Last week, we went to Disney World in Orlando, Florida. It was fantastic! My husband and I have been before, once after I graduated from law school and a second time when our girls were still young enough to want to do Bibbity Bobbity Boutique and the character breakfasts. Each trip we’ve done both new and favorite things. Below are my thoughts on Hollywood Studios’ and Magic Kingdom’s rides and shows. Next week, I’ll do another post on the other two parks and, after that, a third and final post with some Disney odds and ends. If you’ve been to Disney, tell me your thoughts in the comments, or if you plan on going in the future, lemme know what you’re most looking forward to!
In the past, the Magic Kingdom has been my favorite park but for this trip, Hollywood Studios was. Why? Well, it’s a park devoted to MOVIES for one thing AND my kids were finally tall enough to ride all the fun rides. Also, in fairness, it was probably also my favorite park this time because we stayed there the longest and saw a lot. We stayed for dinner and ended the night with the amazing Fantasmic show, a twilight show starring Mickey and all of the other Disney characters with music, fireworks, lasers, stunts, and boat floats.
- Ride Story: Tour Hollywood’s movie sets. Includes sets inspired by Aliens, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and The Wizard of Oz.
- Ride Thrills: It’s a tram tour through faux movie sets. But if you love movies like I do, it will be entertaining.
- My Take: Ride this first, as an introduction to the park. The line queues through a full-scale reproduction of Grauman’s Chinese Theater where you can view props, set pieces, and movie memorabilia. These change so the lobby is kind of like a temporary movie museum exhibit. At the end, there’s a fun “celebration of movies” montage.
- Ride story: You are a passenger in a stretch limo on LA highways heading to an Aerosmith concert.
- Ride thrills: 0-60 mph start, loops and a corkscrew. One of the fastest and loudest rides in all of the parks.
- My take: FUN! We rode it twice.
- Ride Story: Tour the “infamous” Hollywood Tower Hotel, a fictional hotel supposedly favored by LA’s rich and famous until lightning struck it in 1939. You are introduced to the hotel, its last inhabitants, and the creepy backstory by Rod Sterling of Twilight Zone fame as he welcomes you to the 5th Dimension.
- Ride Thrills: You and your party get in an elevator (albeit one where you sit down and buckle yourself in with a seatbelt) and take a haunted house type ride up to the 13th floor where 5 unlucky souls disappeared from the very elevator you’re sitting in. And then the fun begins — it turns into one of those “big drop” rides.
- My take: AWESOME!! I rode it twice and my kids rode it three times. It continues to be their favorite ride in all of Disney World, which is interesting since they think the Double Shot in Ocean City, NJ is boring (see how much story matters?! :-D ) The fact that the ride was inspired by the Twilight Zone TV show is brilliant. And how lucky were we that our Fast Pass time happened to occur during a giant thunderstorm? When the elevator doors opened to the outside, the view was almost surreal. Instead of an azure Florida sky, there was a deluge of rain and thunder. We plummeted toward the ground amidst a lightning storm. Walt Disney himself couldn’t have designed a more authentic backdrop.
- Ride Story: Explore a galaxy far, far away! :-) This ride is based on the Star Wars movies.
- Ride Thrills: It’s a simulator ride, but it’s manageable if you suffer from occasional motion sickness.
- My Take: Loved it. Simulator rides can be tough for me but this was fine and fun. There are over 50 different story combinations with new destinations and characters each time so I would have loved to have ridden it again if we had gone back to the park on a different day. (Riding a simulator ride twice in a row would have been hard for me).
- Ride Story: Tour Andy’s room, listen to an Audio-Animatronics Mr. Potato Head introduction, and then get ready to shoot!
- Ride Thrills: You sit in a car and are powered around to shoot at all sorts of different Toy Story themed screens. Great for people who like games where you shoot at targets.
- My Take: It was fun. I was slightly suspicious of how the scoring worked since my husband and I (who were in separate cars) had the EXACT SAME SCORE. Coincidence? I think not… but maybe we’re just that good. :-D
Voyage of the Little Mermaid: Cute. My youngest’s current favorite character is Ariel. (Surprising, right? Since more recent characters like Merida, Anna and Elsa are so popular right now. I think it’s because Santa brought her a mermaid fin this year. ;-) )
Muppet Vision 3D: Worth seeing if you like the Muppets and just because it’s neat to see how Disney takes its shows off-screen so that the theater itself becomes part of the show. Tip: Don’t throw your sunglasses in the 3D glasses recycling bin! :-D (My MIL did and we spent a few moments post-show digging for them).
Fantasmic! => Fantastic! If you go to Hollywood Studios and can stay until this show, see it! My MIL bought light-up, battery-powered mouse ears for my girls right before the show from a kiosk outside of the amphitheater. When the ears went dark just before the show, it kinda creeped me out because it made me realize (yet again) just how “soup to nuts” Disney really is. I thought it was almost too big brother-ish that the park could control my girls’ mouse ears so as to not interfere with the light and laser show. Little did I know! The “Glow with the Show” ears were dark only for a dramatically timed few moments. They then lit back up throughout the show, timed with the music and color-coordinated with the lights. You be the judge… creepy or not? I decided to embrace it and go with the crazy insanity of it all. After all, it WAS pretty cool to see ALL of the other kids’ mouse ears synchronized with the show.
My second favorite park this time was the Magic Kingdom. It’s a massive park and super crowded. Even when there’s not a parade going on (which happens pretty frequently), the streets and sidewalks feel like a packed bar.
The only thing that makes it okay is that there are no cars to worry about and everyone is in a good mood. Sure, people look exhausted and weary at times, but not as much as you’d think considering the heat and long lines. The vibe is very friendly. Everyone who works there is unbelievably helpful and everyone you bump into is unbelievably apologetic. If you’ve ever elbowed your way through a crowd at a concert or sporting event or walked along the streets of New York… well, it doesn’t feel like that, which is nice.
Disney is an expert in transportation and the logistics of moving insanely large groups of people from one place to another without chaos. During our trip, we rode in planes, trains, and automobiles… as well as busses, ferries, ATVs, trams, golf carts, and the monorail. But the lack of chaos and everyone’s I’m-on-vacation speed means getting anyway takes FOREVER. Think of going to Disney like you do home improvement – everything will cost 3x as much as you think it should and everything will take 3x as long as you plan.
- Ride Story: Take a “Doom Buggy” ride through a haunted estate.
- Ride Thrills: Good, plain haunted house fun for everyone. There are ghosts, ghouls, and a graveyard but there are more smiles than scares.
- My Take: An older ride with sentimental appeal that my family loves because we love haunted house rides.
- Ride Story: A journey to the edge of the galaxy and back.
- Ride Thrills: Not quite as crazy as the rock n roller coaster at Hollywood Studios but a very decent coaster ride. No loops but lots of fast turns in the dark make-believe world of space!
- My Take: I’d never ridden Space Mountain before. Don’t know why I didn’t the first time I visited and the second, it was closed for repairs. So I was glad I had the chance! It was fun. We rode it twice.
- Ride Story: You’re on a runaway train traveling through a haunted mine.
- Ride Thrills: As coasters go, this one’s pretty tame. A few dips where your stomach drops and a few turns where your smashed into the person sitting next to you.
- My Take: It’s okay. Once is enough but we rode it twice. :-)
Splash Mountain (Are you sensing the mountain theme?)
- Ride Story: Based on the 1946 Disney movie Song of the South. You glide in a hollow log on a bayou past Br’er Rabbit, Br’er Fox and Br’er Bear.
- Ride Thrills: One 5 story drop with a watery splash at the end.
- My Take: I’ve never been a fan of Br’er Rabbit. Log flume rides can be fun though. Sit in the back and wear a rain jacket if you don’t want to get wet! (If your phone isn’t in a LifeProof case, put it in a Ziplock before you go to the park).
PARADES AND FIREWORKS
This was a terrific parade! (We also saw some of the Animal Kingdom parade, which made us appreciate the spectacular grandeur of Magic Kingdom’s Festival of Fantasy parade). There were tons of floats featuring many of Disney’s biggest characters. Even the newer ones like Merida and Anna and Elsa had their own floats. Everything was timed with the music, which seemed to play from everywhere when the parade went by. Each float had a handful of performers — singing, dancing, and doing stunts. But the pièce de résistance was the brand-new-this-spring magnificent Maleficent float. It’s a HUGE steampunk inspired dragon, complete with a spinning wheel and real fire in its belly.
Disney also puts on a “Wishes Nighttime Spectacular” fireworks show every night at 10:00 p.m. Worth watching at least once per visit. It’s like a Disney vitamin. :-)
So those are my 2014 thoughts on Hollywood Studios and Disney’s Magic Kingdom. What about you? Have you been to either of those parks? What did you think? What are your favorite rides and shows? Are you planning on going to Disney World this year? Lemme know in the comments! Next week, I’ll load up some pictures from Epcot and Animal Kingdom. After that, I’ll post my thoughts about where we stayed, the water parks, and a few other bits and pieces. Have a great weekend, everyone!