This year we decided to visit Disney World in Orlando, Florida. It was our first time in Disney World and our first time in Orlando. In addition to our Disney World visit, we also spent the last day of our vacation there at the Kennedy Space Center, and had a few hours left to go on an exhilarating
airboat ride on the St. Johns River.
We stayed at the Disney World Swan Hotel, which is not an official Disney World resort hotel, but for us it was perfect – the hotel has ferry service to and from Epcot and Hollywood Studios parks and it’s just a short walk across a bridge to the Boardwalk.
We did have Magic Bands and this made park entry and FastPass entry much faster. We can highly recommend them, especially if you are going to park-hop like we did each day. We both have Apple Watches, so we had an Apple Watch on the left wrist and a Magic Band on the right wrist. Just remember, Magic Bands are only good for Disney World currently.
We started our visit at Epcot and the very first experience was Soarin. Being a techie, I was impressed by the realism and sensory stimulation of the ride – it made you feel like you were really soaring through the air and around big objects through the use of the projected images and wind and slight movements of the seating. In fact what’s amazing about the ride is that you really don’t move at all. There was one problem with the projection, though, and it happened with the Eiffel Tower in Paris. When you fly over the top of it, it appears bent because it’s just too close to the top of the projection screen so it appears distorted. All-in-all, a great thrill and worth the wait.
The second day it was time for the Magic Kingdom and all the exciting rides and experiences it has to offer.
On the third day we went to Animal Kingdom via an official Disney bus that stops just outside the lobby of our hotel. We waited almost 2 and a half hours when we got there in line to see the Avatar River Cruise, which lasted less than 5 minutes. Ha! Later we took the African Safari to see some animals. At night we camped out in front of the big tree to see the laser light show, which was unpredictable but worth the wait.
It was time for Hollywood Studios on our fourth day, and we took the ferry from our hotel to the park. Hollywood Studios is small compared to the other parks, but it’s the best park for photos. We took tons there and there were so many photogenic spots to take. Also, many Disney characters were on hand for taking photos with.
We also enjoyed an afternoon round of mini-golf at the Fantasia Mini Golf park just across the street from our hotel. The park features two courses – one easier than the other, so we tried the easy one first and left the harder one for the next day.
The fifth day was time to go back to the Magic Kingdom and enjoy some more rides and do stuff we didn’t get to do the second day. Xiaohong’s favorite ride was “It’s a Small Small World” from day 2, so we did that one another time. We also stayed for the fireworks and laser light show in the evening.
The last day at Disney World was time to return to where we started – Epcot, and enjoy doing some things we didn’t have time for the first time we visited. We also did some shopping. In the afternoon we played the more difficult round of mini-golf at Fantasia across the street from our hotel. Finally to top off the day, we took a 45 minute bus trip to Disney Springs in the evening to check out the upscale shopping that it has to offer.
Kennedy Space Center and Airboats
On the last day of our vacation in Orlando, we boarded a tour bus to drive to Kennedy Space Center. We spent the whole morning and afternoon there. Later another bus would pick us up and take us to a tiny airboat operator on the St. Johns River to explore the swamps and search for elusive alligators. The airboat ride was a blast and afforded some great photo ops.