A Disney World Review
To quote Jiminy Cricket, “when you wish upon a star, your dreams come true”. Well, after years of wishing, a dream of mine finally came true, one that the long time readers of this blog know about. My family went to Disney World! And now, you’re probably expecting this to be a whimsical, glowing Disney World review of the most magical place on earth, right? Yeah, so to quote, um, someone at some point (probably), “some dreams should stay dreams”.
Context time. Back in the day, all of lil Mike’s favorite sitcoms, like Full House, occasionally featured episodes at a Disney park. The adventures and hijinks that occurred always made me want to go, and have the same experiences. Alas, being broke ain’t no joke, so a trip to see Mickey Mouse was never in the cards.
More recently, it seemed like my life was filled with a non stop cycle of people going to Disney World, and posting/talking about how amazing it was. Suffice to say, my expectations of Disney World were very high.
Further context. Our trip wasn’t a dedicated one specifically to Disney. K’s sister lives in Florida, so part of our trip involved driving down, meeting her in Orlando, and spending just one day at Disney World. OK, let’s get to this Disney World review.
TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD START TO THE DAY
We went to Disney World during Christmas week. By most accounts, this is considered the worst time to go to Disney World. K’s a teacher, though, so going during ideal dates is not possible. It was rainy in the morning, and unseasonably cold in Orlando, in general, but this did not deter people, as the parks were very busy.
We’ve been accustomed to just showing up at amusement parks and winging it. The thing I know now is that you pretty much have to pre-plan the heck out of everything, to truly enjoy the Disney experience.
For example, buying tickets.
The fam really wanted to go to the Magic Kingdom. Okay, cool. Except, when we actually went to pre-buy tickets for the day of our trip….Magic Kingdom was sold out. We instead ended up getting tickets for EPCOT, with a ‘park hopper’ option. This meant that we would start the day at EPCOT, and then, at 2pm, we could have the option to check out another park, if availability allowed it. These tickets also had to be picked up at the will call booth, in person, the day of our visit.
(Side note: one reason why Christmas week was the worst time to go was because Disney jacked the pricing. Our tickets were more than double what they normally are, during less busy times of the year. Holy exploitation, Mickey Mouse!).
One other cash grab, err I mean, feature, at Disney World, is Lightning Lanes. Basically, if you download the My Disney Experience app, there is a thing called Genie+. With Genie+, you have the option to bypass the normal line on some rides, by buying Lightning Lanes, during select times, subject to availability. You could also just buy Lightning Lanes. I think? I don’t know, honestly. The whole thing was really confusing. Anyways, these Lightning Lanes could only be booked the day of your trip, starting at 7am. However, you need to enter your ticket information, to purchase Genie+, in order to book the Lightning Lanes.
We didn’t have tickets, though, as mentioned earlier. We had to pick them up. So, by the time that we got our tickets, bought Genie+ for each of us (pricing on these was also jacked up to $40 US each, way more than normal), shocker, all of the Lightning Lanes for the rides that we wanted to go on were booked.
The lack of physical tickets also screwed us in trying to book the virtual queue for the Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind ride at EPCOT . You can’t just show up and line up. You pre-register with your ticket at 7am or 1pm, and then you are given a timeframe as to when you can go line up to ride it. 7am was a lost cause, but we did have tickets by 1pm. When I clicked at 1pm to book, the virtual queue it was full. How could it be full in a millisecond? Who’s clicking that fast?! Dash from The Incredibles?!
K and her sister did end up talking about our issues to guest services. To their credit, they refunded our Genie+ bill in full, and booked us for Lightning Lanes on two rides in Magic Kingdom: Space Mountain, and it’s a small world.
EPNOT, I mean EPCOT
Our day started off with a monorail ride (I had no idea about the monorail thing until we got to the park entrance) to EPCOT. EPCOT, as mentioned, was not our preferred destination, but a way to kill time, and soak up some Disney magic, before going to Magic Kingdom.
To be honest….EPCOT ain’t it, y’all. It lacked in rides, but made up for it in educational attractions. B, J, and KJ love rides, though. Besides Guardians of The Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, there weren’t that many rides of interest. Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, Frozen Ever After and Test Track looked fun, but they all had extended wait times that day (90 minutes plus), according to the Disney Experience app. The other rides also had long-ish wait times, as well. This left us kind of walking around, looking for things to amuse us.
The park had a “neighborhood” designed, so that you walk around “the world” taking in the sights, sounds and tastes of different countries. My globetrotting family ended up in “Canada”, where we watched Canada Far And Wide, a 360 degree film about our home and native land, narrated by Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara. I thought that it was legitimately cool, but we left before it ended, due to child boredom.
For lunch, we went to the USA building for some good ol’ American grub. K and I noticed the kids meal burger and fries portions were pretty generous, so that is what us two adults ordered. J and KJ ordered chicken tenders with watermelon on the side. Their watermelon came unexpectedly seasoned, so that it tasted like tacos. Their meals were like $10 US each, so the idea that part of it wasn’t edible was a little annoying. I brought them back to the service area, and again, to the staff’s credit, they replaced them with normal watermelon. In general, the food at EPCOT was fine.
Beyond that, we didn’t do much else, besides take pictures. In terms of Disney stuff, there were a few characters around. We saw a bear hi-fiving people, to which I asked which movie it was from. No one knew. Two other bears appeared soon after, which was met with confused crickets from my fam.
Princess Aurora WAS recognizable. Shockingly, only I wanted to stop and take a picture with her.
Minnie Mouse and Goofy were also in da house, and, of course, lineups for pictures with them were long. We did take a family photo with Goofy, who proceeded to look like we made him gag:
Now, I wouldn’t say that EPCOT is gag-inducing. However, if that was the only Disney theme park that I ever went to, after paying super high seasonal rates…. I might have pulled a Goofy.
I guess that EPCOT has a world fair vibe? My sister in-law did mention that grown folks come there, kid-less, to hang out, just to eat and drink. So if that’s all that you’re going for, cool. If learning about vegetables and water is your thing, this is the place for you, also. We are more of a thrilling rides kind of family, so none of us enjoyed EPCOT much. The CNE in Toronto was a comparable experience, for me, anyway, at a fraction of the price.
Luckily, that was only part of the day, as we had another monorail ride to catch, to the Magic Kingdom.
UNHAPPILY EVER AFTER?
Magic Kingdom was more enjoyable than EPCOT. For one, we actually went on rides. We used the Lightning Lanes on Space Mountain and it’s a small world. The park was non stop busy from 2pm until we left around 10pm, but we still managed to tough out the lines for Tomorrowland Speedway, The Magic Carpets of Aladdin, and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Big Thunder also has a lot of stuff to see and do, while you wait in line, which helped pass the time.
Space Mountain was scarier than anticipated , but it had me going Whoo! like Ric Flair. I was worried about KJ’s reaction after (he’s 7 years old). He loved the ride, luckily. The other rides weren’t thrilling, but were all entertaining. It’s a small world was as annoying as I hoped, and I loved every second of it.
Magic Kingdom also had more of what I expected, in terms of Disney experience stuff, too.
I can’t say anything negative about the various staff, who were all pretty friendly. One ride attendant, in particular, had their whole demeanor change when they realized that I was from Canada. He said that he grew up in Illinois, watching MuchMusic, and was excited to share his love of old school Canadian hip-hop with me. Any place where I can talk about Choclair songs, and get a fist-pump after the convo, is an OK place, in my books.
With all that said, Magic Kingdom….kinda wasn’t all that magical. Again, if we went at any other time, things probably would have been different. The overwhelming amount of people everywhere was just draining, stressful and tiring. B, J, and KJ complained after a while, but we had a once in a lifetime day to maximize, darn it, so we stayed way longer than they would have liked. The funny thing is, our kids weren’t the only ones who looked miserable. For a destination that prides itself on being the happiest place on Earth, there sure were a lot of unhappy people that day.
I also have to throw some shade at the My Experience app. It has wait times for the rides, but I didn’t find them to be accurate. For example, KJ and I lined up for an expected 30 minute wait for the Dumbo The Flying Elephant ride. After about 20 minutes, we made it inside the big top tent, where we’re told that the kids had to play in a mandatory circus-themed play area, before lining back up (but don’t worry, this wouldn’t add any more time to the wait, we were told). I was handed a buzzer thing, and was advised to wait for it to go off, before we could line back up. KJ played there for about 10 minutes, which was fine, as the area was pretty cool.
After the buzzer went off, we rejoined the line, which we quickly realized was moving at the speed of snow melting in Elsa’s ice palace. KJ was satisfied from playing, and didn’t care to wait any more, so we bailed, without riding Dumbo. The 45 minute advertised wait for Thunder Mountain ended up being about an hour and a half, too.
Two other quibbles: We found Magic Kingdom to be a bit confusing to navigate (not the best when you’re on sore, tired feet), and also unusually dark at night.
BE OUR GUEST
We did not stay at a Disney Resort, but at a nearby hotel, the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress Resort. Besides being scenic, it had more on-site activities than any place that I’ve stayed at. Pools with waterfalls, a waterslide, pickeball courts, mini-golf, a lake to canoe/kayak on, arcade, a basketball court, adult and child bikes to use, and a fire pit, among other stuff. Multiple restaurants, too.
If the weather wasn’t so chilly, we would have taken better advantage of the resort’s options. And honestly, the only thing worse than leaving Hamilton in hoodies and sweatpants, and having to wear the same things in Orlando, was having Orlando people laugh at us about it. Like ‘oh, you picked a bad time to come here, It’s so much colder than usual, haha”. Not exactly my idea of a knee-slapper, Orlando people.
One staffer said that NFL Pro Bowlers stayed there before. I have no clue if it’s true, or what players he was talking about, but I totally will tell people that I slept in the same room as Patrick Mahomes did. So yeah, the Grand Cypress Resort was nice, highly recommended. They have a complimentary shuttle service, as well, to Disney World.
Speaking of recommendations, I’ll wrap this up with my recommendation for Disney World. If you come in with a strategy, planned to a T, and go during a non-popular, non-premium priced time, whatever park you go to will probably be enjoyable. Otherwise…. I wouldn’t recommend going to Disney World, and especially not EPCOT, which pains me to say, honestly. The bang for the buck just isn’t there. Since that’s a bummer of a conclusion, let’s end this Disney World review on a high note.
What? The turkey legs at Magic Kingdom were delicious!
Until the next one, peace! May your dreams come true (or not).