Travel Tales: Florida 2016 – Day One

Last week, I had the pleasure of heading to Orlando, Florida during my Spring Break from work. This trip was a long time in coming, planned by myself and my friend Sarah as a way to escape the frustrations of real life and work. It all started with a random idea on my part, upon reading an article about the new Diagon Alley section of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios. Many years ago, I went to the first section and I absolutely loved it, and I was dying to see the new area. I knew Sarah, a fellow Harry Potter fan, would be up for it. We planned, and while we were at it, also decided to head to Disney World – the Magic Kingdom and Epcot, to be exact.


We flew in Saturday night, arriving at the hotel simply to check in and sleep for a few hours before we had to be up and ready for our day at the Magic Kingdom. Even though we were still getting up at around work time, this was a different kind of getting up early – one filled with excited anticipation of our day at Disney. The last time I had been to Disney World was about seven years ago; for Sarah, it was much longer, but we were both equally ecstatic to be there again.


Our morning started out a little frustrating, as we had to get on the hotel shuttle, transfer to the monorail and then transfer to the ferry boat, only to have to wait on a line to have our bags checked. I love Disney, and I think they are often great at the getting things right down to the very last detail, but something they do NOT know how to do is organize a bag check line in a way that works efficiently. We stood on the line bouncing apprehensively as we had breakfast reservations at the Be Our Guest restaurant that were steadily approaching, despite the fact that we gave ourselves over an hour to arrive for our breakfast. Finally, we got through the check and raced through Main Street, barely glancing at the castle in our hurry to get the breakfast, lest they not let us in for being late. Turns out, we didn’t really have to worry. Not only did they let us in without an issue, but the restaurant seemed a bit empty, which was not what we were anticipating being as we had been told that these were some of the most difficult reservations to come by at the Magic Kingdom.

The outside of the Be Our Guest restaurant.

The outside of the Be Our Guest restaurant.

Be Our Guest restaurant exterior.

Be Our Guest restaurant exterior.

After a few confusing moments, we were finally seated in the ballroom of Be Our Guest. First off, the restaurant is located in the brand new Fastasyland section of the Magic Kingdom, which I have never seen. Of course, I am familiar with the old version of Fantasyland, as it has always been my favorite section – all the best rides are there! However, Disney did a fantastic job of revamping it, and adding some new attractions… but we’ll get to that soon enough! We’re still on breakfast. Thanks to the Disney website thinking of everything, we were able to preorder, which was nice because it cut out a step (though I can’t really say it made the food come any faster). In an effort to stay a LITTLE bit healthy, we both went for eggs whites and chicken sausage (believe me, we ate plenty as the days went on, so I’m really glad we kept it lighter here), though I did also have half of the croissant that came on the pastry plate.



The restaurant not only consisted of the ballroom, but of some of the other areas of the Beast’s castle, including the forbidden area where the slashed portrait and the rose are located. Of course, all of those things were present as well and we took turns looking around at everything as we waited for the food to arrive. As we were both eager to start exploring the Magic Kingdom and go on the rides, we ate quickly and headed back outside but not before snapping some shots with Belle and the Beast… well, some stain glass versions of them anyway!



From the restaurant, it was time to explore the rest of Fantasyland, and finally really appreciate the fact that we were in the Magic Kingdom and not racing across it! The new section includes the restaurant, as well as some other references to Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid and a brand new ride from Snow White called the Seven Dwarves Mine Train.

The Beast's castle exterior, above the restaurant.

The Beast’s castle exterior, above the restaurant.

Prince Eric's castle, as part of the exterior of The Little Mermaid ride.

Prince Eric’s castle, as part of the exterior of The Little Mermaid ride.

The new statue of Gaston.

The new statue of Gaston.

Our first stop was The Little Mermaid ride, as it was right next to the restaurant. On a fairly recent trip to DisneyLAND, I actually went on this ride at their California Adventure Park. It’s your pretty standard Magic Kingdom ride: a journey through the story from the movie, but that doesn’t make it any less exciting! As we were waiting on line, I was commenting to Sarah about how much fun it must be to design the rides, particularly the lines. The Little Mermaid ride was all sunken ships and shells stuck in the same, as well as other shipwreck paraphernalia. For the ride itself, you ride in seashells and travel under the sea with the characters, and then back up to the shore once Ariel has her legs. The whole thing makes you feel like a kid again (provided you were a kid, like I was, when The Little Mermaid first came out in theaters but that’s probably an irrelevant requirement!).

One finished with our first ride, we decided to tackle the Seven Dwarves Mine Train, as we were told by Disney afficionados that it was very popular and would have long lines, and we were unsuccessful in getting Fast Passes for it prior to the trip. Well, all I can say is, our friends weren’t lying. The line took FOREVER, and it was actually a horrible experience because were stuck behind a family of what felt like twenty-five who kept crashing into us, stepping on our feet and trying to cut in front of us. To be honest, at one point we just let them cut so that we would be put out of our misery of constantly being hit with their backpacks and their children. It was one of those situations with no adult supervision whatsoever. However, this incident led us to making friends with two girls – one from Croatia and one from England – who we ended up getting along very well with and going on the ride with. We parted ways right after the ride was over, but we did make some nice temporary new friends. The ride itself was a lot of fun – it was a roller coaster but not one with scary drops or upside-downs. If you’ve ever been on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, it’s about the same speed (and also a very similar theme, to the point that I’m a little surprised they didn’t just replace that one with this one and save themselves the trouble of building a whole new ride).


By the time we got off of the Mine Train, it was already the early afternoon (I guess that’s what happens when you start your day with breakfast reservations and the most popular ride in the place!). Both of us were dying to go on Peter Pan’s Flight. I don’t know what it is about Peter Pan’s Flight, but it has always been a favorite. Maybe it’s the nostalgia of the movie, or maybe it’s getting to fly in the pirate ships, but for whatever reason, I can never miss it! And neither can anyone else for that matter, as it is generally one of the most crowded rides in the whole park. Though we were told we would have a wait time of an hour and five minutes, it was much shorter, and the ride was so worth it, even though it was short and sweet. But it’s always exactly as I remember it! However, with that said, the line was done very differently – it seems that in their revamp of Fantasyland, Disney added some fun new details to the rides – for example, you walk through the Darlings house before getting to the pirate ships, and they have a little Tinkerbell light that travels through the room and interacts with various objects. I loved it, as it gave guests something to look at AND ensured that I didn’t stand in the hot sun all day!


The next ride was ‘It’s a Small World,’ which I wouldn’t necessarily say is a favorite, but it’s a must-do any time you’re in Disney World. If you don’t have that song stuck in your head ALL DAY LONG, then you’ve done something wrong! Another Magic Kingdom staple is the Haunted Mansion, which is exactly as I remember it, with a few added details in the end (for example, no ghost rides in your cart with you anymore; they just have a screen of hitch hiking ghosts, which I actually have to admit was a tad disappointing).

At this point in the day, I decided I wanted ice cream and Sarah really wanted to buy a pair of Minnie Mouse ears, and so we decided to explore Main Street a little bit. I decided against the ice cream when I saw the line at the ice cream place, but we did finally get to see the castle up close and personal and snap a bunch of pictures.




After a bit of shopping, we decided it was time for Pirates of the Caribbean. On the way, we stopped at the Jungle Cruise ride and learned that the official meltdown time for toddlers at the Magic Kingdom is approximately 4:28 p.m. There were no less than five screaming 2-4 year olds on the line, and for reasons that all seemed entirely unreasonable. So I suppose my tip for a day at Magic Kingdom is: stick it out till about 6:00 and hopefully parents will give up and bring their tired little babies to bed. I can’t promise it’ll happen, but one can hope it does. However, even with a few cranky kids, the day was still pretty awesome.

Dinner took place in Tomorrowland, the only section of the Magic Kingdom we had yet to visit. I ordered a burger, and apparently decided to get my money’s worth in pickles at the toppings bar:


Our last ride of the day was Buzz Lightyear, in which you can spin the car around and shoot at targets. I ended up scoring 21,000 points (Sarah got 3,000 but I’m not bragging here as I genuinely have no idea how I came upon these points – I just kept shooting at anything). While we were waiting on the line at this ride, the trio behind us had t-shirts that said “4 Parks. 1 Day. Every Ride.” Presumably they were participating in some sort of challenge, as I heard them discussing their strategy of trying to make it to a bunch of them before the end of the day. I actually kind of wish I knew what ended up happening, and now I want to look it up and see if this is an official challenge somewhere, or if they made it up themselves. (Personally, I wouldn’t wear a shirt advertising it, as I feel that would cause a delay in people wanting to ask questions about the challenge.)

After Buzz Lightyear, we decided to call it a day. We leisurely made our way down Main Street again, and were able to snap a few more pictures before we headed back to the ferry, the monorail and finally the shuttle bus.




And let’s not forget my tendency to put on the most ridiculous hats I find everywhere:


From the ferry, we caught the monorail back to Epcot where our shuttle bus would be waiting for us (this actually took forever, but that’s going to be a different story and it doesn’t mar the fun we had!), and headed back to the hotel. As an added bonus, the premiere of Game of Thrones was just starting when we arrived back at the hotel, so we ordered room service wine and called it a day!


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