I grew up watching Saturday Disney on television every weekend. Back then it was all classic cartoons and the odd new adaption of a movie, like Aladdin, into a television series. It wasn’t so much that I desperately wanted to watch them but more that there was nothing else on. There were just 5 channels on Australian T.V. at the time and we only had reception for 4 of them. Granted the one we couldn’t pick up was SBS (a ‘world’ station that generally only ran world news reports in foreign languages and some risqué international cinema of an evening. Not exactly what a pre-teen was looking for).
Every now and then Saturday Disney would do a show from Disney World in Florida. It was the kind of general awesomeness a kid wants to see; interviews with a mute Micky Mouse and presenters riding the teacups. It was probably more the fact that it was a theme park and there were ‘exciting’ attractions like rollercoasters- everything a kid in rural Australia doesn’t have access to.
So when we made the decision to head to America, a trip to Disney World in Orlando, Florida, was on the cards. We were in Florida already anyway so why not make the effort to tick off something most people don’t get the chance to do.
Let me tell you- Disney World as an adult is a different proposition.
For starters there are multiple parks to choose from. MULTIPLE- each having to be paid for separately. When you only have one day to visit, choices like this are educated and cut throat.
Do you visit Animal Kingdom? Sounds like a glorified zoo. Next.
Epcot? Never heard of it. Are there rides there? Who names a place Epcot? Google tells me it’s educational. Next.
One of the water parks? If you can’t remember the name of them, why bother, clearly not important enough.
So the Magic Kingdom wins out. There better be a teacup ride. My whole childhood depends on it.
The Magic Kingdom is the classic Disney World experience filled with castles, rides and staff who are called cast members, walking around in fairy-tale costumes that look both impractical and uncomfortable. Having to have a toothy, fake smile plastered on your face all day like an overly happy cartoon character has to take its toll. Over the speakers, sickly whimsical music plays constantly. Seriously, it doesn’t stop. It’s the kind of music that runs over the top of movie credits, designed to make you leave the movie theatre content. I firmly believe that playing this music all day, however, is a form of torture designed to dement and disorientate adults into purchasing merchandise.
The place is huge. There are worlds within worlds. It is no wonder that in order to see it all properly it’s recommended you spend several days. Each ride has a time clock informing guests how long the queue is before you will get a ride. The later the day gets, the larger the times and lines become. A 120 minute wait for Splash Mountain. 90 minutes for the Seven Dwarves Log Ride. I waited 45 minutes for the bloody Teacups (dream realised). It gets to a point where you start looking for the rides with the shortest wait times and going there regardless of which ride it is. We went to the Little Mermaid ride because it had a 25 minute wait not because we desperately cared about siting in a slow moving sea shell. Oh the thrills. There is actually an app that you can download which will tell you how long the wait is for each ride. It’s convenient and depressing all at the same time.
We discovered that each ticket contains something called a “Fast Pass”. Basically, if we went to a certain machine within the park, we could select 3 rides and skip the queues. It was mid-afternoon by the time we figured this out and deciphered the booking system (confusing for someone like me who has a running battle with technology and ticketing machines. It’s one of my many kryptonites). The end result was ‘fast passing’ the Pirates of the Caribbean ride three times and wasting my pass. It was easier to just commit to a queue and wait it out.
My favourite part of the whole park experience was people watching. Families in matching outfits would kick around with Disney themed clothing either to help differentiate themselves from the crowd or doom their children to years of therapy. Couples wearing shirts saying “Her beast” and “His beauty” were common place, all the single/normal people left to throw up in their mouths a little bit. It was the sort of awkward place where this was acceptable but you felt like they had to get changed in the car park before they came in so general society in the real world didn’t ridicule them.
The funny thing is that I actually had a really good time. Sure it was hot and humid enough that I lost half my body weight in sweat, but the whole experience was not one I regretted. The atmosphere was one of pure happiness- with the exception of fathers desperately trying to find somewhere to buy a beer and have a quiet sit down. People were genuinely happy to be there. The rides weren’t thrilling but millions of people don’t visit the place each year because the rides are amazing. Disney stretches across generations. The reasons I might take my kids there will be different to why my parents would have taken me there. But it is all Disney. Even those who might consider it boring were walking away with a smile.
It’s overpriced, it’s busy but ultimately, it’s worth it.
Wayward Tip: get there early and sort out which rides you want early and ‘Fast Pass’ them. They fill up quick. But if you are happy waiting 2 hours for a ride, who am I to judge.