My family and I recently came back from a week in Florida. We spent Thanksgiving with my uncle who lives there and had a great time catching up. While there, we also took in some of the local scenery. We walked along the beach, window-shopped at various stores (Hulk Hogan’s beach shop was a pleasant surprise to me!), and soaked up the refreshing, warm Floridian sunlight (November days without cold and snow was something I had never experienced before). The major highlight of my vacation, though, was visiting one of Florida’s most famous locales, the “Most Magical Place on Earth,” Disney World!
There were many amazing rides, attractions, and other delights at Disney World; I felt a bit overwhelmed at times by all there was to see and do, but I was able to have a great deal of fun just the same. We only had a limited time to visit, but what I was able to see definitely made a big impression on me. The following list is of five attractions that I thought were the most memorable from my visit. One small note: I only visited a small portion of the World, so the list will reflect what I was able to take in, which included Tomorrowland and Liberty Square at the Magic Kingdom and Future World at Epcot. My family and I are considering another visit to Disney World in the future to check out some of the other attractions we missed this trip. I can’t wait!
What better way is there to start off this list than with the first ride I took in at Epcot? This ride is one heck of an introduction to Disney’s educational utopia and a fairly epic experience in itself. I didn’t expect that Epcot’s signature gigantic golf ball (Actually, it’s a geodesic sphere, but I kept imagining a gigantic Tiger Woods hitting it off a tee; would the Gulf of Mexico be considered a water hazard?) would be home to a ride, but sure enough, my dad and I went inside the ball and came out the other side feeling that we had just witnessed something very uniuqe. The ride itself is a brief travelogue though Earth’s history, making various stops at mankind’s accomplishments and placing a heavy focus on advancements in communication. Each point in history is acted out by Audio-Animatronic robots with lifelike movements; my favorite robots included the Egyptian stamping a message onto a papyrus scroll and Michaelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling. It was a great short ride; not bad for a golf ball!
These two attractions have a lot in common: both are based on Pixar films (Monsters Inc. and Finding Nemo respectively), both feature characters talking to and interacting with the audience, and both are very funny! We visited the “Laugh Floor” in the Magic Kingdom first. The monsters have learned that laughs generate more power than screams, so they have set up a vaudville-type comedy show in the human world. A few cameras have been placed throughout the theater where the show is housed and at various points the cameras focus on a few audience members who are shown on the big screen for the monsters to interact with. This can lead to some very bizarre, cute, and genuinely chuckle-worthy moments. For instance, one of the featured acts was a rapid-fire retelling of the Monsters Inc. story with various audience members standing in for the characters. The part near the end where the camera was cutting back and forth between each audience member involved got big laughs; I was amazed that all of those rapid-fire cuts didn’t give me a case of whiplash!
We visited “Turtle Talk with Crush” after going through “The Seas with Nemo and Friends” at Epcot (we also checked out the aquarium - there was an impressive collection of fish, sharks, stingrays, coral, and other denizens of undersea life- an attraction I highly recommend if you ever visit). The Finding Nemo star who specializes in surfer-speak communicates through a “hydrophone” to the audience (he apparently believes we all live in a “people tank”) and answers questions about turtles and other sea creatures. Just seeing his interactions with the youngest audience members made me smile because I could tell he is very good with children. He made both the kids and their parents feel quite happy.
In Liberty Square at the Magic Kingdom, there is a show dedicated to the Presidents of the United States. All forty-four of them, from Washington to Obama, as well as the First Ladies, are featured in a moving tribute to the country’s highest office. Before the show began, we were able to enjoy replicas of various presidential artifacts (I was especially impressed with George W. Bush’s Inauguration cowboy boots) as well as some of the First Ladies’ outfits in the Hall’s lobby. The show itself was very interesting: a twenty-minute film narrated by Morgan Freeman (He can make anything interesting, can’t he?) went over the history of the Presidency and the effect the men who have filled the position have had on America. Toward the show’s end, a gathering of Audio-Animatronic models of all the Presidents was presented; the Abraham Lincoln model gave the Gettysburg Address, and the Barack Obama model (voiced by the Prez himself!) gave a few closing thoughts. This show was very patriotic and moving to me; it was certainly one of the highlights of my time in Florida.
Ellen Degeneres is probably best known these days for voicing Dory in Finding Nemo and having a popular (and hilarious, I might add) talk show. You might even remember her old sitcom Ellen. When she was still starring in that show, she also appeared alongside Bill Nye (The Science Guy; Science still rules! Check out this classic energy episode for a “not that bad” jolt of info.) in one of Epcot’s oldest attractions. First, there was an introductory video in a movie theater-like lobby. The gist of the introductory video is this: Ellen falls asleep in her apartment while watching Jeopardy! and has a nightmare in which she doesn’t know a thing about energy. Luckily, Bill Nye shows up and promises to take her and the audience on a whirlwind tour through the world of energy, covering the different energy types, where they come from, and what we can do to ensure they and other alternate sources of power are still around for years to come.
After the introductory video, we passed through a set of doors and were invited to sit in several theater-like seats that then divided into several vehicles on tracks. As they began to separate and move, we were all transported back in time to a prehistoric setting as Bill Nye explained how the dinosaurs turned into fossil fuels - the start of our energy sources. Jungle foliage dotted the rocky landscape, an erupting volcano boomed in the background, and all manner of dinosaurs sqwuaked and scampered about. I recognized a Stegosaurus battling a T-rex in a recreation of a scene from Fantasia, a detail I thought was very cool. One of the dinos even tried taking a bite out of an Audio-Animatronic version of Ellen (she hurled some pretty good one liners at the dino as we went by)! I was greatly impressed with the level of detail the Disney Imagineers gave to this part of the ride, and it was one of my favorite images from my time at Disney World. The rest of the ride continued with more information about energy and how to save it; this part played out like a vintage episode of Bill’s old show with a lot of memorable set pieces and interesting presentations of large chunks of facts and figures. The entire attraction was very well done and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
1. The Holiday character parade (whose name I forget; They change so often anyway that I’m not sure the name even matters!)
Toward the end of our day at the Magic Kingdom, we saw a parade of costumed Disney characters and floats as they made their way through the center of the park. It was cool seeing so many Disney and Pixar characters I loved all together in one spectacular celebration. Mickey and Minnie led the parade and were followed by a series of themed floats grouping together seemingly every character in the Disney universe. I remember seeing: Lilo and Stitch; Ariel and Prince Eric; Woody, Buzz, Jessie, and Bullseye; Donald, Goofy, and Pluto; Pinochio, Jiminy Cricket, J. Worthington Foulfellow (the fox), and Gideon (the cat); and a host of other characters. To me, it had all of the pomp and pagentry of the Macy’s parade, and it was set to a peppy song about celebration that was fun to listen and dance to. My mom got a few choice photos of the parade; I can’t wait to see them!
Disney World was incredible and definitely worth the 22-year wait. There is still so much there that I still want to see and do, but this first trip left a great first impression. I’m up for an encore! If you’ve ever been to Disney World (or any other Disney park for that matter), how did your experience compare to mine? What were your favorite rides/attractions/ characters? How does Universal compare to Disney? Let me know in the comments, and may all your dreams come true!