Orlando… a day at the park
Visiting the Magic Kingdom
A Not-So-Scary Halloween in 2012

The Park: Magic Kingdom

Located at: Disney World

Overview: In 2010, with Terry, Ellen, Richard, Mike and Louise, we decided to visit Epcot during an Orlando trip. It was our only Disney park on that adventure. Other than that, I cannot think of a trip that involved Disney World but did not involve the Magic Kingdom.

The Magic Kingdom theme park was the first Disney World park I ever visited. That was back in 1979, when it also was the only Disney World theme park.

In 1997, it was while above the park, on the Skyway between Tomorrowland and Fantasyland, that Terry and I officially became engaged.

Funny thing though… since 2010, we have been able to visit every Disney park except the Animal Kingdom. Last time we were there was 2005. We had also set foot in the Magic Kingdom twice in 2011, in January and December. And so, while mapping out the possibility of including two or three nights at Disney World along with a theme park day during this Florida trip, our original thought was for seeing the Animal Kingdom. Until… Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween party… the Headless Horseman… and an opportunity to catch up with Donna and Joe began gaining some traction.

And yup… back to the Magic Kingdom.

(Funny story… we are planning a trip to Florida soon that will include Justin and a friend of his. Since she has never been to Disney World at all, it looks like the Magic Kingdom is up again. (Plus… new Fantasyland is mostly open now.) We are thinking about adding a second and possibly even a third park to that visit, but will be mapping out a true schedule once we arrive and see things like the weather and park hours as well as working out the schedules of our friends. And, as much as the Animal Kingdom is calling -- and Expedition Everest -- things like Fantasmic! and a stroll around Epcot are getting serious consideration.)

Rides we went on:

Pirates of the Caribbean
Haunted Mansion
“it’s a small world”
Mickey’s PhilharMagic
Tomorrowland Speedway
Stitch’s Great Escape!
Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor
Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
The Barnstormer
Haunted Mansion

The goal of the night was not to get on every ride. Having been there recently, we had seen the Jungle Cruise, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Country Bear Jamboree, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, and Peter Pan’s Flight one or two times in the past twenty-two months. So the idea here was based on three things: (1) Being Halloween, there were certain rides (specifically the Haunted Mansion) that would have must-do status. (2) Capturing the special events such as the Boo-to-You parade, the trick-or-treating, and the ride of the Headless Horseman. And, (3) just enjoying the park, and if Terry, Donna, Joe or I wanted to stop in a shop or see an attraction, then that would be just fine.

What we ate: Our main stop was at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café. It’s not a brilliant place as far as a diverse menu… this is kid-friendly and all-around food of burgers, chicken and general items. But… it does feature performances from Sonny Eclipse… and the food here is decent and made for sharing. Terry and I like it as a stop because the location just works (pretty much bordering the edges of Tommorowland and Fantasyland while adjacent to Cinderella’s Castle). So… convenience, in a place where sitting for a few minutes works… food that’s good and easy enough to share… and in general it’s usually quick service. (I often find Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Café to fit the same concept on the other side of the park. Usually Epcot and Hollywood Studios are the parks where Terry and I begin getting excited about the restaurants as a significant part of the experience.)

Events we saw:

Boo-to-You parade
Happy HalloWishes

The best of the best: The Haunted Mansion was awesome… and we stopped by on two occasions. The first was before the Halloween events had begun. The second trip though… the makeup had been amped up… cobwebs seemed to be significantly increased and utilized… and quite often, while not jump-out-at-you scary, it seemed like cast members would just-so-happen to be around corners, off to the side in doorways, and more or less suddenly appearing in places where you didn’t expect them. In short… oh yeah… the group working in the Haunted Mansion see the Not-So-Scary events as their party. (And embrace it they do.)

Ellen and Richard stopped at the Dole stand -- Aloha Isle -- during our Christmas visit. Honestly, though I am sure I had tried it in the past, the Dole Whip is now a tradition thanks to that stop. (Yeah… yeah… this is just our second official stop for the tradition… but it is just that good.)

Observations: Disney World takes up a good chunk of the Volume One, Florida edition of Strange and Unexpected: Backpack on the Road. Can’t hide it… I love the place. It has an incredible sense of tradition and comfort (the rides you love, the things to do that not only cross from trip to trip but also generation to generation, and the familiarity created after multiple visits), and yet is almost constantly expanding or updating portions. Sure… not perfect… but as I mentioned earlier, the new Fantasyland, and introducing someone that has never been while bringing Justin back for his first visit since 1999, already has Terry and I excited about the possibility of our fourth visit in what would be about twenty-eight months.

This trip, we used the property transportation more than ever. We stayed in the Art of Animation resort area, and during the day had been on a bus, ferry and the monorail. Worth noting that while it did involve timing things properly to account for moving a bit slower on these options, the ability to get around while not having a car is pretty cool.

Special praise (or complaints): Once again, a special event delivers. Our tickets for Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween were less per person than a one-day theme park pass. And that’s about $25 per person less. And yet…

  • There was early admission. We got in at 4pm… the event start was at 7pm. So according to park hours and event hours… we could have had up to eight hours inside the Magic Kingdom.
  • Once the event begins, the crowds tend to thin out. So the ride lines and wait times are greatly reduced. Said it before… always worth noting… if your goal is getting on the rides, you could likely cruise through virtually the entire park in the eight hours.
  • The special event setting is incredible. On this visit it was trick-or-treating. Last December it was free snacks (apple slices, cookies, hot cocoa, etc.). You also don’t get to see the Headless Horseman or some of the characters that these parades feature during regular visits.

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