It’s now been just over a year since I last went to Orlando, Florida and the year has gone by so fast it’s crazy! It seems like only yesterday we were making memories in the ‘happiest place on earth’. I’m lucky enough to have been able to explore Orlando twice now, once when I was around 11 or 12, and then again last year. It’s one of those places that everybody loves, no matter what age they are, and I seriously feel like I could go 100 times in my life and I would still be absolutely in love with the place every single time. Although there is a lot more to Orlando than just Disney (like the 3 Universal parks, shopping malls, designer outlets and International Drive) this post just details my top reasons to visit Walt Disney World.
Oh and I apologise in advance for the poorer quality images in this post – I didn’t have the camera with me so these were all taken on my phone!
Happily Ever After firework and projection show
My number one favourite thing about WDW Orlando is the famous firework and projection show, Happily Ever After. Showing every night in Magic Kingdom in front of the even more famous Cinderella’s Castle, this show took over from the previous firework display Wishes. It is by far the most amazing and magical thing I have ever seen! Even now I remember filling up with emotion because of just how overwhelmingly beautiful and enchanting the whole thing was. They use classic Disney songs and voices while projecting scenes from the movies, morphing from one set of characters to another onto Cinderella’s Castle itself, all while the most impressive and expensive looking firework display is going off above it. I knew it was going to be good, but I wasn’t expecting it to be THAT good. It was so good that I turned around halfway through the show to see my Dad with a beaming smile on his face while being entranced like the rest of us. The magic of Disney really does touch everyone when you’re watching a show of a lifetime like that!
Avatar Flight of Passage in Pandora
The newest main addition in Animal Kingdom is definitely an attraction to rave about. Most of the attractions on my favourites list are actually simulator rides rather than thrill rides, and boy does America know how to create amazing simulators. In Avatar Flight of Passage you ride a Banshee around the fictional world of Pandora. Each person sits on a seperate motorcycle-type seat and puts on 3D glasses. To give off such a realistic feeling the creators not only use a mix of sights, sounds and motions, but also add some extra little touches like splashes of water when riding through a wave on screen, gusts of air when swooping down big drops, and my favourite touch, a slow pulsating motion on the inside of your legs as if the animal you’re flying on is actually breathing. I can honestly say this is the best simulator I have ever been on, and it left everyone amazed and talking about it for a while after. The queue and build up to the ride itself helped the looong wait be a lot more bearable. You wind through the queue which is decorated with plants and props from the world of Pandora, even walking through the lab where you see a full sized sleeping Avatar. It really is pretty awesome, not to mention that you create your own Avatar in one of the lab rooms before riding!
Be Our Guest Restaurant
I think this is the only Disney themed restaurant we ate in, for a sit down table service meal anyway. It was the only one that I really wanted to do as unlike a lot of the other restaurants, this one isn’t an ‘eat with the characters’ dinner, it’s purely the setting that you go for. It’s set inside the Beast’s Castle from the Beauty and the Beast film, and my god it’s impressive. You can choose from 3 rooms to dine in, the Library, the West Wing and the Ballroom – of course we chose the latter! It’s just magnificent and I think I spent the majority of lunch gazing around looking at every single detail around me. Even the floor-length windows had projectors behind them creating a Disney night-time setting beyond the castle, and I was especially amazed by the huge chandeliers sparking away above us. After our meal (which was as enjoyable as the scenery) we had to have a quick nosy into the other two rooms before leaving. It’s safe to say whichever room you pick, you’re in for a treat. The West Wing even had the famous rose sat in the corner in its case, dropping a petal every now and then. This is definately a not-to-miss restaurant in Magic Kingdom.
World Showcase at Epcot
One half of the Epcot park is made up of World Showcase, which is one of the things I remember most from the first time I visited WDW. This is the best idea for a theme park that attracts hundreds of people from all over the world, as World Showcase allows you to explore 11 different countries all in one place! 11 mini nations are spread around Epcot’s lake and it’s possible to complete them all by walking round from one to the next in a day. It’s possible, however we chose to explore one half of the lake one day and returned another time to complete the rest, as we wanted to see (and eat!) everything we possibly could in every country. The 11 pavilions that make up World Showcase are: United States of America, Japan, Morocco, France, United Kingdom, Canada, Mexico, Norway, China, Germany and Italy. Each pavilion is created to feel as if you have stepped into a completely different country – with themed buildings, shops, restaurants and every now and then a Disney character appears for a photo in their home country. My personal faves are Morocco, for the beautiful architecture and delicious Moroccan food, France, for the Eiffel Tower and perfume shops selling the likes of Chanel and Givenchy (and we saw Princess Belle!), Rome, for the gelato, prosecco and pizzas, and of course the United Kingdom. I suppose it’s probably the same for everyone when they see the replica of their home nation, but the American’s stereotypes of the UK are hilarious. I’m talking extreme Mary Poppins English (we did actually meet her for a quick pic!) and old style English cottages. One of the pubs is called The Rose and Crown and next door there’s a chippy called Yorkshire County Chip Shop – how very British! It’s such a laugh going from country to country trying different food and drink from around the world and feeling as if you’re actually there.
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
The first thrill ride on the list is the Tower of Terror in Hollywood Studios, and I love it. I’m a lover of thrill rides anyway, but this one has always been my fave. It basically sends you plummeting to the ground at a top speed of 39 miles per hour from a 13 story height multiple times. It’s one of WDW’s highest attractions and that’s not hard to believe when it’s the one thing you can see from almost all the other Disney parks… it really is that tall! The thing that turns this ride into an experience is the theme running all the way through. It’s set in an old Hollywood hotel where horrible goings on happened leaving the place haunted to this day. With a pre-ride video and eerie waiting rooms and props, the scene is set before boarding and you even ride in the old style elevator from the story (with seats and safety belts added of course). Disney even go as far as getting the ride staff to dress up as ghoulish old style bellboys and freak you right out before getting seated in your elevator!
Rock ‘N’ Rollercoaster Starring Aerosmith
My personal favourite coaster attraction in WDW is the Rock ‘N’ Rollercoaster in Hollywood Studios. It’s a classic high speed rollercoaster in the shape of Aerosmith’s limo, that rockets from 0-60 mph in 2.8 seconds. So there’s some serious G force! The ride includes two full loops and a corkscrew, and considering your personal belongings are only held in by an elasticated pocket in front of you, it shows just how fast this coaster goes and how much G force there is. It’s pitch black inside apart from luminous road signs and palm trees that you wizz by. Like the Tower of Terror, this ride is made much more enjoyable by the theme that runs throughout, from the decor, to the recording studio halfway in the queue, to the ride itself. My favourite thing about this ride is that there are built in speakers in the headrests for every rider and each person gets a different Aerosmith song blasted the whole way round. It’s GREAT.
Live Shows and Parades
Two things Disney know how to pull off well are their shows and parades. No matter what age you are, whether you’re 5 or 85, you will love them. The shows I love and remember the most are Festival of the Lion King and the Finding Nemo show, both in Animal Kingdom and the Beauty and the Beast show in Hollywood Studios. The most talented singers, dancers and actors along with everyones favourite Disney songs and characters come together to create amazing feel-good live shows that remind you of exactly where you are – in the ‘happiest place on earth’. Along with the shows, I’m always excited to see the parades featuring all the Disney characters on their themed floats. My fave from last year was the Festival of Fantasy Parade in Magic Kingdom, where we had the best spot to watch it as it came down Main Street USA in front of the castle. You just can’t beat sitting in the Florida sun with a cold drink or ice cream in your hand, watching dancers, acrobats and Disney Princesses twirl past you when you’re in the Magic Kingdom.
There’s a touch of Disney magic everywhere
The most amazing thing about WDW is that they manage to keep you in a magical Disney bubble the whole time you’re there. The Starbucks cups, popcorn buckets and even the sweets and ice creams are shaped or branded Disney-style. The parks themselves are spotless… and I mean spotless. I can’t remember seeing a single piece of litter or chewing gum anywhere, the whole two weeks we were there. I’ve got a whole lot of respect for the workers and cleaners who are out both day and night to keep the place perfect ready for the next day of visitors. There’s also hidden speakers everywhere playing super happy Disney-like songs in the background, so you are always seeing, hearing or feeling the Disney magic!
These are just 8 of my favourite things about Walt Disney World Orlando and why it’s one of my favourite holiday destinations! Have you been before? Let me know what you love about it in the comments below!