I spent three days over New Years at the Walt Disney World Resort (official name) in Orlando. This was my first visit since June 1987 - when I was six - so I was interested to know how my childhood memories would compare to an adult experience. I was pleasantly surprised. Some thoughts (in the form of a travel review):
|Cinderella's Castle in the Magic Kingdom|
|Spaceship Earth in Epcot|
Past and Present
Despite my young age during my first visit and the many years that have past since then, I do have vivid recollection from my earlier vacation. I remember some bad things: heat (the June sun is intense in Central Florida), long lines, some disappointing rides (It's a Small World, Peter Pan's Flight). But more good things: Space Mountain (even though my dad had to coerce me into riding because of my then fear of roller coasters), the Haunted Mansion, Thunder Mountain, and the 3D Captain EO movie, which was impressive to me back then.
|The Sorcerer's Hat at Hollywood Studios|
Generally the food, from the Itzakadoozie popsicles sold by sidewalk vendors to the Japanese dinner at Teppan Edo was really good as well, if a bit overpriced, but I didn't feel gouged. Also, while we're on food, the Disney chefs seemed ultra-sensitive to food allergies, perhaps a symptom of our suddenly hyper-allergic times.
Variety and Scale
I've alluded to this above, but with four separate theme parks, water parks, golf courses, dozens of variously themed hotels/resorts, and ESPN's Wide World of Sports, all spread out over Disney's 40 plus square miles of property southwest of Orlando, Walt Disney World is large enough to captivate. It's almost as big as San Francisco! Such size, variety, and detail can keep you interested for days and it can't all be taken in during a single visit, which surely is the intent of the "imagineers" at Disney, to keep you interested enough to come back for more.
As an example, the Disney creators have hidden hundreds of "Mickeys", images of Mickey Mouse, all over the park from attractions to restaurants, and within the scenery. My girlfriend noted that there are books dedicated to highlighting the Mickeys and many people will go through the parks just to search for them. Another example is the Kim Possible attraction that I listed above. This is a game at Epcot based on the children's cartoon in which you become a "secret agent" following instructions from your hand-held "Kimtroller" to complete numerous tasks to foil the evil intent of various villains. As two adults we enjoyed our mission in the United Kingdom pavilion where we found clues hidden among the streets, store windows, and merchandise. We wished we would have had more time to complete missions in other country pavilions. Surely we must have looked foolish to any bystanders (if anyone was watching us) running from one clue to the next, but the point is that unless you played the game you would never know the clues were even there.
One additional feature that Disney should be given credit for is including various "low-thrill" and educational attractions. The Hall of Presidents in Magic Kingdom, Living with the Land in Epcot and Walt Disney: One Man's Dream in Hollywood Studios are good examples. They provide good history, are entertaining, and you might actually learn something, which should be noted in a park that caters to people of all ages, especially children.
|The Tree of Life in Animal Kingdom|
Crowds and Composition
Disney World is the largest, most visited resort in the world. It's not surprising to hear voices from lots countries, not to mention all of the various American accents. I found this diversity attractive, I'm glad to see foreigners coming from all over (though it seemed like a lot of Europeans and Latin Americas, and not so many Asians) coming to the U.S. and enjoying what is really a powerful export of American culture - the Disney brand.
It was really crowded because of the holiday, and long lines are a drag, but with the exception of a few particular attractions (especially Soarin'), things moved along okay. I'm told that attending during other times of the year (winter/spring/fall during non-holiday weeks) is far less stressful because the crowds are smaller and lines quite short. That would undoubtedly improve the experience.
So will I go back again? Well, I promised my girlfriend that I would, so I guess the question is answered. Even without that promise, I would go back. I'd like to see the parks with smaller crowds and go back to pick up a lot of the detail that I missed this time. Plus, a lot of the attractions were pretty awesome and why not make the relatively easy trip to Florida to escape the Maryland winter.
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