A Magic Time: No Longer a Disney World Skeptic

Blog Title Image. Words in Pink and White on a faint black background and pink border: "A Magic Time: Our First Visit to Disney World, www.marianamcdougall.com. Picture of Magic Kingdom in the background.

The kids love the movie “Minions,” and all they know about Orlando is that “Villain Con” takes place there. So every time we mention we’re going to Orlando, they chant, “Villain… CON!!”

We play along, discussing whether or not there actually is a Villain Con there. Our 8-year-old says that maybe there’s a “fake” villain con for fans of the movie. We keep them guessing until the day we drive to Orlando. On that day, I share the bad and good news with the kids.

With the saddest face I can muster, I tell them: “I have some bad news… I looked into it, and Villain Con is not real.”

Some playful lip-pouting ensues. I continue:

“But there is something else in Orlando, and we’re going there instead. You know where we’re going?”

After some blank stares, I tell them: “Disney World!”


Walt Disney World sign as seen from the dash of an RV


The “eeeeee!!!” I hear is exactly what I was going for, and the happiness of the kids fills my own heart with joy. I’m excited to give them an experience that I didn’t think we’d get to do. This trip and my writing are affording us the opportunity to experience some pretty awesome things with our kids.

Disney World was never on my “places to visit” list. I had often thought that there were several other places I’d rather visit, but we figured we didn’t know when we’d come back this way again, and this would be a great experience for the kids. The trip to Disney World was solely for them—or so I thought.


Blog Title Pinterest Image in white and pink letters on a faint black background. The words say: "Dear Disney Skeptics, I was one of you. Not anymore. www.marianamcdougall.com. Picture of Princess Tiana meeting three children at Magic Kingdom, Disney World

I planned our two days at Fort Wilderness and Magic Kingdom strictly with the children in mind. But I’m all about transparency, so I have to confess: I loved Disney World. It truly is a “magical place,” where people of all ages are allowed (and encouraged) to be kids, and to embark on fantasies, from the nostalgic to the newly imagined.


Mother with two young daughters and a son, Disney World castle in background.


Yes, I realize there is controversy about Walt Disney and the mega company. No, I do not approve of the “lady in distress waiting for her prince” narrative as the only narrative, and The Paper Bag Princess is one of my favourite kids’ books. And I love A Mighty Girl. Having said that, there’s no denying that Walt Disney works were prominent as part of both my childhood and that of my children’s, and I’m willing to admit that I actually do love Disney films. And there’s something to be said for the changes that have been made recently: Both Frozen as well as Moana had a lot going for it, Honest Trailers notwithstanding (yep, I love Honest Trailers, too).

I hope to come back to Disney World some day, and I think if we could make Florida a regular destination, I’d love that as well. It’s been pretty nice wearing shorts and short sleeves in November, and I don’t miss shoveling snow. At all. But back to Disney.

Father and son on a ferry. The lake can be seen behind them, with some trees on the other side of the water.


We booked a campsite at Fort Wilderness. On the day we arrived, we enjoyed the swimming pool and made ourselves comfortable. The next day, we rode a bus, and then a ferry to Magic Kingdom. Everything is extremely well run, and transportation is very convenient for guests. I believe staying in Fort Wilderness is the least expensive option if you want to stay in Disney World, and for the convenience of transport, I think it’s worth staying there versus the other campgrounds in the vicinity.


Mother and two daughters riding the bus from Fort Wilderness to Magic Kingdom


We chose Magic Kingdom over the other parks because we felt that was the one the children would enjoy the most. We spent two days there, and we’re glad we chose two days at the same park. It’s hard to see everything in one day (or even two), so it was nice not to worry about running out of time to see everything we wanted to see.

During our Magic Kingdom Visit, we rode cute rides, exciting rides, met princesses and even an alien. We took great pictures, and truly enjoyed our time. M-girl, our 4-year-old, was in absolute heaven, as were the older kids. And for M-girl, meeting the characters she loves was a huge highlight.



Stitch, from the movie Lilo & Stitch, meets two young girls and a young boy at Magic Kingdom


I know her beautiful, long red hair is more than likely a wig, but it doesn’t matter. As she dances with two ecstatic little girls, her hair bounces and flows beautifully, and you know she just made the little girls’ day. When our turn arrives, M-girl looks at Merida with admiration in her eyes, and then gives her a hug. I barely understand what Merida says; she speaks quickly and with a strong Scottish accent.


Actress portraying the Disney character Merida, from the movie "Brave," poses with two young girls and a young boy at Magic Kingdom in Disney World

After meeting Merida, we go searching for some rides. The spinning tea cups delight the kids, and we have a lot of fun going around and around.


Mother and daughter sitting in a cup at the spinning tea cups ride at Magic Kingdom, Disneyworld. The daughter is making the peace sign.


The carousel is another highlight. And after the awkward carousel in New Jersey, it’s refreshing that this one caters to adults and children alike. There are different sized horses, and several options for where to place your feet on each one.


Girl sitting on a carousel horse at Magic Kingdom


But while the spinning tea cups and the carousel are fun, it’s the rides that are unique to Disney that make the most lasting impact on all of us.

As I sit inside a clam shell and navigate displays from my favourite childhood movie, The Little Mermaid, I remember my cousin Kátia, and how we used to play in her swimming pool and pretend we were mermaids, coming back to the surface to sing “Part of Your World” in Portuguese.


The Little Mermaid looks at one of her treasures as Flounder looks on. Mechatornic display at Little Mermaid Undersea Adventure, Magic Kingdom, Disney World


In this display, the mechatronic characters, combined with digital images displayed on the ceiling above, transport me back to 1990, when my grandmother took me to see my first movie in the theatre. I can’t stop myself from singing along to the bits and pieces of songs from the movie. Here in this kid-friendly ride, with my 4-year-old on one side and my 8-year-old daughter on the other, I have not a worry in the world. It’s just about this moment: sharing a fantasy with my children, enjoying something completely out of the norm for us.


The Little Mermaid's Cavern Collection at Magic Kingdom


After immersing ourselves in the Little Mermaid world, M-girl wants to meet Ariel. As we wait, I sing “Part of Your World” with M-girl, and the little girl besides us looks up at us and smiles. The Little Mermaid Grotto is not the greatest place to wait for an attraction if you dislike enclosed spaces, but I’m able to distract myself by entertaining M-girl, and I’m OK.


Mother and daughter waiting to see Ariel at Magic Kingdom, Disney World


When our turn arrives to meet Ariel, M-girl looks up at her in admiration. I tell Ariel she’s my favourite princess, and that M-girl was born in the water. I’m quite happy to embrace this fantasy for the sake of my 4-year-old, but truth be told, I’m enjoying it just as much as she is.


Girl sits with an actress portraying Ariel, from Disney's The Little Mermaid, at Magic Kingdom, Disney World


As we make our way to the other side of the park for more rides, we see people sitting down on the curb, and several people gathering. The daily parade is about to happen, and K-girl would like to see it. So we make ourselves comfortable to watch the parade. K-girl is elated when characters from all the Disney movies we’ve watched pass by.

Beauty and the Beast atop a flot decorated with flowers at the Magic Kingdom Parade, Disney World


Belle and her Beast  wave to the crowd after looking into each other’s eyes; Cinderella does her princess wave, and Rapunzel waves at the crowd as Flynn Rider jumps onto logs that swing atop the float.

Rapunzel and Flynn Rider atop a float made to look like a boat, Magic Kingdom, Disney World


Dancers clad in colourful costumes blow bubbles to the crowd, and Ariel smiles at the people, sitting high on her shell.

The parade ends with Mickey and Minnie bringing up the back, and the smiles on the children’s faces say it all. We love the “any time is time for a party” attitude embraced by this theme park, and we love that everyone seems happy here.


Mickey and Minnie atop a float at the parade at Magic Kingdom, Disney World


After our somewhat disappointing experience at Six Flags Great Adventure, it’s a breath of fresh air to meet Disney employees. They’re all super polite, always greet you with a smile, and are obviously enjoying their job. We make conversation with several of them, and it’s always a pleasant exchange. While we’re waiting for a ride, we talk to the employee who’s directing the line, and he happens to be from Ontario. We discuss how we’re having awesome weather today, but it’s already getting cold for most Floridians.

Speaking of waiting in line, waiting in line at Disney World is a pretty awesome experience. The children as well as the adults are truly entertained while waiting. With beautiful setups and several interactive displays, you’re rarely bored as you wait for your turn. 


Display at Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Magic Kingdom, Disney World


While waiting for the Peter Pan ride, you can ring bells by moving your hand towards their shadows on the wall. And you can see Tinkerbell’s bright pixie dust as she moves things in the bedroom displays.

While waiting for Thunder Mountain (probably our favourite ride), you can “explode” mines and make pictures on the ventilation fans by moving a crank as fast as you can.


Thunder Mountain Ride at Magic Kingdom, Disney World


Every time we waited in line for something, we were entertained, and because of this, the waiting time felt shorter, even for the longest ride we waited for, which was the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (45 minutes). 

We didn’t wait too long for any attraction. The “My Disney Experience” app makes it super easy to check waiting times and plan your day accordingly. And as Wi-Fi is available throughout the park, it was easy to make decisions based on what the app could tell us. The app also has a map and several other useful tidbits. While some will say that you have to plan a Disney World trip months in advance, I think if you go in the off-season, it’s perfectly fine to simply plan as you go, and the app makes this easy. 


Walt Disney World Castle lit up for Christmas


While all of the attractions we visited made a lasting impression, I think the one I was most impressed by was the Monster’s, Inc Laugh Floor. Not only because it’s based on my favourite Pixar/Disney films, but because of the interactive nature of the attraction.

The laugh floor is basically a comedy show, but the comedians are animated characters from the Monster’s, Inc films. And these characters interact with the audience, which must mean that the cartoons are being animated in real time. I absolutely loved this show, and it it was funny enough for the audience to “fill the can with laughter” to supply much-needed energy for Monstropolis. This was only one of the many, many memories from Disney that I will cherish for a lifetime.

We had an amazing time at Disney World, and if you’ve always been skeptical about going there, take it from a former skeptic: it’s worth it. And I hope to go back some day, and spend even more time there.


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