Does going to Disney World more than 50 times make you a Disney expert? We think so, and that’s why we were excited to interview Kim Wiley as our honorary Traveler of the Week. She’s the Disney expert at Fodors.com and has contributed to their great Disney Guide. Her tips and ideas on what’s up and what’s down at the park will interest every IgoUgo member--from die hard WDW fans to travelers who have never considered a visit.
IgoUgo: The top 5 Disney World attractions for IgoUgo members are Epcot, Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, and Downtown Disney. What are IgoUgo members--and other visitors--missing if they just visit these spots?
Kim Wiley: Those five are definitely the key components of Disney World but there’s a lot more to see on property. The water parks, for example, are tremendously fun. Typhoon Lagoon has the ultimate “deserted island” feel with an enormous wave pool, a beautiful tropical setting, and lots of fun slides and rides. Blizzard Beach -- which has the wacky theme of a melting ski lodge -- is even wilder with more intense slides and rides. I get mail all the time from readers who say “We went to one of the water parks on our last day and it was so great I wish we’d known about it earlier so we could have gone more than once.”
There are also lots of cool sporting options – the miniature golf courses on-site are great, and you can try parasailing, fishing, and horseback riding as well. Even taking out one of those little speedboats for rent at the resort marinas is a really fun way to spend an afternoon.
IU: Our members have stayed on-property and everywhere in the surrounding area off-property. Princess00 leans slightly towards on-property for the best Disney experience, and LadyRVG recommends Saratoga Springs and the Grand Floridian. What are your picks for places to stay?
KW: There’s so much debate about the best Disney resort. My readers consistently pick the Polynesian, which has a laid-back, casual theme and a great location on the monorail line - and ergo easy access to the Magic Kingdom. Location-wise, it’s equally hard to beat the Yacht and Beach Clubs, which have water taxi service to both Epcot and Hollywood Studios, as well as the most amazing pool on property. But I think the most exotic resort is the Animal Kingdom Lodge. There’s something about seeing giraffes and zebra right outside your bedroom window that just can’t be beat!
IU: And for places to eat, character meals at the Crystal Palace and Chef Mickey’s are definitely popular with IgoUgo kids. What does Disney offer for more adult or gourmet dining?
KW: The most elegant resort in Walt Disney World is Victoria and Albert’s at the Grand Floridian, which has an over-the-top menu with wine pairings for every course. If you want something equally gourmet but a little more casual, I love Citrico’s (also at the Grand Floridian), Jiko’s (at the Animal Kingdom Lodge), the California Grille (in the Contemporary), and Flying Fish (at the BoardWalk.) You’ll note that all of these are at resorts, not in the parks, and they have more of an adult feel – fabulous cuisine, beautiful settings, great wine lists, and not a character in sight.
IU: Are there popular Disney activities that you would recommend skipping because they’re not worth it? And do you have any “must-sees”?
KW: My least favorite attraction on all of Disney property is Stitch’s Great Escape in the Magic Kingdom. I’ve never understood who this show is designed for – young kids see Stitch and demand to go in and then the show terrifies them. I get more negative reader mail about this than any other attraction.
Other than that I would say the biggest mistake families make is trying to see it all and do it all. The parents get frantic because they’re spending so much and they want to make darn sure they get their money’s worth; the kids get frantic because the parks are a high stimulation environment and their attention is being pulled in a hundred directions at once. So some visitors just spin out of control because they have the idea that a family who sees 50 things a day is having twice as much fun as a family that sees 25 things a day. Not so. Slow down, choose wisely (a good guidebook helps!) and savor what you do see.
In terms of don’t miss attractions, I’d say the following are the must-sees for each park. They represent the best in Disney storytelling and as an added bonus, they can be enjoyed by any age group.
- Magic Kingdom: Mickey’s PhilharMagic
- Epcot: Soarin’
- Hollywood Studios: Fantasmic!
- Animal Kingdom: Kilimanjaro Safaris
IU: Finally, what do you never forget to pack for a trip to Disney?
KW: Sunscreen, comfortable shoes, a waist pouch, and my kids!
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Posted by eyesoftheworld (Anna Welch)