All posts by Neil Thompson

Planning a Trip to Orlando? Here are some Hints and Tips

We’ve been doing the Florida Disney trips for so long now that people have started asking us for advice on planning their own holidays. I have been sending this information out to people that wanted it via email but I thought that it might be useful to put this together in a blog post.

This should be of use to anyone that hasn’t been before and is looking for hints and tips on what to do before you go and where to go once you are there. It will also be of interest to those that have done a package trip before and now want to DIY.

So let’s get that question out of the way straight off…

Package or DIY?

You have two choices here: either go on a package holiday or do it yourself. The pros of a package holiday are that it is easy and (possibly) cheaper but your choices will be more limited. A DIY approach gives you much more flexibility in terms of flight times and villas to choose from.

We always did it ourselves as then we knew exactly what we were getting and had the ultimate control.


Costs

Ok so there’s no getting away from this, it is expensive. At least compared to a trip to Spain. You should be expecting to pay in the region of £1,500 per adult for flights, villa, car hire and park tickets. On top of that you have to consider, maybe, car parking at the airport and the US entry ESTA. Oh and spending money of course.

If that hasn’t put you off then read on…

Flights

Book early, go direct.

Easter is a very popular time for Brits to go so flights get booked up pretty quickly. The very first time we couldn’t get direct flights and therefore had to stop in Charlotte, NC. We ended up not arriving at the villa until the early hours of the morning. We were knackered but the boys still wanted to go in the pool!

We have flown mostly with BA but once (maybe twice) with Virgin. They are pretty much the same except that Virgin has a check-in at Disney Springs so on the last day you can drop your bags off there and get some Disney time in before having to go to the airport.

Flights leave mid-afternoon so we always spent the morning in the park, then went to Perkins for lunch and then on to the airport.

Accommodation

All the places we stayed in have been pretty similar and all of a good standard with bags of space and a pool. Latterly we also looked for places with games rooms (usually in the garage) for the boys.

For booking we have used “friends of friends” and the following websites:

http://www.orlandovillas.com/
http://www.holidaylettings.co.uk/

It is quite easy to put in your requirements and get a list but as we have discovered you have to look at the availability fairly carefully. Also we know what area we like to stay at, Davenport, but we have been in a number of areas and all have been of a very similar standard and distance from Disney etc. Kissimmee is another popular area.

Pool heating is extra and worth paying for (the figures I have quoted above include that). We didn’t pay for it the first year and it was pretty chilly in the water. This was April/May so if you go in the height of summer it might not be necessary.

Davenport is on the US27 which runs between the US192 and the I4 and is about 20-30 from the parks with a Publix and a Walmart close by along with a Dominos!


Park Tickets

You can buy directly from Disney/Universal but we have used both of the following:

https://www.floridatix.co.uk/
https://www.attraction-tickets-direct.co.uk/

This is because they are UK based and issue “real” tickets. Others issue vouchers that you have to exchange on the first day which is a bit of a pain. Attraction Tickets Direct also have some good offers too. Last time we used them we got a $25 Disney gift card for each adult.

It is very much geared up to getting you to buy a two week, all park ticket, which we always do. These tickets are heavily discounted and give you access to all four Disney parks and the two water parks. If you are going to go into the parks a reasonable number of times (and if you are going to Orlando isn’t that the point?) then these are worth it.

Just so you don’t get a nasty shock when you get to your first park. Somewhat unbelievably parking isn’t included in your already expensive ticket and will cost $22+ a day but is valid at multiple parks on the same day.

The Universal tickets work the same and are valid for their two parks and the water park. And, yes, the parking is the same price here too. I’m not saying that it is a cartel but the price always matches. Just saying.

Fastpass+ (https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/fastpass-plus/)

Unsurprisingly the parks get very busy and the lines for the popular rides can be hours long. We tended to see this as a waste of time and so used the following plan of attack. Get to the parks as close to opening time as possible and head straight to a ride you are interested in and get straight on. Secondly use Fastpass+ this is a way of pre-booking your attendance at certain rides – there is an app that allows you to do it. It’s not as flexible as it used to be in that you can only book three rides per day but it is worth doing as you get to skip the main line – it is much quicker. Oh and it is free.

Universal has a similar system which, I think, was $99 per person. However, I really don’t think that it is worth it given that the lines were so slight compared to Disney.

Last time we went our Disney tickets also included Memory Maker. This allows you to have your photo taken by any official Disney photographer in the park and then you can download the images later on and also view them on the app. It was brilliant. The photos were always great and ensured that everyone was in the picture.

Other things to do

Unsurprisingly, there are a whole load of others things that have sprung up around the parks for you to do. Here are a few that we have enjoyed over the years and are worth doing:

Outa Control Magic Show (http://www.wonderworksonline.com/orlando/the-experience/the-outta-control-magic-comedy-dinner-show/)
– food (well pizza), magic and comedy. Kid friendly, great fun. Held in an upside down building.

Boggy Creek (http://bcairboats.com/)
– airboat rides. See birds and crocs (or not depending on your luck).

Outlet shopping (http://www.lbvfs.com/)
– loads of outlets. There are also the Premium Outlets that you see on the I4 but LBV is my personal favourite as it has a shop serving decent tea.

Old town car show (https://myoldtownusa.com/category/events/car-cruises/)
– went a couple of times until Helen and the boys screamed enough! Lots of old and souped up cars that you can see drive through the old town and then walk through as they are parked up.

Kennedy Space Centre (https://www.kennedyspacecenter.com/)
– check to see if you are going to be there during a launch and do that, otherwise it is a long drive and I wasn’t overly impressed.

Character dining (https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/dining/)
– worth doing once if you think the kids will be wowed by having dinner with Mickey and Baloo et al.

Medieval Times (http://www.medievaltimes.com/)
– slickly done jousting etc. with meal in a castle.

Cirque de Soleil (https://www.cirquedusoleil.com/fr/la-nouba)
– this is currently shut while it is refurbished.

Downtown Springs (https://www.disneysprings.com/)
– Really nice place to go for a Disney oriented shopping trip. Has a great Lego shop there and you have to have a strawberry shake in Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop. There is a Planet Hollywood and a loads of other top name brand shops and restaurants there too.

Fireworks and shows at Disney parks (get there early). All are good but latterly we have been going to Epcot’s because they are more adult in theme.

Favourite Rides

There is so much to do in all the parks and plenty for kids of all ages but here is a list of my favourites:

  • Test track (Epcot)
  • Safari (Animal Kingdom)
  • Space Mountain (Magic Kingdom)
  • Midway Madness (Disney Hollywood Studios)
  • Star Tours (DisneyHollywood Studios)
  • Indiana Jones (Disney Hollywood Studios)
  • Simpsons (Universal)
  • MiB (Universal)
  • Transformers (Universal)
  • and, of course, … Harry Potter (universal)

Eating out

We loved the following:

  • Perkins – great breakfasts – check out my favourites the Tremendous Twelve and the Magnificent Seven.
  • The Cheesecake Factory – the enormous portions for the mains sadly prevent you from getting to the cheesecakes, which is a shame. Buy to take away and eat at home.
  • Cracker Barrel – a good value family restaurant serving traditional style food
  • Bahama Breeze – another good, more upmarket, restaurant, probably my favourite with a wonderful Shrimp Creole and Key Lime Pie
  • Red Lobster – great for fish, obviously!
  • Disney Springs – this has changed enormously since we were last there and there are many more options to suit all tastes and wallets. We particularly like House of Blues.
  • Olive Garden – a new one for us this year as it wasn’t built the last time we were here. It is “Italian”ish!
  • Ruth’s Chris Steak House – for a top end and tasty steak.

And Finally…

The following post has even more hints & tips about getting the best out of your US holiday:

http://www.neilthompson.co.uk/2011/05/08/usa-11-tips-tricks/

If you are on Three you can use your phones in the US at no extra costs.

It’s a fantastic place, you’re going to have a great holiday!

Dean Friedman, Shinfield Players Theatre, 12th May 2018 – Thank your Lucky Stars

I don’t think that I have ever been able to walk from my house to a gig before, well not since I was at university perhaps. But last night we were able to do just that as we went to see Dean Friedman live at Shinfield Players Theatre. It seemed like an odd choice of venue but I wasn’t complaining as it was nice and close.

When you mention Dean Friedman to people (in the UK at least) they almost always remember the hit single Lucky Stars which topped at #3 in 1978. Friedman said that in his native US he is more known as the Million Matzoh Balls man. Which just goes to show how some music appeals to one market and not to others. It also goes someway to explain why Friedman is doing such a long tour in the UK.

Audiences are a funny lot. I always seem to be seated behind the tallest man, with the biggest head and so it was last night. Worse still was that the couple insisted in talking. I would have told them to shut up but as previously recorded he was much bigger than me. Anyway at one point the woman said to the man “Are you enjoying this, do you want to leave?” My heart soared and I got really excited when he got up and went. Unfortunately it must have just been a loo break and he returned all too soon. I spent the rest of the show with my head at right angles to my body.

The couple behind me were also chatterboxes (if people want a good conversation why don’t they fuck off down the pub or stay at home?). They also clearly hadn’t been to many gigs. The bloke was complaining that Friedman played no songs that he knew in the first half – “should’ve started with Lydia” was his considered opinion. How that would have worked I’m not sure given that the whole point of the gig was that it was the 40th anniversary of “Well Well Said the Rocking Chair” and Lydia is the 7th track…

Anyway, back to the music. Friedman reminds me of a cross between James Taylor and Richard Stilgoe, taking the smooth music from Taylor and the wit from Stilgoe. But where Friedman really made the night for me was in the stories he told between the songs. These were almost always related to the next song in some way and really helped to put it in context. Hearing the lyrics when you know the back story is just great.

It was a very enjoyable evening so much so that we intend to book again as he is also playing our favourite restaurant, The Crooked Billet. How cool is that top food and music!

USA ’18 – Round Up

So this is the final post of the holiday I promise and it is the now traditional round-up post. Here I group together all the posts to allow you to quickly find the post most relevant to what you are interested in. If you want to do a comparison you can find the round ups for 2009 , 2011 and 2014 here.

This was all correct in May 2018 but is subject to change – check the links to the official sites provided to see if it holds true now. And enjoy!

Things to do

Places to Eat

You’d be hard pressed not to find somewhere that you want to eat out in Orlando as the place is packed with a wide range of restaurants to suit all tastes and pockets.

From the list below Cracker Barrel was the cheapest (helped by it being ‘dry’) and The Cheesecake Factory was the costliest based on bill size for our party of four. Don’t forget to tip which will add 18 -20% minimum to your bill.

Here are some of our favourites:

  • Perkins – great breakfasts – check out my favourites the Tremendous Twelve and the Magnificent Seven.
  • The Cheesecake Factory – the enormous portions for the mains sadly prevent you from getting to the cheesecakes, which is a shame. Buy to take away and eat at home.
  • Cracker Barrel – a good value family restaurant serving traditional style food
  • Bahama Breeze – another good, more upmarket, restaurant, probably my favourite with a wonderful Shrimp Creole and Key Lime Pie
  • Red Lobster – great for fish, obviously!
  • Disney Springs – this has changed enormously since we were last there and there are many more options to suit all tastes and wallets. We particularly like House of Blues.
  • Olive Garden – a new one for us this year as it wasn’t built the last time we were here. It is “Italian”ish!

Places to Shop

Plenty of bargains to be had in the US, particularly in clothing if you like their styles and fit. Here are some places we like to shop:

  • Shopping – blog post on where we went
  • Lake Buena Vista – mainly clothes but also a good character outlet selling cheap Disney stuff
  • Dollar Tree – America’s answer to Poundland but remember that by the time you add tax  it is actually Dollar oh Seven Tree!
  • Wallmart – Asda’s owner and you will notice some similarities, such as the George clothing brand, and some differences – they are huge places
  • Premium Outlets – Higher end clothes retailers
  • Barnes & Noble – Book store. There is one opposite Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse on West Sand Lake Road. Pay a visit before getting a great (but pricey) steak!

By Day

This is a list of all posts in the order that they were posted:

Oh, and don’t forget to stock up on Fanta Pineapple!

USA ’18 – #RetroDisney

We first came to Florida in 2001 when the boys would have been about six and eight. When we came the first time Helen and I were, shall we say, circumspect about it but did it for the boys. However, we all loved the experience and so since then we have managed to come a further seven times! And I blogged about it in 2009, 2011, 2014 and, of course, 2018.

Inevitably over the years we have taken thousands of pictures of the four of us enjoying the sun and the parks. This year we thought that it would be fun to pick some of our favourites from our first trip and recreate them this year. As it turned out that wasn’t possible for all of them due to the locations no longer being there but as you will see we did do pretty well.

I had expected some push back from the boys on this but they were both incredibly tolerant and indulgent of my quest to get them in the same locations and poses.

The first picture was taken in Magic Kingdom at the Sword in the Stone. When we saw this the first time they ran a shown around it where they would get people (adults) out of the audience and they would try to get the sword out without success. Then they would choose a kid who would manage it straight away of course.

I thought that I knew roughly where this was but in the end after much searching I had to ask someone for directions. I was beginning to get concerned that it had gone but no there it was, tucked away by the carousel.  As you can see since the original was taken the hedge has been removed but apart from that it is much as before.

This was the first we took but I think it is also one of the best.

The Sword in the Stone, Magic Kingdom

One thing I quickly discovered was that a number of things affected whether I could exactly recreate the shot. Firstly it was difficult because the camera was different. Back then I had an early digital camera and now I was using my smartphone, which was vastly superior. Secondly, the lighting conditions made a big difference too, as you can see from this one below. I think that is is probably my least favourite of the lot. Finally, it was very hard to get the picture in exactly the same way and without people but on the whole I think we managed pretty well.

Canada, World Showcase, EPCOT

The next three were all taken in EPCOT and the first one took us ages to locate exactly which position it was taken from. As you can see the sign is no longer there (unless it is under that very nice flowering bush!). Also the wall is no longer tiled but rendered. This all threw us a bit and, in fact, it took two visits to be reasonably certain that we were in the right place. Looking at it now makes me chuckle though.

EPCOT

The next two were both taken inside the Inca temple in the Mexico pavilion in EPCOT’s World Showcase. One thing that hasn’t changed much over the years are how Mat’s eyes respond to a camera’s flash. Red in the first and a ghostly white in the second.

Mexico, World Showcase, EPCOT
Mexico, World Showcase, EPCOT
Winnie the Pooh Seat, Disney Springs (neé Downtown Disney)

Initially I thought that this one had been taken inside Magic Kingdom next to the Winnie the Pooh ride but an intensive search and asking around showed that not to be the case. In the end we did some research on Google and some images came up that showed that it was actually in Disney Springs.

There has been so much work done and change at Disney Springs (including a name change) that I wasn’t hopeful that the bench would still be there so I was delighted to find it, albeit in a new location. It also looks as if it has been faded by the sun over the years.

This is another picture that I think has worked particularly well.

Blizzard Beach/Typhoon Lagoon

This final picture is a bit of a cheat as the original was taken in Blizzard Beach which we didn’t visit this year. While I was keen to recreate them all as closely as I possibly could that wasn’t going to change our plans which, in this case, included a trip to Typhoon Lagoon.

This picture also works well but for the fact that Alex’s has the wrong hand raised. Alex says it was the wrong way round in the first picture which I suppose makes sense given that he is left handed after all.

We had great fun reproducing these and I’m really glad that we put in a bit of effort to get as many as possible. You’ll note that there are none from Hollywood Studios which shows just how much that has changed over the years.

The next time we do these it will be with the grandchildren replacing the boys, assuming of course that we get any and their parents invite us along!

If you are interested I spliced the pictures together using Instagram’s Layout app, which also explains why they are all square!

USA ’18 – Day 15 – The End of the End?

The timing of the flight back to the UK is always late afternoon so that it arrives in the UK very early the next morning. The good thing about this arrangement is that we get almost a full ‘bonus’ day of the holiday. The bad thing is that we arrive in the UK very early in the morning having to face a whole day after very little sleep on the plane.

After packing up our stuff and making sure we left the villa in the state we found it we headed out for a breakfast at Perkins. I couldn’t face a Tremendous Twelve so went for its baby brother the Magnificent Seven and still only managed six of the items.

It is now something of a tradition that on our last day we go to Hollywood Studios. Given how much change it is going under at the moment I did wonder if we would choose to do something else but the consensus of opinion was that this was what we wanted to do.

We managed to get photo opportunities with both BB-8 and Chewbacca and Star Tours with the boys also getting to go on Rock n’ Roller coaster once more. We also got to see the other Star Wars show that they put on in the centre of the park which was fun. So all in all it was a good morning.

As we were making our way to leave the park I had a notification on my phone that it was about to rain. I immediately dismissed this without thinking too much about it although I did note the clouds above me. This proved to be a mistake as the heavens opened just as we left the park and were making our way to the car. It doesn’t rain often here, I think this was the first time this holiday (when we were awake at least), but when it does it does it well. All four of us arrived at the car soaked and had to endure a soggy drive to the airport.

The drive to the airport is along the 417 which is the only toll road that we have to use on the whole of our two week holiday. The tolls aren’t that great, we probably paid no more than $5 in total each way, but given that this is the route to and from the airport to Orlando this does feel very much like a tourist tax. Also, as I said previously, it also means you have to arrive aware and with a pocket of loose change, something that is difficult to achieve.

I’m writing this on the plane just half an hour out of Gatwick on what has been a smooth but freezing flight (just why do they set the aircon so low?). I’ve had the sum total of two hours fitful sleep but I have also had an absolutely brilliant family holiday. Sadly we are unlikely to experience that again given the age of the boys who are now building lives away from home, as they should. Maybe they’ll let us tag along when they come to Florida with their kids? I hope so.

USA ’18 – Day 14 – Back to see Harry once more

Our last full day. Boo! We chose to spend it in Universal which has lots of rides for all the family. It also is home to my least favourite ride: “Secure a locker at Hogwarts” which, as I have said previously, is a real pain and poorly designed. I’m tempted to say that wouldn’t have happened at Disney…

Anyway, we did the same circuit as we did before so we started off at the Gringotts ride which once again we did twice. Then three of us went onto Men in Black while Alex did some roller coaster that you wouldn’t get me on if you paid me. Men in Black is so old now that the recorded messages as you go round make reference to no “videotaping” who remembers doing that?

This time the Simpsons ride was working so we were able to sample the delights of trying to be killed by Sideshow Bob once more before we headed off for a single rider trip on Transformers.

Finally we got the Hogwarts Express across to the other park and went on the “Forbidden Journey” a couple of times, again as single riders. It is amazing that even after riding this probably at least half a dozen times I am still noticing things in it that I have never seen before. You can also date just when it was conceived and built by the age of Daniel, Rupert and Emma who looked pretty young.

We have been making lots of use of the single rider option this holiday which has meant very short wait times and frequently we haven’t been split much as a party at all, which is even better.

Universal is still, comparatively speaking, empty when compared to Disney with the majority of people converging on the Harry Potter lockers rides.

So that’s our final day just about done with our last evening meal out chosen as Olive Garden which we all enjoyed on our last visit. There were LOTS of people waiting for a table when we arrived but the good thing about American restaurants is that they have a quick turnaround so we were seated within 30 minutes.

We are now packed and have a late flight tomorrow so have time for just one more park tomorrow – which will it be?

USA ’18 – Day 13 – A Visit to the Typhoon

Today was our one and only visit to a water park, Typhoon Lagoon, again included in our Disney ticket price. Like everything else in Walt Disney World the water parks are beautifully themed and dressed.

Before we could get in the water and test the rides we had to dump our stuff. Previously the lockers had worked on a deposit basis and you could choose to either have your money back at the end of got a really nice (cheap) plastic mug. You also got a waterproof band with a key and the number of your locker. Perfect.  This has now been replaced with a human free system where you have have to pay a non-returnable $15 (FIFTEEN DOLLARS!!) for the locker. Better still they now provide you with a printed receipt with a reminder of the locker number. Fat lot of use that is in a water park!

Lockers negotiated (I say lockers but at $15 we made damn sure that everything squeezed into one) we set off to find the family raft ride. Shockingly this had been replaced with something similar but instead of climbing a tower you now were glided to the top in your rubber dinghy on a travelator. They’re a lazy lot the Americans.

As we were riding on said travelator a voice came over the tannoy “Please put at least one hand thru the loop” then a few seconds later the message was repeated. At this point both the boys put a hand through the loop and were rewarded with a  “Thank you”! You are being watched it seems.

We then went back to the villa where the regulations on leaving your house to go in your pool are strict. Tamper with the pool alarm and you get a year in prison. I’m sure you’d get less for shooting someone.

In the evening it was back out to Animal Kingdom, via Disney Springs for dinner at the House of Blues.

The reason we were back at Animal Kingdom was two fold. Firstly we wanted to see Pandora at night as it was supposed to be lit up and secondly we want to try and get on the Flights of Passage ride once more.

We waited until the Disney app showed that the wait time had come down from 120 to 90 minutes before attempting to join the queue. The queue was a lot longer than last time and even longer than the one in our local post office, if you can believe such a thing! However, like before, it only took us half the time to reach the front and get on the ride. It was well worth the wait too as it is great.

Once out we walked around taking in the lit up landscape before going over to our last fast pass of the day at the Safari. We hadn’t been in the evening before and I wondered what it would be like in the dark. It was pretty much as you can imagine – difficult to see the animals that had bothered to make an appearance. Still was a bit different.

Finally, we made our way out to the park exit where we had agreed to meet the boys. As we were leaving we saw that there was a show being projected onto the Tree of life, the enormous tree that dominates the centre of the park, so we stopped to watch that too.

So it was a good evening spent in a relatively quiet park and an opportunity to do some new things.

USA ’18 – Day 12 – Cars and Shopping

We had unfinished business with Epcot because the last time we went in Test Track wasn’t running and so we couldn’t tick that one off. This is one of our favourite rides so it meant a trip back today specifically to do it.

Disney seem to be having a crackdown on what you can bring into the parks with you. This trip the entry time has been lengthened by more stringent checks on the way in including airport style metal detectors. On the trams from the car parks there is now an announcement stating the things that are prohibited which includes knives, guns and the ever dangerous selfie sticks. I suspect that this is more to do with in people’s way than their ability to do major harm.

Of course it makes no sense just to go to Epcot and only ride Test Track given the high cost of parking. So at opening we first went over to have another go on Soarin’ which was pretty swift at that time before having a couple of goes on Test Track. I had forgotten just how fast it can seem on a steeply banked track. Great fun!

There was only one thing left to do in Epcot and that came from a special request from Mat who wanted his picture taken with Baymax, the robot from Big Hero 6. How could we refuse? It looks like the start of a beautiful friendship!

The boys come up with some strange things at times. This trip they seem to have got into the habit (or more accurately Alex has) of asking when you return from the loo “Sloane or American Standard?” Why they need to know the make of the sanitaryware I am not sure but I found myself coming out today and automatically saying “Sloane, smells of aniseed”!

USA ’18 – Day 11 – I Knew a Pandora Once

I’ve mentioned a number of times in my posts about large areas of the parks being closed as new rides are developed but there is one new “land” that has opened since we were last here. In the intervening four years a Pandora themed land has opened in Animal Kingdom.

To be clear this is a land themed around the 2016 film of the same name and not those charm bracelets – that would be odd.

We knew that the land was open as friends had been last September and had said just how difficult it was to get fast passes in advance for the two rides in the area and that the queues were very long on “standby”.

We also tried in advance but weren’t successful either and so, early this morning, we left to get to Animal Kingdom at “rope drop” which is 9am. Even though the park officially opens then it has already been open for an hour for hotel guests so by the time we were allowed in there were already queues at the “Flights of Passage” ride. The wait-time was shown on the screens as being an hour but that was a lot less then we had seen it before with three hours not unheard of. Fortunately our strategy of arriving early paid off as despite the suggested time we actually only waited a reasonable half an hour.

The ride itself is very similar to Soarin’ in that you sit in front of a very large screen as you are flown over a landscape but this is much more sophisticated. Firstly you are sat on what look like motorbikes but are supposed to be Banshees, beasts from Pandora. As you sit there the bit between your knees expands and contracts as if the beast was breathing. It is also 3d so you have to wear those annoying glasses. But it is all worth it and is an amazing ride as you swoop and soar over the lands of Pandora. Very cleverly done and worth the early start.

With the ride done we were able to come back out in to Pandora and savour the landscape. One thing that Disney does incredibly well is dressing the scenery around the park and Pandora was no exception with the “floating” rocks above, cascading water and strange flowers. You really could have believed that you were on Pandora were it not for all those pesky humans!

The rest of the day went well too as the boys got to do plenty to rides on Everest and we saw lots of animals on the Safari. We will be back here once more this trip and I hope it’s as good as today was.

USA ’18 – Day 10 – Too Hot to Mickey Around

One thing that I really like about the Disney parks is that they each have their own distinct identity and are beautifully executed. Magic Kingdom, where we were today, has a lovely kitschy, 1950’s America feel to it. Nothing shows this off better than Main Street that you encounter right after you enter the parks.

The street is lined with heavily air conditioned shops selling all sorts of Disney paraphernalia. It is possible to walk pretty much the whole length of the street inside the shops thereby avoiding the heat but to do so would also mean you miss the entertainment laid on.

Today we came across this barbershop quartet who were stood outside in the heat singing a selections of songs and cracking (awful) puns.

While I have respect for these four dressed like this in the heat the real kudos has to go to those dancing in Donald, Mickey etc costumes outside the castle. It must have been so hot inside these costumes that they really earned their money today.

For some reason that I haven’t been able to fathom Alex decided that he wanted to go into the Hall of Presidents. If this had been the Hall of Prime Ministers in the UK I might have understood it but this left me scratching my head. Anyway, we went in and discovered that rather than being a hall with a long line of animatronic presidents this was a theatre show of some sort. The next one started in 15 minutes and the show itself lasted 23 minutes. On discovering this information minds were changed and we thankfully made a swift exit!

This evening we went out once more to Cracker Barrel for dinner. The fare they serve here isn’t terribly sophisticated and arrives suspiciously quickly but it has one major redeeming feature which is that it is incredibly cheap. This one cost uas £35 (excluding a 20% tip) which is about a third we could pay elsewhere. Part of this can be attributed to them not serving alcohol but that doesn’t account for it all. It is just very cheap.