Disney World

Disney World: the most magical place on Earth. Never forget this statement. It’s true, even at the age of 31. I know that people call it the happiest place on Earth, but that also means it is truly magical, too. I am a long time Disneyland veteran, going at least twice a year from the time I was 11 until the age of 25. I even performed with my Middle School and High School marching bands (Go Castle Park Trojans) marching down main street. I loved Disneyland.

Then, I moved to WA and lost my easy access. I haven’t been since 2007, and was really jealous of all my CA friends whenever they posted to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Especially when the new Star Tours was introduced in 2010. Then I got lucky! My day job was sending me to Florida for a conference, and our fearless editor/owner, Gareth Von Kallenbach, asked “How would you like to go to Disney World?” Jackpot!

So being my first time at Disney World, I wanted to check out The Magic Kingdom. Great choice. At the Magic Kingdom, you’ve got all the things that made you love Disney as a child, and as an adult. The first stop I made was in Tomorrowland. This is where I was expecting, hoping, to find Star Tours. To my dismay, it was not there. But the other staples were there, including the People Mover, Space Mountain and all the rest. But I was looking forward to the show. In Disneyland, I grew up with Captain Eo (which I still think they should release on Blu-Ray/DVD, come on Disney. Get to it.). Then they changed it to Honey, I Shrunk the Audience. Good show, but I still love Eo. But I was not sure what to expect at Disney World.

I have to say, Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor was one of the highlights of my trip. Probably because it was new to me; something I had not experienced at a Disney theme park in the past. The show plays off of the discovery from Monsters, Inc. that laughter makes a better energy source than screams. Laugh Floor harnesses this for an interactive experience where the animated monsters on the screen tell jokes, sometimes badly, and involve all the audience. You also have the opportunity to text jokes before you enter the theater, and they might be used during the show (with credit to you of course). Definitely worth the stop, with or without young ones.

The rest of Magic Kingdom is basically Disneyland, which is not necessarily a bad thing. With mainstays such as Thunder Mountain Railroad, The Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean and Cinderella’s Castle it brought me back to my childhood and good times with family and friends.

So for the uninformed, as I was, it’s important to know that Disney World is not just one park. It is actually four, and should be properly called Walt Disney World Resort. It consists of the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom. Unfortunately, I only had time to visit two of them. Upon discovering that Star Tours was Hollywood Studios, it was clear which park I was going to visit next.

Hollywood Studios is like a whole other planet compared to Magic Kingdom. I was amazed at the different feel to the park as compared to my experience with Disney parks. It is vastly different. But in a great way. With the exception of a few areas of the park, I felt like I was transported back to the 1950s, with a lot of Disney sprinkled in. I did not have a lot of time at the park, so I only had the chance to visit two attractions. I am sure you guessed by now that the first one I went to was Star Tours: The Adventure Continues. The original Star Tours: The Ultimate Adventure had you going on a tour with a new droid pilot that accidentally brings you into the middle of the action after Episode VI: Return of the Jedi.

In The Adventure Continues, C-3PO and R2-D2 take you on a turbulent excursion trip across the galaxy t safely return a member of the Rebel Alliance. The ride is set between Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and Episode IV: A New Hope. The exterior of the ride is inspired by an Ewok village on the forest moon of Endor, including a giant AT-AT walker. To say this ride made me feel like a kid again is a vast understatement. I had this huge boyish grin on my face, and so desperately wanted to ride it again. But alas, I only had so much time so I made my way to the next attraction I wanted to check out during my short visit.

The Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular is a must visit for anyone who loves to see how some of these action movies are actually made. The Stunt Spectacular is a live amusement show based on many of the popular stunt scenes from Raiders of the Lost Ark. It starts with a recreation of the Peruvian temple scene from the beginning of the movie, and segues into many of the other stunts, including showing how they transition from one scene to another using minimal set spaces. It also includes audience participation where they get to be involved in the scenes as bystanders in the streets of Cairo. Not only was the attraction fun and entertaining, but also educational at the time. It is a great show for adults and children alike.

One of the great new features that has been put into place is the FastPass+. So, the original FastPass allowed you to visit an attraction at any of the parks, scan your Disney World pass and then you get a time that you could come back to the attraction and jump into the FastPass line where you would have a significantly shorter wait to get onto the ride. This was a good feature, but it was limited. You could only hold a FastPass to one attraction at a time, and the time window that you had to return was usually a couple hours away.

With the new FastPass+, you have the ability to schedule up to three FastPasses. The best part is, that these can be done up to 30 days in advance of your visit, or 60 days if you book a stay at a Disney Resort hotel. You are limited to three FastPass selections per day at one theme park. The best part is, as you use the FastPass, you can then select another one for later in the day. This was extremely useful for me as I had only a finite amount of time. When I arrived to the Haunted Mansion at my selected time in Magic Kingdom, the regular line wait was 75 minutes. I was able to make it through the line and complete the ride all in 20 minutes.

With the new FastPass+, Disney World becomes more efficient than ever. Not only can you schedule the FastPass for the rides, but the parades as well. They have areas set up at the parades especially for FastPass+. You get a great view of the parades, and it made viewing the legendary Main Street Electrical Parade easy.

Disney World is a great place to go, no matter what age you are. But take a bit of advice… it is well worth it to get a multi-day park hopper pass. Combined with the FastPass+, you will have a vacation you will never forget.