Orlando… a day at the park
Visiting the Magic Kingdom
A Very Merry Christmas return in 2011


The Park: Magic Kingdom

Located at: Disney World


This visit was specifically based on attending Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, and, it was absolutely worth it.

But amazingly… this would have made a perfect regular visit to the park as well. They offered and unannounced (but easy enough to learn about) early admission. It was organized… and I’m not saying you could have showed up in the morning when the gates opened for the day and gone in. (Because that’s not true.) But if you do your internet research you’ll find out that when they say the party starts at 7pm, they also start allowing people in well before that. So for less than the cost of a regular full-day ticket… about $25 per person less… we still stayed in the park for well over 7 hours, saw everything we wanted to see, and if we have concentrated solely on rides, I have zero doubt we could have covered almost every ride in the park.

Again though… the park itself wasn’t our intent. It was the holiday festivities. We went to the parade and watched the fireworks, and took it easy later in the evening. And that was also partly a result of having been there not long ago. We avoided the Mountain Trio. (Splash, Big Thunder and Space.) But to emphasize the point about how much park could have been covered… in less than three hours we had been on six rides, eaten dinner, and picked up the first of our free holiday snacks.

Rides we went on:

The Jungle Cruise
Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room
Pirates of the Caribbean
Country Bear Jamboree
Haunted Mansion
“it’s a small world”
Peter Pan’s Flight
Mickey’s PhilharMagic
Snow White’s Scary Adventures

All four of us had visited the Magic Kingdom earlier in 2011. Terry and I in January, and Ellen and Richard around the end of May. So for the most part, we carried no agenda into the park beyond seeing the holiday festivities.

It was a basic approach… if we got to the rides, great, but if time became a factor we’d focus on what we needed to see that was special to this particular visit. And I can’t say time ever became a factor. We never really waded into Tomorrowland, and yet I can’t say we ever really felt we had to or that we were sacrificing anything. Would we have liked to have seen Stitch? Yeah. Of course. Same for Pooh and Tigger, Buzz Lightyear, the Mountains, and so on. But the visit wasn’t compromised in any way because of anything we decided to skip.

And yet… even without a go-go-go approach to getting things checked off or a specific battle plan for which way to turn once inside the gate, some things became evident when we saw the park map.

First, when Terry and I visited in January, the plans for remodeling, adding, and essentially just changing Fantasyland and Tomorrowland meant I thought that we had missed an opportunity to see Snow White’s Scary Adventures one last time. But there it was… on the park map… an open attraction. And it was open for the day and the evening. So that became a bit of a must-do.

And second, most of Fantasyland and Tomorrowland were open for the day and the party. It was rides like the Jungle Cruise that would be closed later on.

We were quickly able to come to an agreement about what all of us wanted to see during this visit… the holiday festivities, while hitting things like the Tiki Room, Peter Pan and Snow White, that for one reason of another we hadn’t seen during the earlier respective 2011 visits. Anything else would be a bonus.

What we ate:

Two things to consider here… first a meal, and second the event.

The one meal we had came before the start of the Christmas events, when we stopped in the Pinocchio Village Haus.

During the evening’s festivities, there was a special free service of items throughout the park, including hot cocoa, apple juice, cookies and apple slices. (I want you to think about that. It cost less to get in, and after 7pm… unlimited free cocoa and snickerdoodle-type cookies.)

During our visit last January, Terry and I decided to share some meals. We figured it was better to split a hamburger and fries instead of tossing stuff we didn’t want. And I think that bears repeating here… not because I’m going to go on and on about chicken fingers or whatever… but because many theme park locations do carry similar meals. Sandwiches… burgers… fries… they appear on listings all over the place. I’ll readily admit that every location generally offers some twist… and often that twist has made it a favorite of some person or family. For the most part though, splitting meals is a great tip.

Events we saw:

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party
Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmastime Parade
“The Magic, The Memories and You” Holiday Edition
Holiday Wishes: Celebrate the Spirit of the Season

In one way, we were very lucky. People normally can be seen staking out parade-route viewing spots well in advance of a start time. (And I mean at least an hour ahead of the parade, and often more.) We got off of Peter Pan and decided our timing and place in the park warranted going to Mickey’s PhilharMagic instead of rushing to the parade route. As we came around the castle, we ended up near the bridge that leads out of the center hub and into Liberty Square… and basically had a front row seat. That was nice.

That said, the parade was not well lit. I don’t know… maybe it was because I’m used to night parades being the Main Street Electric Parade or SpectroMagic… maybe it was because of where we were located, not on Main Street or what you might call a primary location… the parade didn’t knock us over. It was nice.

The new event… “The Magic, The Memories and You”… was really well done. Very creative and it’s just incredible to see what can be done.

And the fireworks… well… I love Disney fireworks.

The best of the best:

While we didn’t all see the snow falling on Main Street, I did catch a glimpse of the dusting that was taking place. It seemed nice… and we probably should have paid a bit more attention to getting there instead of mentioning it and then running off in a different direction. By the time we realized we hadn’t really walked Main Street in the evening, we were on the monorail and heading out.

That said, the holidays were in full force, from character dress to cast member greetings… snacks available for free to special shows. And that was very nice to see.

Disney does not skimp on its decorating… nor are they afraid to use the word Christmas.

There is a good reason this picture has been included. Look carefully...


First of all… I want to send a message out to a mother. If you were at the park for the event… and you were getting ready to board a boat on “it’s a small world” right around 7pm… and you have an adorable baby that was wearing a holiday outfit… and you remember my wife and I commenting about how cute the baby was and perhaps even recall someone taking a picture of you… e-mail me. Tell me what the cute outfit said and what day you were there. Because while I’m not going to send a copy around to everyone, I have a really great picture of you standing at the gate to board holding your baby and I’ll gladly send it your way.

Next… the holiday edition of “The Magic, The Memories and You”… was an unexpected delight and surprise. We had positioned ourselves for a bit of a collapse before viewing the special Holidays Wishes fireworks. I had heard about the Memories efforts that were beginning, but had zero clue what they were really planning to carry out. Honestly… if I was looking for a picture of me… unless there is some advance warning system they use, chances are good you won’t see it. But the use of the castle, and the special effects, and the pictures… pretty impressive stuff.

If you are making plans to attend the Christmas Party, and wonder what rides will or won’t be open once the 7pm start of the party arrives, the reality is that’s a good question. Here’s a good trick… when you enter the park, if you are getting an early admission, open up both maps. (One for that day of the park, and one for the party.) For the most part, everything I was physically given during our visit matches up quite nicely with things I’ve seen about this year (and most of what I’ve seen for previous years, which will always involve minor adjustments and tinkering of some sort) at the most reputable of Disney-information web sources and sites. And places like Fantasyland and Tomorrowland tend to keep just about every available ride open. It’s Adventureland (Jungle Cruise was closed)… Frontierland (Country Bears was not running the holiday show, and I haven’t learned why it was the normal show… Tom Sawyer Island was closed, and the railroad seems to have been shut down at night)… and Liberty Square (Hall of Presidents and Riverboat closed, with the Diamond Horseshoe converted to a special holiday party site)…. were the areas of biggest changes and potential closings.

Special praise (or complaints):

I refuse to promise anything… in part because most (if not all) of the 2011 schedule will be done when this is posted, and I have zero clue if the same idea will be followed in 2012… and in part because Disney does it but will not admit to it… but you really need to investigate admission being offered well in advance of the scheduled 7pm party start time.

If you are attending Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, you will be issued a wristband that identifies you to staff after 7pm. Basically, if you have no wristband, after 7pm you will not be allowed to enter attractions and will be asked to head toward the entrance and leave the park. However, once admitted before 7pm, you… the Christmas Party guest… have fill access to everything in the park.

See our listing of rides and such above? I wasn’t kidding earlier. We had visited The Jungle Cruise, Tiki Room, Pirates of the Caribbean, Country Bear Jamboree, and Haunted Mansion, eaten at the Pinocchio Village Haus, and were boarding a boat at “it’s a small world” before the announced 7pm start of the Christmas Party. And since all four of us had been in the Magic Kingdom earlier in 2011, we just kicked back after that, took in the holiday festivities, and weren’t worried about what we did or didn’t do after that.

It is an awesome benefit, and one that works as a win for both sides. Disney gets people processed and in so a long line doesn’t slow up the admission process at 7pm for people that paid for the party (plus they get you spending money at restaurants and gift shops ahead of 7pm)… and we, the guests, have the possibility of a couple of extra hours inside the park so everything doesn’t have to be crammed into five hours.

If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at Bob@inmybackpack.com