As I write this, J and I have just returned from an amazing family holiday to Florida. We spent most of our time exploring the wonders of Disney World including Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, Blizzard Beach and Disney Springs which has given us incredible memories to treasure forever.
The Magic Kingdom is where dreams really do come true. We chose this park as our first Disney experience for J as hubby and I have both been there before and J was really excited about going to see Mickey’s Castle (he has no idea who Cinderella is.) The arrival at the park is perfectly staged to build the excitement levels. We drove, so we parked the car and then caught the Disney tram to the first entrance. Once we were through security we had a choice of travelling by monorail or boat to the Magic Kingdom. For transport mad J, this was all part of the adventure. J got a great first view of the eye catching castle across the lake and as it got closer he was already captured by the Disney magic.
The Magic Kingdom is divided into several areas. You enter onto Main Street, USA and then you have Liberty Square, Adventureland, Frontierland, Fantasyland and Tomorrowland. Main Street, USA is home to the main station of the Walt Disney World Railroad, which J loved riding on. It is also the main Magic Kingdom shopping area, although there are shops in all the other areas too. Main Street, USA is also where the parade ends and one of the best places to view the castle and the fireworks from. Liberty Square houses the very important Christmas shop (we like to collect Christmas decorations from places we visit) but no main rides for our visit (the Liberty Square Riverboat was closed). Adventureland is home to the Jungle Cruise and the Magic Carpets of Aladdin. Frontierland wasn’t suitable for J as it had the Splash Mountain log flume and the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in it, so we didn’t stop in this area. Fantasyland is the main section of the park if you have little ones and was, as a result, always rather busy. Here was one of J’s favourite rides, It’s A Small World, as well as another popular one, the Prince Charming Regal Carrousel. Tomorrowland holds J’s other favourite ride, the Tomorrowland Speedway, which allows children to ‘drive’ around a racetrack. It is also the home to Space Mountain and Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin.
J loves Mickey Mouse and one of the first things we spotted as we entered Main Street, USA on our first visit to the park was a character meet and greet with the main Mouse himself. So we headed there first. We had to queue for about 40 minutes and we had managed to keep J occupied as he was so excited. However, just as we got to the final door things went a bit haywire. J followed the family in front (we were in a queue after all and this is what he had been doing for 40 minutes). Just as we called him back, the Disney cast member told him to step back to the line. Nothing wrong with the intention as she was doing her job but she was a little abrupt and dramatic and she scared J who then sobbed. He was still crying a couple of minutes later when it was our turn to meet Mickey so instead of an excited 3 year old meeting his favourite Disney character for the first time we had an anxious, sad and confused little one who wasn’t ready to engage. Not a great start, but thankfully everything picked up from then on and we went back on our last visit to the Magic Kingdom to get some happier photo memories. Meeting the characters was definitely a major highlight for J in his Disney holiday and it was so much fun to watch his enthusiasm.
The first time we saw the parade, we just happened to be walking through Liberty Square not long before the 3pm daily parade so we decided to wait and see how J found it. We popped his ear defenders on and he waited on daddy’s shoulders. J was completely captivated by the characters, the singing and dancing and the parade was a huge success. The parade showcased some of the Disney greats including Belle and the Beast, Sleeping Beauty, Peter Pan, the Little Mermaid and the core six – Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, Goofy and Pluto. It also featured a dragon from Maleficent, which had flames coming out of it’s mouth. This J was a little unsure of so I am rather relieved that we weren’t there the day it decided to catch fire! The music and the dancing really encapsulates the Disney happiness and it was a real highlight for both J and I, so much so that we watched it 3 times in total across our holiday. The second time we watched it, we decided to view from Main Street, USA. We managed to find one of the last kerbside spots at about 2.45pm. The parade doesn’t get around to Main Street until about 3.15/3.20 so if you want a good spot get there in plenty of time. In my opinion the parade was a highlight of our visit and is too good to miss.
The Jungle Cruise in Adventureland must be a really popular ride as it is always busy and the three times we went on it we used our fastpasses to avoid waiting. Hubby and I were not very impressed with this ride. It is scripted so each time the ‘jokes’ are the same and they were tedious the first time. So why did we ride on it three times?
As you can see J loved it! He found it hilarious going under the waterfall spray and this was an absolute highlight for him – the little things! I also think that he thought all of the animals (hippos, elephants, lions, crocodiles etc.) were real and therefore that would make it more exciting – maybe something the Disney Creative Team could consider for the future – it would certainly improve the ride in my eyes.
We only ate a meal three times in the Disney parks as the food was so expensive. The first time we ate in Adventureland at Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Cafe, which is a quick serve restaurant. It is a Mexican and hubby had some delicious looking tacos which he said were very tasty. I had a lovely burger (not very Mexican I know) because it was the only thing I could eat from the menu. The allergy service lived up to the Disney promise though. I asked the lady at the till if they had an allergy menu, which she gave me straight away and then called over a manager who talked me through all of the options. The burger wasn’t actually on the allergy menu, but I couldn’t eat anything that was so they thought very quickly on the spot for me knowing my needs, which was great. We also had the most delicious snack in Adventureland from the Aloha Isle snack bar. Here is one of the only places in the world that you can sample the Dole soft-serve pineapple treat. I could have eaten 10 of these in a row. They were that incredible and to top it off I could actually eat them! They don’t have milk or egg in their soft-serve. Don’t leave Magic Kingdom without trying one of these.
It’s a Small World in Fantasyland was one of J’s favourite rides. We visited this ride three times and again each time we used a fastpass as it was such a popular ride that the queues were always nearing an hour. We found that the clocks outside which tell you how long the queue is tended to underestimate the time by a good 10 minutes on the whole. It’s a Small World is a real Disney classic and was designed by Walt and his team so is a great Disney tradition. You take a gentle boat ride and view little characters in traditional costumes and key landmarks from all around the world. There were rumours earlier this year that Disney are going to replace it but I really hope this doesn’t happen. It is a perfect family ride for everyone to enjoy together. Each time we rode the ride we spotted something different. Despite the song being very catchy (to some this is annoying, but it didn’t bother any of us) and giving away the name of the ride, J renamed it, Little Land, and requested a visit to Little Land at least 3 times a day!
While in Fantasyland, J also enjoyed the Prince Charming Regal Carrousel and Dumbo the Flying Elephant. Bizarrely, J was really keen to go on a similar ride to Dumbo at Animal Kingdom but was really adverse to the elephants so we had to convince him to give it a go and he made us stay low down for the whole ride but at the end when everyone goes up to the top to finish he loved it and found it hilarious! There is also a soft play area in the under cover queue to entertain little ones while waiting for this ride, which is a great idea, but you bypass this if you use a fastpass.
Fantasyland is a great place to meet lots of characters. Minnie, Daisy, Donald and Goofy can all be found here at Big Pete’s Silly Side Show. You can also meet Winnie the Pooh and Tigger, Merida from Brave, Ariel from the Little Mermaid, Gaston from Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, the Ugly Stepsisters, Elena, Princess Tiana, Rapunzel, Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland. The bridge overlooking the castle near where you visit Merida is also where you can get a magic Mickey if you want one with your Memory Maker. I spotted a photographer while we were mid picnic and chased him down specifically because I really wanted a magic photo of Mickey and J. He took us to the right spot, took the photos and I was thrilled. However, when we got home that night instead of Mickey on the photo there was one of the characters from Lilo and Stitch. We tried again the last time we visited and after waiting for 10 minutes to find a photographer, J refused to get out of the pushchair or be in the photo so I now have a magic Mickey photo with me, hubby and my mum – anyone any good at Photoshop?!
We couldn’t get a fastpass for the Tomorrowland Speedway on our first visit to the Magic Kingdom and the queue was really long so we didn’t tell J about it, but he did spot it as we went past on the train and shouted with glee. He was so exhausted though by mid afternoon after the long flight and very late night the day before that he forgot about it and we headed home. That night we planned another day to visit Magic Kingdom and booked him a fastpass so that he didn’t miss out again. There was no real shock that this ride was to be my car mad son’s favourite ride at Magic Kingdom. Tomorrowland Speedway allows the children to drive their very own car around a track. J was over the moon. The look on his face as he drove was absolutely priceless and melted my heart. I am pretty sure I won’t feel that way when he has his first driving lesson! While J was driving around the track with daddy (2 person ride), I snuck into the nearby shop and bought him a Lightning McQueen car toy to remember his first ‘driving’ experience. He was delighted when he opened his present.
Hubby and I went to the Magic Kingdom for date night one night while my mum kindly babysat an exhausted J. We really wanted to see the fireworks! Magic Kingdom takes ages to get in to from the parking lot so it was 6:30pm by the time we got in the gate and we headed straight for a quick service restaurant in Tomorrowland. Hubby got a small hotdog, a coke and a packet of crisps and I got a pulled pork roll and a packet of crips. That cost us $25 and was really only lunch not dinner. Food in Disney is very expensive!
After ‘dinner’ we headed straight to our chosen evening fastpass, Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin. This was one of our favourite rides when we last visited. Way back then, hubby had been most miffed that I was beating him at a shooting game and so he had cheated! It was payback time… or at least that was the plan. As it happened, I didn’t bother to read the rules around the queue (I did’t actually notice them at all) and didn’t realise that we were supposed to be shooting the Z’s for a good couple of minutes. The ride broke down several times while we were on it so our scores had time to be a little inflated compared to normal which was brilliant but hubby overtook me and then I couldn’t get it back. He scored over 400,000! I did beat my mum though when I went on it with her so that made me feel a little better.
We then had time to go next door to see the Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor show before the fireworks. Mike Wazowski has to collect laughter from the audience while telling jokes and it is interactive with the audience so people suddenly appear on screen as part of the joke. This was really funny, as long as they didn’t choose you! I spent the whole time laughing while shrinking into my seat hoping they didn’t notice me. The person who did get really teased was rewarded afterwards though. I’m not sure what with but he looked very pleased.
It was then time to go and find a spot to watch the fireworks. Unsurprisingly, it was very busy but we are only small so we squeezed into a gap and got a good central spot. I don’t get to watch fireworks very often. For years we had a dog who was terrified of them and so instead of watching we comforted her instead. Now we have a 3 year old who is equally terrified of them, so we hide inside and hope they don’t wake him if he is asleep. It was a real treat watching fireworks and even as Disney goes they really surpassed my expectation. The castle is animated with scenes to music and fireworks. I didn’t know where to look. It was all really spectacular and then there was the finale. I won’t give it away but I will say that Tinkerbell really blew me away. It was truly magical to behold and I was thrilled that we had made the extra effort to go and watch them.
The Magic Kingdom exceeded all my hopes for this holiday; it smashed them out of the park. I had worried that J wouldn’t like the crowds and the noise and bustle, but Disney really are the best and they have nailed family entertainment, theme parks and magic. We have come away with incredible memories that I will truly treasure forever.