Florida. They’ve got rides right? I’m sure you’ve never heard about them before.
For someone in the unhealthy realm of four-figures, it always felt pretty weird that I’d not yet visited the theme park capital of the world.
Well now I have. I guess that’s one less thing to look forward to in life.
Let’s get straight to it.
Day 0 – Travel
Not a huge amount to tell here. We landed in Miami because the car hire was way cheaper, missed the two creds at Uncle Bernie’s by a few minutes (as was fully expected) and then drove the wholly unremarkable Kia Optima for four wholy unremarkable hours up to Orlando, where we were then based for the entire trip.
Day 1 – Magic Kingdom
The hotel resort in question had some shuttle buses to the parks, albeit not entirely useful ones. Nevertheless we attempted to make the most of them in lieu of paying for parking every single day and our first experience with the system took us to the Transportation and Ticket Centre (TTC) just over an hour after park opening, from which the Monorail for either Magic Kingdom or Epcot can be accessed. We had opted to start with the quintessential Disney experience that is MK, as I entered their final resort in my now complete collection.
I’ll head this up with one more weigh-in to all the negativity I see around the painful planning required for Disney parks, Florida in particular, that unfortunately seems to put some people off ever visiting. We made very little effort to plan anything about these parks other than a swiftly jotted down list of attractions that were considered must-do. Admittedly the burden on certain days was eased by having experienced cloned attractions before and deciding they didn’t need another go here, but by the same measure I’m well known for being the type of person who won’t say no to an hour’s queue for a Vekoma junior just to get that sweet, sweet +1. All I’ll say is that with minimum thought, a little common sense and some general theme-parking experience, it was a very rewarding, relaxing and virtually stress-free experience. No fast track. No genies. No reservations. No rope drops. No hassle.
Alright, some hassle.
And here it is.
First ride of the trip was the Carousel of Progress. This I knew nothing about, so it was cool to kick things off with that old school vibe from a unique attraction with a rich history that feels both dated and charming, rather than Peter Pan dark ride #47.
For the uninitiated like myself, you sit in a big room that rotates from scene to scene about once every 5 minutes, each one containing a look at what life was like throughout different eras, narrated by the same animatronic family each time and interluded by a catchy, cheesy tune about a great big beautiful tomorrow shining at the end of every day. What’s not to love?
As soon as that was done, the rain started chucking down and we attempted to shelter in #1 Space Mountain, failing to do so as the hour queue put itself well into the outdoors. Umbrella in hand, it was a steady and relatively dry shuffle into the indoors and eventually onto the first of the two tracks.
I loved the ride system itself. Those old single-file, bobsled style trains on the janky tubular track, much like a distant Matterhorn cousin. For a coaster with such low speed, it creates a great sense of illusion as you blast around in the dark in any unpredictable direction. The highlights were actually the susprise jolts into and out of the various block sections. Sadly the lack of ambience in both music and visuals was similar to that of how we experienced the Tokyo version, rather than the epic sound and spectacle I found in others. I expect it to place squarely in the middle of the Space Mountain pack if I ever manage to not get spited by Jules Verne.
Next up was a ride on the Peoplemover, a cool little LSM train journey around Tomorrowland, including inside the buildings of other attractions, though you don’t get to see a whole lot.
Tron though, get excited.
Finally, I finally got to do Haunted Mansion without it having a holiday layover. It’s a such a classic attraction as is, though the queue after the lift is always a bit stewy. It also stopped for a long time in the dining room, in silence, reducing the atmosphere somewhat. I’m thinking Phantom Manor is still better.
Not least for having a slightly more imposing presence.
Something else that Paris does best is #2 Big Thunder Mountain, though I can’t deny the good times these rides always bring.
What they don’t have however is a Country Bear Jamboree. This animatronic based show of bears singing was nothing short of genius.
Heading back across the park and dodging yet more rain, we checked out the Little Mermaid’s take on an omnimover. It wasn’t new to me, but has a vastly more impressive exterior and queueline.
No longer able to avoid the weather any longer, as the circus part of the park was due to close early, it was time to suck up the queue for #3 Barnstormer. It was wet, it was poor, especially for a Disney park. At least some of their other baby creds look the part.
With cred hunting still being at the forefront of our minds, we had to dust off the other side of #4 Space Mountain next. Not that it didn’t warrant a reride anyway. It’s potentially the best thing here. Had to ask the cheeky question at the batch point to a host who treated it like a covert operation, but it was all good.
And then, to complete the quest, things got rather grim. The longest wait of the day was for the #5 Seven Dwarves Mine Train, essentially a lesser Big Thunder Mountain and a clone I had walked straight onto in the past (courtesy of a free fast pass, ah the good old days). The queue ground to an absolute grinding halt thanks to a multitude of Genie users, in the worst cases only batching four standby riders at a time, across two trains.
It’s consistently the most popular ride of the park right now and yet entirely unimpressive, though I hear I expect too much.
Coasters complete, there was time for one cheeky walk on lap of yet another Pirates of the Caribbean, though they were playing scare tactics and keeping it posted at 30 mins. Money? Probably. The drop didn’t feel as big, but that pirate ship scene astounds me every time.
Finally it was our turn to find a spot amongst the masses for the obligatory night time spectacular. It was mysteriously delayed for 10 minutes just as the crescendo happened, which caused mass confusion amongst the masses.
They’ve become a mixed bag over the years, ranging from complete shambles to life-altering.
This, brand new one I believe, was almost back to old form with the visuals. I wasn’t all in with the music choices however and it felt more like a highlight reel than ever before, taking the briefest of pauses to deal with each tune rather than ever getting into the meat of the song, which I would have particularly enjoyed on the Moana and Frozen 2 numbers. That Coco kid was grinding on me though, haven’t seen the last of him.
A satisfying end to the day at the very least, as was the impressive spectacle of how the monorail system chews through 50,000 people all leaving the park at once. We left the crowds at the TTC however, in order to get our hotel shuttle which was, inconveniently, only ever running from the bus station at Epcot each evening. This involved taking the other monorail, which strays a little too far into the park, purely for the benefit of a bit of sightseeing. Looks nice and all, but not when you’re in a hurry, which we certainly were due to the unexpected pause in proceedings. Some sprinting ensued in order to flag the man down at the last second, much to the surprise of the remaining stragglers.
Still got it.