As promised, here are my top 5 happy memories from the Happiest Place on Earth.
1. I loved riding Peter Pan's Flight at Magic Kingdom and Soarin' at Epcot. Both are "flying" rides suitable for all ages, and they enraptured everyone from Ada to Grandpa. They're also very popular, so go first or grab a FastPass. Soarin' is a relatively new ride, imported from California Adventure in Disneyland. In it, you feel as though you're hang-gliding over all of the natural and manmade wonders of California. Wind blows against your face and you can smell what you're seeing (pine in the forests, orange above orange groves). The transitions from one scene to the next are a little abrupt, but it was a truly magical ride.
2. My favorite meals were the buffets, with the African buffet Boma at Animal Kingdom Lodge way out in front. I also really enjoyed the seafood chowder and crab legs at dinner at Cape May Cafe at the Beach Club and breakfast at Crystal Palace in Magic Kingdom was worth the cost of entry just to see the excitement on our kids faces as Piglet approached our table.
3. The activities at our resort's main pool were an unexpected delight. My typically shy Zoe surprised us all by hopping out of the pool to perfectly execute a number of popular line dances (all while still wearing her googles!). Apparently they teach all these dances in P.E. class. The games at the pool were organized by 2-3 camp counselor types, and while we never showed up for the evening marshmallow roast or Disney movies, it was clear there was no shortage of entertainment and activities for the kids.
3. Much has been made of Disney Imagineering, but it was really amazing to behold the attention to detail that is still so very much alive in the newer attractions. The African and Tibetan villages in Animal Kingdom are so realistic I could have spent hours admiring the little touches. From the worn coolers and sleeping bundles rolled on top of the safari buses to the prayer flags, "drink wallah" shop and colorful truck in Asia--just like the ones I used to see lumbering down the Grand Trunk Road in Pakistan.
4. I loved the parades. I'm a sucker for any parade, but Disney really knows how to put one on. We saw the Celebration parade at Magic Kingdom and the tail end of the daily parade at Animal Kingdom. Plenty of people take advantage of parade hours to see the more popular attractions, but for me they are a quintessential part of the Disney experience.
5. I also loved the shows. Hall of Presidents and American Experience (Magic Kingdom and Epcot, respectively) are pretty entertaining for animatronic history lessons (and they did hold the kids' interest), but my favorite moments were watching Festival of the Lion King and Finding Nemo, two live theatre shows at Animal Kingdom. The short films at Epcot aren't too bad either, especially if you're looking to escape heat and humidity or a rain shower. We particularly enjoyed the movie about France.
What didn't I love about Disney World? Two words: motorized scooters. I'm all for making places accessible to everyone, but it seems like there must be a dozen motorized scooter rental outfits in central Florida in addition to the scooters available for rent at each of the parks. I've never seen so many people seemingly able-bodied (if a little larger than average) people zipping around them (frequently in pairs!). But mostly I disliked the abundance of scooters because our shuttle busses were forever being delayed by the on and off loading of these personal chariots.
Also? The humidity. If I had to do it over again, I would have packed extra clothes as I sweated like I've never sweated before.
Earlier: The joys of Disney World in the off-season
Next up: My money, time and sanity-saving tips for Disney