Theme park success is a combination of careful planning, good map reading skills, quality of theme park, and flexibility. Oh, and patience! And as cliché as it is, I think Disney World in Orlando, Florida is probably the best designed, best managed, and most fun collection of theme parks on the East Coast, and perhaps in the entire country. One of the particular ways Disney stands out is in it’s landscaping, which is beautiful. The park is also very clean.
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In June of 2011, I went to Disney World Orlando with my mom, my two sisters, and my mom’s Girl Scout troop. We stayed on the property, at the All-Star Music Resort. The resorts at Disney were really great, even a “value” resort like All-Star Music. They’re very well maintained, kid-friendly, and the staff goes the extra mile to make the experience enjoyable. For example, washcloths are often arranged as little animals, complete with sticker eyes. There is also free and fairly reliable transportation between the resort and all of the parks, including the ESPN Wide World of Sports and the waterparks. Another perk of the resorts is that it allows you extended access to the parks. For Animal Kingdom and the water parks, this means early admission, generally an hour before hand. But for Magic Kingdom, you’re allowed to stay in the park until 3:00 AM (three hours after everyone else) and a lot of the rides and attractions are still open. This is a great time to get pictures with the princesses or Minnie and Mickey!
A word to the wise though, children that stay out till 3:00 AM tend to be very grumpy the next day, which cuts down on your enjoyment of other parks. For families with young children, I recommend taking advantage of the early entrance to Animal Kingdom so you can leave earlier, and sleep later the next day if you want to stay late at Magic Kingdom. For families with teenagers and adults, you don’t have to plan for naps, but I wouldn’t recommend staying out till the park closes.
Working through the park from the back to the front was a good strategy for avoiding long lines. Second, take advantage of rain; it’s your best friend. Don’t be afraid to wait out heavy rain or keeping moving in a light drizzle, often other people will leave and the lines get much shorter. Dining in Disney is a fun experience, but can get expensive. I encourage you to keep snacks and breakfast foods in your room, and pack some in your bags. Water bottles are necessary, especially in the summer.
Avoid the waterparks. While most of Disney is great, the waterparks are quite boring (though they have a pretty atmosphere) and the white sand burns your feet in the Florida sun. There are much better water parks out there and there is no sense in paying the extra fee and losing a day.
For all you fliers out there, this next part is important. Flying in to Orlando is great, but flying out is a nightmare. The lines are exceedingly long and filled with children who hate waiting (some of whom may be your own). Come in plenty of time and where slip-on shoes. Or ride the train, which is a fun experience and much less expensive.
Disney was not a community-service or academic trip, so it didn’t change me much. But after a stressful school year, it did show me that it’s oaky to have fun, even if it includes taking your picture with Winnie-the-Pooh and your mom at fifteen.
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