Apologies for the week off from the blog. I hope that you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! If you missed any of the previous installments just click the corresponding number (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) that you missed to catch up. On to the final installment!
Upon leaving Animal Kingdom we headed to our 5th and final hotel of our trip. Yes, this is too many hotels for a single vacation. I discussed the merits of resort hopping/split stays in part 4 of this report (as well as this post) so I won’t get into it very much here. Ideally, I would keep the number of resorts in a trip to 2 or 3. But, it’s nice to be able to stay in and review quite a few different places.
Wilderness Lodge is one of the most beautiful resorts at Walt Disney World. While I live in the Pacific Northwest, seeing the landscaping and water features was still impressive. I’ll review the hotel later but I certainly see why this hotel draws rave reviews.
After splurging the previous night at Victoria & Albert’s, we opted for a much cheaper dinner at the Contempo Cafe. While certainly not as impressive or delicious, this Peanut Butter Pie was fantastic.
The Contempo Cafe is a quality counter-service spot for those looking for something around the Magic Kingdom area. This restaurant also offers the most scenic view of any Magic Kingdom resort counter-service spot. Watching the monorail pass by in the grand concourse or staring at the Mary Blair mural is a beautiful way to spend a meal. Not to mention the beautiful view of Magic Kingdom just a short walk away.
After dinner we took the quick monorail ride to Magic Kingdom. The Fall decorations are fun and playful throughout Magic Kingdom. This baseball player is probably my favorite decoration along Main Street.
After our stroll around Main Street, we slowly made our way to New Fantasyland. Melissa and I rode Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid. After I put up with that attraction, Melissa put up with me taking some photos at dusk around New Fantasyland.
All in all, I had fairly rotten luck with the sky this trip as far as photography went. More often than not, the sky was very grey and overcast. This led to a lack of sunsets, color and clouds. Typically, Florida has some of my favorite clouds to photograph but when there is a whole sky full of them then it’s hard to show how puffy they are. The sky was at least somewhat purple that night so things weren’t quite so dull.
The biggest reason we were in Magic Kingdom that night was to enjoy another showing of Happily Ever After. We loved it so much earlier in the trip that we scrapped our original plans and wanted to see this. While I’m frankly a little ‘Magic Kingdom’d out’ relative to most other Disney Parks, this show makes me want to go back nightly. While different, I think Happily Ever After is right up there with Illuminations and Disneyland’s Fantasmic as the best nighttime spectacular stateside. Here’s a few more photos from that show.
After Happily Ever After we took a ride on Pirates of the Caribbean.
This would be our final time seeing the auction scene in Pirates. I have no problem with them replacing it. While I certainly understand the sentiment that Disney should never touch classic attractions, there is a mountain of evidence against that thought. Disneyland’s enhancements to Peter Pan’s Flight and Disney World’s additions to Haunted Mansion are both positive reinforcements to Disney classics. While I think Disney can make changes without thinking (or with thoughts strictly based on the financial side instead of the customer), they are generally careful with classic attractions. With that said, there is a counter-argument.
Over the last few years Disney has begun to blur the lines between what a classic attraction is and just a good attraction that needs change. Tower of Terror in California Adventure had a great story and is now Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout! Likewise, California Screamin’ is about to become Incredicoaster. I’m not sure if either of these attractions should be considered classics but they were certainly popular. Now, they’ll both be changed in moves that seem short-sighted.
In the end, my thinking on Pirates changing this scene goes like this. I work with kids for a living. Some are very inquisitive and I could definitely see them questioning a scene in a theme park ride. While there is a time and a place to discuss serious matters (prostitution, slavery) Disneyland and Disney World isn’t that place. Changing this scene may help parents avoid an awkward conversation in the long run.
After Pirates we climbed through the Swiss Family Robinson Tree House. The tree offers some beautiful views at night and we essentially had the place to ourselves. Take a few minutes at the top to soak in the atmosphere and sights.
After our climb we rode Jungle Cruise and then walked over to Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. The moon was beautiful and bright on that evening, shining above the castle.
We finished the evening by walking around New Fantasyland and Tomorrowland. I think I enjoy the other side of Magic Kingdom better at night, exploring Frontierland, Adventureland, and Liberty Square. There really isn’t a bad spot to be though. New Fantasyland is quite peaceful at night. The further you go back in that area the less people there are. The lights are just far enough apart to make some areas seem a little more moody and less vibrant. Storybook Circus seems somewhat like a ghost town at night, which fits the circus motif albeit in a way that Imagineers probably didn’t intend.
Tomorrowland is far more vibrant than the Disneyland counterpart. Having a few more attractions and the PeopleMover adds to the neon and kinetic energy of the sauce.
Eventually we caught a boat back to Wilderness Lodge and called it a night. The evening was relaxing and quite beautiful. As is Wilderness Lodge.
The next morning saw us up fairly early to enjoy our last few hours of the trip in Magic Kingdom. We checked out, left our bags at Bell Services and went back out to the boat. Once inside the park we had a Seven Dwarfs Mine Train FastPass (these are becoming easier to get on short notice) and then headed for breakfast at Be Our Guest.
I’ll have a review of our meal up in the next few weeks. In short, I liked the food pretty well but thought the value was one of the worst at Disney World.
We followed up breakfast with a slew of rides that we hadn’t done yet this trip including Mickey’s PhilharMagic and “it’s a small world”. Both of these are wonderful places to escape the heat and excellent attractions in their own right.
I love the flowers as you head from Fantasyland into Liberty Square. This area is usually pretty crowded but if you can find a spot to tuck away, the colors are worth soaking in for a while. The turn from 18-19th century Europe (Fantasyland) to colonial America (Liberty Square) is subtle and nuanced. This is some of Imagineering’s finest work and the details are exceptional.
We explored Tom Sawyer Island for a while after doing a few rides. If a vacation is a respite from everyday life then Tom Sawyer Island is a vacation from Magic Kingdom. If you back far enough on the island then it is like you are somewhere else entirely. While the land isn’t appreciated enough (myself included) I love that it still exists and would be disappointed if it ever disappears entirely.
Tom Sawyer Island offers some of the best views and photogenic spots in any park.
After a little while on the island we hopped about the train and rode it from Frontierland to New Fantasyland. This was a bit of an old-fashioned day apparently. In that same vein, we did 5 attractions and had a longer breakfast in the span of three hours on a holiday (Labor Day). While the parks are busier than ever, avoiding them isn’t that hard to do.
We had a FastPass for Space Mountain but the attraction was down and our time was running a little short. Instead of waiting for Mountain to open we opted to use our FastPass to meet Mickey Mouse. He wasn’t talking for some reason that day but I enjoyed the experience nonetheless. We snapped a few photos on the way out of the park before catching a boat back to Wilderness Lodge.
We were sad to leave, no doubt. Multiple trips to Disney World on our Annual Pass made for an exceptional ‘Disney’ year. There were several moments I’ll never forget and this trip in particular had been something we wanted to do for a long time.
People ask us often if we get tired of going to Disney Parks. The simple answer is no. The long answer is slightly more interesting. I think Disney destinations offer new areas to explore every time. This trip included tours, incredible food, and exploring a land that we eagerly anticipated. We loved every minute we spent at Disney World this year. With that said, our travels this year were dedicated to Florida. Wanting to get value out of our annual pass along with living across the country and not having a bunch of money restricted us in where we could go. First world problems without a doubt and, believe me, we know we’re more than fortunate enough to travel as much as we do. But our annual passes expiring wasn’t just bitter. We’re eager to travel more. We can’t wait to go back to Disneyland on a whim, a much easier and affordable trip for us. A few years down the road we’ll head back to Disney World and enjoy the new things on line. For now, a few new adventures are on the docket before that trip.
If there are any questions or thoughts about our trip report (or just anything in general) please leave them below in the comments. Thank you for reading Wandering in Disney, if you enjoy what you’re reading please subscribe to the blog and like our social media pages. You can do both of those things on the right side of this page. Have a great day!
Categories: Trip Reports
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