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Since we will probably go back to Disney World, here are some things to keep in mind for the next time – written when the first time is still fresh in my mind:

  1. Go in winter. The worst thing about Disney World is the hot Florida weather which makes you sweat under your clothes. So go in winter, but check to see how much rain Orlando gets then. That could be a drawback.
  2. Go when children are in school. The lines will be much shorter. Disney World does have FASTPASS, but you can only hold one at a time, so lines still matter.
  3. Allow at least one day for each park you want to see. To see everything in a park takes two to three days.
  4. Eat a good lunch before you go and eat dinner afterwards. Food in the park is cheaper than I expected, but the prices are still high. You might think waiting till after lunch means waiting too long, but in practice you will not get there much sooner: you will want to stay till the park closes and then eat and get a full night’s sleep and so on.
  5. Over lunch come to a decision about what to see: which park you want to go to and which attractions in which order. It will not turn out just that way, of course, but it will save time in the end and mean you get to see more.
  6. Go on rides that everyone will like first and then split up. Agree on a place and time to meet.
  7. Know that some rides will be down for repairs.
  8. Places to eat dinner afterwards: For some strange reason there are not many places to eat that are open after the parks close. But there is IHOP. Two of them are on 192 close to Disney, open all night long. There is also Celebration Town Tavern, open till at least two in the morning. They serve good food. It is in Celebration, the town that Disney built.
  9. Epcot has nice places to eat dinner, one for each of its 11 countries. Not cheap and you have to reserve days if not months in advance, but it is worth doing at least once. Read about them on the Internet and choose the one that seems best. Go there and also to the Mexican place. The Mexican place seems like it would be good even if the food is so-so.
  10. Consider staying at a Disney hotel. It is not as much money as you think and it might be easier in the end.
  11. Get a good map. As always. We had one of those GPS things that give directions while you drive, but it did not know the places inside Disney World! And Disney World is twice the size of Manhattan.
  12. Read as much as you can on Disney World. What little I had read proved invaluable.
  13. Do not bring a book to read into the park. You might think with all that waiting in line you will need one. It does not work out that way.

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Epcot

Epcot (1982- ) is one of the four parks of Disney World in Florida. It was the second to be built. Walt Disney meant it to be a town of the future for his workers, but it turned out to be a world’s fair done in the style of Disney. (Walt Disney had a hand in the 1964 world’s fair in New York).

Epcot is the park with the big white golf ball. It is a geodesic sphere called a geosphere. Inside is a ride that shows and tells the history of invention from fire to the Internet as told by Ray Bradbury (at least up to 1982). As I write this in September 2007 the ride is closed for repairs. It should be open in time for Christmas.

That ride gives you the general view. The nearby attractions cover particular fields, like space travel, cars and flight.

While Disney does want to teach you something, it is more interested in entertaining you. For example, while the Universe of Energy ride does teach where oil comes from, it does it by taking you through a dark land of dinosaurs.

That is one part of Epcot, called Future World. There is another part that goes round a lake called World Showcase.

World Showcase has 11 countries: Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Italy, America, Japan, Morocco, France, Britain and Canada.

Each country has buildings built in a style the country is known for and shops where you can buy things made by that country. At China, for example, I bought a Chinese tea cup. You can also eat food cooked in that country’s style. All have a place to eat a nice dinner, but some also have a place where you can get a quick bite to eat. For dinner you will have to reserve days if not months in advance.

Some have a show about the country, maybe even its history.

Most of the workers are native to the country and the country itself seems to have some say in how it is presented: it is not just merely a Disney view of each.

At night over the lake they have a light show called IllumiNations. Get a good seat at least a half hour before it starts.

That town of the future that Walt Disney wanted to build, by the way, was built. It is called Celebration, a town of 7000 at the edge of Disney World. But it looks more like 1928 than 2028.

The three best rides I know of in Future World:

  • Mission: Space!: Feel and see what it is like to go to Mars in a rocket. There are two rides to choose from: a rough one and a calmer one. The rough one can make you feel sick! The gentler one is still good and everyone can enjoy it.
  • Test Track: If you ever wanted to know what it is like to go in a race car, this is the one for you. Boys love it.
  • Soaring: Feel and see what it is like to fly over different parts of the world.

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Disney-MGM Studios

Disney-MGM Studios (1989- ) is one of the four parks of Disney World in Florida. It was the third to open. Like the Universal Park that opened that same year, its rides and shows are based on films and television shows. But Disney-MGM is more than just a park: it is also a working studio that makes films. One of the best rides there takes you behind the scenes where they do some of their work.

In the middle of the park is a huge blue magician’s hat, like the kind that Mickey Mouse wore in “Sorcerer’s Apprentice”.

While it arguably has the best ride in all of Disney World – the Twilight Zone ride where you drop 17 floors – most of it is weak. You would be better off going to the other three parks or even Universal.

What is good is too short and what is bad is too long. Too often you leave an attraction feeling, “Well, that was a waste of time.” You feel you are being advertised to, not entertained or even informed.

A perfect example is Journey into Narnia. You stand in a half-dark room which has the White Witch up on one wall and a big television screen on another. On the television you see scenes from the first Narnia film and hear about the story. After that they tell you a new one is coming out for Christmas (2007). You think, great, now the doors will open and we will get on with the heart of the attraction. The doors do open, but you are told to leave.

It has a very good beginning but no middle or end.

The Beauty and Beast stage show was also good as far as it went but it was too short too.

In Sounds Dangerous you sit in the dark hearing Drew Carey and some sound effects. What a waste.

There were some good attractions:

The Backlot Tour was good. You get to see how they do special effects and some of the things used in past films, like a spaceship from “Star Wars”. Everything is smaller than you expect. Do not get close to the water unless you do not mind getting wet!

Star Tour is a flight simulator for Star Wars. That was good.

I heard the Rock ‘n’ Roller coaster was good, but it was down for repairs when we were there (in September 2007).

Muppet-Vision 3-D is good the first time you see it. It is a 3-D Muppet film full of cheap effects. It is just like the one in Disneyland in California.

Every day at three they have a parade down the main street.

The park is set up like a little town. Part of it looks like an empty New York City, but most of what you see, you find out, is a huge painting, but cut up and put together in a way that makes it seem almost true to life if you are not too close to it.

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Disney’s Animal Kingdom (1998- ) is the newest of the four parks of Disney World in Florida. It has both rides and animals – even lions and tigers (no bears).

In the middle of the park is Discovery Island that has the Tree of Life. The tree is fat and over 40 metres tall. Cut into it are pictures of animals.

From the island you can cross on bridges to the lands of Animal Kingdom:

  • Africa
  • Asia
  • DinoLand USA
  • Camp Minnie-Mickey
  • Rafiki’s Planet Watch

In Africa you enter what looks like a down-at-the-heels African town. They have live entertainment.

By far the best part of Africa is the Kilimanjaro Safari: you get in a long Jeep that is almost like an open-air bus. A guide drives you through a small wildlife park and tells you about all the animals you see: giraffes, elephants, rhinos, hippos, flamingos and so on. Even a lion. All zoos should be like this! It is far better than Great Adventure.

Africa also has gorillas on the Pangani Trail. It is not part of the safari.

Halfway between Africa and Asia is a good view of the Tree of Life. You will want to take a picture of it.

In Asia you can see animals too, but here you are on foot. The animals are still loose, but you are behind walls and fences. The best thing are the tigers, but do not be surprised if they are sleeping! In another part of Asia you can see birds, not all of them native to Asia.

Asia also has the best ride in the park, if not all of Disney World: the Mount Everest. It is built into a scale model of Mount Everest – they seem to have got it right from what I can remember from Google Earth. Built into it is a roller coaster that, among other things, goes backwards in the dark! It also takes your picture and at the end of the ride you can see how you looked.

DinoLand USA mainly has rides, but you can see a copy of Sue, the largest T-Rex ever discovered. You can also see a stage show about Nemo.

In Rafiki’s Planet Watch you can touch animals and watch workers care for them. There is a train that takes you through it.

At Camp Minnie-Mickey you can meet Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and others. You can also watch a stage show based on characters from Lion King. It is said that this part of the park was to be the Beastly Kingdom with dragons and unicorns! Too bad. The people who were going to build it went to work for Universal and built Dueling Dragons instead.

Back on Discovery Island is a show called “It’s Tough to be a Bug”. It is just like the one in Disneyland in California, complete with what feels like bugs running under your seat.

You should allow at least two days to see it all.

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Disney World

Disney World (1971- ) is the most visited place in America. It is a huge park in the middle of Florida, twice the size of Manhattan, making it the largest man-made playground in the world. It gets four times more visitors than Florence, Italy.

It is run by Disney, the American film company that gave the world Mickey Mouse. It is like their Disneyland in California, but it is newer and far larger. The lessons learned in building Disneyland were applied to Disney World.

Disney World has four parks:

  • 1971: Magic Kingdom: This is like the Disneyland in California: it has Cinderella’s castle in the middle, Tomorrowland and all that. Since it was built after the first Disneyland it is newer and somewhat better.
  • 1982: Epcot: like a world’s fair. It has a huge white ball in the middle: inside it is a ride that tells the history of invention from fire to the Internet (first written by Ray Bradbury). Learn a bit about 11 other countries. The best part: “Mission: Space!”: see what it is like to journey to Mars in a rocket!
  • 1989: Disney MGM Studio: Yes, Disney makes some of their films here. You can see them at work! There are also rides based on the Disney and MGM films. It is like Universal’s park which opened nearby the same year. Disney owns the old MGM films. It bought them in the 1980s.
  • 1998: Animal Kingdom: a wildlife park. In the middle is the Tree of Life (44 metres tall). You can see animals from different parts of the world living in the wild. Animal Kingdom is made up of six lands:
    • Africa – This is the best of the six. It is even better than Africa itself since you get to see more different kinds of animals than you would there.
    • Asia – tigers!
    • Dinoland USA
    • Camp Minnie Mouse
    • Discovery Island
    • Rafiki’s Planet Watch

In addition to the big parks, you also have:

  • Downtown Disney – for shopping, eating and bad nightlife
  • Wide World of Sports – for playing sports.
  • Typhoon Lagoon – water rides and swimming
  • Blizzard Beach – another water park

It is not cheap, but children love it. For many there is nowhere else in the country they would rather go. There are parades and fireworks there every day! There are plenty of roller coasters too.

If you have the time, you should allow one day for each park. If you can, try to go when children are in school: the lines will be much shorter. Summer and Christmas are the worst times to go. Late afternoons are the worst; mornings are best.

The wait in line for some rides can be more than an hour. To avoid that you can get a FASTPASS, a ticket with a time printed on it that tells you when to come back.

Under Florida law Disney World has all the rights and powers of a city.

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