I’m going to split up the next leg of my trip into different sections and the first is Disney World. Technically I could break it down even further into each park within Disney World (Magic Kingdom (the one with the castle), Epcot (the one with the golf ball), Hollywood Studios (the one with the Tower of Terror) and Animal Kingdom (the one with the safari). Or I could write an entire blog just on the food within Disney World, which once you star reading about you fall into an endless rabbit hole of options and opinions. I spent 10 days in Orlando staying in the Allure “Resort” on I-Drive (opposite where the Orlando Eye now is) and made the trip over to Disney World by the hotel’s shuttle for a fair few days, most of which I ended with dinner or drinks in my personal favourite theme park Epcot.
I have very different feelings about the four Disney parks which is probably why Orlando has drawn me back so many times. Obviously I’m a little bit of a theme park nerd and it probably stems from my first trip to Florida back when I was just seven years old. Lets start off with Magic Kingdom, the most famous of the four and also the most visited.
Since I was last here the entirety of Fantasyland has changed and been updated and the part I was most excited about was the addition of the restaurant Be Our Guest. Based on the Beast’s castle (and with a special appearance from the man himself) it looks good from the outside, but looks incredible on the inside. The actual exterior is pretty tiny, but they use forced perspective to make it seem like it is far away. The main dining room has huge windows that make it look like it is snowing outside and then there’s the forbidden West Wing with the cursed rose and ripped wallpaper, just like in the movie. I couldn’t get any good photos as it was so dark unfortunately! I was seated in the main dining room for my meal, the food was good and the service was even better. They gave me some “grey stuff” for free, just because!
Happiness breeds happiness and Magic Kingdom is pretty amazing at making smiles spread across anybody’s face. They’ve also added a Little Mermaid dark ride, which is impressive and will look great for years to come. Then there’s the new star attraction of the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. Fantasyland is also home to the one ride I always have to go on; Peter Pan’s Flight. Where you board a pirate ship and fly through scenes from Peter Pan, my favourite being when you soar through the night sky over London.
Magic Kingdom is the classic park within the world, the one you expect to see. With the famous mountains (Space, Splash and Big Thunder) and even more famous queues. Now there’s the amazing Fastpass Plus, so you can skip the queue by booking a ride time online. A virtual queuing system that makes the planning process more fun (for me anyway). The system is used throughout the parks and I had no problems with my reservations.
Epcot is a park of two halves, one about the future and technology, the other about the cultures of different countries from around the world. I spent a lot of my time here in the World Showcase portion. There’s so many different corners to explore and I always find something new. Not to mention the food! And alcohol. A margarita (or two) from La Cava Del Tequila is always the first thing I want when returning to Epcot, which you can drink in the always busy bar or get in a take away cup and wander around the Mexican pavilion.
Another place I highly recommend is the wine cellar in Italy, Tutto Gusto, which has an exceptional atmosphere and wine tasting selections, be sure to try the Powerhouse Reds selection.
I also finally ate at Via Napoli famed for having great pizza. My favourite dish. I tried something a bit different, the Piccante Signature pie (spicy italian sausage) and I added brocolli rabe to it. Absolutely delicious.
The newest addition to the Morocco is Spice Road Table, which does little plates of food and sits right next to the lake. Epcot is the definitely the “grown up” park. Even if you have been to the countries around the lake, it’s still very interesting.
I also ate at Le Cellier in Canada, but I still don’t understand what all the fuss is about (this is my third time, always thinking maybe I tried the wrong thing) but I guess the poutine was pretty good. There was also the horrible sandwich I got from Les Halles Boulangerie Patisserie, which was brie and apple. Hardly any brie (and it was crappy brie), the bread was bad and way too much apple!
You can also dine at places outside of the parks but still on property at the numerous hotels within Disney World. Last time I went a few years back I got the Deluxe Dining Plan and ate at a lot of the places. I wanted to revisit a few namely: California Grill, Artist Point and Jiko. Unfortunately with the limited transport options for me (I was getting a hotel shuttle which finished very early and had no rental car in Florida) I decided to only eat at one. I chose Jiko, at Animal Kingdom Lodge for it’s food, atmosphere and I knew how lovely that hotel is. It really doesn’t feel like a theme park. The hotel has animals within the grounds and is huge. Jiko had some of the best food I had on my trip last time and for once I wanted to order the same things as I had previously eaten. I ordered the Grilled Wild Boar Tenderloin for starters. Unfortunately the main I wanted to order was no longer served (a duck dish) so instead I opted for a fish dish, I can’t remember which one though. Still great food, I highly recommend all the restaurants at AKL, with Sanaa also being amazing (and much cheaper).
As we’re nearby, the next theme park to talk about is Animal Kingdom. This is the newest park with a lot of animal attractions and a few rides. It’s a lovely park to walk around and it has two of my favourite Disney rides: Expedition Everest and Dinosaur. In Expedition Everest you climb a mountain, get turned around and get attacked by a yeti all from the comfort of your roller coaster car. In Dinosaur you are travelling back in time to retrieve a dinosaur specimen when something (inevitably) goes wrong. The star attraction of this park though is Kilimanjaro Safaris where you can see lions, rhinos, giraffes, hippos and many more. The tiger enclosure set as a walking trail is beautiful, as is the Tree of Life that looms large near the centre of the park.
Last and almost definitely least is Hollywood Studios. Unlike the other theme parks in Disney World all of it’s signature attractions a duplicates: Rock n Roller Coaster, Tower of Terror, Toy Story Mania and Star Tours II. All of which are great rides but aren’t something that really draws me to the park. If you’ve never experienced these rides, go there and do it. It does also have the shows Fantasmic! and Beauty and the Beast, which are another draw. It just isn’t as nice of a park to spend time in, compared to the atmosphere of the others. Animal Kingdom is beautifully landscaped and green, Magic Kingdom looks like you are in a story book and Epcot is just awesome. Some people would disagree and a lot of people prefer Hollywood Studios to the sparse Animal Kingdom. It doesn’t help that it has the worst dining options (in my opinion) of the four parks and the most fun, re-ridable thing has terrible capacity so the queues are always incredibly long (Toy Story Mania). I’ve been too negative, I love this park, especially the new Star Tours which (as someone neutral on Star Wars) is such a fun ride. It’s also got re-ridability going for it as you never know which scenes you will be seeing. The Great Movie Ride is interesting and worth checking out too. Tower of Terror will forever scare me but I love the first part of it so much that I put up with the blind terror of going on a drop tower style ride.
That’s the end of my summary of my time at the Disney parks in Florida. It was a lot longer than I expected it to be! I wonder if anybody got to the end, like if you did!