So now that the 24 hours of One More Disney Day have passed, and I've had the chance to catch up on my missed sleep, I thought I'd share some of my favorite photos and impressions of the experience.
Deb Wills and I got up around 4 a.m. the morning of February 29, Leap Day, to begin our "One More Disney Day" adventure. We really had not planned to spend all 24 hours in the park, but we knew we HAD to be there for opening and closing, and figured we'd pop in periodically throughout the day to see how things were progressing.
Deb had booked a room for us at Bay Lake Tower so that we could walk over to the Magic Kingdom easily, but our plans to park there early in the morning were foiled by the crowds already backing up at the guard gate at 5 a.m. I got out of the car and walked over to the park, leaving Deb to deal with parking.
Though I'd been in Magic Kingdom after midnight several times in the past (remember the old E-Ride Nights?), I'd never been there so early before! It was extremely foggy -- I mean, so foggy it was the lead story on the news -- and it gave the whole area a very spooky atmosphere. The place seemed deserted, which was surprising to me. I had been expecting a huge crowd for the opening.
As I approached the entrance, though, THERE were the people! Hundreds pressing in around the turnstiles -- that's what I'd been expecting.
As we entered the turnstiles, we received a special set of One More Disney Day Mouse Ears and a commemorative button. (Thanks, Mike Scopa, for being our model.)
We huddled around the Mickey Floral display in front of the train station to await the 6 a.m. kick-off. From where I stood, I could just barely see Mickey and Minnie, in their pajamas, as they greeted their fans.
I already shared my video of the opening ceremony HERE. Sorry for all the Mouse Ears and tops of people's heads in the video -- but that's generally your view when you're as short as I am (5'1")!
After the opening -- which really wasn't that different from the Magic Kingdom's opening ceremony on any other given day -- we all shuffled into the park to see what 24 hours of Magic Kingdom madness had in store for us. As you can see, Main Street was thick with people.
We noticed that the line for Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom registration at the Firehouse was almost instantly out the door -- and it pretty much stayed that way all day. There were numerous characters out and about and lines forming for them right away, as well. In fact, the wait for the Princesses in Town Square Theater shot to 20 minutes within a half-hour of the park opening.
As we made our way up Main Street, we stopped and asked people where they were visiting from, and if they had made the trip to Walt Disney World expressly for the "One More Disney Day" event. Interestingly, to us at least, nearly everyone we spoke to that early was a local -- the furthest journey anyone had made was a two-hour drive. As the day wore on, though, we encountered quite a few folks who had come from further afield, and many of those HAD come just for Leap Day.
As we reached the Hub around sunrise (7 a.m.-ish), the fog had cleared a bit and the day was brightening, but there was no chance of snapping a shot of the sun coming up over the castle as we had hoped. It was still beautiful, though.
From there, we just meandered around the park, checking wait times and riding a few rides when we could. We also spent some time watching the progress on the New Fantasyland.
We held an AllEars.Net meet at Pinocchio Village Haus at 9:30, and we were so thrilled at the turnout. Several of our readers came from out of state just for One More Disney Day -- we met people from all over, including North Carolina, New York, and Virginia (that I can remember -- sorry, if I forgot anyone!). Thanks so much to all who came out to say hello!
After the meet, I walked around the park with a friend and we were able to ride Space Mountain, Buzz Lightyear, and several other rides, all with short waits of 15 minutes or less. While definitely not empty, the Magic Kingdom was not what I'd call over-crowded at all at that point. In fact, the longest lines I saw continued to be those at the character meet-and-greets, like Tinker Bell's Magical Nook (25 minutes 1 p.m.) and at the Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom portals. It seems that many people had come for the opening ceremony, then had quickly left again -- probably to return later in the day.
After a late lunch at Columbia Harbour House (love that Lighthouse Sandwich!), I decided to leave the park myself for a break -- and possibly a nap. On my way out, I passed the Main Street Bakery, where they were showcasing special One More Disney Day treats.
And as I left, I snapped a shot of the nearly abandoned turnstiles, which had been the scene of so much activity just nine hours earlier.
When I returned later in the evening, after watching Wishes from the California Grill (where we had an absolutely amazing meal!), that same location was again buzzing with people entering for the evening.
There was a serious exodus of people after the 10 p.m. parade, and walking up Main Street was like swimming upstream. Still, the park was by no means empty. In fact, I think it was even more crowded than it had been early in the morning. Characters were still out in force, and there was plenty of live entertainment to keep everyone not riding the rides occupied.
After watching the 11 p.m. showing of "The Magic, The Memories and You", we wandered around to see what rides were still available. Posted wait times for most rides had climbed -- 20 minutes for Pirates of the Caribbean (though it looked longer), 50 minutes for Space Mountain. Even "it's a small world" had a 15-minute wait, but we made sure that we didn't miss that!
There was another showing of the Main Street Electrical Parade at midnight, but there didn't seem to be the wave of people leaving afterward as there had been earlier.
Shortly before 4 a.m., I returned to a few of the spots I had photographed earlier, just for comparison's sake.
Looking down on Main Street from the train station:
The Main Street vehicles were all parked neatly around Town Square, and it was fun to be able to climb aboard and try them out. The kids (young and old alike) were loving it.
I was surprised at how many people were still in the parks at 4 a.m., and even more surprised at the number of children still going strong. I really had thought crowds would dwindle in these wee hours, but I was proven wrong.
We ran into a family on Pirates of the Caribbean who had just been in the park since the evening before and the daughter, about 8 or so, was urging her parents to take her to Universal after they were "done" at the Magic Kingdom! Ah, youth...
The energy emanating from the dance party in front of the castle was irresistible, and as I walked toward the Move It, Shake It, Celebrate It! floats that were stationed around the Hub, I noted that many of the participants here were twentysomethings who were clearly spending, if not the entire 24 hours, then at least all of the wee hours in the park. I thought this was a great idea for those die-hards. The enthusiastic DJ, high-energy music and familiar dances -- the hokey-pokey, a conga line -- were just the ticket to jolt you awake if you were feeling drowsy, and the characters joined in the fun.
CLICK THE IMAGE FOR THE VIDEO!
Even though there were still plenty of people in the park, lines at the attractions were practically nonexistent by 5 a.m. I guess maybe everyone had had their fill of rides by then. A number of rides had closed by that time, but we walked right on to popular attractions like Snow White's Scary Adventures and the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. I mean, when can an adult ever spend time playing in the queue at Pooh? There are normally so many kids running around, you couldn't even if you wanted to.
We also took a spin on the Carrousel, and walked right on to the Speedway -- that never happens!
But, somewhat surprisingly, there were STILL lines at the portals for the Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom game!
Shortly before 6 a.m., we realized that One More Disney Day was drawing to a close, so we made our way to the front of the castle. The DJ wrapped up his dance party and the floats paraded down Main Street as he signed off, thanking everyone for spending One More Disney Day in the Magic Kingdom. The remaining park-goers waited, as I did, for something to signal the end of the event. But there was... nothing. It was all rather anti-climactic. No fireworks, no big HUZZAH... The regular Main Street atmosphere music (tunes from The Music Man) began playing. It was over, and I must admit, it was a bit of a let-down. All that hoopla for what amounted to little more than a slightly enhanced regular park day.
As I stood there talking to some friends about whether my trip the World for this event had been worth it, the lights around us gradually went down, and the music started for the "Kiss Goodnight", the little send-off that often ends the day in the park. And so I think that's an appropriate way for me to conclude my "One More Disney Day" report.
The previous post in this blog was One More Disney Day Opening Ceremony.
The next post in this blog is It's Easy Being Green... at Raglan Road.