Is anyone really too old for Disney?
For Cole's spring break we went to Florida to hit both Disney World and Universal Studios theme parks. For the last two days we've been exploring Disney's Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom parks.
We also decided to stay at a Disney hotel, so we could get no breaks from the Disney experience. We're at the Caribbean Beach Resort, which is undeniably huge. I've never been to a hotel that requires bus transport to the various buildings. There are multiple artificial beaches and four swimming pools. The swimming pools have pretty good water slides built into them. The place, honestly, is a little on the 80's retro side. It's nice and spotlessly clean, but the theme feels a bit dated. Maybe I just don't know my Caribbean decor.
The advantage here, is direct bus access to Disney World parks. Disney World is spread out a lot more than Disney Land in California, so no walking from hotel to park, but it's a short fifteen minute drive.
Our first day was at Magic Kingdom. I've never been to Disney World so was a little surprised that Magic Kingdom was a copy of what's in California. But, I do really appreciate the details Disney pays attention to. Like all Disney parks, it was spotless and every member of the "cast" was beyond friendly. I need to look into Disney's hiring process and benefits. They clearly get great people. Because it was a repeat for me, Magic Kingdom didn't hold a lot of interest for me, at least as far as rides are concerned. There's space mountain, which is virtually identical to the version in California, but nothing really amazing from an adrenaline perspective. That's not what Magic Kingdom's about, though. It's about the Disney experience. I appreciate all the little things, like everything matches the theme of the land you are in, right down to the trash cans and water fountains. It's a complete attention to detail.
Today we went to Animal Kingdom. Danna and I had somewhat low expectations. We've been on real nature safaris in places like the Okavango Delta and Kalahari Desert. We expected a nicely kept up zoo. We were wrong. Animal Kingdom spans 800 square miles and is its own nature preserve. They have zoologists, conservationists and animal scientists on staff and they make an effort to do real conservation. There is a mix of artificial Disney engineering and nature. Like Magic Kingdom, there are several "lands" and each is themed in only the way Disney can. The Asia land, for example, was a really good facsimile of "generic Asian town", complete with aging infrastructure, exposed power lines, and lots of great stonework. Really, I know it's concrete, but it's done so much better than, say any Vegas casino.
My highlight in Animal Kingdom was the Expedition Everest roller coaster. This is a themed roller coaster that takes you up into Mount Everest where you come in contact with a Yeti. The ride is good fun, starting with a rush backwards through the mountain to simulate a broken railroad track. It's my first backwards ride in the dark, and you really have no idea where you're turning or the coaster is going. It's great fun.
Another highlight of the park is the adventure safari. This is a "ride" involving range rover style jeeps. We saw several kinds of animals and they all seemed to be free ranging. I don't know how Disney keeps so many animals visible given the size of the preserve. There was a staged moment where a bridge gives out to add some drama, but it was mostly like a real safari (although it lasted twenty minutes instead of an entire day).
I'd say the only thing Disney doesn't excel at is food. The food is passable, but not great. Even in the hotel, there is one restaurant and it's just OK. Food in the theme parks is on par with other major theme parks I've been to, but not up to the level of detail Disney gives to the rest of the park. I'm sure, given Disney's attention to everything that they've done extensive research here and found that people just don't care about the food, but I do wish it was better. Note, however, that the variety of food available in Animal Kingdom is quite good. There is food that matches the theme of the land you are in, which is a huge improvement over Magic Kingdom.