My journey to Orlando begins with a flight on 17th June from Washington D.C. It’s a connecting domestic flight, so no passport immigration is required for internal travel, unless if you wish to use it as a proof of ID at the counters, which can be alternatively by done with your national identity card too. TSA and security checks was a breeze and in a matter of no time, we are en-route on our Embraer small Jet towards Florida.
An additional point to note is to board early for smaller jets as luggage space is very limited and you have to gate check your bag once they run out of cabin space, which usually affects passengers who board later or have a seat nearer to the front of the plane. So a good tip is to reserve a tail seat on your Jet so you can get in early to load your luggage. Upon landing, it’s generally a rip off to take a cab from the airport terminals, head to the airport bus interchange for direct buses into town from there.
Our stay in Orlando is at a resort hotel situated along International Drive which is a recommended area of stay in Orlando with at the heart of all the main attractions in town. There are no subway line operating in this area of Orlando due to the nature and geographical profile of the area, where it’s wide open districts are best served using buses. Lynx is the primary bus operator here. A direct bus to on Lynx bus service 42 for $2 a pop will bring you right to International drive. If you need help with directions, the friendly airport staff and bus drivers there will be more than willing to help you.
After a day at large 1,849,000 sq ft Florida mall just off Orange Blossom Trail and Sand Lake Road (operated by Simon Property Group), it’s not long after in Orlando where we see ourselves headed towards the land of smiles- Walt Disney World Resort. Disneyland is still very much a chill out destination here for me, or at least for this league of my trip, while recovering from the 4 large blisters on both of my feet after the last 4 days of endless sightseeing in Washington. I will be expecting to walk all funny these days.
Moving on, Disneyland Florida is the biggest of all the Disneylands around the world. This one comprises of 5 independent parks scattered all about the Disney World Lagoon, comprising of the main Magic Kingdom park, the Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Epcot, Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach. These parks are served by a huge number of Disney endorsed and themed hotels, operated by Disneyland themselves including golf courses, beach resorts campgrounds and deluxe villa resorts. Non Disney themed hotels here includes the Wyndham, Doubletree, Hilton and Holiday Inn just to name afew.
Upon entry to the Disney world gateway, you will pass by the The Downtown Disney shopping district. This is a huge shopping and F&B outlet located just by the park entrance and hotels. Moving on deeper into the Disney Boulevard and passing all the resort will eventually bring you to the central ticketing booth for all the parks, where you can choose from a variety of park tickets to go, including Park Hoppers and various water park Add-On Options for your stay here. There are many ways to get around the parks here, Monorail, ferry or buses, each with their own perks. The monorail offers direct return routes to your intended Disney park, but does not do routes between parks. The ferries serves only the main Magic Kingdom park, the buses on the other hand, does regular services between all parks and is usually the preferred method of travel for hopping between parks.
The entrance of the Magic Kingdom is home to the Main Street, U.S.A. Which is an early day representation of downtown New York which I will cover more in detail later on in this post. The park opened in 1971 and designed by Walt Disney himself as “The Florida Project” and built by Walt Disney Imagineering (WED Enterprises).
The Magic Kingdom is also the most popular Disneyland park here of the 4 and attracts over 17 million visitors annually. We were in the park in no time after a quick visitor security check and verification past the ticket gantries. The paper electronic park ticket here should be retained for park hoppers as well as obtaining fast passes throughout the park. A quick hop up on the Walt Disney Railroad brings us up promptly to our first planned area of visitation- Frontierland.
Frontierland is the critter county of the park, with all things country and western and home to the iconic Splash mountain ride and Thunder railroad mountain ride. It was splash mountain first for us after grabbing fast passes for Thunder railroad, which at that time was a viable option with queues lines over 45 minutes. The ride is based upon the stories of “Brer Rabbit, Tar Baby, and Uncle Remus” though slightly deviating from the actual Brer Rabbit story. The attraction itself is home to 103 Audio-animatrontics robots, telling the story on various indoor and outdoor portions of the ride. Splash mountain still retains the record for the most number of audio-animatrontics employed in a single attraction at Disneyland. The Splash mountain variant here in Florida is an exact clone of the one in California’s Critter County, only that the attraction is mirrored. Same final wet drop included!
As with all things Cowboys and Indians here, the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad always never fail to disappoint. The coaster is an Arrow Dynamics high speed rail coaster, with a custom extended track and multiple mid ride hill lifts. It is a rather enjoyable long blazing ride through the hills and canyons western style, but this one does not have much outdoor water elements like the ride in Tokyo Disneyland. Interestingly, even the hill climb spots curvy bumpy rails themed with volcanic waterfalls and sound effects. Topping up the remainder of key attractions here at Frontier Country is the audio-animatronic Bear Jamboree stage show, and of course, you can expecting singing bears here.
Connecting Frontier land is the Liberty Square itself, this area is themed after colonial America and is home to the jungle-like vegetated areas of the park. That of course, coming together with various jungle themed elements and rides. The Swiss family treehouse walk resides here, allowing you to have a tour though the Robinson Home. Fancy a silly safari boat tour? The Jungle Cruise steamer’s and floating platform plank rides are situated here too, offering rides of a wetter kind.
In Adventure land, you can find the nicely decorated Aladdin Magic Carpets carousel and the Scurvy Pirates of the Caribbean indoor boat ride, complete with drunk pirates and random pyrotechnics. It’s not too far off from here where you will find yourself in Fantasy land, offering full fantastic views of the Grand Golden Carousel in front of Cinderella castle. It’s here too where the iconic “Partners Statue” of the Magic Kingdom featuring Walt Disney and Mickey can be seen with the Cinderella Castle behind them.
The “Partners” statue sits at the end of main street USA is situated centrally in the whole park linking all the various themed sections together. The eastern part of the park sits Tomorrow Land and my most favorite sector of the park. As the name suggests, this is the technologically futuristic portion of the park, with all the buildings in here all decked in white or shiny metal with tons of retro looking stainless steel fixtures, radar dishes and antennas sprouting everywhere. The Tomorrow Land railway ride here is an observation tram ride and links all the buildings, which is made to look like a futuristic “space transportation” between the various “space ports” in Tomorrow land. The iconic Astro Orbiter flying carousel tops the futuristic looking “skyline” around here.
Tomorrowland is also home to few popular resident rides as seen in many Disneylands around the world, such as Space Mountain, Autopia and the Buzz Lightyear space ranger blasters. The Buzz Lightyear Space Range Spin ride is a track based 2 seater ride moving on a dune buggy system similar to that of the haunted mansion attraction, only that the ride have a shooting element to it, allowing you to score points by killing the baddies. In short, the ride is essentially a point and shoot blaster game, with the target in question, everything shaped like a bull’s eye target and Emperor Zerg.
You ride along various scenes with Lightyear on the ride, aim and shoot your laser guided blasters at various targets to score points for every target you successfully hit. You can leave the ride to rotate on targets on it’s own or if you are hardcore enough, spin it away with the manual override lever on the central console. You earn bonus points on special hard-to-hit moving targets. The key here is knowing what to destroy to get the highest score possible. You can hit targets multiple times too, and look out for hidden mickeys along the ride!
Tomorrow Land is home to few musings in this sector of the park, such as visiting space show fog coolers, perfect for the Florida heat as well as ultra cool talking dustbins which goes about mumbling random quotes about the area and itself while moving around scaring guests and amusing children. Oh yea, you can also throw regular trash in it if you want to shut-up it for a while.
Tucked in the corner of Tomorrow Land is the Indy Speedway. It is a go kart-ride you may otherwise know as Autopia from other Disneyland themeparks. Like all family kart rides, the cars themselves are small independent petrol driven go-karts, only that they travel on guided rails. It’s quite no-brainer going around the multi-tiered 4 laned race track with only one single pedal to control the car (gas for acceleration and release to auto brake). You can’t really do much but just gas it and follow the track, driving around even without much steering, provided if you don’t mind the bumps along the rails at a turn. It’s not long where the rides starts to get boring as these cars can’t really go fast even after flooring it. After all, this is a family ride, and not quite a proper go-kart track, though having a free range kart attraction may appeal to more people including myself.
The Monster’s Inc scare, umm laugh floor attraction is located just just the main entrance to the sector. You start off by getting briefed by Mike Wazowski after entering the doors to the monster world. The attraction takes off after the first movie, upon the discovery that human laugher generates 10 times more power than screams, so now Monsters incorporated regularly invites humans into their world to harvest our laughters through the now renamed CDA (comedy detection agency).
Guests are then seated in a theater with a laugh-o-meter showing how much laughter had been collected. The main screen features all rather interactive real time computer generated characters as the show crew preps the humor over the audience with Mike and various other monsters polling interacting with the audience and asking us questions, and trying to get us to laugh by making jokes in real time, often ending up with hilarious effects. Hold your breath as you might have the camera on you anytime in the show!
The Stitch Great Escape ride opposite the scare floor was quite a disappointment. The ride start off with an animatronics pre-show of the seemingly cuddly and harmless tiny stitch being a deadly class 3 prisoner on the loose, we cadets get strapped into a seemingly nicely decorated space travel capsule complete with overhead restrains, which serve no other better purpose but to just secure you in for the duration of the “ride”. The attraction itself is pretty much not of a ride, but rather just a dark effects showcase, with the restraints doing nothing but compressing you on the shoulders, simulating stitch jumping around loose on the set when being chased by the space cops. Overall I feel that the ride is quite a let down with a great build up damped by a rather anti-climatic performance of just lights and smoke and lots of disappearing act, that’s just it. And I was actually expecting ride inversion when I first saw the over shoulder restraints. Bleh.
The space mountain ride here is a 4-in-line bobsled-like train indoor coaster which runs off steel rails, there are actually 2 seperate coasters in the indoor cavern, with 2 distinctive loading areas depending on the queue line you choose pre-ride. The coaster here had been refurbished a few times, but the coaster itself is still old and rather bumpy. You begin on a dual coaster hill lift climb, where if you are lucky, can spot the riders on the adjacent coaster up the hill lift too, but it’s no dueling coaster. The ride itself spots several sharp twisting turns and sudden drops in the dark simulating the space flight the imagineers are after, but its otherwise rather predictable.
Leaving Tomorrow Land back into Fantasy Land brings you back into the magical fairy tale portions of the park, fancy the snow white and seven draft pub? The blacksmiths or the mine shop? It’s like walking through a fairy tale story. Besides the facade of the Golden Carousel flaunting the King author sword and Dumbo the flying elephant, notable rides here include The Many adventures of Winnie the Pooh, which is a very nicely themed indoor dark ride where the free roaming cars traveling on trackless remotely planned routes which seem to amaze more the technological mind than the ride itself.
Fantasy Land is located north of the park and is currently undergoing expansion works for a new expanded park sector, new rides coming include the The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, which is a moderately intense indoor roller coaster attraction and a new circus theme for portions of Mickey’s Toowntown Fair. This area connects just north of the current Fantasy Land to the new Fantasy Land expansion location, sited just north of the park.
It’s a small world ride is a dark indoor slow river ride. It is a family ride featuring over 300 brightly costumed audio-animatronic dolls in the style of children from all over the world and showcasing their different unique cultures around the globe through their costumes and city backdrops, all frolicking in a spirit of international unity, and singing the attraction’s title song, which has a theme of global peace. Its a very happy and cheerful ride, but otherwise plain boring making you wonder why you’ve gone on the ride in the first place. Despite all this, I say the ride has one of the nicest looking for front facades in the park, it looks just like one of the playing cards castles in Alice in Wonderland.
Of course, no trip to Disneyland is complete without a ride on the The Haunted Mansion back and paying Madame Leota a visit at the same time. The Haunted mansion back on Liberty Square here is very similar to the one in California, complete with the graveyard scene, besides the usual dancing and hallway “Pepper ghost” effect which the attraction employs greatly. As not many know, the ride actually resides on the ground level, as we go “underground” in the stretching room scene. The ride itself is tucked in a studio building just behind the mansion which this passage is eventually connected too, therefore all haunted mansions around the world all appear to be situated on a hill.
Mickey’s PhilharMagic is a rather cool 4D theatrical show featuring Micky and various other Disney characters. You will be given 3D glasses pre-show to feast your eyes on the full 180 degree curved screen where the show will be shown. You get the same 3D effect on every part of the theater regardless of where you are sitting, contrary to most 3D show myths of a 3D sweet spot only situated at the center of the theater. The show starts off with the iconic Mickey magical orchestra which he commands using his magic hat. The 4th dimensional element to the show is of course that of the non-visual effects which comes with the show, such as air blasts to your face and legs as well as water splashing effects.
Cinderella’s castle is the spot and backdrop for the various daily park performances making up of various Disney cast characters coming together for a 20 minute show complete with loud booming music and pyrotechnics, right at the heart of the park facing the Main street USA. There are many other street performers here in the Main street too.
Together with the olden day setting, even the staff here all seem to originate from the past, all dressed and spot the talk of the past, it’s almost like they’ve transported all the visitors here back in time. One entertainer even commented on my camera, stating that it’s surprising that you don’t need to crank them now to record your videos. It’s here too where you can meet Mickey in the “Meet Mickey attraction”, despite having a “wait, isn’t he performing at the castle now too?” moment. The attraction itself is rather well hidden unless you notice the signs, so do have your park map guide you there, otherwise look for the double rope street skippers on the Main Street itself just by the old theater beside the Disneyland steam railroad station.
At the end of the Magic Kingdom Main street is Casey’s corner. This place is one of the few affordable places in the park for lunch, serving sandwiches, burgers and sundaes, though drinks are an optional extra. The outdoor sitting areas of Casey’s literally have you sitting around the ducks in the garden. With that, I will leave you with a cool piano piece I’ve recorded of an entertainer on the Pianos at Caseys’. And look at those fingers fly!
Heading back to International drive is a $2 bus ride with 2 transfers, or a direct $15 cab ride. There are lots of eateries around here on the drive, and it is generally recommend to have your meals out of Disneyland as they can get rather expensive in-park. You will be spoilt for choice here on International, with all kinds of American fast food restaurants and Chinese buffet joints around, including Dennys, iHop and Ponderosa. Popeyes for lunch for lunch will set you back $6 per person, with unlimited refills.
The Dennys restaurant here spots very good service, reminding me of the good old American diner food and reliving my old childhood attempt in finishing an American-sized spaghetti with meatballs- with meatballs as large as my fists. Too bad this Denny’s do not have spaghetti on the menu anymore, but the steak and clam chowder was awesome. So I guess that’s pretty much wraps up Magic Kingdom for now, next up, Hollywood Studios!
- New York City & Brooklyn (Photos: New York City & Brooklyn)
- New York Hudson River Cruise, Wall street and Rockefeller Center
- American Museum of Natural History (New York) (Photos: AMNH)
- Washington D.C. (Photos: Washington D.C.)
- Newseum, Washington DC (Photos: The Newseum)
- National Gallery of Art, Washington (Photos: National Gallery of Art)
- Arlington National Cemetery, Washington DC (Photos: Arlington National Cemetery)
- Smithsonian Natural History Museum (Photos: NMNH)
- Smithsonian Air and Space Museum (Photos: Air & Space Museum)
- Orlando, Florida & Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort (Photos: Disney Magic Kingdom)
- Orlando Disneyland Hollywood (MGM) Studios (Photos: Disneyland Hollywood Studios)
- NASA- Kennedy Space Center, Merritt Island, Cape Canaveral (Photos: Kennedy Space Center)
- Islands of Adventure, Orlando Florida (Photos: Islands of Adventure)
- Universal Studios Orlando, Florida (Photos: Universal Studios Orlando)
- Miami Florida, South Beach and Aventura mall (Photos: Miami Florida)
- Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (Photos: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)
- Cedar Point coaster kingdom, Sandusky Ohio (Photos: Cedar Point)