As I mentioned yesterday, I am visiting Orlando to give a keynote speech at the Federal Bar Association on the Supreme Court. I have brought my youngest with me for the trip. Madie and I have had a ball visiting the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom on the first two days. The Association was generous enough to put us at the Waldorf-Astoria near the parks, which I will describe later for those interested in Orlando hotels.
After arriving on Thursday, we decided to go to Disney World for “Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.” It is a special ticket, which means that Disney has found a way to actually clip you for more money on top of general admission. Everyone else is supposed to leave the park at 7 pm. However, if you buy the ticket for $100 you can enter at 4 and stay until 12. You can do the rides, which have shorter lines after 7. There is also free hot chocolate and cookies for you are various sites around the park.
My two complaints about Disney remains the lines and the prices. It is ridiculous to pay hundreds of dollars and be able to only get on a couple rides. However, I still greatly admire Disney and what they do at these parks. It is a really fun place for kids and Disney remains a brilliant corporation in handling massive crowds and supplying wonderful entertainment. The Christmas ticket was worth it. The parade was a huge amount of fun, though you have to stake out a spot on the curve at least 40 minutes in advance. Likewise, the shows in front of the castle were very entertaining but Madie could not see due to the huge crowds until we sat down in front 30 minutes in advance to get a better spot. It was then an awesome performance. While there are a few jerks in a crowd, I was happy (and surprised) that most adults remained very kind and considerate to each other. We all want our kids to have a great time but most tried to help the kids move to the front and tried to help other parents. We met some wonderful families and Madie watched the parade with a little girl named Bella who comes to the park twice a week.
For me, the highlight is always the fireworks. No one does firework shows like Disney. The music and lighting was spectacular and, when we left the park around 11), the main street glowed in Christmas colors and Disney blew pretend snow into the air.
One tip: I rented a car and, while it cost $20 for general parking, it was worth it. It cuts down your time a lot. You take a shuttle from the parking areas (which are massive). You are either in the “Hero” or “Villain” lots. We got the “Scar” section of the Villain lot, which we loved. You then take the monorail to the front gate. It is all well organized and relatively efficient. It is a lot better than waiting for shuttles back to hotels. Also, be careful. Some hotels do not have shuttles for special events like the Christmas parade/show.
On the second day, after my speech, we went to Animal Kingdom. We arrived around four and it gave us plenty of time to experience the park. I have always loved this park. We went on the Safari ride, which is much improved with some truly incredible animals. The live music in Asia and Africa was great and they have a Carnival dance which is a lot of fun. The lines are shorter except for the top rollercoaster ride. We did four or so rides and did the Kali River Rapid ride twice. We did the rapid ride at the end because you get soaked. We did it at night, which is more edgy because you do not see the drops etc. Be sure to use the free lockers to put away your phone and any extra clothes. The first time Madie got through dry but the second time she was soaked from head to toe. I was nailed both times. Fortunately, there is a hot chocolate stand nearby to revive the coldest child in the cool evening temperatures. We then finished with watching the “Tree of Life” light show which is only 10 minutes or so but fun. It plays everything 15 minutes after dusk. Animal Kingdom is less crowded than the Magic Kingdom and it has some really fun rides and attractions.
We are now into our third day and today is the highlight of the trip for Madie: Harry Potter park!
Here are a few pictures of the park: