10 December 2016

 
The wonder of a trip through The Magic Kingdom
Thrills galore and magic memories - TV presenter Andrea Catherwood finds Disney World has it all (and even a Mickey Mouse cocktail)
Fairytale memories
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he southern drawl blares through our hire car's windows as we pull into the hotel's parking bay. 'Have a magical evening, go make some memories,' the voice says. As we enter the lavish lobby of the Grand Floridian, a colonial-style palace of a hotel, an orchestra on the balcony is playing Disney show tunes. Half an hour later, having settled into a suite of rooms comfortably larger than my first flat, and with our three boys tucked up in bed, we're sitting down to enjoy a cocktail in the balmy night air.

My daiquiri arrives with huge lime slices on the glass to look like Mickey Mouse ears. This is luxury Disney. The following morning dawns bright and clear, just as Walt intended, and we get our first true idea of the scale of Disney World, covering 43 square miles. Alongside the four theme parks and two water parks there are 23 hotels and five golf courses. A monorail and ferry provides transport, but a car is very useful. The only place to start is the Magic Kingdom. A stroll down Main Street USA leads to the towers of Cinderella's fairytale castle.
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The colonial-style palace of the Grand Floridian
Meet all your favourite characters at Disney World
we hurtle through the cosmos on an indoor rollercoaster. Then to Splash Mountain which combines a trip around Brer Rabbit's briar patch with a watery plummet, all to the tune of Zip-A-Dee-DoDah - the holiday anthem. For space-and-speed-mad kids, Epcot proves a hit with its shuttle simulator Mission Space and the boys' favourite, Test Track.

They designed a car on screen and then 'tested' it on a ride that breaks through walls and races around the outside of the building. To avoid queues we booked fast passes online for the most popular rides. And it's possible to hire a guide, who helps plan your day and cut all queues. A guide costs 315 dollars an hour for a minimum six hours - but a group can comprise up to ten. We had this indulgence for one day and it was wonderful. Zoe collected us from our hotel and enchanted our sons with 'inside stories' while we walked straight on rides.
With three boys, however, I have no chance to indulge my inner fairy princess. Pen marks on the wall at home had established that all three topped the minimum height requirement for white-knuckle rides. So it was straight to Space Mountain where, for the first of many times, I have my spleen pinned against my spine as we
"My daiquiri arrives with lime slices on the glass to look like Mickey Mouse ears. This is luxury Disney."
There was clear photographic evidence the boys were terrified falling down a lift shaft in Twilight Zone Tower Of Terror and looping the loop on Aerosmith's Rock 'n' Rollercoaster, but they promised it was the most fun they've ever had. Zoe also secured front-row tickets for two live shows involving stunt driving and copious amounts of fire.

They probably wouldn't have made it on to our itinerary if we hadn't had a guide, yet they turn out to be highlights. And we still have time to wave at Mickey Mouse in the daily parade of Disney characters and floats. We venture out of Disney only for a butter beer with Harry Potter at Universal Studios (for the boys) and a visit to Bloomingdales (for me).

Our hotel by the Seven Seas Lagoon has two vast pool areas, including a waterslide.
"Disney creates a bubble where real life concerns do seem to disappear. That in itself makes for a magical family holiday."
The pool at the Grand Floridian provides fun for all ages
Sunset at Cinderella's Castle, Magic Kingdom
Enjoy a drop on Splash Mountain
Every evening they rush back for a swim, marshmallows around a firepit and movies on the beach. Meanwhile we eat excellent seafood at Narcoosee's waterfront restaurant, a great spot from which to watch the fireworks that light up Cinderella's castle at 9pm each night. Disney creates a bubble where real life concerns do seem to disappear. That in itself makes for a magical family holiday. We revelled in escapism and did indeed make great memories. I may never get to have tea with the Princesses but I'm pretty sure I have room for another Mickey Mouse-eared cocktail.


Original article published in May 2015. All info and prices correct at time of publication.
 
 
 
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