I feel very fortunate to have recently met Mickey Mouse. I was even more fortunate since it was a free trip for me and I’d certainly be reluctant to pay the standard price to see him.
On a recent work trip to Florida I was asked by a work colleague what my plans were for the weekend. Initially planning to drive up the coastal road to take in the stunning views I found my plans shaken up by his offer to take me on a day trip to Orlando.
To be honest Orlando has never really appealed to me, a bunch of overcrowded and over priced theme parks. Especially when my perception is that they tend to be geared towards children, well at least Disney World does. As an adult I often wondered what can you do in Disney World?
I’ve heard a lot about Orlando in the last decade or so. A good friend of mine tends to go there every year, even before he had kids. (Maybe he is just a big kid himself 😉 )
I’ve seen some of his home videos of the park, they are indeed quite impressive. I’ve also heard the thousands of pounds spent just to go there from the UK too which scares me.
I like to see the world for what it is and find it hard to justify a large expense on a commercially generated, man-made venue.
All these preconceptions were then challenged. My colleague explained that the wife of a friend of his worked at Disney World and could get us free entry! Now this seemed like it was too good to be true. I could openly challenge my preconceptions, satisfy my curiosity and not spend a fortune doing it. It was such a great, once in a lifetime opportunity that I had to say YES!
So off we went, the three of us (my colleague’s partner came too) to Orlando for the day. Driving along International Drive (also known as I-Drive), a 11.5 mile road which hosts eateries, hotels, places of interest and leads into some of the main theme parks.
Orlando is full of a range of theme parks, of which I believe Disney own four (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Disney World). Of course we were going to see Mickey and friends so Disney World was our destination. Normally it is one ticket per park, unless you pay extra for a “hopper” ticket which is like a Disney World pass to the other Disney Parks in Orlando. We were fortunate in that we effectively received a hopper style ticket and could switch parks over the day, time permitting.
We arrived prior to mid-day and opted for the ferry from the car park to the theme park entrance. There is also a kind of monorail which can get you there and around the various parks.
We visited on 13th April and admittedly it was getting quite crowded. The end of Spring Break and lots of overseas visitors tend to mean that Disney & Co don’t suffer much from a global recession. Is there ever a best time for Disney World to be visited?
On entering the park itself you are greeted with many retail shops. Within moments though you walk through the area to get to see one of the most famous and stunning Disney views, that of the Cinderella Castle. Cameras at the ready as everyone wants to take a picture.
The parade was ongoing during our arrival so we had a good chance to capture all the characters in fine spirit having a good boogie on down. I was also informed that this is a good time to try to catch the rides as most people watch the parade. The parade times are displayed along the route so you can plan ahead to see them.
The idea of catching a ride during parade times seemed like a pretty good idea. As I mentioned the park was busy and the wait times for most rides were showing as between 60-90 minutes. It was quite warm and the idea of queuing for that length of time didn’t appeal.
There is a kind of fast pass system in operation. You basically swipe your entry ticket in a machine and receive a ticket to effectively queue jump onto a ride at an allocated time (over an hour) in the future of the day. Unfortunately we found out that you can only have one active fast pass ticket at a time otherwise we could have utilised our time more efficiently.
We chose to use our fast pass on the “Space Mountain” ride. I’d heard about this ride from my friend who goes to Orlando almost every year and I know he loves it. I would agree with him that it is one of the best rides at Disney World for an adult.
This is like the “Black Hole” ride (which they used to have at Alton Towers). It is a fast roller coaster in the dark. It is indeed great fun and you can’t really see at all where you are going. The ride was quite old though so the movement on the rails was unsmooth and both my colleague and I found our necks and backs hurting a bit after the ride.
The fast pass wasn’t really a great help on queue jumping for the ride though as it effectively only became available to us around 90 minutes later.
Walking around the park it was clear that the place, like I expected was geared towards children. Few rides truly interested adults.
We did go for pictures with the Disney characters. Good fun although they all seemed to be mute.
We ventured onto The Pirates of the Caribbean ride which is a gentle boat ride. There were various robotic characters which were impressive in design yet not an overly inspiring ride.
One of the few Disney World attractions of interest to adults is the Hall of Presidents which we tried. This is held in a sit down theatre and is like a mini history lesson. We see an animated show which lasts around 20 minutes.
Brief and significant moments in US and Presidential history are touched upon. We even see a robotic almost life size Abraham Lincoln character provide a rousing speech.
The finale is the real appeal for this attraction. The curtain lifts and we see each and every President in a robotic character. Each acknowledges his name as it is called it. An impressive show indeed.
Very few attractions in this park could be said to appeal to adults, it really is a children’s’ theme park.
It was hot, it was crowded. Children and adults became cranky with long queues for rides which can be deemed state of the art twenty years ago.
Overall it was undoubtedly a once in a lifetime opportunity and I’m glad I went.
It is clear that Disney is a very successful venture. These theme parks have been around for decades and the rides/attractions have seen little change from those times. The layout and setting of the park works. I can see the layout copied to some degree in other theme parks such as the successful Alton Towers in the UK.
It is also clear that Disney is geared towards children, I appreciate this. The rides and attractions are very centred around children and there is little appeal for an adult (unless you are a big Disney fan). At the prices of entry I find close to $100 very steep for an adult who spends most of the time stood around or in queues for a long period of time.
As someone growing up in the UK I find more value in other theme parks. Such as Alton Towers in the UK which is a much larger park with more rides and attractions. It is also cheaper to enter for the day/few days. Plus there are frequent promotions to buy one ticket get another free.
Since I am based in England, EuroDisney is a cheaper option if I had kids desperate to see the characters.
Would I go again? Well certainly as an adult I would be resistant. With children I may consider it but my advice for Disney World is to certainly not pay the full price for entry. I would always look for discount deals to entice me in.