Eat’n Out! Just Another Day at Disney

Published 5:24 pm Saturday, August 5, 2023

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Column written by Robert Duke

Just spent a whole week of quality time with our youngest two grandchildren. They were young enough they had never been to Disney. We were lucky enough and healthy enough to go with them. Let me say right up front that my wife, kids, and grandkids had a wonderful time. Me? I have gotten old and grumpy and that had a huge impact on my visit. But, don’t tell anybody, I had a great time too. I have never been so happy to be so hot and tired. So much has changed with people and the world that it has changed my whole perception of what Disney has become. It has definitely changed with the times.

My wife and I have been taking our kids to Disney parks for most of our adult life. This time it has been quite different, and fun, for us taking more of a back seat to our kids watching how they maneuver with and plan for taking their own kids from place to place in multiple parks.

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We have been to Tokyo Disney, Paris Disney, and multiple trips to the one in Orlando. All of them were fun but boy have they changed over the years. Yes, the parks have added different and even more exciting rides and shows but I don’t think it’s the parks that have changed so much as it is the mass of people you are completely surrounded by at all times. What they have more of than anything else is people. Lots and lots of people. Not a problem but it’s the new, selfish-I-have-to-be-first people that can be a problem. I know I am old and that likely made me hotter and more tired than before, but I still don’t think people are as cordial as they used to be. I remember a fun, laid back, Disney where everyone was wearing a smile. We here in the South are funny about how we greet each other. When we meet someone face-to-face, we look them in the eye, smile, nod, and say “hi” or “whatsup” or something like that. At Disney, not so much. People most often won’t meet your eye or let you go first or do anything else kind or cordial. They are hyper-focused on herding their crew to the next thing. In the Summer months it has a lot to do with whining kids, steamy temperatures, and long lines. But everyone would benefit from adding a little kindness, generosity, and selflessness to their trip.

I remember years-gone-by leisurely strolling from place to place with a printed map in my hand (or no map) just enjoying the park as it reveals itself to me. Yes, they had lines at the rides back then and nobody likes that. But now? The lines are multiple hours long. Almost all of them. I have never been herded, bumped, pushed, ignored, cut off, stomped, or tripped more anywhere on the face of the planet. But the kids had a ball. Even with all the planning, rushing, and sweat, we helped those kids make some lifelong memories I hope they will treasure.

Now you must plan your visit to the multiple parks by scheduling the day you will be in each park. You can “park hop” in the same day but that must be scheduled too and must be after 2:00 pm. They must limit the number of people scheduled to visit each park and strictly control who goes where.

If you stay at Disney Park Resorts, there are limited resources available to eat. I am spoiled when it comes to food so that is important to me. Where we stayed, they had four different “sit down” restaurants and one cafeteria style restaurant. I think we only had to wait once. We had reservations at the regular restaurants. The sit downs though were quite expensive. I will say though that they had some very good chef-prepared meals. Except for the “Animal Kingdom” park, the other parks were somewhat limited in food choices. They offered cold drinks, burgers, hotdogs, corndogs, and things like that mostly. At mealtimes we found it too difficult to get into the regular restaurants in the Parks. Mainly because thousands of your closet friends were doing the same thing. We had reservations at the Animal Kingdom Park to eat at the “Rainforest Café” and we all thoroughly enjoyed that. Menu was expansive, food was good, and the restaurant is very exciting for the kids and adults like me who think like a kid.

If we wanted, we could always get in the car and drive “off campus” in search of another restaurant though, at the Resort, we did enjoy the convenience of walking from our rooms to the restaurants and not having to drive somewhere.

Each person wears a wrist band or uses their ticket card or cellphone in the resorts and parks, that is tied to a credit card and that’s how you eat at your resort or hotel, get into the parks, eat, and buy anything in the parks. I don’t think they do any money in the parks anymore. I think that is a definite advantage. No money means you can’t lose it or have it stolen. But you still must make extra sure you keep tight control on your wrist band thing (magic band), card or cellphone. One of the grandkids lost their magic band on a ride and we had to mount an expedition to go find it. Not a huge deal but there were some tears involved. Not mine. If that thing fails for some reason, you can’t do much of anything.

One last thing. I cheated this trip. I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the younger adults and much less the kids so, I rented one of those old person scooters to use from the time I left my hotel room in the morning until I came to a screeching halt back in that same, air-conditioned room in the evening. Because of it, I think, even though I was the old man, I was the least tired of the whole group at the end of each day. I couldn’t tell you how many miles those kids little legs pumped out each day. Sometimes they would jump on the scooter with papa and give themselves a little rest. Great memories.