Daddy’s home, I have returned from vacation and have taken my rightful place behind my keyboard, to entertain all you cube monkeys clamoring for some type of release throughout your shitty day. I am happy to be back, I missed you all.
Well, it happened, I went to Disney and got sucked directly into the magic and mystique of this whole operation. I am officially a “Disney Guy”. I didn’t want it to happen, I made fun of these “weirdos” who loved Disney, went every year, wore the shirts, posted on social media about how great it is. I did all those things and I feel no shame whatsoever, to be honest, I have already looked into planning my next Disney vacation for some time next year.
My wife and I arrived before Stevie Ray and his girlfriend showed up so we took some time to explore the Disney properties and not go into the parks, we wanted our first experience in the parks to be with all four of us. I took the bride to Disney’s Boardwalk and the Yacht and Beach Club, we strolled around and right away I was in awe. There’s not a piece of garbage on the ground, no grass clippings on the sidewalk, everything is manicured perfectly. I hadn’t been back to Disney since 2004, I was eleven years old at the time, but when we walked the Boardwalk, or stepped fit into the Yacht Club Hotel, a force of nostalgia hit me like something I had never experienced in my life.
Before I climb into the parks, food, transportation and all the important things, I need to state some important things, some might be extremely obvious. Disney is outrageously expensive, from the park tickets, to the meals, to the resort and parking fees, it’s a lot. Yes, Disney charges you resort and parking fees while you are paying to stay at their hotels and use their “complimentary” transportation services, Mickey has his grubby hands so deep into America’s pockets that he will keep charging because he knows, we will keep paying. I saved up money for this trip for months, I went with around 2k in spending money, I thought it’d be enough, it’s not, you need more. I have no clue how families of four or five afford Disney, it was just me and my wife and it was hard enough. What I will admit is, spending all that money is one-hundred percent worth it. The beauty about getting this first trip under your belt is that the first timer factor is gone and you know how to execute this trip with more efficiency in the future, I know we sure will.
The “Magic Bands”, speaking of efficiency, Disney knows what they are doing with these little numbers. Upon check-in, your magic band will be activated, it is a wristband that you wear throughout your time at Disney. It gets you into the park, into your resort, holds your fast passes and most importantly, links up to your debit or credit card. What a move, you are having fun enjoying yourself, flashing that wristband at every pretzel, beer, stuffed animal, tee-shirt and pin stand from park to park not realizing this is actually costing you a boat load, you will realize it the next morning when Mickey and Minnie are lining their pockets with your $527 that you just spent on Mickey Ice Creams and Diet Coke’s in a Darth Vader helmet.
Our first park was Animal Kingdom, I give Animal Kingdom a 4.2/5. A very respectable rating, in my opinion they have the two best rides on all of Disney property, Expedition Everest and Avatar Flight of Passage. Flight of Passage is the greatest ride I have ever been on in . my life, it is a 3-D virtual reality experience, that provides twists, turns, drops, climbs and gorgeous views throughout the world of Avatar. I have never seen the movie and I still loved this ride, you get strapped into some type of Avatar flying pony and away you go, I wouldn’t recommend it to young children, so definitely check out the height requirements for getting on this one. Pandora, which is the Avatar land is breath taking to see in person, I can’t imagine how much money it cost to re create it. One ride that I would avoid unless you can get on it without a wait is “Avatar’s Navi River Journey”, if you have to wait more than 30-40 mins I would suggest skipping this and attempting to ride Flight of Passage twice. In addition to those rides, Animal Kingdom has the Kilimanjaro Safari where you can see live animals in a simulated habitat, up close and personal. We were able to see lions, zebras, giraffes and other extraordinary creatures and we were literally five feet away from some of these awesome beings. I was really bummed that the Kali River Rapids was closed, that is a phenomenal water ride but it was under going some renovations.
We ate our lunch at Flame Tree BBQ and as far as quick service counter food in Disney goes, this was pretty good in my opinion. They have salads, sandwiches and BBQ plates and with all of the Disney counter service locations, you can re-fill your water bottles throughout the day. Make sure you download the My Disney Experience App, you can order counter service food via the app and have it waiting for you to pick-up and you avoid all the lines completely.
After exploring the rest of the park we ate dinner at Yak and Yeti Restaurant, it is an Asian cuisine and offers a wide variety of menu options. The four of us split everything and it was a phenomenal strategy, we were able to share some of the Korean Pork, Veggie Lo Mein, Sushi dish and a Honey Chicken. The restaurant is very detailed inside and you are able to take some cool photos if you feel the need, I would recommend eating here.
If you have time to stay late in the park, I would do it, the light and firework show at Animal Kingdom is centered around the tree of life. We were lucky enough to catch a sweet tribute to the Lion King, that was projected onto the giant Tree of Life that stands in the middle of Animal Kingdom.
Day two, we headed over to Epcot. We stayed at the Caribbean Beach Hotel and they have the new Disney Skyline service which transports you via air gondola to Epcot and Hollywood Studios, this is the ideal form of Disney transportation. It is quick, efficient and spacious. They need to figure out how to have this go from every hotel to every park, I don’t know how realistic that is but the Disney Bus system is becoming over-crowded and too long of a wait, in some cases, we found it more efficient to Uber/Lyft than we did to take the Disney Bus.
Epcot was an awesome experience, although Animal Kingdom as potentially the two best rides at Disney, the overall experience of Epcot was slightly better for me, I give Epcot a 4.4/5. If you are into education and mixing in a few thrills and phenomenal food, then this is the park for you. First off, Soarin’ Around The World is a phenomenal ride, the build-up would be a bit scary for kids but once you are on the ride, it is awesome and not too scary at all. A young girl next to me was petrified and I gave her a pep talk, told her how scared I am of everything and she would be fine, she laughed and loved the ride. All in a day’s work for a blogger who cares about the happiness of humanity above all else. The Seas with Nemo and Friends is a very cool experience, once you finish the slow moving animated ride you can walk through a mini aquarium and see everything from Manatees to Shark with everything in-between.
Mission Space is a wild experience, they have two missions, the orange and the green. I did the green mission but the rest of my crew, including Stevie Ray went on the orange mission. Kids can do the green mission no problem but from what my wife and Stevie Ray and his lovely girlfriend told me, the orange mission is not for kids or people who get claustrophobic easily.
Now, my favorite part of Epcot is the various countries around the Epcot pavilion. The food is outstanding and the various selection of gifts, educational opportunities and replicas of landmarks is truly spectacular. For snacks make sure you check out the Brats in Germany, the tacos in Mexico, the Beef Wellington in the U.S. and the ricotta stuffed chicken in Italy. We ate at Via Napoli in the Italian section for dinner, and it was incredible. The most authentic part of the countries are the Disney cast members who work there, they are required to be from that particular country to work there. Our waiter was from Naples, where parts of my family is from so we immediately bonded over that. The four of us split an antipasto, two pizzas, eggplant parm and fettuccine alfredo; everything was delicious, in addition, I felt this was some of the best table service we received on Disney property.
Epcot, also offers a phenomenal end of the night fireworks experience that I suggest you try to watch. The beauty of it is that you can leave the park and head over to the Boardwalk, Yacht and Beach Club, go for a boat ride and still be able to have a beautiful view of the fireworks. I don’t know how excited children will be with Epcot but for adults, this is a must do while at Disney, it’s a full day experience and the four of us walked nearly 30,000 steps on this day, it’s tiring but well worth it.
Okay, UNPOPULAR OPINION ALERT INCOMING: Magic Kingdom is the worst of the four Disney Parks. Yes, it is the most iconic with the castle and rides such as Space, Big Thunder and Splash Mountain but aside from that and the nostalgic restaurant Casey’s Corner, it falls short… for adults. For kids, this is clearly the best park, there are characters to meet all over, phenomenal opportunities for character meals, a bunch of slow moving kiddy rides but for adults I think it falls short in comparison to the other parks. Now, that’s not saying it is a bad experience by any stretch of the imagination, I just feel like if you do the three mountains, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Pirates and Haunted Mansion, you can call it a day. Main Street USA is great for shopping and grabbing a hot dog and a slice of Americana at Casey’s but then I think you can wait until night time to go back to the Magic Kingdom and catch the fireworks, parade and for some reason it looks so much more magical and has a wow factor at night. With saying all that, it is still an above average experience and I give Magic Kingdom a 3.74/5.
Space Mountain is a classic, you have to do it, it is the perfect mix of fear, excitement and thrill. I suggest fast passing this ride and also going straight there at rope drop so you can ride it twice, I would say the same about Splash Mountain but unfortunately it was closed for refurbishments while we were there.
We did love our dining experience at the Magic Kingdom. For lunch, as I mentioned we went to Casey’s Corner, I am a huge baseball fan and I used to go here as a child so this was an absolute no brainer. Hot dogs, fries, giant sodas, all well worth it while Jim, the piano player serenades you during the meal.
For dinner, we went an expensive route and went to “Be Our Guest” it is in a replica of the Beast’s castle and it is stunningly beautiful and although the three course meal is extremely expensive, the food is phenomenal. I had lamb chops and the rest of the group got filet mignon, the desserts were remarkable and the appetizers weren’t too much or too little. Our waiter was awesome and funny and I got a light up chalice with sweet lemonade pouring through it, a drink fit for a blogging king.
Another great part of Magic Kingdom is the light and fireworks show to cap off the evening, the centerpiece for this show is Cinderella’s Castle at the center of the park. You can see this extravaganza from virtually anywhere in the Magic Kingdom. You need to either stay all day or return to the park to check this out, if you only plan on seeing one firework show during your time at Disney, this is the one to see.
Our final day in the parks was my hands-down favorite. Hollywood Studios brought the thunder and this park is as close to perfect as you can get, I give it a 4.92/5.
You want rides, shows, themed attractions, they have it all, this park would be great without the additions of Toy Story Land and Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge but that pushes it over the finish line and is clearly the best park in Walt Disney World.
Tower of Terror, Rock N Roller Coaster, Star Tours are all classics that you need to check out, we rode Terror twice and I would have rode Rock N’ Roller all day until I passed out. You also get great shows here, Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular (the best show in Disney) is complimented with Muppet Vision 3D, The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast stage shows are worth a trip and a great place to sit down and cool down after a tiring day walking through the parks.
Toy Story Land is fun as hell ands if you are a twenty-something year . old then this park is a punch to your gut filled with nostalgia. The rides aren’t scary but they are fun for people of any age and kids will love it. From the giant Woody and Buzz figures to the three Toy Story themed rides filled with Toy Story music, it is an awesome experience.
I am not a HUGE Star Wars fan, I like the films, I have seen them all, the original trilogy with Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford are iconic and phenomenal achievements in film making to be honest. I wanted to say that because I thought Galaxy’s Edge would only be awesome to the die-hard Star Wars fans, I was 100% wrong. This addition to Hollywood Studios is simply breathtaking and you will have a smile on your face the entire time you are there. Darth Vader and Storm Troopers are walking around interacting with guests, the food is great, the Star Wars themed drinks are awesome and the to-scale models of Star Wars vehicles, buildings and droids is, for lack of a better word, unbelievable. It cost Disney ….. ONE BILLION dollars to build Galaxy’s Edge and oddly enough, it was worth it, they will make their money back 100 times over.
Smuggler’s Run puts you in the Millennium Falcon as you are assigned the position of Pilot, Gunner or Engineer and you actually fly, fire and navigate your way through the galaxy, ensuring you will never have the same ride experience twice. The line was outrageous for this ride so we elected to go as single riders and do this ride separately, well worth it and we only waited roughly 30 minutes to take our seat on Han Solo’s classic aircraft.
Now, Rise of the Resistance is hands down the most outrageous, immersive, realistic ride that I have ever been on. I was shocked by the realism, the acting, the animatronics, the visuals and the to-scale model of some of the most iconic Star Wars imagery. I don’t want to give ANY spoilers here because you need to experience this for yourself. The boarding process is difficult for this, you need to have the my Disney Experience App and as soon as you get into the park you need to sign up for your boarding group, Disney guarantees that roughly 70 boarding groups will ride everyday and after that it’s the luck of the draw. We were high up there, boarding group 114 but we got lucky and got on towards the end of the park’s day. We were unaware of the process and that’s why next time I go I will have so many more tips to make sure we execute better. Do yourself a favor and ride this ride as many times as humanly possible, it is an unreal and worthwhile experience.
The food in this park is great too, there are great snack options like corn dogs, popcorn, churros and hot dogs along with great beer selection and small plates at a brewery located near muppet vision 3D. The Sci-Fi Dine In Theatre is an awesome experience, you eat in a model of a 1950’s vehicle and watch old drive-in films during your dining experience. We ate lunch at 50’s Prime Time Cafe, it is like stepping back in time and into the house of a 1950’s suburbia where your waiter treats you like an old family member who scolds you for having elbows on the table and makes you set the table. My wife didn’t finish all her vegetables and the waiter put them on a fork and fed them to her while blowing a train whistle.
For dinner we went to Disney Springs, formerly known as Downtown Disney and ate at Raglan Road Irish Pub. They have great, authentic Irish cuisine with an american-ized twist and offer live music and Irish dancing every night. Disney Springs is worth a trip and if you are adulting in Disney World I suggest doing Magic Kingdom for a half day and then heading to Disney Springs for the afternoon and nightlife. The shopping is awesome here, every store you could possibly think of is here, great bars, restaurants and attractions make it worth a trip .
I’ll be honest, the park experience is not relaxing, it is not your typical vacation experience, with saying that, it is the most fun that I have ever had. I am already outlining a potential return to Disney in 2021 with my bride, Stevie Ray, his girlfriend and two of our other friends. I have completely become one of these “Disney Weirdo-s” and I wear that title like a badge of honor. I cannot wait to go back to Disney World, I wish I could bottle up the smell of the air, pools, hotels and use them as candles around my house, there is something about Disney that you can’t put into words and you won’t understand it unless you attend the iconic destination and embrace it. It reminds you that there is moments of magic in life and its never to late to laugh like a kid, throw your hands up on a ride and laugh out loud with a Disney character who is slowly dying of heat exhaustion in a 250 pound Goofy costume.
It’s tiring, expensive and you return home feeling like the poorest person you know. You look at your bank account and want to vomit up your week long intake of over priced, pretzels, ice creams and popcorn and after doing so you immediately look to your savings account to see how many months you need to save to pay for another Disney trip. You will hover over your keyboard considering booking another trip and getting yelled at by your wife now in order to have another magical experience as early as next year. If I could never leave Disney, I would. Have I looked into becoming a monorail conductor or a balloon salesman, no, but I have considered it.
In a world where most of us are anxious, depressed, worried about money, worried about our country, the planet and our families well being, it is comforting to know that there is still a place you can escape to where for a brief period of time, your worries go away, you can laugh uncontrollably and be reminded what it was like to be a kid, hopefully you’ll be there with the people you love and you can smile in front of Cinderellas’s Castle and ask a very common question… “Is this Heaven”? NO, IT’S DISNEY WORLD!