All-night party at Magic Kingdom kept us busy until sunrise
Staying up late is always a treat for young kids, but having no bedtime and getting to play all night in the Magic Kingdom? What a way to start the unofficial beginning of summer!
For the second year, Walt Disney World kicked off Memorial Day weekend by keeping its signature theme park open for 24 continuous hours, and my family and I were there. (The first such event celebrated Leap Day in 2012.)
Like last year, we headed to the park in the afternoon, and we were entering the Magic Kingdom by about 5 p.m. My husband and I are night owls, routinely staying up until 3 a.m. or later, so we didn't think we'd have trouble staying awake. However, both our 11-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter had a full day of school before we headed to the Magic Kingdom, so we wondered how long they would last before they got tired or the crankiness set in. Still, they were the ones begging to go, so we were counting on the excitement (and extra helpings of sugar-laden desserts) to sustain them.
The first thing we noticed is that the Transportation and Ticket Center parking lot was not as crowded as it was the previous year at the same time. A good sign, right? As we made our way under the train station, cast members handed us promotional buttons for the movie "Maleficent," which opens May 30. The theme of this year's event -- Rock Your Disney Side (featuring Disney Heroes & Villains) -- was, of course, designed to promote what Disney hopes will be a summer hit. (The same was true last year when the Monstrous Summer All-Nighter featured entertainment themed to the movie "Monsters University.")
Inside the park, cast members at various locations were handing out paper Maleficent horns, which many people chose to wear during the event. Guests had been invited to dress up like their favorite heroes or villains, and we did see quite a few costumes, including a few of the Star Wars variety. I think I saw more people who were DisneyBounding, though. (You can read more about how to DisneyBound here.)
Our first stop was The Emporium, where we hoped to buy some of the special event merchandise. T-shirts were available in adult sizes XS through XXXL. When we arrived last year, my kids were disappointed to find the smallest sizes already were sold out. All the sizes were plentiful in late afternoon this year, though, and we happily completed our purchases.
For those who couldn't find what they were looking for that night, or those who wish they had purchased a T-shirt at the event, the keepsakes can be ordered on DisneyStore.com through Thursday, May 29. We used that option last year, and it worked out well. Be aware, though, that because it is a special order, it will take 4 to 6 weeks to receive your Disney Heroes & Villains T-shirts.
Merchandise Communications Manager Steven Miller talks about the special items and treats available during the Rock Your Disney Side Event.
We stepped outside the gift shop in time to see the third and final performance of the Move it! Shake it! Celebrate it! Street Party, which was a special version that featured characters selected by voters. Among the favorites were Mickey, Minnie, Cruella De Vil, Hercules and Dr. Facilier.
Celebrate the Magic with Heroes featuring Hercules was the first show of the day!
Next, we made our way to the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, which Deb Wills earlier had reported was having a soft opening during the event. When we got there, the posted wait time was an hour, but a cast member said it likely would take less time for us to get to the front of the queue. Sure enough, it was only about 40 minutes. Because of an ongoing medical issue, I couldn't ride, but my husband and my daughter did. (I'll be writing more about their reactions this week.) The interactive queue was lots of fun.
We took a break from the Florida heat after the Mine Train with a stop for a counter-service dinner. Afterward, by about 7:30, it was starting to feel more crowded in the park. Although it was more difficult to navigate, it also meant that many of our friends had arrived. My son was excited to hang out with his school buddies who also had arrived in the park. We used some of our FastPasses for attractions; stood elbow-to-elbow to watch Celebrate the Magic, Wishes and the Main Street Electrical Parade; tried the new Mickey's Kitchen Sink; and, of course, ate Dole Whips.
I think the only thing we were disappointed to discover was that unlike last year, Mickey and Minnie were not greeting guests in their PJs. My family and I really wanted that photo as a souvenir, and I'm sure we were not alone. I think guests enjoy collecting photos of the Fab 5 in costumes they don't ordinarily wear.
Speaking of characters, many rarely seen villains came out late at night, not only on two floats in the pre-parade for the Main Street Electrical Parade, but also for meet-and-greets. These were overwhelmingly popular -- so much so that the lines reached 300 minutes and had to be closed before some of the characters even came out. We saw Hades and Meg, who alternated with Pain and Panic, from "Hercules." Visitors also could meet The Bowler Hat Guy from "Meet the Robinsons," Cruella De Vil, Captain Hook, Captain Jack Sparrow, Dr. Facilier, Jafar, Lots-O and Big Bad Wolf from "Toy Story 3," Queen of Hearts, Stromboli from "Pinocchio," and Maleficent and the Snow Queen from "Sleeping Beauty."
After our late-night meet, it was time for a few more rides. From about 4 to 5:30 a.m., the kids in our group walked right on The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Peter Pan's Flight, Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin, the Tomorrowland Speedway and the Jungle Cruise. We stopped for a very quick breakfast of French toast sticks and bacon at the Columbia Harbor House. Then it was one last trip down Main Street, U.S.A., for a photo with the clock and the Kiss Goodnight ceremony at the train station.
We drove home as the sun was rising over Disney property. For these night owls, that was a sight as rare as a Disney villain at 3 a.m. in the Magic Kingdom.
** Deb's Rock Your Disney Side Part 1