This is why you go to Disney World.
Sure, I mean we all had a good time, but when your kids go running down the street like giddy maniacs an hour after the plane touches down in Orlando yelling, “This is the BEST day of my entire life!!”, it makes the gazillion dollars that you spent on this vacation worth every penny. And I do mean that in all seriousness. We’ve never been on a vacation like this before as a family and I feel lucky that we were able to make it happen. I know not everyone can swing it – nothing about a trip to Disney World is cheap – but if you’ve been waffling about taking your kids, do it.
Just don’t make an intense roller coaster like “Everest” in the Animal Kingdom your very first ride in all of Disney World. Lord, what were we thinking?
But you know what happened…my competitive streak totally came out as I made strategic plans every morning on our course of action for each park. Of course, thousands of people had the same idea as well, which is to arrive a little before the gates opened first thing in the morning and make a beeline for the most popular ride. But as I’m speed walking and trying to steer my family through the crowds, all I’m thinking is, “hey, we’re from New York! We maneuver through pedestrian traffic ALL the time. This isn’t any different from Midtown or subway rush hour on any given day. This is normal for us, so step aside suckers and watch me move through this wall of people.”
Anyway…going back to Everest. I haven’t been on a roller coaster since I used to go to Great Adventure all the time during high school (so what is that, like 25 years ago?) and I pick Everest as our first Disney experience? It’s not that it was a super hilly or upside down twisty twirly track, but there is a fair amount of the ride that’s in complete darkness, including a portion of if going backwards with loud sound effects, and that’s the part that is scary because you are so disoriented you don’t know if you’re upside down or what. Honestly, I had no idea that the ride was going to be so intense, otherwise I wouldn’t consider letting a small 6 year old child get on (she was above the height requirements and there were plenty of other kids her age in line). All I kept thinking was, is Claudine bawling her eyes out? Is Mark going to throw up (he gets motion sickness easily)? I was sitting next to Mia who had her eyes shut tight the whole time, but I couldn’t see the other 2 behind me. Oh, and it was a frigid 39 degrees that morning in Orlando which experienced a weird, aberrant freeze the first day that we were there so the ride was extra frosty.
When we got off the roller coaster, Claudine stomped her feet and said, “I don’t ever want to go on that ride ever again!” She was clearly pissed. It’s funny though, because she was the one who insisted on going on the Tower of Terror at Hollywood Studios on our last day when everyone else was ambivalent and tired of being tossed around. I convinced her that it wasn’t a good idea because I knew she would be scared of the visuals. All throughout our 4 days at the various parks, she kept asking me, “is that real?” any time she saw an animatronic person or creature on one of the rides. By our last day she declared, “I’m not scared of anything or any ride because I know that everything is fake.”
Other random observations about Disney World:
The crowd control is remarkably impressive. I mean, you’re sometimes waiting 30-60 minutes in line to go on a 5-15 minute ride, but most times the lines keep moving and there are enough distractions and things to look at in the maze-like lines that snake through various rooms that it doesn’t really feel like 30-60 minutes. I know a little something about the crowd control and lines since I worked as an elf at Macys Santaland when I was in college, but this was still remarkable to me.
There is no good coffee in Disney World.
You know, you get used to how ubiquitous Starbucks is (not that we like the coffee at Starbucks, but at least you know what you’re getting), so you kind of expect to see one as you turn a corner, but at the Magic Kingdom in particular, coffee wasn’t exactly easy to find. The house brand or whatever they serve kind of tastes earthy, like dirt.
Everyone really is happy.
The cast members and all the people who work there are all extremely friendly and they stay in character all the time. The kids encountered one young worker by the name of John at 2 separate times while we were at the Animal Kingdom and he was the most animated and hilarious guy ever as he lead them through a scavenger hunt. It made me wonder how he could keep that up all day, every day. I mean you have to be sort of crazy to be that “on” all the time.
John told us that he couldn’t say certain words like “dead” while on the job. He even spelled it out for us instead of saying it because contractually he is not allowed to utter those words.
There are a lot of senior citizens employed in and around the park. If you think about it, it’s kind of the perfect place to work after the end of a career if you’re not ready to retire yet.
We did 4 marathon days (more on that in a later post), but I think we were only able to do that because the weather was mild. After the frosty first day at the Animal Kingdom (we were totally freezing for much of the day), the temperatures were in the mid 70s the rest of our stay there. Perfect, I’d say. Anything hotter and more humid and I don’t think I could have done it for as long as we did. The thought of standing in lines, sometimes in stuffy crowded rooms in 88+ degree temperatures in the summer makes me claustrophobic just thinking about it.
Speaking of marathons, it’s really important to choose comfort over fashion. Nobody is looking at you. Besides, half of the adults are in mouse ears and goofy hats anyway. I’m surprised that I held up as well as I did, but I was pretty much in pain the last 2 days and I was popping pain killers for my sciatica and sore back by the last day. Even now, 36 hours after our trip, I’m still recovering on the couch. I’m also experiencing some mild vertigo sensations, I’m assuming from all the rides and movement. It’s completely weird.
You have to just embrace the cheese. I know I can be a cynical New Yorker in my old age, but I can totally embrace the cheese (hey, I really like big budget, blockbuster action movies too – go figure). You’ll have a much better time.
More on the Magic Kingdom on Monday!