, you have to do whatever it takes to avoid crowds.
We went there on the Friday before Easter, and left the Friday after. This, as you might know if you’ve been to Disney World during Easter (or have common sense), is a very busy time. Exacerbating this problem was the last time we were there, we were on our honeymoon so we stayed in a nicer hotel, the Beach Club. While it isn’t a five star hotel or anything, as far as Disney Resorts, it is a very nice one. Another wonderful aspect was that it was located right next to Epcot, and the walk from our room to the rear entrance of the park was literally a five minute walk.
To avoid being extra poor after this trip, we downgraded our accommodations to the All Star Movies resort. Although I think that name stretches the concept of “resort” a bit. I don’t actually hate the All Star resorts, they serve their purpose nicely. They give you a bed, a bathroom, and a TV so you can watch “The Top Seven Must See Attractions at Walt Disney World” on repeat.
I’m not going to knock the All Stars; they’re still fun to be in. All Star Movies is without a doubt the best of them, since they are all decked out in Disney movie paraphernalia everywhere, including huge statues of characters from Toy Story, 101 Dalmations, The Mighty Ducks, and Fantasia 2000. There’s also some Herbie the Love Bug stuff, but quite frankly I can’t fathom anyone having even the most remote of interest in that.
You can clearly see how huge the statues of Perdita and Buzz are; they stand as tall as a three story building. To give a sense of scope to the Ducks mask, you walk under its bill with plenty of height to spare. Although when you stay in Disney World, you expect big bills.
I’m sorry, that was awful. That was the type of joke you would expect to find on a Laffy Taffy wrapper or a Popsicle stick.
Theoretically, you also gain access to Disney Transportation, which are buses that will take you anywhere in Walt Disney World. However, the idea of a busing system from one of the most crowded resorts during one of the busiest times of year seemed like a horrible concept. Luckily, staying at a Disney resort also gives you free parking for your car.
While we are discussing the amenities of staying at a Disney resort, we can tie this in nicely with our original point. Guests of Disney resorts gain the privilege of being in the parks during Extra Magic Hours. Basically, every day one park opens an hour earlier, just for resort guests. Also, a different park stays open up to three hours later after closing (on some days, the Magic Kingdom is open for 20 straight hours). We lucked out, as the week we were there the Magic Kingdom was open an hour early almost every single day. While getting up early is an awful concept, especially on vacation, it is well worth it for the Magic Hours.
The earlier to a park you get there, the less crowds there will be. So when you can get there at the earliest possible time, as well as not have non-resort plebeians there for the first hour, you get a lot done. Even after that hour is up, it still takes a while for the regular crowds to trickle into the park, so you get a lot of time in the parks with light crowds. Combine those light crowds with some strategic Fast Passes, and you are well on your way to getting stuff done. This never seems to be the case as much with the evening hours. While the crowds are definitely lighter, more people are willing to stay late in a park than get there early, so they don’t thin as much as you would like.
Despite the fact that this was literally the busiest I have ever seen Disney World, we were able to get everything done during the morning hours. The biggest down side to this was that the mornings were very cold. While calling high 40’s to low 50’s in March “cold” may make me sound spoiled, you kind of assume it’s always going to be some kind of warm in Disney World. The temperature wasn’t really a problem, as it is actually a nice change to not be walking around the parks wiping sweat away with those recycled brown napkins.
As far as discussing the parks go, it won’t be in any specific order. We wound up doing a lot of park hopping, since due to the crowds we wound up doing a few things at each park and when it got too crowded, we went somewhere else. I’ll try to keep this in some sort of order without too many tangents, but I make no promises.
We will begin in Animal Kingdom because, well, it’s the park I like writing about least. For me, Animal Kingdom has never felt “complete”, but I can’t really explain why. I like the park a lot, but something has always felt just a bit… off. It has a handful of great attractions, a handful of mediocre ones, good shows, and some amazing theming. Probably my biggest gripe with the park is how it is laid out; it seems like getting anywhere is a huge hassle. That could be all in my head, I don’t know, but walking around this park annoys me.
Even the parking lot seems off. We wound up parking on a patch of grass, like we were going to a county fair, where the sideshow attractions were the roundest tourists in the world.
When thinking about what’s new here since I last did an article, I realized that it has been quite a while since the last Disney World story, since there is a lot of new stuff since last time. Such as, uh, the whole park.
Okay, so it’s not so much “new” as it is I never actually covered it. And I will, someday. But today is not that day. This recap will highlight the newer attractions (and in the case of one of the shows, new to me at least).
First and foremost, the newest and best attraction in Animal Kingdom is Expedition Everest. The first time I rode this was over a year ago, and admittedly, I didn’t think it was that great. From the hype this ride was getting, it seemed like the ride was going to be one of the most amazing things ever. After the first couple trips on it, I liked it, but was a bit underwhelmed. Then when I went back last year, I knew what to expect, and wound up loving the ride.
While nothing comes close to touching their theming of a ride, Disney has never done the actual roller coaster portion of a ride as well as some of their competitors. This is an important thing to know going into a Disney coaster. It may not melt your face off with intensity, but it will be awesome regardless. Everything about Everest is extremely well done. The quantity and depth of the details of the queue are incredible. They definitely make waiting for the ride much more bearable. That is, except for the portion of the queue that has wind chimes, which every single jackass waiting on line smacks, causing you to have to listen to them over and over and over. The problem here is that unless you are the one making the noise, it is incredibly annoying. Meanwhile, the people involved find it all sorts of hilarious. The same concept goes for that same section of the park with the bongos. Stop it. Come to think of it, this same principle applies to people playing Guitar Hero. You may think that everyone is interested in watching you, but they’re not. It is terribly boring to watch people play that game.
The housing of Everest is another thing that is done very well; the mountain itself looks great. As far as the ride goes, like I said it isn’t the most amazing thing ever, but it is a lot of fun, with some unique twists such as the trains going forwards, then backwards, then forwards again over the span of the ride. Finally, the animatronic of the Yeti is unbelievable. Simply put, it is the absolute best animatronic I have ever seen. It is huge and moves alarmingly fluidly, so when it swipes at you, you always duck back even though you know it is fake and will always miss you.
Two other things I have yet to mention here are the shows at Animal Kingdom. I will not discuss Pocahontas and her Animal Friends, because I have never seen it and never will. Without wasting words (I’ll do plenty of that elsewhere), Finding Nemo the Musical is amazing. The term “Broadway quality” gets thrown around a lot, even for things that clearly aren’t. Actually, I don’t know if that’s really true. I can’t really think of something else that I’ve heard described as “Broadway quality”. However, Finding Nemo has been, and that phrase is certainly accurate.
Granted, its 40 or so minute running time would be need to be extended a bit for Broadway, but the content and performance of the show is simply incredible. Two impressive feats it pulls off is implementing music into a non-musical movie. This is done very well, and the songs themselves are great. I’ve seen the show twice, and while there were different performers for his part each time, the vocals for Crush were fantastic. It also manages to fit the entire plot of the movie into an abbreviated time frame, but never feels rushed.
While I feel a bit odd gushing over a musical, it simply is that good. Without a doubt, I place this right behind Everest for best attraction in the park. And yes, that does mean ahead of the safari.
The other big show is Festival of the Lion King. While it isn’t on the same level as Finding Nemo, I liked it a lot. It’s a bunch of big animal animatronics, some singing characters, and acrobats. There are also some random costumed people walking around that basically just fill up space. The problem with them is since they don’t really have anything to do, they wind up looking at you a lot, and it is quite awkward. I then feel pressured to be visibly entertained, like I am in the audience of an infomercial.
The worst part of the show is the fact that Simba kind of sucks in it; he mostly just sits there. I’m assuming the festival is supposed to be in honor of him, which is why he does essentially nothing. While many kings tend to be figure heads that do essentially no leading, I assumed the animal kingdom’s leaders would take a more active role. Instead, Simba just sits there without even looking like a king, due to the fact that his long, disgusting mane makes him look like an roadie for Skid Row.
There wasn’t too much at Animal Kingdom I hadn’t already done before. The Kilimanjaro Safaris was better than usual, since almost every animal was out. The poaching plot is still dumb. Granted, I know I’m not on a real safari, but they are real animals so having the fake plot lowers the enjoyment of the ride for me a bit. I heard they are doing away with the plot, and the sooner the better. But again, we will get into that in more depth at another time.
And that about wraps it up for Animal Kingdom. I’m hoping they keep adding significantly to the park. With some of the big attractions like Everest, Kilimanjaro Safaris, Finding Nemo, and a few others, Animal Kingdom definitely can’t be skipped. However, until some more tweaks are done, it never seems to give a full park experience.
Sorry to end on somewhat of a down note, but this story is To Be Continued. If I learned anything from Growing Pains or 7th Heaven, it is that we have to end the first act on a suspenseful and/or sad note. This will make the exciting conclusion that much more intense. Also, I couldn’t really think of any amusing way of finishing this.