What a great way to kick off 2013! At long last, I made a return trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. My last visit to the Magic Kingdom was way back in February of 2001. Much has changed since then. And it was because of these changes that this trip was postponed several times in the last few years. Between the building of Universal Studios’ Wizarding World of Harry Potter and the recent expansion of the Magic Kingdom’s Fantasyland, there were so many great reasons to wait. I’m glad I did – both of those were highlights of my trip.
I really enjoyed new Fantasyland. The much-needed expansion had some rather impressive upgrades – the best of which has to be the Be Our Guest restaurant. Wonderfully re-creating the Beast’s castle from Beauty and The Beast, this new lunch and dinner spot is beautifully themed with lots of fun details. It’s probably the most immersive dining experience you can have at any of the parks. I think it’s up there with Disneyland’s popular Blue Bayou restaurant. While the new Mermaid ride is a carbon copy of California Adventure’s version, the Magic Kingdom’s queue for this dark ride is beautiful. Gorgeous waterfalls and sculpted rock work surround a re-creation of Prince Eric’s sea side castle. It’s built for long lines and by afternoon, this ride has a 90 minute wait. No wonder they offer Fast Pass for this attraction. Enchanted Tales with Belle – an elaborate meet and greet with the Princess – was an instant 60 minute wait so we skipped it. We did visit Gaston’s Tavern – another faithful re-creation of one of the film’s environments – and enjoyed a Le Fou’s brew, a sweet concoction that’s pretty much the same as Cars Land’s Apple Freeze. Overall I thought new Fantasyland looked terrific. Once the Seven Dwarf’s Mine Train is completed next year, I think it will be a beautiful land and just perfect for the young Princess loving crowd.
Overall it was a great trip and long over due. Here are a few of the details from our just-over-a-week stay.
- We stayed at Disney’s Pop Century Resort. This is one of the Value resorts. The price was decent but there are no frills.
- Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios were easily done in one day each.
- Eating at Boma in the Animal Kingdom lodge was one of the best meals we had.
- Epcot is one of my favorite Disney Parks – lots to see there including the goofy new version of Test Track and an adorable animatronic Remy (Ratatouille) in the France pavilion.
- The Magic Kingdom was by far the busiest of all the parks and the only one we spent more than one day at. They have a few attractions that Disneyland doesn’t, including Carousel of Progress, PeopleMover, Country Bear Jamboree and (my favorite) Mickey’s Philharmagic. The Electrical Parade is also there.
- We rented a car for two days and regretted not having a car for the whole trip. While the transportation from the hotel to the parks is convenient, there can be long waits. Having a car would have allowed us to eat off site get around a little quicker – especially if you want to visit the other resorts.
When planning our trip, we made sure to leave one day to head over to Universal Studios’ Islands of Adventure park to check out the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I was thoroughly impressed with this new addition to the otherwise mediocre theme park. All of the architecture and themeing of this small part of the park was top notch and the closest thing to a Disney Park experience that I’ve seen. The main attraction, located in a wonderfully re-created Hogwarts show building, was Harry Potter and The Forbidden Journey – a crazy simulator ride that almost made me lose my Butterbeer. It was a really great ride full of special effects and showpieces but just a little too intense for me. I would have loved this ride – ten years ago.
In the end, we had a lot of fun, ate way too much and spent way too much money. It’s always fun to spend a week visiting all-things Disney. But it will probably be another ten years before I make the trek back. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to start planning my next Disneyland trip.