They have been copied, recognized and sometimes even dismissed as expensive playgrounds.
But after visiting Disney World in Orlando, Fl., for more than 40 years, this writer is still amazed and delighted with the destination and theme park’s attractions.
Just last week at the Costume Institute Gala at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art Disney’s influence was front and center. Actress Claire Danes wore the showstopper. It was a lighted baby organza blue ball gown with fiber-optic lights which shone once Ms.
Danes entered the venue where the theme was Fashion in an Age of Technology. Dress designer Zac Posen channeled Disney’s Cinderella for his wow creation.
After many football Super Bowls (and other sports competitions including the Olympics) you hear the participants proclaiming when asked, “What are you going to do next? Reply: “We’re going to Disney World.”
This week the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex is hosting the international Invictus Games whose participants are wounded military members from many different countries. The games where opened by Britain’s Prince Harry and the United States First Lady Michelle Obama.
Many young girls dream of getting married at Disney World in front of Cinderella’s Castle and riding off with her prince in a huge gilded carriage.
Now you can actually make this dream come true at the park’s new East Plaza Garden. Disney has been offering weddings for many years within the park, but now the event can take place closer to the castle and can include a horse-drawn carriage accompanied by coachmen.
I recall going to Disney World first as a couple with my husband (we are celebrating 50 years of marriage this year). Then we took our two young daughters and stayed at the Contemporary resort, one of the first Disney property resorts.
The girls loved riding the Monorail which ran on tracks right inside the resort. On other occasions we stayed at the Polynesian, another early resort property.
When my youngest daughter was 10-years-old Disney sent their plane to Chattanooga to pick us up and go to the Magic World.
Another magical memory was the 25th anniversary of Walt Disney World in early October 1996. That landmark event commemorated the truly incredible transformation of one man’s dream to the Number 1 vacation destination in the world. At that milestone the park had already achieved 100 million visitors.
The Magic Kingdom featuring beloved Disney classics gave us Cinderella Castle and new land at the time, Mickey’s Toontown Fair and lots of parades and shows.
When I visited the Magic Kingdom a week ago, Cinderella Castle, meals with Princesses and several rides, including the iconic “Small World’’ where just as crowded with families, as ever.
It didn’t seem to matter that the temperatures were very high for early May or that the lines to enter the various attractions and rides were long, they (the visitors) were there and they came to see and experience the park. What was different on this visit was the number of adult visitors without children who were determined to see and do all in this children’s fantasy land.
I talked with an older couple who were visiting the parks for one week. They had come many times before and planned to do everything that they could. A family of four from Nashville, Tennessee was making their first visit with their two young daughters, who were wearing adorable Disney outfits, including shirts emblazoned with their names. The dad had a business trip in the area, so the whole family came along.
Walt Disney World is truly inclusive society welcoming people of all nations, religions and lifestyles. You can see this first-hand with its employees, who are referred to as cast members. No problem seems to be too big or small for them to handle and always with a smile and ‘Have a magical day’’ greeting.
The transportation system within the resort area to the various parks works like clockwork and easily facilitates your getting from your resort accommodations to the parks and back again almost around the clock.
Once you park your car you need never get into it again until you leave Disney World. If you stay at a park resort you do also have complimentary theme park parking if you choose to drive from the hotel to a park. If you fly into Orlando, shuttles are provided from Orlando International Airport to the resorts within the park
One of the biggest problems facing visitors at Disney World today is the overwhelming choice of how to visit everything they want to do in the amount of time they have for their visit.
Here’s where the option of staying on Disney resorts really makes ‘sense and cents.’ I stayed on this visit at the Art of Animation Resort, a top favorite for families, especially with young kids. The rooms are decorated with children in mind. The grounds offer everything a family needs, from swimming pools, playgrounds, arcades, children’s activities, laundry facilities, a cafeteria (and bar) and convenient transportation.
Buses are equipped to permit visitors in motorized chairs to ride to the parks. Parks offer stroller rentals or you are able to bring your own also on buses. Over the year’s stroller parking areas have mushroomed. Double-wide (2-seater) strollers are now very popular, offering rest havens for children throughout the day.
By the time I took my children to Epcot when it opened in 1982, we had no further need for strollers, they just wanted to see and do everything at once. On this visit we rode Star Tours - The Adventures Continue space flight and really took in all the marvels which were predicted back then and have come to fruition now.
On this visit in the evening we (my sister and I) watched the truly beautiful and magical show and fireworks at the Grand Lagoon as we dined on an outdoor restaurant patio right on the water. Don’t miss this happening and after spending hours touring parks, we did what most families where doing, take a dip in the large pool; relax before heading back to another park for the evening.
On different days different parks offer Extra Magic Hours which gives you extended time in a park each day. Sometimes the extra hours are in the early morning or other times they are in the late evening. You do need a valid theme park admission and resort ID. This is where purchasing a “park hopper pass’ pays off. You could visit two parks in the same day.
Choosing a Disney resort to stay does contribute greatly to making your visit easier and definitely more comfortable. There are different categories, currently there are more than 25 resorts and hotels on Disney property which are geared to different styles and budgets. The main thing is that you are in the middle of the magic. There are also dining plans which enable to you eat your way around the world and stay within a budget.
Food outlets in the theme parks address all kinds of allergies with their menus. I was delighted to be able to order gluten-free options even in fast food locations, as well as the Hollywood Brown Derby restaurant.
The technologic advances of Disney are front and center with the use of MagicBands, These wrist bracelets come with a chip on which your chosen options are downloaded. The band does work magically opening you hotel room door, permitting you to enter a park(s) and they also can include any FastPasses you have reserved.
FastPass and FastPass+ are what truly make visiting any Disney park really magical. Your MagicBand can also be used to buy food and merchandise, cutting down on carrying credit cards and cash on a daily basis. MagicBands come in a rainbow of colors. The bands have become a collector items. Within the park you can purchase ones that are themed to an attraction such as “Star Wars’’.
In 1998 I was there when Disney’s Animal Kingdom opened. This wild kingdom offered Dinoland U.S.A., a blast back 65 million years in time to save the last dinosaur from extinction. It also featured imaginative stage productions, including Disney’s “Journey into Jungle Book’’ and “Festival of the Lion King.’’
Guess what is currently popular throughout the U.S.A. today, a new Jungle Book movie and Broadway stage shows of the “Lion King.”
Throughout the Art of Animation resort there are artistic displays of aquatic life with large fishes floating across the exterior of the resort buildings and enormous turtles greeting you at the doors to the complex. Our family suite featured a “Finding Nemo” theme, down to a unique table which converted to a bed for sleeping. Fun is provided around the clock for kids, with the décor splashing into the bathrooms, suite carpeting and dressers.
Continuing my Disney journey through the years, in 1998, I was fortunate to be included in inaugural cruise of the Disney Magic, a journey to the Bahamas from Cape Canaveral, Florida. On this voyage, the first for the Disney Cruise Line, I was joined by another sister, who resided in New York. The Disney Cruise Line now contains several ships and its itineraries now extend to Europe and the Mediterranean. Hopefully I can one day experience one of these with grandchildren.
On this recent trip my sister flew into Disney World via a new weekend airline option from the Midwest through the Sanford International Airport, in Sanford, a community north of Orlando.
My sister has grown children who are involved in the technological worlds of Microsoft and Hollywood films. They were raised, she said, on Disney and attending the parks both at Disney World and Disneyland.
In 1989 Disney opened what was known then as Disney-MGM Studios. Today at Disney World there is a park called Disney’s Hollywood Studios. We loved this park and found the interactive aspects of it so enjoyable. There were so many unique happenings, from getting up close and personal with characters from the ‘Star Wars’ A Galaxy Far, Far Away and learn about Jedi training.
There is a new "Stars Wars Path of the Jedi" movie. In the Star Wars Launch Bay you can view movie props from the films and greet Star War heroes and villains.
Other highlights at this park are the Great Movie Ride, a “Frozen” show (complete with real snow). Louise, my sister opted for the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, which she loved. I did part of it, opting out before the startling end, which you can do! But, I did ride Splash Mountain, a first for me.
We thoroughly enjoyed a live production of “Beauty and the Beast” and an Indiana Jones behind-the-scenes show. Add to all that a Star Tours, The Adventures Continue and Toy Story Mania midway-style ride which features a 4-D shooting game and you can’t believe the surprises that keep coming.
We ended our visit with Fantasmic!! A multi-active show in an open-air style Hollywood Bowl followed by more spectacular fireworks. I don’t want to give away too much of this presentation which focuses on the power of dreams and includes a musical show and incredible pyrotechnics and water projections. It is a definite must see.
We truly had a ‘two magical days.” And even after long days of shuttling thousands of families and equipment back and forth to the parks, the bus driver who brings you back to your hotel wishes you good night and hopes you enjoyed your magical day.
My nostalgic journey was more fun than ever.
Disney never ceases to amaze.
For your information:
When you are in the park you can download the My Disney Experience app from an app store by scanning a code on the particular park Guidemap to access real-time park information. Or you can visit My Disney Experience.com on your mobile browser.
At Disney Resorts the guest room televisions offer daily updates, events and park times.
You can book online at DisneyWorld.com/Disney stay. Or you can call (407) 939-1307 or your travel agent.