There’s a reason that people call Walt Disney World “the happiest place on Earth.” I’m 22 years old – and for an entire day, I felt like I was 10 again. I was five or six years old the first time I went to Disney World. It was in 1995, if my memory serves me correctly. I also went in 2003, when I was around 13 years old. So it’s safe to say it had been a while – up until Wednesday. And ever since the moment I left, I’ve been thinking about how much I can’t wait to return. What a truly amazing place.
As I stated a few days ago on the blog, I’m down in Florida for a week for the Washington Nationals’ spring training. Why am I here? I’m a play-by-play announcer for the Syracuse Chiefs, and my broadcast partner Jason Benetti and I are using the trip to get used to the team and take some photos and videos. But we’re not just treating this trip as work – far from it. It’s a week in Florida before our 144-game/152-day season begins, and there’s certainly some vacation time involved. So when I realized the Nationals were playing a 6:05 game against Atlanta at Disney World’s Wide World of Sports Complex…well, it didn’t take long to connect the dots. And on Wednesday morning, away we went. Here’s an approximate retroactive running diary of sorts…I’ll try and remember all the fun I had, but I’m sure I’ll leave a few things out.
8:30 AM: I absolutely did not want to be up this early. Now I’m generally awake around 7:30 AM for work every weekday, but while in Florida I would have liked a bit more sleep. It would have been different if I hadn’t been awake until around 2:30 while working on player biographies for the Chiefs’ media guide.
9:30: Jason and I hit the road for Orlando, a drive of about an hour northwest. The drive was marked by sun…palm trees…more sun…and more palm trees. Why don’t I live in this state?
10:45: Our arrival at the park. I was totally blown away by just how gigantic the area is for Disney World, something that probably hadn’t quite registered in 2003. We drove through the entrance and didn’t park for maybe ten more minutes. And all we saw on the way in were a bunch of trees.
11:00: Jason and I decided to start at the Magic Kingdom and buy a one-day “Park Hopper” pass, which was about $30 more expensive than a single-park pass. I was a bit financially concerned about this at first, though it turned out to absolutely be the right decision.
The whole ride over was absolutely awe-inspiring. The monorail ride into the Magic Kingdom is full of breathtaking views over the water and the Disney resorts. And when the Magic Kingdom’s castle comes into full view, you can’t help but feel like you’re a kid once more. Then there’s the entrance into the actual Magic Kingdom, which is a little strange and you’re 22 years old and you’re with a friend rather than kids or parents. But who cares? It’s Disney World.
We walked through Adventureland first and decided to jump (not literally) on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, which should come as absolutely no surprise to anyone who has ever met me. It was a fairly short wait for the ride, which I hadn’t been on since any of the movies had been released in theatres. The addition of an animatronic Jack Sparrow was a nice tough, and it was fun riding past Captain Barbossa and his firing cannons. It’s amazing just how realistic these animatronic characters are – I found myself wondering out loud “is that a real person?” at one point. The attention to detail all over this park is astonishing.
12:00: Splash Mountain next, which Jason had never been on. I seemed to remember this being a short ride with a decently big jump. We figured we’d be on line for a while, with a supposed 75-minute wait according to the counter outside the ride.
75 minutes later: Still on line.
5 minutes after that: Still on line.
5 minutes after that: Still on…hey, what’s that? The ride is delayed due to technical difficulties? Well, we’ve waited this much, we might as well keep waiting.
10 minutes after that: And the ride is shut down. A thoroughly annoying event. But I’m not even too mad, because I’m just happy to be at Disney – even though my phone battery is at about 3% and we just wasted a ton of time. And we were behind a father who was openly talking about his alcoholism in front of his young son. Parent of the year, ladies and gentlemen.
There’s way more to get to with this, but it’s 1:00 AM and the NCAA Tournament is taking over my life. Also, Florida. So we’ll finish this tomorrow, hopefully…with Mickey Mouse in the press box and Muppets and baseball and midnight rides and a Jungle Cruise employee on some sort of drug and Gary Sinise. And other stuff.