A Day at the Parks
Several years ago we bought a 7 day non-expiring park hopper ticket so each time we visit Disney we usually plan on spending one day at the park. One of the reasons for visiting Disney this year was to see the Christmas decorations, the newly revised Magic Kingdom and the Osborne Family Spectacle of the Dancing Lights (at Hollywood Studios). Friday, December 6th would be the day! It would be a fun, yet exhausting day, a magical day, and more importantly a day to celebrate Rob’s birthday. Happy Birthday, Robbie!
As mentioned previously, Disney has the new Magic Band system which we had been using for food purchases but to gain access to the parks we needed to complete one more step. So on Thursday night, we used the “My Disney Experience” app on our Android smartphones to link our tickets to our bands.
Now to gain entrance into the parks all we had to do was just wave Mickey in front of a special reader, wait for the glowing green circle to appear and voilà we’re in! Plus with the tickets linked, we could now use Fast Pass+ to reserve an hourly time slot for 3 attractions – even before we actually got to the parks (that’s a huge improvement). Also, with the app on our Android phones, we could change or cancel our Fast Pass+ time from anywhere in the parks on the fly!
Since we didn’t feel the need to race to the parks we didn’t leave the coach until after 9 am. A quick walk and a short wait at the marina to board the boat to the Wilderness Lodge where we would have breakfast at the Roaring Fork – a quick breakfast croissant with hash browns. Ft. Wilderness has breakfast at the Trail’s End restaurant but it is a buffet for $17.99 – don’t think we could eat enough food to be worth that price!
Once our tummies were full, we walked back to the Wilderness Lodge dock to catch the boat to Magic Kingdom. I don’t know why but the boats seemed to be pretty infrequent that morning, I think we waited at least 20 – 25 minutes. Good thing we weren’t on any schedule. Maybe that was a premonition for what was to happen later in the day.
Over breakfast we had decided to visit 2 of our favorite attractions – the Haunted Mansion (Liberty Square) and Pirates of the Caribbean (Adventureland) plus the new Under the Sea Journey of the Little Mermaid at the newly expanded Fantasyland.
First stop was the Haunted Mansion. We noticed that the wait time showed about a 20 minute wait to go inside but with the Fast Pass+ we were able to walk right in. Even though we’ve been to this attraction several times before (the last time in 2012), it’s always very spooky and fun!
Just as a note, I think the Haunted Mansion and Pirates are our favorites because of the fun, very informative behind the scenes facts we learned during the 5 hour adults only Keys to the Kingdom tour which we’ve taken twice – once by ourselves and then with Rob’s parents in 2006. If you ever come to Disneyworld and have the time, we highly recommend this tour.
From there we strolled over to Pirates of the Caribbean but it was a little too early to use our Fast Pass+ so we stopped in to watch the show at the Enchanted Tiki Birds attraction. Even though we’ve seen this show a number of times before – not only is it entertaining but it’s also a good spot to stop and rest your feet.
From there, it was a short walk over to Pirates of the Caribbean. Another long line but we were able to bypass it with our Fast Pass reservation. For those of you who have followed our blog, you’re probably surprised that we wanted to experience Pirates again after getting stuck on the ride in 2012. Luckily everything went smoothly this time.
After that, we strolled over to the new Fantasyland expansion which includes the Enchanted Forest and StoryBook Circus which just opened earlier this year. They are still working on a few of the attractions such as the new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train which won’t open until some time in 2014. When we were here in 2012, they had just started construction. The only and last thing we did here was to go on Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid which was typical Disney animation and very cute. Want to see it for real? Here’s a You Tube video (not taken by Rob).
By now we were pretty hot (unlike the rest of the country temps were abnormally high for this time of year – in the mid 80’s) and tired so we decided to hop on the train to go back to the Magic Kingdom entrance where we would catch the boat back to Fort Wilderness. We wanted to take a brief rest and have a quick lunch before heading out after dark to Hollywood Studios to see the Osborne Family Spectacular of Dancing Lights. Not much of a wait at the dock this time.
After resting a bit, shortly before the 5:30 pm sunset, we hopped in the car and headed over to a parking lot near the Boardwalk (about a 10 minute drive) where we could catch a boat over to Hollywood Studios. Our plan was to see the lights, take the boat back to the Boardwalk to grab a bite to eat, then wander over to Epcot to see Illuminations (fireworks at 9 pm) and roam around there for awhile since the park hours were extended that night until 11:30 pm. That was the plan but as the saying goes “the best laid plans….”
We walked from the parking lot, through the Boardwalk Resort where there was another gorgeous Christmas tree (no pictures this time – think we’re all Christmas tree’d out) and to the boat dock where we waited, waited and waited some more for the boat.
We had done this before on previous trips with no problems or delays but no such luck this time. Finally after about 20 minutes a boat showed up but it was already pretty full of people who had boarded at Epcot. It didn’t matter, everyone in line was herded on board. Talk about feeling like a sardine in a can! Hmmm, I wondered what’s the legal capacity was for this boat? What if something happened? Did they have enough life preservers? Then I thought this is Disney and nothing bad ever happens at Disney – it is a magical place after all!
Anyway, after stops at the Beach and Yacht Club resorts and the Swan and Dolphin Resorts where very few people left but more boarded, the boat finally arrived at Hollywood Studios. As we docked we noticed that there was a very long line of people waiting to take the boat from Hollywood Studios.
If we had been smart we would have stayed on the boat but we weren’t and we didn’t! After going through the gate, it was difficult to walk through the crowds but we finally made our way over to the back lots where the Osborne Lights were all aglow and definitely dancing in time to the music!
When we were here with Rob’s parents in 2006, we were able to wander around in any direction, not so this time. They had the flow of traffic going in only one direction. Yes, the crowds were overwhelming but I have to say it really was spectacular and totally amazing! Not only is the number of lights unbelievable but the fact that approximately every 7 to 8 minutes they “dance” to holiday music while Florida snow falls in the background.
A little history – the original light display (only 1000 lights) was started by the Osborne family at their home in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1986. Eventually the display grew to 3 million lights resulting in complaints from the neighbors and a subsequent lawsuit. The Osborne family was ordered to shut down the display in 1995. It was moved to Hollywood Studios that year where it has grown in size and has been choreographed to music. In 2011, they replaced all of the lights with LED’s and a state of the art entertainment system was installed so all of the dancing sequences had to be reprogrammed. Imagine what a job that must have been!
Here are some cool facts. The Osborne Light Spectacular has:
- 5 million individual lights or 350 miles of lights.
- More than 40 Mickey images are hidden throughout.
- A 70-foot-tall Christmas tree glittering with 58,000 lights and a 30-foot-tall tree with 27,300 lights.
- A whopping 800,000 watts of electricity are used along the park’s 760-foot-long New York, Chicago & San Francisco Streets.
- More than 350 miles of Christmas lights wrap around the display with 32.2 miles of extension cables.
- Busy elves that take 21,000 man-hours to install the lights.
- Sixty-six snow machines and 100 gallons of snow fluid which create a flurry of snowflakes.
Whew, imagine the electric bill! Rob made a video which you can check out here.
After ogling the lights for a bit, knowing that the park was closing at 8 pm, we wanted to make sure we were at the boat dock well before then so we slowly made our way through the crowds arriving at the boat dock about 7:20 pm. We debated on taking a bus back but those can be incredibly slow as well so we decided to stay with the boat approach.
There was a line at the boats but it wasn’t as long as it was when we first arrived there. We waited, waited and waited some more. A boat eventually arrived but due to the length of the line, we didn’t make it on board. At least after that boat left, we were closer to the front of the line so we figured we would make it on board the next one.
We waited, waited and waited some more. Everyone near us in line was complaining, saying that they had been here other years around the same time of year but had never seen the crowds this bad and the boats so slow. We waited, waited and waited some more. Boy this is monotonous!
Finally just a few minutes after closing, another boat showed up and luckily we made it into the sardine can. Woo hoo! If we didn’t make the boat, we had decided we would hoof it on our poor, aching, blistered feet back to Broadway about a 30 minute walk (probably should have done this in the first place). Just as we pulled away from the dock two more boats showed up. Figures!
Good thing since it was after closing and the line behind us had really grown long! About time they added more boats!!! Not sure why they didn’t do that sooner. Disney is usually pretty good about managing crowds but I can’t say that was true on this particular night. On Sunday night, there were extended hours at Hollywood Studios so the park would be open until 11:00 pm. In hindsight perhaps that would have been a better night to go to Hollywood, everyone wouldn’t leave the park all at once. Oh well, maybe next time…..
By the time the boat made all the stops and finally docked at the Boardwalk, it was well after 9 pm, we hadn’t had any supper and we were too tired to make our way over to Epcot. We stopped by one of the Boardwalk restaurants, the Big River Grille and Brewing Works, but there was a 30 minute wait so we decided to head back to the hacienda where somehow we found the energy to grill a couple of burgers. Supper was after 10 pm that night.
As I said before “the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray” but maybe that shouldn’t have been a surprise – we were in mouse-dom after all!
And I think at the end of an exhausting day, Rob truly felt another year older!
Sounds like a great day! Happy Birthday!
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