Written on: 26/04/2005 by dididave (2 reviews written)
Something for everyone, for children and adults a like.
Food is awful, a lot of walking involved.
"There is a place where magic lives..." I should know, I have been there. Situated thirty minutes on a coach from Orlando International The Magic Kingdom is the focal point for those of us looking for the Disneyworld magic. It is crass, cheesy and oh so commercial American dream yet so many, myself included cannot wait to go back. The moment you arrive via boat, bus or monorail (for all roads lead to the Kingdom of Magic) and proceed through the bag checks and turnstiles you become swept up in the magic. Intrigued? Feel free to take a trip with me and my family on a journey to the heart of the magic. Beware though, the trek is an arduous one although the rewards are great.
I met Mickey Mouse!
As we step through the archway of the vast entrance we come across Main Street Square. This is a place to hire strollers (translation: buggy's!) , essential for our two-year-old especially at $8 for a single and $16 for a double, and become acquainted with some of our favourite characters. At this point we can have our pictures taken with them or even get their autograph. Characters can be found throughout the park but it is here you will find them in abundance. We bought our three older children autograph books on arrival and at $6.99 each they proved to be a sound investment. Our children became obsessed with getting all the signatures from Donald Duck to Tweedledum and Tweedledee. This proved to be the cheapest and most rewarding souvenir available. Do not think adults will not get swept up in it all either. There are several pictures hidden away (okay when I say hidden I mean on display in the hall) of Donald Duck, Goofy and myself. Be prepared to be re-acquainted with your inner child (although some of us already are). Unfortunately, those without the Ultimate Park Hopper Pass we had can expect long queues when meeting characters. Fortunately, our passes allow us into the park at the ridiculously early time of seven am two hours before the general public arrive.
Wandering down Main Street USA I am reminded of a 1950's rural American town. All quaint candy shop style fronts do not be fooled. The shopkeepers (although all Disney staff are called "cast members") may be cheerful but the shopkeepers are commercialism gone mad. Expect T-shirts, aerial toppers and dog bowls. You name it, you can buy it and you probably will. Fortunately prices are surprisingly reasonable with cheap and cheerful keyrings for less than $2 although the real memorabilia ranges from $100 to $1000's! If we distract our attention from the merchandise directly in front of us we will see the epitome of The Magic Kingdom, Cinderella's Castle. One hundred and eighty nine feet of grandeur and Disney extravagance this is what we have come to The Magic Kingdom for. As we marvel at the architecture from the colours and detail of the design to the bronze statues hidden among the turrets we compete to see how many Disney characters we can spot.
From this, the central point of The Magic Kingdom you will be glad you picked us up a map. You didn't? Ah well, me neither so let us take the obvious route straight through the raised portcullis of the castle one of the six themed areas. Here we find shops, rides and eateries set to the themes of some of the most famous Disney films. We step straight on to "Cinderella's Carousel", a lovely relaxing ride for all the family with "Once upon a dream" playing in the background. My two year old loves it especially the little ponies set aside for her. We love it because the queues are short and the horses plentiful. We take step to the right and climb aboard an elephant for the Dumbo ride. Faster than the carousel this ride also has a joystick in your pachyderm to make him go up or down. This is another ride my two year old loved and one my seven year old enjoyed too. My twelve year old however was beginning to get bored.
Trying to keep four children aged two, seven ten and twelve happy is not easy but we attempt it by ignoring the tempting ice slush available at "Scuttles landing" and continuing to the right to find another ride you control in the form of Mad Hatter's "Tea Party". The queue is a bit longer for this one (it says 15 minutes on the board) but it is worth it as my two oldest sit in a cup spinning the wheel in the middle and rotating themselves madly while me, my wife, and two youngest rotate slowly to the music of "Alice in Wonderland". All my children love this ride and it becomes a firm favourite on subsequent visits. However, let me issue a warning to adults as even spinning slowly we never failed to get motion sickness.
As we continue on our journey we bypass Toontown Fair a place to meet characters and with some serious merchandising and meander into Tomorrowland. This futuristic place is home to Buzz Lightyear, Stitch and the Space Mountain. At this point we decide to stop for lunch in the cornily titled "Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe". Burgers, fried chicken and toasted sandwiches are the greasy fayre on offer to adults here and this is typical of nearly all the restaurants in The Magic Kingdom. The portions are huge but then so are the prices at $6 plus and there is little on offer for specialist diets be it low fat, vegetarian or diabetic. Fortunately, the children's meals offer a little more variety with fruit, veg and fresh juice available alongside the fast food option of corn dogs and tater tots.
Feeling full but artery hardened we head for the "Buzz Lightyear Spaceranger Spin" which is Laser Quest within a moving spaceship you can spin left or right. The ride is dark and loud so we have the option to "parent swap" and entertain our two year old outside. Parent swap is a marvelous invention whereby only one parent has to queue and the other goes on straight after with up too two children. After all why should the adults miss out? It is our holiday too right? The queueing for this ride is long at 55 minutes+ at peak times. Lucky for us we have our fastpass, yet another benefit of our "Ultimate Park Hopper" passes. This allows us to be given a time to come back and ride with virtually no queueing on return.. The temptation to wave at those queueing for over an hour as you walk past is almost too great. Buzz Lightyear unsurprisingly is a favourite of our two boys. The computerised scores on board your spaceship sold it to them hook, line and sinker and I have to admit the competitive ranking system got me too. How annoyed was I when my wife rattled up a score three times my own on her first and only ride. Damn her superior hand eye co-ordination!
"Space Mountain" is next. A true rollercoaster with a twist in that it is set in the darkness of space so you have no idea what comes next. Obviously my two year old could not go on this with a height restriction of over 38 inches and neither would my wife or son (who have never liked rollercoasters anyhow). So off go me, my oldest daughter and youngest son go boldly were no one in their right mind has gone before. The ride is windy, scary, twisting and exhilariting as you ride in a toboggan style shuttle up and down, round and round at ridiculous speeds. My daughter's favourite thus far although once again the fastpass was invaluable as queueing for this is well over an hour.
We wander around to the front of Cinderella's Castle and it is now 2:30 pm. Just in time to get a good spot sitting on the sidewalk (not pavement, no apparently not) for the "bubble parade" at 3 pm. My kids, my wife and I watch as all of our Disney favourites from Goofy to Sleeping Beauty float past in giant snow globes. It doesn't get much better than Snow White blowing you a kiss. This parade is bright, glitzy and very Hollywood so much so it is narrated by the Disney darling herself Julie Andrews.
Following the parade we take a left into Adventureland, a land of Pirates and explorers and we start by climbing the Swiss Family Robinson's tree house! Now this is a nice idea but all four of my children found it dull and uninteresting. Climbing up and down to face recreations of their kitchen, bedroom and study might be interesting to us adults who have read the book or seen the film but to my children it was just a set of stairs around a tree. Oh well, no queues so I suppose nothing was lost other than time. As we head across we are confronted with the much more interesting looking "Magic Carpets of Alladin" ride. With a mere ten minute queue we leap enthusiastically on from two to thirty two. However, we come off dissapointed as it is a direct copy of the Dumbo ride we have already experienced. Never mind, my two year old still enjoyed it.
Adventureland is rapidly turning into the weak link thus far in our otherwise magical experience. This is compounded by our "Pirates of the Caribbean" stop. We all had great hopes for this ride after all a movie was made of the same title. However, for a start it was dark putting my wife and two daughters of even queueing for it. Considering the mere 5 minute queue I suppose we should have been prepared for dissapointment but my sons and I carried on to a boat which goes slowly around a cave. There is a vague story following pirates, fighting and treasure but weak looking puppetry and poor effects have misery heaped further upon them by an annoying "Yoho, yoho a Pirate's life for me" theme tune bellowing throughout. This ten minute drift is perhaps the worst ride in The Magic Kingdom.
Adventureland might be worth avoiding completely and is only saved at all by the pleasant "Jungle Cruise". Another ride suitable for everyone and enjoyed by all this is a boat journey around the world spanning four rivers including the Amazon and Nile and including a variety of natives and wildlife. Add to this a wise-cracking Captain and some audience participation and this is a rare treat in the letdown which is Adventureland.
Okay, it is five O clock, 82 degrees fahrenheit (ask your mum and dad kids) and we are all feeling tired and jaded. Stepping into the Western-style Frontierland changes all that. Confronted by the mammoth sites of "Splash Mountain" and the "Thunder Mountain Railroad" the kids become both scared and excited. We cross what would later become known as "splash bridge" and become soaked by a jet of water from Splash Mountain and we have not even been on it yet. This alone is enough to put my wife and two daughters off it so once again it is left to me and my sons to tackle this one. Unsurprisingly, a fastpass is once again in order for this one as queues are 55 minutes. Luckily Frontierland offers plenty to do while waiting be it the shooting range for my older children or the Brer Rabbit playground for my youngest. Anyhow, what about Splash Mountain? Talk about a rush! Sit at the front, follow a loose storyline of Brer Rabbit being caught by a fox through a few cautionary dips, one of which is in the dark and then begin a mechanical ascent before free falling in your mock wooden tobaggon almost vertically 50 feet (and yes you do get very wet). Do you remember a flash? They took your terrified picture to peruse and perhaps even purchase at $19.99 plus. Mine and my oldest favourite but my youngest lad did not like it at all. A bit too extreme methinks.
Damn, I haven't mentioned the restrooms. Well this is a good time for a toilet break. There is at least one good sized restroom placed prominently in each of the themed areas. Be careful of the automated flush though, move too quickly and its a free colonic irrigation for you! Water fountains and phones can be found here too so make use of them. Drinks can be expensive at $2,99 a bottle, especially considering how many you need to keep yourself and children hydrated. Buy a couple a fill them with water at the fountains (the bottled water tastes manky).
Retrieving the rest of my family from the playground we head towards the adjacent Thunder Mountain Railroad. Off course being a rollercoaster with a height restriction of above 38 inches it is immediately unsuitable for my two year old though the rest of us fancy it so a "parent swap" is in order. The queue is 25 minutes but it looks good so we tolerate it. Thundering down an abandoned railtrack in a runaway train was exhilarating but I expected more. However, it was my youngest lads favourite so perhaps it was designed for him rather than this twenty something.
Still with me? Pursuing the magic is tiring isn't it? Continuing back through Frontierland into Liberty Square we are all starving (it's gone 6pm) so, along the way we pick up some turkey legs which in reality could have come off elephants as they are huge. We jump on an old paddle steamer called "The Liberty Belle" and take a relaxing break from our otherwise ceaseless journey. Liberty Square is also the home of "The Haunted Mansion" which promises 999 frights. Considering the ages of our children we decide this is not a good idea and head back into Fantasyland to get a fastpass for Mickey's Philarmagic. We hop virtually straight on to "It's a Small World" a ride which sparks great debate on all who have been on it. Admittedly the idea of sailing around the world while maniacal dolls dance and a children's choir sings may be some peoples idea of hell but hell this is Disney not the Opera and we all enjoyed it.
Crossing over to "Peter Pan's Flight" the queue was 35 minutes but we really fancied it. It was not worth the wait. "Fly" in a boat suspended by wire over a plastic London and Neverland and why so dark and claustrophobic? Luckily the height restrictions did not allow my two year old but even my wife felt closed in. Into "Philarmagic" we don the 3D glasses provided in the cramped theatre and are treated to a twenty minute spectacle involving Donald Duck, Mickey's Fantasia hat, water and a vast number of Disney films. This is a superb show that uses all your senses and the 3D is so good you try to touch Donald and all the objects around you. A warning though, created to surprise it can be very loud. Too loud for my two year old who spent the show buried in my chest. Okay we leave the theatre and its dark (it goes dark very quickly in Orlando). Time to get a place for the night time shows ( no time for Toontown) which are once again in front of Cinderella's Castle.
At 8 pm "Spectromagic" rolls by. Imagine Blackpool Lights on floats set to music with a Disney theme. But of course this is Disney so it is on a massive scale and covers most of the films and cartoons with which we are familiar. Again though it is very loud. Fortunately, by this point my two year old is well asleep and nothing will wake her. Just time to fetch some ice-cream and have another toilet break (but for God's sake don't give up your places as it is highly competitive) before we settle down for "Wishes", a music, light and fireworks display with a special surprise from "Tinkerbell" and a magical story narrated by Jiminy Cricket.
Well friend our journey ends here and kudos to you for getting here. As we exit with the throngs (and there are many of us jostling our way to the exit) we can reflect on the friendly staff, great weather, awful food but overall magical experience and heartily recommend it to all who can suspend disbelief and enjoy being a child once more. We may not have seen it all but what we saw we largely loved and when we come back it will be different again. "There is a place where magic lives..." I should know, I saw it and it rocked.
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