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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Chernobog's Guide To Disney World

I recently took a trip with my family to the "Happiest Place on Earth": The Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida! My family and I have been to Disney World at least 22 times since I was 6 years old and surprisingly, we've been to Disneyland in Anaheim, California (as a family) only once! To many, Disney World is merely an expensive amusement park, but to those families like mine who are part of the Disney Vacation Club, it is an amazing experience and a "Magical way to vacation!" It is hard to describe why we return to this place on almost a yearly basis, but truly we have so many fond memories and I couldn't imagine our life without Disney in our lives. Disney is so much a part of our lives that one of my favorite Disney villains (Chernabog) was the basis for my website (http://www.chernobogslair.com/) and this blog! After returning home sunburned and exhausted, we can't help but start planning for our next trip (around Christmas)! As Summer comes to an end I thought it would be a nice change to provide my readers with my own take on Disney World along with a few insider tips and favorite attractions that may help you plan your own trip to Disney World. CHERNOBOG'S BLOG Presents: Chernobog's Guide To Walt Disney World!
Disney World is so much more than a theme/amusement park. Ever since Walt Disney opened Disneyland in 1955, he felt limited by the size of land available and sought to expand with a new park in Florida. During the 1960's the Walt Disney Company spent years planning Walt Disney World and EPCOT. After the unfortunate death of Walt Disney in 1966 he never saw his dream realized and left the company to his brother Roy O. Disney, who died shortly after the opening of The Magic Kingdom in 1971. The second park EPCOT opened in 1982 and in 1989, the resort added Disney's MGM Studios which was later renamed Disney's Hollywood Studios. The latest addition to the park, Disney's Animal Kingdom, opened in 1998. Disney World also includes two separate water parks: Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon. Not only does Disney World feature high-quality amusement parks but also exceptional hotel, dining and shopping experiences especially at Downtown Disney!
As I said before, Disney World is more than just a theme park, it's actually four parks in one! I will briefly cover each of these parks including some of my favorite attractions, rides and restaurants and even a few tips to make for a magical vacation!

The Magic Kingdom
Magic Kingdom, Cinderella's Castle at night
Although very similar to the Magic Kingdom in Disneyland, Disney World's Magic Kingdom is much larger and is currently expanding even more. Centered around the towering Cinderella's Castle, The Magic Kingdom consists of several themed lands which include Main Street U.S.A., Liberty Square, Adventure Land, Frontier Land, Fantasy Land and Tomorrow Land. While this is certainly the most popular park in all of Disney World, this is also the busiest and most crowded of all the parks. While many events and attractions are best seen during the day, it is at night when the park really comes alive, especially with "The Main Street Electrical Parade" and also the nightly fireworks spectacular: "Wishes"!

Magic Kingdom Favorites:
  • The Haunted Mansion (Liberty Square) - My favorite since I was 6 years old. This delightfully dark and hauntingly hilarious ride features 999 grim-grinning ghosts inhabiting this impressive Gothic-style Mansion.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean (Adventureland) - Before Jack Sparrow, there was the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. This slow-moving water ride takes you into the world of fabled Caribbean pirates featuring scenes depicting ship battles, raiding, pillaging, drinking and debauchery accompanied by the catchy theme song "Yo-Ho, Yo-Ho, A Pirates Life for Me"!
  • The Hall of Presidents (Liberty Square) - A fascinating show featuring animatronic figures of all 44 Presidents of the United States of America, including speeches from George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and our current president.
  • Aloha Isle (Adventureland) - Just inside Adventureland is a little snack shack where the greatest creation ever is located: The Dole Pineapple Whip Float! This is my favorite spot for a cool refreshment on a hot day at Disney World. With pineapple juice and soft-serve ice cream, this tropical concoction is to die for! We tried to order the ingredients online and make it ourselves at home, but nothing compares to the real thing! Get it before it melts!
EPCOT
EPCOT, Spaceship Earth
A truly unique and innovative park, EPCOT was originally conceived as an "Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow". EPCOT includes two parts: Future World and World Showcase, which features pavilions representing 11 countries. Surrounding the huge Spaceship Earth, Future World features exhibits both exciting and educational. A center for new technologies and scientific discoveries, EPCOT is one of the largest and most spread-out of all the parks at Disney World. World Showcase is like a short trip around the world as you visit countries including America, Mexico, Canada, China, United Kingdom, Japan, Germany, Italy, France, Morocco and Norway. Many of the countries include their own attractions, rides, movies, and restaurants all with their own cultural flair. Be sure to stay for EPCOT's nightly fireworks display: "IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth". EPCOT was a major part of Walt Disney's concepts of the future and his ideas for "Edu-tainment" by trying to be both educational and entertaining. For most of it's early history it suffered from low attendance and disinterest, but recently it has grown due to the addition of rides like Mission: Space, TestTrack and Soarin'. World Showcase is particularly one of my favorite places to be, I have always been fascinated by other cultures and countries since I was young (in the '80s) which I always thought as unusual because kids always seemed uninterested, despite Disney's determination to keep kids interested, thus the recent additions of KidCot and the Kim Possible Interactive Game.

Future World Favorites:
  • The Seas with Nemo & Friends - Formerly known as The Living Seas, The Seas contains one of the world's largest saltwater aquariums and an underwater sea-base. Shortly after the release of Disney/Pixar's Finding Nemo (2003) the attraction changed it's name and included Turtle Talk with Crush to appeal to a younger audience but still retains it's original purpose featuring dolphins, manatees, sharks, sea turtles and a variety of sea-life. The attraction is joined by the Coral Reef Restaurant, a wonderful seafood restaurant featuring a huge view of the aquarium.
  • Spaceship Earth - This unique, slow-moving ride features a journey through time following the history of human civilization and communication. Currently narrated by Judi Dench.
World Showcase Favorites:
  • American Adventure Pavilion - At the American Pavilion is THE greatest American themed show at Disney World next to The Hall of Presidents at Liberty Square/Magic Kingdom: "The American Adventure", a truly impressive and moving show featuring animatronic players. Hosted by Benjamin Franklin and Mark Twain (fully animatronic), the show chronicles the history of the United States from the Pilgrims to the 21st Century.
  • Japan Pavilion - One of my favorite countries in the World Showcase, Japan includes Mitsukoshi, part of the oldest Japanese department store chains which features Tokyo Dining: authentic Japanese Teppanyaki style cooking with tempura and sushi. The Japan pavilion also features an outdoor performance by Matsuriza, playing traditional Taiko drums.
  • Germany Pavilion - Modeled after a 16th century German cobblestone town, the German Pavilion features authentic German cuisine and beer! If you want the full German dining experience, be sure to make reservations at Biergarten Restauraunt featuring the traditional Bavarian music of Oktoberfest Musikanten! "Zicke, zacke, zicke, zacke, hoi, hoi, hoi!"
  •  The Maelstrom/Norway Pavilion - Norwegian Vikings have always held a huge fascination for me and the Norway pavilion features both a Viking Museum and a ride called The Maelstrom an exciting boat-ride through the era of Vikings and trolls!
Hollywood Studios
Disney's Hollywood Studios
Formerly known as Disney's MGM Studios, Hollywood Studios is an attraction all about the magic of movies! The main street of the park is reminiscent of the heyday of Hollywood during the 1930's featuring a replica of the classic Grauman's Chinese Theatre  housing The Great Movie Ride! Some of the biggest events in Disney World are held at Hollywood Studios! In the Summer, they host my favorite event of the year: Star Wars Weekends, featuring celebrity guests and parades including costumed members of the 501st Legion Florida Garrison and Rebel Alliance. During Christmas time, Hollywood Studios presents the Osborne (Not Ozzy!) Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights with thousands of sparkling lights choreographed to music! Be sure to ride the Studio Backlot Tour for a journey behind the scenes of movie making!

Hollywood Studios Favorites:
  • Star Tours - Opened in 1989, Star Tours is the only ride based on the phenomenally popular Star Wars movies. As a huge Star Wars fan myself, this is my favorite ride in Hollywood Studios. The ride originally featured an experience as a passenger on a Star Tours shuttle piloted by a rookie droid who takes you into a battle between The Empire and the Rebel Alliance. When the ride was closed for improvement in 2010, many fans (including me) were upset when it was announced that the ride would incorporate 3D and locations from the newer prequel movies. The ride re-opened in the Summer of 2011 as Star Tours - The Adventures Continue (See Star Tours 2 Live) now (accidentally) piloted by C-3P0 (Voiced by Anthony Daniels) where riders experience random, multiple destinations in the Star Wars Universe!
  • Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular - A huge stage-show performance featuring some of the stunt work featured in the classic Indiana Jones movie Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). The show includes a giant boulder, fire and explosive stunts and even functional stunt cars and a bomber plane! Always a thrill to watch if you're a fan of the Indiana Jones movies, don't miss it!
  • Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater - My favorite restaurant in Hollywood Studios, Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater is a truly unique dining experience! The whole restaurant is an indoor mock-up of a circa 1950's drive-in movie theater, complete with car shaped tables and booths with a huge movie screen featuring vintage cartoons and trailers of horror/sci-fi B-movies such as Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959).
  • Fantasmic! - The most epic and phenomenal multi-media stage show ever, Fantasmic features classic Disney characters and villains in a dream-like performance. Watch as Villains such as The Evil Queen, Ursula, Malificent, Scar, Jafar and of course Chernabog (from Fantasia) attempt to take over Mickey Mouse's imagination in a spectacular show filled with fireworks, water, fire and special effects! A must see, only 2 shows per night!
The Tree of Life at Animal Kingdom
Disney's Animal Kingdom
Animal Kingdom is the latest park at Disney World and is one of the most elaborate animal attractions in the world! More than just a zoo, Animal Kingdom is divided into 7 different unique areas including: Asia, Africa, The Oasis, Dinoland U.S.A. (featuring a ride based on Disney's Dinosaur), Camp Minnie-Mickey, Discovery Island and Rafiki's Planet Watch. The entire park revolves around a giant artificial Tree of Life featuring carvings of hundreds of animals built around an oil derrick frame. Animal Kingdom focuses on conservation and features rare and exotic animals from all over the world. The newest addition to the park is Expedition Everest, a high-speed roller coaster featuring the Abominable Snowman!

Animal Kingdom Favorites
:
  • Kilimanjaro Safaris - A up-close driven safari on board specially modified trucks over a simulated African Savannah where you can view all kinds of animals out in the open such as Black Rhinos, Crocodiles, Elephants, Giraffes, Lions and Zebras. Prepare for an extremely bumpy ride and do NOT sit in the back!
  • Maharajah Jungle Trek - A wonderful walking tour of the animals of Asia including Bats (my favorite!), Komodo Dragons and Tigers, also a huge aviary filled with many exotic birds.
  • Yak & Yeti Restaurant - A wonderful restaurant serving Pan-Asian cuisine in an lavish Oriental/Indian setting. I recommend the Fried Wontons!
Disney World Tips:
  • Stay on property at any of Disney's fine resort hotel to avoid any transportation problems. (I recommend Animal Kingdom Lodge, Old Key West Resort, Wilderness Lodge, or Polynesian Resort. Or budget resorts All-Stars, Pop-Century and the New Art of Animation Resort!)
  • Make use of Disney's bus lines which run all over the park and to every resort and hotel on property.
  • Travel light for warm weather, wear hats and/or sunglasses, bring lots of bottled water and sunscreen (especially in the Summer)!
  • Make use of Disney's Fast Pass to ensure you get through the long lines at many of the attractions.
  • If you are a guest at select Disney hotels, be sure to take advantage of the exclusive Extra Magic Hours both early and late park times.
  • Be sure to take a break during the heat of the day to return to your hotel to rest or cool down with a swim.
  • Disney is known for their exceptional customer service, take that into account and you will never be disappointed!
  • Make use of the Disney's Mobile Apps for iPhone and Android!
  • Most importantly: Have fun!!!