By unixman on Jan 02, 2008
Just returned from a 2-week long trip to DisneyWorld at Lake Buena Vista (about 30 min. ride from Orlando's International Airport) in Florida. If you've been there, you'll probably agree with most of what I am about to write - else you'll (hopefully) find the below helpful in planning your trip. Essentially, if you're family oriented and are traveling down there with kids who are at least 5+ years old, one of the things you need to do in terms of early preparation is acquire a bunch of Disney genuine pins that you'll hook your kids on (while there). Go to ebay and search for "disney genuine pins" and buy a lot. Its cheaper this way (about $2 per pin vs. $7-$12/pin while on vacation).
Next, while there, you'll soon realize that everyone from the whole wide world is suddenly finding it necessary to travel there during the same time you're going. That's a postulate. So, before you go, call up the number at Disney dining services and make a few reservations at some of the restaurants they've got. While I was there with my family, we were able to dine at Magic Kingdom's Castle as well as Norway's Akershus (in Epcot). Both were great places, with plenty of opportunities for character photos for the young ones.... By the way, do you know what Epcot stands for? No, its not "Every person comes out tired" nor is it "Every paycheck comes on Thursday". One of the gents who worked there enlightened me that it actually stands for "Experimental prototype city of tomorrow". Well, I am glad its experimental. There are quite a few interesting architectural decisions that had been made that result in very very crowded pathways (during the holidays) with absolutely no redundancy ...and because the Fastpass program is so popular, the one facility they haven't adopted to be Fastpass-ready are ...restrooms
What I liked about Epcot is the fact that Disney architects have representations of 11 countries (Mexico, Japan, Norway, China, Italy, US, Germany, UK, France, Canada, Morocco) comprising about 60% of the park (my estimate) with the remaining 40% being dedicated to various attractions - and the whole theme of Epcot is about our planet, the world, unity, energy sources, etc. The Bakery in France is absolutely amazing. Must have the strawberry tart and the cake of the day. Follow that up with a visit to their souvenir shop and walk away with a number of French gifts. Make your way into Italy and Japan and savor some of the local specialties. See the acrobats perform in China and visit Germany for a playful OktoBeerfest If you're going onto the Maelstorm ride in Norway, remember to watch the 5-minute film about the country, following the ride.
The Animal Kingdom hasn't changed much since we visited it last in 2005, except that there's a new ride (Everest) and a seemingly much more developed Asia section. Didn't ride on Everest, so can't comment on it, but the restaurant Yak & Yeti (Hi Alessandra!) (right by the Flying Wonders [a bird show]) is a must! Make a reservation if you can - lunch at about 3pm works well if you started your day late. Earlier on, as you walked into the park, you (hopefully) caught the Pocahontas show (on the left side of the park) and then immediately thereafter, you've probably spent 1 hour in total waiting for autographs with each of the 4 characters that are there pretty much throughout sunlight. The cool thing about the Animal Kingdom is that it closes early (I think that's because of the heavy presence of animals and preserving their peace) and so you may still have plenty of time after 8pm to hop a ride down to Disney downtown.
While there, you must visit the Magic Masters. You must eat at the Wolfgang Puck's and have a tomato soup and sandwich at Earl of Sandwich. You must visit the Disney Pin Traders area - and you have to wonder into the World of Disney shop. If you're into Cirque, they're there - at Downtown Disney. And if you're there on multiple evenings, try to visit the Fulton's Crab House (by parking area 1).
Other then that, the Magic Kingdom is a wonderful place for all ages. Lots of popcorn and sun sure make for a fun-filled vacation. The Noodle Station serves up some very very tasty varieties so if you're into noodles, you'll likely enjoy a bowl of veggie/tofu/chicken.
As for beating the crowds, make sure you're there bright and early, do your homework the night before (visit the Guest Services counter at each park to obtain the schedule of events/shows for any of the 4 theme parks at DisneyWorld). There is no substitute for having the ParkHopper option, but my personal experience dictates that at $45/person, its an option only worth having at Disneyland, California and not Disneyworld, Florida, because in Disneyland, the 2 parks are close to each other - you can hop between them easily. At Disneyworld, you'll likely spend a day at one park (there's lots to do) and you'll likely not going to want to go to another park in the middle of the day. Not unless you're in that park for the 3rd day during your stay - this has been my experience.
Bring a stroller, if you can. With the time spent waiting in lines to rent a stroller, and having to return it and then having the kid being tired by the day's end, plus at $8 to rent a stroller ($16 for a double) and being there for 7 days, the math quickly adds up!
...and repeat after me: "Its a Small World After All"....
Cheers and Happy New Year to all!