Every book and website I read while preparing for Disney, and every e-mail sent to me as a HARO response, prepped us to take our kids to Disney World first thing in the morning. “Be there at least 15 minutes before they open,” one said. Another warned that we should always leave early, avoiding parade and fireworks crowds.
Well, last week I was at Disney World. We arrived Monday, about an hour and a half late due to the weather. So rather than checking in at 11:30, we checked in at about 1. I was tempted, based on all of the suggestions I had received, to just explore our resort in the afternoon and then hit Magic Kingdom bright and early the following morning.
I am SO glad that I didn’t listen to the hype. Instead, we unpacked, grabbed lunch (YUM!), changed into warm-weather clothes (note to anyone going in January/February: bring a jacket, pants, and long sleeves. Layering is great, but it’s cold at night!!) and boarded a bus from our resort (Boardwalk Villas) to Magic Kingdom.
There were no lines. Again. There were no lines. Sure, it’s January, a slow season, but we walked right onto Stitch’s Great Escape (which our kids will never, ever let us do again) and then Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin. Next, we waited to see Buzz Lightyear in person. We waited less than 5 minutes. And the Tomorrowland Indy Speedway’s wait was another 5-minute wait (though we used the parent-pass, see below, so that was a little longer.)
From Tomorrowland, we strolled to Mickey’s Toontown Fair. While the boys waited to ride Barnstormer at Goofy’s Wiseacre Farm, Little and I shopped the gift shop (poor thing, she was the only one without a hoodie sweatshirt or a hat. She just had to get a new Minnie Mouse sweatshirt.) Following the ride, we entered Mickey’s Country House, which is connected to the Judge’s Tent, a character meet and greet spot. This line was a little longer, about 10 minutes, and they don’t allow strollers. Because Little was sleeping, I waited outside the “tent,” so sad that I wouldn’t be there when my kids first saw Mickey. But by some amazing chance, Little woke when the boys were still waiting; they were next in line.
In the Judge’s tent, you wait in one of those hidden, curvy lines that could get really long; they let about 5 “parties” at a time into Mickey’s room. (in our case, Minnie was in there, too.) We were the first group of the 5 or so families, so instead of entering the room and watching others greet Mickey and Minnie first, the door opened, and Middle ran right into Mickey’s arms. It was straight out of a commercial, and it was the epitome of the perfect beginning to our vacation. Middle didn’t just believe in the Magic; he was living this magic. That hug will forever be in my mind’s eye, and I treasure the fact that Little woke up in time for me to witness it.
Following our character greet and pictures, we moved on to Fantasyland, where we waited no more than 10 minutes for Snow White’s Scary Adventures, Peter Pan’s Flight, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, and It’s a Small World. (After Pooh, the Huz commented privately to me that these are the rides that make him dislike Disney World. Which was interrupted by Middle shouting, “that ride was SO cool!” “Ahem,” I cleared my throat. The Huz shrugged, smiled, and admitted to being way wrong. It’s a Small World was considered “long and boring,” but all but Little who was enthralled through the entire boat ride. )
It was about 7:40, so we asked a Cast Member who was on Stroller Parking duty (my goodness! They do a great job at that!) to suggest a spot to see the fireworks show, Wishes, which was loved by Big, hated by Middle and slept through by Little. For dinner, we ordered counter service from Cosmic Ray’s and ate outside on the Tomorrowland Bridge, as some of us enjoyed the show.
It was the beginning of a remarkable, magical vacation. And I’ll be sharing much, much more in the next few weeks. For now, here are a few Magic Kingdom, Florida, tips:
- Parent Pass: If any of your kids is too small to go on a ride or just doesn’t want to, walk as a family up to the gate to enter the line and request a parent pass. One adult will go with anyone who wants to ride while another stays back with those who aren’t riding. Once the initial riders are finished, use your pass and switch adults, this time going through the FastPass line. Here’s the great thing: 3 people can use Parent-Pass with one pass. So my roller coaster-crazy kids got to go on rides multiple times with minimal waits, even when the standard lines were long. You can use this pass at the same time as you are using a FastPass somewhere else.
- Looking for a good place to see Wishes? Consider the Tomorrow Landbridge, close to the Main Street shops so you can see Tinkerbell. Just consider the wind first. Monday night, the wind was so strong that the fireworks were pushed behind the trees.
- Have a child afraid of fireworks? Try bringing your iPod with headphones. It won’t entirely drown out the noise, but it allows a little distraction that helps. (FWIW, by the last 7th night, Middle finally felt the love for fireworks. Soarin’ helped, too.)
- Staying on a property? Note that there is no free wifi. Thus my absence from blogging, tweeting, and Facebooking last week. You can hook up through an ethernet cord for $9.95 a day in your room or get wifi for $4.95 in the lobby. Yeah, that was annoying.
It’s all fresh in my mind, and I have so much to share in the next few days. What Disney World questions can I answer for you?