When it comes to going to Disney, there are some people who are *DISNEY!!!!* people and some people who are not. It is very, very easy to tell the difference. The *DISNEY!!!!* people are on the plane in matching family themed t-shirts. They are probably staying at one of the many Disney hotels and going for the full experience with all the stuff that you have to plan in advances (sometimes months in advance): the Magic Bands, the reservations at the character breakfasts, the appointment at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Bouitique, and of course the Fast Passes.
I think that is a totally valid and fun way to experience Disney (if that’s your jam), but this is a post about doing Disney when you don’t have a wardrobe of Disney clothes, want to do just slightly more than the bare minimum in terms of planning, and care a lot more about rides than meeting characters or seeing the shows.
As I mentioned in my last post, my six year old and I went to Orlando in September to avoid the biggest theme park crowds (and, it turns out, to sweat as much as humanly possible). Let’s talk about the Disney part of the experience, day 1:
- Over a year ago, I had won four one-day Park Hopper passes in a charity auction, so we I knew Ev and I would do at least two of the parks. We chose to do Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom. We ended up making a last minute decision to add Epcot on to the end of our Magic Kingdom day. While I’m glad that we saw Epcot, I feel like we only really scratched the surface of that park, despite the fact that we were at the parks from 9am-8pm (23,000 steps that day!). If I do Disney again, I don’t know if I would do the Park Hopper option again, unless it was for multiple days. I think one park per day is PLENTY to do. If you do try to do two parks in a day, the Magic Kingdom/Epcot combo is probably the easiest since you can take the Monorail to get from one to the other at no cost.
- A note about transportation — we stayed in a non-Disney property that I chose largely because it was pretty centrally located to the parks. It was fine, though it was a place that also has time-shares, so there was some sales pitching for signing up for that, which is politely ignored because the offer of a free weekend in Branson, Missouri is aggressively not my jam. I didn’t rent a car so we did an airport shuttle to the hotel ($64 round trip for two people) and used Uber to get to all the parks (most trips were $9-14). Parking at Disney parks is $20 a day, so Uber and not paying for a rental car ended up saving a few bucks for us. A note about Uber — the Uber drivers we had were all SUPER nice and because of the Parks, they all drive A LOT. I didn’t have a single driver who had done less than 1,000 trips (you can see their trip total on the app) and all were 4.5 stars or higher, so I had no anxiety about getting murdered.
- The first park we went to was Animal Kingdom, which I’d never done before. I did make fast pass reservations in advance, but only a few weeks in advance, so some of the ride options were already full. If you are going and a Fast Pass is available for the Avatar Flight of Passage is available — GET IT. That ride had by far the longest line (180 minutes as of 9:15am) but was really cool. I would have like to have gone on it twice but the lines were too long and we got rained out at the end of the day. There was a moment at the beginning of the ride when they are getting you locked in your seat that felt a little scary for Ev (I think she had A LOT of time to get nervous about it while we were waiting over an hour in line). Once the ride got going, she was totally into it.
- We used our Fast Passes on Expedition Everest (my favorite ride and the most rollercoaster-y, though not too scary for my 6 year old, who calls it “a stomach dropper”), Kali River Rapids (fun and you don’t get nearly as wet as you do on the water rides at Universal studios. More of a sprinkle than a soak), and the Kilimanjaro Safari (we liked this so much that we did it twice. I HIGHLY recommend doing this toward the end of the day. The ride is in an open jeep/bus thing and is about 20-25 minutes long, so it’s a nice chance to get off your feet and rest for a bit. I also think the animals are more active when it isn’t the heat of the day. If you have a littler person, let them get in the row first because they’ll get amazing views of the animals as they walk around.)
- Some of the other things we really liked at Animal Kingdom included:
- The Boneyard: This is a play area where I could sit in the shade and Ev enjoyed climbing and doing the slides. Worth a stop if you are with kids under 12)
- The Mahrajah Junkle Trek is like a mini-zoo tour. You can see tigers, monkeys, and a cool bat exhibit among other animals. Mostly shady, which is always appreciated
- Lunch at Blaze Tree: good BBQ options and a staff that is ON IT in terms of making sure people with food allergies are taken care of (Ev and I don’t have any, but it was nice to see them being so attentive to people who have them).
- A note about Animal Kingdom as a fat person: As I said in my last post, I’m about a size 22 with an hourglass shape and large breasts. I love rides and hate worrying about whether I will fit in them or not. I had ZERO issues with any of the rides/options at Animal Kingdom. I feel like Disney does a good job of really being accessible for people of size and, from what I can tell, people with physical differences.
- There were several things at Animal Kingdom that we didn’t get to do (even though we were there from 9am-5:30pm) because it started POURING down rain at about 5:15, so rides were shut down and there was little hope that we would be able to dry off enough to have fun even if the rain stopped. I’m bummed that we didn’t get to see the Rivers of Light show in the evening because I’ve heard that it’s a great one.
- We didn’t do any of the shows because my girl is all about the rides and really isn’t to the shows or characters. You can do a full day with just rides, if that’s your kind of fun.
I’d happily go back to Animal Kingdom if I went back. Expedition Everest was really fun and the Avatar ride was different and cool. I’d just try to aim for a day that wasn’t so rainy!