Student vacation blog: A week in Disney

By Tyler Swartzendruber

My family and I recently went on a one-week vacation to Orlando, Florida. Little did I know that our vacation would also be a learning experience. Although you will not read about everything from my trip, you will learn my personal favorite moments. 

A week after my birthday, we boarded our plane and the experience began. When we landed in Florida, it was 3:00 AM and we made our way to our friends’ house, where we stayed. The 73-degree weather felt great compared to the dark and cold temperatures we left in Pittsburgh.

Monday, March 13 — DAY 1

On the first day of vacation, we traveled to the cultured world of Epcot, a Disney theme park located in Bay Lake, Florida.

Once we arrived, we rode a giant golf ball looking ride that was named
“Spaceship Earth.” The ride was a slow moving ride that teaches visitors about the history of the world.

Continuing our journey in space, we took a ride on Epcot’s newest attraction: the “Guardians of the Galaxy,” which is based on the Marvel movie franchise. The ride features drops, turns, and intense spins. It was a 3-hour wait for “Guardians,” but the wait was worth it.

Afterward, we traveled to France and rode “Ratatouille,” a 3D trackless ride. Passengers wear 3D glasses and look at screen throughout the ride that project scenes from the famous movie.

Once we exited, we were able to hear one of the cast members with a French accent. This hinted at the fact that all cast members working at Epcot represented their own culture.

For the final ride of the day, we took a global tour on “Soarin,” a ride that simulates traveling around the world in a hang glider. All of the rides were good at Epcot and as the French put it, they were, C’est Bon. (It’s Good). 

Tuesday, March 14 — DAY 2

The next day, we traveled to a place full of life and creatures: “Animal Kingdom.”

The second we walked in, it felt like we were on a safari. The first ride of the day, however, truly was a safari: “Kilmanjaro Safaris.” We learned about many animals such as Gazelle, Giraffes, and Zebras.

We then traveled to Pandora, from the movie Avatar, and rode the “Naji River Ride” and “Avatar Flight of Passage.” To conclude the animal section of the park, we watched “It’s Tough To Be a Bug.”

Animal Kingdom doesn’t just have animals, it also has an amazing culture similar to Epcot, though not as much. The theme of the next section of Animal Kingdom was Asia. We were able to ride “Cali Rapid Rivers,” a ride that featured many turns and drops. After, we decided to climb the summit and ride “Expedition Everest.” This ride was cursed with the treacherous Yeti, which was the main point of the ride.

Wednesday, March 15 — DAY 3

On the third day, we arrived in the world’s most magical place: “Magic Kingdom.” Once there, we went to “Tomorrowland,” a futuristic-themed part of the park. The ride that we rode was a Buzz Lightyear-themed shooting game. This ride has people shooting targets to gain as many possible points. Following that we took a rocket ship to space on “Space Mountain,” a roller coaster type ride that included sharp turns and sudden drops. 

We then ventured deep into the gold mines of “Big Thunder Mountain” and learned about the history of gold mining and got to see “real gold.” We next headed to the other side of the park and took a Jungle Cruise, with a witty and informative guide. After that we boarded a ship and almost had to walk the plank in the “Pirates of the Caribbean.”

The final activity of the day was a stop at the “Laugh Floor” of Monsters Inc. We were told witty jokes and were tasked with filling a giant container for laughs.

Thursday , March 16 — DAY 4

For the fourth and final day at Disney, we walked the red carpet in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. We entered Star Wars when we rode “Rise of the Resistance,” one of the most popular attractions in the park. Then we joined the Smugglers on the “Millennium Falcon.” We finally enjoyed a tour of space on “Star Tours.”

We then traveled to the darkest place on Earth, the Twilight Zone and plummeted all the way down on “The Tower of Terror.” We then entered a literal play-pen, Toy Story, and rode the “Slinky Dog” roller coaster. After, we entered the movies in “Toy Story Mania,” a 3D ride that includes spinning and shooting targets. To end the day we took a train ride on “Minnie and Mickey’s Runaway Railroad.”

Friday, March 17 — DAY 5

For the final day of our vacation, we traveled to Universal’s “Island of Adventure” and Universal Studios. We had to do both parks in one day, which required us to get an Unlimited Fast-pass to skip the line.

The first park that we went to was Universal’s “Island of Adventure,” The first ride that we went on was the most popular attraction in the park, “Hagrid’s Magical Creature Motorbike Adventure.” At times the wait time can grow up to three hours, thanks to there being no Fast-pass available for this ride. We were incredibly happy that we were able to go on this ride twice, as it was the only one without a Fast-pass. We were able to accomplish this since we got in an hour early along with other resort guests.

We then visited the Hogwarts Castle and rode “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey,” which is a simulated flying-broomstick experience. Then we entered the pre-historic age by riding the newest roller coaster: “Velocicoaster,” which is a play on the word velociraptor. We then visited the king of monsters, Kong, in the “Reign of Kong Safari.” To end the Island of Adventure we traveled to the Superhero Island and rode “The Incredible Hulk Coaster” and “The Amazing Spider-Man.” We then took the “Hogwarts Express” to travel to Universal Studios.

The first ride that we did at Universal Studios was “Harry Potter and The Escape From Gringotts, ” which is a rollercoaster 3D type ride that includes sharp turns and sudden drops. We took a tour around New York with Jimmy Fallon. The final ride of the day was the “Simpsons Ride,” which simulates being on a roller coaster though not actually being a roller coaster.

Overall it was an amazing trip and I had fun while learning about different cultures. Even though I didn’t mention everything that you can do, I did feature some of things I enjoyed the most. It’s clear that each park offers many different values and experiences.

Whether it’s Epcot with World Culture, or Animal Kingdom’s life science, or even Magic Kingdom’s monarchy system, Hollywood Studios Cinematic Universe or Universal’s Story-book ride creation, they all have one thing in common and teach a valuable lesson. You can learn while also having fun.

From the landscaping, to the food from different cultures, and even the people who work there, they’re all part of the experience that millions enjoy each and every year.

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