This being our 20th anniversary, we decided to take two trips – a short one on the actual anniversary, and one a bit later in January. For the short trip we booked a stay at one of the Disney resorts, Coronado Springs, and a day in the Magic Kingdom.
Coronado Springs is located near the Animal Kingdom in Disney World. There is plenty to do on site, with an elaborate swimming area, a lake for boating and kayaking (for a price), and lots of shopping and restaurants.
We arrive about 4:00 pm and got settled. Our rooms weren’t especially spectacular, but the convenience to Disney is what you’re paying for. We had afternoon drinks at the Laguna Bar, and a nice anniversary dinner at the Maya Grill, both on site. While the meal was excellent, it was a bit noisy.
Since we were staying at a Disney place, we could take advantage of extended park hours and transportation to the park. Each park has extended hours one day a week, and by a stroke of luck the Magic Kingdom had those hours available during our visit. If we wanted, we could stay there from 7:00 am to 3:00 am, a total of 20 hours. We came close.
We were up and caught the bus to the park early the next morning, arriving shortly after opening at 7:00. The place was empty. We went to Space Mountain and walked straight up to the ride with no waiting. Adventureland and Frontierland had not opened yet, so we rode some of the other more popular rides. Even after the general public opening at 8:00, Splash Mountain and Thunder Mountain weren’t crowded, and we rode multiple times.
As the day progressed the crowds grew until it was wall-to-wall people. Even so I managed to avoid my usual claustrophobia. The folks at Disney are masters of crowd control, so this wasn’t an issue. Even in long lines there are things to keep those waiting entertained. However, it can get frustrating as you are brought tantalizingly close to the ride, then veer off again.
Even with the growing crowds waiting in line wasn’t a problem for us. We made strategic use of Disney’s Fast Pass, which allows you to basically make a reservation for an appointed time on the more popular rides. You go off and do something else, then return at your appointed time. The Fast Pass allows you to board the ride with very little waiting. You’re allowed a limited number of Fast Passes, so the trick was to make effective use of them. We did A LOT of walking across the park to get the passes, but I think our system worked very well. I think we waiting in only one long line, and that was to board the train that runs around the park.
Even as amazing as the scenery is around the park, I just wasn’t inspired to do much photography. I had noticed this the last time I was here. There’s lots to look at, but you know it’s all fake, and you know that everyone else is taking tons of photos of the same thing. I left the big camera at home and only brought the little Nikon S50 and the Flip Mino. Even with that, I took more photos with my camera phone than with the Nikon.
We skipped most of the parades and other shows throughout the day, but we did stake out a good location for the fireworks. These, of course, we spectacular as any other Disney production, with Tinkerbell running along her zipline from the top of the castle.
The park closes to the general public at midnight. I was wondering how they were going to discourage those without extended hour tickets from staying in the park. The rides shut down for about thirty minutes, then started back up at 12:30. However, in order to get in line you had to show your ticket. The lines weren’t as short as when we first got to the park, but were quite reasonable, with only 20 minute waits at most for rides, even without Fast Pass.
Finally we reached our limit. The thought of riding one more roller coaster was just too much. At 2:00 am we gave up and boarded the bus back to the hotel. We had spent 19 hours in the Magic Kingdom.
Overall our day in the park was excellent, especially since we didn’t have to wait very much. We only had one glitch at lunch where the Tomorrowland Noodle station lost our order, but they gave us extra fortune cookies and chocolate chip cookies to make up for it. Here are our other final observations…
- The big “mountain” roller coasters are the big draws – Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, and Thunder Mountain. However, don’t neglect the little Goofy’s Barnstormer located in ToonTown. It’s a lot of fun, too.
- The new Aladdin’s Magic Carpet Ride was a hit. It’s pretty much like the Dumbo ride, but with more room for your rear end.
- Mickey’s PhilharMagic was great. We were skeptical, since it replaces Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. But it turned out to be loads of fun. It’s a 3-D movie experience enhanced with puffs of wind and spurts of water. Some of the kids were trying to grab the floating images, and I heard one exclaim, “We’re really in the movie!”
- Changes have been made to Pirates of the Carribean to make it fit the movie. This is not really a good thing. I find the whole ride disturbing, anyway, because the last scene is a burning town, with the pirates celebrating. Even campy violence can have a negative effect.
- The Haunted Mansion’s effects are always enthralling, even as many times as I’ve seen it.
- Buzz Lightyear’s Star Command must be ridden at least twice to get the hang of it.
- Stay away from Lilo’s Escape. It’s a complete waste of time.
And so, I think we’ve had enough of a Disney fix to last us for awhile. Next time, I may try to talk Laura into visiting Epcot.