This is the last part in a four part series. If you arrived here without reading the previous articles, you may want to start at the beginning.
Part 4: Disney’s Magic Kingdom and Epcot
After saying goodbye to my parents for the night I walked out to the bus stop at the Yacht Club to catch the bus to Magic Kingdom. This turned out to be a bad idea. The amount of time I spent sitting at that bus stop waiting for the Magic Kingdom bus I could have walked from Yacht Club, to the International Gateway entrance to Epcot, all the way thru Epcot, out the main entrance of Epcot, and to the Epcot bus loop. I may not have arrived at Magic Kingdom any sooner, but at least I would have been in Epcot instead of sitting at a bus stop. Not to mention, I could have hopped on the Monorail at Epcot and had a more interesting ride to Magic Kingdom. I am not sure if this is typical, but in my experience, the bus service from the Yacht and Beach Club resorts has been less than stellar.
While I was waiting for the bus, I got a text message from Gillian while she was on her layover in Atlanta. My secret was out. She peeked at the Magical Express booklet I packed for her before she left and she learned that we were staying at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villa’s. I was hoping she wouldn’t find out until she got right to the staging area to get on the busses, but this still worked well. She and Braedan were thrilled to learn that we had a couple days to enjoy the animals of the savannah and the luxury of the deluxe resort.
Eventually my bus showed up and I was on my way. By the time I arrived at Magic Kingdom at about 9:00PM the nightly Wishes! fireworks display was just starting. I quickly made my way into the park and was able to get a fairly decent view of the show from the train station balcony.
Here is a cheesy cell phone shot taken that night…
And here is a better photo of the Halloween version of Wishes!, HalloWishes!, taken on another night with the DSLR during Mickey’s Not so Scary Halloween Party…
After the fireworks, I got to enjoy the Halloween decorations in Magic Kingdom for the first time this year and, as always, it was quite a treat to see. After taking a couple terrible night time cell phone photos of some of the decorations, I walked up Main Street USA towards Cinderella’s Castle. Even though it was a Wednesday evening, Main Street was fairly packed…
That’s mainly because everyone congregates there to watch the fireworks, which for the most part go off nightly at 9PM. This evening the park was open until 10PM but once the fireworks are over, many guests choose to leave for the night, so it can get difficult to work your way towards the castle as the masses are heading towards the exit. Its quite a crowd to work your way through but once you make your way to the castle, that last hour or so in the park before closing can be fairly quiet.
As tonight was not so much about attractions but more about just the goal of setting foot in each park, I just took a casual walk thru Adventureland, then over to Frontierland to hear the familiar screams coming from Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain, back through Liberty Square, and then over to Fantasyland to check out the latest construction going on in the massive Fantasyland expansion. The newest venue to open was Big Top Souvenirs, inside of which was Big Top Treats…
There was a wonderful aroma of fresh popcorn and other goodies tempting me to indulge but I didn’t give in this time. I snapped a couple photos and made my way out of Magic Kingdom thru Tomorrowland and back down Main Street USA. I left the park around 10PM, so I was able to spend a full hour at Magic Kingdom. To get to Epcot, I decided to take the monorail. From Magic Kingdom, this requires taking the Express Monorail to the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC) and then switching to the Epcot Monorail.
When I arrived at Epcot, like the rest of the parks, it was not overly crowded. There were only a few turnstiles open for entry and security had moved bag check up to the turnstile area. I was in the park at about 10:30 giving me an hour and a half before closing. I made it to all four Disney World parks in one afternoon with time to spare! So, with that mission accomplished, I decided to take on another mission. Mission: SPACE.
Mission: SPACE is an attraction that usually does not have long waits, especially as park closing approaches. Tonight, the wait was under 15 minutes so I grabbed my Orange Team card and suited up:
Ok, you don’t really put on a space suit but this attraction can be quite an experience. You have two options on this experience, Orange Team, and Green Team. Both “teams” have identical ride vehicles suspended in centrifuge simulators, but the centrifuge only actually spins for the Orange Team participants, making that the “More Intense Training”. The Green Team is considered the “Less Intense Training”. There are MANY written and verbal warnings as well as last minute opportunities to switch from Orange to Green or opt out all together. This attraction didn’t originally have the less intense version but it didn’t take Disney long to realize that the 2.5 Gs exerted by the spinning centrifuge did not agree with a large portion of the guests.
Unless I recently had a meal, I tend to choose the Orange Team experience and I will say that after exiting the ride I usually feel a bit light headed. Yes, even more so than usual, and after my trip to Mars I plan to head to another more down to earth location to add a bit more to that light headed feeling. For now, I got in line for Mission: SPACE at about 10:45PM. I had to wait for one cycle of the ride, about 5 minutes and then we went into the 7-minute briefing (the pre show) to receive our assignments of Navigator, Pilot, Commander and Engineer. After getting our assignments we head off to board our X-2 Deep Space Shuttle for our five-minute ride to Mars (time goes quickly when you are in hypersleep). After our successful mission I walked a not so straight line out of the attraction. Its now a little after 11PM, so I have just enough time to wander over to the United Kingdom pavilion in World Showcase to visit my favorite adult beverage location in all of Walt Disney World, the Rose and Crown Pub. When I arrive, the pub is about as empty as I have ever seen it, which is just what I was hoping for to kick back during my last minutes in the park and enjoy my favorite item on the drink menu, the Single Malt Scotch flight. About the same time I ordered my flight I received a text from Gillian that they are on the Magical Express bus and just leaving the airport on their way to Animal Kingdom Lodge. I can easily spend a half hour enjoying the Glenkinche 12, Oban 14, and Lagavulin 16, and since I figured I could still meet them at the resort within a few minutes of their arrival, that’s exactly what I did.
A perfect ending to a fun filled day. I actually enjoyed my drinks so leisurely that I ended up taking my Lagavulin in a to go cup and left the Rose and Crown to walk to the park exit and catch the bus. You cannot take alcohol out of the park with you but the timing was just right for me to finish just as I was nearing the exit. I was on a bus to Animal Kingdom Lodge and moving at 12:05AM. I met up with Gillian and Braedan (who was already in bed) at the resort at about 12:30AM. What a day!
Obviously this is not a touring plan for a first time guest or a family. It was just something I wanted to see if I could do. As a fairly regular traveler to Walt Disney World my priorities are a bit different than the average traveler. I don’t have to make the most of every second in the parks and I don’t have to make sure I ride as many rides as possible. Hopefully, there are a few helpful tidbits that the first time or occasional Walt Disney World traveler can take away from reading about my experience.
A few quick tips that come to mind:
- When using Disney’s free Magical Express (ME) service to get to your resort from the Orlando airport, I have always found that we can be in a park in under three hours from the time we land at the airport. That includes waiting in line for ME your bus, traveling to your resort, checking in at your resort, taking your bags to your room and getting settled, getting back to a bus stop to a park and traveling to the park. This is useful to know because it can help you decide if you want to spend the extra money to get park tickets for your arrival day.
- ALWAYS bring your camera everywhere you go in Walt Disney World, even if the weather is less than perfect. Get yourself a convenient case to protect it from the elements. There are too many unique opportunities to risk missing that “once in a lifetime” photo.
- Disney’s free transportation is fairly timely, but plan for possible delays if you are relying on it to get someplace at a specific time, such as a meal reservation. My general rule is to be at the bus stop one hour before you need to be wherever you are going. Add a half hour if you are trying to travel from resort to resort. There are no direct busses from resort to resort so you may need to take a bus to a park or Downtown Disney and then catch another bus to your destination resort. The exception to that is traveling between the Deluxe resorts on the monorail loop (Contemporary, Polynesian, and Grand Floridian). If you are unsure how to get to your destination, ask a Cast Member.
- If possible, take advantage of staying to the last minute a park is open. The rides do not shut down at closing time, rather, they just stop allowing people to get in line at park closing. After your last ride of the day, it is nice to walk out thru the nearly empty park.