Millions of people flock to Disney World in Orlando, Florida each year. The parks Walt Disney made famous are synonymous with family fun and the magical whimsy of childhood. I missed out on the Disney experience as a child, but was bound and determined to not let my inner-child miss out on Disney World. So, at the age of 25, I packed my bags, mouse ears included, and made my way to the sunny state of Florida to spend a few days with the main mouse, Mickey, and all of his cohorts.
I was as excited as any child, and was filled with awe over what to expect. The night before the big day, I had visions in my head of doing the robot with Buzz Lightyear, skipping through the park with Snow White and quacking along with Donald Duck himself. The whole event was already playing in my mind like a Disney Movie, and I already had a perfect ending: dinner at Disney’s California Grill, perfectly timed so I could watch the firework displays as I dined.
The next morning, as I drove towards the gates of Disney, I was ecstatic to see Epcot, Animal Kingdom, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Magic Kingdom signs flash before my eyes. I was on a mission at Disney, and was bound and determined to experience as much of Disney as I could in one day. Due to a time constraint, one day was all I was allotted at Disney, so one day had to fulfill my inner child’s wishes.
I started at the Animal Kingdom, since they close the earliest (5pm.) I headed straight towards the “Tree of Life” to get an up close view of this iconic tree. The detail and design of the tree was incredible, and so was the “It’s Hard to be a Bug” attraction held inside, at the base of the tree. Starring “Flik,” from the Disney-Pixar Film “A Bug’s Life,” this 8 minute 3D film is fun for those of all ages. I thoroughly enjoyed the 3D look at a bug’s life, and the special effects made me feel like I could reach out and grab the butterflies, snakes and other creatures. I even felt mice running on the floor. I don’t want to give too much away; just be sure to make time for this during your visit to the Animal Kingdom. Another highlight from the Animal Kingdom was the Kilimanjaro Safari, where I sat in an open air safari bus for a one-of-a-kind look at some of the Sahara’s most beautiful animals. The landscape was right out of Africa, and the animals were very energetic and lively, something you don’t always witness at zoos. I was amazed at the variety of animals, and have to say the elephants and giraffes were my favorite safari finds.
After a delicious lunch at the Rainforest Café, my companion and I headed to Epcot for a quick trip around the world. First, though, we made a trip around Earth on the attraction “Spaceship Earth” and then shrank back down to size at the “Honey, I Shrunk the Audience,” a 3D show where scientific fun turns into mayhem for the audience. My favorite ride, though, was “Soarin,” an interactive attraction that simulates hang-gliding in coastal California. The line was long for this attraction, but it was worth the wait! The world showcase pavilions, where France, Germany, Italy, Norway, America, Canada, Japan, China, Mexico, Morocco and the United Kingdom are represented, are truly a sight to see. It was if I had packed my passport and had been flown around the world. The architecture, food, and ambiance of each pavilion made you treasure the unique aspects of each culture. By the time I had toured every country, I felt like my passport had a whole new set of stamps in it.
However, my world tour had to make an important pit stop at a special, far away land known as the Magic Kingdom. The Magic Kingdom is what first comes to mind for many when they think of Disney. Images of Cinderella’s Castle, Mickey Mouse and Splash Mountain are conjured in one’s mind as the epitome of the Disney Concept. I had these images floating through my head as I made my way, by tram, to the entrance of the Magic Kingdom. However, nothing prepared me for actually seeing Cinderella’s Castle in all its glory. It is a magnificent structure that harkens visitors, or at least me, to become giddy with joy. Even at the age of 25, I was compelled to run towards the castle, eager to see what it held. Be sure to make time for Castle tours they do periodically throughout the day, as there are some neat behind-the-scene discoveries. My exploration of the Magic Kingdom found seven different lands to journey through, each with a theme like “Tomorrowland,” “Frontierland” or “Main Street USA” to distinguish it from the sprawling 107 acres consisting of the Magic Kingdom. I visited Adventureland first, where I climbed through the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse and voyaged through the treacherous waters of the “Pirates of the Caribbean.” From there, I ventured to “Big Thunder Mountain Railroad” in “Frontierland” for a runaway train coaster ride. “Fantasyland” and “Tomorrowland” were up next, but before we made it there, we encountered the “Move It! Shake It! Celebrate It! Street Party” that had me grooving along with Disney characters such as Genie, from Aladdin, & Sebastian, from The Little Mermaid. I found several character greetings at Fantasyland, and although the lines were too long for my time constrained trip, I will definitely make it a priority on my next trip. When else can you have your picture snapped with Goofy? Tomorrowland lived up to its name with Space Mountain, a rocket of a ride that visits our mysterious galaxy. By the end of my ride on Space Mountain, it was time for dinner at Disney’s California Grill. It was a great way to end my special day. So special in fact, that the glittering night sky boasting colorful fireworks felt like it was just for me. It was truly magic, truly Disney and truly worth the 25 year wait.