Disney World. Disneyland on steroids, 4 separate parks, an entire transportation hub and system, multiple resorts within 33,100 acres of land, and the hot and humid Florida climate add up to an impressive paradise. The rides are astoundingly themed and the thrill rides have just the right amount of thrill, so no matter your fear level, you can bear it. The scenery is beautiful and is just as grand and majestic as in the stories and movies, and every single park has their specialty must-go show: a live performance, one with fireworks, a parade, or even a light-show! Each park has its own unique feature that will keep you playing or watching until the park closes. Or maybe even after that, with the after-hour tickets!
The only fault to this seemingly flawless paradise are the crowds. I can easily state that even on weekdays which are not holidays, there are swarms of people in the park. The most popular rides are jam-packed, as are the shows. I can tell you this: If you don’t go to a show early, you may not be able to get into the theater. And all of the roller coaster rides' wait times are sure to be more than one hour if you don’t go early in the morning or late at night. But on holidays, there is no avail. Hordes of people clog the park, and you won’t stand a chance to catch multiple rides. You would be lucky to get 3 a day. But if you travel at the right time, you might stand a chance. According to an anonymous local Uber driver, January and February are just the right months to go. Since it’s after Christmas, those large swarms of people are not likely to come back so early. Also, the relentless Florida heat lets go during this time. A helpful tip for any of the lands you may visit is to download the My Disney Experience app, which helps you check ride times and lines remotely, which can prove vital in planning your day. Finally, staying at either Disney Hotel Swan or Dolphin will grant you one hour of early access, allowing you to get to the rides that you want ahead of the crowd. So, with the vacation month planned, it’s time to explore the parks.
Hollywood Studios has been the most recent park to get an update, with Black Spire Outpost, or as I like to say, Star Wars Land. There are two new attractions, Smugglers Run and Rise of the Resistance. I recommend Rise of the Resistance first thing in the morning, and Smuggler's Run later, but you should request for the role of pilot, or else the simulator ride is no fun. I also recommend Toy Story Mania, which is an extremely fun arcade shooter game. The Rock and Roll Roller Coaster is also a scary G-force roller coaster that goes upside down at some parts, and finally the Hollywood Tower of Terror, which is a drop tower. As a pedestrian in the Hollywood Studios said: “It feels like you’re one of those cartoon characters in those comedy shows, falling from [the sky] as the floor disappears!” And it certainly does! As for the shows over there, the best by far is Fantasia, which is a live show involving fire on water, Mickey Mouse, and all of the Disney classics characters and sing-alongs. Another great show is Indiana Jones. You see how they made some of the most iconic scenes in the movies. Be sure to come 15-20 minutes early though, or else you might be left with limited-view seating, or even not be let in! Finally, Slinky Dog Dash is a ride that I do not recommend for 100+ minute wait times. This ride's line can be deceiving, with me personally spending roughly over 3 hours in the line of this ride. However, to avoid this disaster from occurring, you should try the longer wait-time rides at night, especially the popular ones such as Slinky Dog Dash, Toy Story Mania, Rise of the Resistance, and the Hollywood Tower of Terror. This can enable you to avoid the unreasonably long wait times of the midday and still enjoy some of the best attractions in the park.
The second theme park I’m featuring is Animal Kingdom, which in my opinion, is highly underrated. The reason I’m saying this is really because most kids, or people, don’t really appreciate the beauty of the natural world, which this park amplifies. This park, somewhat like EPCOT, is based on the sights, sounds, smells and feels of the park. Not exactly its rides. But I’m not saying that its rides are bad either! For a truly natural ride, you should take the Kilimanjaro Safari! It has a relatively short wait time in the morning, and its tour of the African Savannah is a good chance to take photos as well as educational because of its tour guide’s commentary. Another great one is DINOSAUR, which is the highlight of Dinoland U.S.A. It is an open ended roller-coaster-type ride, so if you have any bags, you better hold them tight! Luckily, it doesn’t go that fast, it rather just shakes you left to right.
However, the crown jewel of the entire park, or in my opinion, the entire Disney World! Avatar: Flight of Passage! This ride is a thrilling 4D simulator that puts you on a banshee, or a flying animal in Pandora, the imaginary world of Avatar. You ride on it as you explore the wonders of Pandora! Nothing can prepare you for this ride. The sights, smells and sounds make it a truly 4D experience. The queue is dotted with all sorts of scenery that will keep you captivated during the wait. Do this nearer to the end of the day, because even in the morning, the wait times exceed 75 minutes. But remember. This ride is a must-go. Now, with Animal Kingdom, there aren’t really any nighttime shows, but during the day time there is a good show to fill in the gap: the festival of the Lion King. This is a stunning live spectacular, with realistic characters and interactive experiences and sing-alongs. This is just as good a show as a nighttime spectacular could be.
Now, I’m moving on to EPCOT. This park, like Animal Kingdom, is based more on the sights, sounds and feels than the rides, but it also adds a new element in: tastes. You can experience cuisines from all around the world in this park! For lunch and dinner in this park, I suggest walking around and buying one entree from each food stand or restaurant. Choose the ones that are around $10 and go around buying a few for your meal! Now that you have a full stomach, it’s time to explore! There are 11 pavilions in EPCOT each representing each country. It is recommended you visit them all to spot the country's special culture, and you might catch a few shows! However, EPCOT also has some pretty good rides. Take Test Track for an example. It starts off with an educational base, with the line showing how Chevrolet designs cars. After that, you get to design your own car, with factors like aerodynamics taken into account, adding to the educational element. From there on, though, you are put inside a sports car and are zoomed across the “Test Track” in a roller-coaster-type ride to experience the tests that this car goes through. This is a mostly educational ride, because that’s what EPCOT’s all about, but if you still feel bad about bringing yourself, or maybe your children to this place, which is all about fun, you should take a quick visit to the EPCOT dome and go on a ride called “Spaceship Earth.” It is a slow, dark ride, and it teaches you the history of humans in a nutshell, in the form of revolutionary inventions and innovations.
Finally, the top ride of EPCOT is…Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind! It is by far the most exciting and the best ride in EPCOT! This thrilling dark roller coaster ride utilizes new technology to launch you front, back, and sideways. Yes, I said sideways. However, the only problem with this fulfilling roller coaster is that you have to use a virtual queue on Disney’s app, and thousands of people will be waiting when the queue opens and immediately click the button to join. You might not be lucky enough to get in. However, it’s still a can’t-miss ride. The nighttime spectacular here at EPCOT is Harmonious. You should get the best view of this show either from Japan’s or Canada’s pavilion. This show is comprised of Disney songs with firework accompaniment.
Finally, last but not least is Magic Kingdom! As the flagship kingdom with the trademark castle, Magic Kingdom is the main theme park with more attractions than any other park in Disney World. This park’s best feature though, is the turkey legs! Even the buses going to Disney’s transportation center have: “Celebrating 50 Years of Turkey Legs!” This flashes on the top with “Magic Kingdom.” You should not miss the turkey legs there. They are giant and delicious. This is all you need to know about them. You cannot miss them. They are iconic, as even the Disney buses advertise! So, to get them, go to liberty square and take a right. Then, scan the menus for the mythical behemoths, the turkey legs!
There are 3 roller coasters and a lot of other rides in Magic Kingdom. But the icon of the entire place is definitely the castle. The half-logo of Disney stands 299 feet tall, and is an amazing life size reproduction of Cinderella's castle in the movies. It shows on the inside tapestries depicting Cinderella's story. However, to go inside the castle you need to book something special, which apparently costs extra. So the inside is solely tapestries if you don’t book that tour, which costs more than the tickets to the land itself! However, it makes a great photo opportunity.
So, now, I should probably rate and rank the rides. You should 100% take the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad; 45-60 minutes are considered good wait times for this ride. This ride is a roller coaster ride which is pretty fast, though it will leave you feeling a tad of regret because if the ride could go a little faster, it would be absolutely perfect. The Haunted Mansion is another must go, mostly because of its reputation. Everyone who ever went to Disney also went on this ride! I still haven’t figured out how they made the 3-D ghosts yet! However, despite the scary name, this ride is mostly for low scare level people because it is full of friendly ghosts, not evil ones. Another great ride is The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, which seems like it has gigantic drops but actually doesn’t. It leaves you imagining the potential that this ride could have had, but didn’t. It’s good, but honestly disappointing at the same time. Finally, Space Mountain is a dark ride, like a lesser version of Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind. Given that this is its predecessor, it's still worth the wait in the morning, so prioritize this at the start of the day. One of the day shows that you shouldn’t miss is the Enchanted Tiki Room, which is what Walt Disney orchestrated from the start as a test run of animatronics. It is funny and a good way to cool down and calm down after endless rides after rides. Finally, the Disney finale here is the iconic castle fireworks show. You should go to the best viewing spot relatively early, departing from your last ride about 30 minutes before the show to get a good spot. It is a satisfying fireworks show, after which, you should rush to the rides.
All in all, Disney World is a virtual paradise, the true theme park, and a destination that is worth the time, money and effort of planning, booking and going there. All the parks are specially unique, each with one element that will keep you there, making you crave for more, never wanting to stop. You might even want to go on some rides twice, or even three times! It is a great combination of scenery, beauty and rides. Disney World truly is the place where imagination comes to life.