Friday, January 5, 2018

Welcoming in the New Year from the Happiest Place on Earth

Well, at least this is what their brochures say.

Watching the ball drop in Times Square on TV to welcome in ’17, I decided that I wasn’t going to watch ’18 come from my TV set.

So in June, I started laying down plans to visit Walt Disney with plans to welcome in the New Year from the Magic Kingdom.

With the beach portion of my winter break over, I drove over to Orlando, Fl. We checked in to the Caribbean Beach Resort, and then headed for downtown Disney or Disney Spring for those new to the lure of Disney.

As always, we had dinner at the Rainforest Café. Then, we headed over the “The Void” where we went through a VR interactive game. For those in to VR games or better yet, into Star Wars, this is a must do. The entire experience takes about 30 minutes. We got to ride a skiff, battle with Storm Troopers, and finally battle with Dark Vader.  Everyone that came away the experience talked about how cool it was.

Saturday morning, we were off to Animal Kingdom. Disney opened the new Pandora section during the summer so I wanted to check it out.

Since I had fast passes for Avatar Flight of Passage, we headed for the stand by line to ride the Na’vi River Journey. In the weeks leading up to our visit, I was been monitoring the wait time for these rides. Often, they stretched from 3 to 4 hours or more. So we hit the park soon as the gates opened, we got in to the ride before the lines began to build

Both rides were neat to experience. To me, the Na’vi River Journey was much like Small World with a Pandora skin on it. Cool to see, and something to mark off my bucket list. However, the Avatar Flight of Passage is really the must do ride. This is another VR type of ride where we experience what it is like to ride on the back of a Banshee. The closest other ride would be Soarin but only if you were riding solo and only with single seat. I highly recommend doing it, but get there early. The standby lines were super long.

After this we did Everest and the Dinosoar Ride. We did Primeval a couple of times, and the Safari ride. We did it once during the day, and twice at night. Disney didn’t use to offer nighttime rides. Animal Kingdom usually closed around 5pm during the winter months. Now, the park stays open until 10 pm.  True, the lighting is isn't all that great, but Disney has some lighting. But best of all, the animals are up and moving around especially, the lions. I can only remember a few occasions where I have seen them up during the daytime.

We caught River of Lights show, and then hit a few final rides before calling it a night a little after 10 pm.

That night, we slept fast and quick because the following day was New Year’s eve. For a whole year, I had waited on this day and to be in this place. I didn’t want to waste a second of it.

The Park was to officially open at 7 AM. 6:45, we were walking through the gate. Actually, the sun hadn’t even come up yet. From 7-8, were the extra magic hours for resort guest.

Once we scanned our bands, we were off riding rides. We were off and on rides for the next 3 hours or so. From 7 to 11, it was pretty much a blur. But I do remember getting a text alert that the Magic Kingdom was closed to new guest. They had reached max capacity around 11:30 AM. I believe it.

We were in Frontier Land and going to the Haunted Mansion just after the afternoon parade. From where we were to the entrance into the Haunted Mansion was may be 50 yards. It took us at least 30 minutes to make our way through the crowd. People were literally standing still. The two way traffic signs weren't very clear. Plus, throw in a few thousand strollers and wheel chairs. Movement pretty much grind to a halt.

But this was nothing to what was to come.

By 10:30 pm, they were directing people way from Main Street and circle in front of the castle. The cast members kept telling us that these areas had reached capacity. 

We managed to wiggle into a space on the left side of the castle. For anyone with personal space issues or don't like a crowd, this definitely isn’t the place to be. There was plenty of pushing and shoving. I was packed into a sea of people in all directions.

I saw more than a few people bale and head for less crowded areas. Personally, I loved it. I stood there fascinated to watch how people reacted to be in such close quarters.

At 11:50 the fireworks started and went on for about 9 minutes. Then, there was a count down to midnight before a second wave of fireworks started. These were some of the best fireworks that I have ever seen in person. At one point, fireworks were going off in a full 360 circle around the Magic Kingdom.

For a guy who is a big Disney fan, I thought this was an awesome experience. Everyone should do it at least once.

Once the fireworks were over, the park was still open for another hour. We hit a few more rides, caught the light show on the castle, and took a bunch of pictures. A little after 1:30 AM, we strolled out of the Magic Kingdom gates. From open to close, we had spent more than 18 hours in the park. We spent another hour getting back to hour hotel room. I finally lay down to close my eyes and with little effort, I was fast a sleep.

I started taking my oldest daughter to Disney when she was 2 years old. We have been back at least once every year, and some times several times during the same year. Nearly, every time I came in fresh and rested but left tired and sleep deprived.

I wouldn’t trade those tired days for nothing. Although, I will say, it is actually harder now. When my daughters were young, they would fall a sleep so I could rest during the day at the park. Now, they are all nearly grown young women who can stay up with the best of them. I am now the one that needs a nap.

Of course, on the ride back to CLT, I glanced over to see all 3 of them fast a sleep. It reminded me of so many of our Disney adventures together.

Once last note, Disney is awesome place to take your kids. It is also somewhat expensive and tiring, but can you really put a price on the memories that you make with your kids. The days pass more quicker than you realize. They will so be grown soon enough and gone out into this big world that we all live.  Before they are gone, take some time and make a few memories with them. You will never regret it.

The Cool Down Runner

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