Top 5 Ideas For Going Beyond the Attractions
Walt Disney World is one of those vacation spots we feel like we can visit again and again. Not everyone understands that, of course, and we Disney addicts get questions along the lines of “But weren’t you just there?” all the time. What those people fail to understand, and what we Disney addicts love so much, is how different the Disney parks are from other theme parks. Sure Disney has great rides and shows, there is something for everyone, from Expedition Everest to It’s A Small World, but the parks offer a lot beyond the attractions. This fall our family is headed to Walt Disney World for an 8-day trip, our longest in quite a while. Our son will be almost 13 and a Disney veteran. We are of course looking forward to all our favorite attractions, but this year and on future trips we will take the time to explore the parks a little deeper. Here are our Top 5 Ideas For Going Beyond the Attractions.
Imagineering –There are tons of books about Disney Imagineering. I’m working my way through the four Imagineering Field Guides, one for each park, and can’t wait to try to spot all the little details these books point out. The Disney parks were built to be immersive experiences and to tell stories. The imagineering team takes a lot of tricks from cinema to pull this off, such as using forced perspective (building the top of a structure smaller in scale than the bottom) to make structures seem taller than they actually are. They designed the transition areas between the “lands” of the Magic Kingdom to be smooth and not jarring to visitors. They use landscaping and architecture and art and technology in subtle ways to make the guests at Disney parks feel like they are inside another world. These things are meant to be unobtrusive, but we are planning to seek them out and learn a little about what makes the magic work
Hidden Mickeys — These are perhaps the worst kept “secret” in Disney world. There are books and web sites devoted to the search for these sets of three circles resembling in various degrees the familiar head and ears of Mickey Mouse. They can be found all over the place, from the attractions to the restaurants to the resorts. Most are intentional and some are coincidence, but the search is fun either way.
Disney Benchmarks — Surveyors and architects use certain fixed points of reference to help in their design and construction work. Many times, these are brass disks a few inches in diameter set in sidewalks and walls. Disney’s designers use these benchmarks as well, but in true Disney style, theirs are just a bit cooler. There are benchmark disks all throughout the Disney property featuring a stylized globe with Mickey ears and the words “Walt Disney World Survey Marker.” Finding these little disks is tricky as they tend to be in seemingly random places and crowds are usually walking right over them, but there are a few websites that can help. Patty Winter’s Disney Benchmark Pages offers either a latitude and longitude for the benchmarks she and her readers have discovered, or sometimes just a general description of the location. We plan to bring our handheld GPS unit loaded with the coordinates, but most smart phones have a working GPS feature which will make hunting these benchmarks much easier. And we hope to find some not on the page so we can add to the list.
Funky Photography — Everyone gets the obligatory shot of the family at the end of Main Street in front of the Cinderella Castle, right? But the Disney parks offer so much more to even the most amateur photographer if you look hard. Disney is all about detail, the names of imagineers and others on the windows of shops on Main Street and the funny tombstones in the Haunted Mansion queue are just a couple ideas. There’s a lot to see and to photograph in about all the queues for Disney attractions, actually. How about the topiary, or the flowers or the fountains? Looking around you with a careful eye instead of rushing from one ride to the next can be a lot of fun, and who knows, you could end up with some new artwork for the living room to remind you of your trip.
Behind The Scenes Tours — Sure it’s fun to research the hidden side of Disney and then go look for it yourself, but for a true look at what goes on “behind the curtain” you’ll want to try one of Disney’s behind the scenes tours. Disney offers a wide range of tour experiences, allowing you to do everything from get a glimpse into the utilidors under the Magic Kingdom to swim in the dolphin tank at Living Seas. There’s a tour that explores the steam trains, one that focuses on the gardens, one that takes you across a rope bridge over crocodiles and one that takes you behind the scenes at all four theme parks in one day. Some of these tours require park admission and some don’t. Some have age requirements as well. We are looking forward to the big behind the scenes tour ourselves, but need to wait a few years as guests must be at least 16 to participate and our son is only 12.
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