Touring Disneyworld-tips from a local
When most people I correspond with find out I live in Florida there is invariably one question that’s asked, “Have you been to Disney?”
Yes. Yes I have.
I suppose I was kind of jaded growing up nearby, what with one of the most well known set of amusement parks being just a couple hours away. Lots of folks I bump into there would be so excited. For a regular family from Minnesota, who saved up for most of their entire lives for this grand adventure, I can well understand the elation at the realization of that dream. It’s the vacation of a lifetime, hopefully.
One problem that newcomers often encounter is the shear size of the parks. There’s so much to do, so much to see, and only so many hours in the day. Their brochures and fliers can help give some idea as to what I’m talking about, and are instrumental at navigating, but they talk up every ride and exhibit as if it’s the beat all and end all of the human experience. To that end I’ve put together a few tips from my personal experience to help the potential parkgoer avoid the so-so stuff and make the best use of their time.
First off, go with the three-day park-hopper pass. It grants unlimited admission to Disney’s parks for one flat fee. You can ride the rollercoasters and teacups at Disney World for a wake-up in the morning. Wait out the day’s heat in dozens of interactive shows at MGM Studios in the afternoon. Then grab some souvenirs along with a bite to eat at one of the ten world-class restaurants at Epcot Center. I know they changed the name to Epcot theme park a few years back, but it's still Epcot Center to me, dammit!
Down to Business
Epcot is the park that I’m most familiar with, so I’ll be starting there, though I hope to add info on the other parks when able.
Epcot, by far, has the most diversity of all the parks in regards to food and attractions, though it’s a bit slow for the teen crowd as their attractions are focused on education in cultural diversity. One thing that you should be warned of is the music. No, it’s not like “It’s a Small World After All”, so don’t get nervous, but there are bands there playing constantly. There’s British music ala The Beatles, American Revolution drum and fife corps, Celtic rock, Moroccan-eastern fusion, traditional Japanese drums, Oktoberfest polka, Mexican mariachis, and more. God help you if you’ve got a migraine.
The park is designed in a circular fashion, with a manmade lake in the center and a small island where they put on some of the most incredible fireworks displays you’re likely to see every night just before they close. I would highly recommend ending your day here, both for the display and because Epcot is situated closest to Disney's communal parking lots, making for an easier retreat once the day’s festivities are at an end.
There are eleven pavilions placed around the lake like the numbers on a clock. Each pavilion is based on a different nation: Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Italy, United States, Japan, Morocco, France, United Kingdom, and Canada.
One thing that I’ll never get over is that the United States pavilion manages to make this country seem like a great place to live. (Kidding)
Each pavilion has their own restaurant, gift shops, interactive tours and rides, etc. Some of them are a bit of a bust. You’ll find Snow White and the Seven Dwarves hanging out around Germany most often. Italy sells some really nice leather goods: handbags, wallets, shoes, etc. You’re also likely to find a troupe of jugglers and street entertainers setting up shop there throughout the day.
The Japan pavilion has their own museum showcasing period life, weapons, armor and other relics from centuries ago. There’s a little sweet-shop, practically a hole in the wall, that has candies that are to die for. Using all sorts of sweetened fruits and other ingredients you’re not likely to find anywhere else, the shop proprietor makes candies to order, even molding them into perfect miniatures of animals free of charge for children. Each comes in their own edible rice-paper wrapping and is most definitely worth a few minutes of the parkgoer’s time.
Speaking of culinary wonders, there are two other areas that one must drop by: Norway and Morocco.
Norway hosts a tiny little pastry shop, the Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe, that most walk by and never even notice. But it contains some of the most sinfully decadent chocolate, tortes, cakes, and sundries that you’re likely to come across without heading to Europe.
It also has a great water-ride called “The Maelstrom”, which often goes overlooked. In your own miniature longship, you’ll pass back in time to explore the Norway of old, peopled with fantastical mythical huldre, elves, and trolls.
Before it get’s too late in the day, one may wish to consider making dinner reservations for the restaurant in Morocco. Seats sell out fast here, so it might be a good idea to call ahead a month well in advance. You’ll enjoy a six-course authentic meal with a live band and bellydancers. If you’re careless enough to catch a dancer’s eye there’s a decent chance you’ll be invited on-stage to participate. Happened to my little brother. He was only ten at the time. Poor kid's face turned so red at the sight of a pretty girl inviting him to dance that I thought his head would explode!
With all the family fun out of the way, let’s get onto something us locals like to do on occasion. Yes, friends, I refer to Beer Around The World.
Y’see, all the other parks are dry for the most part. About ten years ago, Disney allowed alcohol to be sold in the Disneyworld park and it was a complete disaster. Drunks belching and blowing fumes on families as they walked around with oversized plastic cups sloshing all over the place. It was a nightmare, not at all befitting the safe atmosphere that Disney wants to create in their parks.
Thankfully, they discontinued that practice about nine years ago. However, it did give way to an idea. Naturally, if it involves booze it involves college students, to someone educated in Orlando and never loathe to take a night off, this was a fun learning experience.
Though you can’t walk around with a drink in Epcot, they do still have a bar selling beer, wine, and spirits in each of the pavilions. The spirits correspond to each country, and the beer's pretty good; their own microbrews. (Too bad they don’t have a Scotland. I could’ve done with Scotch.)
Anyway, if you’ve got a map in hand and friends in tow, you can start at the pavilion corresponding to the 12 o’clock position on your map, enjoy a leisurely drink, then mosey on over to the pavilion corresponding to the 1 o’clock position. Repeat this until you and your friends are more than a little tipsy. With any luck you’ll manage to make it back to the park and call a cab. If not, the Disney security will be happy to help you on your way out. (Seriously. Those guys are like Gestapo and can make you soil yourself with a look)
If you’ve got the whole day, most people manage to make it all the way back to the 12 o’clock position before ending up legless. A stalwart few, me included, have made it all the way around the park for a second lap. It’s good exercise too.
Fun for the whole family, right? Just don’t come crying to me if you end up on charges and need bail money.
Enjoy the trip.
P.S. Skip the Canada pavilion at all cost. Not only is it bland (What would you expect for people who wish they were American? I am gonna get so many people ticked off for saying that. It's only a joke), a person can only hear “Oh Canada” played from loudspeakers so many times before wishing they were deaf.
P.P.S. If you're going to try Beer Around The World, just remember the most important tip: Saki and Tequila do NOT mix.
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