Saturday, April 24, 2010

Disney World, Florida - Had a Blast - Part 2

For part two I’m going to begin with a must have resource for planning your trip to Disney World, “The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World - 2010”, by Bob Sehlinger with Len Testa. This is more than your ordinary travel book. This is a resource that goes into great depth on everything you need to know about Disney including many things that you would have never thought you needed to know. With this book you can plan a leisurely casual day at the parks or a full military style strategic plan to see everything in the most efficient way possible.

We only had a little bit of time on Tuesday afternoon after checking in, so we had planned to head to the Animal Kingdom and enjoy some of the attractions before it closed at 6:00 pm. Wednesday we spent at Epcot; Thursday was a full day the Magic Kingdom which was open until 11:00 pm; and finally Friday was Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Planning our days beforehand took some time and this is where the “Unofficial Guide” was a huge help.

Anyway, here’s a list of some our favourites from the week:

Animal Kingdom:

Kilimanjaro Safari – A ride through an African wildlife reservation. We got some extra time on this as we were stopped a couple times due to some animals blocking the trucks. When this happens, all the trucks stop until the animal clears the road. During one of these stops we got up close and personal with a rhino and an ostrich.

Dinosour – We were thoroughly scrambled after this one. This ride shakes you up quite a bit as you’re sent back to the past in order to bring back a living dinosaur. Last I saw the dino was heading towards Downtown Disney.


Test Track – This was our first stop. We liked it so much we got a FASTPASS to come back later to do it again. The ride seemed quite docile at first as you’re put through a series of benign road tests. However that all changes when you’re catapulted into the speed section that takes you up to 60 mph and then throws you into a 50 degree bank turn; hold onto your hat here, literally!

Soarin’ – This was very cool flight simulation ride that makes you feel like your hang gliding over California. However, you really need to get a FASTPASS. The wait time was no less than 60-70 minutes most of the day.

Kim Possible Adventure – This was surprisingly fun. You need to sign up at a “recruitment station” and then head to a designated Kim Possible post to get your assignment. You are given a “Kimunicator” with your mission instructions that take you through the different pavilions to uncover clues to prevent the destruction of the world. Trust me; you don’t need to be a kid to enjoy this.

Living with the Land – The “Unofficial Guide” said this was surprisingly good and they were right. It had much more than we expected.

Illuminations – This is Epcot’s nightly fireworks and laser light show. Be sure not to miss it, but be prepared for the mass exodus of people as the park closes right after. Choose you viewing spot wisely and then make a break for the exit as soon as the show is over.

The Magic Kingdom:

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad – This, I think, was our favourite. We rode it 3 times; the last time at night. This is a different experience when it’s dark as it seems to go faster. The guy in the car in front of me thought the same thing.

Space Mountain – Disney’s classic roller coaster in the dark. Now, I’ll admit that I’m not the biggest fan of roller coasters, and I have not ridden many, but Big Thunder Mountain was so much fun I thought that I should at least try this classic. Also, my wife loves roller coasters and I didn’t want her to miss out on the things that she likes. It was dark, it was fast, it had tight turns, and I was scrambled at the end, man that was fun!

Mickey’s Philharmagic – A fantastic 3D movie that makes its way through a lot of the Disney characters as a result of Donald Duck getting himself in a little bit of trouble.

Liberty Tree Tavern – Plain looking old-time tavern or Inn style common room dining. They serve dinner family style and it’s a lot of comfort food. This was the best meal we had all week. Roast beef, turkey, pork loin, stuffing, mashed potatoes, mac & cheese and a warm apple crisp and ice cream for dessert. Did I mention the food was totally amazing? Put this tavern on your list as a “must do” when you’re there.

Glass Tile Mosaic at Cinderella’s Castle – The attention to detail is amazing and it’s everywhere in all the parks and resorts at Disney. The glass mosaic mural is one piece that you can’t miss. This mural evidently took 6 artists 2 years to complete.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios:

Toy Story Mania – 3D shooting gallery at its best. However, unless you want to wait 60 minutes or longer get a FASTPASS. We grabbed a FASTPASS first thing when we got there at around 10:30 am and it was for a 4:00 pm return. We waited over 40 minutes for our first time around. Came back at 4:00 pm with the FASTPASS and we were on the ride in less than 4 minutes

Tower of Terror – 13 story drop; you’re freaking kidding me right? I was not too sure on this one, but again this was one of wife’s favourites. I managed to stay in line without running away and once I was strapped in there was no turning back. It’s called the Tower of Terror for a reason. This was terrifying, but at the same time exhilarating. I screamed just like the little 6 year old girl beside me. I might do it again… depends on what I have for lunch, though.

Photo Stuff as Promised:

I promised some photo advice so here goes. I own a Nikon D300 and a cache of lenses. I was very tempted to take it along with me because that’s what I’ve done every other time I have traveled. However, I decided against it and picked up a little Canon 780IS. All of the photos in this post and the last one were taken with that little camera. I wasn’t looking to make the best photos I could, it was about my wife and I capturing memories of a really fun vacation.

Now, I saw quite a few people walking around with their DSLRs around their necks; some with large zooms and other with small zooms, and either a backpack or shoulder bag. I could relate to their desire to bring their best camera along. However, I have to question the practicality. Having carried my D300 around for days on end I know how much of a hindrance it can be. The trouble is what do you do with your DSLR when you want to go on a ride? A lot of the faster rides have small tight compartments so it’s not that easy to keep it around your neck. There’s also no way I would trust my gear to the “personal items” pouch that’s provided on most ride cars. Space Mountain, for instance, takes some really sharp and fast turns; I’m okay to ride it, but I’m not sure I want to subject my gear to that.

If you decide to head to Disney World my best advice is to leave to your DSLR at home and take your best compact point & shoot. You will feel so much lighter and free to enjoy the park without worrying about your gear.

Last pieces of advice… put your little snappy in “full auto” mode, put yourself in “full vacation” mode then go out and have some fun and create some memories.




  1. WOW>... You hit this right on....
    I recently came back from my first family vacation to WDW... although I did take my D40, there were times were it was a hinderance, but... I am glad that I did take it too... but the biggest issue was the switching of lenses and all...
    and there were times even when i said to myself... im on vacation.. put the camera down and enjoy!

  2. Hi Dan,

    Thanks for your comment and for visiting the blog. Trust me, I know it's hard to put the camera down; let alone leave the big gear at home. It's always a personal choice.

    Hope you and your family enjoyed Disney!