We love the Mouse. It is a family obsession. I refuse to apologize for it. No, there are no children in our party…all adults. And yet we are leaving for our Disneyworld vacation in a few weeks and the excitement is building. Why would we wish to spend our vacation in Walt Disney World? It is not just about Mickey, although he and assorted other Disney critters bring back very fond memories for me, and I am 63. [Donald and Chip and Dale are my faves.] The excitement of the opening ceremonies at The Magic Kingdom, waiting for Mickey to arrive on the steam locomotive with a singing and dancing entourage’, cannot be duplicated, no matter your age.
Although we have been planning this vacation with our two grown children and their spouses ostensibly to celebrate our 40th anniversary, we are just plain delighted to be going to a happy place with sun, water, beautiful resorts, fun rides, lovely landscaping, incredible exhibits, the wine and cheese festival, and fabulous restaurants. Who wouldn’t? We generally plan our six days around dinner reservations and make them months in advance–this method is highly recommended if you sign up for the Disney Dining Plan. Our first night in “the world” will be the Polynesian BBQ at the Polynesian Resort featuring lots of fire-roasted meats and delicacies topped off with their banana bread pudding with vanilla bean ice cream. Huge skewers of steak, shrimp, chicken and pork are brought to the table until even our heartiest eater can hold no more…
The steak house at Canada in Epcot, Le Cellier’, will be the next on our culinary stop. This is a hard place to book as it is popular with local Floridians looking for good beef as well as Disney visitors, so we opted for a lunch reservation to try it out. We chose The California Grill at the top of the Contemporary Resort Hotel for our most lavish dinner and booked a time that would enable us to see the closing fireworks at The Magic Kingdom from our lofty view. This is a 5-star restaurant and will require two of our dining plan full-service credits, but it is worth it. Sanaa at Animal Kingdom Villas is our last evening meal, a lovely African experience. We have dined at Sanaa previously and really enjoyed the ambiance of looking through the expansive glass windows to view grazing animals while we enjoy succulent dishes.
For those who lament long lines, they can be avoided by perfecting the art of how to “do the world, ” and our daughter-in-law Julie and daughter Kelly are experts. Because we are staying on-property, we have access to extended hours at the parks. During these times, it is possible to walk onto the more popular rides with ease. We also take advantage of the Fast Pass, grabbing slips from machines at popular rides with designated return times. For instance, California Soarin’ in EPCOT is super popular and one of our favorite virtual hang-gliding simulations. If we stop at The Lands building and acquire fast passes, we can enjoy other exhibits and less-popular rides while waiting for our reserved time to return. With fast passes in hand, we are ushered into a Fast Pass entrance and are quickly ushered to the front. This takes a bit of planning, but it prevents the frustration of waiting.
Julie has already drafted a schedule of what-to-do-when list for each of the four parks and the best days of our stay to attend which. She buys a handy guide to the World and also has found web sites that predict the heaviest traffic days for which parks and the best times to go. Because we take advantage of optimal times, it is also necessary to obtain Park Hopper passes so that we can go to any park or multiple parks on any day. This enables us also to return to our resort to relax or swim during the warmest part of the day and then return wherever and whenever we wish in the evenings.
For the optimum experience at Disney World, we also highly recommend staying “on property.” There are three levels of resort accommodations; we generally choose the level in the middle–but all three levels are Disney quality. This time, we are staying at Port Orleans Riverside, which has an old South decor. Each resort has its own flavor, cuisine, beauty, and amenities. Disney doesn’t know the meaning of the word cookie cutter. They strive to make each resort so unique that it is like time travel to another place and era. For instance, the fairly newest resort, The Wilderness Resort, is like staying in one of the grand lodges of Yellowstone, complete with geyser and rushing stream coursing through the impressive log lobby. Each resort also has unique dining, a good reason to explore their restaurants for dining options when you visit. If you have extra time before air flights, a tour of some of the resorts by convenient bus transportation or the monorail is an experience in itself and a good way to decide where you would like to stay or dine the next time.
The commons dining in each individual resort also has its charm and is teaming with happy families doing more family friendly eating options. Although the breakfast pancakes, waffles and other options common to these restaurants can be duplicated, the resorts still strive to offer something unique to the decor. For instance, The Polynesian Resort offers soft-serve Dole Pineapple Whip in their main restaurant. I highly recommend it! Dole Whip is available only in that place plus the Sunshine Terrace of Frontier Land at The Magic Kingdom. Dole Whip in fresh pineapple juice or orange juice is a refreshing treat on a warm Florida day at The Magic Kingdom. The specialty for our resort is Beignets, those square puffy donut-like confections made famous from the French Market in New Orleans. Only at Port Orleans are Beignets available, except in New Orleans of course. Then, each resort has its own high-end restaurant. There are usually three-levels of dining at the larger resorts. The Grand Floridian has some of the more exclusive dining options. Don’t forget The Board Walk outside of EPCOT for more restaurants plus access to three more resorts and their dining options. Then there is Downtown Disney, but don’t get me started…we are going to check out a new Irish Pub for pub fare and Celtic music on one of our evening excursions. This extensive shopping area is a pleasant boat ride from our resort. All property transportation is included when staying at the resorts.
In the few weeks remaining before we leave, I am getting in shape by daily walking. In order to see everything and do-it-all, it is estimated a family can walk up to fifteen miles a day at Disneyworld. So, we are officially in training. Mickey, here we come!