Disney World Orlando is the best theme park I have ever been to.
One day into my visit, I’m hooked.
To step into Disney World Orlando is to step into a bubble. It’s a place where the real world doesn’t exist. It’s a place of pure imagination that left me inspired to think more and stare at screens less.
I have been to theme parks before, but nothing like this. I came to Disney World with no expectations. I left raving about the place.
Why? It comes down to two words: immersion and details.
Disney World uses the power of film making, set design, costume design and a dash of fairy dust to make you truly believe you could be in another land. Every single tiny detail is spot on.
According our guide Walt Disney once said “If I notice something is not right, someone else will too”. This culture of perfection creates a truly magical experience for guests.
In the newly opened Toy Story Land at Hollywood Studios, the green army men have small green circles on their backs. That’s the point where they were once attached and had to be pulled apart.
The footpaths have worn cracks – even though they are brand new. The bench seats aren’t just made from paddle-pop sticks, they look like they are used Paddlepop sticks, licked clean and stained from the sugary treat. Fences are made from brightly-coloured connecting straws.
When the details are so considered and authentic, it allows visitors to truly immerse themselves in another world and let their imagination run wild.
For adults, it’s like being a kid again. For kids, it’s like your imaginary world just became real.
It’s not just visual either.
A few days in, I notice the smells. Each one is carefully crafted to add to the experience. A whiff of grass as Soaring Around the World at Epcot makes me feel like I am flying past a herd of animals tossing the earth with their hooves.
Many of the rides are dark rides, meaning your senses feel heightened. The corkscrews and upside down loops of The Rock ‘n Rollercoaster, which goes from zero to 100km an hour in just three seconds, feel even more thrilling because they are done in semi-darkness.
The Tower of Terror is another great example of detail. Most “towers of terror” are really just a huge steel pole and a drop. Disney’s Tower of Terror starts from the moment you walk up to the Hollywood Hotel to check in. It feels like you are checking into a creepy old hotel. And then everything goes dark, and you enter the Twilight Zone.
This ride was terrifying not just because of the sudden vertical drops (of which there are plenty) but because they were all accompanied by realistic visual effects. It’s not for little kids. The small child behind me was nearly hyper-ventilating afterwards. Her brother said: “I think that ride took away my very last breath.”
The rides don’t have to be scary to be incredible. By far the best, most immersive ride here is Flight of Passage in Animal Kingdom – a ride only available in Orlando.
To get to Flight of Passage you enter the world of Pandora. Teetering rockfaces are draped with ferns and flowers. The footpaths are imprinted with leaves and speckled with luminescent flecks of purple, pink and blue. The sound of rushing water and chirping birds fills the air. It feels real and it sets the scene for the rides to come.
Flight of Passage does have long lines. It is one to use your Fast Pass, if you can get one. But it is absolutely worth it.
Guests are told they will be genetically matched to a banshee and free to ride through the world of Pandora. As you sit on the simulator, it actually feels like the banshee is breathing between your legs. As you soar and swoop through the magical land you can feel the spray of water from the waves on your face and the wind whip through your hair.
This ride makes you feel exhilarated. Disney’s imagineers wanted it to feel like a renaissance or an awakening. They achieved that and more.
Every single person who attempts Flight of Passages leaves with a huge grin. They say: “I need to do that again”, not because of how much it scared them, but because of how good it made them feel.
The experiences are just as much fun as the rides. Every day at Hollywood Studios, kids aged between 4 and 12 can go to Padawan training. Here they learn to fight like a Jedi. When their training is complete – they battle Darth Vader and Kylo Ren. It looked like so much fun that I desperately wanted to join in.
At Magic Kingdom little ones have the chance to enter Belle’s castle and meet the princess. The talking wardrobe and candlestick help the children prepare a play for Belle. For princess fans, Disney has made the experience feel like you have stepped into the cartoon. Their grinning faces lit up as soon as Belle stepped in the room. They believed they were there.
Disney plays with your emotions, your senses and your trust in what is real and what is not real. The details are so perfect it’s easy to believe you are somewhere else or someone else. And that is liberating, particularly in our modern world. It’s an escape from reality.
Walt Disney World is the largest of all the Disney Parks. Disney Ambassador Brandon Peters tells us it’s “the size of two San Franciscos”.
It’s not just one theme park, but four: Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom and Epcot. Walt Disney World is also home to two water parks Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach, a shopping centre, Disney Springs, a mini golf resort, a real golf resort, dozens of hotels, and the ESPN sports centre. It has it’s own solar power centre and recycling plant. It’s home to the largest car park in the world and the largest bus network in the United States.
In other words it’s huge.
You could, and should, spend at least a week here. If not more. That’s the biggest reason why you should head to Orlando – you can stretch out the experience for longer than any other Disney Park.
Disney World has more Disney Hotels than other parks. Buses go from the hotels to every resort every 15 minutes.
Families who stay at Disney hotels can access the Disney Magic Band system. These clever bands, attached to your wrist, allow you to pay for everything in Walt Disney World. They give you access to the parks and fast passes and they even open your hotel door. Leaving Disney World and the magic band behind feels like stepping out of the future You will miss the convenience.
A Disney hotel is of course, more than just a hotel. At Animal Kingdom Lodge, it looks and feels like you are in Africa. You will find zebras and giraffes grazing outside your room. Traditional African dishes are served at breakfast and the sound of the jungle drums often beats through the resort.
If you’re considering a Disney holiday, Orlando should be top of your list. It’s the largest, it has Pandora and it has the most Disney hotels.
In 2019, Disney World will open Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge. When know that it will have a full-size Millenium Falcon and a replica of the village of Batu. Going from what we have seen of Disney World already, and the attention to detail in Toy Story Land and Pandora – we can not wait for this to open.
Time to book a ticket to Orlando Florida.
Coming soon: Everything you need to know to plan a trip to Walt Disney World