Back From Vacation (and Thoughts on Disney World)

Hi, everyone! I am glad to be back, and even gladder that I scheduled a few “recuperation days” after my travel; I was supposed to get back to Cedar Rapids on Monday evening, but thanks to flight delays didn’t end up getting back until Tuesday afternoon, which meant I had two days in a row of not-enough-sleep and too-much-airport (plus jet lag).

It took me until Thursday to feel well-rested again, at which point I spent half the day cleaning out my inboxes and processing all of the work-related stuff that had arrived or accumulated during my absence.

That meant I was ready to start officially working again on Friday — which is to say, today.

But enough about all of that. HOW WAS THE TRIP, NICOLE?

Here are a few photographs to sum it up:

The requisite Disney PhotoPass “glamour shot.” I actually got a bunch of PhotoPass pictures at various locations but only paid for this one; the other photographers didn’t pose me first and the photos didn’t look as polished.
I tried a character breakfast this time around, after being way too nervous to approach characters on previous Disney adventures. The characters play to type, which means that Mary Poppins gave me a lecture and Pooh gave me a hug.
The food was… not as great as all those Instagrammers made it out to be. It was fine, but nothing I’d call “outstanding.” (Think Applebees, or a college cafeteria.) It photographs extremely well, though.

Since I am all about transparency — though I understand that making this kind of statement is a total “your privilege is showing” move — I’ll tell you that I like Disneyland a lot more than Walt Disney World.

That is, I came back from this vacation thinking “well, I don’t ever need to go back here again.”

This isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy myself. I did! There were a handful of truly magical moments, nearly all of which took place around 7 a.m. before the parks got both incredibly crowded and incredibly hot.

But it was a completely different experience than my previous Disneyland trips, and I wasn’t expecting that.

I thought it would be, like, visiting this place I loved, only now it’s larger and has more stuff to do.

It was more like this place is so big that we can’t do everything and we’ve spent so much money that we won’t be able to come back for a while and it’s so hot and the lines are so long and everything is a disappointing compromise and I didn’t want our vacation to be this way.

And this, by the way, wasn’t even what I was thinking. It’s what half the people around me were saying out loud, as we moved slowly through the crowded streets or inched forward in the standby lines.

I was thinking this place is fascinating and people are fascinating and I probably shouldn’t be listening to their conversations so closely but I don’t care and it is so hot I am sweating in places that I didn’t know had sweat glands.

I love the whole Disney immersive crafted experience thing, which is one of the reasons I’ve been to Disneyland multiple times as an adult and am still planning on visiting every Disney park in the world.

But when you enter Disneyland, the courtyards are open, spacious, inviting you to explore. There’s just enough to do that you can do everything in two days, with enough time for an afternoon nap.

When you enter the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, you get shunted down a path, with fewer open spaces. There’s so much to do that you’ll never do it all; thanks to the crowds and the FastPass system, you have to make choices about what you’ll give up before you even arrive.

And, honestly, I loved that part of Disney World — the big exciting spreadsheetable project, making plans about what to do and where to eat and how much to spend, but that’s because I assumed it would stop feeling like a project after I got there.

It doesn’t.

Now I’ll tell you about some of the magical moments.

The resort was outstanding. Port Orleans Riverside was beautiful, the nature trails were beautifully relaxing, and I saw magnolia trees for the first time.

Like many other people, I was completely blown away by Animal Kingdom’s Pandora section and the entire Flight of Passage experience, which included a 90-minute queue. There was so much to look at, with so much detail, that I never felt bored or impatient. Nor was I tempted to play with my phone (that was one of the best parts of the trip, by the way; staying off my phone).

My favorite part, however, was Extra Magic Hour at Hollywood Studios. I went in ready to rope drop Tower of Terror, since I wanted to get over my fear of falling 13 stories as quickly as possible, but the ride was shut down for the entire day. Slinky Dog Dash was also shut down that morning, which meant the lines for Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith and Toy Story Midway Mania were well over an hour long. (Only the big headliner rides are open during Extra Magic Hour, and the Disney sites claim that if you’re quick enough, you can do all of them. This was never the case in reality.)

So while everyone else was waiting in line, I went in the other direction and began exploring the park. Like, “get up close, read the fine print on the MuppetVision 3D signage” exploring. I looked up, to see the jokes and references Disney placed at the tops of the buildings; I spent time examining structures that I might otherwise rush by. There was something magical or unexpected or humorous everywhere I looked, until Extra Magic Hour was over and the park got too crowded to stand still and look carefully at anything anymore.

That’s one of the reasons why I like going to Disney alone. If I’d gone with a group of people, we’d probably have queued for Midway Mania instead.

That said, the next time I go to Disneyland — and I will go back to Disneyland, though I’m somewhat ambivalent about returning to Disney World — I’d like to go with family or friends.

I’ve experienced the magic for myself. Now it’s time to share it. ❤️

NEXT WEEK: how much I spent, plus some of those spreadsheets y’all asked for.

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