After two weeks on the road, taking in America’s musical heritage and eating our way through six states, Walt Disney World was both a welcome relief and also a bit of a culture shock. As the ‘happiest place on earth’ I had high expectations. From the booking process to the MagicBand strapped round your wrist acting as your room key and charge card, it was probably the most relaxing experience of the whole trip and the slickest check-in process I’ve ever experienced.
We stayed at the Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, principally to stay in a Little Mermaid room. (Unashamedly six going on twenty-six!). It’s a huge resort, and we passed the Finding Nemo pool and the giant Lion King Simba to find our room – 9708! Our first night we enjoyed one of WDW finer dining experiences, heading to Disney’s Boardwalk, a place with ‘the charm, whimsy and elegance of 1940s Atlantic City’ for slap up meal at the Flying Fish. It was here that it really dawned on us how much this place is loved, the family next door from Memphis came on their honeymoon and have returned with the family numerous times. If our waiter with his baritone voice and peppy attitude was an example of WDW service, then you can see why people return year on year.
Everyone tells you, the best way to visit Magic Kingdom is to get there for when the gates open, even if I wasn’t quite awake enough to enjoy the happy ‘Welcome to the Magic Kingdom’ dance routine, as the music swells, disney staff line Main Street USA waving and high-fiving anyone within their grasp. It’s both uplifting and oddly like the set of the ‘Prisoner‘. I’d manage to score breakfast at Be My Guest, the restaurant underneath Beauty and the Beast’s Castle. Sitting in the Grand Ballroom our breakfast was whisked through, whilst Lumière’s classic hummed in the background – it was a good start day.
The Magic Kingdom is exactly what you see on the adverts, but it is smaller than I remember from the last time I visited Disneyland Paris aged 8! It was nice to get on the Dumbo ride without queuing 2 hours and re-live the thrill of Space Mountain – this time I kept my eyes open all the way round. I think what Disney does best are it’s animatronics – Under The Sea was like being submerged with Flander whilst during Pirates of Caribbean you expect Johnny Depp to board your boat at any moment. And as always the Disney’s Celebration of Fantasy Parade left little boys and girls dreaming of Mickey and Princesses…
There’s only one way to recover after a hard day’s reminiscing and that’s at Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon, one of two waterparks. It was amusing watching Tom climb aboard a rubber dinghy as we floated around a lazy river and impale himself down a vertical water slide. With its tropical island backdrop and Floridian weather, you could almost forget you were walking along a man-made beach. There’s even a mighty wave machine creating ripples which reach across the entire park – do not estimate the force of those man-made waves!
Now what’s the best thing was about Downtown Disney? The pretzels – just the gooey, buttery, salty goodness. I don’t remember much about the world’s largest Disney Store, it was mostly spent gorging on pretzels. T-Rex is a large restaurant sat in giant Volcano and diners can chow down surrounded by the prehistoric dinosaurs. As a Ichthyophic (someone not keen on fish), my heart raced as our waiter guided us to an attractive table right next to the tropical fish tank – he gave me a very odd look when I asked to relocate. The Chocolate Extinction is very much as described and the dry ice lent extra drama. Looking back at this blog post, I realise now that most of our time at WDW was surrounded by food…
Before check out we enjoyed a dip with Flander, Sebastian and Ariel, scoffed the Disney character trademark waffles and felt slightly teary as we headed down to Miami – our last stop.