In my life I have been to Walt Disney World at least twenty times, as a child, a teen, a married twenty-something and now as a parent. I want to try a give a fairly broad view and my thoughts on rides, food and accommodations. This will in no way be an in-depth guide but just my view of the resort. I have stayed both inside and out of the resort, but in recent years I’ve been exclusively inside. I’ll break down break down my thoughts by hotels/accommodations, parks, and food.
I will start by saying that Disney has definitely made it less appealing to stay outside of their resort complex in recent years. First parking is now $14 a day for those who drive in and are not staying at a Disney resort. Also its much easier to make reservations for dinner if you are staying inside, and if you’ve been to WDW you know how important reservations for dinner can be.
Recently I have begun staying at Disney’s Boardwalk Resort, and find it the most convenient of the resorts. The Boardwalk has both hotel rooms as well villas and condos that are part of the Disney Vacation Club. We have stayed in the villas (a studio last year and a two bedroom this year) the last two years and find having a kitchen is a great benefit. As I will get to later the food in Disney is pricey and quality, well you’ll have to read to the end. This hotel is a five-minute walk to EPCOT and about a ten minute walk to Hollywood Studios (formerly MGM Studios). You can also take a boat to The Studios or EPCOT. To get to Magic Kingdom we usually walk through EPCOT and take the monorail to avoid the buses. I find the buses a bit of a pain so avoiding them, for me, is a good thing. Now, to get to Animal Kingdom or the water parks a bus is really your only option.
The rooms themselves are very nice and Disney finally upgraded their TV’s and DVD players in the rooms. For an entertainment conglomerate they were woefully behind the times, with 19 inch tube TV’s in rooms that can run $400 a night. Also there is no WiFi in the rooms it is wired access and is free to DVC members is a fee for others. There is WiFi in the lobby and in the restaurants that is free. The rooms themselves are very nice and there are some good views. If you can afford it I would take a look at Boardwalk.
I had relatives who stayed at Pop Century resort and they were perfectly happy with the rooms, which were basic hotel rooms. The bus service, while better than driving, can be long and tedious from this resort. I believe this is also the least expensive on Disney property. We also stayed at Port Orleans a few years ago and you must use the buses to get everywhere except you can take a boat from the hotel to the marketplace area.
Parks and Rides
Magic Kingdom is the flagship resort of WDW and has held up pretty well over the years. In MK you have the iconic Main Street USA and Cinderella’s Castle as well as the different lands. The rides I enjoy most here are the Haunted Mansion, Splash Mountain, Tomorrowland Transit Authority and Carousel of Progress. I preferred when TTA was the WEDway People Mover but I can live with the current incarnation. They’ve done a decent job with Haunted Mansion over the years keeping it classic while making minor upgrades which can be a difficult balance. There are a few things I would drastically change or eliminate and they include The Jungle Cruise, It’s a Small World, and The Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse. The Jungle Cruise is just horribly outdated and I don’t think I’ve been on it in several years. With the opening of Animal Kingdom, Jungle Cruise has become unneeded and could be used for some other attraction. Right next door is the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse which has been out of date for 30 years. I know some folks like Small World but I think its tacky and slightly offensive.
EPCOT is divided into Future World and World Showcase. The countries of World Showcase are generally where we tend to eat. They have the best food in the parks but reservations fill up quickly so make sure you book ahead of time. A few of the countries have rides (Mexico, Norway and Canada). Mexico is a slow boat ride with Donald and is quite dated. Norway is a pretty good ride and I recommend it. Canada is a 360 vision film with Martin Short. I just can’t deal with Martin Short, sorry. In Future World Spaceship Earth is the flagship ride and goes through the history of communication. It’s good but I preferred Jeremy Irons narration. Test Track and Mission to Mars are also very good rides. I’ve never liked Ellen’s Energy Crisis/Universe of Energy. It is far too long and quite boring. Also I was disappointed with what was done to Journey of Imagination. The original incarnation was much better than what is currently there. I like the Nemo ride, as does my son, but it would be nice if it were slightly longer.
Hollywood Studios has a few really good attractions and a few incredibly lame ones. Toy Story Midway Mania, American Idol Experience, The Rock and Rollercoaster and Tower of Terror are excellent rides. I thoroughly enjoyed Midway Mania, its like a great 3D carnival game themed with Toy Story. Also you can compete against each other for the best score. I also really enjoyed the AI Experience, which people in the park can try out and perform in order to win a front of the line pass for a real AI audition. Now I must get to The Great Movie Ride which has become pathetic at this point. While in line you watch trailers of classic films, which is pretty interesting but they really need more to cycle through. The ride itself takes you through classic films and genres. Some are fine (Wizard of Oz, Casablanca, Westerns, Singing in the Rain) but to still have Tarzan, and Buzby Berkely sections really disappointing. At the end you are treated to a montage of classic clips and to update this they have added a scene from Pearl Harbor (really I’m not kidding). The picture is grainy and there need to be some new scenes added from films people have seen. Once again Disney is a media company and to have a grainy 1980’s projector showing films on your ride is unacceptable.
Animal Kingdom is the newest park and, as the name says it’s about the animals. The rides and attractions are mostly terrific in this park especially Expedition Everest and Kali River Rapids. I would recommend going on a cooler day because the animals will likely be more active, especially on the Safari ride.
Another theme park tip for those with infants and toddlers, find the Baby Care Centers. Each park has one and they are very convenient for changing and feeding as well as a place to take a break.
I am going to put a disclaimer here, as far as food I am a vegetarian and my wife eats chicken and ham but not fish or steak , so my review may lack in those areas. If you have input on those things I’d love to hear it. My favorite places to eat are Tutto Italy, Chefs De France,Boulangerie Patisserie, and Harbor House. Overall the food in WDW is not really that great. I realize these are theme parks and not gourmet eateries but I would like to see the quality upgraded. We ate at Yak and Yeti in AK and were not impressed, it was quite bland Asian fare. Also Tony’s on Main Street USA had slow service and the food was only okay. I feel if I am going to pay $80 for a meal for two it should be better than okay. Most of the food in the parks is quick service and I don’t expect it to be anything special. It is the table service places I would like to see improve.
Well, these are my thoughts and I hope you share you your opinions and experiences in return.