Inger and Jeff Latreille
Happiest Place on Earth
~Tuesday, March 28, 2023~
We hoped the nice breeze we had in the morning hours would carry through our day at the “Happiest Place on Earth” that is Magic Kingdom at the Disney World Resort. We would end up melting like popsicles until the sun went down. And what a completely different experience than when we brought our kids here about 20 years ago. It’s amazing how much faster you can maneuver through it when we don't have a brood to attend to, i.e. strollers, backpacks, tired and hot kiddos, diaper bags. We were definitely able to see so much more this go around, easily getting in my 10,000 steps for the day. Jeff and I were in the minority for sure, being an “older” couple, ALONE. Most grandparents were with their whole pack. Trust me, we weren’t complaining, though we can’t wait to return one day with OUR pack.
The drive was further than we originally thought (about 30 minutes with Orlando traffic), so there was no way we were going to bike there. Parking was $25 where you’re allowed to come and go as you please as long as you keep your ticket. A shuttle whisked us up in a matter of minutes and delivered us to the next point of transfer, either by a quick ferry to the main gate or via the monorail system.
We chose the monorail going into the park as it allowed a bird’s eye view of the excitement to come.
We had our sights set on the spine-tingling Haunted Mansion as our first ride of the day, using our Genie+ pass. Once you scan your “card”, you immediately begin checking your app to see what times are available for the next ride you are interested in. Since the wait and ride experience is over in less than 15 minutes using the Genie+ app, you have plenty of time to get to whatever you book next (they allow an hour booking window). The exception was It’s a Small World which was 90 minutes until the next availability. So in between that time we checked out the Hall of Presidents experience which was located in a replicated building of Independence Hall. This 20-minute multi-media show mixing a documentary style movie with audio animatronic figures, is an inspiring journey through American history and a dedication to the 45 Presidents who have willingly served our country. Did you know that their animatronic figures and even vehicles from extinct rides are reinvented or repurposed for newer experiences in the park?
Never being too old for It’s a Small World, this was the second ride of our day. This boat tour “around the world” can’t help but put you in a fun, kid spirit. This was followed by another boat experience aboard the Liberty Belle in Liberty Square. Jeff and I weren’t quite sure if this boat was on some type of cable track system or is actually being steered. But it sure uses real steam as we both came to know from the few splatters of hot water coming from the smokestack that landed on us. I guess that’s what you get for being on the top floor. Every time we’d get in line for the next ride, we’d keep checking our all-time favorite ride…..Pirates of the Caribbean. Evidently, the ride was closed most of the day due to mechanical issues, so thought we wouldn’t be able to see it on this occasion.
Having worked up an appetite and not wanting a fancy sit-down dinner, Casey’s Corner solved our hunger pains. What’s better than the tried and true amusement park food being hot dogs and french fries? They even had a vegetarian version so I was game. At least it gave us the opportunity to rest our tired feet. And what’s visiting an amusement park without a little ice cream to top things off and cool you down? Then, as luck would have it, while checking the wait time on several rides, low and behold the Pirates ride was back up and running with only a 10-minute wait. We couldn’t believe it. Thank goodness we were fairly close, arriving in no time by running to it. We arrived just in time since they hadn’t even begun to let people in yet. Faster than you can say Pirates of the Caribbean the ride went from a 10 minute wait to 50. That’s how popular this ride is. Tinker Bell must have given us a wave of her magic wand today.
The Swiss Family Treehouse was also not much of a wait and would be a surprisingly great place to get a glimpse of the sunset.
The crowds were gathering early for the 9:00 fireworks show, lining the entire Main Street. We passed through it to get to our final ride of the day.……the ever popular Space Mountain. Jeff and I had not been on a roller coaster in years and had forgotten just how jolting and rickety the experience is. It was a blast, just the same. But what do we have here? A futuristic new roller coaster adjacent to Space Mountain, called TRON. Roller coasters have certainly come a long way and boy are they quiet! While waiting for our 8:30 time slot for Space Mountain, we stood in awe of this masterpiece and the glow of its lazer styled lighting. The ride was made to resemble the lightcycles featured in the TRON franchise (we’re not familiar with), taking riders inside and outside the building smoothly and quietly at 60 mph. What’s crazy to think about is that the TRON
Lightcycle Power Run took longer to build than the Disney Park itself (4 years). The entire “city” of Magic Kingdom took only 18 months. TRON was originally scheduled for an opening of Fall 2021, but with COVID and the park closure of 12 months, after its “soft opening”, it’s scheduled to fully open on April 4th, right after we leave 😩. Interestingly enough, they allowed a group of about 30 people, all donning lanyards, into the entrance for their own special ride. Perhaps these were key people involved in TRON’s development…..designers, architects, animators?
And before you knew it, it was time for the fireworks show known as Disney Enchantment. What a gathering around Cinderella’s castle for the 9:00 extravaganza. But because we had a pup to get back to, we couldn’t stay, yet were still able to watch it from any vantage point in the park, as we made our way to the exit. Did you know that Disney spends between $40,000 to $50,000 per night on their firework’s show which comes out to about $1/guest. Such a deal!
Instead of taking the monorail, we opted for Disney’s water transportation ferry service on the Seven Seas Lagoon. This turned out to be another good call on our part since it gave us an optimum view of the nightly Electrical Water Pageant parade happening right in front of our boat. We would have completely missed this nighttime spectacle had we taken the monorail instead.
How about a few fun Disney World facts upon ending our fun-filled, jam-packed day:
1. There is a system of tunnels underneath the Magic Kingdom called Utilidors. These tunnels are key to keeping the park running magically.
2. The theme park uses an AVAC pneumatic tube system which sucks garbage through vacuum tubes throughout the park to a central location.
3. Trash cans are positioned every 30 feet. In an effort to keep the park tidy, they’ve also developed quite a following with uniquely themed trash cans.
4. With a total of 27,000 acres, Walt Disney World Resort as a whole, is the largest theme park in the world. In other words, 51 Disneylands can fit inside Walt Disney World. Magic Kingdom alone is 107 acres.
5. Walt Disney only saw the Southern California location. He passed away 5 years before the Florida project was completed.
6. The Cinderella Castle was built to handle anything Mother Nature throws at it, including winds of up to 125 miles per hour.
7. To maintain the historical accuracy of the colonial time period, Liberty Square was built without any restrooms.
8. There are approximately 77,000 “cast members” (employees) in the Disney World Resort
9. Disney World theme parks rake in about $20 million every single day. When you add all the other revenue, that’s about $20 billion every quarter.