In a child’s universe, a visit to Disney World is the epitome of excitement. Where else can all his favourite characters come to life? M&B
flies you on a magic carpet to Lake Buena Vista, Florida, USA, to see the 25,000- acre plus Walt Disney World, the biggest and best one in, well, the world…
Walt Disney World, the world’s most visited entertainment destination, is literally a world in itself. Built on the marshy reaches of Florida on the East Coast of the USA, it has grown from strength to strength since the Disney ‘imagineers’ fi rst created magic here in 1971. It is now home to four theme parks (Magic Kingdom, EPCOT centre, Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios in chronological order), two water parks, 24 themed Disney resorts, two spas and fitness centers, fi ve golf courses, and other recreational and entertainment venues. Here’s your own VIP tour of the entire area, specially custom-designed to suit your tot’s tastes…
The Baby Care Centre at Magic Kingdom is next to The Crystal Palace, while you can rent a stroller from under the Main Street Train Station.
This is the one place that ALL the little ones just HAVE to visit. How can they not, when it has everything from Mickey Mouse in Sorcerer’s Apprentice robes outside to Cinderella’s Castle to fabulous daily parades that feature all the familiar Disney characters? In fact, the June 2011 AECOM Theme Park Attendance report for the year of 2010, said that Magic Kingdom, with 16.97 million visits per year, is the number one theme park worldwide!
SEE: The Magic Kingdom is divided into seven themed areas arranged in a circular, clockwise layout centered around Cinderella’s Castle.
Main Street, USA: As you enter the park, you are immediately on Main Street, USA. This is like a slice of typical American life, but peppered with a humongous dash of Disney. Your little one can have the time of her life, doing meets and greets with Mickey Mouse and all her favourite princesses at the Town Square Theatre. You can also do a lot of shopping here. From here, if you go in a clockwise direction, you can visit the remaining themed areas of Adventureland, Frontierland, Liberty Square, Fantasyland, Mickey’s Toontown Fair, and Tomorrowland. Each has its own special attractions, eateries and gift shops, all fi tting perfectly into the theme.
Adventureland: Check out the exciting Pirates of the Carribean boat ride with Captain Jack Sparrow or climb the Swiss Family Robinson Tree House in Adventureland. Younger tots will be fascinated by Tinkerbell’s Magical Nook where all the Disney fairies live.
Frontierland: Older kids will love Frontierland, with its risky ride in Brer Bear’s dangerous world on Splash Mountain and the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.
Liberty Square: The most hauntingly beautiful ride is the Haunted Mansion in Liberty Square, where the ghosts, though scary for little ones, are actually really endearingly funny for older revellers.
Fantasyland: This is one of the most popular places in all of Disney World. Where else but at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique can a girl get to get all dressed up as a Disney princess and then have a fancy meal with the princesses at Cinderella’s Royal Table? There are also several lovely ‘dark rides’, where you get into a little car and get whisked away into a story-telling adventure. These are perfect for young kids, with themes such as the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Then there’s a fabulous carousel, spinning teacup ride called (what else?) the Mad Tea Party, and a Fairytale Garden where you can meet Rapunzel. The 3D show called Mickey’s Philharmagic is truly fun. We thought that the newest ride, a new improved Dumbo the Flying Elephant which will soon have a mirror image ride next to it, is a great fi rst ride, which you can enjoy along with your little one.
Tomorrowland: This one has a futuristic theme and has a lot of attractions for the older child. Space M untain is an indoor roller-coaster and, in our opinion, one of the scariest rides we’ve ever experienced. Kids can enjoy the Astro Orbiter, which is a lot tamer than Space Mountain! EAT: Burgers, sandwiches and salads at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe, Waffle Sandwiches at Sleepy Hollow, and softserve ice-cream at the Sunshine Tree Terrace.
Make sure you get a map of the park you’re in and mark out all the attractions that you want to experience. A little bit of planning will ensure that you don’t miss out on anything and don’t end up with a tired and cranky child on your hands either!
Deep in the depths of Magic Kingdom park lies a legendary world – New Fantasyland – that’s been long hidden from our view. As story has it, this is a place where mermaids sing, beauties tell tales, beasts roar and elephants fl y. Meg Crofton, president of Walt Disney World Resort, recently announced the new additions to Fantasyland and the experiences guests will see when the expansion opens on December 6, 2012. While the themed area named Storybook Circus is already open and welcoming young guests to partake of its rides (The Barnstormer, a spiralling stunt plane adventure; the twin Dumbo The Flying Elephant, and the Casey Jr. Splash ‘N’ Soak Station, a circus-themed water play area), the Enchanted Forest, a lush landscape with roaring waterfalls and royal castles, will combine the traditional Disney Meet & Greets with characters and its spectacular shows to present Enchanted Tales with Belle. This will be a one-of-its-kind storytelling experience where the audience helps re-tell the story of Beauty and the Beast with Belle, and the guests get to play some of the characters’ parts! Another exciting attraction called Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid will also open on December 6. Besides these, you can look forward to attractions such as the Princess Fairytale Hall and the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train which will come up in 2013 and 2014 respectively.
Epcot, the second of the four parks, opened in 1982. It’s short for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, which was Walt Disney’s vision for a futuristic planned city, with actual citizens living actual dayto-day lives. Today, it’s more like a permanent World’s Fair, dedicated to the celebration of human achievement, namely technological innovation and international culture. Divided into two sections – Future World and World Culture – and featuring annual exhibitions like the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival and the the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival, this hourglass-shaped park holds more interest for adults than tiny tots. Future World consists of a variety of pavilions that explore innovative aspects and applications of technology which might be hard for a young child to understand and appreciate.
SEE: But we do think that the geodesic sphere that is its symbol, and the various countries and landmarks of the world showcased here, may be of interest to older kids.
EAT: We’re still waiting for an Indian theme attraction and restaurant here, but meanwhile, we think you’d enjoy a glimpse at world cuisine, from the pricey wood-fi red Italian pizza at Via Napoli to the more affordable Mexican at Cantina San Angel.
Grab a Times Guide from shops and guide booths anywhere in Walt Disney World to get the day’s timings for Character Meet & Greets and Parade schedules so you and your littleone can get in position early.
Hollywood Studios, which opened in 1989, is wholly dedicated to show business. While a lot of the best attractions are for older revellers (the Rock’n’RollerCoaster Starring Aerosmith, the Indian Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, the Lights Motors Action Extreme Stunt Show, the 3D Star Tours adventures, the Great Movie Ride, the Studio Backlot Tour, the American Idol Experience, the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, etc), there are a few that the younger lot will love.
SEE: Kids go bananas for the live on-stage shows – from Disney Junior to Voyage of the Little Mermaid to Beauty and the Beast to the Muppet*Vision 3D show. Then there’s the larger than life playground that’s called the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure, and a 4D game-playing adventure called the Toy Story Midway Mania.
EAT: The Disney Junior Play’n’Dine at Hollywood’n’Vine lets the tots have fun with their favourite Disney Junior characters and enjoy a family buffet too!
As a special treat for your little one, you can made an advance reservation for a Character Meal at specifi c venues in each park, where one or more of the beautiful Disney princesses and other assorted characters come and meet the kids at the meal, pose for photographs and autographs and sometimes even present the kids with special gifts.
If you thought Disney was just about cartoon characters, think again. This park, which opened most recently (in 1998) is all about an all-natural experience centred around animals, birds and reptiles. Even the Oasis at the entrance has many exotic species.
SEE: Start with the 145-foot tall Tree of Life, with 325 different animals carved into its bark, which is the iconic centrepiece for the Animal Kingdom. It’s set bang in the middle of Discovery Island, which has several walking trails where you can see creatures like Galapagos tortoises, African crested porcupines lemurs and cotton-top tamarins. Your kid will enjoy the eightminute 3D movie and multi-media show called It’s Tough to be a Bug! featuring Flik, everybody’s favourite ant, and his
grasshopper friend, Hopper, from the Disney·Pixar fi lm A Bug’s Life, along with a supporting cast of insects and arachnids who provide a surprising look into the animal kingdom. Next, catch a show of the Festival of the Lion King in the Camp Minnie-Mickey section.Your tot will have a blast, clapping and stomping to this highenergy tribal celebration which has all her fave characters from the Disney film. Young kids love dinosaurs, so it might be tough for you to drag your little darling away from DinoLand USA, which is a 100 per cent dinosaur-themed park! Younger kids love scarabbling through The Boneyard, a play maze where kids can dig up mammoth bones.
EAT: Pizza at Pizzafari and corn dogs at the Beastly Kiosk.
Buy a Fast Pass at the ticket counter of any park you’re visiting to avoid waiting in long queues for your favourite rides. This allows you to clock in and get a fi xed time that you can come back for your turn at.
WHERE TO STAY
Of the 33 resorts and hotels on the Walt Disney World property, 24 are owned and operated by Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. They say that if you want to enjoy the Disney experience from start to finish, a Disney resort should be your choice. Guests with a Disney Resort reservation arriving at Orlando International Airport can be transported to their resort from the airport using the complimentary Disney Magical Express service, and have their bags picked up and transported for them. This is just the start of a fantastic Disney vacay! I was at the Disney Yacht Club Resort, close to the lake and the accompanying Board Walk. Each resort, like the parks, has its own theme. This ensures that every time you visit Disney World, you can have a completely unique living experience too. From luxury villas in African-style lodges to Polynesianthemed hotels to the value stays in All-Star themes such as Music, Sports or Movies, there’s something on offer for every wishlist and wallet.
Disney’s newest Art of Animation Resort is designed with families in mind. It features four of Disney’s popular character themes: Cars, Finding Nemo, The Lion King, and The Little Mermaid. Much like the other Disney Value Resorts, giant versions of various items are built around the hotel on each of the 10 wings, such as a 35-foot model of King Triton. In total, there are 1,984 rooms. 1,120 of them are family suites capable of housing up to six people, featuring living rooms and bedrooms. The Finding Nemo section of the resort,w hich opened in May this year, is themed with the ocean setting featured in the fi lm, with underwater plant and animal decorations throughout the buildings. The Cars section of the resort, which opened in June this year, is themed like the Cozy Cone Motel that was featured in the fi lm. Resort buildings are themed with the movie’s characters, including Lightning McQueen, Sally, Mater, and Luigi and Guido. The Lion King section of the resort features a ‘natural’ setting and opened in August. Last to open (in September) was the Little Mermaid section with 600 cutout objects on resort balconies.
If you’re staying at a Disney resort, getting around is really as simple as getting out of your hotel and heading to the right bus or mono-rail stop and waiting for your ride. A fl eet of Disney-operated buses, branded Disney Transport, is complimentary for guests. The Walt Disney World Monorail System also provides transportation at Walt Disney World. This operates on three routes that interconnect at the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC), adjacent to the Magic Kingdom’s parking lot. One line provides an express non-stop link from the TTC to the Magic Kingdom, while a second line provides a link from the TTC to Epcot. The third line links the TTC and the Magic Kingdom to the Contemporary, Polynesian,and Grand Floridian resorts. Disney Transport also operates a fl eet of watercraft, ranging in size from water taxis up to the ferries that connect the Magic Kingdom to the TTC. You usually have to wait for a transportation vehicle for only about 20 minutes. All the transport starts early in the morning (an hour before the parks open) and goes on until about an hour after the parks close. You also have the option of renting a car which could help save you some time if you want to see Disney World in a hurry. But who wants to rush through the Happiest Place in the World, right? M&B
You can use the ferry between some resorts and parks. It’s like a novel ride in itself and will keep your excited tot pepped until you get to your chosen destination.
Words & Visuals Priya Pathiyan