So, I went on an adventure last week. I travelled back in time, Marty McFly style (sub the bad*** DeLorean for a significantly less cool Kia Forte rental car), to a magical land where fairytales meet alcohol in an enchanted concoction. A place where children are guided by larger, less-cute adult-children through palaces, underwater treasure troves, and pirate taverns. The week of May twenty-first to May twenty-fourth saw laughter, delight, fascination, and sunburns galore as two little girls who masquerade as grown-ups during the work week visited the happiest place on earth: Orlando’s Walt Disney World in the United States.
The trip began by stepping off a plane from the big, white north, as two twenty-something Canadian girls walked into the wall that is Florida air. It hits you, and I swear you more drink the air than actually breathe it, courtesy of the muggy humidity. Hair already frizzing, and sweat already pooling, our vacation was underway. Half an hour in a forty-dollar Uber, and we were in our AirBnb in Kissimee, Florida lounging by the pool with a Disney tunes playlist setting the mood for what awaited us in the morning. Like two kids on Christmas Eve, we waited, with dreams of talking animals and little Mermaids swimming in our heads.
The Magic Kingdom
We woke up at 8am sharp, and I promise this is where the magic comes into it. A cloudy morning crested over the Magic Kingdom as families of little explorers approached good old Walt Disney and Mickey smiling in front of Cinderella’s palace.
Standing there, in the centre of this magical world, we were honestly overwhelmed. Euphoria mixed with an odd melancholy for youth lost had us at a loss for words. And at a loss for where to go first. I hadn’t been in the Magic Kingdom in seventeen years, and I was filled with the urge to be absolutely everywhere at once. But before we get to that, I have CONSUMER ADVICE:
Before you even get to the park, download the Walt Disney World app to your mobile device and make an account. Everyone with a valid park pass gets three Fastpasses per day. Fastpasses allow you into preferred lines, getting you onto rides faster. And the best part: it’s completely FREE! So, before you go, book your Fastpasses on the app, it will allow you to select the date and time of your choice, but they do fill up, so it is best to do them a day or so in advance (download it here!). That being said, on certain rides (like Ariel’s Undersea Adventure) the Fastpass lines bypass a lot of the practical effects and world building, all of which kind of make waiting in the line process pretty fun and magical. Now, back to the magic.
So, to be succinct, here are a few of the mandatory attractions to visit in the Magic Kingdom:
- The Haunted Mansion
- The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party (a classic)
- Ariel’s Undersea Adventure
- Pirates of the Caribbean
- Honestly, the entire park, writing this list makes me feel bad for not picking every ride
Basically whatever you loved about Disney as a child, the Magic Kingdom has it, but for the sake of time I will focus on the few that I mentioned above. Starting with The Haunted Mansion – which FYI is definitely a ride that warrants a use of one of your Fastpasses unless you have an odd kink for extremely long lines – this ride is incredible. Aside from being my home-aesthetic goals, it is immersive and believable. The ride takes you through a story as much as it takes you through a house. Revisiting the Haunted Mansion was a definite highlight of the trip.
The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party – better known as the Spinning Tea Cups – holds a special place in my heart. While it is seen and rated as a kiddies-ride, I have fond memories of spinning cups so fast even adults were induced to vomit. However, do not be concerned, the ride allows you to control the speed and direction in which you spin, meaning that it can either be a crazy vortex or relaxing jaunt of a ride.
Ariel’s Undersea Adventure is incredible. Even waiting in line is fun, as you really do feel as though you are walking through Ariel’s treasure trove on the ocean floor, peeping into all of her contraband, human souvenirs. Then, the ride itself takes you on the journey of the film – as is a common trope of the Magic Kingdom – hitting all of the plot points and songs that are family favourites.
Lastly, Pirates of the Caribbean has some of the most realistic animatronics I’ve ever seen. Once or twice I swear they could’ve fooled me into believing that Johnny Depp was actually there in costume. Alas, it was merely a very real-looking Jack Sparrow dummy despite the ride being used in the past as a promotional platform for the films in which Johnny Depp actually did replaces the robotics so as to interact with guests of the park.
Where To Eat In The Magic Kingdom
We finished off the night, once again with Italian food but this time with a view of Lady and the Tramp in Tony’s Town Square Restaurant, right at the main entrance of Disney’s remarkable little world. It is a nice restaurant, and one of the more modestly priced ones within the Magic Kingdom that can actually squeeze you in without a reservation. The average meal was around $25, compared to the $40-$60 entrees in restaurants such as Be Our Guest or in Cinderella’s Castle – both of which boast reservation waitlists of six months! Be Our Guest is slightly less expensive than Cinderella’s Palace, and based on the location of the dining experience, I recommend making a reservation there in advance if a member of your party has a particular penchant for Beauty and the Beast. Of course, throughout the park there are snack stands and smaller take-out style food options like Gaston’s Tavern and the Tortuga Tavern outside of the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction if you’d like to grab a bite on the go. But none of that mattered, watching the fireworks over the Palace and listening to the soundtracks that formed and shaped my youth – and if we’re being honest, my adulthood, too. Disney brought out the happiest memories of my childhood that I had been storing away, and I’m so thankful that a simple trip back to the happiest place on earth was all it took to uncover them once more.