Two weeks ago, Ben and I took a vacation to the Disneyworld complex. His sister, Erin, had been chomping at the bit to go back since her honeymoon trip and asked if Ben and I would like to come along with her and her husband, Travis. Being a California girl who used to go to Disneyland every year until I was around 12 or so, I didn’t hesitate to say yes. I love the cheesiness that comes with theme parks and I’ve never had any beef with Disney, unlike those anti-Disney throngs of our generation. So, yippee! Play time!
I’m not going to discuss each and every ride, or every little thing we did because that would take forever. First, though, a little bit about taking Amtrak to Orlando. Ben and I have wanted to take a train ride forever as both of us, especially Ben, are getting disenchanted with planes the more expensive and securitized they get. We’re both of a mind that it’s too much hassle taking a plane, especially when there’s not even a basic allotment for one checked bag anymore. We’d rather sacrifice some security in exchange for more liberty and the airline industry and consumer demand for security are making that less and less possible. So, time to try the train! With AAA discounts, it cost about half as much as the flights . . . until you consider the $40 taxi ride to the Disney complex both ways. We ended up meeting a nice van operator right outside the train station, who gave us that cheaper price. A regular taxi would be about $60 for the trip-20 minutes of road. So, add in the extra $80, and it’s no longer as much of a deal, but then again, not paying for parking or baggage fees is handy, so I think we still made out ahead. Disney provides free rides from the airport to the hotels; they really ought to provide it for the train, too, don’t you think? Come on Disney, support public transit!
The ride was an overnight trip both ways, taking a few hours longer than it would to drive, but we didn’t have to do the driving, so yay. Seating was much roomier than on a plane-much-and there were outlets for charging your electronics, leg and foot rests on the chairs, and larger bathrooms, too. Plus, you can move around as much as you want to! If you need more space than the small tray for work or play (our play involved several rounds of Munchkin), there are large tables in the dining car, too. Honestly, I thought it was a great experience and we’ll have to see how prices compare to flying and driving when we head up to Ben’s family this Christmas.
Erin planned our agenda and we stuck with one park a day, which worked out just right for seeing everything in each park but not overdoing things so you get exhausted. I’d opt out of Park Hopper tickets, because for us one park a day was really fine so the extra money for the privilege of changing parks was a waste. Oh well.
Day 1: Hollywood Studios
This park was full of special effects demonstrations, movie props, etc., in addition to some fun rides. At the Rock ‘N Roller Coaster, we came across the first of many spots where a group of say, 60 people are shuffled into a room with televisions. They play a little explanatory scene to prep you for your adventure, with both rules for the ride and a story setup. I’ve got to say, I hated these. When I’ve reached the front of the line, I want to get on the ride, not listen to a three-minute, videotaped spiel. I think it would work much better to have the same information and story come while you are still waiting in line, through animatronics like happens at Star Wars and Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin.
My favorite thing in Hollywood Studios was a surprise as we took the Backlot Tour.
The spaceship from Flight of the Navigator! That just makes an 80s child feel nostalgic.
Highlights: The Sci-Fi Diner, seeing Aslan’s Mount (though the Prince Caspian experience was basically a long movie preview), and the Tower of Terror.
Day 2: Epcot
Epcot is very large! We didn’t end up making it to a bunch of buildings in the Future world section, including The Universe of Energy, Innoventions, The Seas, or Imagination! Oops. This brings me to my next general thought on Disneyworld-why such short hours? Now, granted, we didn’t get to the parks until noon most days, but only the Magic Kingdom stayed open past six or seven each night. That’s a waste of time for night owls! Eh, it was only a problem for us at Epcot. We had enough time everywhere else.
The World Showcase was basically like going to Las Vegas without the gambling. I like Vegas, so that’s a good thing. Lots of reproductions of famous architecture throughout the world and food and shopping galore.
The IllumiNations light and fireworks show was great. A large globe floats out to the center of the lake and . . . there are lights and fireworks. Not a thrilling description but it was pretty cool.
Highlights: Morocco (I love this style of architecture and goods), Mission: Space, and 360-degree films. I’ve loved those since I was little.
Day 2.5: Downtown Disney
We spent the evening this night at Downtown Disney, which is basically a stylized outdoor shopping and dining district with some fun Disney touches.
Outside the Lego store:
In the Disney store:
I liked the novelty of being on Pleasure Island, but there really ought to have been some Pinocchio statues on a display or something.
Day 3: The Magic Kingdom
This park, of course, is essentially the same as Disneyland but there were subtle differences. The layout is a bit different, and probably better designed than Disneyland for lines, but I missed the French Quarter coming out of Pirates of the Caribbean and there was no Alice in Wonderland ride. I love that ride! Please tell me it’s still at Disneyland!
There are still teacups, luckily. Also, there’s no Indiana Jones ride, though there is an Indy stunt show at Hollywood Studios and the Matterhorn has been moved to Animal Kingdom and made into Expedition Everest instead. Just small little changes here and there, with the most positive one being that there’s a lot more dining options at Disneyworld. I picked up my only souvenir here, a hat of the three-eyed, plush toy aliens from Toy Story. I’m set for Halloween!
Highlights: Thunder Mountain, Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, The Jungle Cruise, Space Mountain.
Day 4: Animal Kingdom
This park is basically a zoo with some rides thrown in. Of course, it’s Disney, so they make it fun, rather than just walking around and looking at animals (though there was plenty of that, too). Expedition Everest was here, which was probably my favorite ride in Disneyworld, and it had a great Yeti museum to peruse while waiting. This is a more relaxing park, because there aren’t as many attractions to ride so you can take your time and wander with less of a hurry. There’s also Dinoland USA, which makes no claims to be educational, opting for fun dinosaur rides and a mammoth dig for the young-ins. The best part of this park was probably how scenic Everest and the Tree of Life made it.
Highlights: The Primeval Whirl, Expedition Everest, Kilimanjaro Safari.
We headed back to the train that evening and made it home to Raleigh the next morning. Our train had been delayed an hour before leaving, but we still made it to Raleigh on schedule somehow. More points for trains!
Disneyworld was a great, and very needed, vacation. Thanks to Erin for inviting and planning for us!
We have lots more pictures at our new photo website, here. Ben redesigned our old site and I think this is a vast improvement. He’s got slideshow options, captions that pop up then disappear, and the ability to click easily from one picture to the next. Tell us what you think! Is the wait too short between pics in the slideshow? Do you like the new and improved look? Oh, just a warning that we got too lazy to weed out the bad pictures, so there’s some uncaptioned, boring or repeated shots to sift through.
Hope you have a magical vacation soon, too. [/cheese]