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Open Letter to a WDW First-Timer

Friday, April 09, 2010

Dear A. and S.,

I'm so excited that you'll be meeting up with my son and me at Walt Disney World this August! I know you're both big time Disneyland fans, and that while A.'s been to Epcot once before, he was too drunk to really remember much. So let's just treat this like you've never been there, and give you a brief orientation. The first time to Walt Disney World can be a tad confusing for Disneyland regulars; it's really a whole new world.

First of all, the place is kinda huge. Like, twice the size of Manhattan huge. And most of it is freeways, which means you'll spend a certain amount of time either on the bus or in the rental car I'll have (since I'm staying off site). The bus rides are usually pretty quick and pleasant, and you don't usually have to wait too long for a bus, especially during peak times. Since you'll be staying at Pop Century, you'll have some of the best bus service on property (perhaps because you'll also be staying at the largest resort, so they've got to move a heck of a lotta people).

But it's not all highways.....we've got way more overall theme park acreage than Disneyland. Not only is our Magic Kingdom bigger than the original Disneyland, but there are three more parks too: Epcot (as the drunken A. already saw), Disney's Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom. None of these are quite analogous to Disney's California Adventure, which we all know as that convenient stop to pop over to for lunch during a busy day at Disneyland. The closest would be certain areas of Disney's Hollywood Studios, which Disney's California Adventure seems to have used as a template for their Hollywood section. We've got a bigger Downtown Disney, a custom-built theatre for Cirque du Soleil, and two water parks.

And that's before we even talk about the resorts. But I'll get to that later. The main point is the attractions, right? The rides? Well, we've got a lot of them. Some have counterparts on the West Coast, and in most cases I must say yours is often better. I'm not even sure I should go on Pirates of the Caribbean with you, as you may laugh yourself silly over how much shorter the ride is, and the fact that we don't have a Blue Bayou to enjoy. Good thing our Haunted Mansion was recently updated, or that would be embarassing too. Oh, and please don't try to take the gun out of the holster at Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin. You'd need a screwdriver, at a minimum.

But we do have some pretty awesome attractions you haven't seen elsewhere. Rock n' Roller Coaster is superb. Expedition Everest and Kilamanjaro Safaris are cool, so we'll have to spend some time at my son's least-favorite park (Animal Kingdom). Spaceship Earth, if you can let go and enjoy the campy goodness. And of course, we've got equivalent versions of many of your favorite Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure attractions.

But much of the awesomeness of Walt Disney World comes from its size, and the themeing, pavillions, restaurants, and other experiences there simply isn't room for at the West Coast location. Illuminations of Earth, the fireworks display at Epcot, is unlike anything you've seen at Disneyland. The international pavillions at Epcot range from the mediocre to the spectacular; I'll let you decide which is which as we tour. The Streetmosphere at Disney's Hollywood Studios provides impromptu entertainment unlike anything I've seen at other Disney parks worldwide.

And well, let's get back to those resorts I mentioned. There are arguably 24 resorts located in Walt Disney World which are owned and operated by Disney (plus another 10 owned and operated by other companies). Of these 24, there are a handful worth visiting, either for their restaurants, shopping, or just plain enjoying the themeing. Hopefully we can squeeze in a trip to the Yacht and Beach Club and see if we can finish off a Kitchen Sink Sundae at Beaches and Cream. They put a whole can of whipped cream on it -- a whole can!

Okay, I'm rambling. And you know I'm gonna ramble a good deal more before you get to Lake Buena Vista, right? But I'm not gonna sign off without recommending my favorite guide book: The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World. Don't go buying a copy, though....there's already one heading your way. Plus, if you'd rather listen to your Walt Disney World advice than read it, I'll point you at the WDW Today Podcast, which focuses primarily around vacations at our beloved World.

And hey, I'll bet some of our StudiosCentral readers have tips and information to share with first-time WDW visitors who are already longtime Disneyland fans. That's what the comments here are for, right? So people, get to it! Welcome my friends to our World!

Cheers,
Jentasmic!