Dill and I always look forward to family vacations with the Dimmitt family. When we were dating, we went to Las Vegas and saw the Grand Canyon, and last year we went on my first cruise experience. This year, we headed to Disney World! The last time I was here, I was about 15 years old and after that, Disneyland has been my place. Since then, there have been so many changes made at Disney World, I could barely recognize and remember each park. Perhaps the most unrecognizable was Hollywood Studios, since so much of it is under construction (more on that later).
We had four full days at the parks, so we had plenty of time to get things done.
I’m tackling two days in each post – which is A LOT. So let’s get started!
First of all, can we just appreciate magic bands? They link to your Photopass photos, Fastpasses, and if you’re staying at a Disney resort, your credit card.
Our first park to visit was Animal Kingdom. This park has had an odd history for me. The first time seeing the park was somewhat of a let down compared to the others since there wasn’t much to do there. They had Dinosaur, It’s Tough to Be a Bug (worst show ever, right?), Kali River Rapids and….not much else. We had the cool experience of being in the park after it closed for my dad’s company party. All I remember it riding Kali River Rapids 8 times in a row because I didn’t feel like getting stung by a 3D bee.
All that to say, now that Pandora has opened at Animal Kingdom, the expectations are raised. I’d seen several Instagram posts about the park when it first premiered this summer and heard nothing but good things about the rides and atmosphere. The first thing we did was race to get in line for Avatar Flight of Passage HOPING we would miss the long lines. We were wrong. After nearly two hours of standing in the sun, we were in…..the queue inside (not pictured here). Which was amazing and great even though most of it had been spoiled by Instagram posts and stories.
There’s so much detail in the lab and the floating animatronic Avatar is eerily lifelike. I just can’t imagine what it looks like moving underneath the blue skin. The ride itself was a huge surprise. We’d ridden similar rides like Soarin’ but it doesn’t compare to riding on your very own Banshee. There’s wind and sprays of water in your face and my favorite part: you can feel your Banshee breathing and beating it’s wings underneath you. If you make it to Pandora, the wait for Flight of Passage is WORTH IT.
Our last ride at AK that morning was Expedition Everest – which I closed my eyes for half of. The queue is still dusty and pretty dull but once you’re on the ride, it’s still so fun to hang over the edge of your broken track and fly backwards.
NEXT, we temporarily swapped parks and headed over to Hollywood Studios!
I was in full pin-trading mode this trip. These were my first cute little trades.
Our first Fastpass of the day was for Toy Story Mania, which is identical as far as I can tell to DCA’s version at Paradise Pier. Sadly, my cannon gun was broken and couldn’t aim above or below midpoint but a cast member was nice enough to offer a second ride.
If you haven’t heard, Hollywood Studios will be home to the newly planned Toy Story Land. Because I’m obsessed with Disney, before our visit, I watched a video showing the construction and design of the new Toy Story roller coaster Slinky Dog Dash – watch it here. It was fun seeing the construction walls up previewing the ride.
Just as exciting (but not pictured) is the Star Wars land and hotel they’re designing and building at the park as we speak.
The Voyage of The Little Mermaid stage show was so interesting. It was Stranger Things meets Disney with all of the laser effects used. Fun for the kids and definitely a nice break in the A/C.
Our final Fastpass went to Tower of Terror, the classic pre-Guardians of the Galazy version. To be honest, it was a little of a letdown after riding Mission Breakout, especially since it’s they added extra and more dramatic drops to the DCA version. This ride at WDW definitely needs some updates. The Twilight Zone video was fine and obviously meant to be dated to the hotel’s start but the elevator itself was so rickety as it pushed through to the other side of the building. I think I actually preferred staying in one elevator shaft in Mission Breakout and having different scenes open several times. I really hope WDW takes a note and eventually converts their ToT to Mission Breakout.
^ A Disney day at the park isn’t complete without a Mickey treat!
While shopping, we heard the March of the First Order music playing through the streets outside and we rushed to catch Stormtroopers led by Captain Phasma. With the music, weapons, and scripted lines towards park guests, they do a good job of making you feel like you’re in Star Wars under Empire rule.
^me, hoping the Stormtrooper wouldn’t notice.
Finally, we headed over to Animal Kingdom at night to ride Na’vi River Journey.
Think Pirates of the Caribbean boat ride but magically neon with no story-line. We felt torn because the creatures and plants of the ride were so exciting to see but the ride itself really doesn’t have a plot. The best part (and really only major event) was at the end, seeing an animatronic Avatar singing what would become the family’s anthem that week: the Shaman of Songs song (MA EYWAAAAAAA). But really, this avatar is amazing and so hard to believe it’s even possible to create. If you’re curious, here is a link to the scene so you can see it for yourself. The closer we got, the more real it seemed. It’s really something Disney and their Imagineers should be proud of.
It was the perfect ending to our first night – Something to get us pumped for the rest of the trip.
Are you still with me? Good because day 2 was our first full day at Magic Kingdom – the WDW best park ever.
^What is a family vacation without matching shirts?
^Can’t stop smiling when you’re in the happiest place on earth
I love Disneyland’s squatty castle to pieces. It will always be #1 in my heart. But Cinderella’s castle is SO PRETTY. There’s a lot more elegant detail on it and it’s huge. Like so tall.
Side not: Does anyone remember when Cinderella’s castle looked like a birthday cake?? Click here to see. I got to see it in person and my little kid self loved it.
^You know you have the same style when you accidentally show up wearing the exact same shirt (planned), shorts and accessory choice.
When I think about Magic Kingdom, I get hearts in my eyes, pixie dust day-dreaming, warm fuzzy feelings in me. This is what it’s all about. This is where you can walk through the magic of Disney.
^ Castle pin made by The Mermaid Harp
We got there first thing in the morning, in time for the rope drop. I loved seeing the castle up close before too many people arrived. The character show was super cute. Super fun.
But our main goal was to DASH to Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, so I was a little distracted.
SPEAKING OF WHICH. The Mine Train is a roller-coaster and the best addition to a park that is heavily focused on story/slower rides. The queue doesn’t even feel like a queue as you walk through the mines with so many characters, interactive games, and puzzles.
The ride itself has to be the smoothest roller coaster ride I’ve ever been on. If you know me, you know I was in a car accident in 2016 and I’ve been dealing with neck/upper back pain since then. And you’d also know that I LOVE roller coasters, and this injury has really hindered my ability to ride them. Before our Disney trip, I categorized a list of Disney rides based on my injury: 1. Rides I Can Ride 2. Rides I Might Be Able to Ride and 3. Rides I Can’t Ride. After reading reviews and watching POV videos on Youtube, I was happy to be able to ride this one. This ride’s atmosphere is similar to Thunder Mountain but instead of bumpy old train seats, you’re sitting with your partner in a barrel that smoothly swings from side to side – making every turn a thrill. Not to mention the ride includes an on-ride photo AND SLOW MOTION VIDEO of you on the ride! That is one thing I regret not buying from the Disney PhotoPass app. Please take a look at the on-ride photo and enjoy the sheer joy on our faces.
Other ride highlights from Monday are:
- The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
- Mickey’s Philhar Magic – which I totally thought would be outdated but it’s just as good as I remembered.
- The Haunted Mansion – sadly without the Nightmare Before Christmas decor for Halloween. Apparently they decorate this ride at WDW for the Christmas season instead, which is a CRIME.
- PeopleMover – totally forgot how relaxing this was and the fact that you ride NEXT to Space Mountain riders as they fly by.
- Carousel of Progress – this was my first time on this ride. It’s so outdated, it’s laughable but the theme song ended up becoming our theme song for the rest of Monday.
- Under the Sea – Journey of The Little Mermaid – similar to DCA’s version.
- Laugh Floor – The cast members’ delivery can be hit or miss but regardless, I’m officially a fan of this attraction and if you saw my Instagram stories, you saw that our family was picked for one of the jokes.
- Jungle Cruise
- Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
- Pirates of the Caribbean
Luckily, we had another day for Magic Kingdom reserved, so if we missed something, we could do it later in the week.
Also, the weather while we were there was pretty awful. Hot. Sticky. Humid.
So Mickey Bars saved us while we waited in lines
Something I was SO excited to see was Rapunzel’s tower. I was fully aware before going that it was a rest area mainly used for bathrooms (which, how dare they), but I was still happy to see Rapunzel represented somewhere in the parks. It’s not her fault that Frozen came out after Tangled quickly taking any and all thunder that was left (I’m not bitter).
We visited her area again on the last day at the parks. So, more on her little corner (including the cute hidden surprises within it) will be shown on the next Disney post. But for now, here’s what her tower looks like.
Something else I was excited to see was the Be Our Guest restaurant. I’d been warned that the inside is not as fancy as expected and that it had more of a Jason’s Deli feel (why they would do this, I have no idea). But the depth perception of the mansion outside was a little hilarious. It’s one thing to use trick depth perception with a single tower and a totally different thing to do it with an entire mansion. Part of what I love about Disney parks is the detail they put into each building structure, so having the Beast’s mansion too far away to see was disappointing.
We ended the night with the Fireworks Dessert Party on the Tomorrowland Terrace. After walking all. day. long. sitting in reserved chairs and eating endless desserts while you watch the Happily Ever After fireworks show at Cinderella’s Castle is the dream.
This is something I would definitely recommend for families or couples. The desserts were creative and so yummy. My favorite was the Gray Stuff cupcake (I was super bummed to miss the Gray Stuff at Be Our Guest so this was the perfect surprise!). Sadly, the only picture I took of the desserts was my sad attempt at cookie decorating at the cookie station. I don’t blame you for laughing.
The only downside of the dessert party is seeing the side of the castle. But my tired feet were so happy to get a break, they didn’t care.
And that wraps up the first two days at Walt Disney World! Did you make it through? I’m proud of you. And also probably friends with you already since that means you love Disney as much as I do.
I want to hear all about your Disney park experiences in the comments below.
Stay tuned for Day 3 and 4 coming up!