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Mickey's World
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Mickey's World
  Orlando Travel Tale

by Lorry Patton

Ever since Mr. Disney introduced Mickey Mouse in the classic 1928 cartoon Steamboat Willie, we have loved the happy little mouse with the big ears. Is it any wonder then, that we find Disney World such an adorable place? It's the gateway to Mickey's world, full of magic and wonder step through and reality disappears. The streets are clean, the buildings are brightly painted, questions are answered with a smile, transportation is available around ever corner, and Mickey and his friends are there to make us giggle and laugh.

Located in Lake Buena Vista in central Florida, the Disney World Resort is bigger than many towns. The complex covers forty-seven square miles, employs more than 40,000 people, and is separated into theme sites. In the familiar Magic Kingdom, we visit the West, the past, and the future, and shop and mingle with Disney characters. At Epcot Center we learn about the world around us and interact with the displays. At MGM Studios, we question what is real and what is make-believe the special effects are that realistic.

Lesser-known sites are Discovery Island, a tropical reserve where macaws, tortoises, monkeys and Florida's precious pelicans and flamingos abide, and Pleasure Island, a six-acre entertainment complex with restaurants and nightclubs offering good food, dancing, live jazz, rock bands, and comedy acts.

Blizzard Beach, Typhoon Lagoon, and River Country are sites with enough puddles, ponds, and water slides to satisfy a duck. Six golf courses eliminate any excuses a golf devotee might contemplate when planning a family vacation here, and fourteen resort hotels constructed in styles from different eras and destinations offer up to 22,464 beds. The Disney Institute, a recent addition, is a place we can pursue real life hobbies, such as rock climbing, right on site.

Yes, it takes preparation and more than the two days we had to see it all.

Our gateway to Mickey's world was at Fort Wilderness, a deluxe campground with 784 campsites and 408 modular homes for rent. Interestingly enough, these homes were once for people who couldn't get a reservation in the hotels. Now guests who want woodsy surrounding specifically request them.

In seconds we were driving on roads that twisted through 700-acres of cypress and pine, past cosy sites that come complete with charcoal grills and picnic tables.

Most people don't know Fort Wilderness exists, let alone its extensive host of amenities: swimming, fishing, tennis, trails, bikes, marine rentals, horseback riding Huck Finn never had it this good. Kids and grownups were having a grand old time plunging into the "Ol Swimmin Hole" at nearby River Country.

At Pioneer Hall, Crockett's Tavern was filling with hungry patrons. Some families opted to have dinner at the campfire in the middle of the campground where Chip and Dale were leading a sing-along. Others were buying grub at the Trading Post to take back to their units. The Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Review was just as busy. In fact, there is so much going on at Fort Wilderness, some folks never travel beyond its borders. However, knowing the rest of Mickey's world was just a tram ride away was too tempting for me. Especially after watching the electrifying flotilla of sea monsters on the Seven Seas Lagoon. The scenes reminded me of the nightly fireworks and laser show at Epcot Center that I surely did not want to miss.

Like most of Walt Disney's invention, the rides and pavilions in Epcot Center involve action, animation, and journeys through time and space. Spaceship Earth took us to every corner of the world, while Journey into Imagination showed us how the tiniest idea can trigger a giant innovation. The Wonders of Life shrunk us to the size of a blood cell and the Living Seas carried us beneath the ocean.

Now, I've traveled a bit in my lifetime and you might think I would find the World Showcase Pavilions artificial, but I did not. Each pavilion brought back memories of my visits and it was comforting to see the pavilions share the best of the nations they represent. China, Mexico, Germany, Italy, Japan, Morocco, Canada, the United Kingdom, France Norway, and America are staffed with nationals, and they depict their cultural differences in song and dance. It's my favorite of Disney Worlds' attractions, next to Mickey and the fireworks.

The festivities don't end when the sun goes down. Every night the sky explodes with a bang, and showers of golden embers pour into the lagoons. The Magic Kingdom has a night fireworks display and the IllumiNations show at Epcot Center is sensational. I can still see the outlines of the World Showcase buildings framed in fiery lights and shooting rockets. It is as brilliant a show as any Fourth of July performance and an unforgettable finale to a visit.

Mickey lives in a new exhibit called Toontown Fair, however because we love him so much and there are so many of us, supervising and scheduling his appearances are necessary. They post the spots and times clearly throughout the park so we can have a private moment with our favorite mouse. On occasion, we can find him at home or visiting Minnie at Toon Town Fair. When he's away Goofy is there to take us on an exciting roller coaster ride.

Disney World is the biggest and the best of Walt Disney's creations. New events take place regularly and a constant stream of innovative projects are always underway. The most recent is Disney's Animal Kingdom. It is five times the size of the original kingdom Walt Disney envisioned for Florida in 1965. And to think it all began with Mr. Disney and a mouse.

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