Are you a Disney Park critic? I know, it’s hard to be critical of anything Disney (at least I think so), but even I have to admit that I’ve experienced a few things that some parks don’t do as well as others. Of course, there’s also a number of things that each park does very well! Today, I’m breaking down Disney Park Strengths and Weaknesses beginning with a park that’s somewhat in transition right now: Animal Kingdom.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park is still a new park when compared with the other Disney World Parks and perhaps the most difficult to explain. What you should know right off is that Disney did not intend for this park to be a zoo, but rather a new type of theme park where the entertainment and is living and breathing. Animal Kingdom opened for guests appropriately on Earth Day in 1998 and is currently home to more than 2,000 animals and currently in a transition as construction continues for new nighttime entertainment and the addition of Pandora – The World of AVATAR.
So let’s start with Animal Kingdom’s strengths, shall we…
There is a lot of spirited debate in the Disney community comparing Walt Disney World to Disneyland Resort, with passionate opinions on both sides of the issue. Indeed, there have been plenty of articles comparing the two parks on this site and others, and our very own Savannah Sanders has an ongoing series comparing attractions at the two resorts.
The following is objectively true: Disneyland is smaller, has fewer parks, fewer hotels, and fewer restaurants than Walt Disney World, and versions of most of the major Disneyland attractions can also be experienced in Orlando. Accordingly, a common misconception seems to have developed among Walt Disney World veterans that Disneyland is a “lesser” park and there’s no reason to go when you could go to Walt Disney World instead. The oft-cited fact that “Walt walked there” isn’t enough to convince them to try out the original park.
The reality, however, is that the World’s smaller, older sibling has merit — a lot of merit, in fact — and is very worthy of a visit. Moreover, far from providing you with an excuse to skip Disneyland, your familiarity with Walt Disney World makes it an even betterdestination than for someone who had never been to either park. I’m going to take this a step further, however, and tell you that if you’re an Orlando veteran, you need to get to Anaheim and take in the original at some point for reasons that have nothing to do with which place is “better” or the footsteps of one Walter Elias Disney.
Walt Disney World and the Christmas Season. It just doesn’t get any more magical than that. I absolutely love this time of year as the Disney World Parks and Resorts begin to deck their halls and debut their annual holiday events and roll out new festive merchandise, it sort of helps me to kick off my own holiday preparations. One way to prep for the upcoming holiday is to take a few moments to drop by the Magic Kingdom or the Santa Chalet at Disney Springs to let the kids, and yourself, tell Santa what’s on your wish list. This tradition got me thinking… If I could, what would I ask Walt Disney World to get me for Christmas? If you will, indulge with me in a little bit of Christmas fantasy as I fill out My Disney World Christmas Wish List!
Bring Back the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights – Of all the holiday entertainment at Walt Disney World, the Osborne Spectacle of Dancing Lights is my personal favorite. I love the fake snow, the music and carols, the looks on everyone’s faces as they take in the lights, and the fact that it’s free with park admission! So as you can imagine, I was pretty much crushed when I heard that this is the last year for the Osborne Lights, yet I’m just as thrilled about the new developments coming to Hollywood Studios such as Star Wars Land and Toy Story Land. At this point, I’m holding onto a hope that Disney may move the Osborne Lights to another location at Walt Disney World. An announcement confirming my hopes is most definitely on my Christmas Wish List this year.
Disney World has truly spectacular offerings during the holiday season.
It’s no secret that I dress for success when I plan my outfit choices in Walt Disney World – no detail is left out. While this usually refers to some light DisneyBounding, it means something a little different in December, when a cute dress and Mickey ears isn’t enough to get you through the cold evenings in the parks. Thanks to the fantastic holiday offerings, December is one of the most exciting times to visit Disney World. You’ve got Magic Kingdom’s Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party (MVMCP), Epcot’s Candlelight Processional, and Hollywood Studios’ Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights. On top of that, the resorts and parks are decked out in their holiday finest, so even if you don’t want to spring for the extra cost of a party ticket to MVMCP, you can still enjoy the ambiance during the day. Just make sure, as you’re planning for your holiday trip, to give serious consideration to the weather. As unlikely as it sounds, Florida gets COLD at night in December!
I know what you might be thinking, “I’m from [insert cold state here — mine is Michigan]; Florida doesn’t even know what cold is! I walk eight miles uphill both ways through six feet of snow just to get to the Disney Store!” Okay, that might not be exactly what you thought, but it is pretty close to my viewpoint on the subject before my first December trip. Luckily, I followed the advice of others and (even though I scoffed) I packed for the cold weather. And thank goodness I did! Based on that experience, I’m going to give you a breakdown of my 5 must-pack items for cold weather, some tips specific to nighttime holiday entertainment options, and a few final pieces of advice so you can dress for success on your holiday adventures in Disney World!
In the spring of 1989, Disney’s MGM-Studios opened at Walt Disney World. It was to be Disney’s answer to the Universal Studios parks, one of which was — not so coincidentally — opening a year later in Disney’s Orlando backyard. Universal Studios in Hollywood was renowned for being a part of Universal’s actual working studio lot, able to give visitors a glimpse at films and television shows in production.
At the same time, World Championship Wrestling (WCW) was declining in popularity as it shifted from being a regional southern professional wrestling promotion to a worldwide company with big name stars in an attempt to compete with the World Wrestling Federation (WWF.) A marriage of the two was the brainchild of Eric Bischoff, a brash Turner executive with bright ideas about how to give the company’s wrestling shows a modern and more mainstream image. One way of doing this was to ditch the often dilapidated and half-filled arenas they usually filmed in for a controlled studio audience who, unlike typical wrestling arena crowds, would cheer and boo whomever and whenever WCW producers wanted them to, not unlike a taping of the Price is Right.
Photo books are a great way to extend the magic of your trip!
I’m sure you’ve all been there – your Disney vacation is over and the dreaded Disney blues set in and all you want to do is extend the magic from your trip. The end of a Disney trip can be depressing, but I’ve developed methods for extending the magic past the vacation so I can bask in the Disney happiness just a little bit longer. One of my main methods of doing this is through the creation of photo books.
Now I know what you might be thinking, “Photo books? Anyone can create photos books to document a vacation! What makes your method so special?” Well I’m glad you asked. I approach photo book creation for Disney trips from a unique angle. Rather than just documenting step-by-step the different events that take place on a trip, I attempt to find a new and different storytelling theme for every photo book I create. My desire is that the photo books not only transport us back to the wonderful memories from the trip, but also make us laugh at the way I chose to tell the story. Essentially, I’ve embraced the idea of being goofy. Let me break down my process step by step.
The holiday season is upon us here in Orlando! Walt Disney World is always the first of the major theme parks to kick off their festivities. The green light to start getting into the holiday spirit is shining bright, so let’s talk about the holiday festivities at Walt Disney World that need to be on your must-do list this year.
5. Monorail Resorts Tour
Photo by Brian McNichols
Three of Disney’s deluxe resorts await along the monorail loop, as part of the Magic Kingdom’s dominion. These resorts are highly sought after, commanding some of the highest room rates in the area. There are many desirable features here and during the holidays each resort offers their own unique way to celebrate the season.
Each year Disney’s Contemporary Resort offers a large gingerbread display in the Grand Canyon Concourse. This resort has the most kinetic energy and I find it to lack a bit of peace and instead at certain points feel as hectic as the shopping malls are this time of year. Still, the hustle and bustle is a traditional feeling of the season for many.
Hopping on the monorail (assuming it is actually operational) you’ll make a quick pit stop at the TTC before proceeding to Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. Get ready to say Male Kalikimaka, which is Hawaii’s holiday greeting. The holiday festivities and décor are not as extravagant as you will find in our next stop, the Grand Floridian, but the tropical charm and exotic feel is something you’ll rarely find anywhere else.
The grand finale is the Grand Floridian. This resort sparkles and shines during the holidays. The elegance and grace of the season are reflected in the Victorian Christmas decorations, evoking holiday traditions of a more refined era. Accents of gold, scarlet, and pale peach shine against the deep emerald green garlands. Nearly every Deluxe resort has a multi-story Christmas tree for all to admire. Here the tree is 40 feet high with golden lights and ornaments of doves, harps, bird cages, and other graceful elements.
The main attraction here is the life-size gingerbread house. The detail on this childhood dream come true never fails to impress each year. I’m getting giddy just typing about it. You can view the house from all angles, peer in the windows, and even shell out some dough (pun intended) at the sweet shop inside the house. The treats are pretty pricey, I would recommend picking out one treat to share.
Bonus round: secure a spot at any of the three resorts to catch a performance of Holiday Wishes, my absolute favorite fireworks ever to grace the Magic Kingdom.
4. Epcot Area Resorts Tour
Typically the monorail resorts get all kinds of love and recognition during this time of year, but I think there is a collection of resorts that offer a better experience during the holidays. The Epcot Area / Crescent Lake Area Resorts are much easier to access and tour through. You can walk to each resort or for a seafaring twist hop aboard the Friendships (though not the most effective use of your time).