That time of year is upon us, and for the third consecutive occasion, Magic Kingdom® Park is opening its gates for 24 full hours. 6 a.m. May 23 through 6 a.m. May 24 will see the “Rock Your Disney Side” 24-Hour Party, and everything’s being prepped for an exciting event.
I attended the 2013 party, dubbed the “Monstrous All-Nighter,” and returned to WDW Radio with what I learned. With the timeliness of the 2014 bash upon us, here is that post amended, with updates made for this year’s specific festivities. It’s what I wish I would have known before attending!
Well, I did it. I saw the Magic Kingdom® Park open at 6 a.m. Friday and saw it close 24 hours later, at 6 a.m. Saturday. I survived the “Monstrous All-Nighter”, the official name given for Disney’s second 24-hour operating day (the first being” One More Disney Day” in 2012).
As I now go through the stages of post-Disney depression (just the thought of Wishes happening right now as I write this from home… why, oh, why???), let’s compare my expectations of the all-nighter to what really happened.
I will be tired. Yep! That was a given. I half-expected to be too tired to walk and call it a night early, but we made it through the entire 24 hours. We toured smartly to keep our bodies rested throughout the day, so the real tiredness didn’t start to kick in until around 2 a.m. That’s when it became easy to nod off. Our last attraction was Mickey’s PhilharMagic, and let me tell you I do not recall the Lion King scene at all!
I won’t kid myself into thinking I can go 24 hours without any form of rest. This was key from the beginning. We knew we wouldn’t be going full-speed all day long, though staying offsite made it undesirable to drive all the way back to the hotel to take a real nap. So, we saved the relaxing attractions for the afternoon. This not only allowed some rest in the heat peak of the day, but also let us hit the headliner attractions earlier before their wait times skyrocketed. We enjoyed some of the park’s smaller offerings that we rarely experience, like Liberty Square Riverboat, The Hall of Presidents, and Tom Sawyer Island. Around 7:00 p.m., we hightailed it over to Disney’s Polynesian Resort to relax on the beach before heading back to the park after the fireworks at 10:00 p.m. So, no comforter and blankets, but a lot of much-needed sitting time.
Slow and steady wins the race. Along the same lines as the previous expectation, we didn’t try to cram in as much as possible at the beginning. We had 24 hours to see everything, so no rush was needed, and knowing this helped to mentally prepare ourselves for the day. We ended up doing every attraction in the park except Mad Tea Party, “it’s a small world”®, Swiss Family Treehouse, and Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom. But everything else we conquered in 24 hours!
Hydration is essential. This was a big one. Being on my feet for practically all of the 24 hours meant that I was constantly hungry and at times even shaky. I sought after nice, cold water multiple times. Remember that cups of ice water are free all across Disney property. Do not let yourself get dehydrated! I felt like I always wanted a snack throughout the whole day, and in those moments I realized that Magic Kingdom has many wonderful snack options, but almost all of them are sweet. I wanted something of more substance and not with sugar. I eventually couldn’t find much and settled for popcorn until the next meal. Too much of a good thing in this case—as much as I wanted one, I knew a Citrus Swirl would do me no help.
The morning hours will be fantastic. And indeed they were! Being in the park during its first few opening hours are blissful on any day, but seeing the Magic Kingdom at dawn was a treat. We knocked out 12 attractions within the first 2 hours, all the while still taking an easy pace without being intentional about packing them in.
The crowds will come. Yes, yes they did. We braced ourselves for a madhouse as we entered the Magic Kingdom after Wishes concluded, but nothing could have prepared us for what awaited. As soon as we stepped from Town Square into Main Street, USA®—hoards of people in all directions and no way to get anywhere. There were too many bodies for Cast Members to organize everyone into an efficient traffic flow, even with backstage areas open for access paths. I do not exaggerate when I say we stood still for a good 15 minutes in front of the Crystal Palace unable to move anywhere, with people all around us unable to move either. We spoke with one Cast Member who said she had never seen it that bad, ever. Upon arriving in individual lands, things became manageable. It was just Main Street and the Hub that were horrific. Wait times soared from then through about 2 a.m., when they dwindled down and attractions became walk-ons again. For the 2014 party, Wishes begins at 9 instead of 10, so hopefully this will empty out the daytime guests a bit earlier than last year. The modifications made to the Hub in the past year will also help. The other three parks’ hours are extended on Friday to help smooth MK‘s crowds, as well. That being said, I wouldn’t go anywhere near the Castle anytime close to (before or after) the fireworks. Imagine how many people exit after fireworks on a regular night… now imagine those same people exiting while the same amount of people try to come in. Insanity!
Take advantage of the night’s special events. Can’t say that I did, but partly because of the crowd situation. We had FastPasses to meet Mickey and Minnie in their pajamas that we had to forfeit since there was no way we were braving Main Street again (insert extreme sad face). There were other fun character greetings around the park, but our priority was attractions. We did catch a bit of the dance party, and made time to see the 1 a.m. run of the Main Street Electrical Parade (kind of surreal!). A ton of effort was put into the Monsters University theme, so even if you didn’t go out of your way to experience the special activities, you still felt like you were part of the special day. Adding Mike and Sulley to the parade, serving exclusive monster-themed desserts, and other small touches like this helped make everyone feel like part of the party. With the 2014 theme being Heroes and Villains, there are even more fun activities throughout the park. They include a villains pre-parade and Princess Fairytale Hall becoming Scary Tale Hall! The Disney Parks Blog has a full rundown of the 2014 party’s entertainment and food.
Though crowds were unbearable at times and my eyelids were ready to collapse by the time everything was all said and done, I had loads of fun at the “Monstrous All-Nighter”. With a summer trip coming next month, I won’t be at “Rock Your Disney Side”, but I would perhaps consider going to another 24-hour event for the early hours, leaving around 7 p.m. like we did, and not coming back until 2 a.m. Even still, the Magic Kingdom is open late enough on some nights that you could do an “almost all-nighter” just for fun on your own if you really wanted to… you wouldn’t have all the extra crowds to deal with!
Ultimately, feet were exhausted and patience levels were tested as the day grew thinner, but the positives far outweighed the negatives for this once-in-a-lifetime (or is it?) opportunity to make Disney memories in a unique way. How often do you get the chance to see the sun rise over New Fantasyland®? Or take a spin on Astro Orbiter at 4 in the morning? Disney learned from its 2012 test run and improved upon itself to make 2013′s 24-hour event even better, so I expect the 2014 go-around to be even more efficient and crowd-pleasing.
(Images belong to author’s personal family collection.)
Blake is a college student with a focus in Electronic Media and Film. He enjoys making his family of six watch the parade in Frontierland and then sprint to Main Street in time to see it again. You can find him on Twitter @olddirtyblake or at BlakeOnline.com.