Enter the House the Mouse Built and his Zoo, too

BY October 25, 2011

Chances are, if you live in Southwest Florida, you’ve already experienced all that Disney has to offer: $14 parking, $9 mini pizzas, $100 welcomes. So there is virtually no point in me regaling you with my wonderful weekend at Disney. However, since I get paid to write, it behooves me to detail the trip if for no other reason than to justify writing it off on my taxes.

First things first: If, by some strange chance you have NOT been to a Disney theme park (just as some New Yorkers have never been to the Statue of Liberty or mugged), allow us to alert you upfront—the place is run by a giant four-fingered rat capable of masquerading as a cowboy, a ringmaster and a magician. To a native New Yorker, this, in and of itself, is not impressive, but when you consider his commercial savvy, you must come away impressed. Who knew there was a market for mouse-eared oven mitts? Or mouse-shaped waffle makers? Or mouse-shaped watches? Seriously, Donald Trump has nothing on Mickey.

Nevertheless, if you decide to take the drive up I-75 (or Route 27 past Sebring), here are some things you need to know about the new Disney experience. Everyone has a motorized scooter–even people who don’t need one. You can rent them starting at a mere $25 per day. And those who did looked perfectly ambulatory to me (they also looked lazy and smart). Also, people are bringing their children to the parks at an increasingly younger age. I think we’d all have to agree that kids in strollers are incapable of appreciating any parts of The Great Movie Ride (25-year-olds seem incapable as well). I even saw pregnant women without kids wandering through the parks. Just what they expect a fetus to take away from the outing is anyone’s guess.

Regardless, if you love animals, I can wholeheartedly recommend Disney’s Animal Kingdom. You’ll see silverback gorillas and hippos galore—all within screaming distance. In fact, there are times you’ll like you really are in Africa—except instead of blood diamonds and famine there are stuffed animals and giant turkey leg concessionaires.

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