Friday, July 6, 2012

Florida Trip: Day 4

Today was the free day of the Triennial Conference, and my family chose to go to Disney World.  We left by about 8:30 this morning and arrived to at the park around 9:00.  After paying the hefty parking fee we rode the monorail into Disney World and started riding rides, having fun, and dropping money like we had holes in our pockets.  We took 294 pictures today, all of which we obviously can't post.  But for a brief selection, see here.

Jamie and Beetz get ready to take off on Dumbo.
We started out by riding the Dumbo ride, and then went on to Winnie the Pooh.  After that we moved on to do It's a Small World, and a few others that I already don't remember (I'm totally shot).  I do remember two rides significantly: Peter Pan and Pirates of the Caribbean.  I remember the Pirates one because it was an absolutely horrible decision to have Hannah go on that.  She was really scared.  The ride was really dark and had some skeletons in it, and at one point there was a pirate ship "shooting" canons at our boat.  I think that's what freaked her out the most.

I thought the Peter Pan ride was the best one we went on all day.  You start out in a ship that's on a track, and as you go along, you can see that the track eventually ends.  I was actually kind of nervous as I saw our car moving towards the end of the track, but we weren't slowing down.  As the track ends, the ship sails up into the air and spends the rest of the ride taking you all over the place from a track on the ceiling.  It was rather unexpected, and the rest of the ride was visually stunning.

Han was really excited to see Cinderella's castle.
It was somewhere between 90-95 in Orlando today, so needless to say, everyone was really hot and sweaty as the day wore on.  One thing that Disney World does well is air conditioning: all of the ride waiting areas are air conditioned, which is kind of strange, considering that none of them are enclosed - it's just cool air going right outside (something that would drive my dad nuts if he were ever there: "We're not paying to cool down the outside!").

Considering Han's recently diagnosed illness, and since both kids were up half the night coughing last night, the day got kind of long pretty quick.  There was some whining and crying, but I think the kids enjoyed themselves well enough.  We got back to the hotel room tonight, ordered pizza, and the kids were out like lights.

Now for some of my personal thoughts about Disney in general.  All my life I’ve heard about how great Disney World/Land is, and how life-changing of an experience it is to there.  Well, I never got to have that experience – until today.  Growing up in a family of modest means, we never had the money to go on vacations to places like Disney World.  In fact, the biggest vacation we ever took during my childhood was a road trip in a 1976 Winnebago to Mt. Rushmore in the Black Hills, South Dakota.  And that was fine with me.

Needless to say, I’ve had kind of a bad reaction to all the folks who have told me how amazing Disney World is.  In fact, I’ve even had people express disbelief that I could actually be a functional human being without having been to one of the Disneys at some point in my life.  Guess what: I’m a normal human being.  My family just didn’t have the money to do that stuff.  I turned out alright.  Actually, I think I’m better for it.  I don’t want to come off as some kind of self-righteous anti-Disney snob, but I balk at the idea that an experience at Disney World/Land is an essential part of a kid’s growing up experience.

My wife, on the other hand, has been to Disney World four times and has fallen in love with it.  Contrary to the way that I was not a Disney kid, she was.  She idolized Cinderella and wanted to be a princess; she fell in love with all the characters and wanted to be Minnie Mouse; whatever.  The point is, that she is one of the folks who believes that, although it may not be essential to a kid’s growing up experience, a visit to Disney World can be a great part of a kid’s life.

Our differing perspectives have caused no small amount of marital discord and difficulty planning our activities whilst in the Sunshine State.  Nevertheless, I relented and we visited Disney World on this, our free day, from the NAB Triennial Conference. 

Now that I’ve been to Disney, I can’t say I’m too impressed.  In fact, my impression of Disney World is basically that it is a more elaborate version of Valley Fair.  Admittedly, I’m not really into amusement parks in general, or rides or roller coasters (nor have I ever been), and I was never really into Disney stuff as a kid.  Of course I knew who all the Disney characters were, but I never had the toys, stuffed animals, t-shirts, or anything else.  I didn’t even really care for the movies or TV shows that much.  I was more into riding bikes, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Star Trek, and baseball when I was a kid.  So there is probably a disconnect that exists that limits how excited I can even get about something like Disney World (then again, I’m not much for Valley Fair, or even the State fair, for that matter).

One thing that did stand out to me, though, was how the good folks at Disney have seen fit to strip you down and shake every dollar you own out of your pockets.  There is a fee or charge for everything Disney.  And anything you might actually want, or even need, to buy is exorbitantly priced.  Our lunch today was from a café that served Burger King-quality food, from which we purchased a hamburger, cheeseburger, hotdog, three French fries, and two pops.  Total price: $33.00.  It wasn’t even that great of food.  Given the price of admission, the parking costs, the food costs, and all the merchandise costs, they must be raking in an amazing amount of money there every day. 

Overall, though, it was a fun trip, and I think the kids enjoyed it (illness and lack of sleep may have hindered their ability to have as good a time as they might have were they in good health and spirits).  At least now I know what all the hype is about, and what I supposedly missed out on as a kid.  But I’d still like to go back to the Black Hills some day!

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