There are few things I love in this world more than Disney. (Well, my family and Jesus, blah blah blah.) But when it comes to straight up commercialism– Disney is my fave.
It started when I was very little.
Mama and Daddy decided that even though my brother was due to be born in a few months, I needed to meet The Mouse. And meet him I did. We spent a week at Fort Wilderness in Disney World.
For those of you that have not experienced Fort Wilderness in lieu of some plastic-y hotel room, you are missing out. Fort Wilderness is full of rough-hewn logs, wood chip walkways, heavy green trees, cabins, tents and for some reason it always smells like a campfire just lit up. (Liz has some great Ft. Wilderness memories!)
Daddy set up our tent (yes, a tent with a pregnant woman and 3 year old). I didn’t want the bugs to get me, so my doll and I sat on the car. (Did we really drive that thing all the way to Florida?!)
We went to the petting zoo and met baby goats.
We had a character breakfast aboard a real-life-pretend River Boat.
We even went to River Country, Fort Wilderness’ very own water park. (Which doesn’t exist anymore…*sniff*)
Then as if that wasn’t enough, we jumped on the ferry and headed to the Magic Kingdom.
I honestly don’t remember much of this 3year old trip. But 6 years later when we went back with my baby brother in tow, I felt like I was returning home! My first Disney trip made a big impression.
If you’re planning your first Disney vacation…I think the best thing to remember is that Disney World is all about “the experience”. It’s not just a theme park or a long line of roller coasters to ride. Disney does details better than anyone. And they want (in my opinion) to make every detail of your vacation magical.
It shows up in the resorts. Prime example is our trip to Fort Wilderness. It wasn’t just a hotel (obviously). It wasn’t even just a campground–we got to feed goats, we roasted marshmallows, they have their own dinner theater, a camp sing-a-long at night, a movie under the stars and even their own magical water light parade! We could have stayed there and never visited a park and would have had the time of our lives!
The magic shows up in the parks. This isn’t a place where you run from ride to ride. You need to walk slowly. If you don’t you might miss the sparkling lighted ground at Epcot. You might miss the 30 foot tall vine woman at Animal Kingdom. You might miss out on being the Grand Marshall in the parade. You might miss the strolling character actors at
MGM Hollywood Studios. Don’t think of Disney as a place you go “for the kids”, think of it as an adventure vacation–full of excitement and surprises!
Now, before I do an altar call, let’s get onto some Disney planning tips. I have to admit, I’ve only planned 3 Disney trips–one when I was a Senior in High School (not sure how much I actually did), one for my honeymoon (think dh did most of that) and then our Disney Cruise (which btw, DAY FOUR IS UP!).
However, I’ve been bookoos of times, used to lived there (and go for free *gah*) so I’ll share with you what I do know…
My biggest (and definitely most random) tips–
1. Stay on the property. Don’t get sucked into staying FIVE! MINUTES! FROM! EAST! GATE! It’s a total rip. They never have enough buses at the right times. There are ghastly rooms and it just depresses you every time you leave the little bubble of Disney. Get a hotel on property. They have inexpensive ones that are fabu. Plus you get perks for staying on property.
2. When you enter the park go to the right first. Almost everyone goes to the left. If you go right, everything will be empty. Then start walking counter-clockwise. You’ll hit everyone eventually, but you’ll have smooth-sailing for awhile. Also, go when it opens. Sometimes they do a big opening ceremony. It’s fun.
3. Get a map and special event/times guide at the front gate of each park. This will show you the parade route, the times for all the special & regular shows and the location of all the restrooms.
4. The best time to go to Disney is NOT during Spring Break (which incidentally is really the 4-6 weeks surrounding your Spring Break) and it is NOT summer. Go in the spring or fall. Or right after the holidays…not during. (When it’s peak times at Disney, there will be a million extra people in Orlando. Not fun.) The best time to go in my opinion is during a special event–the Food & Wine Festival, Garden Festival, Star Wars Weekend, Night of Joy, etc. It’s double the magic!
5. If you’re a family with pre-schoolers, check out Disney’s preschool site. They’ve done some good stuff for preschool families–perks, special maps and events. We went in 2006 and my niece got to play Duck Duck Goose with Mickey Mouse. It was pretty sweet. And don’t forget to check out their baby-care stations. WOW. The one at Animal Kingdom was better than my nursery at home. There were private nursing rooms!
6. Disney Dining–totally worth it.
(head over to Jen’s for more Disney Magic!)