You always hear that Walt Disney is the most magical place on Earth. Before I never gave going to Disney much thought. Like so many you have this preconceived idea that Disney is just for kids, and how much fun was I really going to have. Well, I can say that Disney did not disappoint.
I have a friend who is a devoted Disney fan, and after three years finally talked me into going for Halloween. At first, I wasn’t sure, but gave in and made my reservations, booked my flight and packed my only pair of tennis shoes.
At first making the reservations can be confusing, therefore, I highly recommend using a Disney vacation planner for your first time. Booking the hotel room wasn’t hard, but you want to make sure you get park hoppers. Park hoppers allow you to go from one park to another as many times as you want, so if you visit Epcot, but want to go to the Magic Kingdom on the same day you can. The meal plans, in my opinion, aren’t necessary for just one person, but for a family, you might find it more convenient.
So, I’m going to break down each park (there are four) and my experience.
This park was inspired by Walt Disney, it opened in October 1982 and is the second of four parks built. This is a massive park, and spans 300 acres, and is dedicated to human achievement (technological innovation and international culture) Epcot is divided into two sections: eight pavilions make up Future World and 11 world nations of the World Showcase.
This was the first park I visited, and I was there for the International Food and Wine Festival. Aside from that which I barely paid attention to, I was stunned by the World Showcase. From Canada, France, Germany, Japan, and Morocco you go from one country to the other. The France section took my breath away. I really looked as if I was in France, the architecture, lights, and shops are amazing. Then you slowly move from one country to another I just couldn’t believe the scope of how life like it was. Of course, no visit would be complete without a ride on the famous monorail.
Epcot is a must see.
Where do I start, when I walked up to the entrance I thought this isn’t going to go well. My first impression was this is a zoo, I could see this at home. Once again, I was completely blown away. This is my favorite of all the parks if I’m going, to be honest, I was the most impressed with the Animal Kingdom park. You’re going to move from the Africa Butterfly exhibit, the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail, Expedition Everest, Pandora, World of Avatar (you have to get fast passes and experience this ride).
Animal Kingdom opened April 1998 (Earth Day), and is the largest theme park in the world, it has more than 580 acres. The park is centered around the natural environment and conservation. One of the first things you’re going to see is the Tree of Life (an artificial baobab tree, and is 145 feet tall), and you must see the tree at night, the show is amazing and worth wild.
Plan to spend an entire day exploring the park, it’s worth the time.
Animation offers a medium of story telling and visual entertainment which can bring pleasure and information to people of all ages everywhere in the world. Walt Disney
The third park I visited and it’s a time warp back into the “hay day” of glamorous Hollywood in the 1930’s and 40’s. It spans 135 acres and was dedicated to showing innovations in business, film, music, theatre, and television. Originally the park was called Disney-MGM Studios. However, the name was changed to Hollywood Studio’s after MGM didn’t renew its license agreement.
Regardless of its name you can’t help but be intrigued by this park. You walk through a time warp of Hollywood history; the buildings are built perfection. There is one restaurant that is a replica of a 1940’s kitchen, from the curtains, tables to the floor. Even the front counter is typical kitchen counter. Coming to the park is Toy Story Land and Star Wars: Galactic Nights. Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream is a multimedia gallery that showcases the dream of Walt Disney. Here you can see 3-D buildings along with other historical artifacts used by Walt Disney to create his vision.
Hollywood Studios is a cool experience and it’s fun.
THE MAGIC KINGDOM
This is the main attraction for many visitors to Disney World. Opening October 1971, it is the first theme park at the resort. Based on Disneyland all its attractions are centered around Cinderella’s Castle. The park is dedicated to the fairy tales of Disney.
You first enter Main Street and trust me you will be overwhelmed. Main Street is a replica of a typical turn of the century 1900 town. From the storefronts to the costumes and uniforms worn by cast members. However, it’s the castle that took my breath away. The sheer size of the building is incredible.
So, what do you see or experience? There are several areas of the park; Main Street U.S.A., Adventureland, Frontierland, Liberty Square, Fantasyland, and Tomorrowland. Each section has its own unique attractions and rides. These were my must see and do rides and attractions; Space Mountain, Walt Disney Carousel of Progress, Dumbo, It’s a Small World, and Pirates of the Caribbean. Now understand that some of these attractions are older, for example, the Carousel of Progress is from the 1964 Worlds Fair, and takes you on a journey from the turn of the century to the present. While it’s not a fast or exciting ride I came to appreciate the vision of Walt Disney and how Disney strives to move forward.
I was there for Mickey’s Not-so-Scary Halloween Party, and if you have the chance to go, GO! I was blown away by the Halloween production. The castle is transformed with a spectacular light show, and the production of the Hocus Pocus Villain Spectacular is a must see, then there is the Boo-to-You parade. Growing up in New Orleans I have seen my fair share of floats, but these floats just seem to glide on the ground. You can always dress up in costumes (cannot cover the face). And let me just say this, I was standing in the front near the park entrance when the first performance of Hocus Pocus was done, and you can’t hear the music from the stage, how they do this is an amazing mystery to me. Make sure you go see the Haunted Mansion during the day, then stop by at night. Disney completely transforms the mansion, trust me you want to see this.
I highly suggest you purchase your tickets early for the Halloween Party.
Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world. Walt Disney
It was six amazing days exploring Disney World. I wouldn’t have traded this experience for anything. You really want to plan your trip, the parks you want to spend more time at and the attractions you want to see. Plan on doing a lot of walking, buy a good pair of shoes.
Now I want to talk about different aspects of Disney World, from the hotel I stayed, cost of food, and transportation.
There are several resorts to choose from, you can stay at the Disney Yacht Club for about $493 per night, the Dolphin Resort or Pop Century for about $175 per night. I stayed at the Pop Century Resort, its’s themed from the 1950’s thru the 90’s. My room wasn’t fancy, but it was comfortable. What I really love about staying at a Disney Resort is that you can get buses from the resort directly to any of the parks, and from one park to another one. If I remember correctly they run every 20 minutes. Each section has a pool and laundry facilities. But if you’re on a budget or traveling with a large group, you might want to explore staying off Disney property and using a cheaper hotel nearby, most have shuttle buses to the parks.
Dining at Disney World is one of my biggest disappointments. It is not cheap, for example, I got two donuts, an orange juice and it was $8.55, then lunch one pulled pork burger, fries and drink at a cost of $15.00. I couldn’t get over the cost of dining at Disney. It seems to me a little expensive. However, Disney does offer food plans, so maybe if you’re traveling with family or a group this might be a more cost-effective alternative. Just don’t be shocked by the cost. I did dine at Tony’s Town Square Restaurant (Magic Kingdom) and it was worth it, the food is delicious, the portions are good, and the service is right on point (reservations suggested).
Would I go back again? Yes, I would. In fact, I want to go back for next Halloween. Understand that I only saw a small portion of each park. It might take a few more trips to see everything. So, here are a few tips:
So, I highly recommend a Disney vacation, just let your inner child out and let them play. Even it’s just for a few days.
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In 2006 I was talked into going on a gay cruise with my cousin. At first I thought why not? This might be fun and it was freezing in Chicago. So, I made my reservations, booked my flight and headed south to what I thought would be five fun filled days!
Upon arrival and check it everything seems ok, then you realize that you're on a ship that holds up to 3,000 gay men. The party started even before we left port. It is one party after another, and when they say 24 hours a day they mean it. But you come to understand that unless you are a buff, muscle jock you're going to be left out. If you don't think discrimination doesn't happen you're fooling yourself.
By the time we got to St. Lucia I was ready to leave and it was the second port of call. For a short few days I came to understand that this was not what I was expecting. Don't get me wrong for some this is a dream vacation, but the constant parting, men just banging on your door because they are so drunk they're at the wrong room. Then there is the issue of drugs, if you don't think it doesn't happen you are fooling yourself. Drugs were everywhere. The blatant discrimination is prevalent as well. If you don't have the perfect body, the chances that you're going to hook up is non-existent. If anyone tells you differently they are full of shit. Needless to say I checked out at St. Lucia and flew home. For me it wasn't my "cup of tea" to say. I am all about having fun, but not about being looked down upon, judged by body image or involving myself in the possibility of being boarded because of drugs. Most don't understand that in some Caribbean nations it is still illegal to engage in homosexual behavior.
Regardless of what you think the documentary "Dream Boat" by filmmaker Tristan Ferland Milewski is an interesting inside perspective of going on a gay cruise. He follows five men on an international cruise that lasts a week. It's very well done and worth watching if you're interested or thinking of going on a gay cruise.
Image purchased from istock.com and used for commercial use only.
We welcome you to Southern Decadence; one of the largest LGBT events in New Orleans. Held during Labor Day weekend this event draws thousands of visitor's to the city of New Orleans each year. To ensure that you're safe we have put together a few tips and suggestions. For frequently asked questions visit: southerndecadence.net . For a list of events visit: events
WELCOME TO SOUTHERN DECADENCE
If you're either a local or visiting our great city, no perfect day is complete without seeing the magnificent Sydney and Walda Besthoof Sculpture Garden. The garden is set among the magnificent live oaks, pines and magnolias and features 64 sculptures.
This world class collections is comprised of modern and contemporary sculptures and presented a natural setting. This project is the collaborative effort of the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) and the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Foundation.
You will find more than 64 sculptures by some of the greatest artist: Kenneth Snelson, George Segal, Antione Bourdelle, Alison Saar, Seymour Lipton and many more. The gardens are a culture destination for locals and visitors and a unique opportunity to treasure the arts.
For more information visit: noma.org/sculpture-garden
Parking is available within City Park at no cost, and the RTA Streetcar (#47/48) will take you right from downtown to the entrance of the Museum, the gardens are located on the right. You should note that there are certain guidelines for more information visit: noma.org/sculpture-garden-guidelines
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