State of the Parks | 2014

I love “end of year” lists. So after 3 trips to WDW in 2014, I’m looking forward to pitting the parks against one another and chat about the best and worst decisions regarding each of them.

Let’s jump right in…

State of WDW's Magic Kingdom 2014

The bad: The construction walls are a bit hard to take around the hub (but I know good things are coming). I’m also bummed to hear that Island Supply merchandise shop in Adventureland will be a Sunglass Hut in January. Boo. I know this store used to sell products from Billabong and Roxy but it was never blatantly a retail store plopped in the middle of the park. This will certainly change things.

The good: New Fantasyland continues to be beautiful, even if there isn’t a ton to do. I think Mine Train is a wonderful addition, and hope the lines die down soon so I have more of a chance of riding it. The additions to Jingle Cruise this year were so well-done, and I hope they continue to have these holiday overlays.

Worth checking out: Waffle sandwiches at Sleepy Hollow, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and a loop around the park with the actual Walt Disney World Railroad.

Overall: B-. It’s never going to be the park I want to visit to feel “relaxed” (unless it’s raining… that post will be coming in January too) but I still have a good time here and feel like my day can be adequately filled up with things to do. The lines may not be great and some of the construction is an eyesore but I’m hopeful for the changes to come.

State of WDW's EPCOT 2014

The bad: Frozen has chipped away at World Showcase’s identity with the closing of Norway’s Maelstrom attraction. It’s set to be replaced with a Frozen-themed ride. Sigh. This was a real heartbreaker, even for me, someone who was never so so attached to this attraction. Not only is the final product a part of a lazy (and money hungry) decision, but the closing leaves the World Showcase even more void of things to do. In addition, many long-time entertainment groups were replaced around the World Showcase. Some changes were great, and some weren’t. All in all, things are in a state of flux in World Showcase. I wish I had anything to say about Future World but it continues to be disappointing.

The good: Throw tomatoes at me but the opening of the Starbucks in Future World is one of my own personal highlights. At least you can get some good coffee while you wander around and figure out what you are going to do? Am I right? WHY DON’T I HAVE MORE TO SAY HERE?

Worth checking out: Spaceship Earth never lets me down. Be sure to say hi to Alice or Mary Poppins in the United Kingdom too.

Overall: C+. Epcot doesn’t hold the allure for me like it did even last year. (I’ll write about this more in January.) It feels disjointed, and I hate that the only time there are “things to do” are when there are festivals. The Flower and Garden in the spring and Food & Wine in the fall are both wonderful events but the idea of paying more than park admission to feel like going to Epcot is worth my while defeats the purpose and isn’t in my budget at the moment.

State of Disney's Hollywood Studios 2014

The bad: The problems continue to escalate at this park. The closing of the Backlot Tour and AFI Showcase are big blows, but has made it easy for the company to capitalize even more on Frozen: sing-a-longs, a summer-long celebration, ice skating, and new merchandise locations. It’s been said many times, many ways but there isn’t a ton to do at DHS these days. Rumblings of a future expansion have been popping up for a long time… hopefully something will be announced in 2015.

The good: Goodbye, Sorcerer’s Hat. It was nice knowing you. It was announced the hat in front of The Great Movie Ride will be removed in the first month of 2015. This leads to the awesome partnership between TCM and Disney. Classic Disney material will be featured on the channel and the Great Movie Ride will get a much needed facelift. I couldn’t be happier about this news.

Worth checking out: It’s understood I want you to visit MuppetVision, but don’t forget to take a walk down Sunset Blvd and take in the amazing talents of Citizens of Hollywood.

Overall: D; DHS continues to suffer from identity problems and if someone was buying a one-day park ticket, I wouldn’t be recommending this park as one of their stops. I predict things will be looking up by this time next year.

State of WDW's Animal Kingdom Kingdom 2014

 

The bad: More construction walls than ever because of the assembly of Rivers of Light. The picturesque spots I love so much are interrupted by the sight of cranes and things. So that’s no fun plus there’s a big traffic problem on the pathway between Africa and Asia. HUGE HUGE HUGE. (This will be fixed soon too.)

The good: Do I have ten days to explain? Africa’s New Harambe section is beyond brilliant, even if it just houses The Festival of the Lion King at the moment. It’s well-themed, there’s great new audio loops, and so many little details to look at. I absolutely feel at ease and wonderful there. The trails continue to be a place to spend a lot of time and enjoy the animals, and the restaurants and food selections are dependably good if you want to sit down for a longer meal or find something quick. I love that I never feel like I’m on a super strict schedule when I’m in DAK because there is always a bit of nature to see and I can go wherever the day takes me.

Worth checking out: Grab a drink at the Dawa Bar (sugar cane mojito) and grab a seat for the musical stylings of Burudika.

Overall: A-. The park has only gotten better with time, and I find myself wanting to spend more and more of my previous vaca minutes in this theme park compared to the others. (Ahem, it’s so not a half-day park.)


Frozen fever, construction walls, and closings. 2014 has been an interesting year for Walt Disney World. It’s also my first year in a long time with an annual pass and I’m just not so sure I’ll be renewing in the spring. I love each and every moment I am down there (don’t get me wrong) but I find myself seeking out entertainment outside of the parks more and more. (Not necessarily a bad thing either because these opportunities enhance the WDW experience so much too.)

So what does this mean as far as my vacations go? We already have a short trip planned in January but after that, we are going to see where the wind takes us. I’m looking forward to exploring a new location (non-Disney) and toying with returning to the parks in early December so the Mr. can get a chance to check out the holiday decorations. (Christmas in Magic Kingdom is amazing and magical, even if I never want to be down there for the exact holiday.) So we’ll see…

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the parks this year, and what you are envisioning for your own travel plans in 2015. Thanks so much for taking time to listen to mine!

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A book publicist who loves writing about Disney and books, and sometimes Disney books.

One thought on “State of the Parks | 2014

  1. I’m sad to say that I agree about EPCOT, which has been my favorite park for many years. There are still elements that remind me of the place that I loved, but it’s so disjointed and needs a lot of love. What’s sad is that I think it will be a long time. DHS needs even more help and will get it next after the Animal Kingdom. EPCOT is still drawing too well because of special events and World Showcase to really get the major overhaul that it needs in Future World.

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