Overrated: Is the Magic Kingdom really all that magical?

Okay, I'll start by admitting that I've been to Walt Disney World a couple of times. Before our first visit, my sisters and I pored over pictures of the Hall of Presidents, the Haunted Mansion, the Disney Castle, and other attractions, plotting the perfect routes to every ride, the ideal sequence of events to maximize the power of our Disney vacation. To the park's credit, it managed to live up to even my incredibly high childhood expectations. In fact, the only down side was my parent's barely-concealed weariness after a few days of wandering around.

A few years later, with my sisters a little older and Epcot offering more mature attractions, my parents agreed to revisit the Magic Kingdom. After a couple of days, I began to understand why Mom and Dad had dragged their feet on our first trip. As my youngest sister led us on a death march tour of Mickey's gulag, I found myself asking if we really needed to take yet another whirl on the teacup ride, once again ride shotgun with Mr. Toad, and be reminded that it's a small world. Standing in line, baking under the brutal Florida sun, I found myself suffering from an existential crisis, doubting the promise that, indeed, Captain Nemo's submarine adventure was really the pinnacle of human experience.

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It got even worse when we went to Epcot. While some of the park's international attractions were a lot of fun, other countries just seemed to be phoning it in. The China pavilion felt like a massive tourist trap, and I had a hard time prying my parents away from the German beer hall. Worse yet, watching moderately soused adults slapping their whining kids, I wondered if public displays of child abuse were one of Epcot's informal attractions, like people in Mickey costumes or bad mimes. I didn't know whether to tip the incredibly lifelike actors or call child protective services.

To be completely honest, I have to admit that there is a lot to be said for Disney. It is clean, well-run, and there are some wonderful places in the park. Even now, years later, I still have fond memories of Injun Joe's cave, the Peter Pan ride, and the Swiss Family Treehouse. That having been said, paying over $150 per person to stand in interminable lines, eat terrible food, and be assaulted by a constant parade of commercialism is somewhat ridiculous, particularly when Busch Gardens, Six Flags, and other parks offer comparable experiences for less money and with less travel!

Bruce Watson is a freelance writer, blogger, and all-around cheapskate. He still has nightmares about the Country Bear Jamboree.

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