My Disney Top 5 - Things My Family Wants To Do First If We Could Go To Walt Disney World Tomorrow.by Chris Barry, contributing writer
Welcome back to another Disney Top 5. As always, I hope you are all safe, healthy and doing as well as you can be during these strange times. As the world begins to slowly open up again, those of us with a certain proclivity for all things Disney have started to wonder, "Will I be headed back to Walt Disney World or Disneyland anytime soon?" That answer is, more than likely, different for all of us.
The curious Disney fan in me would love to see what's happening at The Magic Kingdom or Animal Kingdom on July 11th when they finally reopen. I've always been in awe of just what Walt Disney World accomplishes on any given day. It's an amazing feat to house, transport, feed and amuse as many people as they do at once. So, sure, I'd be curious to see how Disney tackles the "new normal." I have faith in them that they're going to do the right thing by us and I'm curious to see what that's going to be.
However, the practical and cautious side of me that's been watching his hometown city of New York suffer so much these last few months is very on the fence about when he's going back to the most magical place on Earth. As curious as I am, I'm not so sure I want to walk around Disney with everyone wearing masks, and not just because of the potentially uncomfortable Orlando swelter. I'm just not so sure that I want to see Walt Disney World that way. I go there to be in the "magic bubble" and right now, I feel like an unwelcome friend has invaded that bubble and, quite honestly, I don't want to be thinking about it and dealing with it the whole time I'm there.
That doesn't mean that I don't want to go. Of course I want to go. I want to be there right now. I've wanted to go back since the day we left this past October. It's not even a year yet, for goodness sakes! That's what happens when you get hooked on a place though. It's in your thoughts. It pops up several times a day, especially when times are tough. My last few articles have dealt with things like, where my family would want to eat if we could be at Walt Disney World right now, and places I'd like to be if I could snap my fingers and magically be there this very instant. Today, I turned to my family once again for the answer to the question, "What would be the first thing you'd want to do if we could go on one of our Walt Disney World trips...tomorrow?.
I set some parameters. Imagine it's safe and you weren't worried about everything we've been worried about lately. Assume it was summer, since that's when we typically go. We arrive midday, as we usually do, check into The Yacht Club, our favorite resort, settle into the room and ...what first? Let's see what the family said with my Top 5 things my family wants to do first if we could go to Walt Disney World tomorrow. Once again, these are in no particular order. I put the 5 names into an online randomizer and went with whatever names were spit out first.
5 - Alex - Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
Alex didn't seem to hesitate when I posed this question to him. His immediate response was, "Magic Kingdom." Quickly followed by, "Big Thunder." I can't blame him on either count there. My kids haven't quite blossomed into the roller coaster fanatic that I am - yet. My 21-year-old daughter took a while to get there and she still doesn't like anything too, too crazy. My boys, who are 17 now, have just started to like coasters and their favorite is Big Thunder Mountain. And why not? Have you ever seen anyone not smile on Big Thunder?
A different view of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad from Tom Sawyer Island. Photo by Chris Barry.
It's just wild enough but not too wild. The scenery is awesome. There's plenty of hairy turns but no real drops. it's one of the best coasters in any park anywhere and it's something Alex talks about heading to as soon as we're down there. He's grown particularly fond , as we all have, of riding Big Thunder during the fireworks. We discovered this little secret a couple of years ago. If you think you've experienced Big Thunder Mountain, trust me when I say, you haven't - not until you've experienced it with the fireworks going off seemingly all around you. It's fantastic!
4 - Me - Magic Kingdom Town Square
I'd have to agree with all of my family's choices. I could start off a Walt Disney World vacation with any of the destinations on this list. But for me, the place I'm missing most and the place I'd go to tomorrow if I could right away is the heart of the whole resort, The Magic Kingdom. That may seem a little general to you readers out there, but I don't really feel like I've arrived until I walk underneath the train tracks and enter Town Square and then - I know I'm there.
A panoramic view of Town Square, Main Street, and the Castle as seen from the upper level of the Main Street Train Station. Photo by Donald Fink.
My wife has turned to me on several different occasions as she catches me just standing there looking around at the buildings, the characters, the Main Street Vehicles, the flowers, Cinderella Castle off in the distance and the train station at my back and she pauses and says, "You're so happy right now aren't you?" And she's right. I am. That's the moment I wait for. I adore World Showcase. It's one of my favorite places to be anywhere, but there's a different, silly grin that comes across my face when I emerge from underneath the train station and I realize that I'm back that's just hard to duplicate. If I could wake up tomorrow and have it be one of our travel days - especially after al that we've been through the last few months - that's the moment I'm looking for.
3 - Casey - Test Track
Just like it was no surprise that his twin brother chose Big Thunder, it was no shocker that Casey chose Test Track. As I said before, my kids were slow to latch on to thrill rides. It was never really their thing, except, of course, when they started riding them! Now, Test track is certainly in the thrill rides category, but, like most Disney attractions, the thrills are pretty calm when compared to the average amusement park. Test Track is a blast, for sure, but it took me a while to convince my boys to get on it. I kept telling them the plain truth; that when we're driving up to Vermont to go skiing, the speed limit is 65 mph on the highway. So, if we can drive that speed for a few hours in the car, you can go that speed for less than a mile on Test Track, plus, its way more fun!
High speeds and loads of fun await on Epcot's Test Track. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
Once they were on it, they were hooked and it's a must do for us several times on each trip. I can hear Casey now, asking me when our Test Track FastPasses are and trying to figure out when we can get over to that corner of Epcot as soon as possible. He doesn't like getting up early, but he'll wake up at the crack of dawn if we tell him we're going to try and get on Test Track as soon as it opens - even if we have a FastPass scheduled for later on that same day. It makes him happy and I'm more than happy to be along for that ride with him.
2 - Samantha - Walk Around World Showcase
Sam took some time to think about her answer. My daughter loves Walt Disney World about as much as I do and my guess is, there are just too many answers for her to this question. In the end, she chose a walk around World Showcase and who could argue with that? One of the true joys of staying at The Yacht Club is having Epcot and particularly World Showcase right outside your door. If we go by the parameters that I set above, we would arrive midday, get ourselves settled into the hotel room and then set out for some fun and magic. I'll typically have a multi day Park Hopper with arrival and departure day included. That way, we can hit something that first night. Once you get above 7 days, adding another day barely costs anything.
Friendship boats sail past the countries of World Showcase. Photo by J. Jeff Kober
What my daughter describes, we've done many times. After settling in, by late afternoon, we're strolling casually over to Epcot's back entrance, the International Gateway. It's a beautiful, typically tranquil walk and the thing I like best is that you emerge right into the UK with France over the bridge to the right. It's an instant immersion. We would usually head left and take our time going around the lagoon. Maybe we'd hit Mexico, since the line for Gran Fiesta Tour is never long. This isn't a night to shop and ride attractions though. It's like getting reacquainted time. We don't rush. We stroll, absorb the awesome atmosphere, see what's new or different, get a feel for the crowd, and begin to settle in to the fact that we're back in a happy place. We would typically wind up at Tangierine Cafe in Morocco for some dinner outside. I've said it many times here and I'll say it again, the Moroccan Mint Iced Tea is my absolute favorite non-grown up drink down there. Either we'd stay for Illuminations, or we'd head back to the BoardWalk for more strolling, some ice cream and a swim. That all really sounds pretty great right about now doesn't it?
1 - Diane - A Swim At Stormalong Bay
We typically have traveled to Walt Disney World in the summer months. People think we're crazy, but my other life is in education, so I have plenty of time off, but the times I do have off are the busiest times of the year. I have no interest in going for spring break or the week between Christmas and New Years, so that leaves summer. Now, I've traveled to lots of hot places, but Orlando in the summer seems like the hottest place on Earth. That said, the pool is crucial and you'd be hard pressed to find a better pool anywhere than the pool complex shared by Disney's Yacht and Beach Club resorts, Stormalong Bay. Those of you that have been there know exactly what I'm talking about. If you haven't, trust me, the photos and videos of it online don't do it justice.
Stormalong Bay, the incredible pool at the Yacht Club. If your interest is relaxing poolside, tubing a lazy river, or enjoying a jacuzzi, here it is. Photo by Donald Fink.
My wife's reasoning for her choice was that as we typically fly in the morning and arrive midday, we get that punch in the face of heat as soon as we walk out of MCO onto our waiting Magical Express bus and it's like, "Oh yeah...Orlando in summer." So, arriving at the Yacht, checking into our room - which is preferably looking out at the quiet pool area - and then heading right down for a refreshing swim in the greatest pool you've ever been in is sometimes just the right ticket. We tend to spend the most time in the area near the hot tubs, closest to the building. It's got the nicest waterfalls, rock gardens and beautiful flowers and plants along its shores. What a great way to get our vacation started; maybe a tropical drink by the pool, cool off and recharge your batteries after a morning of travel and then head off for a night in the parks someplace. Good choice my dear.
Wouldn't it be awesome if we were in fact heading to bed right now and had a Walt Disney World vacation to wake up to tomorrow morning. I'm hoping it doesn't take too long before we're able to each tick off our favorite things to do first. Of course, given that this list has several different directions of the massive property to head off in, some compromises would have to be made. That's fine with me. As long as we'd be going, I could suffer with a long dip in Stormalong Bay, or a nice leisurely stroll around World Showcase, or a thrilling run around the Test Track outdoor track before I head to my beloved Magic Kingdom, linger in Town Square but then head over to Frontierland to laugh our way around the "wildest ride in the wilderness." At this point, I'm looking forward to simply planning a trip or actually arriving and sitting on my Magical Express bus filled with anticipation for the week ahead.
Our time will come. We'll get back there together and we'll all have a chance to enter the Disney bubble of happiness and let our cares melt away. I'm not sure when that's going to be and what exactly it's going to look like, but I'm not going anywhere and Walt Disney World isn't either so, I'll wait ...patiently.
Those are my family's choices for what they would do first if we could all of a sudden be at Walt Disney World tomorrow. As always, I'd like to hear what you have to say. Click on the link below, share your thoughts on what you'd like to do first, stay safe and I'll se you next time with another Disney Top 5.
nice list. for me - #4 is number one (but on the west coast so its Town Square at Disneyland ;-) ).
Another great Top 5! Thanks Chris and fam. I was walking down the hallway at my new job today and I saw a woman with a Disney mask on. Next thing I knew we were in an intense conversation about how awesome WDW was. We both have vacations planned this year! Great to know I have a compatriot on this new job.
My top 5 if I could go today:
5. Thunder Mountain Railroad for all the reasons you list. Perfect roller coaster ride for me.
4. Haunted Mansion/Pirates of the Caribbean. I have ridden both many, many times, yet I love both of them and enjoy each and every time I get to ride them. Fast Pass usually.
3. Boma. We love Boma. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.
2. California Grill. Incredible place.
1. Walking from Epcot down the river pathway to Hollywood Studios during twilight. Watching the boats go by and enjoying how quiet and uncrowded the pathway continues to be. A real WDW treasure.
Thank you again Chris for another fun Top 5 to get my mind off these tough times. On my Top 5, I decided to tweak the parameters to one attraction/activity per location because otherwise my entire list would be comprised of Magic Kingdom attractions especially Frontierland attractions.
MK - Splash Mountain. This is my quintessential and favorite Disney attraction of all time. Honorable mentions to Country Bear Jamboree and Big Thunder Mountain.
Epcot - Journey into Imagination. Although I adore the original version and I find the current version a major downgrade, I still love Figment and One Little Spark.
AK - Donalds Dino Bash. I enjoy these sets of character greets especially Chip and Dale.
DHS - Dinner at Hollywood & Vine. I enjoy this character dining and its get you into the seasonal spirit depending on the time of year.
Resort - If I’m staying at one of these 3 resorts: Polynesian - eating a Dole Whip inside the Great Ceremonial House; Wilderness Lodge - relaxing with a beer in the Carolwood Pacific Room; Animal Kingdom Lodge - taking photos of the safari animals.
Town Square just says, "I'm back!"
Thanks for the kind words.
I have several people at work that fit that bill and I love seeking them out to shoot the Disney breeze!
Haunted Mansion and Pirates are just quintessential Disney attractions to me as well.
Some day...I'll eat at Boma. We've cancelled several reservations there that just weren't working out with the schedule once we arrived. Tragic!
Still one of the best meals I've ever had - California Grill.
YES - I love that walk. Especially love it at night walking back after a fun filled day at the Studios.