Written by: Amy Bechtol
On Leap Day 2012, Walt Disney World Resort ran a promotion in which Magic Kingdom Park stayed open for 24 hours straight, giving Guests “One More Disney Day.” It was such a successful event that they have continued the tradition, holding similar all-day, all-night celebrations one day each year. As a full-blown Disney enthusiast, I knew that I needed to experience the magic of one of these unique opportunities. I mentioned the idea of attending a 24 hour party to my mom and we both agreed it was on our ‘must-do’ list. As soon as the announcement was made that this year’s “Coolest Summer Ever” would begin with a 24 hour kick-off celebration, I immediately booked a two night stay at Disney’s Pop Century Resort. Mom and I were so excited to go on our magical adventure and totally up for the challenge of partying in Magic Kingdom all day and night!
As fate would have it, I stumbled upon a Disney Parks Blog post just two days before our flight to Florida. Disney Parks Blog was holding a contest for a chance to win free park admission to the 24 hour celebration at Magic Kingdom, breakfast at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café, and a private screening of “Tomorrowland” for the winners and a guest. I just so happened to be reading the post during the two hour entry window. I quickly entered the contest, told my mom to enter too, and wished upon a star. The night before our trip, I received a pixie dusted email congratulating me as a contest winner! I couldn’t believe it. I knew there was a reason why I booked a room only reservation.
Friday, May 22 began with a pre-dawn wake-up call. As tired as I was, I bounced out of bed Tigger style! Disney buses were not yet running at 4 a.m. so we took a cab to the Transportation and Ticket Center. There were signs directing contest winners to a ticketing window where I was given an envelope containing 2 park tickets, 2 green wristbands (to indicate we were part of the group of winners), 2 “Tomorrowland” baseball hats, and 2 Olaf-on-a-stick photo props. A private ferry boat ride to Magic Kingdom was set to depart the TTC at 4:55 a.m. Unfortunately, it was sent off at 4:50 a.m. leaving us and several other winners behind. Instead we were transported on a private monorail ride which left at 5 a.m. We arrived at the entrance of Magic Kingdom shortly thereafter. Contest winners were directed through the touch points and into a reserved area in the center of the courtyard. Mickey and Minnie were there in their pajamas, posing for pictures for media coverage. A DJ was on hand to get us pumped up and ready for the long day ahead. Several Disney Parks Blog contributors were mingling in the crowd, taking pictures, and conducting interviews. My mom and I were among those chosen to be interviewed on camera. So exciting! We had an amazing view of the special Welcome Show complete with Anna, Elsa, Olaf, and Kristoff. At 6 a.m. the ropes were dropped and the massive crowd of early birds shuffled in to the park, ensuring we would make the most of every minute of our 24 hours at Magic Kingdom.
Our “Tomorrowland” themed breakfast was set to run for an hour beginning at 6:15 a.m. at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café. We didn’t want to be late so we opted to move our way slowly down Main Street U.S.A. instead of rushing off to the rides. Knowing we would be occupied during the early hours when lines are short, we decided to grab FastPass+ for the late morning/early afternoon. Upon entering Cosmic Ray’s we were directed to a lovely buffet breakfast consisting of pastries, bagels, fresh fruit, juice, milk, and coffee. Disney Social Media Manager, Jennifer Fickley-Baker, extended a warm welcome to us all and congratulated us on being a part of this special experience. We were treated to an exclusive photo op with a young man wearing an actual jet pack and suit straight from the “Tomorrowland” movie. A PhotoPass Photographer was there to capture the moment and we were gifted the ability to download the picture for free. We wrapped up our breakfast, got a quick picture with an inflatable Orange Bird, and headed off to our next meeting point in Frontierland at 7:30.
Buses were waiting backstage to shuttle us to AMC Downtown Disney 24. It was a little strange to be leaving the park so early in the morning. After all, we hadn’t done anything but eat breakfast. I felt like I was committing a Disney veteran’s crime! Skipping headliner rides during the best time of day to ride them, yikes! I had never been to the movie theater at Downtown Disney before. A new first and something to check off my list-of-things-I-still-need-to-do-at-Disney. The theater reserved for us was huge. The chairs were oversized and quite comfortable, in fact, we struggled not to doze off in the dark, air conditioned, squishiness. Just before the movie began we were instructed by a Cast Member to remain seated even after the credits finished rolling. He promised us a surprise which made us all squirm with excitement. I thoroughly enjoyed “Tomorrowland.” It was an inspiring film that made me feel extra excited to be going back to Magic Kingdom for the day. Our special surprise was to become recruiters for the day. We were each given 5 exclusive Tomorrowland pins to share with dreamers of our choosing in the park. The thought made me well up with tears. What a privilege!
We arrived back at Magic Kingdom around 11:30 a.m. The 24 hour day had already been going for nearly 6 hours and it was finally time for our first ride of the day, Peter Pan’s Flight. We caught the Festival of Fantasy Parade at noon and enjoyed a quick lunch at Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Cafe. Originally, we had the idea of trying to do every single thing there is to do in the park. We thought it was a realistic goal, but we fell short. We did try out Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom and A Pirate’s Adventure ~ Treasures of the Seven Seas, which neither of us had done before. Both interactive games were a lot of fun and highly recommended. Hours and hours passed by as we rode and snacked¬ our way around the park. There was no way I could spend 24 hours at Magic Kingdom without at least one Dole Whip Float…and an Olaf cupcake, and a Mickey Premium Ice Cream Bar.
The overall energy in the park was amazing. Everyone was having a great time! As usual in Florida, a storm rolled through and lightening temporarily closed all outdoor rides for a few hours. Did that stop us? Not a chance! We powered on and visited several indoor attractions instead. The overnight hours were my favorite part of the twenty-four. Being in the park all night was so unique. It seemed as though everyone who was still there was a huge Disney fan. It was different than the normal park crowd. Lots of Guests were in costumes and pajamas, including us. I felt like I was part of an exclusive family of Disney lovers. We shared lots of memories, laughs, and even a table with perfect strangers. Monster’s Inc. Laugh Floor on a regular day is a great show. Visiting it in the middle of the night was hilarious. The entire audience, as well as the monsters of Monstropolis, were slap happy. As the night wore on, we wore down. A plunge down Splash Mountain at 5 a.m. got us bright-eyed once again. Before we knew it, the clock was about to strike 6 a.m. for the second time. A float of pajama clad characters led us from Cinderella Castle to the train station at the front of the park. The celebration was capped off with a closing ceremony. With tears in my eyes and a smile from ear to ear, I sang along as Mickey Mouse said goodbye to all his company.
Visiting Magic Kingdom Park during a 24 hour event was exhilarating. I can’t wait until the next one! I encourage anyone who can take a trip to Walt Disney World Resort and check out a 24 hour event, to do so. It’s a Disney fan’s dream come true!
Amy is a wife and mom of 4 kids, who loves all things Disney. She is a regular on the weekly episodes of the MouseQuest Podcast. Follow her on Twitter @uccats97.
Other posts by Amy:
Tips for Touring the Magic Kingdom Park in One Day
Expedition Everest Challenge 2015: The Final Race
Friday the 13th Villains #DisneySide @Home Celebration
A Ten Mile Run Through the Twilight Zone
Running Disney: Packing Tips and Ideas