I scratched another thing off of my bucket list for the year.
I went to Walt Disney World.
Now, I know to some of you that may seem like a rather odd thing to add to a bucket list, but most of you probably don’t understand the history I have with this magical place.
It was always the same: Me, my mom and father, and my grandparents. Later, we added my sister.
My first trip to the park was when I was two years old. My family had gone down to visit my great-grandfather in his home in Palm Coast, Florida. Despite having a terrible cold, I still remember the magic I felt from having one day at the Magic Kingdom. I wore a pink outfit. I met some of the characters. It was everything I had wanted it to be….except for the sniffling. I remember the castle being a pinnacle of the trip and being forever a symbol I would never get sick of seeing.
The next time I was there, I had a little sister to share the magic with. I was eight years old and she was two. We liked Mickey’s Toon Town, which is no longer a part of the park. We liked it because we could meet characters and get our picture with them. The castle was different this time because it was a celebration. A giant “25” was emblazoned where the clock usually is and the castle was decorated like a birthday cake. My grandma took pleasure in buying my sister and I matching outfits, specifically, she bought us Winnie the Pooh turtlenecks to wear in sunny Lake Buena Vista. Nonetheless, when we got our pictures with Pooh bear, Eeyore and Tigger, they loved to see our outfits.
We can fast forward to three years later and my family was back at the most magical place on Earth. We expanded our reach this time and went beyond the Magic Kingdom to what is now Disney’s Hollywood Studios. It used to be the Disney-MGM Studios. I remember this because it was the first time I had ever rode the “Twilight Zone Tower of Terror,” which scared the crap out of me. I remember it distinctly because I had to go to the bathroom halfway waiting through the line and I promised my father I could hold it through the whole ride because we had waited so long.
I was right.
But boy did I run like a bat out of hell for that bathroom when the ride was over.
I also remember that my little sister got to be in the parade at the Magic Kingdom park with Belle from Beauty and the Beast. She was part of the “Be Our Guest” float with plates and dancers. The electrical parade was my other favorite part because everything was lit up so beautifully. I remember getting a Minnie mouse stuffed animal dressed in red because we went around Christmas. We even had an awesome hotel stay because the hotel screwed up and booked our room to someone else and ended up upgrading our regular room to a kids room for no additional charge. My sister and I got to sleep in bunk beds from a tree house and had our own television with a Nintendo 64.
The next time we went to the most magical place on Earth was when I was 19 and my sister was 13. It was also the last time my grandfather ever got to go to the parks. It was just me and my sister and my grandparents this time. We were both finally big enough to ride all of the coasters at the park. We went very early in the morning to the parks and made sure we rode each coaster before the masses of people started to flood in to the park. “It’s A Small World” was another stop because it was my grandparents’ favorite ride. We say the “Country Bears Jamboree” because my grandpa always had us watch it because it was his mother’s favorite. We stayed for the day time parade and then we left shortly after. I didn’t realize it would be his last trip there, but nonetheless, we made it special.
So many of these family memories needed to be shared. It’s the reason why I love Disney so much today. It’s the reason why I try to make people happy and give them some magic. If we can believe in a little magic, life is definitely a lot more sweeter. So last week, my boyfriend and I ventured down to Walt Disney World together. He had never been there before, so I figured it was time he found out why I love the place so much.
We did something I had never done before, and that was park hopped. In my times there, I had never actually visited Epcot or Disney’s Animal Kingdom. I highly suggest to all Disney travelers that you park hop. It’s worth the money because you don’t have the restrictions of one park access. When you have the ability to leave a park and go to another when one gets a little too busy, it saves a lot of aggravation. I can tell you that we park hopped for two days and STILL didn’t see everything the parks have to offer. By the way, this entire resort is about the size of San Francisco. At least that’s what Wikipedia says. I believe it because I felt like I walked twenty miles in two days in the sweltering Florida heat.
We started out at Animal Kingdom. I was pumped because I brought my brand new Nikon D5100 and wanted to take some nature shots. I had two lenses. Now, Expedition Everest is a must stop in this park. It is a roller coaster where you chase the famous Yeti. They make it not as scary for younger kids, but don’t fear adults, the coaster is plenty exciting enough for you too. Check out the Dinosaur ride as well, especially if you have little ones that have a fascination with dinosaurs. The next thing that Disney Goers should attend is the Festival of the Lion King. It was awesome. It has all of your favorite songs plus two acrobatic acts. Definitely check out the drummers in Africa and then, go on the Kilimanjaro Safari. This is without a doubt the highlight of Animal Kingdom. The cast members put you in a jeep like jungle cruiser and drive you out onto their wildlife reserve that they have built to resemble the natural habitats for the animals. You can see rhinos, giraffes, cheetahs, hippos, antelope, elephants and lions. Hands down a must do. Either wait in the line or get a FastPass, which, a FastPass is an option where you get a little ticket to come back at a scheduled time, and they let you skip ahead to the front of the line. It is a God send.
After the Animal Kingdom, we ventured to Magic Kingdom for a little bit. We ended up ending both of our days at Magic Kingdom. Magic Kingdom is definitely the busiest park of the four major parks. There are three parades there throughout the day and a fireworks display at night over Cinderella Castle. The must do list of things here would have to be: Splash Mountain, Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Jungle Cruise, It’s a Small World and checking out New Fantasyland. Parents, if you need to keep your kids busy for cheap, take them to the arcade in Space Mountain. I played 25-cent skee ball for a solid half hour and basketball for 50 cents for another 20 minutes. It’s fun and gives you a break if you need to kill time. Definitely stay til the park closes. I say that for older people, because once those kids tucker out and their parents take them back to the hotels, you essentially have the park to yourself. We stayed until the last possible second and I was able to take so many pictures because no one was around. Stay for the Electrical Parade and the Wishes Fireworks. I can’t promise that you won’t cry, because I did.
In all my times visiting Hollywood Studios, I have never rode the Rockin’ Roller Coaster, but I imagine it is a must do. It just gives me an excuse to go back because I never rode it. Check out the Tower of Terror, but make sure you go to the bathroom first. If you’re a Star Wars nerd, you should check out Star Tours. Also, you should go in May because Hollywood Studios hosts Star Wars Weekends. They have Jedi training at Hollywood Studios and I loved watching this four-year old boy talk crap to Darth Vader as he battle him with the Force. It was so freaking cute. He looked Darth Vader in the face and said, “The party’s over Vader,” got out his light saber and battled him. If you’re interested in stunts, check our the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular. It’s an easy way to kill time and enjoy yourself because they show you how a movie set works and how action sequences are put together.
Finally, there is Epcot. I didn’t get to ride the Test Track because it was down for maintenance, but check it out. Also, go to World Showcase. World Showcase is the section of Epcot devoted to select countries. It’s cool because they build it as if its actual buildings from the countries and they hire people from the countries that speak the native language. We ate it Italy and the pizza at the pizzeria was delicious. And adults, you can get an alcoholic drink in every country. You want a margarita? Head to Mexico. You want Italian Beer? Head to Italy. It’s all there for you to sample, and you get to look at awesome scenery.
Walt Disney had a dream, and I am happy to be a part of it. I would love to someday even work in the corporate offices to see how I can make magic happen. I saw so many children there with the biggest smiles. The staff there is the friendliest. Everyone told us to have a magical day. This place is literally the most magical place on earth. I’ve been lucky enough to experience it five times, and I plan on experiencing it many more times in the years to come. For me, Disney is about the memories you can create that last a lifetime. That’s what Disney has given me over the years and I can only hope to someday give it to others, and possibly to children that I have down the line. You have to live it and believe it.
This place gets a ten star our of five-star rating from me because I can’t get enough of the place. I can’t say enough about the memories I had there. I really can’t express all that Disney has done for me.
Go and check it out and make some memories.