Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Disney World

Those of you who know me know I'm Disney-obsessed. I wasn't always this way. I had my favourite movies (Beauty and the Beast and Ratatouille), but wasn't a huge Mickey fan and hadn't been to a Disney park at all until the age of 27. My first experience was Disneyland in Anaheim and it was just okay. The Indiana Jones ride was my favourite which I made everyone in my group do 3 or 4 times, but it didn't turn me into a true Disney freak.

That is, age 30, Trevor and I went to Disney World. The real deal.

It was my first meeting with Mickey that finally triggered the obsession. And I never thought I'd be that taken with what I knew to be a young girl dressed as a male mouse. But I was. Instacrush! We had a blast and, over the course of 8 days on Disney property, we saw EVERYTHING. For those who might not be familiar, Disney World is spread out over 42,000 acres of land. The property houses 24 resorts, 4 theme parks, 2 water parks, 5 golf courses, 2 mini putt courses and an entire downtown area. It's so huge, it even has its own bus system!

This post will step you through the Disney property and give you an idea of what you'll see! For starters, here's a map:
The castle at the top of the map represents Magic Kingdom. The lake in the very middle of the map is lined with the buildings that make up the boardwalk. To the right of the boardwalk is a giant ball ("Spaceship Earth") that represents Epcot Center. To the left of the lake is a giant tree ("Tree of Life") that represents Animal Kingdom (the park closest to Remy's Refuge). Just below and to the right of Animal Kingdom is a ski jump that represents Blizzard Beach, which is right beside Hollywood Studios (represented by Mickey's sorcerer's apprentice hat). The lake to the bottom right of the map is Typhoon Lagoon and just above and to the right of Typhoon Lagoon is Downtown Disney. Excited? Let's go!

As you come into Magic Kingdom, you'll be stepping onto "Main Street USA", inspired by Walt Disney's hometown in Missouri. Here you'll find numerous souvenirs shops, places to eat and a place where you can meet Mickey. At the end of the road, you can see Cinderella's Castle. 

Other than Main Street USA (shown in orange on the map), Magic Kingdom is broken into 5 other lands:

  • Adventureland (shown in yellow) is where you'll find the Jungle Cruise ride and the Pirates of the Caribbean ride that was the inspiration for the Johnny Depp movies
  • Frontierland (shown in green) is the home of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (a small roller coaster), Tom Sawyer Island and Splash Mountain (a personal favourite)
  • Liberty Square (shown in blue) is where you can take a riverboat ride, see the Haunted Mansion (another personal favourite) and eat at Liberty Tree Tavern (my favourite place to eat at this park)
  • Fantasyland (shown in purple) is where you can see the 4-D movie, Mickey's Philharmagic (also a personal favourite), take a ride in a clamshell on Journey of the Little Mermaid (amazing animatronics!), meet Goofy, Donald, Minnie and Daisy at Pete's Silly Sideshow and where you'll find most of the rides for the younger folks
  • Tomorrowland (shown in red) is the home of Space Mountain, the Peoplemover and Space Ranger Spin (the Toy Story ride that's also a video game)
The entire Animal Kingdom park surrounds Discovery Island, home to the incredible Tree of Life.

Once again, this park is broken into 6 main areas (clockwise from the bottom):

  • The Oasis is where you'll find different animals featured on display and also where you can buy souvenirs as you leave the park
  • Camp Minnie-Mickey is where you'll definitely want to see Festival of the Lion King
  • Africa is home to Kilimanjaro Safaris (do this more than once throughout the day to see different animals) and the Pangani Forest Trail (more like a typical zoo experience)
  • Rafiki's Planet Watch is where you can go to see live animals by taking the Wildlife Express Train
  • Asia is home of the Flights of Wonder bird show, the Maharajah Jungle Trek (another zoo-like experience), the Kali River Rapids ride (you will get wet), the Expedition Everest roller coaster and Yak & Yeti (my favourite place to eat in this park)
  • Dinoland USA is where you'll want to do the Dinosaur ride, the Finding Nemo musical (a must-see!) and other rides for little ones
Hollywood Studios is the park that is more geared toward live action movies and teaches you about special effects. You enter the park on Hollywood Blvd where you'll find various souvenir shops. At the end of the street, you'll come to a giant sorcerer's apprentice hat with light up Mickey ears.  

The park is broken into areas like this:

  • Echo Lake is home to the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular and the Star Tours 3-D simulator ride
  • The Streets of America are where you'll find the 3-D Muppet movie, the Honey I Shrunk the Kids set, the "Lights, Motor, Action! Extreme Stunt Show" and the Studio Backlot Tour
  • Mickey Avenue is where you can visit the One Man's Dream museum and where you absolutely must do the Toy Story Midway Mania Ride 
  • The Animation Courtyard is home to the Voyage of the Little Mermaid musical and the Magic of Disney Animation, where you'll learn to draw some of your favourite characters
  • Sunset Boulevard is where you can see the Beauty and the Beast musical, ride the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror and see Fantasmic, a light and water show that will blow your mind (I made Trevor see it three times!)

Epcot is truly the most adult-oriented park. It is broken into two main parts. The part surrounding Spaceship Earth is called "Future World". It contains a ride inside Spaceship Earth itself, a character spot where you'll meet Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Pluto, Donald and Daisy all in one spot, an amazing ride called Soarin', a simulator called Mission: Space and the Test Track. 
The other half of Epcot is called the world showcase and features movies, themed rides and cuisine from 11 countries of the world. Personal favourites are the food at the Mexico pavilion, the Maelstrom ride at the Norway pavilion and the singers at the American Adventure. 

As legend has it, a freak snowstorm on Disney property led to the development of Florida's first ski resort. Santa even moved to the neighbourhood! Unfortunately, the snow didn't last long. But, rather than leaving the ski resort abandoned, it was turned into a water park!
This is a picture of people enjoying Melt-Away Bay, a 1-acre wave pool. That old ski jump at the top of the hill there? That hill is called Mount Gushmore. It's home to three different types of slopes. Green slopes are reserved for only the bravest (and most wedgie-resistant) folks, including Summit Plummet, a slide with a 120-foot drop! Purple slopes are designed to have two or more identical tracks ideal for racing your family and friends. Red slopes are for using inner tubes! Not into sliding? Cross Country Creek is a lazy river ride that's most relaxing!

As the story goes, a typhoon ripped through this tropical paradise and turned the whole place upside down! Miss Tilly, a shrimping boat, even ended up on the top of Mount Mayday over there.

This is a huge crowd enjoying the largest outdoor wave pool in the world. You can even take surfing lessons here before the park opens for the day! A mix of both body slides and tube slides, you're sure to have a blast. There's also Crush 'n' Gusher, a 2-person water coaster where rafts are propelled upwards by water jets, as well as a shark reef where you can snorkel with stingrays, small sharks and tropical fish. If all that action isn't your thing, Castaway Creek is a lazy river that slowly circles the entire park.

There you have it, an overview of the six major theme and water parks at Disney World! Stay tuned for more posts on free things to do on Disney property and a Disney golf guide.

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