The first time I went to Disney World was for my 10th birthday. After that, I did not have another chance to go until almost three years ago, which means that there were nine years between my first and second trip. I am a huge Disney fan, and I spent the past almost three years wishing that I could go back, but figuring that it would probably be another nine years before I took my third trip. Surprise! I got the opportunity to take my third trip this year. I was so happy!
It's a Small World After All: Epcot
When my family took a trip to Disney World three years ago, we only went to Magic Kingdom. There is so much to do in each park, and since it had been nine years since our last trip, we wanted to make sure that we had enough time to see all of Magic Kingdom. This time around, armed with Park Hopper tickets that allow you to visit any of the 4 parks in the same day, we spent half the day in Epcot and the other half at Magic Kingdom. (Yes, we did both parks in one day. No, not crazy; ambitious!)
I really wanted to visit Epcot in the summer of 2015 because that was right after I graduated from my community college, and I wanted to travel the world as a reward for all of the hard work without actually going out of the country and paying all that goes along with traveling the world. Unfortunately, that didn't work out. I'm set now to graduate with my Bachelor's degree a year from now (December 2017), so I like to consider this trip to Epcot as a late reward for graduating with my Associate's degree and an early reward for graduating with my Bachelor's degree. Needless to say, this was a very special trip for me.
Not only did I get to visit the Happiest Place on Earth, I also got to visit the Happiest Place on Earth during Christmas, “the most wonderful time of the year.” I loved getting to see all of the different countries decorated for Christmas! I even got to see Père Noël in Paris!
There is a lot to do at Epcot for Christmas! With Holidays Around the World at the World Showcase, you can experience all of the wonders of Christmas from around the world. Experience live music performances, taste holiday specialty foods, and see Père Noël and Father Christmas and hear their stories, and meet Santa and Mrs Clause (at The American Adventure)! Find out more about Epcot's holiday events here.
Of course, you can't visit Epcot during Christmastime and NOT visit the Snow Queen herself, Queen Elsa! My last trip to Disney World was only a few months after Frozen came out, and the wait to see Anna and Elsa (who were still at the Princess Fairytale Hall in Magic Kingdom) was 210 minutes! I didn't expect to be able to see Anna and Elsa this time, but when we passed by their new location – the Sommerhaus in the Norway Pavilion in Epcot – I saw that the wait was 15 minutes. I definitely couldn't pass that up.
While traveling the world in six hours and FINALLY getting to meet Anna and Elsa were my favorite parts of Epcot, they were hardly the only thing my family and I did while at Epcot. In fact, the first thing that we did was rush on over to The Land, home of one of our favorite rides – Soarin'. We love the experience of seeing the world from a hang-glider. The last time we had been to Epcot (12 years ago), Soarin' was brand new. I love that Disney kept it true to its original self, while updating both the simulation film and the waiting line (which was very long, even in the first hour the park had opened; make sure that you either get a FastPass or get into the line as close to the opening of the park as possible to avoid a 2+ hour wait). In the waiting line, there are screens on the walls with trivia questions, and you can join in the fun by signing in on your smartphone (just follow the prompts on the screen). The wait seemed so much shorter because we were all engaged in the game!
Right after Soarin', we headed over to The Seas with Nemo & Friends, where you hop into a clam shell and join Merlin in his search for Nemo, who doesn't seem to have learned his lesson after the first time! This ride is great for kids, but even my family and I enjoyed it, and the youngest of us is 19. After you get out of the ride, you have a chance to see live marine animals – including a manatee – in the aquarium.
Following The Seas, we headed over to World Showcase to tour the world (which you read all about above), and finally, after traveling the world in a matter of hours, we got into line to ride Test Track, which was just as fun as I remembered! I love that Disney kept the ride the same while updating it for modern times. I remember the last time we rode it, it was like the riders were test track dummies; this time, you design your own car on the basis of capability, responsiveness, efficiency, and power, and during the ride your car is tested on each category and ranked. It was a fun update while keeping true to the original ride. This ride is great if you love a moderate thrill; the ride goes really fast (up to 65 mph at one point!) but there are no hills or loop-de-loops.
This trip to Epcot was amazing, and I'm so happy that I got to visit it again after 12 years. Hopefully it won't be another 12 years before I get to visit again!
The Magic of Christmas at Magic Kingdom
You just cannot go to Disney World and not go to Magic Kingdom, so after spending about six hours visiting Epcot, we jumped on the monorail and headed over to the Magic Kingdom to spend the remainder of our trip to Disney there. My mom and I always wanted to go to Disney World during Christmas to see all of the pretty decorations, and we finally got a chance. As you saw above, we got to see different countries decorated for Christmas at World Showcase, and Magic Kingdom was just as beautiful!
Garlands and ribbons and a huge Christmas tree with giant nutcrackers turn Main Street USA into a winter wonderland. Once the sun sets, the lights come on and the Magic Kingdom becomes even more magical. Cinderella's castle took my breath away and provided me with a new appreciation of the beauty of ice and snow (which is a good thing since I live in Ohio, where we get ice and snow until May).
Some of my family's favorite rides are in Adventureland. We love the Swiss Family (Robinson) Treehouse (but were too tired to climb up its 116 stairs this time around!), the Magic Carpets of Aladdin, the Jungle Cruise, and, of course, the Pirates of the Caribbean ride!
Personally, the Pirates ride is my favorite; I love getting to ride the boat through Captain Jack Sparrow's world! I love the atmosphere of the ride; dark and creepy and yet still lighthearted and fun; yo-ho yo-ho a pirates life for me! We actually got Fast Passes for the Jungle Cruise and Pirates of the Caribbean (but it's dark in the Pirates ride and we rode the Jungle Cruise at night so I don't have any photos of these rides), and these two are definitely two of the more popular rides, so I highly suggest getting Fast Passes for these rides if you're desperate to ride them like I was! The last time we went to Disney, we didn't get Fast Passes for the Jungle Cruise and ended up waiting in line forever.
But what is the Jungle Cruise and why should you want to go on it? It's a boat ride through the Amazon River, the African Congo, the Nile River, and the Mekong River. See (animatronic) elephants, hippos, gorillas, snakes and more, without having to worry about getting trampled by any of them! But what really makes the Jungle Cruise stand out is your boats “skipper” who delivers clever and corny commentary as they sail you down the rivers. It's very pun-ny, so if you're like me, you'll love it!
We actually got a special treat riding the Jungle Cruise this time around. Renamed the “Jingle Cruise,” the ride was decked out in holiday decorations, with presents and Santa hats, and the skippers' jokes are even holiday based. Very fun!
After such a long day at two different parks, my family and I decided that we needed a sugary pick-me-up, so we headed over to the Ice Cream Parlor on Main Street USA. The ice cream is delicious! And it was just what I needed to get some energy back. There might be other, more fun treats available, but if you're looking for a basic but delicious ice cream sundae, then I highly recommend the Ice Cream Parlor!
There is so much that goes on at Magic Kingdom! Right before we satiated our need for sugar with ice cream from the Ice Cream Parlor, Princess Tiana and her crew were up performing at Cinderella's castle. Right after we finished eating, a parade went through Main Street! One thing I learned for sure during this trip is that there is an abundance of things to see and do at Magic Kingdom.
Our third FastPass was for Peter Pan's Flight. This is my mom's favorite ride. Hop on a ship that takes off through the skies, and follow Peter Pan, Captain Hook, Wendy, and many more familiar characters through Never Land! I like this ride because it has character. Peter Pan is a classic Disney movie, and Peter Pan's Flight is a classic ride. I made the comment to Mom that I thought they should update it a bit, but she pointed out that updating it would spoil the magic. I have to agree with her now!
Speaking of classic Disney rides, what kind of a Disney trip would it be if we didn't ride It's a Small World? If you're like me, the mere mention of the phrase “it's a small world” triggers an automatic playing of the song, so enjoy the little earworm tune as you look at the pictures below. You're welcome!
It was raining by the time we finished with our classic Disney rides (Peter Pan's Flight and It's a Small World), but that didn't keep us from enjoying the rest of our visit! We headed over to Mickey's PhilharMagic, which is a 4D show starring Donald Duck. It was a great way to get out of the rain and to rest our feet! I recommend this not only if you run into a rain shower, but also if you want to rest your feet and get out of the sun (if it happens to be shining instead of hiding behind rain clouds). Another neat place to get out of the rain or sun and rest your feet is the Hall of Presidents; there are benches all around the room, and there is a 22 minute show in the theater. Great way to take a breather without actually leaving the park!
Despite the rain, Magic Kingdom was absolutely beautiful when the sun set. I am so grateful that I got to experience Christmas at Disney, in particular Magic Kingdom. Seeing Cinderella's castle lit up took my breath away. My family always drives around to look at Christmas lights during the holiday season, but this year we're running short on time and we aren't sure when we'll be able to go out to look at lights. Seeing Magic Kingdom lit up at night has definitely left me feeling like this tradition of light-seeing is still in tact.
I am so grateful to the Walt Disney World Public Relations for allowing us a chance to visit Disney World again. Each time I visit, it's a whole new experience. Christmas at Disney makes the most wonderful time of the year even more wonderful, and the happiest place on earth happier.
Have you ever visited Disney World at Christmas time? I'd love to hear your stories! Leave me a comment! If you haven't visited Disney at Christmas but have visited at a different time, I'd also love to hear your stories. If you haven't had the chance to visit yet, go ahead and let me know what some of your favorite Christmas traditions are.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!