It’s about that time again. Magic Kingdom Park will be open for 24 hours from Friday, May 22, at 6 a.m. through Saturday, May 23, at 6 a.m. With any special event comes the inevitable question: Do I want to make sure I’m there to be part of it, or am I content to watch the festivities happen from home? Today we’ll explore the pros and cons of this year’s 24-hour bash and work through that all-important decision, all while picking up tips along the way to make the most of the party.
Firstly, unlike most Disney events, the 24-hour day is not something that has become a permanent staple. It began in 2012 on Leap Day, and has taken place every year since then on Memorial Day weekend. However, Disney typically waits until the spring to announce the event, unlike most other activities which are not only revealed much further out, but also have become an annual expectation. Given that this is the third consecutive year, I think we can bet that yes, a 24-hour day is something Disney wants to do every year and, yes, it will take place on Memorial Day weekend from this point forward. Is that something I would plan a whole vacation around months and months in advance? Ihhh. Not quite. But it seems to be a pretty good estimate. I personally am surprised Disney chooses to hold the event on a.) a holiday weekend and b.) during Star Wars Weekends, since both of these aspects already reel in significant attention, but hey. It must be working for them.
Something important to consider, whether the 24-hour day is the reason you’re vacationing or not, is that attending the party will impact the entirety of your vacation plans. You aren’t going to stay in Magic Kingdom for 24 hours on Friday and expect to rise and shine ready to go to Epcot on Saturday. Special care must be given to your itinerary on the days before and after the event to ensure you are first and foremost taking care of your body. This probably means no late-night plans the night before and virtually nothing the day after, or at least until much later in the day.
That being said, it is also necessary to decide beforehand how much of the event you want to partake in. Are you going all 24 hours? Are you just in it to be in the park at dawn? Are you only wanting to be there for the wee hours of the night? What’s the priority for your family?
Part of that will depend on where your hotel accommodations are. I attended the event in 2013 and stayed offsite. This made it cumbersome and impractical to leave the park in the middle of the day for a break. We arrived at Magic Kingdom in time for the 6 a.m. opening, stayed all day, took a brief rest on the Polynesian Village Resort beach around 7 p.m., then returned to the park. This was not a sufficient plan. The beach time was more of a respite than a nap, and everything after we returned to the park is now a blur in my memory because of how exhausted I was. I’m attending the event again this year, but with a big change. The biggest part of the plan that needed to change if I was to go again was staying at a Disney Resort onsite. This way, my travel crew can easily take a motor coach back to the resort mid-day, take a satisfactory nap that will recharge us, and head back to the park ready to take on the remainder of the party. This also ensures reliable transportation at the very end of the event… no worry of falling asleep at the wheel.
Another change I will make this time is making food plans ahead of time. We are not eating at any restaurants with priority reservations, but we will definitely peruse the park’s menus before arrival and know exactly where and when we’d like to eat. I do not think it’s necessary to plan out every minute of the day, but after last time, food plans is an item I will stand firm on. Last time, my travel crew was plagued with everyone being on different eating schedules and none of us really having a strong knowledge of the Magic Kingdom‘s menus, leading people to eat at different times and different places with food that did not sufficiently supply our bodies with nourishment.
FastPasses must be considered, as well. FastPass+ will only be available through 1 a.m. the day of the event. Everything involving FastPasses will operate as usual during the event. However, if you look at the special offerings of years past, you can make FastPass+ reservations with some predictions in mind. Typically around 11 p.m., some of the park’s character greeting locations transform to add a little extra magic. For example, last year Princess Fairytale Hall became Scary Tale Hall during nighttime and featured Disney villains. These special Meet & Greets attract gargantuan crowds with multi-hour waits. While no specific characters have been announced for 2015’s party yet, it would probably be smart to make FastPass+ reservations for Town Square Theater or Princess Fairytale Hall between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. If anything out of the ordinary was to happen, these locations will likely be involved, and if you have a FastPass, you’ll get to skip the huge line. This year’s party theme is Frozen, and I expect Disney has some fun up its sleeve.
Above any of that, though, you must discern whether 24 hours in a theme park is feasible from the get-go. This is a question only you can answer, based on who would be traveling, their ages, and what you know about them. Is this going to mess up little Timmy’s napping schedule for the remainder of the trip? Is this something that your family will enjoy, or is it going to throw everything else out of whack to the point of it not being worth it? Are you willing to adjust other things to prioritize a special morning/day/evening/night/late night/late late night in the Magic Kingdom? These are all questions to work through, and after you do, I think the answer will be easy to make.
(Photos belong to author’s personal collection.)
Blake studies Electronic Media and Film at Appalachian State University. 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.