We're Going to Disney World!
January 21, 2004 10:18 AM   Subscribe

I'm going to Disney World! I, my fiance, and my 8-year-old daughter will be there this weekend, all day Saturday and Sunday, Ultimate Park Hopper tickets, staying on site, all that. I've never been. What's a must see/do?
posted by MrMoonPie to Travel & Transportation (20 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I was just there over the New Year's Holiday. We did Epcot & Magic Kingdom as we only had 2 days, and no kids trailing along, so this is my advice, for what it's worth:

Definitely do Epcot at least one full day. There are some awesome new(-ish) rides and the various pavillions are really pretty cool. Also, it's the only park that serves beer or alcohol and you might be needing it after a day of "Magic"(tm).

Take advantage of the early park openings that are offered to resort guests.

Definitely get FastPasses for good rides as soon as you can. There's something like a three-hour wait after you get one fastpass before you can get another but it will save your sanity, knowing you can hop right to the head of the line when your time is up. Spend the time between at shows or lunching or doing the rides that have fast-moving lines.

We stayed at Animal Kingdom Lodge and had a hell of a time getting a decent seating for dinner. We ended up eating at 10:00pm at our second-choice restaurant, which is OK for grownups but pretty much sucks if you have a hungry kid. So, make any meal reservations in advance if you can.

Do take advantage of the Park transportation whenever possible. Probably the nicest perk of staying onsite is the fact that the driving is taken care of for you, and you can kind of chill out on a comfortable bus after a day of walking your a** off.

Also, when you stay onsite, anything you buy in the parks can be delivered to your hotel, usually by the next afternoon. It was very very handy. Not advisable to do on your 2nd-to-last day at the resort, though, since the delivery might be after your checkout time.

That's all I can think of for now. Have an awesome time! (p.s. -- I am the sort of person who is ambivalent about Disney, etc., but I really did enjoy myself and in fact bought myself another 5 days of park-hopper since it never expires.)
posted by contessa at 10:42 AM on January 21, 2004

Where are you staying? I was just there last year with 60 fellow students (don't ask me why 24 year olds go to WDW for as part of their architecture school training). I would suggest going to the Magic Kingdom first and letting it soak it. It really is fun if you let yourself forget about all the bad stuff Disney does and allow the park to let you "lose yourself".

The Magic Kingdom takes about a day, and give yourself time. Walk back from the train station and look at all of the buildings, but hang a left at the castle - after looking at it of course. You have to come back to it to get out - so it will be there. Really a clockwise route is the best way. You go by the Hall of Presidents, if it is not crowded go in - it is only 20 minutes or so. I would start in the back at the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad - might be a bit much for an 8 year old, it is pretty tame but fun. Goto the Pirates of the Caribbean, then if you see anything along the way to Haunted Mansion just step in and see it. Small World is a must - even when your 8-year old starts crying - I still remember my first ride when I was that young. Small World is next to the "Kiddy Land" which is cool - in a trippy-dippy kind of way. Space Mountain is next, but it might be too much - but definitely go on the Teacups which is next to it. The Tomorrowland MagLev is kind cool - in the geeky "Hey - its a MagLev" kinda way. Avoid the Alien Encounter - it is dumb and not worth potentially scaring your 8 year old (think dark, screaming, water and animatronics - we were just laughing through it but some little ones were really crying). After you hit the big stuff...just walk around and see characters and just enjoy the environment - which is designed to put you at ease and have fun.

EPCOT really shows its age and is really only good for about a half-day. I would suggest going to the Animal Kingdom in the morning, and then shuttling over to EPCOT in the afternoon. Walk through the different country villages in the rear and then - time willing - walk through the different pavilions. EPCOT in the front is really just a big, "Hey look at all this technology crap" kind of showcase - and not even good technology. We stood through a 20 minute demonstration of "space-aged" kitchen appliances - boring. But what is good about EPCOT is the French Restaurant - Bistro de Paris - it is a rated restaurant (3 or 4 stars) and is well worth the meal - and the price (I spent $50 for a meal with 2 bottles of wine). An 7-8pm dinner means that you can see the fireworks out the window.

MGM is interesting, but I would do EPCOT and Animal Kingdom before MGM - unless you all want to go on the Tower of Terror - which is worth it. It is really hard to do 3 parks in a day, fyi, because you will want to see everything there.

Really, just let yourself have fun - start skipping through the Main Street of the Magic Kingdom (like we did) to get into the mood, and it can be surprisingly fun (even if you are a snarky, ironic, cynicle 24 year old). I would also suggest taking advantage of Disney's kid-sitting service - you and your fiance might want some time alone. Don't rush it - the first day you will feel like you have to do everything, but they really have crowd control down to an art - and take contessa's advice about getting FastPass tickets - it means you can go and do other stuff while you "virtually" queue up.
posted by plemeljr at 11:01 AM on January 21, 2004

Not to be a "Disney Sucks" cynic (which I am), but it's sad that all of my favorite rides in the Magic Kingdom have been removed. (Peter Pan, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, that 3-D movie...). That being said, Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain are both great rides. (Big Thunder Mountain if only to do your "grizzled prospector" impression the entire time you're standing in line.) The Haunted Mansion is still fantastic, too, and I assume it's still there, since they just made a movie based around it.
posted by emptybowl at 11:04 AM on January 21, 2004

You'll find loads of advice at LaughingPlace, WDWMagic and Mouseplanet.

Bear in mind that with just two days to see somewhere which boasts four main theme parks and a number of smaller parks / attractions, you are going to be pushed for time.

It really comes down to what you want to see:

Big rides? Mission Space, Test Track @ Epcot; Dinosaur @ Animal Kingdom; Tower of Terror, Rock'n'Roller Coaster @ Disney Studios; any of the 'Mountain' rides @ Magic Kingdom.

Movies / shows? Bugs @ Animal Kingdom; Muppets @ Studios; Mickey's Philharmagic @ Magic Kingdom

Don't miss out on the smaller details, though. Some of the most interesting and fun stuff can be found away from the main attractions - for example in the Downtown Disney area with DisneyQuest, or just wandering around some of the resort hotels. A few years back at this time of year my group even went to the Disney waterparks... talk about turkey legs!!
posted by skylar at 11:06 AM on January 21, 2004

Oh yeah, and how could I have forgotten Pirates of the Caribbean? Even if they did replace the pirate-chasing-woman with a pirate-chasing-chicken...
posted by emptybowl at 11:06 AM on January 21, 2004

Second, Definitely get FastPasses When you find yourself in a long line, have someone in your party go to another ride, preferably a long line too. To claim the "Fastpasses" the person doing it will need all your part's entry ticket stubs. Make sure to get a map upon entry, notice theme parks are not as generous as they once were.
posted by thomcatspike at 11:07 AM on January 21, 2004

Another site for advice is MouseSavers.

My biggest advice for Ecpot is to make any meal reservations asap, even if that means you have to run to the back of the World Pavillion.

As a local, my only must-sees are Teacups, Haunted Mansion, and Pirates, all at the Magic Kingdom.
posted by Sangre Azul at 11:33 AM on January 21, 2004

My favorite thing at WDW is the huge tree of life in the Animal Kindom area. That thing is a work of art.
posted by Quartermass at 11:43 AM on January 21, 2004

hey, i'm going to be at the magic kingdom this saturday! whoot!

anyway, i like the advice about going to the animal kingdom for half a day and then epcot half a day...only i think i would reverse that. you'll DEFINITELY DEFINITELY want to go on mission:space...and if you fastpass it, and get it over with by 12 or 1, then you might even be able to head out of there and go to AK.

magic kingdom takes a day, especially with a kid. haunted mansion, space mountain...all awesome.

skip MGM and wide world of sports.
posted by taumeson at 11:48 AM on January 21, 2004

If I had two days, I'd do Magic Kingdom the first and Epcot the second. Epcot can be kinda boring for young kids; you can easily make it a half day and do something else in the morning.

Get there early - if you stay on-site the parks open a bit earlier for you than to the general public, I think a half-hour earlier, and this is a great time to do the most popular rides. And plan to stay late - Magic Kingdom does a parade and show every night, Epcot does Illiuminations - these are whole-park events and are worth seeing. Splitting the day in two with food and an afternoon nap back at the hotel is good with young kids, so you're not worn out before you get a chance to see everything. There is good park transport like shuttles/open trams, and of course the monorail.

In Magic Kingdom, go to the back of the park first and work your way forward; you will find yourself ahead of or behind the crowd as you tour the park since most people start near the entrance and work their way back. At Epcot, go right to left through the country pavilions rather than left to right; again you'll be moving on a different pattern than the crowd.

If you want to do any big rides that are almost sure to have long lines, like Space Mountain, plan to do them first thing in the morning, during the lunch/dinner hours, or during the parades, especially the nighttime events, since most people in the park will be watching that or on their way out the park. The lines dwindle considerably at these times.

If you want to see a show you have to get there early to be decently seated and be prepared to sit around and wait - 1 1/2 to 2 hours is not unreasonable for new, hot productions. Unless there is something you're dying to see, maximize your time and skip the shows, go for the rides/exhibits.

Skip the sitdown restaurants in the Magic Kingdom. You'll do better in Epcot and it won't be quite as crowded.

My favorite rides are Pirates, Haunted Mansion, and Big Thunder Mtn. Railroad; and Body Wars at Epcot. Heh. Have fun! I put off going to Disney for years, but once I went, I kept going back for more. It's the most fun I've ever had at an amusement park.
posted by Melinika at 11:50 AM on January 21, 2004

Buy this book -- it has wonderful advice, ride order strategies, and reviews.
posted by anastasiav at 11:56 AM on January 21, 2004

If you have a little kid, avoid EPCOT at all costs. The only people that enjoy EPCOT are retired couples or middle-aged couples getting away. I'm sorry, but a land of pricey, eateries is called "New York" and not EPCOT. There's also a bunch of really crappy technology of the future (circa 1998) there too.

Do go to the 3D shows, as they're the best. As in, try to get to every 3D show, I loved them more then the rides. Also MGM has a cool tour of the animator studio. In fact MGM was my favorite, with the coolest rides and perhaps the most "older" fare. I do agree with avoiding Aliens, it's not scary enough for adults and too scary for kids. Basically it just plays on your imagination and is anticlamatic. Some seats even have a tongue thing that comes out during the height of the show. Not all the seats though, so be aware of that if you decide to test it.

Disney City/Street/Whatever that place is called with the arcade is really cool. Imagine 4 or so stories of unlimited play state-of-the-art arcades. I felt guilty spending so much time playing games there and not enjoying the rest of the park. The Hard Rock Cafe and anything in the Disney City area has the best eateries in my opinion. They're easy to get into, not too expensive and don't try too be gimmicky.

Whatever you do, you'll enjoy yourself as Disney puts a lot of effort into waiting lines. I enjoyed waiting as much as the ride itself, in most cases. Not your normal park where you just wait in a slinking line for 45 minutes, the ride almost starts as soon as you get in line.
posted by geoff. at 1:05 PM on January 21, 2004

The Aliens ride is, I believe, closed... Body Wars may be as well. Be sure to read up in advance about what rides are closed so as not to get disappointed.
posted by skylar at 1:29 PM on January 21, 2004

Don't forget to look for all the hidden Mickeys throughout the parks.
posted by aine42 at 1:34 PM on January 21, 2004

I just remembered something that always throws first-time WDW visitors for a loop, so consider this fair warning ;)

Many of the attractions have a big-name corporate sponsor - not every single one, mind you, but a suprising number all the same. Near the end point of waiting in lines, you might be subjected to (not very) subtle brand-shilling and exhortations about how Company X makes our lives better with its fine products...maybe not in those exact words, but the message is certainly there. On the subtle end was HP (mission:space) and at the blatant end was Kodak ('honey I blew up the audience' show) & GM (test track).

Just something to keep in mind when you ponder how much you spend on those park-hoppers ;)
posted by contessa at 3:29 PM on January 21, 2004

Best answer: Ok, MrMoonPie, here's the one, time-tested, don't-ever-forget-it rule regarding success at Disney World: every time you are presented with a choice, GO TO THE LEFT. I'm serious. Any time a line splits, or you have a choice of entrances, or you're deciding which part of the park to explore next, GO TO THE LEFT. Many have scoffed, but many more have proven that this trick - simple as it is - actually works.

(I remember reading somewhere that this is due partially to Americans driving on the right side of the road and partially to a preponderance of people being right-handed. I have no idea why this works, but I have been to Disney World literally dozens of times, and I swear to you it does.)
posted by JollyWanker at 6:59 PM on January 21, 2004 [19 favorites]

You didn't mention exactly where you are staying, but if you are not staying somewhere that you can use the Monorail for the Disney stuff, then drive to the Contemporary (the hotel that has the monorail running through it) and park in their lot. They don't give parking passes to guests, so you can just tell the lot's "guard" that you are checking in. *MUCH* less of a hassle than parking in WDW's endlessly big lot, and its free.
[/poor college student]

My other advice would be to try to avoid eating inside any of the parks, or onsite anywhere. The food is disgusting, and literally 3x what it would cost in the real world. For some reason, the Disney parks feature the "Galactic Gobbler" which is this enormous, freakish, scary-ass giant turkey leg you are supposed to gnaw on. Save your money and eat breakfast before you go in, and then you will have saved enough to afford a truly nice dinner elsewhere.
posted by gatorae at 10:53 PM on January 21, 2004

Response by poster: Great advice, all. Thanks!

We're staying at the All Star Movie Resort, so transportation to the park will not be a problem. We're still not entirely sure how we'll get to the hotel from the airport, though -- any suggestions?
posted by MrMoonPie at 10:26 AM on January 22, 2004

Response by poster: Oh, and taumeson, I'm pretty easy to recognize in a crowd--6'5", long ponytail, mixed-race family pod. Inquire loudly about the availability of moonpies, and I'll know you're talking to me.
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:51 PM on January 22, 2004

Response by poster: We’re back! Short update now, longer one, with pictures and stuff, on my blog later.

Great advice from everyone. We did, indeed, go to the left as often as possible, with good results. I can’t heap enough praise on the Fast Pass advice. I don’t really understand what Disney gets from it, but it was amazing to walk past 500 or so line-waiters. We didn’t wait more than one cycle at any ride.

We went to MGM and Epcot Saturday, Magic Kingdom Sunday. That was enough, really. No, we didn’t do and see everything, but we did and saw enough. We ended up coming back to the hotel around 4:30 on Sunday to swim and relax. It was the behavior of half-crazed, self-centered tourists that caused us more displeasure than anything controllable by Disney. Sure, stuff was expensive and crowded, but we expected that.

Highlights included Mission Space at Epcot and Mickey's PhilharMagic, a truly amazing animated 3D movie. I liked the Star Wars ride at MGM and the Test Track ride at Epcot. We did the standards, Space Mountain, the Teacups, Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, of course. Don’t worry—Pirates is still quite un-PC, what with the prostitute auction and guns and such.

I didn’t think the food was terribly over-priced, but I’m used to going out in DC. It did add up, though, having to eat out every meal. The IllumiNations fireworks at Epcot were over-rated, I think. I hated Space Mountain, though my daughter loved it.

I don’t really anticipate going back. Though I can see where I could cut some corners, it’s an expensive trip from DC. We all had a great time, but we can have a great time with less expense and trouble elsewhere, I think. I’m not at all sorry we went, but I think it’s a once-in-a-lifetime event for us.
posted by MrMoonPie at 10:12 AM on January 27, 2004

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