My family and I went to Disney World in October 2012. This is part 3 of my 4 part series looking at the trip. Read Part 1: Downtown Disney, Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Part 2: Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom.
One of the things our kids enjoyed most in Disney World was pin trading. The idea's simple enough: Disney sells small pins which you can trade with other people. Many visitors (ourselves included) buy a laneyard with some stock pins on it, and then acquire more pins as they shop around the various parks.
Simple enough, but Disney's masterstroke (and I don't know if this was their idea, or if they ran with it -- it's brilliant either way) was that employees all wore the lanyards and would trade with you if you asked. Our kids loved this; they'd chat with Disney employees every chance they got, looking for pins and then trading for their favorites.
It was funny to see which way the kids' interests carried them: StarGirl started collecting pins inspired by Fantasia before discovering Figment the Dragon pins and switching to those. NeutronLad, on the other hand, wasn't quite sure what he wanted until he'd been there for a day or so, and then decided to start collecting baby animal pins (e.g. Baby Mickey, Baby Minnie, etc.) I got a few pints myself, including a Jedi Mickey Mouse, the demon from Fantasia, and baseball pin with Mickey in a Mets uniform (really, how could I resist that last one?
Before we went to Disneyworld we asked the kids if they wanted a character breakfast, in which they could have a meal with the costumed critters. They didn't. We also asked if they wanted to get character autographs. They just shrugged.
And then we got there. We started off slow, getting Chip and Dale, Peter Pan, and a Green Army Man, but two days before we left NeutronLad asked when he was going to get Mickey's signature.
Huh. Didn't see that one coming. The less popular characters are easy to get, but people stand in line for 45 minutes trying to get a Mouse signature. Neither Sue or I were looking to do that, but then we got lucky: when we were able to get into Epcot early on our last day. We happened to walk past the "character spot", where you could get autographs from all of the biggies: Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, and Goofy ... and there was no wait. I quickly jumped in line and 15 minutes late the kids had their autographs.
One of the biggest changes since our last visit to Disney World was the addition of Fastpass, which is a supreme lesson in deferred gratification. The idea is that you show up at a popular ride and get a ticket to go on the ride at some future time, usually in hour or two. Rather than standing on line for 45-60 minutes, you could go do something else, come back at your appointed time, and jump right on the ride.
And it actually works! We'd read about this before going to Disney World, and planned on using it in Epcot and the Magic Kingdom. It worked brilliantly; while others were waiting in line for an hour, we rarely waited longer than 10 minutes.
That said, you have to think ahead, or you'll just end up spending that time wandering aimlessly. We knew which rides we'd want to hit first, and which ones we wanted to Fastpass. With that knowledge we were able to schedule things so that by the time we got off our initial rides, the Fastpass rides were ready to go.
Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom Trading Card Game
Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom is a trading card game unlike any other I've played. Families can pick up packs of trading guards from guest services in the Magic Kingdom. Once they have the cards, they can follow a map to special kiosks that scan the cards and initiate a Disneyfied augmented reality game in which the kids try and defeat various Disney villains.
We spent about 45 minutes running around Frontierland in the Magic Kingdoms attempting to defeat Scar, the evil lion from The Lion King, who had been resurrected and sent back to earth by Hades, the big bad from Hercules. The game kiosks are hidden around the various store fronts, and once you find one a short video plays. At the end of it you pick a spell from your hand of cards, hold it up, and hope that it defeats the monster.
The kids seemed to like it but it was exhausting and time-consuming for us, not unlike Agent P's spy adventure in Epcot. Like the Epcot version, this game struck as something great for your second or third trip to Disney World, when you've already seen everything and are looking for something new to do. Playing it on your first trip can be fun, but it can also bog you down.