0113ZZ_0591KP49183491When I found out I would be attending a conference in Orlando, the first thing I thought about was visiting one of my favorite vacation destinations — Walt Disney World. But alone? I had visited with friends and family over the years, but I had never considered visiting by myself.

On the other hand I could stay where I wanted, visit the attractions I wanted and eat where I wanted.

I was simply too close not to take advantage of the situation and pay Mickey a visit.

Day 1

The conference ended at noon. I had rented a car, so it was easy to drive the 45 minutes from Orlando to Animal Kingdom Lodge, my choice this visit. There are many reasons I like to stay at this resort, but most important to me is the acreage surrounding the hotel, home to more than 200 animals and birds including zebras, wildebeests, giraffes and impalas that you can enjoy 24-hours a day.

There are 35 Disney resort hotels to choose from, all offering transportation to theme parks – Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Disney’s Animal Kingdom; water parks – Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon; and Downtown Disney – an entertainment-shopping-dining complex including Pleasure Island, Marketplace and West Side. The transportation factor alone is worth staying on-property let alone the total Disney immersion factor.       

Two other stay-on-the-property-perks I enjoy are Extra Magic Hours and Merchandise Delivery. Every day, Disney hotel guests are offered exclusive time in a WDW theme park one hour before it opens to the public or for up to three hours after park closing. And if you purchase items at select shops throughout WDW, you can have them delivered to your hotel at no charge.

 I arrived before check-in time so I left my luggage with the bellman and headed over to where it all began — the Magic Kingdom. Sitting on 142 acres with the towering Cinderella Castle at its center, the park is divided into seven themed lands.

The one thing I love about WDW is it is always changing and improving, plus you can visit old favorites. Each land takes on a different personality from building facades and employee uniforms to the meticulous landscaping and, of course, the attractions.

0112AT_3408GV55545124-531x800Everyone has their favorite rides and since I am not a roller coaster person, my list is a little on the light side. For me, just walking along watching children drink in their surroundings, being greeted by Disney characters and appreciating the attention to detail is often just as much fun as riding the rides.

At the end of Main Street I took a left toward Adventureland and the Pirates of the Caribbean. This was a favorite of mine long before Jack Sparrow came on the scene. Starring a comical cast of rascals, scoundrels and villains, I embarked on a rowdy boat ride to a Caribbean seaport under siege by a swashbuckling band of pirates. I was humming Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life for me when I left, getting into the rhythm of the day.

Next I headed for Liberty Square and The Haunted Mansion with its 999 ghosts followed by Fantasyland where an expansion is underway. When it is finished Fantasyland will be nearly twice its current size. Storybook Circus is now open featuring a second Dumbo the Flying Elephant ride along with Casey Jr. Splash ‘n’ Soak Station. Other attractions to open in the near future are Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid, Enchanted Tales with Belle, Be Our Guest Restaurant, Gaston’s Tavern, Ariel’s Grotto and The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.

The last two lands are Mickey’s Toontown Fair, which is like walking into a Disney cartoon, and Tomorrowland with Space Mountain, Stitch’s Great Escape! and Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin.

I leisurely strolled back up Main Street, checking out the shops before heading back to my hotel.

Day 2

After a quick breakfast at the hotel I headed over to Epcot which is divided into two lands — Future World and World Showcase. Generally speaking, many visitors begin their visit in Future World, the closest to the main entrance, so I headed for World Showcase featuring 11 nations: Mexico, China, The American Adventure, Germany, Italy, Japan, France, Canada, United Kingdom, Morocco and Norway.0226AW_7987GD_2207

My family always bulked at my meandering through the different country pavilions, so I was a happy camper as I browsed through the many shops and photographed the detailed designs representing the many corners of the world. Disney’s attention to detail is something to be studied and appreciated. It is more than a backdrop for rides and attractions; it is an art form all on its own.

I stopped in France at the Bistro de Paris and enjoyed a leisurely lunch of roast duck breast and, for dessert, chocolate soufflé. I was enjoying this “single” life.

Although there is a lot to see in Future World — The Land, Imagination!, Universe of Energy, The Seas with Nemo & Friends, Innoventions, Test Track and Mission: SPACE — I decided to wait in line for only one attraction, Spaceship Earth. The time-travel journey is history with a little injected humor. Generations building upon generations of ideas, art and inventions is illustrated as guests make their way through significant historic events and into the future.

After a quick stop back at the hotel I was off again, this time my destination was Downtown Disney. The main thing on my agenda was Cirque du Soleil. The show La Nouba, which translates to English as “to party, to live it up,” is filled with action, humor, color and light, blending the traditions of circus with dance, acrobatics and street entertainment. Sounded great to me, and the fact this is the only place this specific Cirque du Soleil show is performed made it a must-see for me.012910_1500ND45612101

I was not disappointed. The 90-minutes raced by as I tried to keep up with the movement, color and seemingly impossible performances.

I am so happy I added this performance to my list of things to see and do.

Day 3

Another busy day was on the horizon. I wasn’t leaving WDW without visiting all four parks; Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Disney’s Animal Kingdom were on the itinerary.

When you enter Disney’s Hollywood Studios, a working film, TV and radio studio, you walk down Hollywood Boulevard toward a giant Mickey’s sorcerer hat and Graham’s Chinese Theater, which houses The Great Movie Ride. As with the Magic Kingdom’s castle and Epcot’s Spaceship Earth, this is the park’s centerpiece.

Just off Hollywood Boulevard are Sunset Boulevard and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, and Beauty and the Beast-Live on Stage.

The Backlot features Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show; Muppet«Vision 3-D; and Star Tours – The Adventures Continue.KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

The last area is Mickey Avenue Animation Courtyard where Toy Story Mania!, Voyage of the Little Mermaid and The Magic of Disney Animation are located.

Other attractions include: The American Idol Experience, Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular!, Studio Backlot Tour, Fantasmic!, Disney Junior – Live on Stage and Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream.

The heart of the park is designed to look like Hollywood of the 1930s and 40s and is fun to explore. But I made sure to ride my two favorites before I left — The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and Star Tours – The Adventures Continue.

After a late lunch I headed over to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, a combination zoo and theme park as only Disney can do it. Divided into five themed lands, the park is home to about 1,500 animals representing 250 species — most acquired from zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums.

0524ZZ_0240GDAnother interesting statistic is there are more than 4 million trees, plants, shrubs, vines, grasses and ferns. As soon as you enter the park you are surrounded by a lust forest. I slowed to a stroll and began to take in the beauty and relax after my hurried morning.

I bypassed Camp Minnie-Mickey, home of the Festival of the Lion King stage show and character greetings, and headed straight for Discovery Island. Here is the park’s centerpiece, The Tree of Life, which houses It’s Tough to be a Bug, a great 3-D and special-effects show.

 Africa was next. Here I boarded a truck for the Kilimanjaro Safari into an area where

lions, zebra, giraffes and other magnificent animals roam.

Next, Asia — Home of Expedition Everest, a runaway train adventure, Kali River Rapids, a white-water raft adventure through a threatened rainforest, and Maharajah Jungle Trek, a walking journey past Asian ruins and live exotic animals including tigers and giant fruit bats. I took the walk. It wasn’t crowded, so I was able to stay in my meditative and calm state, just relaxing and enjoying my surroundings.

DinoLand U.S.A., home to the thrill ride DINOSAUR, a great play area for children and the stage show “Finding Nemo-The Musical was the last area I visited before heading back to the hotel.

Later I enjoyed a delicious dinner at Boma-Flavors of Africa and had one more look around the gift shop before calling it a day.

Day 4

After I checked out, I headed for the airport with my luggage bulging with souvenirs, my camera filled with priceless images and my mind reeling at all the wonderful adventures I had been on.

The next time I visit I am sure it will be with my family, but I’m glad a little alone time didn’t prevent me from enjoying the sights and sounds of WDW.

If you go:

For more information about Walt Disney World Resort call 407-939-6244 or visit the website at disneyworld.com.

For more information about Cirque du Soleil call 407-939-7600 or check the website at https://shop.omniticket.com/wdw/wcq