Thursday, September 12, 2013
But there's no question that one destination reigns supreme in the hearts of children and adults alike. Sure, there are romantic beaches and exotic lands and ancient, historical ruins and more, but let's face it. Nothing, and I mean nothing, compares to Disney World.
Following the success of Disneyland, which opened in 1955, the first of the theme parks that make up the vast, nearly 40-square-miles of Walt Disney World Resort opened in October of 1971 and it has been the location of magical memories ever since.
If you've somehow never heard of Disney World (in which case, welcome to civilization that's not under a rock), this world-class entertainment and recreation center is split into four theme parks — Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney's Hollywood Studios and Disney's Animal Kingdom — and includes two water adventure parks, a whole slew of resort hotels, multiple golf courses, full-service spas, Disney's Wedding Pavilion, the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, and Downtown Disney, an entertainment-shopping-dining complex.
Let's face it, once you've arrived in Lake Buena Vista, Florida (20 miles southwest of Orlando) you're in the land of everything and anything Disney.
This summer, my husband and I decided put an to end to the wondering over What is the "right" age for kids to go to Disney World? and our family headed down for another visit. We've always wanted to find the time when Little Sister B was old enough to remember the experience and not be afraid of any of the larger characters or rides, while Big Sister E wasn't too old that she might have outgrown the magic of the entire experience.
But, really. Is it actually possible to outgrow the love of Disney World?
I think not.
One aspect (out of many) that I love about Disney World is that no matter how many times you've visited already, you are pretty much guaranteed a new experience each time. Maybe you'll eat at a new restaurant, ride a new ride, meet a new character or find a favorite new seat for the parade — whatever it is, it will provide new smiles and everlasting memories.
For us, the two parts of this visit to the Magic Kingdom that stand out the most include the New Fantasyland additions and the Character Meet-and-Greets throughout the park.
This past December, New Fantasyland debuted and there were three princess-related attractions that made both of my girls light up with excitement: Under the Sea – Journey of The Little Mermaid, Ariel's Grotto and Enchanted Tales with Belle.
Under the Sea – Journey of The Little Mermaid
Taking attendees through a recreation of the story of The Little Mermaid, this gentle ride aboard a colorful clamshell moves through almost a dozen scenes of this classic film.
We loved being able to hear all of the movie's most memorable songs and relive its most magical moments as we encountered all of the beloved characters — Ariel, Prince Eric, Sebastian, Flounder, Scuttle, King Triton and (a very, very large) Ursula the sea witch during this journey.
And, in the end, of course we cheered to see the love between Prince Eric and Ariel win out and their celebration of their union with a fairytale wedding finale!
Autographs and photos with Ariel herself? Both of my girls were speechless that The Little Mermaid was right there in front of them and invited them up to sit and chat with her as she signed their autograph books.
In fact, although Little Sister B loves ALL princesses, she proclaimed multiple times throughout the rest of the day that Ariel was her favorite and that she wanted to move into the cave and live with her! (I wasn't offended since Ariel was actually pretty awesome.)
Enchanted Tales with Belle
I don't think any of us realized that Enchanted Tales with Belle is more than just an attraction, it is actually an extremely creative, elaborate and interactive meet-and-greet!
We began in a line (at our visit there was no FASTPASS available, so the wait could possibly get quite long) that wound around and into Maurice's cottage. Once inside we were not only excited about the air conditioning, but that we were able to look all around to see mementos from Belle's childhood — games, books, marked lines on the wall to show her height each year, etc (which also helped the kids pass the wait time).
Once it was our turn, we passed through the back of the cottage into Maurice's workshop and were amazed when a magical mirror turned into a doorway. Once through, the premise of the attraction was explained and all of the children in the room were told that we were going to re-enact the tale of Beauty and the Beast for Belle as a surprise for her birthday.
At this point, a castmember selected child volunteers to play the key parts in the story and, fortunately, Big Sister E and Little Sister B were quick to raise their hands, as they were chosen to play the parts of the Beast and Chip (hint: if you visit this attraction, make sure your child volunteers — even better, have them ROAR very loudly when asked who wants to be the Beast, as it's the best part!).
Once all of the roles were assigned, we walked into the castle library, sat down, and the play began! Belle was thrilled for all of us to have come for a visit and each of the actors had their chance to interact with her when it was time for their part. The entire play only took a few minutes and finished with each of the children getting to take a photo with Belle and receive a bookmark as a memento to take with them.
This was definitely an experience that I would recommend, as each of the girls were blown away by being able to actually interact with Belle and be a part of the play.
As I mentioned above, Big Sister E was especially lucky, as being the Beast not only gave her a larger role in the play itself, but she finished the show by having her own special dance with Belle. Talk about an incredible way to completely interact! She was grinning from ear to ear!
As we had started the day with Enchanted Tales with Belle, that had already set the excitement in motion for just how happy the girls were to find more of their favorite Disney characters throughout the park for autographs and photos.
In the past, character encounters always seemed to be a somewhat random occurrence, as you would hope to run into them in various locations during a slotted amount of time (or at least that is what happened with us, as the kids were too young to really know).
However, this trip we paid close attention to the map and the information sheet and knew just where and when we would find particular characters to meet (hint: Mickey Mouse and the Disney princesses are in the very front of the park in Town Square Theater. When we went, the wait time to meet Mickey was only 5 minutes but the princesses had a line 50+ minutes long... so be sure to plan for a FASTPASS for them!).
The result was that both girls were able to meet many of their beloved characters and were continually enthralled that they were there in person. The looks on their faces were priceless and my heart swelled a little more each time they gave an extremely huge hug and then pulled away in awe!
Walt Disney once said, "You can dream, create, design and build the most wonderful place in the world... but it requires people to make the dream a reality," and, all these years later, Walt Disney World Resort has made it all come true as one of the top vacation destinations on earth.
This is one location where the entire family can enjoy incredible sights and sounds, receive legendary service, and head home with experiences and memories that will last a lifetime. Be sure to visit DisneyWorld.com to see in-depth information on all things Disney and connect with them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as well.
Disney World is open every single day of the year, when was the last time you were there for a visit? More importantly, shouldn't you be planning your next visit already?
I was provided complimentary passes for Disney World Resort in order to help facilitate this review, but they in no way affected the amazing time that we had and my honest opinions in this post.