Yesterday we spent the entire day at Magic Kingdom in Disney World. It was a first for our kids and both Jess and I were 10 years old when we were here the last time, so it was a brand-new experience for us, too, considering all that can change in 20+ years. If you haven’t seen how we told them about our surprise trip to Disney, watch this.
There were lots of surprises as we spent the day in this magical place. Here are my top 10:
10. The quality of the food. Many who gave advice about a trip to Disney encouraged us to bring in our own food and drinks. We took the advice on drinks, but didn’t have time/energy/supplies/patience to work on the food so we planned for at least one in-park meal. We ate at the Pinocchio Village Haus for a late-lunch and I was surprised by the food. Jess and I both had meatball subs and Ezra had mac and cheese while Ella enjoyed the chicken nugget/tenders. All of us ate all of our food and were genuinely surprised at the quality of what was available.
09. The realization that many people “spend their vacation in lines”. We waited in lots of lines while at Magic Kingdom. Lines to get on the ferry to get into the park. Lines to get into the park after the ferry. Lines to get pictures with Disney characters. Lines to ride rides and see shows. Lines to get food. Lines to use the bathroom. Lines to get icecream. Lines to wait for the parade and fireworks to begin. Lines, lines, lines. We were there for one day. Some people make time-at-Disney their entire vacation. They literally spend days park-hopping and literally spend their vacation “in-line”. I’m sure someone has done the math (or could do with one of those fancy calculators) that shows how much time is spent actually doing something on average at a Disney park and how much time is spent waiting to do something. Considering that an average American football game has 11-minutes of action and an American baseball game has even less, we are seemingly acclimated to more time NOT doing for the short-amounts of time actually DOING. But with the drag of line-waiting and even the invention of things like “Fast Pass” there is this consistent dream in my head (and probably every Daddy’s head) of the “Golden Ticket” that would allow for NO lines and instant perks like front-of-the-roller-coaster and such. Has anyone experienced anything like this? Maybe if I legally changed my last name to Disney?
08. Just how many people can fit into one location. I’ve been looking for some online statistics of how many people might have been at Magic Kingdom yesterday and have come up empty-handed so I’m therefore safe to proclaim that we set a new world record for attendance yesterday. (if no one else will prove me wrong, I’m sticking to it) Seriously, though, the crowd was incredible – easily the largest crowd of people I’ve ever been surrounded by in my life. It was suffocating at times – especially during the electric light parade and closing fireworks. I’ve never wanted more “personal space” like I did during those couple of hours as we rounded out our day. Even getting back on the ferry for our trip to the parking lot was packed beyond my self-ordained boarding capacity and I was already making plans for treading water while keeping my family afloat when our boat would surely capsize due to its overloaded capacity. (we did make it out safely and without incident)
07. How (relatively) few pictures I took while at the Magic Kingdom. I literally remember thinking to myself as we were walking into the park, “This is a dream come true for me – my DSLR in hand as I take my family to the most ‘magical’ place on earth.” As the day progressed, however, I continuously realized the lack of picture-taking I was doing (I did still push the shutter about 500-times during the day, but if you know me – this is about average) as I focused on stroller-pushing, brow-wiping, and hand-holding much more instead. Also – the majority of my pictures were taken where they were designed to be taken – at Princess and Fairy sets where we waited in line for photo-opportunities with hundreds of others. If my children were older and doing more on their own I think maybe I would have taken more photos during the day. Of course, I did take a TON of photos during the light-and-fireworks show at Cinderella’s castle at the end of the day, too.
06. How much change was sitting on the bottom of the water in the line for “It’s A Small World”. I found it ironic how many people like us had to save their pennies just to get to Disney and then were willing to throw it into the water. Considering the base-price of a ticket to Magic Kingdom is $94.79, apparently Disney can increase the prices by a few handfuls of change for everyone without much outcry. Actually I read somewhere that all thrown-in change at Disney parks is collected and donated to charity. (can anyone confirm this?)
05. Did I mention anything yet about the crowd size? Or how close I came to a panic-attack as I attempted to whisk my family out of Magic Kingdom after the fireworks and was thwarted by the thousands of others attempting to do the same thing? As I type this I’m beginning to get the sweats.
04. Disney’s attention to detail. As we walked throughout the park I continued to notice that even the pavement changed according to where we were. Around the “circus” area there were circus-animal prints and even peanuts embedded into the pavement to further sell the experience. I would imagine that these details are lost on a majority of visitors but they are still there and enhanced the experience for this detail-watcher!
03. The personable-ness of the Disney characters. We waited in long lines to see three Disney Princesses inside the Kodak Theater as our first order of business. We also waited in a long line to see Tinker Bell and Rosetta – two Disney Fairies later in the afternoon. I was literally astonished at the extra-effort both the princesses and fairies took with our children as they gave them some personal-time during our photo-shoots. Conversation, hugs, hand-holding, and all-the-while keeping it in-character. Ella interacted with them individually telling some of them of the toy-versions of them she had at home. I remember specifically Rosetta remarking that it was crazy to think that someone had made a toy-version of her. Rapunzel, too, chatted with Ella about her chameleon “Pascal” not being in the room, but that he was hiding somewhere in Magic Kingdom and that if Ella found him that she was to bring him back there! After their personal-interactions with the characters as we walked from the room back outside both kids did a sort of instant-replay about what they had talked about with the character – it was truly special.
02. The projection-mapping and fireworks on Cinderella’s castle. If you’ve experience it first-hand I don’t need to justify this as a surprise-factor for our adventure at Magic Kingdom. If you haven’t, you’ll just have to believe me when I say this was hands-down the BEST fireworks display I have ever seen in my life. (and I’m known in many circles as being a connoisseur of these types of things!) The projection-mapping of the castle was jaw-dropping and quite the feat considering the nooks-and-crannies a building like that has. I was blown away at the attention to detail here too, and how they utilized each surface. The kicker was projection-mapped fireworks that once they reached the end of their project-able surface emerged as REAL fireworks continuing towards the sky and then exploding. I think I cheered out loud a few times during this show.
01. How “magical” the experience truly was for my kids AND for me, too! It is obvious that the park is designed with kids in mind. From characters to buildings to colors to smells – kids are overwhelmed from the moment they arrive to the moment they leave with the sights/smells/tastes/feel of Disney World. What was surprising was that as a 32-year-old Daddy how overcome with the sense of “magical” I was from time to time. When Tinker zip-lined from the top of Cinderella’s Castle to some other county, my jaw was just as dropped as Ella’s and Ezra’s. When the fireworks literally exploded over our heads and Rapunzel’s projected hair fell out of the upper-story window of the castle and floated down to the ground I was blown away at what we were seeing. When the digital on-screen Monsters, Inc monsters interacted with the real-life studio audience during the comedy show I was in “how did they do that” mode all the while laughing along with the audience and filling up the ‘power meter’ so they could keep the lights on. The term “magical” is dangerous because of its negative connotations elsewhere, but I’m having trouble describing it in any other way.
Have you visited a Disney theme park? Were you surprised by any of the same things I was? Any surprises I may have missed? I’d love to continue the conversation in the comments!