I have been to Disney a few times in my life. I’ve been lucky enough to visit Disney Land in California, and in Paris, and travel to Orlando periodically through my childhood. Although this time was different, my whole family weren’t there, I was booted and wheelchaired with a broken foot, and I went to the parks with a young child, there are things that remain the same. The shock of free-falling in the Tower of Terror, the excitement of seeing your favourite character has a short meet and greet line, the colourful spectacular of the firework displays, and of course, the feeling of pure, magical joy as you walk down Main Street USA and see the castle directly in front of you.
For those of you who followed my travels around the world, I do apologise that this has taken so long to write!
The main thing that was different for me this time was the fact I couldn’t walk the parks like I had done in years before. Being wheeled around the parks and not having the ability to queue, and stand, and walk, changes the way you move round and the way you do things. Sometimes it worked for the better, getting on rides and avoiding long queues, but mostly it irritated me beyond belief. That, and the boot looked ridiculous in the Floridian heat. I don’t want to make it seem like I didn’t have a good time, because, I couldn’t think of a better way to cap my years travelling off with. I just wanted to get the moaning out of the way and explain that the park can feel like a very different place when you’re not ‘fully able’ and I was surprised by that.
We had 3 weeks with my parents, and 2 weeks with Jade’s Mum and Kevin, with the middle week a cross over between the 2 houses. We had a carefully planned itinerary that would account for where we were and where we wanted to be each day, almost militaryesque in the planning. Which was probably for the best or my wandering eyes and mind would have kept is wherever we went I think.
We had different days and evenings in all the parks and water parks. The water parks proved to be the most challenging with my foot, but as i love the water, I persevered. It’s not everyday you get to go on water rides down ski slopes in the scorching sun. I did manage to dodge the hair braid stands, which I think was a first for me. We had a great time going round them all, and it was nice to experience them with a little one. Brooke loved the water and the rides!!
While it won’t ever be my favourite park, Epcot does have some pretty unique elements. It may have left me feeling horrendous, bu Mission Space is still one hell of a ride. There is no feeling quite like it, and OK, so I’ve never actually been to space, but it feels as close as my brain can imagine it feeling! All the old faves are there, like test track (which they’ve changed :/) and Soarin’. And of course the world showcase. It is a bizarre slice of so many countries around the lake, but it did allow us to have some pretty interesting meals out while we were there!
For the first time in as long as I can remember, we didn’t watch the illuminations from ‘Mexico’. Mum and Dad had booked us in to eat at the restaurant in ‘Morocco’ which proved to be a very good decision. The food was good (even if I was ill) and the rain was horrendous, so we were undercover to watch the show. I think i had forgot how different Epcot feels from the other parks. While it is very Disney, it is less Disney than the other parks for me.
I did discover the back entrance to the park which I had never seen, used, or knew existed before this visit. Instead of trekking to the front of the park there is a back entrance/exit to a lake that connects to some of the hotels, and also the Hollywood Studios. How has this gone completely under my radar for all of these years?? It came in hugely useful one our 4 parks 1 day adventure!
The Animal Kingdom has always been the parked that is a very different feeling to the others, almost zoo mixed with theme parks. It’s open for less time, it doesn’t have an evening illuminations, and it has always felt so much hotter (probably because many of the areas has fans instead of air con).
This year, it was even harder to cope with the heat, as people had to help with the wheelchair. I would like to state here that I felt bad for making them. Well making is a strong word but yeah. It did help us get to the front of many lines, but that is not the point.
The animals were as great as ever. They have finally got rid of the stupid story that accompanied the safari, which has improved it dramatically. Instead of it being about little red it actually focuses on the animals. Everest continues to be a great ride, along with the rapids etc. Plus the shows, they were pretty good, even if we did nearly freeze to death in Nemo. The Lion King show will always be worth watching!
A lot of work is being done in the park itself. They are constructing an Avatar land along one side of the park, and converting the centre to have any arena for an evening show. I guess they can’t have any loud noises with the animals, but it is a step in the right direction if they want to keep the park open longer. The park, while amazing, was starting to become slightly….I don’t want to say aged…but there were very few new things to sell the park. It will certainly revitalise it somewhat.
They’ve removed the wizards hat! I know it was never meant to be there permanently, but it was the face of the park for me, the emblem that represented it like the tree of life in the Animal Kingdom, the Ball at Epcot, and the Castle at Magic Kingdom. Even though it has some of the best rides, it has never been my favourite park. There is nothing I dislike about it, I just never quite loved it like I did the others.
That changed a little this year, The rides were, as always, fantastic. I’m always going to love Rock’n’Roller coaster and tower of terror, but it was the feeling that I got while I was there. I forgot how good illuminations was, how good the shows are, and how many little quirks the park has (such as Mr. Gold’s Pawn Shop from Once Upon a Time).
It is also Jayne’s (Jade’s Mum) favourite park. When someone loves a park, you can’t help but feel an affection for it, even if it wasn’t here before.
And then there were the frozen fireworks. They were spectacular. They had the characters on stage, there was acting, and dancing, and singing, and of course, ridiculously large and impressive fireworks perfectly choreographed to the songs from the film. Not only this, but it snowed, It was over 30 degrees, sweaty, hot, 10pm, and it was snowing on Hollywood Boulevard in the park!!!!!!!
Parking in the huge lot, catching the monorail or the ferry, and seeing the station at the entrance, all before you make it into the park onto Main Street USA. The tension mounts, the excitement grows, until you see the castle along Main Street and nearly cry in happiness because you genuinely believe this is the most magical place on Earth. And it is, it makes adults feel like children, and children never want to grow up.
It may have mainly childish rides, but I think that is why I like it so much. It’s so Disney. It’s everywhere. I love it. The smell, the shops, the queuing areas, the rides, absolutely everything. It’s by far the biggest park, and as much as I didn’t want to admit it, I was glad of the wheelchair.
I quickly bean to realise how well I know this, and the Disney parks. I can remember the words to the rides (especially Haunted Mansion) and can recognise a new queuing area a mile off (Peter Pan). I also saw just how many character areas and meet and greets there were. I’m not sure there were always that many or whether I just noticed them because we could fast pass them and because of Brooke. I don’t remember meeting any of them really for ages, so it was nice to do that side of Disney, along with the kids rides, again.
Typhoon Lagoon & Blizzard Beach
I love water and water parks, and these are pretty much the best you can get. The worst thing about being in some of the greatest places, when you’re broken foot prevents full enjoyment. That aside, it was as great as ever. Amazing weather, sun, heat, rides, waves, and chillaxing with a book.
I think the rides at Blizzard Beach for me are better, or they always made me think so in the past. I love summit plummet even if I couldn’t withstand the queues this time. The family raft ride remains a firm favourite of mine, and one of the things I genuinely look forward to when we’re going to Disney. I braved the queues a couple of times, because you know, raft ride, but it was hard work.
The lazy rivers took on a new appeal for me this year, as I could take the weight off my foot while being in the water. They are normally a little too laid back and action free, but they are better than being stuck without much to do. I quickly came to realise the rides with the pressure at my feet to slow me down, which dampened the enjoyment of Blizzard beach. Only a little, but there none the less.
One of the strange things that happened this time was completely ignoring the hair braid stands. I know at 23 that shouldn’t seem like it would be the case, but getting a colourful hair braid at the water park was always something I looked forward to and bugged my parents to get. Apparently this is something we no longer get when we are adults. Thank goodness this is one of the only things we give ip when we come to Disney as an adult rather than a child.
I always preferred Blizzard beach to Typhoon Lagoon in the past, but the raft rides, and the experiences with Brooke in the baby/children’s area, changed it for me this year. She absolutely loved the water, and it was both hilarious and infectious to see her enjoying herself in the fountains and on the kids raft slides. It’s totally different seeing it from the adults side!
The park as gone through a larger over haul, and had the fresher rides. Many of them were also on rafts, which we much more manageable with my foot. This gave me much more to do while we were there, and didn’t leave me sitting for quite as long reading on a lounger. That and it had the shark snorkeling area, which is just brilliant. It may not be diving in Thailand or the Great Barrier reef, but it is a great bit of the park that is so much less Disney, but still awesome, right int he heart of Disney World.
I know, this isn’t technically a park, but it almost is. It is certainly it’s own area! Amd while I love it, it was a tad disappointing this time. The shops were fab as always, the restaurants as impressive as ever, but this time, there was work going on. They’r revamping the whole place. While a revamp is often needed, and the new parking is definitely a good thing, the name is…well…questionable at best.
I do not like Disney Springs. It’s always been Downtown Disney, and for me it always will be. The fact they’re renaming it sucks. I juts don’t like it or think it has the same ring. I’m glad they’r keeping the shops I like (such as the mega Disney superstore) and of course additions like the Marvel shop are most welcome, I just wish they’re lose, or revert the name. I guess you can’t have everything when it comes to Disney?
This time was different from the other times we have been there in terms of fast passes. They have always been a tactical part of trawling round a park, dictating ride orders and first queuing. Where we used to race to a ride to fast pass it and enjoy it before fast passing it, we could download an app with queue times and fast pass access that allowed us to choose up to 3 a month in advance. This is what enabled us to have such a military plan to explore the parks.
It also allowed us to meet so many characters. Yes we queued shamelessly for ones such as Anna and Elsa, but we also fastpassed things like Mickey and Tinkerbell. I would love to say this was for Brooke, but it largely wasn’t. We bought autograph books and got photos taken with so many different characters that we really felt like we got full use of the magic photo pass thing that Jayne and Kevin bought. Seeing Disney from there point of view allowed me to see how different people do the different parks as well.
It was also nice to see the park with a friend as well as my family. It was great to meet my family and have a couple of weeks adjusting to being round them again before I went home, but it was nice to have such a memorable and different ending to our year abroad than we had experienced before during our year away. We’re both Disney nuts, we embraced everything that the parks had to offer. We attempted and succeeded in doing all four parks, and Downtown Disney, in one day. We had a day where we did nothing but meet characters and take pictures in different places. It was great fun.
There is no place on Earth quite like Disney. There is no magical feeling that unites families, or place that brings happiness to so many people. I’ll always love it, old or young, I can’t wait until I get to visit next time!