A funny thing happens when people figure out that you go to Walt Disney World so often. They end up wanting to go, as well. Before long you have two trips in the span of 8 months lined up, both of which with family. That’s what led to our recent trip to Disney World over Thanksgiving and the week after. Moral of this opening paragraph: If you want to go to Disney World all the time, talk about it more. Maybe start a blog? Whatever means necessary. 😉
We had a group of 10 going to Disney World – Melissa’s parents, two brothers, sister-in-law, 2 nephews, our niece, Melissa and myself. The nephews and niece are all under four years old and make for plenty of adorable moments. All of this to say that this trip report may be slightly different from past ones, especially our latest Japan Trip Report, because I didn’t focus on photography as much. I still took plenty of photos, just not the absurd amount of most trips.
Heading into the trip, I was eager to see all of the Christmas entertainment. We hadn’t been to Disney World in November or December in the last few years and we both have fond memories of that season. Mixing that while playing tour guide for our family during a very busy time in the parks seemed like a bit of a challenge, but ended up going well.
Half of our group, including Melissa and I, left Seattle early Thanksgiving morning and flew to Orlando while the other half drove from their home in Pensacola, Florida. We all ended up meeting at our first hotel of the trip, All Star Music Resort. The flights went off without a hitch although the wait for Disney’s Magical Express was a bit longer than usual. That wasn’t much of a surprise considering the holiday weekend.
We checked into our hotel online so getting into our room was a breeze. We had two family suites, putting five people in each room. As I covered in our review of the resort, the room and hotel were serviceable and maybe slightly better than my low expectations. The hotel wasn’t very busy at the time we arrived, making exploring the resort more enjoyable. Melissa met Mickey, who was doing meet & greets in the lobby. That was a nice touch and much better than waiting half an hour to meet him in the parks.
Melissa, Sylas (my brother-in-law) and I ended up running over to Disney Springs that night to activate our annual passes and grab some dinner. While activating the passes was extremely easy, Disney Springs was absolute chaos. Every restaurant we walked past was packed to the brim with people and it took a while to get our food. We eventually ended up back at our hotel to meet everyone else for dinner. Intermission Cafe (All Star Music Resort’s food court) was offering a Thanksgiving meal along with about half of their usual menu. I’m not a huge fan of the typical Thanksgiving meal so I went with a meatball sub instead. It was fine. After I walked around to see a little bit more of the resort before calling it a night.
All in all, I’m glad we decided to have a relatively quiet evening after our arrival. The next day was a pretty early morning and the crowds on Thanksgiving were absurd. Especially after seeing the crowds the following days, I’m glad we decided to fly on Thanksgiving and skip that day in the parks.
We were up early the next morning to take part in Magic Kingdom’s Extra Magic Hour. This was against my better judgement, as I know the Magic Hour would just add to the crowds later on but I had talked myself into the plan. Going into Black Friday, we knew the crowds would be ridiculous and the goal was simply to do our FastPass attractions plus anything with a short wait. We ended up getting to Magic Kingdom a little later than we wanted to and just rode Under the Sea and ate a Cinnamon Roll at Gaston’s Tavern before the Extra Magic Hour ended. I think cast members were well aware of the frustrating crowds of the weekend as we received a few free items throughout our trip. The first item was a Chocolate Croissant at Gaston’s. Giving out a few free items here and there is appreciated and a nice boost to customer service.
Having toddlers and an infant with us, we decided to FastPass a few attractions that we could all go on that day, starting with
Jungle Jingle Cruise. The boys enjoyed seeing the animals and being on a boat and the whole attraction was enjoyable. This is a simple holiday overlay that works and is a nice play on the original attraction. Anymore, Disney seems to want to go all out on their attraction overlays. Jingle Cruise is a nice reminder that this isn’t necessary every time.
After exploring the World’s rivers, a few of us went on The Magic Carpets of Aladdin. It was still early enough in the morning to where a few attractions didn’t have excessive lines, including this one. Magic Kingdom has an odd layout for Adventureland and most of that is because of this spinner in the middle of the path. I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad layout, just a strange one as it seems that this is where the land should end. Instead, the path keeps going to Pirates of the Caribbean. There are slight architectural differences from most of Adventureland, a south Pacific style, to Pirates of the Carribean, a colonial Caribbean style. With that in mind, maybe that’s what the loop around Magic Carpets is signaling – a slight switch in architectural style?
We walked over to Frontierland to use our Splash Mountain FastPass although only a few of us went on it. I like the plastic bags that they now hand out in the Splash Mountain queue, it’s a nice touch and good incorporation of a sponsor. The ride looked good and it was a moderately hot day. Throughout Frontierland, the Country Bears were out walking around. I love them interacting in the streets, although my nephews weren’t too sure.
At this point in the day, everywhere in Magic Kingdom was becoming extremely crowded. Melissa and I had decided ahead of time to go eat lunch outside the parks at one of the resorts. We hopped on the monorail and traveled over to the Polynesian for lunch at Captain Cook’s. I’ve always enjoyed this counter-service restaurant and now have a new entrée (the Seafood Curry was excellent) to add to that review. More than anything, we enjoyed getting out of the crowds and relaxing at the beautiful resort. I don’t love the counter-service options at Magic Kingdom so I would almost always recommend going to one of the nearby resorts for lunch or dinner. The one big caveat there is if you are able to get a Be Our Guest lunch reservation, as that’s one of the best counter-service restaurants on property.
We slowly made our way out of the Poly, heading back to Magic Kingdom for our Peter Pan’s Flight FastPass. It was fun to experience the attraction with our nephews, as they both seemed to like flying above London and Neverland. We left Magic Kingdom shortly after, trying to escape the crowds. No attraction had a wait time of under 20 minutes and we knew we’d be back to that park later in the trip.
I had managed to grab FastPasses in Animal Kingdom, although they were just for Finding Nemo The Musical. Most of the FastPass options were gone for the day at all of the parks so settling for this wasn’t a bad option and something that everyone could enjoy. We made our way over to the park and rushed to the show, barely making it in time. I can’t say I love the show. In the middle of summer, I appreciate the air-conditioning. The puppeteering is interesting to watch, but the songs and truncated story don’t do much for me. Still, it had been many years since I had seen the show so I’m glad we watched it.
I took the boys to The Boneyard shortly after the show was over while others went on Everest. It was nice to have some kids with me in The Boneyard instead of being that weird guy hanging out there without any kids 😉 This playground is easily the best one in Walt Disney World. We didn’t do much exploring while there, the nephews mainly stuck to one area but I was glad they were having fun.
Eventually we all met back up and had dinner. If you are thinking that it has only been 3 paragraphs since lunch then take that as a sign of how busy it was that day. Going anywhere took a decent chunk of time and it was hard to accomplish much, we grabbed dinner at Yak & Yeti Local Foods Cafe (which we recently reviewed) and then walked over to the Flame Tree Barbecue seating area to join the rest of our group. I don’t ever get tired of this view.
Shortly before Rivers of Light, more of our group headed back to the hotel so we were down to my mother-in-law, Melissa, and me. They went shopping for a few minutes while I sat down by the water. We decided to watch Rivers of Light from the backside (in the Flame Tree Barbecue seating area by the water) which ended up being a mixed bag. Honestly, the background is far more interesting, with Everest in the background, than seeing it from the regular seating area. Likewise, the view of the floats was roughly the same.
The projections and sound system is where this spot falls apart. With the water screens projecting the opposite direction, it’s hard to make out any of what is going on. None of the speakers in the area play the Rivers of Light soundtrack, although you can still hear most of the music. Ultimately, I wouldn’t recommend seeing the show from this area. If you are eating dinner down there already then consider this a nice bonus, but not some trick to get a front row seat to Rivers of Light.
After watching most of the show, we walked over to Pandora – World of Avatar to take in the views at night. This land continues to be a massive success and at this point I don’t see that letting up in terms of crowds until Galaxy’s Edge debuts in roughly a year. Walking into that land is one of those experiences that is astonishing no matter how many times you’ve done it. I also love taking people into that land who have never seen it.
After a quick walk through of the land, we split up for a few minutes. I wandered over to Discovery Island to watch Tree of Life Awakenings and take some photos. While the goal was to take photos, I wasn’t putting much effort into it as we weren’t staying out late that night because of a football game I wanted to watch back at the hotel. Still, I stumbled across this spot and think it could make for an interesting nighttime photo if I wasn’t rushing around. I also didn’t have my tripod since we weren’t staying out late so that limited my options. I’m looking forward to heading back to this spot again with a tripod at some point.
Eventually we made it back to the hotel and I watched football. For what it’s worth, my team (the Washington Huskies) won and it was a great night. I was pretty wired after the game and now realize that I should have took advantage of All Star Music’s 24-hour arcade, playing a little pop-a-shot to wind down. You live and you learn. The next morning would come early, so I got to sleep before long after a victory phone call to my family at home.
I was always slightly weary of going to the parks on the day after Thanksgiving. Now that I’ve experienced it, I’m still not sure that I’d recommend it. With a committed touring plan, I’m sure there is a good amount that you could still get done. The afternoon was extremely crowded though and there was a lot of effort put into doing things that usually take very little time. Of course, many people can’t be picky about when they vacation. If Thanksgiving weekend is your only option then you can still go and have a great time. Just have realistic expectations of what you could get done.
To continue on to part 2, click here.
We’ll pick Part 2 with a day in Disney Springs and Epcot. Let us know your thoughts and questions on this trip report down below in the comments! Planning a trip to Walt Disney World? Check out our Disney World Trip Planning Guide to help you out. If you enjoy what you are reading here on Wandering in Disney please share this post with your friends, as well as like our social media pages. You can also subscribe to the blog via WordPress or email. All of those links are on the right side of this page. Thank you for reading, we really appreciate it!
Categories: Trip Reports