Saturday, April 30, 2011

Disney Done Right

Yesterday, Melanie, the kids, and I got back from Orlando, where we spent three nights and finished up the remaining two days on our four-day Disney World tickets. As you may recall, our first day at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom back in early March left me feeling anything but enchanted. This time around, Melanie and I followed the advice of some good friends and had an immensely more enjoyable experience. In fact, we concluded our time at Disney World wishing we could buy annual passes. Knowing how to do things right changes everything for the better. Now we’re pros.

To give you an idea of how much more smoothly our Disney World trip went this time around, consider the following comparative data:

First Trip to Magic Kingdom
Time passed between leaving hotel and entering the Magic Kingdom gates: 2.5 hours
Time of entry into Magic Kingdom: 12:35pm
Time passed between entering the Magic Kingdom gates and leaving the Disney World parking lot to head back to hotel: 7 hours, 10 minutes
Highly Irksome Parade Interruptions During Visit: 3
Total attractions experienced: 5 (including 2 non-rides)
Average time spent at Disney World per attraction: 86 minutes
Longest Wait Time: 45 minutes
Estimated Average Wait Time per Attraction: 25 minutes

Second Trip to Magic Kingdom
Time passed between leaving hotel and entering the Magic Kingdom gates: 30 minutes
Time of entry into Magic Kingdom: 8:05am
Time passed between entering the Magic Kingdom gates and leaving the Disney World parking lot to head back to hotel: 4.5 hours, maximum
Highly Irksome Parade Interruptions During Visit: 0
Total attractions experienced: 11 (12 if you include repeats; all rides)
Average time spent at Disney World per attraction: 22.5 minutes (max)
Longest Wait Time: 15 minutes
Estimated Average Wait Time per Attraction: 3 minutes (most had no wait time)

Admittedly, I think it helped that we didn’t show up during a week when several schools in the state were on spring break. But the real advantage came from getting into the Magic Kingdom right when it opened. To achieve this, we drove ourselves to the park, which cost $14 in parking fees but which was a lot faster and easier, both coming and going. Arriving at Disney World when it opened also meant that, like our friends had told us, we could spend the first couple of hours at the park walking onto rides with little to no wait whatsoever. It was blissful.

Here are the rides we enjoyed, in the order we enjoyed them:

Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
  • On this ride, you sit in a rotatable seat with two laser guns attached to what might as well be called the dashboard. You can spin your car around and shoot at various aliens that have come to “attack.” You rack up points for hitting targets with the laser beam as you go along, the points being displayed on your dashboard. (It’s like a video game in that respect.) I sat with Edison, and he was very nervous up until the last minute or so of the ride, at which point he finally stopped burying his head into my arm and started playing along. At that point, it became his favorite ride and he asked to go on it again immediately after it was finished. We made him wait a little bit.

Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover
  • Not much happens on this ride. Most of the time, you’re in the dark or in some empty corridors, not doing much else than moving. I guess that makes the name of the ride appropriate enough, but I’m still wondering if more isn’t supposed to happen than did, or if the ride is so-to-speak under construction. There just isn’t much to it at all. But, despite the ride’s mild nature, Eddie and Peter would both seize up a little bit whenever the car we rode in would round corners or speed up slightly. They’re timid boys, alright.

Tomorrowland Speedway
  • Melanie took Edison and Peter on this, whilst I held onto Creegan, who was too small to be allowed on the ride. Edison steered the race car while Melanie controlled the gas pedal and Peter became the helpless passenger. I stood up in the grandstand to watch my family pass by, but once they got a few feet past the starting line, I couldn’t see them anymore. I nabbed the following pictures from a distance while trying to balance a sleeping Creegan in my arms. Not an ideal picture-taking situation, but at least I got something.

Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin (again)
  • Edison was clamoring to go back on this ride, so we indulged him. I sat with Peter this time around and tried to make it as fun for him as possible. He was fairly nervous on most rides and didn’t seem too thrilled to be revisiting this one, so I tried to be extra silly about it. I kept telling the aliens that I wasn’t going to let them get my Peter. Peter gradually warmed up to that, even cracking a smile and letting out the occasional giggle, but he always remained a bit cautious. Even after our second visit to this ride, Edison kept asking to go back on it. We never did, but that didn’t stop him from bringing it up and trying to add it back onto our itinerary.

Mad Tea Party (AKA the teacups)
  • I’m pretty sure this is the only ride that Peter actually requested we go on. He giggled with delight as he watched the ride in operation while we were in line. Of course, he got more nervous once we were in the teacups and spinning around, but he seemed to enjoy it in the end. When all was said and done, Peter declared the teacups his favorite ride of all, and whenever Edison would petition us to return to Buzz Lightyear, Peter would toss in his vote to return to the teacups.

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
  • A fun ride with just a bit of psychedelia thrown in. During part of the ride, you’re in Pooh’s heffalumps and woozles dream, complete with black lighting that makes everything glow vibrantly. Kind of cool.

It’s a Small World
  • A friendly and calm enough ride for Eddie and Peter to enjoy without much nervousness at all, thankfully. We went on this one to pass some time while waiting to go on the Peter Pan ride, for which we had gotten some FastPass tickets (tickets that allow you to come back during an assigned window of time and board the ride without waiting in the normal line). I don’t know how long a ride It’s a Small World is, but compared to everything else, it felt incredibly long. But we enjoyed it. Even so, I couldn’t help wondering how suppressed the female Muslim dolls were, out there singing and dancing with their faces covered. I couldn’t help thinking that they might get beheaded if they didn’t perform well enough. Kind of a downer. There was also a moment at the end of the ride where we were stopped for just a minute. It was right at the end, where you can see the brightly colored signs saying “Goodbye” in a variety of languages. I thought it would be especially demented if, at this stage of the ride, they sink your boat and release piranhas into the water. It would be a tragic way to go, being eaten alive while a chorus of happy-sounding children sing all around you and a collage of signs bidding you adieu stands tauntingly before you.

Prince Charming Regal Carrousel
  • I took Eddie and Peter on this while Melanie fed Creegan. There were five horses per row, and Edison, Peter and I were the second group in line, so I didn’t think we’d have a hard time getting on three horses side-by-side. But, as I strapped Edison and Peter in, some father came along and strapped a kid into the horse directly next to Peter, while two other kids climbed onto the two horses after that. I ended up having to stand, which hadn’t been my plan. I was slightly perturbed. I’d think if you saw me putting my kid into a horse while standing right next to an unoccupied horse, you might think I’m planning on sitting there.

Peter Pan’s Flight
  • The first and only ride on which we used a FastPass ticket. That dropped our wait time from 25 minutes (the estimated wait when we got our FastPass tickets) to zero. That was nice, as this was the only ride we went on that ever had such a long wait.

The Haunted Mansion
  • Before our first trip to the Magic Kingdom back in early March, Edison claimed he wanted to go in the haunted house at Disney World. Once we were at Disney World, he changed his mind. This time around, knowing we were returning to the Magic Kingdom, Edison said he wanted to be “brave and smart” and go in the haunted house. When we actually got to the Haunted Mansion, however, Edison was pretty adamant about not going on it. But he didn’t express this very enthusiastically until they were closing the doors on us, which made it a bit tricky to change our minds. Eddie ended up being a trooper about it, albeit a reluctant one, and I think he even got some enjoyment out of the ride in the end. He certainly wasn’t terrified the whole time, which I was glad about. I was his age or even a little bit older when I backed out from going in the Haunted Mansion with my dad. So, Eddie outdid me.

Pirates of the Caribbean
  • I was amazed that we were able to walk right onto this ride, even though it was noon-ish when we got to it. Our wait probably would have been longer had we not gone down the right side of the ropes that divide the line into two. The usher at the entrance to the ride was telling people to go down both sides of the ropes, but nobody was going to the right. We did, but we felt a bit unsure about it, just because nobody else was. I especially started to doubt our choice when we ended up walking down several long and empty halls. I kept asking Melanie, “The guy did say to go down both sides, right?” Melanie assured me he had. A few people were following us, too, and I felt worried that we were leading them astray. But, finally, we ended up meeting up with the main group again, albeit boarding the ride on the opposite side. That’s OK, though, that’s what was supposed to happen. The side we ended up on had much fewer people, so we didn’t have to wait at all to get on a boat. Had we gone to the left with the rest of the crowd at the beginning, we probably would have had a 5-10 minute wait time. That wouldn’t have been significant, but I’ll take immediately boarding any day.

Walt Disney World Railroad
  • For our final ride of the day, we went on the leisurely steam engine train that makes a complete circle around the periphery of the Magic Kingdom. It wasn’t anything exciting, but we knew Eddie and Peter would enjoy riding a train, so we went for it. While waiting for the train, Melanie and I both snapped a few more photographs. I had planned on taking many more photographs on this trip to Disney World, but of course, I didn’t. It always feels like an interruption to stop and get the camera out, so I frequently chose not to take pictures even when I considered doing so. Maybe that’s lame, but oh well. I’m not that sad about it.

By the time it was 1 p.m. and we were leaving the Magic Kingdom, we felt like we had been there all day. We were worn out and ready to go. And yet we had plenty of hours left in the day. It was great. We were able to go back to the hotel, relax, go out to a steak dinner, and then head back to the hotel for a pre-bedtime swim. Compare that to our first day at Disney World last March and there’s just no denying that we did something incredibly right this time around, and incredibly wrong last time. Sure, we could have spent a lot longer at the Magic Kingdom and gone on several more rides, but we didn’t even want to, and there’s nothing we bypassed that we felt strongly about trying. We got what we wanted out of the trip, and we got it quickly and easily. Perfection.

In the very near future, I’ll write about our visit to Epcot, which concluded our Disney World experience.


  1. Very Impressive. You know what you're doing and it all sounds very sensible. It's so good to hear that everything went so well. I was glad to hear that you had gone back already. All in all, I am having Happy Mother Thoughts about Mel and my boys. ^.^) Love to all...

  2. I am so glad it was a much better experience. I'm impressed you went back.