My husband and I spent our 19th wedding anniversary at Walt Disney World and had the time of our lives!
The Young at Heart
Walt Disney theme parks are not just for kids: people of all ages can and do enjoy these enchanted lands by the thousands every year. A large percentage of guests are over fifty! Middle-aged folks and senior citizens of every walk of life flock to Disney theme parks every year to experience some of that magic. You’re never too old to visit the mouse!
My husband and I decided it would be fun to go to Disney World for our 19th anniversary in January 2018. We took five days to see the parks with a rest day in the middle, something I would advise no matter how old you are. During the plane ride from Oregon to Florida, we were filled with excitement and anticipation. We pored over our travel book and itinerary to make sure everything was set. We could hardly wait to get to our first destination: Magic Kingdom.
Have a Plan
The Magic Kingdom is one of four parks that comprise Walt Disney World, and it is the one that is most like Disneyland in California. We had no problem seeing everything we wanted here in two days. You can do it in one if you’re pressed for time, but it would be a push.
The best way to get the most out of your visit is to have a good plan. If you know which rides and attractions you want to experience and the best times of day to do so, you’re more likely to get to do everything you want without a lot of added stress and unnecessary walking. It’s a big place!
If you haven’t been to Disney World before, or if it’s been a long time, I would recommend getting a book such as the Unofficial Guide Walt Disney World 2018. A friend loaned me an older version of this book that she bought several years ago and said it was a great help. After perusing hers, I ordered my own updated copy on Amazon.
The guidebook was a lifesaver! It’s full of time-saving tips and schedules that truly give an insider view of how to negotiate the different parks, including the best times to ride the most popular rides, saving you tons of time waiting in long lines. There are even pull-out touring plans for each of the four parks, providing detailed step-by-step directions on how to make the most of your time depending on how many days you have to spend.
A Note About Fast Passes
A fast pass can be an invaluable asset when you can get one. These passes are gold (not literally) and will get you on rides or into attractions in a fraction of the wait time you would otherwise have for a standard line (or “standby” line as Disney calls them). At Disney World, the best way to get your fast passes for premier rides is to pick them well in advance. The sooner the better for the most popular rides.
We set up an online Disney account when we purchased our tickets and had the choice to pick up our fast passes at that time. Instead, we waited until six weeks before departure to choose our passes, thinking it was no big deal, but by that time passes for the most popular rides were already gone. Disney releases a controlled number of fast passes for certain rides at a time! You can get passes while you’re at the park, but you’re taking the leftovers at that point.
Milder Temps, Smaller Crowds
January is a good time to visit Disney World because it’s not as crowded and the average daily temperatures are usually comfortable. While we were there, it happened to be running on the cool side even for that time of year. Most days were in the mid-60s with one day plummeting to the low 50s, but this isn’t typical. The summer can be hot and muggy and, of course, when the kids are out of school it’s going to be a lot more crowded. Lucky for us, our anniversary fell at just the right time to visit.
Favorite Rides and Attractions
My husband and I used our guidebook’s two-day touring plan which made seeing everything we wanted a breeze. I will admit, though, that we didn’t completely stick to the plan. Some of the suggestions in the book didn’t interest us or a ride we wanted to go on was closed for maintenance (one downside to going in the off-season). Here’s how our two-day plan worked for us.
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We got up early (per the travel book’s advice) and arrived before the park officially opened. We wanted to be sure and ride the Seven Dwarf’s Mine Train, one of the most popular attractions, so we positioned ourselves to go straight there when the gates officially opened. It worked like magic (no pun intended) and the rest of our day followed suit.
Unfortunately, Splash Mountain and Tom Sawyer’s Island were closed during our visit, but we still saw plenty of amazing things. A few of our favorite highlights were: Mickey’s PhilharMagic show in 3D and Monster’s Inc. Laugh Floor—hilarious and unusual. They randomly chose audience members and broadcast their reactions on the large screen which was one of the funniest parts.
We also enjoyed some entertaining diversions as Disney calls them. In particular, The Muppets Presents Great Moments in America’s History and a Pirates of the Caribbean skit featuring Captain Jack Sparrow were both really good. Several other rides, as well as taking time to enjoy some delicious Dole Whip and a little people watching, completed this first day of the experience.
We slowed our pace on the second day, stopping on Main Street USA to take in a barbershop quartet belting out old-fashioned tunes in perfect four-part harmony. After that, we jumped on the Speedway for a quick ride around the track in a little red convertible, but the gas fumes emitted from the engines of the cars made this ride less than enjoyable. Nevertheless, it was set up just like a racetrack with bleachers, miniature streetlamps, and checkered flags.
The gas fumes were quickly forgotten as we boarded the People Mover which took us on an enjoyable and laid-back elevated tour of Tomorrowland. From that vantage point, we could scope out the whole area—very cool! We followed that with a fascinating 20-minute exhibit/ride showcasing Walt Disney’s vision of the future. This was a replica of the same exhibit that was showcased at the 1964 World’s Fair. We sat in a slowly rotating theater as scenes from different eras, since the early 60s, unfolded before us. We watched the progress of the modern world as it evolved through the decades. Fascinating!
One of our favorite activities from the second day was A Pirates Adventure, an interactive game in Adventureland. We got totally caught up playing this game and ran around Adventureland like a couple of kids searching for clues, solving puzzles, and basically saving the world from nasty pirates. I would highly recommend taking some time to participate in this or one of the other interactive games at Disney World. They’re free and so much fun!
The guidebook is full of helpful hints on the best way to eat on a budget or, if money is no object, a description of all the restaurants and food stands in each park. In an attempt to be frugal, we brought our own lunch, snacks, and bottled water in a backpack. We refilled our bottles at water fountains throughout each day. I was really glad this was allowed! They check all backpacks and purses when you go through security before entering each park, but it’s well worth it to be able to save a little on the food budget.
We had dinner at the Tomorrowland Terrace. I would highly recommend this place for its quality food offerings and reasonable prices. They feature burgers, chicken sandwiches, and even a full chicken dinner that would rival many sit-down restaurants I’ve eaten at. In fact, we enjoyed the food and prices so much that we ate there again on our second day at Magic Kingdom.
Home to Bed
At the end of two fun-filled days at Magic Kingdom, we were ready to head back to our resort, the Marriott Grand Vista a few miles away. We had a wonderful time visiting the theme park that most reminded us of Disneyland. Now it was time to take a day off and rest before moving on to the other three parks on our list and we were anxious to see what adventures were still in store.
If you'd like more tips on how to get the most out of Disney World theme parks, check out the article, "Experience Walt Disney World as a Kid at Heart at Epcot".
© 2018 Traci Wilson