In October, my mom, older sister, and I conjured up an idea for a quick girls’ trip to Disney World over a three-day weekend in January. I know what you’re thinking—what business do three grown-ass women have at Disney World?
My answer is this: all the business. All the business in the entire world. I didn’t realize this until rather recently, but I s’pose my family is what you might call Walt Disney World freaks. After scanning our photo albums, we calculated that this was our 9th trip to Disney World in 24 years (because they waited until I was born to take Rachel, haha suckaaaa).
To be fair, my grandparents lived just north of Orlando for a good portion of my childhood, so that’s why we went to Florida so often. While we visited them, it was like, “Well, I guess we’re in the neighborhooood, soooo….”—cut to my entire family plummeting down Splash Mountain.
I am super sentimental about Disney World; it’s so old-fashioned and yet timeless. I get the warm fuzzies when I’m there. Sure, I love the utopian feel—the streets are clean and safe; public transit is reliable, friendly, and free. The storefronts are meticulously decorated, the music carefully themed, and the rides enthralling. Don’t even get me started on the set dressing, because I could talk about it for weeks. (You guys know how strongly I feel about sets and life-size dioramas).
Whenever I visit, I feel as if I’m walking through the world’s largest interactive museum. Disney World doesn’t go for the cheap thrills. Instead, its rides offer an education of sorts—whether you’re learning about the endangered animals of the Savanna, how humans harvest various forms of energy, or the mechanics of building a car. Walt Disney himself was passionate about using imagination and play to learn, and the parks are an homage to that school of thought.
But there’s more to it than that.
Disney World itself has not changed much since I started visiting 20-odd years ago (with the exception of ride additions and park expansions), and I really believe that’s why people keep coming back for more. Adults want to ride the teacups and the flying elephants like they did as a child—and see the joy it brings their children. With Disney, you know you and your family are in good hands. (Like State Farm?)
And then I think, hey stupid, quit navel-gazing and get on The Pirates of the Caribbean already.
I know there are Disney haters, those who condemn its commercialization and overcrowding. To those haters, I say, talk to my Mickey Mouse glove-encased hand. Seriously. Let me have this.
But I digress.
For this past trip, due to work constraints, we had only two days to cram four Disney parks’ worth of rides, sights, and eats. To call our itinerary ambitious is an understatement. Warning: do not try this schedule at home. I broke down my recaps into four palatable installments, one per park. We begin with:
(nahhhhhh svenyaaaa bagithi baba…)
Walt Disney World’s newest park was first on our list. We were off and running at 9 a.m. to the newest ride, a rollercoaster called Expedition Everest. We quickly weaved through the short line—themed like a Himalayan base camp—and zipped aboard. We even got a FastPass so we could come back and ride it again in the afternoon with no wait.
Afterward, it was onto Kilimanjaro Safari to see some animals. A park favorite, this safari ride did not disappoint.
We rounded out Animal Kingdom with Rafiki’s Planet Watch and petting zoo, and one of my favorites across all four parks, “Dinosaur,” a thrill ride that travels back to the age of the dinos. Also, check out this camouflage leaf lady on stilts. Her arms were on stilts too, so she did some neat little dance moves. Dream job, or what?
Here’s us about to head into the base of the Tree of Life to watch the always adorable 3-D show, “It’s Tough to Be a Bug.” Perennial crowd-pleaser.
And the Tree of Life, throughout the years (you knew this was coming):
We had dinner reservations at Boma, an African-style buffet restaurant in the Animal Kingdom Lodge. The lodge itself was gorgeously designed and reminded me of the Jackson Lake Lodge in Grand Teton National Park. The floor-to-ceiling windows overlooked a savanna where zebras, giraffes, and warthogs grazed. Very cool dinner.
Stay tuned for Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Magic Kingdom recaps. Who’s with me?