The Scotsman and I had our final holiday for the year. It was a blast, but as always, there’s the post-holiday drag. Returning to reality after a week of living in the Disney World bubble isn’t easy, plus we had a week before that of relaxing time in my hometown. So the best way to overcome the holiday blues is to continue thinking about it. 😉
Being back in WNY in the summer for the first time since 2011 was so refreshing. This year was even better because all of my immediate family were in one place for the first time since we got married, and we took several group photos to prove it. 🙂 The Scotsman and I spent several days in a cabin in Allegany State Park – one of the same cabins my family used to book on summer vacations when I was little. Family came to hang out while we were down there, and it went by way too fast.
We wanted to do a two-week honeymoon last year but only got one week in, so this Disney trip was our Week 2, slightly delayed ;). I’d never been to Disney World before (we did Disneyland Paris in December ’08, but NOWHERE near as good. It’s cold in France in the winter! And DW is just so all-encompassing).
The first two days at Disney were stressful because we were trying to get Fast Passes for everything and running around ticking things off the list. By Day 3, though, we remedied that.
We visited all four parks (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom) but only went to Animal Kingdom once. Expedition Everest and Kilimanjaro Safari were great, but apart from that, it was more walking around than actually doing. Still good, but we spent most of our time bouncing around the other three.
We stayed at Disney’s Beach Club Resort for four nights, then moved to the Swan (still inside Disney, across the water from the Beach Club and Boardwalk, but not operated by Disney). Both were great for different reasons, though I think we’d choose the Beach Club if went back. The Swan upgraded us to the top floor so we had a killer view of the Dolphin and the Magic Kingdom fireworks, and the room was beautiful, but the overall service was better at the Beach Club.
We made use of all the Extra Magic Hours we could, and I finally got to meet Ariel :). I tried unsuccessfully to see her at Disneyland Paris. I waited in the freezing cold for about an hour, and when I was two parties from the front of the line, they whisked her away and in her place put Aladdin and Jasmine. I’ve nothing against them, but I was a bit grumpy. The Scotsman still thinks this is hilarious.
On the day when Magic Kingdom had two Extra Magic Hours in the morning, we spent all FIFTEEN HOURS there. We were exhausted and our feet were killing by the end. I had to sit on the ground for the parade. But it was so worth it. We rode Splash Mountain about 10 times – definitely our favourite. It’s about 11 minutes long – practically 10x longer than most other rides!
Something really cool that happened: the Scotsman was at Disney World around age 13. There’s a photo of him watching the ragtime pianist at Casey’s Corner in the Magic Kingdom, which we had on my iPhone. We heard through the grapevine that Jim, the pianist, was still there, so we kept our eyes peeled. The first day it was a different pianist, who was still very good. The second day, we found Jim! Same spot, same costume, maybe even the same piano. This guy had a big influence on the Scotsman’s love of ragtime and his own piano lessons, and I was shocked he was still there so we showed him the old photo, got some new ones, and listened to him play. Such a neat experience.
Random Tip: skip Peter Pan, or as we called it, Peter Pants. We had a Fast Pass and still waited 15 minutes, and they sped the ride up because it’s so popular so it lasted around one minute. It was lame, and I kept wanting to tell people in the “standby” queue (the regular line) whenever we passed not to waste their time. Many waited over an hour.
One thing I don’t understand is the motivation behind bringing babies and toddlers – anyone in a stroller or carrier – to Disney. They’ll never remember it. It’s 95 degrees, humid and sticky. The lines are long, the crowds are intense, and it looks to be miserable for all involved. It seems like if all you want is a photo of your little girl with Cinderella you could mail order the costume and call it a day. 😉
The people with iPads were also incomprehensible. Seriously, there were hundreds of people walking around, riding rides, holding up their full-size iPads to take photos or videos. There was a guy walking around the park videoing everything on his iPad, though he didn’t seem to actually see anything, whilst bumping into everyone. Truly bizarre.
I’d go back, but I’d take half the amount of clothes and shoes, and remember UV protection spray for my hair (that sounds dumb, but honestly it’s one thing I forgot that I regret most. The sun fried my hair. Though I have to say, Disney is pretty good at making a lot of waiting areas under shade).
I’d stay on-site again in one of the Disney resorts near Epcot, because you can walk or take the ferry from your hotel to Epcot or Hollywood Studios, and it’s a quick bus to Animal Kingdom. Magic Kingdom is furthest from that area, about 20 minutes, but staying nearer to Epcot means you’re closer to more, and the Boardwalk is nice to walk along at night.
Last tip: SKIP Downtown Disney. It’s free to get in, so the crowds were heaviest there. Bad energy, not like the crowds in the parks. I was excited to visit Downtown, thinking we’d get some last-minute gifts but it was a highly unpleasant atmosphere. We stayed long enough to have a great time hanging out with Jamie Dement and her wonderful husband and son! I’m so glad we met Jamie! She’s been one of my #WriteMotivation writing buddies for over a year, so it was awesome to put a face to a name! 😀
After our five days at Disney parks, we went to Discovery Cove. There was scattered rain that day unfortunately, rather than the typical 10-minute downpour, but it was a wonderful experience regardless. It’s owned by SeaWorld (which we got into free the next day, and covered it in five hours before our flight) and they really restrict entry numbers, so it’s meant to be a more relaxed, laid-back experience than a theme park. Mostly the park consists of a giant lazy river you can snorkel or just float along in, and a “grand reef” for snorkeling with tropical fish and all kinds of rays.
That was amazing. Once I finally figured out how to snorkel without drowning, I loved it, especially swimming with the graceful rays. Discovery Cove has two add-on activities: a “dolphin interaction,” and SeaVenture. I would advise against the dolphin swim unless dolphins are your favorite animal in the world, because you literally get about five seconds of being pulled a few feet by the dolphin, all for about a hundred bucks on top of the pricey entrance fee. I watched several of these so-called “30-minute interactions” and they consisted of trainers talking to a group for 25 minutes, the dolphins jumping out of the water, and then towing each person a few feet. What we did instead was definitely worth the money (and cheaper).
SeaVenture is an underwater walk with a guide around a path at the bottom of one of the pools where you get up close with fish, rays, and other sea creatures. They put a weighted scuba helmet on you that pumps in 3x (I think) the normal amount of oxygen, and it weighs you down to the bottom where you walk along with the guides who write messages to the group on those magnetic writing boards. At first, I panicked when it was my turn to go down the ladder, and I had to take a minute before they put the helmet back on me. I knew water wouldn’t fill the helmet as I climbed down, but it felt like it would, so I had to compose myself and try again. The walk was about 20 minutes, and my own personal achievement for the trip, one of those fears I needed to push through. I’m so glad I did. I would’ve really regretted not doing it!
That’s about it. Thanks for reading! Have you been to Disney World lately or are you going soon? When I have a memorable experience, I often want to revisit the same place but I think the Scotsman is keen to try a child-free resort next 😉 So maybe we’ll wait awhile, but I really enjoyed it.