My 24 Hours of Disney

For the last three years, Disney Parks has kept some of its theme parks open for 24 straight hours for one day each year, giving guests the chance to stay up all night in some of the happiest places on Earth. In 2012, they celebrated the fact that 2012 was a Leap Year by giving guests “One More Disney Day” at the Magic Kingdom and Disneyland, February 29 – March 1. In 2013, they kicked off a “Monstrous Summer” tie-in with Monsters University May 24-25 at the Magic Kingdom, Disneyland, and California Adventure. The Disney Parks blog posted recaps for both 2012 and 2013. This year, guests were invited to “Rock Your Disney Side” May 23-24 at the same three parks.

I missed 2012 and 2013, but finally pulled an all-nighter at the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World. I was a bit torn, but there were four things that made me pick Florida:

  1. Orlando is closer to St. Louis so that means a shorter flight and less time spent in transit and more time “rocking my Disney side.”
  2. I have a WDW cast member in the family, so that means a discounted room.
  3. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train was about to open, so the odds of getting a chance to ride was high.
  4. Star Wars Weekends at Hollywood Studios. ‘Nuff said.

Once the decision was made for Florida, I made my plans. In addition to the 24 hour event, and Star Wars Weekends, I also was excited to attend a new event, the After Hours Wind Down at Epcot. FOr an additional cost, you get the opportunity to spend time with drinks and food at Epcot after the park closes. Sign me up!

I was supposed to meet up with friends who live in Saint Petersburg, but after we made plans, a family situation came up that kept that from attending. While it would have been fun to hang out with them all weekend, I knew I’d still have fun on my own. People always seem a bit surprised that I will go to Disney World or Disneyland by myself, but believe me, it is still fun.

My plans for the weekend was as follows, point by point:

  1. Fly in Thursday, grab dinner at Downtown Disney, and get to bed early.
  2. Up Friday at 3:30 AM (ugh!), in line for the bus at 5 AM, and in the park for rope drop at 6 AM.
  3. Meet Elsa and Anna from Frozen first thing in the morning before the crazy 3-5 hour lines form.
  4. Ride the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (assuming it’s running)
  5. Enjoy the rest of the 24 hours.
  6. Go back to the hotel and crash.
  7. Get up at 11 AM and head to Hollywood Studios for Star Wars Weekend and to get my face scanned to be put on a stormtrooper figurine.
  8. Head to Epcot for dinner.
  9. After Illuminations, go to the After Hours Wind Down at La Cava del Tequila, and hang out in the park after hours.
  10. Crash at the hotel.
  11. Go Home on Sunday

That’s a full weekend, I don’t care how you slice it. And it all pretty much went as planned. I stayed awake for the entire 24 hours. I did everything in the park I wanted to. And I had a great time throughout.

Some observations…

  • It wasn’t crowded — I was quite surprised at the un-crowdedness of the Magic Kingdom. I expected an event like this to bring out people from all over to pack the park for the all-nighter, but it never materialized. Maybe it’s the sort of event that people don’t repeat so people who went in previous years have scratched that itch and didn’t show up this year. Or maybe it’s just the nature of Walt Disney World (more tourists than locals) as opposed to Disneyland (more locals than tourist) where people camped out for several hours before the 6 AM opening. I’m not complaining, mind you. The crowd levels were quite comfortable all day and all night long.
  • I wasn’t very tired — I’m sure it was the excitement I always feel when I’m at a Disney park with an extra boost form knowing I get to spend all night there, but I barreled through the 24 hours and never felt that tired. The only times where I felt like i might doze off was when I would sit down for a show. At the Hall of Presidents, the Country Bear Jamboree, etc., after I sat for a few minutes, I would catch myself starting to drift. Next time I do an event like this, I’m doing all the shows during daylight and save more rides for the evening and early morning. I should say too that as soon as I walked out of the Magic Kingdom and boarded the bus back to my resort, all the fatigue that I kept at bay over the last 24 hours hit me like a ton of bricks. Adrenalin only goes so far.
  • Fresh clothes were a must — I brought a change of clothes to the park, and changing into it that evening after sweating all day was a huge relief.  It was so good ot be dry, have fresh deodorant, freshly brushed teeth, etc. Next time, I’ll probably bring a third set of clothes.  Orlando in spring and summer means hot and humid, and walking around for 24 hours in sweaty clothes is not fun. It was tricky changing in a bathroom stall (it isn’t like there are any locker rooms where you can change), but the gymnastics were worth it.
  • I’ll do it again, but not right away — I may change my mind on this one completely, but as much fun as the event was, 24 hours takes a lot out of you, and I think I’ll probably wait a year or two before doing it again… at the same park.  Should the opportunity arise to go to Disneyland for it next time, I expect I’ll jump at the opportunity.

I almost forgot about the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and the Wind Down.  First, the dwarfs.  After having anticipated this ride for a few years and finally getting the chance to ride it, what did I think? The theming is incredibly immersive, bringing you into the world of Snow White. The dwarfs look amazing, especially their faces (I love what Disney is doing with projections now), and the cottage at the end of the ride is perfectly detailed (if my memory can be trusted). The mountain is an oasis of green in New Fantasyland, although the queue is exposed once it “leaves” the interior and wraps around the mountain (a bit more shade would be nice). Lastly, the ride itself is a fun, racer around the mountain, in and out of the mine. My only real complaint is that the ride is very short and the cars don’t swing as much as I expected. These are fairly minor issues, but they are worth noting. I only rode it once this trip, so I’m looking forward to visiting the dwarfs again on my next visit.

Saturday night was my last night at Walt Disney World before having to return home, and I can’t think of a better way to finish a trip than with the After Hours Wind Down at Epcot.  La Cava del Tequila is my new favorite spot in Epcot, a cool, tasty hideaway from the Florida sun.  I don’t drink all that often, but if I’m going to do so, a passion fruit margarita accompanied by chips and queso blanco is my preference.  There are several great reviews of the event which begins with a tequila tasting if you select Cava as your Wind Down spot.  Two of the best are the Disney Food blog review and the Touring Plans review.  Make sure you read those for a better understanding of the event.

For me, I just want to say that I’m so glad I picked the night to go that I did, because it turned out to be a gathering of bloggers, twitterers, and general friends of Cava del Tequila.  Even Len Testa of Touring Pans and Unofficial Guide fame was there that night (although I didn’t get a chance to meet him because he dashed off fairly quickly after the tasting).  The best part about being with this group (aside from meeting some great people) was that Hilda Castillo, the resident Tequila Ambassador, was there to lead our tasting session even though she wasn’t scheduled to work that night.  I’ve read about Hilda online, but never had the opportunity to meet her before until that night.  Let me say, she’s the perfect person to help people get to know tequila better.  Her presentation was engaging and fun and informative… and it included adult beverages! I’m definitely looking forward to a return trip someday soon.

Cava tweeted a photo of the attendees that night (including yours truly — check out the lower left corner):


So that’s my Disney 24 Hour Adventure. I hope you enjoyed my recap, and if you have any questions, go ahead and ask away in the Comments, or send me an email.  Until next time!