The [not quite] Happiest Place on Earth

Walt Disney World - Magic Kingdom - Cinderella's CastleWalt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida is comprised of four different amusement parks, each of which are in the top 10 list of most visited amusement parks in the world.  Thanks in part to the brand and image that Disney has built, it is often touted as the happiest place on earth.  With Magic Kingdom being the top visited park in the  world with over 18 million visitors in 2013, it just may be.

Walt Disney World - MonorailIn order to visit Magic Kingdom, you park at the transportation center and then catch the iconic monorail or ferry to the park.  While this is a novelty at first, it can add 30 – 60 minutes to your round trip journey to the park.

Walt Disney WorldWe begin our journey at Magic Kingdom which is filled with lots of happiness.  Disney has mastered the art of how to incorporate happiness into its parks.

Walt Disney World - Seven Dwarfs Mine TrainWalt Disney World - Seven Dwarfs Mine TrainOur primary reason for visiting Walt Disney World this year was the long awaited opening of the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.  While it is a standard mine train ride experience, it has been Disneyfied.  With the roller coaster cars swinging based on the movement of the trains, it absorbed any ‘jerkiness’ and was the most comfortable mine train I have ever ridden.

Walt Disney WorldThe new roller coaster is part of the new Fantasyland, a retheming of the back section of the park incorporating many existing rides and adding a few more.  They also added some new eating establishments including Gaston’s Tavern.  The cinnamon rolls at Gaston’s are exceptional.

Walt Disney WorldIf you are a frequent visitor of the park, you may notice a major change.  Magic Kingdom didn’t seem much different to us than it was when we last visited in 2009.  In some ways that is good when you want to keep a constant atmosphere.

Walt Disney WorldVisiting Walt Disney World Resort during Christmastime has been on my bucket list for many years.  This year we were able to fulfill that dream.

Walt Disney WorldIn expected Disney fashion, the decorations were beautiful.

Walt Disney WorldMain Street USA was filled with holiday cheer…and crowds.  People were everywhere creating lines for nearly everything.  Demand is clearly higher than supply.  While Main Street USA offers a great view, it is a big bottleneck and very difficult to navigate a wheelchair through.

Walt Disney WorldWalt Disney WorldWalt Disney WorldThroughout all four of the parks at Walt Disney World Resort, there was plenty of Christmas cheer to be found.

Walt Disney WorldWalt Disney WorldWalt Disney WorldThe clear highlight of Christmas at Walt Disney World is the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  When the sun sets, the streets are packed with people admiring the lights set to music.  They even have real snow flurries to get you in the holiday spirit.

Walt Disney WorldWho doesn’t want to meet Santa Goofy?

Walt Disney WorldThe true gem of the Christmas holidays at Walt Disney World is the iconic Cinderella’s Castle at Magic Kingdom.

Walt Disney World - Cinderella's CastleWhile we are back at Magic Kingdom, Cinderella’s Castle is at the center of the park and its towering spires can be seen from many places in the park.

Walt Disney World - Cinderella's CastleYou get a different view from every angle and while I don’t have real stats, it wouldn’t surprise me if this was the most photographed amusement park item across all parks around the world.

Walt Disney WorldI am sad to report that we were not able to ride it’s a small world during our visit.  [sarcasm]  While I love the message that it sends, the never-ending sound track could potentially drive you crazy.  The family vote was unanimous to skip this ride.  Maybe next time.  Or not.

Walt Disney WorldI always have a camera of some sort with me including my phone and often a simple point and shoot.  Sometimes we also lug around the more expensive camera but most of my pictures come from the two former devices.

Walt Disney WorldOne attraction that you don’t want to skip, especially for Monsters Inc. fans like us, is the Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor.  Even if you are not a fan you are sure to appreciate how well the show interacts with the audience.

Walt Disney WorldDisney’s PhilharMagic 3-D movie provides a nice relaxing break from the hustle and bustle of Magic Kingdom.  You are sure to see some of your favorite classic Disney characters.

Walt Disney World - Swiss Family TreehouseSwiss Family Treehouse is a nice change from the usual amusement park attraction.  It is a ‘walk through’ attraction where you explore a remake of the tree house from the classic novel, The Swiss Family Robinson.

Walt Disney World - Haunted MansionWalt Disney WorldMystery Mansion is a dark spooky ride that you don’t want to miss.  Each time you experience it you find something new that you didn’t previously see.  It showcases some of the technologies Disney has integrated into their attractions.  Don’t worry, they are dying to see you.

Walt Disney World - Splash MountainSplash mountain is clearly one of the best log flumes in the amusement park industry.  You will become very familiar with “Song of the South” in this great adventure of Br’er Rabbit.


Walt Disney World - Big Thunder Mountain RailroadWalt Disney World - Big Thunder Mountain RailroadBig Thunder Mountain Railroad is a runaway train that takes you on an adventure through a gold-mining town.  There are a lot of animatronics to enjoy along the way.

Walt Disney World - ParadeMagic Kingdom is also the home of parades.  The odds are very high that there will be a parade during your visit and you will probably have a choice of two or more different parades depending on the season.  Even if you aren’t interested in parades, you will want to know when they are scheduled because getting down Main Street, USA in either direction is extremely limited during those times.

Walt Disney WorldFor a more relaxing adventure you can cruise the Rivers of America aboard the Liberty Belle.

Walt Disney World - Jingle CruiseIf river adventures are your thing, you can also sail through exotic rivers on the whimsical Jungle Jingle Cruise.

Let’s move on and explore the other Disney parks at Walt Disney World Resort.  We’ll take them in order of attendance.

Walt Disney World - EpcotMoving over to Epcot, the second park built at Walt Disney World Resort, we see Spaceship Earth.  Inside the world famous ball is a 15 minute dark ride that takes you through the history of advances in human communication that has shaped our world.

Walt Disney WorldWalt Disney WorldWalt Disney WorldThe most notable feature of Epcot is World Showcase.  It is a showcase of cultures from around the world that takes you to different countries as you circumnavigate World Showcase Lagoon.  This is very popular with adults who like to sample the various food and drink choices symbolic of similar fares around the world.

Walt Disney WorldI’ll give extra credit if you can tell me where this shot was taken.  You didn’t know there was going to be a quiz, did you?

Walt Disney WorldThere are also a lot of crowds here and also some areas where there are big bottlenecks.

Walt Disney World - Disney's Animal KingdomThe third park that we are exploring is Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  It is the newest park at Walt Disney World Resort, and the sprawling 500 acres that it covers makes it the second largest theme park in the world.  It is also our favorite in terms of how well it is themed.

Walt Disney WorldEven the ornaments on the grand Christmas tree let you know it’s all about animals and wildlife.

Walt Disney WorldWalt Disney WorldHere are just a couple of small examples of the amount of theming that all ties together at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Walt Disney WorldThe Tree of Life, an artificial tree spanning 50 feet, towering 145 feet in the air, with a theater built inside its base, is the iconic main centerpiece of Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  You’ll notice that there are a wide variety of animals carved in the trunk of this amazing tree.

Walt Disney World - Expedition EverestWalt Disney World - Expedition EverestWalt Disney World - Expedition EverestMy favorite ride (of course!) at Disney’s Animal Kingdom is Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain.  You board a train that speeds through the Himalayan mountains while trying to avoid the Yeti.

Walt Disney WorldFor a more relaxing train ride, you’ll want to check out the Wildlife Express Train that runs from Africa and takes you to Rafiki’s Planet Watch.  There you can take a leisurely stroll and learn about conservation efforts.  You may even get a chance to pet a variety of animals at the Affection Station.

Walt Disney WorldOf course there is also plenty of local wildlife that have made Disney’s Animal Kingdom home.

Walt Disney WorldBeside Africa and Asia is DinoLand U.S.A.  You can step way back in time with the Primeval Whirl time machines.

Walt Disney WorldBeing an RVer, this classic Airstream integrated into a restaurant, Restaruantosaurus, intrigued me.  Inside it blended in well with the decor although the food is your average park fare.

Walt Disney WorldWalt Disney WorldOne of the big shows here is Finding Nemo – The Musical, a 40 minute song and dance adventure through the story of Disney’s Finding Nemo with great puppetry and sets.

Walt Disney World - Disney's Hollywood StudiosThat brings us to the last of the four parks at Walt Disney World Resort, Disney’s Hollywood Studios.   It is immediately recognizable by the large recreation of The Sorcerer’s Hat from Fantasia.  Enjoy the large hat while you can because it is scheduled to be removed in 2015 from what appears to be a much needed major overhaul of this park.

Walt Disney WorldWe never fail to miss a visit to this park because our favorite drop tower ride of all time is located here – The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.   Don’t miss it because it is an experience like no other.

Walt Disney WorldWalt Disney WorldAlso here is a great 4-D shooting dark ride.  Not only is the ride a lot of fun, the queue line itself is a blast.  Unfortunately that just about does it for Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  There is more to do here but it’s not anything that we find very interesting.

Walt Disney WorldAs the sun sets we head back to Magic Kingdom.  How else can you complete a Walt Disney World trip without beginning and ending at Magic Kingdom?

Walt Disney WorldWhile you are here, be sure to show your Disney side.

Walt Disney WorldMagic Kingdom looks especially pretty at night no matter where you seem to look.

Walt Disney WorldWho knows, you might even catch a firework or two.

Walt Disney WorldWalt Disney WorldAs dusk turns into full darkness, the night lights of Magic Kingdom and Main Street never fail to impress.  The non-stop crowds never fail to impress, either, any time of the day.

Walt Disney WorldFrom the glow of Space Mountain…

Walt Disney World…to Mickey’s of Hollywood…

Walt Disney World…and the crown jewel of Walt Disney World, Cinderella’s Castle…

Walt Disney WorldWalt Disney World…you and your family are sure to have a great time with the great attention shown from many of the cast members.

Walt Disney WorldSo grab a snack…

Walt Disney World…and don’t be Goofy…

Walt Disney World…you are sure to have a blast at Walt Disney World Resort.

With all the crowds and long lines, it isn’t quite the happiest place on earth.  However it might be one of the closest that you will find.

Walt Disney WorldWhen needed, take a break and hang out at your campsite…

Walt Disney World…or around the campfire.

Happy camping!

The [not quite] Happiest Place on Earth was last modified on 06/13/2015 by Rick
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