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Disney Day One: The Magic Kingdom

The guidebook I read before leaving for Orlando advocated getting up early and arriving at the park before it even opened, with the goal of beating the crowds; so, despite the fact none of our party – including the children – got to bed before 11:00 the night before, I made sure we were all up and out the door by 7:45 on Monday morning. Spoiler: This is the only morning we took this approach.

Our hotel was only about 15 minutes from the Disney parks (which, incidentally, are all rather prettily situated on a huge swath of, I assume, swampland in Orlando – all nicely landscaped, and, although surrounded by zillions of resorts and hotels and whatnot, basically hidden from view until you arrive at their gates). We stopped at the parking gate at Magic Kingdom and were welcomed by the attendant, who assured us that we had arrived at “The Happy Place of the Earth.” Close enough!

Disney is very efficient; we were waved into a parking spot and then directed to a tram, which would carry us closer to the park. Not that much closer, though – “After we reach the station,” the tram attendant cheerfully told us, “you will still be a mile and half away from the Magic Kingdom!” We were also repeatedly (and cheerfully! Everyone was very cheerful!) reminded of our parking location: “You are in Pluto 24! Do whatever you have to do to remember Pluto 24. If you do not remember your parking spot, it will be a long long time before you ever find your vehicle!”

Our first snag was that Amy and Mallory didn’t make it on the same tram we did, but they soon caught up:

And we were on our way to the monorail, which took us the remaining distance to the park, passing by some lovely Disney resorts on the way and making me wonder why we weren’t staying there.

So! Finally! The Magic Kingdom!

We arrived just in time to see many beloved characters disembark at the Main Street Station and sing “Good morning!” to us.

Look! Mary Poppins! She’s my favorite.

This was to be one of the only times we saw the Disney characters – one of my only disappointments with the parks was that these guys just don’t roam around freely; you have to wait in long lines to meet and greet them. (Which we eventually did, but that’s another story.)

The girls were impressed by the signing, and by the confetti explosion that followed.

The prevailing theme (or marketing campaign) behind this year at Disney is “Celebration;” you can get free buttons that explain what led you to vacation at Disney – “Family Reunion!” or “Wedding Anniversary!” or “It’s my Birthday!” – I actually got a birthday one for Phoebe, and she was frequently stopped by a “cast member” (as the park employees are called) and wished a happy birthday. As we were entering the gates, a cast member must have seen a “Wedding Anniversary” button on someone, because I heard him say, “Congratulations! How long have you been married?” The reply came: “One hundred and fifty years!” Ha!

My trusty guidebook suggested that we proceed immediately to the Dumbo ride, so off to Fantasyland we went. It was already hot hot hot, and Phoebe was already dragging, and the line at Dumbo was already 20 minutes long, and in it the children began what would become the biggest irritant of the week: Fighting over who would sit with me on the ride. Oh, the dramas that would ensue, and the tears, and the gnashing of teeth (my own).

In this round, Phoebe won; Mallory sat with Chris, with Claudia and Amy behind us:

Dumbo was fun! And only 37 seconds long!

On to Peter Pan, which Phoebe and Mallory say was one of their very favorite rides. It was one of mine, too, when I went to Disneyland way back in 198x, so I loved riding it with my kids (it was a 3-seater, so we all ended up in the same little boat together). It was on this ride that they realized, I think, that Disney World was more than just a carnival.

They both wanted to ride Peter again, but the line was too long (as it would be every time we checked, both that day and when we returned on Friday, so we never got a repeat), so we moved on to It’s a Small World.

As we meandered through the World, it occurred to me that you can substitute the words “It’s a long ride after all” into the song with no damage to the rhythm.

The kids had fun, though, pointing out the various funny costumes and animals. “Those ducks crack me up,” Claudia said at this point:

And Mallory said, quick as a wink, “Don’t you mean quack you up?”

On to the teacups, which didn’t make me quite as motion-sick as I feared they would (probably because it, too, was only about 37 seconds long).

Then we went to “Mickey’s Philharmagic,” which would become one of my very favorite things. It’s a 3-D cartoon in which Donald Duck journeys through a series of musical numbers – but it was also multi-sensory – so when he scurried through the Fantasia broomsticks, the audience got splashed with water; when he danced amongst the dishes in “Be Our Guest” you could smell the blueberry pie; when he sat on the flying carpet in “A Whole New World” you could feel the wind on your face. It was so cool; I loved it. Phoebe, who was altogether grumpy by this point, just sat on my lap and giggled the whole time. I would’ve sat through that again and again (didn’t hurt that the theatre was air-conditioned).

Next stop: The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, and then The Haunted Mansion. Who doesn’t love The Haunted Mansion? Weirdly, maybe some people do not; there was never a line, so we rode it more than any other ride. (Mallory loved the hitchhiking ghosts at the end.) We were amused to see a familiar name on a list of Bluebeard’s doomed wives:

After The Haunted Mansion, however, my children were just done. “I’m so hot!” Phoebe wept, and Mallory said, “I really love the Magic Kingdom and I never want to leave but I also really want to go cool off in the pool and so maybe we should do that and then come back. Really.”

So, even though the logistics of leaving (monorail-tram-parking) and returning (parking-tram-monorail) were quite daunting, we decided it was in the kids’ best interest to do so. Bob and Claudia and the kids and I left; I actually had to carry Phoebe part of the way to the monorail station – that’s how spent she was; then she fell asleep as soon as we got the car started (somewhat fortuitously, we got lost on the way back to the hotel, so she got a pretty nice nap). We ate lunch, swam for a while, and then came back somewhat refreshed a few hours later:

Meanwhile, Chris and Amy stayed behind, and got to see the parade:

They also saw glass-blowing, which I am super jealous of, because I love glass-blowing.

We stopped to let Mallory and Phoebe make their own Mickey ears:

Then we headed to Frontierland to ride Splash Mountain. Now, Phoebe is a daredevil when it comes to rides, and Mallory is not; so Phoebe was superexcited about this ride, and Mallory was not. No one was excited by the hour wait we had ahead of us, because it was hot:

But Mallory was a trooper, and never complained, and Phoebe amused herself by collecting leaves and branches, which we had to put in a shopping bag so they would “stay safe” during the ride.

Claudia told us that someone had told her that on Splash Mountain, “you get wettest in the back.” She and Phoebe ended up in the front, and she was proven wrong. “You get wettest in the back!” became the running joke for the rest of the trip.

Phoebe loved it; she did say, afterwards: “When we got to the very top, I thought, this is gonna be bad, but it was too late to stop!” Mallory hated it; she gets that from me; I kept Amy amused by saying, “Oh no, I’m not so sure about this,” the whole way up, and screaming like a girl the whole way down.

Oh my, this has become a long post. It was, in fact, a very long day. Forging on – to The Pirates of the Caribbean, which of all the rides I remember from Disneyland, has held up the least – even though it’s been updated with characters from the movies. It was kind of dull – and stinky, my goodness. The water in Orlando is awful, even tap water smells like a swamp, so riding through a whole indoor canal of it was pretty unpleasant.

Next up, the children enjoyed getting wet:

Then we ducked in to ride the Jungle Cruise because the sign promised only a 20 minute wait. This was a lie; and I think, that of all the long lines we stood in, this was the one with the least payoff. Once we finally got aboard, we were only sort of amused by the boat pilot’s banter, and by the fake animals:

Off to our last adventure of the day (other than trudging back to the car, which I’ll spare you) – Aladdin’s Flying Carpets, which was just like Dumbo, only you were on a carpet instead of an elephant. I did get this pic though:

I love this picture. It sums it all up, doesn’t it?

Tomorrow: Epcot!


aimee said…
Great recap! You should seriously write a guidebook for Disney about what really to expect. It would be hilarious and true!
Chris said…
You forgot the Winnie the Pooh ride, our only Fast Pass experiment, but it was a pretty lame experience.
Chris said…
Never mind, you did mention it briefly. My bad.

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