A visit to the Magic Kingdom
The whole family heads to Orlando in 2005


From the Backpack ~ Strange and Unexpected

Normally when I post something from the archives, it involves bringing back an essay or article or such that had appeared on the In My Backpack web site and was removed during one of the updates or computer issues over the years.


This entry is a bit different though… in addition to appearing on the site, it was part of the Travel Trilogy project… or, more specifically, Strange and Unexpected: Backpack on the Road – Volume One: Florida.

And that means a couple of versions exist… somewhat specific, almost definitive versions if you will… the work that was on the site, and the chapter that was edited and potentially revised from that piece and used for the book.

This material was originally posted on April 2, 2007. It was later published in April 2013. Some minor proofreading edits and adjustments may have been made while bringing the material back to the site in this posting.

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There were a total of thirteen people in our travel group to Disney. So… just a quick little introduction on the names you may see…

Tigg and Ellen – My lovely bride, Terry, and our good friend Ellen

Kris and Kei – My sisters

Naya, Tamsin, and Ky – The grandchildren (not my grandchildren… Kei’s kids)

Nick – Kei’s husband

Mom and Dad – My parents… potentially referred to as Grampa and Memere

John and Margaret – The other grandparents… Nick’s folks… occasionally referred to as The Brits

About the park…

The original is still the best. This park remains the top park in Disney World… and… it’s not even close really.

Over the years it has been developed so much that some of what I consider to be the original charm is now a memory. In 1979, when I first visited, my parents did half of the park with us on day one… Tomorrowland and Fantasyland. Then, our second day in the park included Frontierland and Adventureland.

I simply can’t do justice to that experience. Seeing all of Tomorrowland and Fantasyland and then being told that we had only seen half of it! Plus, in 1979, the Magic Kingdom was the only theme park in Disney World.

These days there’s a children’s section in the park. And many of the early rides have been replaced. It’s not to say it isn’t fun… it’s actually a blast. But the magical first visit seems far in the past.

And yet I’d still try to divide it up a bit. We really didn’t. People suggested stuff and the backtracking began.

Rides that I know Tigg and I went on, because I was there…

It’s A Small World – What can you say? This ride is still great fun, and for us the memories were just astounding. Even the grandchildren picked up on the fact that this ride meant a lot to the people they were with… especially the grandmothers.

Peter Pan – Ky was hysterical while we waited in line for this ride… he was at the front of our group, and when the line started moving he hit the behind of the man in front of him (who was not with us) while shouting “Go… Go… Go…”

Aeriel’s Grotto – Ok… not a ride… but autographs are part of the deal with young kids along.

Winnie the Pooh – Kris stayed outside with a napping Ky.

Stitch – New ride, replaced the Alien Encounter in Tomorrowland. It’s still based on an escaping alien… but now Stitch is involved to make it a bit more entertaining and fun instead of scary.

Space Mountain – The classic Disney coaster and it has withstood the test of time.

Haunted Mansion – I got to ride this one twice… jumping on with Mom the second time because we had split our group up earlier, met for dinner, and Mom heard me saying the ride would be closing after our first day in the park and wouldn’t be open again while we were there. Dad and John went with us the second time. I saw the hidden Mickey in the cemetery.

(Side note, we spent parts of three different days in the Magic Kingdom. Ellen was with us for the following rides.)

Tiki Room, under new management – Stinks. An absolute waste of what was a great and memorable show from my childhood. If I could have done it without disrupting the show I might have walked out. Can we vote on bringing back the original?

Jungle Cruise – Classic, but showing a bit of its age and it doesn’t really have the memorable pull of It’s a Small World.

Country Bears, Christmas Show – I had never seen the holiday show before, so this was a special treat. I enjoyed it.

Big Thunder Mountain – Dad, Margaret and Ky sat this one out. I recall being a kid and visiting once while this one was being built, knowing how special our vacation was at the time, and wondering if I would ever get back to ride it. For some reason I always think about that when I get to the park… and also thought about it in California when I got to ride that park’s version of it.

Mickey’s Philharmagic – A great show involving a stage, 3-D effects, and other assorted elements.

Splash Mountain – Dad, Margaret and Ky sat this one out too.

Pirates of the Caribbean – I’ve heard that some elements of this ride have been changed since this visit to fall into place with characters from the movies. When we rode it, the ride was still the classic version.

Rides others supposedly went on according to my notes, and I want to preserve them here, but I wasn’t on them…

Dumbo – The Brits, Tigg and grandkids went on this ride.

Magic Carpets of Aladdin – It was the grandkids, Kei and grandparents on this ride. It’s a lot like the Dumbo ride.

Places we ate at, or food we enjoyed…

Sour Cream Pretzels – Loved them so much that I wasn’t nearly as distraught in the end about the disappearance of the cinnamon-sugar pretzels I’ve enjoyed so often before as I was when I first learned those favorites were no longer available.

Columbia Harbour House – When people tell you Disney thinks of everything, believe them. The kid’s meal is served in a three-part tray. Of course, the three parts are circular, and arranged to look like Mickey.

Pinocchio Village Haus – I seem to recall getting an Italian grinder here. It was ok, but nothing so amazing as to make it a necessary stop.

Tomorrowland Terrace Noodle Station – Don’t be upset if you never knew this place existed… they hide it. I needed a quick bite, and Tigg and I split some fried dumplings. They were actually pretty good.

You really need to know…

Wishes – The evening fireworks display and it just seems to keep getting bigger and better. Including Tinker Bell sliding along a wire, the view along Main Street of fireworks over the castle is just breathtaking. I have seen it from different vantage points, and have been told by many that they enjoy going to other parts of the park to watch it. The soundtrack is played throughout the park and is a great accompaniment to the show. But I still maintain that seeing it from Main Street is the best.

Share a Dream Come True parade – The standard mid-day Disney parade. I’ve seen parades and events in every park, and it seems to me that the Magic Kingdom one is routinely the best of the afternoon shows.

Cinderellabration – Imported from Japan, it shows a special event for Princess Cinderella. With all the princesses represented, the girls went nuts. They loved it.

Spectromagic – The current electrical light parade. Always a dazzling and fun event to see.

Some unexpected fun we had…

I can’t place this moment in a best or worst column, but it’s something I want to share, and it happened on the first full day as we were getting ready to head out to the Magic Kingdom.

We stayed at a gorgeous resort (Orange Lakes). We bought some stuff for the kitchen. Included in all of the stuff was a big box of Cookie Crisp cereal. Kei announced to everyone that there was no Cookie Crisp cereal to eat… just in case the kids asked. Protecting the kids from too much sugar? Not really. At the time, she was talking with her mouth full. She was eating a bowl of Cookie Crisp. She was guarding the inventory.

On our second day at the Magic Kingdom, we stopped in the photo store to check out some pictures from that day. The woman at the counter was laughing at us… she recognized our shirts from a visit earlier that week. Can’t explain how incredible it was to be recognized in different places.

Stay away from…

This may sound strange, and hard to explain, but I think running around this park like crazy takes away from the experience.

I’ve seen tour guide books that recommend running back and forth… Splash Mountain to Space Mountain to Big Thunder Mountain… with essays explaining how waiting in certain lines are better for drying off, or how to use the fast pass to your best advantage, or even how to get through a checklist of must-do-attractions as quickly as possible… and the thing is, they’re wrong. (Well, maybe wrong isn’t the right word.)

The simple thing about this park is that it was originally designed to flow from one area to the next with incredible subtlety, and yet in a way that distinctly allowed you to move along and finish things off as sections. For a family, when this was the only park, it was almost like a bookmark for finishing on one day and continuing the next.

I really believe there is something to the idea that it’s meant to be savored and enjoyed. And the faster you move around, the more you miss. Those guide books help you get to everything. However, they don’t let you experience everything. So unless you know of something that will only be available on one day (like the Haunted Mansion during our trip), my recommendation is to move slowly and enjoy it all.

To put a ribbon on it…

This is the best park. There’s just a complete package here that the others don’t approach.

If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at Bob@inmybackpack.com