On New Year’s Eve, Disney Parks announced “One More Disney Day,” the first ever event of its kind where all Disney theme parks worldwide would stay open for 24 straight hours to celebrate Leap Day. As one Disney spokesman said, it was an “opportunity for guests to take advantage of the extra time in the parks to make and celebrate new memories.”
At the heart of it “One More Disney Day” was a logical extension of “Let The Memories Begin” announced in 2011. But very. very quickly it became much more than that. It became almost a challenge to Disney fans everywhere, almost a quest. Could you really spend 24 solid hours in a Disney Park?
Well, the answer for me was a resounding “Yes!” By January 3rd my trip to “One More Disney Day” was already booked and paid for. And I wasn’t alone. The Disney message boards all over the internet were suddenly abuzz with the possibilities. Would you go? What would you do? Could You Make it? How “hardcore” Disney fan are you?
Well this hardcore Disney fan was going to find out. And on the morning of February 29th 2012 I made my way to the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World at 4:45 am for media check in. This is what I saw:
There were already thousands of people lined up outside the Magic Kingdom. Some were Annual Pass Holders there early to receive their special “One More Day In Disney” Mickey ears, but for the most part it was the bravest and most dedicated of Disney fans wanting to be the first into the park on Leap Day and not miss the special Opening Ceremony.
And as the “Mayor of Main Street USA and all the Disney characters counted down to 6am, the crowd let out a thunderous roar and headed into the Magic Kingdom in a mad dash. Me? I just stood back for a while and watched it all. And it was amazing. I waited until almost the very last guest had entered through the train tunnels and said to myself, “This is going to be an incredible day.” And it was from the very beginning. Because for the very first time in many, many trips through those very tunnels with anticipation of seeing Cinderella’s Castle this is what we all saw.
It was too dark for a picture at the very beginning, but as you can see from the clock on the left, at just after 7:30am the Castle was there as its always been, but it seemed further away. As if main Street USA had stretched itself longer just for this “One More Disney Day.”
I had taken the time from rope drop until around 7:30am talking with various guests from all over the country, and yes, all over the world. The answers to the question, “What made you decide to do this?” were nearly universal – Because we love Disney. Because there’s never been anything like this before. And just to see if I can really make it all 24 hours in the Magic Kingdom.
I don’t know how many actually made it ALL 24 hours. But I did. And that morning I did everything I said in my previous post on “One More Disney day” that I said I was going to do. I had a Dole Whip for breakfast and chased it down with a frozen banana. And continued back to Main Street USA to shop for exclusive merchandise. (In case you’re curious I got the “I pulled an All Nighter” t-shirt and bought the commemorative Mickey Mouse watch on sale that day only.)
The rest of the morning was like the best Disney dream you’ve ever had. The crowds were low and I rode every single attraction starting in Adventureland all the way around to Tomorrowland with little or no wait.
For lunch around noon, I sat down at The Plaza restaurant and took my first real break of the day. Sitting in the Atrium with my Plaza burger and shake I watched the Magic Kingdom start to swell in number. Aha! The “normals” are arriving I said to myself. Y’know who I mean, the day trippers, the families who slept in and moseyed over to the Magic Kingdom and the regular folks who seemed to have no idea anything was different that day.
But oh, what a different day it turned out to be.
The crowds of people who had been there since before 6am began to mix with the crowds just rolling in and all of a sudden it just seemed like a normal crowded day. Lines started to form at rides and restaurants. The stroller brigade was out in full force in Fantasyland. And for a few brief hours before sundown you would have never known that February 29th was any day than “Just a day in the park.”
But short winter days bring darkness early and near 7pm all of us – the one’s there from the start and the one’s there for just a day – began to stake out their spot for the Wishes nighttime spectacular. And everything ground to a screeching halt. I’d have to say that on a scale of 1 to 10 the crowds by this point were a 12.
Nobody could move. It was simply shoulder to shoulder people all the way down Main Street and around the hub. I was going to try and reach my regular parade watching spot outside the Trading Post in Frontierland, but I couldn’t move. All of us were where we were going to be whether we liked it or not. And some did not. You could not have paid me enough money to be working “crowd control” that evening.
And then something odd happened. Wishes concluded. And people still didn’t move. It took me a minute to figure out why then it hit me. They are staying put for the Main Street Electrical Parade at 10pm!
It never got as bad in Walt Disney World as it did in Anaheim at Disneyland where they actually had to close the park for a few hours, but it was still crazy. Sometimes you see the darndest things at the Magic Kingdom. From extraordinary acts of kindness from both Cast Members and guests alike. And sometimes you see the opposite. And for a few short hours, “Magic” was in short supply at the Magic Kingdom.
Finally to get people moving, Disney did a rare thing – They opened the “backstage” areas of Main Street USA to foot traffic so you could get from one end to the other. I don’t know about you, but I’m fascinated with the “hidden” parts of the park and even though I had no reason to get from the hub to the train station, if Disney was going to let me do it through backstage then I was going backstage.
Which actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I had been rushing around all day since lunch and had forgotten to eat. And there I was in front of Tony’s. So Dinner time it was.
I knew it was going to be a long, long night so I sat down and loaded up on carbs at Tony’s at about the 13 hour mark into my 24 Hours In Disney. I knew there were two showings of the Main Street Electrical parade. The one at 10pm for which the gridlocked crowd outside was waiting for. And one at midnight. And decided to take a break and miss the first parade in hopes the crowds would thin.
And finally they did after the first MSEP. People meandered off to their favorite lands almost as if it were a night of Extra Magic Hours. And things got easier from there. Well easier getting around. Easier getting on attractions. Easier meeting characters. But not so easy fighting the sleep my body said was eventually going to want to smack me with.
I was determined to do another “full circuit” and ride every single attraction that was still open and walked out onto this Main Street USA and let out a small sigh of relief. “Back to normal,” I said.
I headed for Snow White’s Scary Adventures to ride that as many times as possible as a goodbye to another classic Disney “dark ride” which will soon be closing forever. I think maybe I rode a dozen times, doing that thing we’ve all done when the waits are short – Ride, get off, ride again, get off, ride again.
As the hour drew closer to midnight I finally got to stake out “my spot” in Frontierland for the midnight showing of the Main Street Electrical Parade. There were some slight changes to the parade as it passes, I noticed, and I’m fond of the MSEP but it’s another of the things leaving the Magic Kingdom. By the time I return Spectromagic will have returned as well, so I savored what would most likely be my last MSEP.
After that, it was meet-up time. I’ve had the honor of making some great online friends through the Walt Disney World Dads website and others and there was no chance I was going to pass up a chance to meet them in person. So off to the may meet-ups I went, sharing stories of the day so far and turning my internet friends into real life friends. I felt a little like Gepetto turning my online friends into real people I knew and I loved every minute of it.
Now all along during this trip I was Tweeting like mad and sending pictures. And at some point I Tweeted this, though I don’t remember doing so – “Friends, I need to make a disclosure: I have been at the MK since 4:45am. I am NOT LEAVING. However I am now delirious. Apologies in advance.”
I did apparently see and take pictures of the very cool “626 Dance Party” at the hub in front of Cinderella’s castle. Though, again, I don’t remember actually doing so.
Disney had parked a few of the floats from “The Move It Shake It! Celebrate it! Street Party” around the perimeter of the dance party where you could get up close and personal with them and take pictures. Which was a nice touch.
At this point it’s approaching 5am and I had kept all the promises I had made to myself the day before at 4:45am – Which were do everything I can, ride every attraction, stay awake and NOT leave the park for any reason. But I’ll tell you at this point is was getting hard. I needed something to get me through the last hour of “One More Day In Disney” so I headed for Aloha Isle and got my eleventy-billionth Dole Whip of the day. I’d post a picture of that final Dole Whip but that would just be cruel. I would never dare taunt you with a picture of a Dole Whip you can’t have 🙂
Instead here’s a picture of the Main Street clock taunting me.
Just a bit more to go now. Or so I thought.
I’ll be honest with you about both the good and the bad. I’ve been to Walt Disney World countless times, but “One More Day In Disney” was among the best trips I’ve ever had. And yes, I’ll be back. Soon. But staying awake all those hours was rough, at times even painful. But I have a saying I use to motivate myself, “Go all in or don’t go at all.” And dear readers, I went “all in.” And then some more.
I somehow got this strange “second wind” and the crazy, crazy desire to see the sun come up at my absolute favorite spot in all of the Magic Kingdom. But to do so I would have to figure out a way to stay PAST the 6am official closing time. I won’t tell you how or where, but I managed to do just that and get this picture.
I finished off one the the craziest things I’ve ever done at precisely the spot I wanted to be. I sat with Walt and Mickey for a while and ended my “One Day In Disney.” But before I left for good, I looked back and said “See ‘ya Real Soon.”