Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A Very Disney Weekend

I'm typing up this blog post in the glaring Florida sunshine as we head away from Disney World, the Most Magical Place on Earth. On Friday, we picked up our friend's 5 1/2 year old for a weekend full of Disney fun.

Saturday morning, he announced it was time to wake up. The fact that it was 5:50am didn't really matter. And so our first day of Disney began.

We took the bus to Magic Kingdom, and the three of us embraced our inner Mickey. Shira and our little traveler started off the day with a ride on Dumbo while I played line-holder for the Mine Train. As they finished Dumbo, they got right on the Mine Train and the day was off to a roaring start. They both humored me and we went on Ariel and Pooh "rides", two "slow moving rides" that were Ben approved.

Perhaps the most impressive feat of the Magic Kingdom is that the three of us walked 24,000+ steps--EACH (Actually, the little guy probably walked double that. Ouch). If my phone is to believed (which it isn't) that's over 11 miles. Yikes. No wonder our little guy absolutely crashed when we got to the hotel room. We tired him out so much that there was no 5am wake up call on Sunday.

For our second day of Disney adventure we hit Animal Kingdom, which is sort of a Disney version of a Zoo. I admit it, I enjoyed the "safari" ride because it gave me a chance to snap photos of animals without fences in the way. Actually, I enjoyed most of the animal exhibits. There's no denying it, when Disney does a zoo, they do it right.

Shira and the little guy enjoyed a roller coaster while I stood by and cheered them on. Other highlights of the park were the Boneyard (which was essentially a fancy playground) and a petting zoo. Shira thoroughly enjoyed the Lion King show which included both fun singing as well as impressive gymnastic routines. We left the park at 8pm when it closed down, walking a mere 21,000 steps.

Today was spent exploring our resort grounds and getting in some swimming at the outdoor (but thankfully heated) pool. We're leaving exhausted but happy (that last ice cream sundae didn't hurt, I'm sure).

In some ways, Disney is still Disney. The Jungle Cruise and Swiss Family Robinson House are old standbys I've been on a number of times now. And while we used the Fast Pass system, there's no escaping the lines and crowds (especially at Magic Kingdom). And why, after charging what they do for admission, do they have some attractions that require you to drop in a dollar to play? You really need one more dollar from me?

But the parks did have a few new tricks up their sleeve. The Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor was downright technically impressive. What looks to be a canned animated movie quickly gave way to the fact that it's actual comedians with avatar bodies. It's slick stuff. And while Pirates of the Caribbean was closed, there's a new (to me) at-your-own-pace adventure you can take advantage of nearby. You pick up a treasure map and search the area for special symbols. As you hover your magic wristband over the symbol the area comes alive either revealing your next clue or a treasure. It was a perfect adventure for our 5 year old, with him getting a thrill as he'd bring the clue to life. And I found the Disney Dining Plan was mostly a good thing. They have quite a range of items you can get as snacks, which helped keep the in-park sticker shock to a minimum.

The best part of the visit though, was seeing Disney through the eyes of a 5 1/2 year old. Simply put, to him, everything in the park is real. That's not some guy in a Buzz Lightyear suit - that's actually Buzz. Yes, it was confusing that he was just in the ride he was on, but he must be taking a break now to greet people. And those cannon sounds on the Treasure Hunt weren't just theatrical smoke and a recording, they were live rounds being launched our way. It's just an amazing way to experience Disney.

Definite good times! Here's a smattering of photos:

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