First of all, we are both huge Disney fans and we don't really like big scary rides such as upside-down rollercoasters. Therefore, Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida was the perfect choice of theme park for a couple of Wusses in Boots!
There's definitely a reason why Magic Kingdom gets over 20 million visitors per year; it truly is the Happiest Place On Earth! Before I get into just why this is the best theme park I have ever been to I want to mention our accommodation for the three nights (yes sadly just three) we spent in Orlando; Disney's Art of Animation Resort.
This resort was wonderful from the minute we stepped into the reception area. It had beautiful gigantic sketches of Disney and Pixar characters from The Lion King, The Little Mermaid, Finding Nemo and Cars all along the walls, even the lights were adorned with "pages" featuring these magical sketches. The place was buzzing with activity and the line up to check in was long but due to the resort having about 20 check-in desks it was only a matter of minutes before we were being greeted and checked in. The staff were so friendly and helpful (we actually had an Aussie serve us). They even gave us a badge to commemorate our first visit.
The other thing we were given at this point was both magical and dangerous; our magic bands. As you may or may not already know these are bands to be worn around your wrist and they serve as your room key, park tickets (once purchased) and more importantly your wallet. Yes, that's right, once linked to your credit card you can simply scan your band at any POS terminal around the resorts and parks, type in a four-digit PIN and your purchase is complete; no fumbling around with bags, purses, cards or cash, just a simple scan and type. Ingenious, convenient and addictive!
So, after we'd checked in we made our way to our room which was in The Little Mermaid section of the resort and allowed us to first pass the Nemo pool complete with a giant Crush and then the Pride Lands including Pride Rock and the Elephant Graveyard! We then strolled through a nice grassy area before arriving Under the Sea where giant Dinglehoppers and the like featured in the gardens. After passing under a huge effigy of King Triton himself we entered the building and located our room.
It was just perfect with its Little Mermaid theme. The bed heads were clam shells with seahorses gathered around the light, while the chairs were giant sea shells and the table top featured music pages of Under the Sea. In the bathroom the shower was painted like Ariel's treasure cavern and the complimentary shampoo bottles even had Mickey ears!
Being a huge Jiminy the Cricket and Pinocchio fan I was very excited to find that they featured on the emergency procedure notice by the door (I think that's the first one I've actually read in its entirety)!
Now you might be wondering just how expensive staying here is. Surprisingly it was very affordable and no more costly than staying at one of the non-Disney hotels. Another thing is that they provide free regular shuttle buses to all the parks and even Downtown Disney which comes in very handy when you are travelling without a car as we were. We bought our tickets for Magic Kingdom at the bookings desk in reception and went to bed that night giddy with anticipation...
As a lifelong Disney fanatic I'd only ever dreamed of visiting one of the parks. So stepping over the threshold and finally being in one was a huge highlight for that trip, that year and to be honest my life! One of my favourite things about Disney is that even though I know everything they do is amazing I still get blown away by just how amazing it is every single time!
The attention to detail in every aspect of the park is just so wonderful, I can't help but smile about it even now, three years later! From the moment you walk through the turnstiles you are immersed in a fantastic and enchanting world. No one is grumpy or sad, everyone is touched by this truly magic place.
One of the best things that happened during our visit was the sudden overnight appearance of the Halloween decorations. On the first day they were nowhere to be seen and then on the second (a seemingly random day in late August) there they were. Being Aussies who don't really get to celebrate Halloween like they do in the northern hemisphere it was extra special to experience this spooky little surprise.
Big Sis had visited Disneyland in California in 2008 and discovered the wonderful world of Disney Pins. She had brought home a lanyard full of them and I'd been captivated by them also. We both absolutely love Disney Pins and were keen to browse the latest designs available and of course purchase some to add to our collections. We found lots of wonderful pins and probably spent a little too much. We discovered the joy of mystery packs and had our first go at pin trading with the cast members at various shops.
There are thousands of other things to buy as well, some that are only available at the parks. A favourite shop of mine was the Christmas one where no matter what day of the year it is you are greeted by the friendly assistants with a cheerful “Merry Christmas”.
There are various places to eat around the park but our favourite restaurant soon became Pinocchio's Village Haus. As Pinocchio is my favourite Disney movie I naturally loved the theme and look of this cute little building. Once inside it was just as lovely with characters and song lyrics painted on the walls, carved into the wood and even featuring in the beautiful stained-glass windows. We had chicken nuggets and pizza and this restaurant mainly has Italian inspired dishes.
At the Friar's Nook we bought Macaroni and Cheese which was absolutely delicious. Also available here are things such as hotdogs and veggies and chips. There is no indoor seating available here so we ended up back at Pinocchio's to eat it.
Columbia Harbour House is a charming little restaurant with a nautical theme. You almost feel as though you are in a ship with various seafarer's items adorning the walls etc.
We visited in summer and it was very hot! Even the locals were saying that it was hotter than usual. So the only thing to be done other than drinking lots of water and seeking refuge in the air conditioning of the Hall of Presidents was to buy a Mickey Mouse Ears Ice cream of course! These delicious chocolate coated treats can be bought at the various ice cream trolleys around the park. Be careful though, they melt very quickly and we witnessed an adorable little boy who ended up with more of it melted all over his face than in his tummy.
These are just a few of the great themed eateries throughout the Magic Kingdom park. As we aren't exactly foodies and were always keen to get back out into the park itself we didn't explore all the options available. I'd love to try some of the others next time I visit (yes, I will most certainly be back)!
Now I am not into big rides at all and Big Sis isn't really either so this was one of the main reasons why we chose Magic Kingdom out of the four parks on offer at WDW. I am such a wuss that I even considered not going on any rides at all, but when Big Sis pointed out to me that the Under the Sea - Journey of the Little Mermaid ride involved riding in a "slow-moving clam shell" I had to laugh at myself and agree that to rule out all rides was a little over cautious. Therefore, we did end up going on a lot of the rides and enjoyed them very much. I'll list them from least scary/thrilling to most scary/thrilling and give a rating out of three to show how much I enjoyed them…
This isn’t really a ride as such. It’s a shuttle which loops around Tomorrowland, describing all the shops and rides, in a fun and futuristic way. 2/3
Hall of Presidents
Ah, the sweet air-conditioning of the Hall of Presidents! We sat through this show three times to take advantage of it, not to mention the super comfortable seats! Being Aussie’s it gave us a quick education in America’s presidential history which came in handy on our subsequent visits to Washington DC and Philadelphia. 3/3
Country Bear Jamboree
This one is exactly as the name suggests, a variety of animatronic bears playing musical instruments and singing along. It was a little reminiscent of the possum show from A Goofy Movie but that just made it all the more enjoyable, hehe. 1.5/3
Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor
We had no idea what this was going to be like but it turned out to be really fun. It’s set up like you are going to a comedy show hosted by Mike from Monsters Inc. What’s great about it is he picks on people from the audience at random (yes it could be you). They appear on the big screen with him and he actually interacts with them, responding to whatever they may say to him. It was very clever and an unexpected fun little ‘ride’. 2/3
This is a 3D show in which Donald Duck stars. The theatre you sit in is really nice. I can’t remember a whole lot about the plot but I do remember I really liked it. A great one for really little kids. 2/3
Prince Charming Regal Carousel
You cannot go to a Disney Park and not go on the carousel (no matter how old you are). Make sure you try it at night time too. It is so pretty when it is all lit up. Such a magical experience. 3/3
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
We missed out on this on the first day due to a "honey spill". This is another thing I loved about Magic Kingdom. The attendants at the rides are all so happy and friendly and instead of saying something boring like "it's broken down, come back later" they tell you there is a honey spill and they're hoping to have it cleaned up soon. Simple, yet just another little detail that makes all the difference. Anyway it's another "slow-moving" ride in which you sit inside a giant honey pot and journey through the Hundred Acre Wood. The waiting area is decorated with pages from Winnie the Pooh which you can read as you go along. 3/3
Mad Tea Party (Cups)
No visit to a Disney Park is complete without spinning wildly around in a giant teacup! While you don’t control the general motion of the cups, you do get to control the actual spinning of your individual cup. Spin as much or as little as you like, and watch out for the Dormouse in the giant teapot in the middle! 3/3
Dumbo the Flying Elephant
Dumbo is one of my all-time favourite characters. He’s just so cute and sweet, and his ride is lots of fun. You determine if you fly high or low or both. Soaring as high as possible gives you a great elephants-eye view of the surrounding area too! 3/3
The Magic Carpets of Aladdin
Very similar to Dumbo, only this time on magic carpets! Four people, rather than two, ride on each carpet, with two controlling the height you fly and the other two controlling the tilt of the carpet. With the wind whipping through your hair you’ll discover a whole new world! 3/3
Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin
Another “slow-moving” ride this one is anything but boring. While being conveyed around in spaceships you and your ride buddy get to shoot aliens and can compare scores at the end. I sucked at this! Big Sis blasted me to infinity and beyond! 2.5/3
Gawsh that hurt! This rickety old rollercoaster is Goofy themed and once seated you'd be inclined to believe that Goofy himself put it together. It's only small but has a lot of twists and turns and as this throws you around a lot it's not the most comfortable of rides. The rock-hard seat and back rest don't help much. With Goofy being my favourite character I have a little bit of a soft spot for this ride, it's just a shame the ride hasn't got any!!! If a couple of cushions were thrown in it might not be too bad. 1.5/3
The Haunted Mansion
This is spooky but so much fun, especially when you decide to go on it for the first time right on dusk. The prelude to the ride sees you enter the mansion and experience some of its spookiness through narration and optical illusion. You then jump into a Doom Buggy and journey through the mansion. I especially liked the ballroom complete with super real looking ghosts, and the graveyard which scared the bejeebers out of me. At the end a spook hops aboard your Doom Buggy with you for some extra terrifyingly fun antics (no spoilers). An absolute must when visiting any of the Disney Parks. 3/3
Now we are getting into the bigger rides. This particular one is a rollercoaster that sends you blasting through space. At one point you are in total darkness and then burst upwards towards the stars. Lots and lots of fun and an interesting way to experience a rollercoaster. Just another example of Disney magic! 2.5/3
Stitch's Great Escape
This is the only ride I can say that I did not like at all. You go into a “spaceship” where your mission is to apprehend an escaped Stitch. You sit in rollercoaster-like chairs and get locked into them (that’s the first part I didn’t like), then you get rocked around a bit in total darkness (that’s the second) while Stitch runs around, “jumping” on your shoulders and squirting weird smells in your face (the third). To be honest, when the tiny girl in the row behind me started screaming “Daddy! I wanna get out of here!” I felt exactly the same! 0/3
During your visit to the park official photographers will be walking around and also be stationed with some of the Characters. They then give you a code and you can pay to download the photos at a later time. When we got our photos taken with Donald and Goofy we were also allowed to take some with our own camera, which we did. When I got home I noticed that our Goofy one was all blurry. Goofy being my favourite and not having the code for downloading, I was disappointed. However, I thought, if anywhere can solve my problem it’ll be the Magic Kingdom. I emailed them a month later and they asked me to send through the date, approximate time the photo was taken and if possible a photo I’d taken myself. I had all this information so I sent it through and what do you know, they found my photo for me! I was so happy!
Another integral part of the Disney experience is crowding around the streets and watching the parades pass by. You’ll see many of your favourite characters as well as extremely detailed and elaborate floats. We watched two while we were there, one during the day, and then the Main Street Electrical Parade which was lit up spectacularly in the night time.