It. Is. TIME.
by Blake Taylor
It had never happened before. And if we’re being honest, most of us thought it would never happen again.
Disney made history on February 29, 2012—Leap Day—when Disneyland in California and the Magic Kingdom in Florida both stayed open 24 hours straight. And this Friday, May 24, they’re doing it again, but now adding Disney California Adventure to the mix. The event will serve as the official kickoff to Monstrous Summer, a season filled with exciting activities to highlight all the wonderful newness that recently opened on both coasts, as well as to celebrate the release of Pixar’s Monsters University in theaters.
I will be in the Magic Kingdom on May 24, and I’ll go ahead and admit that Disney’s marketing worked its charm on me and my friends. We had no plans whatsoever for a WDW trip this summer until the 24-hour day was announced. The decision started as simple as, “Wow, have you read this? Disney will be open 24 hours on May 24. Dang, that’d be so cool to be there.” And then the light bulb sort of just clicked: Well, why can’t we be there? School will be over, our summer jobs will not have started yet, we’ll get 2 days’ worth of time in the park for the price of 1 ticket, and we can afford a getaway if we make it quick and stay offsite, so… why not? Let’s go!
And thus began a frantic, busy, and at times downright frenzied three weeks of furiously planning this spontaneous trip. (But, let’s be honest, the Disney nerd inside me has loved every moment of it.)
There are multiple blog topics that have ripened out of this experience, all representing firsts for me: traveling with friends instead of family, staying offsite, booking the trip last-minute… the list goes on and continually proves to me that this trip is going to be entirely different from anything I have experienced before. I feel like I have no comparison to prepare myself for what is about to go down this coming weekend (namely, my eyelids). However, the subject we’re going to explore today is this: the incredible endurance and stamina required to pull of an all-nighter in the Magic Kingdom. Here are some issues I’ve prepared myself for, and can perhaps help get you in the right mindset if you’re taking on the challenge of pulling an all-nighter this Friday, too!
I will be tired. One of those across-the-board tips you’ll find in any Disney planning resource is the reminder to take breaks. Recharging with an afternoon nap at the hotel allows your body some much-needed rest and simultaneously gets you away from the parks during the hours when the crowds are largest and the sun is strongest. However, staying offsite makes it a bit cumbersome to leave mid-day and come back. But… I know we will need a break in some capacity. I think of the restlessness I get after spending only 7 hours straight in the parks in the heat, much less the all-out fatigue that comes when I try to take on 12 hours.
Because of that, I won’t kid myself into thinking I can go 24 hours without any form of rest. We plan on leaving the park mid-afternoon and heading to a nearby resort lobby to close our eyes for a while. If there is any indication that the park could close to capacity (though I seriously hope that doesn’t happen!), we’ll seek out a rocking chair on Tom Sawyer Island. (As a side note, I was thrilled to see Caitlin’s WDW Radio post last week about attractions to relax at while in the parks, and ditto when I saw that this month’s Celebrations magazine highlights calm areas throughout WDW. Check ‘em out if you plan to brave Disney 24!)
Slow and steady wins the race. I’ll be taking it slow during Disney 24 because I simply have to. Running around trying to conquer everything in lightning speed is a surefire guarantee for my inner toddler to arise and a meltdown to ensue (if only internally). I’ve got 24 hours. That is plenty of time to see everything I want to see. Touring slowly allows my body to take it easy, and it offers ample opportunities to soak in the Imagineers’ many details.
Hydration is essential. That’s kind of important. Huzzah for free cups of ice water at any dining location!
The morning hours will be fantastic. Yes, it is Memorial Day weekend. Yes, the park would be crowded regardless even without Disney 24. And yes, Disney 24 will attract an abundance of additional guests (like me) who would not be there if not for the special event. However, even during peak seasons, the first few hours of any park’s operation are always still crowdless. Even though it seems like a lot of people are waiting to enter the park before it opens, you have to remember all those people disperse throughout the entire park. A near-empty Magic Kingdom at dawn is something I am very much looking forward to experiencing!
The crowds will come. The morning will be blissful, but that doesn’t mean the crowds will stay away forever. I’m fully prepared for a packed house once locals start to get off work. Last year’s Disney 24 reached insane crowd levels during the evening hours, eventually trickling back down to a manageable size around 2 a.m. No matter what the crowd situation is, though, being prepared for lots of people ahead of time helps ease into the right touring mode, in my opinion. It’s better than being completely shocked.
Take advantage of the night’s special events. Many people know the crowds will be thick, but are excited as ever just because they get to be part of this magical party. Disney has quite a few festivities planned that are exclusive to Disney 24 and will not be happening again. A Monsters University pre-parade will precede the regular afternoon parade, characters will greet guests in their pajamas in the evening, special screenings of Monsters, Inc. will take place in Tomorrowland, a dance party will jam through the night in front of Cinderella Castle, and there will even be a 1 a.m. performance of the Main Street Electrical Parade. I mean, how cool is that! I probably won’t get around to seeing every single one of these fun activities, but I plan on making time for at least a few of them to celebrate the special day.
I will be tired. I already said it, but it’s what I’m most concerned about. If there is any sign of me or anyone in my group falling flat on our face, we will leave. It’s not worth straining our bodies to simply say, “I did it!” once the clock chimes 6 on Saturday morning if we’re risking our safety in the process. I am perfectly fine leaving early if that means everyone stays safe.
I picture myself this time next week: reporting back to you on how everything went exactly according to plan, how we made the absolute most of our time in an expert manner, and how we were among those who opened and closed the Magic Kingdom on its special 24-hour occasion. But if everything went according to plan, then it wouldn’t be a Disney trip, now would it?! I know there’s no chance of everything aligning quite as I think it will, though I look forward to reporting the insanity that is sure to ensue regardless!
What is your plan of attack for taking on 24 hours in the Magic Kingdom?
Blake is a college student focusing on Creative Writing and Media Studies. He enjoys making his family of six watch the parade on Main Street and then sprint to Frontierland in time to see it again. You can follow Blake’s random Disney ramblings on Twitter at @blakeonline, or at BlakeOnline.com.