March 2, 2011

Vacation Round Up: Walt Disney World

We ended up going to three of the Disney parks: Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom. Now, there are any number of websites that will happily charge you money to map out the perfect trip to any and all of the parks. They will tell you when to go on which ride, when to see each show and when and where you should stop and eat. You can get your vacation scheduled down to the minute. Or, you can do what we did. We downloaded a free application from Undercover Tourist, where we also bought our tickets much cheaper than through Disney. The app gave us crowd estimates for each park each day. We chose days that were "green" (the app is like a traffic light-red, yellow, green-for crowd levels) for each park and off we went. We also utilized FastPasses for several attractions at each park. Between our FastPasses and the relatively low crowd levels, we didn't wait more than 15 minutes for anything and only waited that long for one or two attractions. We got to do everything we wanted at our pace and on our own terms. Here's a brief description of each of the days.

Monday: Magic Kingdom
This particular day, the Magic Kingdom was open until midnight. We had decided to try some character dining so we had reservations to eat at the Crystal Palace buffet lunch at 2pm. We got to the park about 1pm, missing all the insanity of park opening time. We got our FastPasses for Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin and saw the Monsters, Inc Laugh Floor show. What is especially cool about that show is how interactive it is. The cartoon monsters "talked" to people in the audience and responded accordingly. Very cool technology. After that we went and had our lunch. The buffet was good and my son got to meet Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore and Piglet as they came around and visited every table. After lunch we used our FastPasses and then continued on to all the other rides we wanted to visit. We went on everything except the Peter Pan ride (which I hear is great). We skipped it to go get dinner and then just never headed back for it. After dinner and a ride on the Pirates of the Caribbean it was time for the Main Street Electrical Parade. Frontierland is the best place, by far, to see this parade. It gets to you about 15 minutes later than if you were closer to the front of the park, but there is no crowd. My son stood right at the rope and even got a kiss from Snow White! On our way back out of the park we checked in on the Buzz ride. The wait was now less then 10 minutes, so we rode a second time. Now, I've left out about 90% of the things we did and saw. Just trust me that we did a ton during the time we were there (1pm-10:30pm). My son fell asleep before we got the ferry back to the parking lot, so I certainly am glad we didn't try to close the place down!

Thursday: Animal Kingdom
This was another great day! The crowd was tiny (relatively speaking) and we didn't wait for anything. We got FastPasses for the safari ride, but they weren't necessary. We would've been in the same place in line even if we hadn't had them. We skipped Expedition Everest because I was the only one who really wanted to go and, being the social butterfly I am, I didn't really want to wait and ride by myself. We ate lunch at Yak and Yeti which is an asian themed sit-down restaurant. It was delicious and I highly recommend it. There was no wait for our group of six and we got to sit and relax in air-conditioned comfort. There are Yak and Yeti quick service places right next door, but the available tables are limited and the prices are only slightly lower. I would definitely pick the sit-down place every time. The highlight of this park for my son was probably the dinosaur section. It has some small rides and a great play area where you can dig for "bones". The highlight for the adults was probably the safari ride. We saw every animal in there except the lion, which must've been hiding out in the heat of the afternoon. Again, this is only a tiny portion of everything we saw and we all were very satisfied with our visit.

Friday: Hollywood Studios
My son loves Star Wars. The goal of this park was to have him do the Jedi Training show back by the Star Tours ride (which is being refurbished and is closed until May). This is the only park that we knew we had to get to early, so he could sign up for the training. As soon as the "rope dropped" my faith in humanity plummeted. I watched adults (a term I'm using loosely here) sprint into the park. Some were, literally, dragging their children. Others were yelling at their children to hurry up. They were pushing and shoving everyone around them with no regard to age or physical condition. It was fairly awful. My husband and son walked (and I do mean walked) back to the Jedi sign up area. My son got in the third show of the day and we didn't even have to trip anyone! Meanwhile, the rest of us figured we'd grab FastPasses to the Toy Story Midway Mania ride. Ummm, yeah, guess where everyone was running? The line for the FastPasses was about half an hour long at this point. Guess what every guide book and website tells you to do as soon as you enter the park? Yep, go get those FastPasses. We figured we were going to stand in enough lines and headed back to meet my son and husband. We ended up back at the Toy Story ride about 45 minutes later. There was no line for FastPasses and we got ours for about 2pm. They were gone later in the day, but there was no need for the disgraceful behavior I witnessed when the park opened. Again, we waited less than 10 minutes for everything we did at Hollywood Studios and had a great time. After what I saw that morning, though, I don't think we'll ever go to a park at its opening time again. The park will not be used up if I get there a bit later and even if FastPasses for something are gone, I could still wait in the line (crazy, right?) to go on that particular ride.

All in all the Disney parks are as good as I remember them. The cast members do a great job and whether you're young or young at heart, you'll have a great time. I do wish that all the visitors would take a deep breath and remember a couple things. One, there are real people in those costumes; please treat them with respect. Two, the other visitors also paid their way in and would like to enjoy the parks without being injured by your deep desire to see a pretend mermaid before everyone else in the park.

I would also like to apologize to anyone that was on the safari ride with me. My infant son was not impressed and screamed for 99.9% of the ride. He stopped briefly when the driver "turned on the radio" and some fun African music came on. I promise I will not take him on that ride again unless I have a tiny baby iPod, fully loaded with African chants, since that seemed to do the trick!


Celtic Cat said...

What an amazing vacation! Thanks for sharing!

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