Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christmas Day at the Magic Kingdom

So we are now just 2 days away from our glorious return (after a 10 month absence) to Walt Disney World and the United States!

Isn't it funny how as the number of days until your trip gets closer, the days themselves become longer and longer... That is probably a good thing for this trip as there are a lot of things we have to do before we fly on Thursday morning! As busy as we may be leading up to our trip, we are so excited to finally be returning to Disney, especially so close to Christmas!

In the past we have spent Christmas at WDW as a family for. I was a little worried about the crowd sizes because we tend to visit during quieter times of the year, but the opportunity to be in the Magic Kingdom on Christmas morning greatly outweighed any anxiety that I had! To jump ahead to the end of the story, it was a great day (despite the crowds) due in large part to the planning that we did ahead of time.

First of all we decided to stay close to the Magic Kingdom at Wilderness Lodge. Staying deluxe at Christmas time is an expensive proposition, but if you can do it I highly recommend it. The place is decorated beautifully, and it has such a great Christmas feel to it. By planning at least four months in advance we were able to get a great annual pass rate.

Being so close to the Magic Kingdom was key for Christmas morning. We knew that we would have to get to the gates before rope drop if we wanted to not be crushed in the mass of humanity that would descend upon the park shortly there after. So we set the alarms and planned on getting to the park at 6:45am for 7:00am Extra Magic Hour. Hey, it's Christmas morning, the kids are getting up early anyway! If we're gonna be up, we might as well be riding Big Thunder Mountain! We hit the boat to the Magic Kingdom around 6:30, and we were not the only ones on board, but I thought there would be more people! We made it to the gates just in time to catch the opening ceremony, and used the Extra Magic hour to knock out a lot of Fantasyland, and get some Fast Passes for favorites that we would use later. We hit all of our key attractions, and the little ones got to spend some time playing on the playground in the Splash Mountain exit area.

Getting there early was the smartest thing we did. Since we were able to check off all of our favorites early on, if we did nothing else attraction wise for the rest of the day, we would feel satisfied. One of the cooler things we got to experience was getting to take the first ride down Main Street in the horse drawn trolley! People must have thought we were VIPs because they kept taking our pictures and video taping us! From time to time I check out YouTube to see if we show up in anyone's vacation videos!

We entered the park with the plan that we would
stay as long as we felt it was bearable. We had a great time in the park that morning, and headed back to the resort after we caught mickey's Once Upon a Christmastime Parade at 12:30. We never felt crushed by the crowds, but we could see them growing, and we were ready to head back and open presents! When we got back to the room the Walt Disney World Christmas Parade was on TV, so we kept it on in the background as we opened our presents, and dozed off.

So it was a short but very memorable Christmas Day in the Magic Kingdom, one that I will never forget. Later that night we enjoyed a Christmas feast at The Whispering Canyon Cafe, and took the boat over to the Fort Wilderness campground to see how the RV and camping crowd decorated their spaces.

I know that many people have the same fears that I had about visiting Disney World during the weeks of Christmas and New Years, but I have yet to find another place where Christmas is celebrated so fully. I know that 2010 will not be the last Christmas Day that we spend in the Magic Kingdom!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party: Time for Redemption!

So last week I wrote about our upcoming trip to Disney World (which is now in only 9 days), and how we will be experiencing many firsts on the trip. One of the things that will not be a first for us-but will be the first in a long time- will be Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party.

For those of you who are not familiar with it, Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party is a separate hard ticket event that runs a few nights a week through all of November and most of December. On party nights the Magic Kingdom closes at 7:00 pm, and only people who have purchased tickets for the party are allowed to stay in the park. The party goes until midnight, and there are special character meet and greets, shows, dance parties, two parades, and a special holiday version of Wishes fireworks.

The Christmas Party was actually our family's first Magic Kingdom experience back in November of 2007. We had just gotten off of a 4 night Disney Cruise, and wanted to add on some park time, but didn't want to rush from the ship to the resort. This was a great way to do it. We got back to the resort and relaxed (and napped) for a couple of hours before we headed to the Magic Kingdom for the evening.

Looking back at that night, I had no idea what the heck was going on, or what I was doing! All I knew was that we could get into the park at 4:00, before the party started at 7:00. When we got there we were given a map and schedule of events, but I had not done any prior research of how to maximize our party experience. What a newbie I was back in 2007!

We got to the park at 4:00 and walked down Main Street. This had been my first time in the Magic Kingdom since 1986, when I was in 3rd grade, so it was like experiencing it for the first time! We didn't really take advantage of the smaller crowds and only hit three attractions, Swiss Family Treehouse, the Haunted Mansion, and Buzz Lightyear. I'm sure we will be taking full advantage of the shorter queue lines this time around, especially since it will be our first time back in the Magic Kingdom in 10 months!

One thing that we did get to experience then that we won't be able to this time was a special stage show that used to run in the now gone Tomorrowland theater, Mickey's Night Before Christmas. I'm pretty bummed by this since it was a very good show and was always filled to capacity. Not knowing how popular it was, we tried to slide in at showtime of the first showing (there were 3 or 4), but were told it was full. So we stayed and waited for the next show. I'm not normally a big fan of waiting on line for a show, but this was really worth the time invested. Here is a video shot by the Dis Unplugged from before the final curtain dropped on this holiday classic...

Something that we tried to do unsuccessfully was grab some dinner at what I had heard (and now agree) was the best counter service location in the Magic Kingdom, Columbia Harbor House. It wasn't open because of the party, so we had to hike over to Pecos Bill's which we enjoyed.

We really enjoyed seeing the Christmas Parade (even though someone spilled hot chocolate on my foot), and the special Holiday Wishes. At the end of the post I'll attach the video I made of Holiday Wishes, which is the same fireworks as they show during the party and in late December now.

So we are really looking forward to returning to Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party after a four year absence. I am really looking forward to experiencing it as a Disney World veteran , not a rookie!