My family's experience at Walt Disney World's Monstrous Summer All-Nighter
How long could two kids and their parents last at the Magic Kingdom when the theme park was open 24 hours? We set out to find out Friday at the Monstrous Summer All-Nighter.
My husband and I are night owls, routinely staying up until 3 a.m. or later, so that was in our favor. However, both our 10-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter had a full day of school before we headed to the Magic Kingdom in the afternoon, so they were tired. But they were really excited about the event, so that adrenaline helped fuel their determination to stay awake.
When we arrived about 4:30 p.m., the Transportation and Ticket Center parking lot was already about two-thirds full. I wondered if the park would close because of capacity crowds at some point, but we continued to see folks arriving all night.
Guests entering the park were given Monstrous Summer buttons and could collect a special Times Guide for the event. We headed straight into The Emporium to check out the event merchandise because I had hoped to get the kids' the All-Nighter T-shirts. Unfortunately, those only came in adult sizes and only the big sizes were left late in the afternoon. They were offered on DisneyStore.com for three days, though, so I ordered them online as we waited in attraction lines in the park.
After that, we really didn't have an agenda -- just a loose plan of what we wanted to do, based on crowds. And, boy, were there crowds! The Magic Kingdom was jam-packed during the afternoon and evening hours for this special event, which fell on a Friday and the beginning of a holiday weekend. I'm told the crowds were much lighter when the park opened at 6 a.m. and through the morning hours.
We started off by riding the railroad to Adventureland to grab FastPasses for Splash Mountain for my husband and my daughter and to check out the new A Pirate's Adventure. (I'll have a review of that later this week.) Using the FastPass system definitely was key to getting on the popular rides without having hours-long waits. Still, we couldn't help but wish FastPasses were available all night. The system shut down by 1 a.m., and the crowds really didn't thin out until about 3 a.m. Consequently, Space Mountain and other popular rides still had long standby queues well after midnight.
Earlier in the night, we had dinner at Columbia Harbour House, where just about every table was taken. I can't remember the last time I saw the counter-service restaurant so busy. From there, we let the kids decide which attractions they wanted to do. We took a break about 9:30 p.m. to have the special Monsters University-themed Eye Scream Sundaes at the Plaza Ice Cream Shop and watch the Wishes fireworks show.
At that point we decided to get a double-stroller for my daughter and all our stuff. She hasn't ridden in a stroller for years, but we thought she would be the first to get tired and a ride for her might allow our son to stay longer. It was a good call, even for the $31 price tag. Then we headed out to experience more attractions. Shortly after midnight, we met up with Deb Koma and her son. (There were plenty of blog meets going on throughout the park, and AllEars.Net hosted one in the morning.)
By 2 a.m., my kids had caught their second wind, much to my surprise, so we stopped by Disney's Up All Night Dance Party in front of Cinderella Castle and then got in the hour-long queue to meet Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse dressed in their pajamas. It was a long wait, but my son and daughter humored me. My daughter even changed into her own PJs for the photo.
Afterward, the line for Space Mountain finally had dropped to 45-minutes so my husband and daughter joined the queue, while my son and I rode Peter Pan's Flight and The Haunted Mansion. Then, we all stopped by Cosmic Ray's for a breakfast sandwich and made our way out of the Magic Kingdom about 5 a.m. As we were leaving, guests were still coming into the park. We headed out, though, and pulled into our driveway east of Orlando at sunrise.
Was it a crazy night? Absolutely. It was crowded in the park that night, many of the attraction lines were long, and the kids and husband got cranky at times as the hours wore on. But will my children remember the fun of being in the Magic Kingdom all night under the full moon and stars? You bet! That was a timeless memory that's worth a little missed sleep now for the magic they'll recall for years to come.