Orlando Day 5 – Magic Kingdom (with Disneyland Comparison)

December 21, 2010 at 10:05 pm | Posted in Travel, Travelogues | Leave a comment

Due to the late night at Hollywood Studios, we opted for a late morning arrival to Magic Kingdom.  It was Extra Magic Hours there the night before so that should make the park relatively less crowded.  I also learned a trick.  I was not aware you could walk to Magic Kingdom from the Contemporary Resort.  It’s about a 12 min walk or you can take the monorail.  Otherwise you have to park in the main parking lot and take the tram (from way back in the parking lot if arriving later), then the monorail or ferry to Magic Kingdom from clear across the bay.  The trick is to make a breakfast, lunch or dinner reservation at one of the Contemporary Resort restaurants so you can tell the guard you are eating there.  The reservation can be easily made and canceled online.  However it turned out to not be necessary at least on that day as the guard never checked the reservation.

If you take the monorail from the Contemporary Resort only take it back from the park, not to the park.  If you take it there, it goes the opposite direction of the park and makes several stops.

I wasn’t that excited this time to go to Magic Kingdom as our previous trip here or trips to Disneyland.  Primarily because there are a few disappointing aspects of Magic Kingdom compared to Disneyland that we discovered our last (first) time visiting.  I’m glad we live on the West Coast close to Disneyland.  At Magic Kingdom there is no New Orleans Square which is my favorite part of Disneyland.  In addition the Pirates of the Caribbean ride pales in comparison to Disneyland.  First there is no swamp with the Blue Bayou restaurant (nor Club 33.)  There is only one small waterfall as opposed to two slightly larger ones.  And the ride at Magic Kingdom is overall shorter with less scenes.  The Haunted Mansion does not look like the Haunted Mansion and they don’t do the Nightmare Before Christmas Overlay like they do at Disneyland which is really cool.  The Space Mountain has not been renovated like the Disneyland one and the walk through and boarding areas is not as good and the ride is not as smooth.  The railroad only has two stops at MK (Frontierland and Toon Town) as opposed to three stops at Disneyland at there is no Grand Canyon diorama.  The Small World ride building is nothing compared to the one at Disneyland.  They don’t have the Pinocchio ride nor Mr. Toad nor the Matterhorn (but the Everest ride at Animal Kingdom is a good substitute.) Also from what I’ve read Toon Town is a lot better at Disneyland (we didn’t spend time there at Magic Kingdom but just walking through I could see the MK Toon Town was a ‘dummied down’ version of the one at Disneyland (no Roger Rabbit ride and some other buildings and surprises) which is strange considering MK is the bigger park (Disneyland has more attractions than MK.)

To Magic Kingdom’s credit, the Swiss Family Treehouse hasn’t been re-themed to Tarzan like they did at Disneyland.  They have Mickey’s Philharmagic at MK and the castle is bigger.  The MK park is overall a larger (107 acres compared to 85) but the difference is mainly felt in the hub area in front of the castle (the castle is over twice as big as the one at Disneyland) but elsewhere in the park it doesn’t feel larger.  And the park’s surroundings is a lot nicer than the cramped Anaheim area with all the cheezy motels.

Our main mission was to get a few fast passes to use on the popular rides in the evening and ride a few of the less popular rides.  It worked out very well.  We got there between 10:30 and 11 if I remember right (I’m writing this 6 days later.)  Because I knew the MK Space Mountain wasn’t all that, instead of getting a FP there, we hopped the train to Frontierland and I got one from the other ride I know usually has long lines – Splash Mountain.  Because it was colder than normal that day (about 60 that morning) the stand-by line was only 30-min and the FP Return was only a couple hours away.  We then walked over to Pirates of the Caribbean but because it was later in the morning, everyone who stampeded to Tomorrowland and Fantasyland that morning was starting to migrate to Adventureland and the line for Pirates was 40  minutes.  Skip for now. We headed over to the next one on the list, The Hall of Presidents.  This is one of those sleeper attractions that a lot of people aren’t aware of or at least interested in.  It was an enjoyable show and the kids like learning about U.S. History.  There was only about a 10 minute wait for the next show.

We had not originally planned to each lunch at MK.  In my opinion the dining selections at MK are some of the weaker ones compared to the other parks.  But since we arrived late, we had no choice.  After reading some reviews at themeparkinsider.com I decided we would try the Columbia Harbor House.  We got there at about 11:45 and I went and grabbed a Fast Pass for Big Thunder Mountain.  There was almost no line.  This place is sort of tucked away by the Haunted Mansion and I think a lot of people don’t know it was there.  The Fish & Chips were so so, pretty greasy (English Batter Style.) We were able to find seating outside.  If I had to do it over again I might have just got a Hot Dog or a Turkey Leg right near where we were sitting outside by the Hall of Presidents.

After lunch we walked over and and used our Splash Mountain Fast Passes and managed to not get very wet.  Splash Mountain is one of my top 5 rides that Disney has made (the others are Pirates, Haunted Mansion, Tower of Terror, and Soarin)  I like the theming though of the Log Ride at Knotts Berry farm a little better. After Splash we hopped the train to Toon Town to get to Fantasyland.  It was negligible if it saved us any time from just walking to Fantasyland.  In Fantasyland, as expected, everything had a long wait with the exception of the attraction we were there for, Mickey’s Philharmagic — an enjoyable short 4D experience.

Next we walked over to Tomorrowland and I got Fast Passes for Space Mountain for that evening.  At about 2 in the afternoon the return time was already past 9 PM.  Note that I opted to get Fast Passes for this instead of Buzz Lightyear because Buzz Lightyear is more of a young kids ride and should be wide open late in the evening when all the little kids have gone back to go to bed.  We road the Transit Authority ride next which had no lines (supposedly never does) which was a fun little tour around Tomorrowland.  Definitely recommended as a good ride to give your feet some rest.

We managed to hit all the objectives (except Pirates) and be out of there by 3 to head back and sit in the Spa and let the kids swim at the Marriott Cypress Harbor.  The kids were really excited to go back and had the map out planning all the rides we were going to see that evening.

We returned at about 9 in the evening (used the same Contemporary Resort trick) and did Pirates, Big Thunder Mountain (Fast Pass), Haunted Mansion (10 min line – all of these rides are better at night in my opinion), Splash Mountain (because there was no line – saw fireworks during the ride), Snow White (Peter Pan line was still 30 min), Small World (waste of time), Space Mountain (no line), and finally Buzz Lightyear at about (had no line at about 11 PM).  Buzz Lightyear (during the day) gets my vote as the most ridiculous line for what you get out of all attractions.  The line can be as crazy as Toy Story Mania but this ride pales in comparison to Toy Story Mania.  In my opinion the hour to two hour waits at this ride is the poster child example of how parents (who didn’t plan ahead) completely lose their minds and wait in the ridiculous line anyway to avoid feeling guilty their kids didn’t get to ride it.  We skipped the parades and fireworks (although you can see the fireworks no matter where you are) as we been there, done that.

We were hungry and decided to get a snack (which turned out to be $30 – ouch) in Tomorrowland at Starlight Cafe which was one of the few places still open. I ordered the chili-cheese fries because they were cheap but they put it in as the chili-cheese dog.  Pretty gross.

This late arrival, late evening itinerary worked out very well for a stress-free, virtual no-wait visit to Magic Kingdom essentially because the park was open until midnight that day and it was a Tuesday, still several days before the peak Christmas/New Years crowds.  The cold weather probably helped cut the crowds down too (was about 50 late that night.)  Nevertheless, we were exhausted by the end of the night.  Theme Park vacations can be hard work – unlike sitting on the beach in Hawaii.

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