Experiencing the magic of Walt Disney World

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“Here you leave today- and visit the worlds of yesterday, tomorrow, and fantasy.” – Walt Disney

A visit to Walt Disney World is almost every child’s dream – and I must admit it was on my bucket list too – the part of me that wanted to feel like a carefree child again. Often incorrectly referred to as Disneyland (which is in Anaheim, California), Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, is the largest and most popular theme park resort in the world and was built as a tribute to Walt Disney, who died just before construction began. The larger Walt Disney World Resort includes four theme parks – which are vastly different from each other, two water parks, over twenty-five themed hotels and a lot more.

Cinderella's Castle - Walt Disney World

Cinderella’s Castle

I had been to the Sunshine State of Florida before but not to Orlando. On this trip, as we were staying at a Walt Disney resort hotel, we were transported from the airport to the hotel by Disney’s Magical Express coach, a fitting introduction to Disney’s magical world. We visited the four theme parks on four consecutive days – Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom. In retrospect, that might have been too ambitious as we were totally exhausted by the end of it. The parks are huge and involve walking around fifteen to twenty kilometres a day. Perhaps a day in between parks may have been wiser. Staying at a Disney hotel also entitled us to “extra magic hours” on given days. This meant that most park days started at 8 am and closed very late (up to 1 am).

Walt Disney World

Wishes! Night-time Spectacular

Magic Kingdom is huge and everything in it is as pretty as a picture. Cinderella’s Castle forms the spectacular centrepiece and the night-time fireworks display at the castle was the best I’d ever seen – something not to be missed. Throngs of mini-princesses walked around in the signature dress of their favourite Disney princess – the most popular one being Elsa from Frozen. Many had been pampered at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, a beauty salon at Magic Kingdom where little girls are transformed into princesses. In case you’re wondering, the name of the salon comes from the song sung by Cinderella’s fairy godmother in the Disney movie as she transforms her.  Our longest park day was at Magic Kingdom when we only got back to the hotel past midnight. Yet, I think that one day there wasn’t enough.

Epcot - Walt Disney World

Epcot

In Epcot, the futuristic-looking Spaceship Earth is the park’s centrepiece. Indeed, most of Epcot is built around Walt Disney’s personal vision of how mankind could live, work and play in the future.

Walt Disney World Spaceship Earth

Inside Spaceship Earth

Epcot’s World Showcase features 11 countries centred around a lagoon, including Morocco, France and China. Each country’s section has themed restaurants, shops, displays and structures. Two of my kids’ favourite rides were at Epcot. In “Test Track” they got to design a virtual concept vehicle, then “test” it in a high-speed ride and in “Sum of All Thrills”, they got to design their own thrill ride then experienced it in a 4D simulator.

Hollywood Tower Hotel Walt Disney World

Hollywood Tower Hotel

As the name suggests, Disney’s Hollywood Studios is themed around the movies and inspired mainly by Hollywood’s Golden Era. The centrepiece here is the fictional Hollywood Tower Hotel which houses the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror ride, an exhilarating accelerated drop ride.

Hollywood Studios Walt Disney World

Streets are lit up at Hollywood Studios

The Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular! Is a behind the scenes look at movie-making and stunts, involving pyrotechnics. It shows how movie scenes are really enacted and was truly entertaining. The Fantasmic! Night-time Spectacular was another awe-inspiring pyrotechnics display over the lake.

Tree of Life at Animal Kingdom

Tree of Life

Disney’s Animal Kingdom is the largest Disney theme park in the world and is themed around animal conservation, a theme close to our African hearts. The centrepiece here is the Tree Of Life, a huge sculpted tree. Some of the major attractions here are the Kilimanjaro Safaris where one can see real African animals roaming through African-styled landscapes, a model of Mount Everest where “Everest Expeditioners” on a roller-coaster ride encounter the yeti and a dinosaur land with dinosaur-themed rides.

Flamingos Walt Disney World

Flamingos at Animal Kingdom

All the parks have character meet and greets which excite younger children. Mine, however, were a bit too old for that. Staff members at Walt Disney, are referred to as cast members.

Minnie Mouse embraces a toddler

Minnie Mouse embraces a toddler

About the rides

Most rides are not just rides. They are experiences. You are often shown a video to create the backdrop or set the scene. The ride then follows on from the video. Special 4D effects, spectacular sets, holograms, and voiceovers are combined to make you feel as though you are really experiencing that Everest Expedition or Space Mission. At the end of the ride there is a themed shop that sells goodies and souvenirs related to the ride. The rides are not extreme thrill rides and most of them are suitable for young children. Tickets are not cheap starting at $105 per adult and $99 per child but get proportionately cheaper as the number of park days increase.

Balloon seller

Balloon seller

We visited Walt Disney World in the second week of December which was quite crowded, but not as crowded as the last week of December. The Disney mobile app was invaluable in checking waiting times for rides and booking Fast Passes for popular rides, which enable one to skip queues, although this can only be done for 3 rides at a time. The free Wi-fi throughout the park makes this easy to use.

China Walt Disney World

China – at the World Showcase

My verdict:  Theme parks for me will never be the same again. Walt Disney World was amazing and I finally got to tick it off my bucket list. I think that adults and children should experience it at least once in their lifetime.

Kids’ verdict?

My daughter (11) – “Going to Disney World was the best holiday I have ever had in my entire life and I loved the trip from the beginning to the end.”

My son (9) – After almost every ride we’d been on, my son would say it was the best ride he’d ever been on. When I remarked that he said that for almost every ride, he said “That’s because it keeps getting better.”

I guess that sums it up.

“I don’t want the public to see the world they live in while they’re in the park. I want them to feel they’re in another world.” – Walt Disney.

Here are some tips to get the most out of your Disney trip.

Tell me about your travels here.

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28 comments
madisonsteward

Its great as your other blog posts :D, regards for putting up.

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Gayle Glahn

Very interesting subject, thanks for posting.

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Stephanie

I’m headed to Orlando for work next month and have a half day for Disney. I need to do my research and choose wisely. This was helpful as I consider where to spend my time in Disney!

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Jaye Shields

Your pictures are amazing. Especially the fireworks picture and the balloon picture. I’ve been to Disneyland but not Disneyworld 🙂

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Sarah

I’ve been to Disney in HK but I bet it is not as grandiose to the theme park in Florida. My husband and I are seriously making future travel plans to go there when my son gets bigger so all the “kids” (myself and my husband included) can have fun! 🙂

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Anisa

I love Disney anything. I recently learned about the Epcot wine festival where you go to the different countries and try the wine. One of these years I am going to do that!

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    Sara

    I don’t drink wine but the Epcot World Showcase was amazing :-). They really focused alot on the details of each country in designing it.

    Reply
Jillian Michelle

Love your photos! I used to work at Walt Disney World! It’s truly a magical place!

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    Sara

    Thanks Jillian. Wow, you’re so lucky. It must have been awesome to work at Disney!

    Reply
Nadeen

I’m so glad you enjoyed Disneyworld! Being from the US I have been going since I was a child. I love going back with my nieces and younger cousins. It’s truly magical. I’m glad coming from Africa you didn’t think Animal Kingdom was cheesy lol. I went to Africa last year and of course nothing can compare to a real safari experience but I enjoyed Animal Kingdom years ago when I went.

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    Sara

    Ooh, I’d love to live near Disney and be able to go often. Haha, I was amused at the way the animal sightings in Animal Kingdom were contrived but it was interesting to see a different kind of a safari.

    Reply
Carol from Wayfaring Views

My favorite ride there is the Aerosmith roller coaster (near the Tower of Terror). It’s in the dark and they blast rock music in your ears the whole time. So fun

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    Sara

    I went on the Aerosmith roller coaster too. It was great but it did shake me up a bit. It was one of the most thrilling rides in Disney!

    Reply
Moipone Islam

Wow amazing I really hope to see it sooner lovely pictures my daughter will love it

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    Sara

    The year will fly past before you know it Moipone!

    Reply
Adventure Kidz Mom

Oh my word! that sounds amazing!!! when the kids are older for sure!!!

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    Sara

    Thanks Adventure Kidz Mom -It’s definitely a bucket list item with kids. Hope our exchange rate gets better though 🙂

    Reply
Farieza

You made me re live my holiday to Walt Disney! What a fantastc time for the whole family. You must try the Disney cruise if you ever get a chance! Even better …… If that was possible . Farieza

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    Sara

    Hey Farieza. Thanks for the tips before I went. We should get together and relive both our holidays together. And I’d love to try out the Disney cruise someday too!

    Reply
mommabearTrax

You just got me all excited over here reading this post – we’re planning to go later this year with our two small girls .
I’ve been before as an adult and lovvvvvved it. However, with kids it’s going to be quite different. Are you planning a post on tips and tricks for Disney world With kids soon??? I would totally lap it all up!!:)

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