My family and I had been dreaming of a trip to Walt Disney World during the holidays for years, and this year we finally got to make it happen. From December 14th to December 19th, 2017 we had a magical, fun-filled, and believe it or not, relaxing vacation in The Most Magical Place on Earth.
Category: Trip Reports
Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party (A First-Timers Experience)
I know there are probably a thousand different reviews for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, but I thought I’d throw my hat in the ring as this was not only my first Very Merry Christmas Party, but it was also my first ever Disney World party experience. I haven’t been to any of the Disney parties (no dessert parties, no Halloween parties, nothing! I must literally live under a rock!) so getting to experience Mickey’s Christmas party as my first ever party experience was phenomenal.
In March 2017, I had the opportunity to go to Disney World with my mom, my sister and my daughter. The four of us were so excited to get to spend an extended weekend together in our favorite place.
I just got back from four fabulous days at Walt Disney World. I haven’t been during the summer in a very long time (since the lower crowds and temperatures of September swayed me that way), so much of this was a new and different experience for me. So I don’t forget things, I wanted to detail the trip here and add in some tips and tricks I picked up along the way.
One new experience this time around was flying in. We grabbed cheap tickets from Allegiant and then rented a car. One thing I didn’t realize at the time I booked our flight was Allegiant only flies into Sanford Orlando (SFB) and the Magical Express doesn’t run there. By the time we calculated the cost of a taxi to and from our resort, it made just as much sense to rent a car. We also like the freedom that a car allows you as opposed to the Disney transportation system.
After checking into Animal Kingdom Lodge (my first ever Deluxe stay – more on how I got that at a bargain in a later post), my husband and I headed over to Sanaa for lunch. Something else I learned about this resort is that it is actually TWO resorts – Jambo House and Kidani Village. Jambo House is the main section and has three restaurants, Boma, Jiko and Mara. Kidani is where Sanaa is housed. Figuring out the shuttle/parking situation was a pain, but dinner was definitely worth it.
Following Sanaa, we hopped in the car to check out Animal Kingdom’s new nighttime experiences. On this particular evening, Animal Kingdom was open until 11pm, so by arriving at 3 or so, we had plenty of time to explore the park at dusk, evening and night. We rode Everest (three times!), Dinosaur, Primeval Whirl, and Kilimanjaro Safaris at dusk. I’ll be honest, I didn’t notice a huge difference in the movement or activity of the animals on the safari, but others have said that it’s better in early evening, so take my experience with a grain of salt. We also took in the Nomad Lounge, the bar attached to the new signature restaurant, Tiffins. It was absolutely beautiful, and offered much needed air conditioning. We also saw Festival of the Lion King for the first time, which was thoroughly entertaining. And finally, it was time for Jungle Book: Alive with Magic.
For anyone who isn’t aware, Jungle Book is the replacement nighttime show in Animal Kingdom. Originally, Rivers of Light was supposed to have opened by now, but technical difficulties have caused it to be pushed back for an undetermined amount of time. To me, and I’m just being honest, Jungle Book looks like a replacement show. It seemed fairly thrown together. The water projections weren’t as crisp as those in Fantasmic. The singing and dancing are great, but it wasn’t breathtaking by any means.
Immediately after Jungle Book, the entire park goes one of two places. Either to Everest (we saw the wait time spin from 5 minutes to 40 minutes as people lined up) or to the front of the park to see the Tree of Life Awakening. By 9:45, the park was completely empty. We walked around until 10:30 before deciding to call it a night.
On the next day, we had decided to split the day between Hollywood Studios and Magic Kingdom. Since we were traveling without our kids this time, Magic Kingdom didn’t warrant quite as much time, and Hollywood Studios is struggling for attractions right now with all the closures in preparation for Star Wars Land, so it made sense to put them together. I did make the choice to make our Fastpass+ reservations for Hollywood Studios, thinking I could get a 4th FP+ for Magic Kingdom later. This ended up being a really good strategy, which I’ll go into more detail about in a bit. In the span of three hours, we were able to ride Tower of Terror (FP+), Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster (FP+), meet Chewbacca and Kylo Ren, ride Toy Story Mania and Star Tours(FP+), and have a snack at the ABC Commissary. The lines early in the morning were manageable and the 3rd track at Toy Story Mania allowed us to only have to wait for 25 minutes for that attraction.
We went back to the resort to rest for a bit, then headed out to Magic Kingdom. On the ride there, I snagged a 4th FP+ for 7 Dwarves Mine Train, mostly because I was shocked there were any available given its popularity and figured we’d skip anything that was really worth doing (Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, etc) because I’m just not willing to waste my park time in long lines. But this is when it got interesting. Somehow, I must have missed the memo that you are no longer limited to only 4 fastpasses, so after Mine Train, I got back on to the My Disney Experience app to check something else and low and behold, the app told me we were eligible for ANOTHER fastpass. I snagged a Space Mountain, we rode, then got yet ANOTHER fastpass for Haunted Mansion, then ANOTHER for Jungle Cruise! All in all, we used 7 Fastpass+ reservations in one day. And thanks to this change, in addition to those fastpasses, we were also able to ride Pirates of the Caribbean, Journey of the Little Mermaid, Winnie the Pooh, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Astro Orbitor, Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin, Stitch’s Great Escape and the Peoplemover (twice!).
As an aside, the Peoplemover is a great, often overlooked attraction that really shouldn’t be missed. It never has a line, you get to ride behind the scenes of some fun Tomorrowland attractions and you get to SIT. I’m clearly getting old, because that’s my favorite part of the whole thing.
We also had dinner at Be Our Guest, watched Wishes and hung around for the Kiss Goodnight. You know you’re a Disnerd when you get a little giddy for being able to fit in so many attractions in the peak summer crowds and not feel like you really missed out on anything.
So, now I mention another big tip. I think I’ve put this out on social media before, but its a big enough time saver that it can be repeated. Following the Kiss Goodnight, literally everyone left in the park exited. Hundreds of people headed straight for the monorail. By the time we got there, the line was ridiculously long. DON’T USE THE MAGIC KINGDOM MONORAIL BACK TO THE TICKET AND TRANSPORTATION CENTER WHEN IT’S THAT BUSY. Go right on past and use the Resort Monorail loop. The line was about…5 people long and we were able to hop right into an empty, air conditioned monorail car. Yes, you will have to go through several resort stops before circling around to the ticket and transportation center, but it’s totally worth it to not be in that crowd of cranky, hot, sweaty guests. Nothing I got for waiting on a tram though, unless you pay for preferred parking and can walk to your car, that part is just going to suck.
Now, this is the part of my trip where flexibility had to come in. I could tell that being out til midnight was wearing on my husband and myself. We were tired and really needed the extra sleep, so I altered our Epcot plans a bit. We decided to take on the Eat Around the World challenge in the World Showcase, and I had wanted to start at 9 to try the new breakfast items in Mexico. However, understanding that a well-rested husband is a happy husband, we slept in and didn’t make it into Epcot until noon. Still, after a Fastpass+ for Soarin’, we made our way into the World Showcase to stuff our faces. See the pictures below for our food journey (it was delicious!).
We also were able to ride Mission Space Green and Orange, Spaceship Earth, The Seas with Nemo and Friends, watch Turtle Talk with Crush and visit Anna and Elsa in their new location, the Royal Summerhus in the Norway Pavilion. Then, we finished up the night with dinner at Ohana in the Polynesian with a window view of Wishes.
I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect trip, and am always amazed that no matter how many times I visit Walt Disney World, it is always evolving. There’s always something new to learn, something new to try, a new restaurant to visit, and always the same Disney magic!