Lisa and I spent our first anniversary at Disney World. I figured, if it’s the Year of a Million Dreams, that averages to about 190,000 per week. As we reflected on the days we spent at each park (3 at Epcot, 2 at Animal Kingdom, 1 at Hollywood Studios, and a few hours at Magic Kingdom), we made lists of the best and worst things about our experiences.
Caribbean Beach Resort - We chose this one because it was one of the medium-priced hotels, and it looks to be the most centrally located. Like many of them, it’s situated around a small lagoon, which is a very nice setting. You can even see (and definitely hear) some of the Epcot fireworks.
Best: The Old Port Royal swimming pool. Surrounded by the walls of a colonial-era fort, with water slides and water-spouting cannons, plus of course a pirate ship, it has to be one of the coolest pools I’ve seen. Also, the hotel’s one restaurant, Shutters, turned out to be surprisingly good.
Worst: Tuesday night we came back to find that the card reader on our door had quit working. We had to wait for someone to come let us in and fix the door (which took over half an hour). This is also the first hotel we’ve seen in a long time that didn’t have free wireless Internet access. Instead it was $10/day, and you had to use the Ethernet cable on the nightstand. They could have at least put it by the table. (Reportedly they’re working on installing a wireless network.) And they didn’t quite keep up on replenishing our shampoo.
Magic Kingdom - As Disneyland annual pass holders, we approached this one more as a curiosity to see what was different. Main Street is essentially the same, just with taller buildings. After that you definitely know you’re in a different park.
Best: The mosaic in Cinderella’s castle. This is of course ignoring all the things that are the same as in Disneyland. It’s a huge mosaic with lots of interesting details.
Worst: Stitch’s Great Escape. It’s just not nearly as entertaining as it tries to be, and I don’t really think they got Stitch’s personality right. In all we agreed it was a waste of time. Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin was also a disappointment, inferior in practically every way to the Disneyland version, Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters (which I think is newer). The pistols are much harder to aim, being attached to the vehicle; there’s no feedback when you hit a target, and you can’t email the photo.
Animal Kingdom - Half theme park, half zoo. Imagine Adventureland expanded into a whole park, with real animals. The theming of the Africa and Asia areas was really nice, while by contrast Dinoland seemed out of place as just a collection of dinosaur-themed carnival rides and games.
Best: The waiting areas for the two big rides were beautiful. Expedition Everest practically has its own museum. The safari itself is of course great, but there are also two “walking tour” style areas where you can see ever more animals, without the wait. Tusker House is probably the best place to eat, and had by far the best vegetarian selection of any place we saw the whole week. Lunch is buffet style, and it’s probably best to get there right at 11:30 as we did before it’s all picked over.
Worst: Pizzafari’s pizza. While my sandwich was pretty good, Lisa’s pizza tasted like something out of a supermarket freezer. Also, the poor anteater kept walking in the same circle over and over, even though his enclosure wasn’t that small. That just ain’t right.
Hollywood Studios (formerly Disney-MGM Studios) - Like California Adventure’s Hollywood Backlot expanded to a whole park, except this came first. It’s like Disney’s answer to the Universal Studios theme parks.
Best: Street performers on Hollywood Boulevard. There was almost always at least one performer. They were entertaining, and I think this is an excellent tradition. I had already thinking they should have more in Disneyland.
Worst: Crème brulée at the Brown Derby. It’s Lisa’s favorite dessert, and usually the automatic choice for her when it’s on the menu. For the first time, she regretted it. The top did not taste caramelized, and the custard didn’t taste fresh.
Epcot - After Walt died, they couldn’t decide what to do with the EPCOT idea, so they made two parks in one. One half, Future World, is a big Tomorrowland, and the other half is a sampling of various countries from around the world. I’ve always found the latter half, World Showcase, to be more interesting.
Best: Morocco. Maybe it’s because it was the least familiar, but this seemed like the most authentic and immersive of the country-themed areas. The Marrakesh restaurant had my favorite appetizer (the Cheese Sails) and dessert (baklava assortment) of the whole week.
Worst: Being directed to the wrong ferry dock, when it turned out we had been right next to the correct one, in the rain. Also, we don’t recommend the Sunshine Seasons restaurant, particularly the Asian counter which served dry, crunchy rice. We also debated whether the Journey Into Imagination ride was a bigger waste of time than Stitch’s Great Escape.
All in all, we had a blast, even though we wore out our feet with all the walking.