In total, we visited nine parks during our 2017 trip to Orlando. Some we loved more than others, but the thing that became clear was that they’re all so different. From the pure fantasy of the Magic Kingdom to the fantastic thrills at Busch Gardens, we absolutely loved the time we spent in each of the parks we visited.
For the purpose of today’s trip report, we’re just going to talk about the Disney parks. We’ll go through what we liked and disliked and give a couple of our top tips for each. I have a feeling this is going to be a long one, so let’s get going!
Also, if you missed the first instalment of the series, you can read it here: Orlando 2107 Trip Report: The Hotels.
1. Magic Kingdom
The first park of our trip was the Magic Kingdom. We’ve already talked about what we love about it in our dream day in Magic Kingdom blog, but I’ll give a bit more insight into our thoughts here.
In our opinion, this truly is the best place in the world to go to escape. The minute we walked through the entrance every little worry we had at home just fell away. Each of the lands is beautifully themed, so you’re truly transported to another place and it’s so easy to get completely lost in your surroundings.
When it comes to attractions, there is something for everyone in the Magic Kingdom. From family fun to fantastic thrills, there really isn’t a stone unturned here. There are a few things we’d change though, the dining options are pretty limited compared to Animal Kingdom and Epcot and it was always heaving. I know you can’t change the crowds but the Magic Kingdom does seem to feel more chlostrophobic than some of the other parks when it’s really busy.
Our Magic Kingdom Tips
1. Get in there early! Make a dining reservation before 8am. Not only does it mean you get to hop on a few rides as other people are entering, but you also get to experience the park when it’s pretty quiet. One of our favourite experiences of our trip.
2. Be careful with Fastpasses. The park is vast and it’s best enjoyed at a pace slow enough to take it all in. If you book a Fastpass, for example, at Pirates of the Caribbean for 10am, Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin at 11am and Jungle Cruise at 12pm, you’re going to be ping ponging around the park too quickly to enjoy it. We spread ours out across a few days, booking our first day in Tomorrowland and Fantasyland and the second day in Frontierland and Adventureland – it worked perfectly for us!
3. Don’t forget to shop on Main Street. This might sound stupid but it’s so easy to do. To be honest, we kind of bypassed it without realising the first few times we visited Magic Kingdom. Then one day it absolutely pissed it down and we were forced to take shelter. By sheer luck, we were on Main Street so went into the shops. They are a treasure trove of amazing merchandise, from delicious smores in Main Street Bakery to gorgeous Kate Spade Minnie handbags and amazing Disney art – a great way to spend a rainy hour.
Epcot is a funny one. While we were there we had some amazing experiences but overall felt fairly indifferent towards it. Now we’re due to visit again, it’s one of the parks we’re most excited for – strange I know.
I can only attribute this to us not really giving it as much time as it needed. We had pencilled in a day to browse World Showcase but didn’t end up getting there until late. By that time it was almost dark and we barely saw any of the details in the area. Next time, we’re spending a full afternoon here and I’m excited to drink my way around the world.
That being said, we loved the International Food and Wine Festival and the general vibe in Epcot. It was really upbeat and fun which is just infectious. The attractions are a mixed bag too, Soarin’ is one of my favourites and Carl loves Test Track, but other than these two, and Spaceship Earth, there isn’t a right lot to do when it comes to rides. It’s also home to the two worst attractions at Walt Disney World, Figment and Living with the Land.
Our Epcot Tips
1. Because of the tier system, you can only book one Fastpass for either Test Track, Soarin’ and Frozen Ever After. Our advice? Book a Fastpass for Test Track and hit Soarin’ at Rope Drop. We did this and although it looked like tonnes of people were also heading there, we probably queued twenty minutes – much better than spending over an hour in that awful queue.
2. I’ve kind of covered this but make sure you take some quality time out to walk round World Showcase. The mistake we made was booking Fastpasses because we thought we had to which meant by the time we were over there, it was kind of too late. Missing out on this is one of our biggest regrets of the trip.
3. This goes without saying but it’s worth touching upon, make sure you book a trip that coincides with a festival. Epcot hosts four, Food and Wine Festival, The Festival of the Arts, Flower & Garden Festival and Festival of The Holidays. We loved Food & Wine, but I fancy Flower & Garden at some point as well. If you want to learn more about the Epcot festivals, Disney Addicts has a great guide to Epcot Festivals that is packed full of tips and tricks.
3. Hollywood Studios
Ah Hollywood Studios. If ever there was a Disney park to polorise opinions it’s probably this one at the moment. During October, there were a grand total of four rides open here so there wasn’t a massive amount to do.
That being said, we still had a great time. We loved the atmosphere and theming, the old Hollywood vibe just got us, and it does have some of the better attractions in Tower of Terror, Toy Story Mania and Rock n’ Roller Coaster. We probably had the most chilled time here, taking a breather to enjoy a few drinks and take it all in.
The shows are good too, I loved Voyage of the Little Mermaid and Carl rather enjoyed Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular, so at least there is something for everyone.
The shops at Hollywood Studios are great too, with a lot of variety and something a little bit different to the other parks – I was a big fan of the homeware but sadly didn’t have space (or budget!) to bring any of it home. Like the Magic Kingdom, the eating options are limited but it’s not like we went hungry!
All in all, we had a fantastic day here, but by god does it need Toy Story Land and Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge to open pronto.
Our Hollywood Studios Tips
1. If you’re fond of a drink like us (and especially if you’re there without kids) you HAVE to go to Baseline Taphouse. Located near Muppet Vision 3D. This new bar is the perfect spot to chill, has a great selection of wines, lagers and ales and is just such a nice place to soak up the sun and take in your surroundings. We loved it so much that it has been specifically added to our itinerary for September.
2. Get to the park early. Even with Toy Story Land opening in June, it’s sparse when it comes to attractions and queues get big fast. We made use of extra magic hours but still had to queue some time for Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster right at the beginning of the day. By midday the queues were obscene and without Fastpasses booked we probably would have left.
3. If you’re going to Fantasmic, get there early too. The stadium is massive, but it fills up quick. We were probably a little late and got an ok seat, but it would have been better had we got there earlier. There are plenty of food and drink kiosks in the stadium to keep you entertained while you wait. Oh and if you’ve got a meal booked after, sit on the right side of the stadium. We were on the left and were a good 20 minutes late for our ADR at Sci-Fi diner
4. Animal Kingdom
I’m saving the second-best until last. Animal Kingdom was the surprise park of the trip for me. I’d been many years ago (before Expedition Everest was built) and don’t remember having any real opinion of it, but this time we both loved it.
First off, it’s gorgeous. Like really, really gorgeous. The theming is beautiful and it feels much more serene than the other parks. We got there during extra magic hours and rushed to Pandora – we didn’t manage to get Flight of Passage fastpasses – but the queue was already at three hours long by the time we got there so we gave it a miss and wandered around instead. Pandora is truly stunning although I won’t rush back to Na’vi River Journey.
In terms of the rest of the park, it’s awesome. There are thrilling rides like Expedition Everest (my all-time favourite ride), great food at Yak & Yeti, and the best show at any theme park I’ve visited in Festival of the Lion King.
All in all, we loved it here and can’t wait to get back to ride Flight of Passage – fingers crossed we get fast passes this time!
Our Animal Kingdom Tips
1. It gets really, really hot in Animal Kingdom. I’m sure there is a reason for it that I don’t know, but by around 2pm we were absolutely beat. Make sure you take bottles and get plenty of water from the fountains or counter service restaurants throughout the day. If you’re staying close by, definitely go for a rest at your accommodation when the heat is at its highest.
2. Animal Kingdom is one of the furthest parks away from the hotels, so add a bit of extra travel time when you visit here.
3. Don’t forget the animals. We focused wholly on the rides during our trip and missed out on lots of the animal attractions that Animal Kingdom has to offer. There are tonnes to do and we’ll be spending more time exploring these experiences during our next trip, I can’t wait to be a wilderness explorer!
So that’s it, our very long overview of the Walt Disney Parks we visited during our October 2017 trip. We didn’t manage to make it to any of the water parks, unfortunately, but look forward to heading to Typhoon Lagoon in September.
Next up will be the rest of the parks we visited in Orlando including all of Universal Studios Orlando, Sea World and Busch Gardens.