The music and laughter tinkle like tiny bells in your ears and the vibrant colours wash you over in a sensuous haze the moment you step into this fairytale realm – where magic comes to life. A magnificent castle complete with towers and moat loomed large in the horizon and we were told it belonged to Cinderella. Before our astounded eyes, a curious procession stormed onto the yellow cobblestone pavement. Leading the way was Mickey Mouse, an ear-splitting grin creasing his face, followed close on his heels by Donald Duck, Daisy and Minnie. Barbie and Ken, Alice in Wonderland and dozens of other furry colourful creatures were frolicking on all sides. They greet you with bright smiles, envelope you in warm bear-hugs and pose obligingly for pictures. Welcome to the sun-kissed land of Orlando, Florida, the home of wholesome oranges, joie de vivre and the world’s biggest and best amusement park ‘ Disney World.
The history of Disney World
It’s actually been over a 100 years since the birth of Walt Disney on 5th December, 1901. In 1955, 17 million dollars was invested to make his wild dream an awe-inspiring reality and Disney World, as we know it today, took shape.
More than half a century has passed since then, and today, Disney World USA [with branches in Tokyo and Paris] has entertained more than 200 million people, including presidents, kings, queens, and royalty from all over the globe. But, the real successes are counted in terms of the smiles that it brings to the faces of millions of children who have been privileged enough to visit the magical place. Disney World strives to bring to light the wondrous world of a child’s imagination and even adults are overwhelmed by feelings of youth and vitality that take us by storm at the Magic Kingdom. Indeed, it just goes to prove that in Disney World at least, you are just as old as you feel.
The magic begins…
The Walt Disney World railroad will be the first thing you see as you enter the Magic Kingdom. Indeed, it does seem to be a passport into a whole new land – a place where a fiery imagination and a fun loving spirit will transport you into mind-boggling realms of fantasy.
The Walt Disney World railroad consists of several engines. One is named Lilly Belle, after the wife of Walt Disney, the brain behind the conception of Disney World. These are real locomotives built about 70 years ago and completely restored for the Disney Company. Explore the circumference of the Magic Kingdom on this relaxing half mile, 20-minute rail journey. There is adventure and excitement at every turn.
Disney world is divided into many lands and each will require a day or two for you to explore thoroughly. The park is built on a wheel design, with the Cinderella castle in the centre of the wheel and the different themed lands arranged surrounding the castle.
Listed below are a few main attractions
Main Street USA
Main Street USA is a recreation of the architectural style of the early 1900’s, right out of Walt Disney’s childhood. You find yourself strolling along a turn of the century Victorian Street with horse-driven carriages clopping along your side. There are mostly shops on this road, but each of them, with their pretty floral and multi-colour sunshades, look like they’re from a different era altogether. Note that if you are planning to shop, the stores are most crowded when people are leaving the park. That should be at around six in the evening. You can find a lot of items that are unique to Disney and cannot be purchased elsewhere. But be warned! Because of its authentic name, everything comes with a sizzling price tag.
A left turn at the end of Main Street will bring you to the myriad attractions of Adventure Land. This section of Disney World will introduce you to the thrills of the wilds. All the rides are designed so that you feel like you are on a safari, taking an adventure into the heart of danger. The most popular ride in this section is the Jungle Cruise, where you see fibre-glass images of all kinds of animals as you cruise through the four major tropical jungles on Earth – the Southeast Asian jungle, the Nile valley, the African veldt, and the Amazon rain forest. The flora and fauna of these jungles has been recreated to perfection, complete with the climactic changes involved, so that the ride becomes very educational besides entertaining. In order to maintain the tropical plants, Disney uses heaters when ambient temperatures fall. The guides who will escort you on your cruise are full of humour. Our favourite rides in this section were the Space Mountain and the Splash Mountain, both dare-devil roller coasters.
Splash Mountain will take you on a spine-tingling five-storey drop at a 45 degree angle with a top speed of 40 miles per hour. Before you go roaring down the steepest slope straight into what appears to be a huge river a powerful camera flashes in your face. Some of us [especially those who had boasted of our courage and bravery] were very embarrassed – the sheer terror on our faces exposed so candidly on camera is a sight for sore eyes.
Space Mountain is a roller coaster that takes you to see the stars – literally. You sit in the “moon trains” and the roller coaster speeds through an entire building in pitch darkness. Stars and planets glow in the dark around you as you suddenly find yourself tossed up and down without warning. The whole building/ride is based around the Jules Verne novels and drawings by the world’s most famous artists.
Walking through Tomorrow Land is like taking a peek into the future. The most significant ride here is the Carousel of Progress. Carousel of Progress traces the evolution of modern technology – from the turn of the century to the present day. We watch how technology has touched the lives of a certain family. The unique aspect of the show is that there are five different stages, each depicting the way technology has improved everyday life. The difference lies in the fact that the audience is seated on revolving chairs, so instead of the characters changing their positions, it is the audience that moves as the scenes change. It is overall an interesting experience full of dynamic ideas.
The haunted mansion is undoubtedly the most popular ride in Liberty Square. This attraction is 30 years old and still has mass appeal. We are asked to sit in a “doom buggy” which is a moving chair. We are then taken on a tour of a very eerie house, that is supposedly haunted. A musty smell assaults the senses and you make stops in the mansion’s graveyard, ballroom, attic, library, parlour, music room and other strange places! Ghosts leap out at you from every comer and brush against your face. There are apparently 999 ghosts and your tour guide warns you to be careful, or else you will be the 1000th!
Fantasy Land is the portal to amazing Disney special effects. Beautiful lights recreate a fairy tale experience with 3D technology and surround sound. We watched The Little Mermaid come alive before our very eyes. The air was bathed with a blue light that appeared as though the audience were submerged in water. The Little Mermaid flitted around us in 3D splendour and we were transported to the heart of the sea. The sea spray, complete with drops of water, were sprinkled on viewers from time to time and it was indeed a magical performance with mind-boggling music and sound effects.
Bring lots of cool clothing, hats, sunglasses, swimsuit, and good sun block, water, juices, and snacks with you to the theme parks. It is very hot in Central Florida and you need to keep your family hydrated. Drinks and snacks can also be costly for a family so save some money by bringing them along. Always keep an eye on your children. The crowds can overwhelm, especially in the summer. Plan a meeting spot at each theme park just in case your family gets separated.