A Year at Walt Disney World – Week 1 – Recap

It's a Small World

Our year at Walt Disney World started recently and we have been going just about every night. While we expect we will get a bit burned out and need a break at some point, right now, the goal is to go as much as possible.

Since we still have to work to support ourselves and we have an RV to get fully set up, we aren’t going for the entire day. Instead, we are going for 3 to 5 hours a day and taking 2 days a week off, right now.

After we get our feet wet and learn our way around, my wife will be shooting videos for our LiveSmallAndWander.com YouTube channel and blog. She has plans to make it pretty amazing and it will be up and running soon!

For now, you’re stuck with my words and my Instagram pictures and stories (follow me @BenjaminEhinger). I am pretty new to the Instagram world, so bear with me as I learn all the ins and outs.

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Walt Disney World Day #1 – Magic Kingdom on a Sunday

Walt Disney World Castle

Walt Disney World Castle

We started our Disney journey with Epcot back in March, which was the day we began talking about doing a full year at Disney. You can read more about how that all began in my first Disney post here.

Our year at Disney began at the Magic Kingdom on a Sunday. I may not always tell you the day we went, but for this portion of the post, it’s necessary.

My wife has taken over the FastPasses (per my request) and we have the goal of riding every ride my 6’3″ body will fit on, so when you see that a guy is riding some silly rides, just remember, I am a big kid at heart and my wife is an even bigger kid.

It’s a Small World

It's a Small World

It’s a Small World

The first ride we had a FastPass for was “It’s a Small World“. We learned very quickly, the FastPass was unnecessary, but we booked them last minute, so we just took what was available. As an annual passholder, we get to book FastPasses up to 30 days in advance. Those coming for a vacation get to book them further in advance. In this instance, we booked them the day before, so the pickings were a bit slim.

The ride was what I would expect and I was in an excited mood since we just started. Would I recommend it? Sure. Would I ride it again? Only for my wife.

Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin

Next, was the Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin ride. This one isn’t a thriller, but it’s certainly fun. You get to shoot all types of monsters and things for a score. I scored over 100K, which I thought was good until I saw a score of more than 300K in front of me. Guess I will have to try again.

Buzz Lightyear was our second FastPass and since we got to our first one later in the hour you get for them, we went right from one to another.

Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid

Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid

Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid

After Buzz Lightyear, we headed to the Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid ride because we had time to kill before our last FastPass and the wait was only 20 minute. I am sure my sisters would love this ride and my wife certainly did. I enjoyed it simply because I think my sisters watched The Little Mermaid about a 100 times a week when I was a kid, so I am very familiar with the story. It’s a bit of a classic, anyway.

The Barnstormer

Next, we were able to head into the short line for The Barnstormer. This was a bonus, just like The Little Mermaid because we didn’t have a FastPass for it. The line was super short and the roller coaster was a bit jerky. It was fun, but as an adult, I prefer the roller coasters that are a bit smoother of a ride. Regardless, it’s the perfect roller coaster for kids for sure.

Peter Pan’s Flight

Peter Pan's Flight

Peter Pan’s Flight

Finally, we headed to Peter Pan’s Flight, which was really cool. While it’s certainly not the thrilling ride some of the others are, it’s one I would put on my “must ride” list. It was an adventure worth taking and reminded me of all the times my siblings and I watched the Peter Pan play on our old Beta machine when we were children.

We had a FastPass for Peter Pan, too, which was worth it as the wait was 50 minute when we arrived. Plus, the ride was really cool, so we felt like we did a good job with that FastPass.

The Fire Works & The Wait

The end of the night included the fireworks show, which we didn’t plan on seeing. When we got out of Peter Pan, it just sort of happened and we regret it for sure. The regret has nothing to do with the actual show, which is amazing, but with what happened because we didn’t just go directly to the monorail while everybody was watching the fireworks.

We started moving that way halfway through, but it’s hard not to be distracted by the show when you haven’t seen it yet. We will see it in full from a good spot soon, but never again on a Sunday.

The reason Sunday is significant here is the park hours. The firework show happens at 9:15 and lasts approximately 18 minutes. The problem on Sundays is everybody leaves after the Fireworks. This causes an insane cattle herding of humans to the monorail, which means you get stuck waiting forever.

We waited for the monorail in sticky, hot, humid Florida weather for nearly an hour and we tried to duck out early!

My advice, if you’re coming to Walt Disney World for vacation or you’re an annual passholder, don’t go see the fireworks at the Magic Kingdom on a Sunday. The park stays open until 10pm on Sundays, which causes the traffic jam for the monorail. All other nights, the park is open later, which means you can hang out after the fireworks and you may not have to wait for the monorail for an hour like we did.

I haven’t verified this theory yet, but we plan to hit the fireworks on another day of the week when we can stay later.

This concluded day one of our Disney Journey and if you take out the monorail sweat and tears, it was a magical experience.

Walt Disney World Day #2 – Back to Epcot

We had an ulterior motive to go back to Epcot next and may have chosen another park without this motive. My wife wanted to pick up a gift for someone and thought it would be the perfect place to shop. Plus, she is head over heels for Epcot and it may end up being her favorite park at Disney World.

Journey into Imagination with Figment

Anyway, we started the night with Journey into Imagination with Figment. Obviously, this was my favorite ride ever, LOL. If you’re familiar with it, you know it’s led by a purple dragon. It was cute and my wife was hesitant to go on it but loved it.

Spaceship Earth

Spaceship Earth

Spaceship Earth

Next, we hit Spaceship Earth because the line was only 20 minutes. We went on this ride back in March and enjoyed it, so we did it again for funsies! While it’s not one of my top 5 rides, so far, it’s certainly one of my top choices at Epcot (haven’t been on all the rides there yet, however).

The Seas with Nemo & Friends

The Seas with Nemo & Friends

The Seas with Nemo & Friends

After a bit of shopping and grabbing a quick dinner in China, we headed to The Seas with Nemo & Friends. It’s another cute and slow ride with plenty of interesting things to see. It’s pretty cool how you actually go through a real aquarium and see the characters projected in with live sea creatures.

Soarin’ Around the World

Soarin' Around the World

Soarin’ Around the World

Finally, we finished the night with Soarin’ Around the World, which is my wife’s favorite ride so far. It’s one of my favorites, too and my favorite at Epcot so far. We rode it back in March, as well, so it was neat to go into it knowing what to expect.

If you’ve never been to Epcot because you skipped it or you just didn’t think it would be super fun, go. Take a ride on Soarin’ and it will make the entire trip worth it. Plus, the park is filled with all kinds of other fun, some of which we did in March and some we still have to discover.

Day 3 concluded with skipping the fireworks show, which we saw in March and getting out early. Epcot closes the earliest of the parks at 9pm.

Walt Disney World Day #3 – Hollywood Studios

Another park we haven’t been to until now is Hollywood Studios. We arrived just before 6pm, so just a short visit with a few hours to enjoy some fun. My wife booked FastPasses for The Tower of Terror, Muppet*Vision 3D and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith.

This was my night for sure and two of the three FastPass attractions quickly hopped up to the top of my favorite rides list. We will see if they stay there as we discover more of the park.

The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

We started with the Tower of Terror, which was amazing! It was better than I expected and so cool. The final drop in our sequence (they randomize the sequence so it’s not the same each time) got me a bit and my wife was pretty sure her life flashed before her eyes. We stopped to get her a frozen lemonade to bring her back to life after the ride.

Muppet*Vision 3D

Muppet*Vision 3D

Muppet*Vision 3D

Of course, our next FastPass was not only unnecessary but also much more chill. We headed to Muppet*Vision 3D, which is a show and really didn’t have any kind of a line, so don’t waste a FastPass on it if you’re coming for vacation. We get 3 FastPasses each time we go, so we just take what we can get when it’s last minute.

The show was funny, cute and pretty cool. If you have kids, it will be a blasty blast for them!

After the show, we killed some time by eating dinner, which we brought with us. We ordered new lunchboxes and some stainless steel tupperware containers on Amazon for our food at Disney, but they haven’t arrived yet. While we do plan to hit some of the restaurants this year, we are not rich, so we need to pack our own food most of the time.

While we were eating our dinner, a duck was walking across the hedges. It was right up next to our table and we felt like it must have been talking to our dogs. Our dogs beg for food all the time and the duck was certainly waiting for a handout. However, I don’t think we had anything appropriate for a duck to eat.

Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith

Our last ride of the night was the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith. This was a super cool ride and certainly a thriller. I mistakenly made the comment that we probably won’t go upside down since people are allowed to keep their bags and belongings inside the car with them. I was wrong and this was one of the first parts of the ride.

It’s a dark ride, which I found to be super fun and my wife found to be a bit terrifying. So far, this may be my absolute favorite ride (not just because of Aerosmith, either) with the Tower of Terror coming in second and Soarin’ behind the two in third. However, we still have quite a few rides to go on before I can compare them all.

Again, we skipped the finale shows and headed to the car. We will hit the shows when we plan for them and can make sure we get a good spot.

This concluded Day 3 of the first week at Disney.

After day 3, we took a day off from Walt Disney World but returned the following day for more magical fun.

Walt Disney World Day #4 – Magic Kingdom/Animal Kingdom

It was the day of the Kingdoms at Disney for us and a long one. We did what we are not referring to as a “double shift” with a break in between. It wasn’t planned this way, but things have a way of working out.

Mickey’s PhilharMagic

We started with the Magic Kingdom in the morning and saw Mickey’s PhilharMagic show, which was rather cool. It’s a 3-D show featuring many of the classic Disney movies and characters. I was impressed for sure!

Jungle Cruise

We also enjoyed the Jungle Cruise, which was a decent ride. Our Skipper was funny and had plenty of cheesy, kid-friendly jokes along the way.

Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor

Our final choice for the first shift at the Magic Kingdom was Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor. This was one of the better shows we have seen so far and the audience participation was very cool.

We also caught parts of the Mickey & Friends show at the Castle before hitting the rides.

After taking a break, letting out the pups, grabbing some lunch and relaxing for a few hours, we spontaneously decided to head back to Disney for a night shift. We headed to the Animal Kingdom with a FastPass for the Dinosaur ride and hopes of getting on something else cool.

Avatar Flight of Passage

We scored a great wait time for Avatar Flight of Passage and decided to go for it. When we first walked by it was at 115 minutes so we thought we would grab dinner and see where it was after. It was at 125 after, so we went for it.

Dinosaur

Walt Disney World Dinosaur

Dinosaur

The wait was pretty accurate, but maybe not quite a full two hours and 5 minutes. We got on the ride a little after 10pm, enjoyed the incredible adventure and booked it over to Dinosaur for our FastPass, which was up at 10:30pm. Of course, due to the long wait in line, we had to squeeze in a quick bathroom break.

The Dinosaur ride was a very cool dark ride and a bit of a thriller. Both rides were incredibly well done and we will be making sure to hit them both again soon!

Walt Disney World Day #5 – Animal Kingdom

Walt Disney World Animal Kingdom

Walt Disney World Animal Kingdom

My wife has fallen in love with the Animal Kingdom and for good reason. We had this one planned already and we hit the Na’vi River Journey first, followed by the Dinosaur Ride (again).

Na’vi River Journey

It wasn’t the smoothest of nights as we had a Fastpass for the Na’vi River Journey from 5:20pm to 6:20pm, but traffic was horrible. We didn’t arrive at the ride until 6:35pm, but luckily the person in charge was super nice and let us go in with our Fastpass. We did basically power walk the parking lot and park to get there! Regardless, if you’re an Avatar fan, this is the ride for you.

Dinosaur

After the Na’vi River Journey, we decided to head over to the Dinosaur Ride. We did this one already and loved it, so we were back again for some more fun. It certainly doesn’t disappoint and the wait was only 15 minutes!

Kilimanjaro Safari

Along with these two rides, we did the Kilimanjaro Safari right as the darkness it. It was pretty cool to see the animals and the female lion was roaring at us. The giraffes were also acting funny as they nearly blocked the road, which gave us a nice up-close look at them.

The River of Light

The River of Light

The River of Light

Our final Fastpass of the night was for the River of Light show, which was one of the coolest shows I have ever seen. If you’re heading to Disney and you’re excited about fireworks, don’t allow that excitement to make you miss out on this incredible show!

Our night started fast and a bit rough, but ended up to be very relaxing and fun. We even stopped to eat our dinner (packed salads and other things) in the carnival area, which was entertaining to watch.

Recapping the Week

I plan to provide a recap of every week of our year at Walt Disney World. This recap will include some interesting info, any tips we come up with, how many steps I walked and other information.

Weekly Stats

  • Total Days – 5
  • Total Park Visits – 6
  • Steps – 57,535
  • Approximate time at Disney – 26 hours, 1 minute
  • Total # of Rides/Shows – 21

Along with these weekly stats, I have two tips or observations or theories for the week.

First, if you want to see the Magic Kingdom firework show, don’t go on Sunday night. We did this and it took us nearly 90 minutes to get back to our car because the monorail line was insane. I think the issue is the park doesn’t stay open much later than the fireworks on Sundays. I haven’t tested this theory yet, but I believe any other night will be better, especially if you plan to stay until close.

Second, if you’re an annual passholder or you’re planning to go to the parks on Friday night, and you will be driving there, allow an extra 15 minutes or so for travel time. The traffic on Friday was nuts compared to any other time of the week. Even on Thursday morning, when it was pretty bad, it wasn’t as bad as Friday.

Current Top 10 Walt Disney World Rides

  1. Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith
  2. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
  3. Avatar Flight of Passage
  4. Soarin’ Around the World
  5. Dinosaur
  6. Na’vi River Journey
  7. Peter Pan’s Flight
  8. Kilimanjaro Safari
  9. Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
  10. The Barnstormer

That sums up our first week at Disney. Looking forward, we are scheduled to go this week on Monday, Tuesday (all day), Thursday and Saturday. The big day will be Saturday since Toy Story Land opens and we will be getting up before the sun to try and get there early!

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