Head to Orlando and chances are a visit to the Magic Kingdom is on your agenda. It should be. The centerpiece of Disney World’s Orlando theme park mecca, the Magic Kingdom is the park most of us think of when we think Disney.
My family and I visited the park for a few hours to take a ride on Space Mountain, a family favorite, and settle in for a trip around It’s a Small World in memory of Grandma, who loved that ride.
But we spent most of our three days in Orlando checking out the other three Disney theme parks:
Disney-MGM Studios. We liked the Aerosmith-themed Rock ’n’ Roller Coaster, but thought generally that Universal Studios does the movies experience better.
Epcot. We loved the GM test track and piloting the space ship, both of which are best for older kids.
Animal Kingdom. This is home to the newest thrill ride, Expedition Everest, a coaster that zips backward and forward as a giant Yeti takes a swing at the riders.
Of the three lesser known parks, Animal Kingdom was our favorite. It helped that we stayed as guests of the Animal Kingdom Lodge. Our room overlooked the grounds where giraffes, antelope, ostrich and other wild animals roamed free.
The view primed us for our travels on the Kilimanjaro Safari, a guided tour through a simulated African wildlife preserve where we saw lions, hippos, elephants, crocodiles and other animals. Just walking through the park, we saw monkeys, bats, dozens of birds, tigers and a Komodo dragon.
Staying "on property," as they say at Disney, can be pricey, (rooms at Animal Kingdom Lodge start at $199 per night, but rooms at other Disney properties start as low as $79 a night) but include a benefit you can get only by staying at a Disney resort: extra hours at the theme parks.
Each morning, one of the parks opens an hour early and another stays open three hours later to accommodate resort guests. We stayed late at Epcot and Magic Kingdom and arrived early at Disney-MGM Studios.
In the evenings, we found somewhat shorter lines, (a 30-minute wait at the Big Thunder Mountain coaster vs. 60 minutes during regular park hours) but in the mornings, no wait at all during the first hour, which meant we were able to see and do everything we intended in less than three hours.
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