Monday, October 10th
"In 1959, Walt Disney Productions began looking for land for a second park to supplement Disneyland, which opened in Anaheim, California, in 1955. Market surveys revealed that only 5% of Disneyland's visitors came from east of the Mississippi River, where 75 percent of the population of the United States lived. He flew over the Orlando site (one of many) in November 1963. Seeing the well-developed network of roads, Disney selected a centrally-located site near Bay Lake, and used various dummy corporations to acquire 27,443 acres of land.
"Walt Disney died from lung cancer on December 15, 1966, before his vision was realized, so his brother and business partner Roy took over, and dedicated it on October 1, 1971 with only the Magic Kingdom theme park, declaring it as "Walt Disney World" in his brother's honor. In his own words: "Walt Disney World is in memory of the man who started it all, so people will know his name as long as Walt Disney World is here."
"Today, the Walt Disney World Resort is the world's most-visited entertainment resort, with 16.97 million visits reported in 2010. Covering an area of 30,080 acres, it includes four theme parks, two water parks, 23 on-site themed resort hotels, a campground, two spas and fitness centers, five golf courses, and several other recreational venues and entertainment." [Wikipedia]
"It has often been said that the true essence of Disney magic can be experienced simply by stepping foot inside the Magic Kingdom. The venerable theme park has withstood more than three decades of changing cultures, a constantly shifting social climate, and an explosion of technology that has left lesser places outdated and obsolete. Yet, somehow, the Magic Kingdom continues to remain the undisputed king of theme parks, drawing more yearly visitors than any other.
"Designed like a wheel with the hub in front of Cinderella Castle, pathways spoke out across the 107 acres of the Magic Kingdom, leading to these 6 whimsical lands: Main Street, U.S.A., Adventureland, Frontierland, Liberty Square, Fantasyland, and Tomorrowland; each themed to its appropriate title. A vast network of underground tunnels connect all sections of the Magic Kingdom, thus preventing guests from seeing any of the necessary "behind the scenes" operations, and preventing cast members from one land from having to walk through another. Well, that was the original idea anyway - recent changes to park policy now allow cast members to walk freely through the park in whatever outfit they happen to be wearing.
"Most spectacular of all Disney parks are the parades and fireworks displayed at the Magic Kingdom in Orlando. Most notably, the current combo of the "Wishes" fireworks show, and the perennial nighttime favorite, Spectromagic. If these two performances don't impress you, then you're already dead and no one's bothered to tell you.
"From a touring perspective, "The Most Magical Place on Earth" can present some real challenges for those who want to experience the "magic" and not wait 90 minutes on each attraction to do so. As most visitors have learned, sometimes unfortunately, a good plan is probably the single most important tool you can use to get the most from your visit." [wdwinfo.com] Or, if you have to do things on the fly like me, take advantage of single rider lines, Fastpass, and if possible, avoid weekends and off-peak months.
I drove under the Magic Kingdom gateway arch at 10:45am, paid the exorbitant $14 parking fee, followed the directions of park staff to the designated parking space, and arrived at the ticketing booths. I had already purchased my 4-day admission pass at AAA for $239, saving a whopping 4 whole dollars off regular price, lol, so I was able to save some time by avoiding that line and proceeded to the entrance gate where they scanned my pass and handed me a map, then from the tunnel under the railroad I emerged into Main Street, U.S.A.
Main Street, U.S.A allows you to step back into early-20th century small-town America, inspired by Walt Disney's childhood and the film Lady and the Tramp, and it represents the park's "opening credits," acknowledging those people who were influential at Walt Disney World or other Disney parks, by bearing their names on the windows of the numerous shops selling food and merchandise. The park was largely decorated for Halloween, a favorable contrast to the marvelous spectacle of Christmas I was fortunate to witness on my last trip to Disneyland.
City Hall contains the Guest Relations lobby, where cast members provide information, assistance, and more importantly in my case - FREE souvenir pins! =D Shops include a working barber shop, a confectionery, bakery, ice cream parlor, and Town Square Theater. Here, life bustles with all the accoutrements of yesteryear including horse drawn trolleys, horseless carriages, the Walt Disney World Railroad Station, and other main street vehicles.
Upon reaching the end of Main Street, I found myself in the middle of the "Celebrate A Dream Come True Parade," featuring a collection of classic Disney moments with music, floats and favorite Disney characters. Then I took a moment to appreciate Cinderella Castle, a medieval castle rising 190 feet into the sky (more than 100 feet taller than Sleeping Beauty Castle in Disneyland), complete with 27 towers, soaring spires, ornate turrets and a shimmering moat containing 3.37 million gallons of water! Major elements of the Castle were scaled and angled to give the illusion of distance and height, an optical trick known as forced perspective to make the Castle appear larger than it actually is, a method frequently used in Disney theme parks around the world.
As I walked over the bridge into Liberty Square, a more low-key area of the park, I stepped into a recreation of an American Revolutionary colonial town, with brick covered buildings reminiscent of Williamsburg, Virginia. Notable elements include a replica of the Liberty Bell, the patriotic Hall of Presidents attraction, and the Liberty Belle - and authentic 3-tiered paddle-wheel steamship that circles Tom Sawyer Island. Of course, no visit to Liberty Square is complete without experiencing The Haunted Mansion attraction; one of the best rides in the whole park. It happened to be temporarily closed, but I made sure to return before the park closed.
I then entered Frontierland, where the strums of banjo music and the smell of smoked turkey legs and it will lead you to the old-time wild west, characterized by clapboard buildings and gingham and denim clad cast members, and landscaping adorned with mesquite trees, century plants, evergreens, slack pines and fragrant, flowering Jerusalem thorns. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (a fairly mild indoor/outdoor mine train roller coaster with sharp turns and drops) was closed (that's two rides in a row!), but I wasn't too bummed, since I've been on the original version at Disneyland. I think I also didn't get to go on Splash Mountain (a popular flume ride with twists, turns and 3 dips that lead to the grand drop down 5 stories of rushing water), which if memory serves me correctly, was also closed. At this point I was frustrated.
Next, I explored Fantasyland, a carnival-style Bavarian village, with child-friendly dark rides of storybook classics like Peter Pan, Dumbo, Snow White, and Winnie the Pooh.
As I did several times at Disneyland, I rode it's a small world, a 7-minute (less than half the length of the one in Disneyland) gentle boat ride through different depictions of cultures of the world, with nearly 300 brightly audio-animatronic dolls in the style of children representing more than 100 nations, that sing and dance to its title song in 5 languages.
a Magical Princess Makeover
Photo via Wdwinfo.com