Theme Park Review: Disney World (Part 3)

First of all: an apology to those people who follow this here blog, as posting has been disjointed and sporadic over the past couple of weeks.  I’m in Syracuse now with baseball season about to start, and it’s time to start doing this every day once more now that I’ll have a semi-regular schedule.  Tomorrow, I’ll post two entries, to make up for the lack of any entries yesterday.  Today, it’s finally time to finish my retroactive running diary of my trip to Disney World.


7:30: Yes, we were in Florida for baseball.  Though it was hard to remember throughout the entire day, that was technically the case.  So Jason, Ariel and I took in four innings or so of the Nationals/Braves game, which turned into a bit of a home run derby.  Considering the starters were Nats phenom Stephen Strasburg and Braves mega-prospect Julio Teheran, it was somewhat of a surprise to see four bombs in the first four frames.  But this wasn’t a night for all nine – we only got one trip to Disney, and we weren’t going to waste it.  We left the park and decided to head to The Theme Park Formerly Known As MGM Studios – Hollywood Studios, for short.

Jason didn’t want to go on the Tower of Terror due to some concerns about the herky-jerky drops and elevation, so the group decided to compromise – we’d head over to the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith first and hit the Tower on our way out.  Of course, the ride for the Coaster was over an hour and a half long, and the Tower of Terror was only 30 minutes…screw compromises.  Jason decided to suck it up and take the plunge, and we headed for the Tower.

8:00: Nobody likes waiting on lines.  But the waiting experience was a little bit different this time around than either of my first two drips to Disney.  I’m old enough now to fully appreciate all the different aspects of ride design and set decoration, and it’s visually breathtaking just about everywhere you go in Disney World.  The hotel setup of the Tower of Terror is no different, with its cobwebs and rusty pianos and walls filled with books.  Are any of those books real books?  Some of them look fake, but others don’t.  Does anyone know the actual answer to this?

Anyway, the most fun part about the ride might not be the drop sequence, but rather, the lead up to the drop.  The atmosphere, complete with Twilight Zone music and spooky projections, really sets the mood and does more to frighten you than the actual rising and falling.  It’s absolutely one of the best rides at Disney World.

I was going to make a joke about the inevitable Tower of Terror movie, but then I found this…what? Seriously…what???

9:00: With the wait for the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster as long as an Aerosmith concert, we decided to walk across the entire park to MuppetVision 3D.  (By putting the Tower of Terror as far apart from the Muppets as possible, it’s clear that the Disney Imagineers had no concern for the future me.  Sigh.)  To get to the Muppets, we had to walk through a relatively new Pixar world, complete with Woody and Buzz Lightyear entertaining kids.  (Another big smile-inducing moment.)  I found the most fun touch of this world to be the banner of sorts hanging over the entrance – a line of monkeys from the Barrel of Monkeys, found in Toy Story.

Walking through the back of Hollywood Studios at around 9:00 at night is an odd feeling.  It’s dark and seems deserted, and I don’t remember ever being out in the parks this late when I went in 2003.  It felt at times like we were the only three people wandering the streets – heck, I wondered if MuppetVision was even open this late.  But thankfully, we arrived at the Muppet Studios to find the show just minutes away from starting.

I don’t know that there’s anything in life that gives me more joy than the Muppets.  The background of my phone is now a picture of me smiling in front of a poster for The Muppets, since I can literally never look at this and be unhappy again.  And it might be my Facebook profile picture for all eternity.

Anyway, MuppetVision 3D is a total blast, even if you’re not a Muppets fan.  And if you’re not a Muppets fan, what in the world are you?  It was one of the most fun parts of the entire day for sure and will probably be the first place I go at Hollywood Studios if I ever return.  (The most interesting part of the show: seeing what the younger kids laughed at and what we laughed at.  The pie in Fozzie’s face drew the most laughter from the crowd, but there are so many more subtle and advanced jokes in the Muppets that it’s totally worth it for all ages, and probably even more worth it the older you get.)

9:45: With the park closing in ten minutes, we figured we could finally get on the Rock ‘n’ Coaster.  Nope.  Somehow, there was a 100-minute wait with Hollywood Studios allegedly shutting down in ten.  Math is fun.

So off we went to the Magic Kingdom once more to close out the night.

10:15: It was time to run through to Splash Mountain at this point, after we’d been screwed by the technical difficulties shutting down the ride earlier in the day.  And it’s quite exhilarating to run through the park when just about everyone else is leaving.  But we slowed down our pace a bit to catch a spectacular light show on Cinderella’s castle in the center of the park, complete with music and visuals from dozens of different Disney films and shorts.  How do they DO this????  It’s just breathtaking.

The wait on Splash Mountain couldn’t have been more than 15 minutes – a far cry from before.  I was slightly surprised by how long the actual ride was – I just remember a short couple of turns through the Brer Patches and then a watery drop.  But as it turns out, Splash Mountain is probably as long as any ride at the park, with a couple of mini-drops before the actual big one.  In fact, it was long enough that I comfortably attempted to take a few pictures from the ride.  Man, I love smartphones.

11:10: At this point, we had three missions if possible: Space Mountain, the Jungle Cruise, and It’s A Small World.  We figured we’d hit the Jungle Cruise, just a few paces away from Splash Mountain, and then head to Tomorrowland for Space Mountain, with perhaps a bit of time left over.  One problem: there was a roped-off light parade directly in our way.  So we would have had to walk allllll the way around the park to get over to the Jungle Cruise.

We decided to cut toward Space Mountain, and on the way, we found the spinning teacup ride.  This is the ride where you sit in a teacup, spin the center wheel, and feel inordinately dizzy and sick as soon as you walk off the ride.  Of course, we decided to jump on the non-existent line and go on.  I took a video of the ride on my phone, which is incredibly dizzying to watch, so I’ll spare you the nonsense and leave it on my phone.  It was a good few minutes, though I staggered around like a drunken Jack Sparrow in the 60 seconds directly after.

11:30: Space Mountain’s line, with the park closing at midnight – 50 minutes long.  It was decision time – and nostalgia won out in the end.  We decided to close out the night with a voyage on the Jungle Cruise.  When I went to Disney World in 1995, I believe I made my grandparents and my aunt Margaret go on the ride five different times, which likely caused them to temporarily hate me.  But we headed over to the Jungle Cruise expecting a fairly relaxing good time.  We didn’t get it.

Our tour guide was a young man, probably about the age of 26.  (27, maybe.)  And I’m pretty sure he was partaking in some sort of illegal mind-altering drug before the ride.  Becausehetalked100milesanhouranditwasREALLYSUPERFASTAND(deeeeeeeeeeeeeeeepbreath)HEYlookatthatyounggirlontheridewhat’syournamekidheyitslorrainelorrainethatsreallycoolanditsyourbirthday!(deeeeeeeeeeeeepbreath)you’retenyearsoldTENheyyouwannadrivetheboatcoolgoaheaddrivetheboatOHWATCHOUTFORTHEGIANTELEPHANTSONTHELEFTSIDEitwasreallyhardtotypethiswithoutspacing.


Even this guy would think our guide was a fast talker.

It was a fun ride, but it would have been more fun if we only had to watch out for the animatronic hippos and not the constant barrage of corny one-liners.

12:00: Finally – the end of the night.  I kept my head on a swivel and turned around often when leaving the park to remember exactly what I was leaving.  It was the saddest moment of the day – but I still had a gigantic smile on my face the whole time.

I don’t know the next time I’ll visit Walt Disney World.  I don’t know how long I’ll go for or who I’ll go with.  But I plan on being there as soon as humanly possible.  I’m not sure I’ve ever had more fun in a single day in my life.  If you can’t enjoy a trip to Disney – whether you’re 3, 23, or 53 – you, my friend, are a cynical human being.  It’s the single happiest place I think I will ever be.  And if I’m ever lucky enough to have children, they’re going to have an awful lot of vacations to Orlando.

Grade: A+


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