With four theme parks, two water parks, the recently expanded Disney Springs, plus all that's going on at more than two dozen hotels, it's impossible to cram everything into a single day at Disney World. Heck, it's even impossible to enjoy a representative sample of all that the resort offers in one operating day.
But if you're sitting at home — or the office — dreaming of a Disney vacation, it's easier to wrap your head around that one perfect day than to try to comprehend the enormity of all there is to do at the resort. So what's your perfect day at Disney?
Here's mine. I'll admit that my ideal day at the resort is heavily influenced by nostalgia. (I suspect that many of yours might be, as well.) As a former Magic Kingdom cast member, I find myself drawn to the attractions that I fell in love with while I worked in Orlando. And as a resident of Southern California and a Disneyland annual passholder, I find myself yearning to see things that I can't experience back in Anaheim, too.
One more caveat — this is a perfect day, not a fantasy day. It's a day that you could make happen in the normal operation of the resort, not relying on some extraordinary circumstance to make possible.
So my perfect day at Walt Disney World is a mix of places where I worked and of things we don't have here at Disneyland. But my perfect day is relaxing, too. I make no attempt to visit all four theme parks on my perfect day. Yes, I'm leaving out a ton of good stuff. But this is the stuff of my daydreams.
Rope-drop the Magic Kingdom
For me, a perfect day in a theme park means an early start. I'm a morning person and I know from experience that first thing in the morning is the best time to get on rides with the shortest waits of the day. So we start before the park opens and are ready to go as soon as we're admitted.
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
I head first one of my old attractions — Thunder. Yes, we've got this at Disneyland, but I enjoy the better views of my beloved Rivers of America from Orlando's version. After bagging the first ride of the day here, I head next door to...
It might be a little early for a log flume ride, but Splash is a delight at any time of day. And since I envision my perfect day as warm and sunny, I figure that whatever water that hits me on the final drop soon will evaporate in the Florida sun. In fact, if I have time, I might even run around and go for a second ride before my next destination opens.
Tom Sawyer Island
You knew I was going here, right? My former home in the Magic Kingdom is never far from my thoughts when I am at Disney World, and there's no way I could resist coming over here on my perfect day. Now, if this were my PERFECT perfect day, they'd let me drive the raft over and from the island, but let's not push this into fantasy. After walking every path of the island, just like the old days, it's back across to visit...
Hall of Presidents
Yes, we have elements of this show in Anaheim, but seeing all the presidents on one stage — not just Abraham Lincoln — thrills the old political science major in me. After the show, it's a short walk over to...
The Haunted Mansion
Longer than Anaheim's version, and with niftier animation tricks, Mansion challenges Splash as the best attraction in the Magic Kingdom. I always longed to work here, but never got the chance. But I don't miss the opportunity to visit when I am at Disney World. (To avoid the wait, I probably got a Fastpass+ for this, along with that second ride on Splash Mountain.)
Lunch at Columbia Harbour House
On my perfect day, I'm eating lunch early, to avoid the inevitable crowds. Once I order whatever seafood lunch strikes me as tastiest that day, I head upstairs to a table next to a window, from where I can watch Liberty Square as I eat.
Liberty Square Riverboat
My final stop in the Magic Kingdom is a tour around my beloved Rivers of America, from the top deck of whatever they're calling the riverboat these days. ;^) (In my day, it was the Richard F. Irvine.) After taking plenty of fresh pictures, it's time for my second theme park of the day.
Monorail to Epcot
Walt's original vision for the resort was a kind of urban utopia, where modern mass transit systems would help replace individual cars. So in his honor, I'll take the monorail over to Epcot for the rest of my perfect day. (And since this is a perfect day, we will assume that the monorail is working.)
My first stop in Epcot is the first thing everyone sees as they enter the park — this wonderful geosphere and the nifty little history lesson that resides within. I'm hoping that the morning rush will have subsided by the time I arrive in early afternoon, so that I can walk on with little wait.
Friendship boat across the lagoon
Epcot's a hike, so unless I'm looking for a workout, I often save a few steps by taking one the boats across the lagoon if I'm skipping some of the World Showcase pavilions (and if the boats are running). My next stop is...
The American Adventure
I wrote last week abut how much I love The American Adventure, "a master class in narrative storytelling." Yeah, the ending montage needs a refresh, but the rest of this show is such a flawless animatronic and narrative experience that I wouldn't dare leave it out of my perfect day. Which brings us to my absolute favorite attraction in Epcot...
Impressions de France
Directed by Rick Harper and produced by Harper and Academy Award nominee Bob Rogers, Impressions de France is the greatest theme park movie ever made — a perfect exhibition of cinematography and musical score that evokes the spirit of its home country better than any other attraction in World Showcase. The finale, with Saint Saens' organ symphony playing as we ascend the Eiffel Tower, reduces me to tears every time I see it.
Dinner at Monsieur Paul (or Rose and Crown Dining Room)
An early lunch calls for an early dinner, but I'll have to admit that I can't settle on one choice for the final meal of my perfect day. My first choice is to stay in the France pavilion for a leisurely, multi-course meal at the Theme Park Insider Award-winning Monsieur Paul. But if I'm not in the mood for such an extravagant meal, my thoughts turn to the Rose and Crown in the United Kingdom next door, where I can enjoy a simpler plate of pub food while sitting next to the World Showcase Lagoon.
Either way, that's it. Maybe if Epcot were still running the old version of IllumiNations, I'd stick around for that. But this has been a perfect day for me without needing to stretch it all the way to closing. (I said I'm a morning person, remember?) With a wonderful meal and wonderful memories of some of my favorite attractions, I head back to the monorail... and to my awaiting overwater bungalow at the Polynesian, where I will watch the Magic Kingdom fireworks that night.
Okay, that last bit was total fantasy. Anyway, that's my perfect day at Disney World. What's yours?
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