Before Christmas, the family and I went on a long vacation that included 4 days at DisneyWorld. There was a time that I had hoped to shield the kids from the marketing jaugernaut that is Disney. This post from a few years ago talks about my process of accepting that Disney is a part of life. The girls enjoy the stories and a visit there could be a highlight of their childhood so we decided to go. Here are some of my observations and recommendations from our time there.

But first the expectations of my wife and I were rather mediocre. We knew that Disneyworld was huge and we had heard a few horror stories about big crowds and long lines. Also although I had been to both Disneyland and EuroDisney, it had been quite sometime ago and I didn’t expect much more than any other amusement park. Maybe a bit nicer, but not that much.

We were both very impressed with DisneyWorld overall. The detail in the built environment was amazing. Everyone always talks about how Disney makes exact replicas of the real thing. Well, yes, it looks pretty darn authentic. Also unlike other amusement parks, the upkeep of those building and the cleaning of the grounds was impeccable. We didn’t see any signs of wear and there was no garbage to be seen.

Another thing that set it apart from other amusement parks were the shows. All the live shows were of the best caliber with excellent choreography and dancing. Plus the variety of media utilized made for different methods to stimulate the senses. Soarin’ places you in front of a 180 degree screen with your feet dangling while a gentle breeze blows in your face. Other methods included black lights, lasers, mists, motion sensors, scents, and of course animatronics. Although it was rare that we found ourselves waiting in line, they had games and videos to pass the time as opposed to blankly staring at others in line like at other amusement parks.

Now we had heard that the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas was the best time to go with smaller crowds and shorter lines. That was the reason for the timing of our visit and that was pretty much our experience going a couple weeks before Christmas. In addition to that, Disneyworld has something called a Fast Pass. It is basically a ticket you pick up for a set time in the future where you can come back and bypass the line. We only used it a few times in our 4 days, but it did save us time. I got the impression that not everyone knew about it since at some places people seemed willing to wait over an hour from some rides while we walked right past them. It’s available to everyone and is included with your entry ticket.

One item that amazed me was that at every ethnic restaurant, the people at those restaurants were from the country themed at that restaurant. After I noticed it, I stopped our waiter at the Norwegian restaurant and he told me that Disney goes to each country to hire people to come work for on a year-long visa. They are all put up in a complex on site and get to meet others from various nations. This primarily applies to the Animal Kingdom and Epcot. Animal Kingdom has African and Asian sectors while Epcot has the World Showcase featuring 11 different countries.

As far as the people there, it was very diverse for both the employees and the customers. I heard an assortment of different languages and people seemed to be from all over the planet. That created quite a different atmosphere than a typical amusement park full of teenagers. Another observation was that there was a noticable lack of African Americans. There were dark skinned people from other places, but not from the US.

Lastly some words about the food. When you stay on site at Disneyworld, you usually take one of their meal plans. Ours included one table service meal, one quick service meal (fast food), and one snack. Since we have two kids we were able to spread our four quick service meals over two meals. Nobody checked to see that we were getting four adult meals instead of two adult meals and two kid meals. Also a favorite bashing point is that the quick service meals are your standard burger and fries fast food. But from what I saw, that is the case if you don’t know what is available. Granted the all-american Magic Kingdom has primarily that type of food, but the other three parks have quite a variety of ethnic foods. Another thing is that you MUST reserve for the table service restaurants at least a couple months in advance. I tried a couple weeks before and all the best places were already booked solid. That is not to say the remaining places were bad, but they were not the ones recommended by people we know. Epcot has most of the best places and it is worth it to go there for supper after a day at another park.

As you can see we had an excellent time, but I did some rather extensive research to determine what we wanted to see along with many of the special items like the Fast Pass and the extended hours for those staying on site. Also the concierge at our resort was able to get us lunch with the princess which was booked solid just two weeks before. Planning, laying out itineraries, and knowing what’s possible if plans need to change can really make all the difference.


~ by Frank on January 26, 2011.

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