Known for enticing millions of families from all over the world every year, Walt Disney World is an exciting destination for families and couples to forget the “outside world” and relax amongst fairytale surroundings. With admissions prices running $100 per person per day, a trip to the Orlando, Florida theme park isn’t exactly easy on the wallet, yet the park’s long lines and fast food choices do not exactly give off the feel of an upscale getaway.
Disney, however, has built its movie franchises around the concept of an ordinary lifestyle transforming into an extraordinary one (“Cinderella,” anyone?). Along this line of thinking, there are ways for visitors to the theme park to be treated nearly as well as the princesses and princes that are featured so prominently in Disney’s beloved movies. By seeking out special events, activities and services, visitors to the park can enjoy something well beyond an ordinary theme park vacation. Special activities offered by Disney can turn any trip into a more memorable experience and help visitors feel as though their lives are nearly as enchanting as the storybook lives of the stars of Disney’s fairytale movies. But no matter how much they spend, visitors should always be careful and try to not lose a glass shoe or eat a poison apple if they can help it…
View the Magic Kingdom fireworks from a private boat
Visitors who pay the approximately $100/day ticket prices to the Disney parks are treated to complementary evening parades, light and fireworks shows. The Magic Kingdom fireworks that happen every night over the theme park’s replica of a fairy tale castle are an especially well-known and beloved part of spending the day at the park. But visitors who do not want to brave the crowds and are not patient enough to withstand the long wait for the show to begin can still enjoy prime seats and stress-free viewing of the firework show. A Magic Kingdom Wishes Cruise on a 25′ tracker pontoon, costing $350, allows a group of up to 10 guests to float on a boat in a nearby lagoon while viewing the show. Visitors can munch on snacks while watching the fireworks and listening to the show’s accompanying music. For an even more memorable version of this activity, private dining on the boat can be arranged (for an additional charge, of course).
Dinner at Victoria and Albert’s
There are several Disney property hotels near the theme park. Disney’s most exclusive hotel, The Grand Floridian, is a Victorian-style resort. Visitors to the hotel can bask in old-world luxurious surroundings when enjoying dinner at the hotel’s restaurant, “Victoria and Albert’s.” A dinner among the opulent decor is certainly reminiscent of a time when travel was more upscale and all guests at hotels were treated with personalized service and luxurious accommodations and dining options. The main dining room at Victoria and Albert’s features prix fixe menu that offers dishes including caviar, lamb, veal and oxtail. A complete meal will start at around $135.00/guest and wine pairings start at $65/guest. An even more luxurious dining experience can also be arranged in the restaurant’s intimate Victoria Room, which offers more personalized and quiet service and meals that have up to ten courses. No shorts and t-shirts will be found in this restaurant: there is a strict dress code requiring dinner jackets for men.
Epcot Seas Aqua Tour
In the theme park that emphasizes learning and discovery, visitors to Epcot can get even closer to one of the educational exhibits by swimming with sea creatures in a 5.7 million gallon saltwater tank. Located in The Seas with Nemo & Friends Pavillion, guests can swim with over 6,000 sea creatures using a supplied-air snorkeling system. Participants in this activity do not need to have a scuba certificate, although those with scuba diving certifications can make other arrangements to take part in the Epcot DiveQuest program. The Aqua Tour experience, which lasts about 2 ½ hours, costs $140/adult on top of the admissions price to enter the park.
My Perfectly Princess Tea Party
What would a Disney World experience be without being treated like royalty? Every little girl who visits the park will probably want to meet one (or several) of the famous fairytale princesses. Instead of waiting in long lines for a picture with the famous characters such as Snow White, Belle and Cinderella, parents can offer an even more memorable experience for their children by paying $250 per 1 adult and 1 child (age 4 to 12) to enjoy tea service with the princesses at The Grand Floridian resort. Additional children are $165 each. This tea party is so popular that reservations need to be made months in advance.
The Grand 1 Yacht
Another memorable way to watch the fireworks is from the luxurious Grand 1 Yacht, which cruises around the Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay near the Magic Kingdom. The cruise, navigated by a captain and a deckhand, will allow passengers an exclusive way to view the Magic Kingdom fireworks at night. In addition, guests aboard the yacht can choose from a variety of menu items to enjoy a private dining experience. A butler service can also be provided at an extra charge. The yacht can accommodate up to fourteen people. Costs begin $480 plus tax for 60 minutes, with dining an additional cost depending on the food and drinks requested.
Behind the Scenes Tour
For those visitors who cannot get enough of Disney World and want to know everything that goes on behind the scenes, Disney offers several “backstage passes” to the behind-the-scenes workings of the theme parks. The “Backstage Magic” tour is for dedicated visitors who want to learn and explore behind-the-scenes of all four parks in one 7-hour day. Walt Disney built in many hidden details in the Magic Kingdom’s “Main Street USA” portion of the park, and visitors on this tour will learn about some of those secrets. Visitors will also learn about how the shows in the Disney parks work, see the craftsmen who build the landscaping and set pieces used throughout the park, and learn about the hidden network of how cast members at the parks are transported from one place to another. It isn’t cheap to discover all of these backstage secrets: this particular tour will set guests back around $250.
Stay at Cinderella’s Castle
Probably the most covetable activity in Disney World is to actually spend a night worthy of a princess in a suite located in the replica of Cinderella’s castle in The Magic Kingdom. Unfortunately, this experience is quite literally priceless, as guests cannot buy their way into the exclusive suite: visitors stay by invitation only. Disney sometimes runs sweepstakes for guests to win a night in the castle. Otherwise, park guests will have to find a prince or princess of their own who can invite them for a stay at the iconic castle.