Everyone has their favorite park, don’t they? So what is yours?
We ask that because when people take surveys, guess what one park always comes out as No. 1?
The Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando.
Year in and year out, it always gets the most visitors. Many millions.
It also gets the vote when it comes to a different standard that goes above measuring buyers of Disney World Orlando tickets:
That is how visitors respond when asked about their favorite park.
Magic Kingdom wins every time.
The “favorite park” question is often asked without guest’s having to also answer another query:
Please explain why.
That raises a question:
Why is that?
Why the Magic Kingdom?
What is it about the Kingdom that not only brings out the highest numbers for Disney World ticket buyers but also makes so many immediately cite it as their favorite park?
It was the first
It can’t be nostalgia.
Though the Kingdom does have that.
You may recall it opened way back in 1971 as Disney’s Florida project. It was the first park then.
The only park then as well.
There were only two hotels on the property then: Disney’s Contemporary Resort and Disney’s Polynesian Resort.
Only two choices of where to stay if you wanted to be right here to catch the new monorail running on tracks right outside your hotel.
There were then only 23 attractions. And guess what?
Twenty of them were copies from California’s Disneyland.
Only three rides/attractions were unique here.
If you lived in California, you could have stayed there and found just about everything that was here.
Park-goers then may have voted for the Magic Kingdom as their favorite because it was the only one of its kind in Orlando.
Choices have grown over the years
Obviously, there are more choices today. More parks at Disney.
And more parks elsewhere as well.
LEGOLAND, Busch, Universal. Ticker buyers have a lot more choices today.
But after almost a half century, the Magic Kingdom still remains its title:
We do have some answers…among them the variety or attractions that cuts across many age groups and appeal to just about everyone at the Kingdom.
But let’s look at our own top ten reasons for going to theme parks.
Just to see if these are maybe the same reasons you yourself have when you think about the subject…or when someone asks you about your favorite park.
So why do we love theme parks?
Some of our own reasons may surprise you.
Because we are not saying it is the bright lights or even the thrilling rides that make us come again and again.
Something to consider
Modern day parks cater to people in ways that are often more involved than we might think.
As one psychologist put it:
"The modern amusement park is, beneath the flash and the chaos, a carefully tuned psychological machine.”
Why we love them
In no particular order, here are our reasons for you…and a chance to compare our own thinking with your own:
No. 1: Photos. Or photo ops.
Your photo equipment has changed over the years. But not the basics.
Of course, old fashioned cameras have given up to cell phones. But the principles are the same.
Getting your picture or your son or daughter or someone in your family standing beside Mickey Mouse
Don’t we all love photos?
How many people do you see shooting photos anytime at Disney or elsewhere?
Positive and obvious proof of its popularity.
Is it as much fun to look over your pictures back home as it is to actually experience it?
Or is it as much fun today to post the photos on Facebook for the rest of the world to share with your own family?
The answer here may very well be yes.
No.2: Park food.
In the past, this would hardly quality as a reason go to there.
Hamburgers and hot dogs only
The variety today is simply amazing.
And the freedom to eat whatever you want? Also worth the experience. No one to remind you that large cans of soda pop with unlimited refills are bad for you.
All you want of Popeye’s spinach (not as healthy as it was for him). Donald Duck waffles. No one to disturb your peace of mind about “empty calories.”
And think of all those calories you burn up walking endless miles?
No. 3: A different world…or a getaway from your normal one.
Face it: if you’re like most of us, getting up to the morning buzz of the alarm clock to look at another day at work is not your main goal in life. But we all dream…of another way of life.
Theme parks make this dream a reality.
They create this entire new atmosphere of anticipation, then satisfaction. Sure, it’s escape from the mundane.
A theme park life of fantasy that is all yours.
You get out of the normal routine of life. Call it escape but it’s more than that. It’s also something we all need.
Memories also count
No. 4: Memories. Don’t ever discount them.
A theme park trip is memorable. For all of us.
Years from now, you will think back on it. Maybe even look again at your photos.
Consider this: buying a first-time home or even a used car is something most people remember for life.
But studies have shown that buying anything pales in comparison to your experiences. Memories, yes.
They also make you happier than anything you can buy.
So you load up on them at theme parks. And they are return gifts to be brought out whenever you think about it.
No. 5: Engineering. Or design.
Modern skyscrapers of 100 stories and flying in airplanes at 30,000 feet in the air are what might be known as “awesome” feats to our distant ancestors. But what might they think of the design loops of a roller coaster?
Or the marvel of virtual reality rides?
Or even just to view the evening’s fireworks at Walt Disney World Resort?
We take these things for granted most of the time.
But when we visit Disney or Universal, we are reminded of all the scientific achievements that make up today’s parks.
We get a renewed appreciation of the technology that has defined and enriched our own lives.
Returning to childhood
No. 6: At the same time, a park experience for an adult helps remind us of our own childhoods.
It makes us appreciate that special time when your used crayons to color instead of ink pens to write. Or read comic books instead of the daily newspaper.
You may still do childish things as an adult. Maybe even read comic books.
But a theme park lets you recall that child in you. There is no better place to remember it.
It is the playground for both young and old. Or older, we should say.
No. 7: The thrills.
Roller coasters are the best example.
They are at the same time thrilling. And scary. But deep down, you know you are safe.
You are afraid. But you get over it.
The fear builds as you slowly climb the track, knowing you also have to go back down it.
Your hair whips in the wind as you speed down the hill at what seems to be an impossible speed.
It’s a rush.
And then it’s over.
Rush of roller coasters
And you are relieved that you survived. And perhaps a little disappointed, too, because that particular thrill is now over.
No. 8: Down-to-earth fun.
At the same time, a theme park offers thrills AND sober fun.
There’s no real adventure in eating an ice cream cone. But doing it at a park surrounded by happy people is a treat in itself.
They…the others around you…are having fun.
So are you.
So even the simplest things you do…eating a slice of pizza or taking a ride on the train at the Magic Kingdom...or just walking around to see the shops at Epcot are shared experiences. Improved because you are not alone.
No. 9: A good place for a date.
A theme park is not only good for that, it is great for couples.
Yes, simple as that.
You can only be a very lukewarm fanatic to realize a date here is a great way to judge any future relationships.
And not because you can grab her or his hand during a roller coaster ride.
Psychologists say studies have shown that couples often first become attracted to each other during unusual situations.
What could be more abnormal than a trip to a theme park?
And what better way to determine the chances of your future relationship than a discussion of what to do next while walking through Tomorrowland?
No. 10: The variety of things to do here.
A theme park’s unique combination of thrilling options and “tame rides,” a variety of shows and special events such as evening fireworks, varied food offerings and overall pleasure-creating ambiance for all ages.
Which brings us to the Magic Kingdom. And its popularity.
It certainly has some of the best known rides offered anywhere.
Designed for both adults and children
Old favorites remain here because they stay in style. And don’t get worn out because their level of enjoyment is universal.
The Magic Kingdom is full of them.
As one commentator puts it:
“The Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World is known more for its boundless charm, immersive themes, and cuddly characters than for white-knuckle, thrill rides.”
More on coasters later. But first…
The Magic Kingdom has always resisted its age.
By that, we mean its rides and attractions have changed in recent times. But many have not.
They have remained similar to when they started.
“Pirates of the Caribbean.” A true classic. No thrills. But perhaps the Kingdom’s most beloved attraction and a long-timer. Been here since the park opened in 1971,
Other well-known non-thrill rides include “The Haunted Mansion.” The common view: more silly than scary. But who cares? Only a few semi-startling “Gotchas.” Pop-Ghouls in the cemetery are a delight. If you haven’t been, it’s worth trying for all ages.
Restaurants are hardly memorable here unless you love the blandness of the Liberty Tree Tavern or Cinderella’s Royal Table (where the characters may improve the food or at least the general surroundings).
But “Be Out Guest” is among the most popular places to eat anywhere in Magic Kingdom.
Not only a restaurant but an attraction in itself. Lunch is the recommended meal. Why? Reservations are needed for dinner, when it is even more crowded than at lunch.
Coasters not thrill rides
And “Space Mountain,” of course. Perhaps the most famous indoor roller coaster found anywhere. The surprise is that it is really slow-moving (by coaster standards). The puny top speed is 27 miles an hour. But the effects and the darkness make it seem much faster.
It’s really faster than a kiddie coaster.
The lesser known Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is nine miles faster. But to most riders, it seems slower.
Not just on our own list of favorites but also from others.
Says one blogger:
“This ride is wonderful. The landscaping is gorgeous, and the ride is smooth and fun. It's also not some fast made coaster. It shows that they took time, and it paid off. A classic.”
Don’t believe us…ask bloggers
“While not the most exciting coaster, this ride will make you feel like a kid again and leave you with a smile on your face.”
And one more:
“The animatronics are amazing and the ride is beautiful...it just left me wanting more.”
But one blogger summed it all up:
“There's not much new to say about the ride, because the consensus is exactly right: Good ride, great theming, lines too long, ride too short. The animatronics are what makes this ride so worth seeing - they make you feel like you've actually taken the ride into the classic cartoon.”
The ride only lasts three minutes. But it can enjoyed by all ages.
And the only real “magic” here is this:
It’s only one reason why the Kingdom remains No. 1.