Having a season pass for Walt Disney World can be a great and a horrible thing. To start with you, you can visit the parks as much as you want after paying the annual fee, but it is hot, miserably hot, and there is so much walking to be done.
My daughters Taylor and Peyton, along with our friend Carly (visiting from West Virginia), and I decided to challenge ourselves and visit all four Disney parks in only three days. We even stayed to see the fireworks and late night festivities. To say we went home exhausted would be an understatement; but as with any Disney trip, the rewards and fun outweigh everything else. After all, this is the happiest place on Earth.
The day we chose to visit Hollywood Studios turned out to be the coolest day of them all, both weather wise and due to the fact that it was a Star Wars Weekend. The park was packed with devoted George Lucas film fans and I would guess over half of all guests at the park were dressed in Star Wars attire. Most of the Star Wars related events sell out or book up months in advance so we only got to enjoy seeing the characters at signings and stage performances.
We arrived at the park, armed with fast passes for Indiana Jones, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, and the Extreme Stunt Show. All three of these attractions were new for me, so upon completion I am officially “broken in” and familiar with all the Hollywood Studios attractions.
The Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show provides seating for hundreds on covered bleachers. The thirty-eight minute show emphasizes how much training goes into doing movie and tv stunts, with them demonstrating high speed car chases, car crashes, falling off buildings, and other amazing stunts. The Tower of Terror, visited numerous times by my daughters, was the day’s best attraction and Hollywood Studio’s most popular attraction. Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular has improved since the last time I saw it, over ten years ago. Indy and Marion perform stunts from movie as the audience cheers them on. This show lasts thirty minutes and contains fire, explosions, and thrills all ages will enjoy.
Other attractions that we enjoyed while at Hollywood Studios were: “The Great Movie Ride”, “The Magic of Disney Animation”, “The Little Mermaid Show”, and “Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream”. Unfortunately, the Rock ‘n’Roller Coaster (Aerosmith) was down all day.
For lunch, we opted for angus burgers and fries at the ABC Commissary. The line was really long but it moved very fast; they were extremely organized. The prices were decent and I liked that the restaurant offered a fixings station for all the condiments. We snacked on Mickey pretzels with cheese sauce later in the day.
Upon entering Main Street USA, my first quest of the day is always to find the beloved Mayor of Main Street to have my picture made with. I do not know why I am so fascinated by this, but the Mayor is always smiling and maybe it is contagious; after all, we are at “the happiest place on Earth”. I love all the building facades and shopping arcades on Main Street. It just stirs with excitement and magic in this original Disney park. Check out the huge balloons with Mickey ears inside; very cute!
The park, comprised of six whimsical lands, was quite slow the day we were there, so ride times were not bad at all; twenty minutes was the longest we had to wait for anything. Our fast passes were for my most cherished ride, the “Haunted Mansion”, “Splash Mountain”, and “Big Thunder Mountain Railroad”.
A first for me today was to see the “Philharmagic” show and I absolutely loved it! Donald Duck puts on Mickey Mouse’s conductor hat and the story takes you through Disney movie songs with some interactive things along the way including splashes of water and scents of flowers.
Other things we were able to do since the crowds were minimal were the “Magic Carpets of Aladdin”, “Tea Cups”, “Pirates of the Caribbean”, “Astro Orbiter”, “Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin”, “Peter Pan’s Fligh”, and “Dumbo the Flying Elephant”t. We also ventured into Pete’s Silly Sideshow for photo opportunities with Minnie Mouse and Daisy Duck. Their costumes are adorable; you will not want to miss this. The “Carousel of Progress” is a slow moving ride, in an air conditioned theater, that moves you through past decades showing the progress of household gadgets and the family as a whole. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this ride.
My dinner consisted of Casey’s Corner chili cheese dog and fries…delicious! The highlight of the day was taking in the Festival of Fantasy parade with the wide array of Disney characters on colorful and flashy floats. Try to get a spot on the parade route a little early because you will want to take dozens of pictures. The parade music was stuck in my head for the rest of the day, but it was worth it. The Main Street Electrical Parade at nighttime parade was fun and unique, but the Celebrate the Magic light show displayed on the castle and fireworks did not live up to the hype for me. I left disappointed.
Animal Kingdom is an enormous park and best visited early in the morning. On our day to visit, the park was extremely crowded with school groups and bus tours. The sun was scorching and we were sweating and miserable by 10:00AM. Animal kingdom has exotic animals, thrill rides, and many unique adventures with tons and tons of walking.
This was my first time visiting Dinoland where we rode the “Primeval Whirl” (with our fast pass) and had pictures made with Goofy and Pluto. Dinoland has dinosaur facts posted all over which I found interesting plus they offer a great gift shop.
We watched “Finding Nemo the Musical”, which is a show complete with puppeteers, great special effects, and dancers that journey through the audience as well as on the stage. My daughters rode “Expedition Everest” and gave this roller coaster an A+; they think it is the best ride of all the four Disney parks. The best part of this park for me was “Tough to Be A Bug”, a 3-D film with virtual effects that shows all the ways bugs work in our life and how they are needed. Things such as the audience getting swatted with a fly swatter and sprayed with bug spray give us a chance to see what it feels to be in their shoes. The termites exiting the theater is the best part!
Designed with adults in mind, Epcot is comprised of Future World and the World Showcase. Future World houses attractions showcasing land, sea, imagination, energy, technology, and communication. The World Showcase consists of eleven represented countries where you can eat, shop, and be entertained by authenticity. Here you can explore cultural heritage, entertainment, and have a whole lot of fun. Typically we would have fast passes and explore a little of everything but for this evening visit, we played a game of “Taylor and Carly explore eleven countries in two hours” before the evening’s light show. We did break for an ice cream in Italy and a currywurst dog in Germany. Epcot has a large evening crowd over in the World Showcase and the park is not the cleanest of the evening hours. Compared to the pristine and sparkly clean Magic Kingdom, this was a bit of a disappointment. In fact, many workers were just standing around talking to each other rather than doing their duties.
Starting in Mexico, Carly and Taylor took the boat ride “Gran Fiesta Starring the Three Caballeros” which was having a malfunction with no sound during the first half of our ride. Our boat got jammed up and we just piled up with all the others until time to hop off. In Norway we took our traditional troll picture and at China the girls meditated in front of the Temple of Heaven. In Germany, we checked out the fancy beer steins and unique tees in a gift shop and Italy gave us beautiful flowers and architecture to admire. The American Adventure provided us with a photo displaying proud Americans (that’s us!) and in Japan we shopped for anime and our favorite Hello Kitty items. Morocco, one of my favorite countries to hang out at Epcot in, we had pictures made with a shop cast member who welcomed the opportunity and company. In France we tried on expensive perfumes and treated ourselves to homemade ice cream at L’artisan Des Glaces. The United Kingdom offered signature “Keep Calm and Carry On” merchandise and finally in Canada we bid the night adieu by singing “O, Canada!” in front of the Hotel du Canada. We copped a spot in the UK to watch the light show on the water that included fireworks and music and with a magical Disney nature movie/show displayed on a huge globe with dazzling lights. This was a real treat!
Going to all four Walt Disney World parks in three days is doable but extremely tiring; especially when you consider the heat factor. I suggest Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios be done in one day and a full day dedicated to both Epcot and Magic Kingdom. If you get tired, go to your hotel for a few hours in the middle of the day so you can rest up for the evening festivities. Reapply sunscreen often and stay hydrated.
FYI: Once you pay parking for the day at Disney ($17), you are free to go to other parks at any time that day and park for free on the same ticket.
Tip: Characters you may see at Hollywood Studios include Minnie & Mickey Mouse, Phineas & Ferb, Mike & Sulley, Stars of Disney Junior, Toy Story Friends, Stars of Cars, and Disney Pals.
Hint: Do not bother staying for the fireworks at Magic Kingdom. They are unimpressive and you will be fighting a huge crowd to exit the park and for the monorail as that is the only way to get back to the parking lot.
Tip: When visiting Frontierland, be sure to check out the Johnny Depp look-alike at Pirates of the Caribbean.
Tip: When eating at the Disney parks, ask for a free tap water, it is free plus you can save a few dollars from buying bottled water.
Hint: Stop by a dollar store and pick up some cheap glow in the dark items. Disney rolls out the glowing souvenirs at dusk and they are highly popular and way expensive. Surprise your kids with them!