And so the final day had come and I had saved the best for last for today would be Magic Kingdom day.
I was able to rest up a little bit longer as early entry would be at 8am. Tonight the park would be open until 1am, but I also ordered Genie+ again as I didn’t want to have to wait late into the night to hit my favorite rides. I also bought a Lightning Lane for Seven Dwarfs’ Mine Train, Magic Kingdom’s newest roller coaster.
As I expected, the place was a zoo prior to rope drop. But I figured everyone would head to the Mine Train, leaving me free to visit Liberty Square and Frontierland where my favorite rides were located. To my shock, only Tomorrowland and Fantasyland were opened up at early entry. I thought that to be a poor business decision and a puzzling one. Every other park opened in its entirety so I couldn’t understand why only part of the Kingdom would open.
As my favorite sections wouldn’t open until 9am, I went ahead and rode one of the WDW originals: It’s a Small World.
This is a slow-moving boat ride that takes you through the countries of the world where scads of animatronic children sing the titular song. It’s syrupy sweet and shares a message about world peace since “it’s a small world after all”. I was really struck by how much animatronics had evolved since this ride. The robots are pretty primitive and seem more like oversized toys, but, at the time, this was undoubtedly cutting-edge technology and would lead to much greater advances.
Eventually, the rest of the park opened and I headed off to Frontierland to visit one of my two favorite rides: Splash Mountain.
Splash Mountain was inspired by the Brer Rabbit sequences from the controversial 1946 movie, “Song of the South”. It, too, will eventually be shut down so it can be overhauled into “The Princess and the Frog” so this was likely my last go round in its original incarnation.
Splash Mountain and Haunted Mansion are my two favorite rides in all of WDW and I could spend a day just flipping between the two and consider it a day well spent. I enjoyed the leisurely float as I watched Brer Rabbit outsmart his nemeses, Brer Fox and Brer Bear, time and again before plunging down the 50 foot drop into the Briar Patch just in time to see Brer Rabbit’s neighbors welcome him home with “Zip a Dee Doo Dah”.
From Splash Mountain it was back to Fantasyland to enjoy the Seven Dwarfs’ Mine Train. It wasn’t that bad of a coaster, but it wasn’t spectacular. Though it was amusing to watch the Dwarfs work their mine before heading home to dance with Snow White.
After the Dwarfs, it was off to the Hundred Acre Wood to experience The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Hop on a honey pot and experience the stories of Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day and Winnie the Pooh and Tigger, Too. It’s a quick ride, but an entertaining one for the young ones.
Then it was off to Under the Sea-Journey of the Little Mermaid which tells an abridged version of “The Little Mermaid”, but leaves out the darker moments to keep from spooking the children.
From there, I moved right along to Tomorrowland where I took a break by riding The Tomorrowland Transit Authority Peoplemover. This is a slow moving cart ride that transports you around the Magic Kingdom, gives you a little history of the park, slips you inside Space Mountain, and is just an all around good way to people watch.
Then I went to over to Space Mountain. It’s an oldie, but a goodie as you ride a single car into space and enjoy a rollicking roller coaster ride in pitch darkness. I’ve heard the coaster only moves at a top rate of 25mph, but feels faster due to your not being able to see anything. It’d be interesting to ride it with the lights on and put that to the test.
I then started making my way over to Adventureland, pausing in front of Cinderella Castle (pictured at the top of this article). If the castle looks familiar to you history buffs, it’s because it was patterned after Neuchwanstein Castle, one of the castles of King Ludwig II of Bavaria. Fun fact: each Disney park in the world has its own unique castle.
I wandered past Jungle Cruise, astounded at its popularity. Waits never seemed to get lower than 90 minutes. I imagine the new movie has something to do with it plus a friend of mine told me that some Christmas stuff was added to the ride for the holidays. For myself, I consider it a meh ride at best and one I would have ridden only if the line were short.
Instead, I bypassed that and went to Pirates of the Caribbean. Yes, it’s the ride that gave the world Captain Jack Sparrow and launched a lucrative franchise. I floated around and watched a battle on the high seas and watched pirates loot a town that was going down in flames. Captain Jack popped in from time to time and even warbled “A Pirate’s Life for Me” as you exit the ride.
Then I was off to my other favorite ride: Haunted Mansion.
Enter the home of Master Gracey for a chilling (albeit Disneyfied) ride through a haunted house. I’ve always been amazed at the depth of detail in this ride. It begins in the foyer of the mansion where a picture of Master Gracey ages from a young man to a skeleton in front of your eyes.
From there you enter the stretching room where you see the untimely ends of some of the mansion’s past residents. After escaping you get on your doom buggy to ride through the mansion where creepy events unfold around you. One of my favorite moments is the séance where the disembodied head of Madame Leota (voiced by Eleanor Audley, the voice of Maleficent in “Sleeping Beauty” and the stepmother in “Cinderella”) summons the spirits.
Soon you ride past a ballroom where the ghosts whoop it up in a party except for the two engaging in a duel. Eventually you make your way through a graveyard before picking up a hitchhiking ghost as you exit. For some extra fun be sure to ask a cast member about the legend of Master Gracey.
Eventually I made my way over to Epcot for another early dinner at the San Angel Inn in the Mexico Pavilion.
San Angel Inn is another intime dining experience. I started with a bowl of Sopa Azteca which was a spicy red soup with tortilla chips and followed it up with a main course of Enchiladas con Pollo. Very satisfying meal.
Then I took a ride on the monorail over to the Grand Floridian. This is Disney’s most luxurious hotel and the last thing on my Disney bucket list is to stay one night at this hotel. Brenda had tipped me off that the Floridian goes all out for Christmas and indeed it does.
The decorations here are what I expected to see all over WDW and its centerpiece was an authentic gingerbread house.
After enjoying a quick blast of Christmas cheer, I returned to the Magic Kingdom to enjoy Disney at night. The Kingdom was getting ready to do the first of two fireworks shows and I maneuvered through the crowd to enjoy Pirates and 3 straight runs on Splash Mountain (where I also enjoyed watching the fireworks). From there it was off to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad as I roared through the mountains on a train coaster.
Disney was hosting an early New Year’s party so the crowds weren’t really dissipating much. In terms of endurance, I had the juice to go all the way to closing, but my poor feet were throbbing. Small surprise after being on my feet from before sunup to well after sundown and walking an estimated 60 miles over 4 days with little downtime except for sleep.
I took one final ride at Pirates and decided to call an end to the day. I caught the bus back to Coronado Springs. When I got back to my room, I slipped off my shoes and peeled off my socks and just knuckled my tired feet and it felt fabulous. Soon after my lights were out.
The next morning I packed up, boarded the Magical Express, and began the trek home.
It was a grand adventure and I look forward to my next adventure in WDW.