JESSICA PICKIN visits Walt Disney World Florida for the first time.
WALT Disney World Florida was always on my list of ‘must-see’ places since I was a child, but it wasn’t until I was standing before the famous Cinderella’s Castle did I realise where I truly was.
The stories brought back by friends and family were always more than impressive, but I was skeptical that being 24 and my mother into her 50s, that we may have past the age to appreciate the true fun of it. Little did we know what was to come.
Touching down in Orlando, we were pleasantly surprised to find that as Disney resort guests, we could board complimentary airport transportation on the Disney Magical Express bus to our resort and this would continue throughout our stay, between the parks and our accommodation.
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We pulled up to where we would call home for the next week – Disney’s Boardwalk Inn. A 1940s-themed resort that lines breathtaking views of Crescent Lake.
After checking into our very comfortable family-sized rooms, we headed for some much needed food at the resort’s Yachtsman Steakhouse. By the name, we knew we were not leaving peckish.
The next day we rose early to visit the iconic Magical Kingdom, one of the most enchanting of Disney’s four theme parks with six whimsical lands full of activity.
We headed through the gates as a group of dancers leaped and twirled to music, which was enough to spread smiles across even the most cynical of visitors. And that was just at the entrance.
We then made a turn along Main Street, U.S.A and there it was, ahead of us – Cinderella’s Castle.
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Every turn led us to fun, from roller coasters like Space Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, to calmer attractions like Dream-Along with Mickey.
We also took full advantage of Disney’s FASTPASS ticket system, which allows visitors to skip waiting in long queues and instead return when it’s time to enjoy the ride, by just entering the FASTPASS ticket.
By the second day we were ready for some water fun. We were taken to Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon, a shipwreck-themed paradise where aquatic thrill-seekers can either enjoy the park’s waterslides like Crush ‘n’ Gusher or relax in the sun on the lazy river.
After a few hours and quick change, we were taken away for some movie fun at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. A theme park which offers visitors behind-the-scene glimpses of Hollywood action.
First stop was the petrifying Tower of Terror, a drop lift ride which takes those brave enough to The Twilight Zone and back. We spotted great views from the top of this attraction, before closing our eyes tightly again!
The thrills didn’t stop there though, and next we boarded the Rock n Roller coaster, a ride that takes participants from 0 to 57 miles per hour in 2.8 seconds and if you are not screaming at the top of your lungs, you will hear the booming rock music of superstar Aerosmith.
After a delicious steak at one of the park’s prestigious restaurants, The Hollywood Derby, we then sat down to enjoy the Fantasmic! show at the park’s Hollywood Hills Ampitheatre. This spectacular water, fire and lights display sees Mickey Mouse go up against evil Disney bad guys with breathtaking scenes.
After an early night, it was time to visit Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the largest animal theme park in the world and home to 1,700 animals, sprawling across 500 acres.
But it’s not just the furry friends that get park visitors excited, as Animal Kingdom is also home to rides like Expedition Everest, a fantastically fun mountain rollercoaster that took us booming to great heights, then backwards in the dark, with an unexpected visitor!
Another great surprise was the park’s Kilimanjaro Safari trip, which allowed us to get up close to animals including a baby elephant that had just been born that day.
After our morning with the animals, we didn’t want to leave nature, so we headed over to the Fort Wilderness Resort. Here we were treated to a very unexpected Disney activity of speed racing around the Fort Wilderness lake. After a quick safety lesson, we were charging through the water with breathtaking views, including Cinderella’s Castle.
That evening we tucked into some of the best Disney cuisine at the California Grill restaurant, where we could enjoy our meal whilst overlooking the fireworks display over Cinderella’s Castle. The black grouper fillet and pistachio crème brulee were to name a few of the mouth-watering highlights of our delicious meal.
As a Disney resort guest, you are able to experience and take full advantage of the Disney Dining Plan, which allows visitors to make their dining decisions when booking their holiday, which is a great money saving trick.
The next day we visited Epcot theme park, which covers 300 acres and is divided into Future World and World Showcase. Some of our favourites at Epcot were Sourin’, a virtual reality ride which takes you across famous landscapes and gives you real senses of smell, and Mission SPACE - a motion simulator which allows brave participants to feel what you might experience aboard a spacecraft on a mission to Mars, including the higher g-force of blastoff.
Epcot not only boasts fantastic rides, it also features The World Showcase division, which includes 11 sections, representing a different country with stunning buildings and with shops and restaurants galore.
Before the day was over, we sat in awe of the spectacular IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth show, which presents visitors with mesmerizing bursts of water, fireworks and laser with backdrop of emotive music in the World Showcase lagoon.
On our last day, only a morning of shopping could distract us from the looming fact we were heading home, so a trip to Downtown Disney was definitely in order - an area open day and night for those who wish to shop or dance the night away.
Here, we stopped at the largest Disney store in the world, The World of Disney, leaving the shop was difficult – especially without a bag full of goodies!
What we realised pretty quickly during our trip to Walt Disney World was that this place literally has everything for everyone, a certainly magical trip for the whole family.
7 nights at Walt Disney World (deluxe)
Seven nights at Walt Disney World with Virgin Holidays, including scheduled flights with Virgin Atlantic from London Gatwick or Manchester direct to Orlando, accommodation at the 5V BoardWalk Inn on a room only basis with transfers included starts from £1,489. Prices are per person based on 2 adults travelling and sharing a standard room, price includes all applicable taxes and fuel surcharges which are subject to change. Prices are based on departures 13 – 31 Jan 2012.
Start your holiday before you’ve even taken off in the v-room at Gatwick or Manchester Airport…adults £20, Kids £12
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To book: www.virginholidays.co.uk, 0844 557 3859 or visit one of our 50 stores located in Debenhams and House of Fraser stores nationwide.