For those that missed parts 1, 2, or 3 of our trip report, click on the corresponding number to catch up!
Our final day at Disney World with our whole group took place in Magic Kingdom. With Extra Magic Hours at the park that night, we had set our FastPasses for the late morning. It was just as cold as the day before, with temperatures never rising above fifty degrees. Fortunately, we were more prepared this time around.
We entered the park to the Move It! Shake It!
StayAwayFrom Celebrate It! Street Party going on. This seemed like a pretty bad omen to start the day on but we persevered. As much as I hate that thing there are some pretty interesting characters involved, walking around. I only noticed that as I side-eyed the characters on our way to Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.
We often do the ‘Mountain FastPasses’ for a day in Magic Kingdom. That day was no different. While Seven Dwarfs Mine Train still needs a FastPass due to popularity, it just doesn’t measure up Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, and Splash Mountain. There’s an argument that the attraction isn’t meant to, since it’s a family coaster, and I wouldn’t argue with that. The attraction’s popularity is interesting to me though as I don’t think it’s one of Magic Kingdom’s top 5 attractions. It might not even be the best family coaster at Disney World anymore with the addition of Slinky Dog Dash.
We spent the rest of the morning in Tomorrowland, doing Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor first. My father-in-law was “that guy” during the show, making it even funnier for our group. Next came a ride on Space Mountain for our group. The exit to the Space Mountain is currently re-routed and the moving walkways are removed, making the exit take quite a while. Some of this re-routing is due to the Tron Coaster construction. It’s a little bit of nuisance but not quite like the mile-long, uphill both ways hike from the temporary Hollywood Studios bus station 😉
After our hike out of Space Mountain and a ride on the PeopleMover we crossed the park and rode Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Favorite rides at night is a popular topic on this blog and elsewhere in the Disney community. What doesn’t get talked about much is favorite rides during the day. For what it’s worth, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad against the blue sky and Florida’s puffy clouds is one of my favorite Magic Kingdom views. The photo above is beautiful in person, with a view of the whole park behind Big Thunder’s tallest peak.
Following our wild ride, most of our group took the boat from Magic Kingdom over to Wilderness Lodge. I was excited to see the lodge with all of the Christmas decorations and we thought Roaring Fork would be a solid option for lunch. While waiting in line for the boat we met two lovely ladies who I’ll remember fondly. I wrote about them in this post we ran on Christmas.
Both Roaring Fork (a review will be up soon) and Wilderness Lodge did not disappoint. While the menu at Roaring Fork is mainly limited to sandwiches, all the food we tried was very fresh and delicious. We walked up to the hotel’s lobby after lunch to look around. The boys loved the geyser and bridge in the lobby, as well as the gigantic Christmas tree.
Wilderness Lodge is relaxing and inviting anytime of year. Christmas only adds to the allure with the stunning tree and garlands all around the lobby. If I had my pick of places to stay at Christmas time, I think Wilderness Lodge would be the pick. Grand Floridian is impressive too but I prefer the laid back nature of Wilderness Lodge.
Before long, we traveled back to Magic Kingdom. After getting off the boat, we walked through the gates and immediately hopped on the Walt Disney World Railroad. I’m happy we were able to get on the train during this trip since it will be down for an unidentified amount of time. The train was surprisingly full though and doesn’t seem to be all that stroller friendly. I don’t usually pay attention to what is stroller friendly and what isn’t so maybe we just missed something, but we had to crowd the large stroller next to us in the seat.
Others continued on the train but I exited in Frontierland so I could go enjoy Country Bear Jamboree and Muppets Present… While one show is old and one is new, both include timeless characters. Honestly, this double feature of 15 minute shows makes for a near perfect late afternoon activity. I often wonder what I would do if I just went to the parks by myself all the time. Seeing Country Bears and then Muppets Present… followed by a ride on the River Boat is perfect. I think I’d just do that in succession over and over again.
Our whole group met up at the carousel, as the kids loved the ride. The sunset was beautiful that night, although I wasn’t in the best spot to capture it.
Before the kids and my sister-in-law went back for the night, we walked over to Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin for another FastPass. In case you’re wondering (I know you aren’t) I did end up with the highest score. When we rode it again later, that might not have been the case but that part will be conveniently left out of the trip report.
Our group split up and I went on Carousel of Progress with my father-in-law. There was a crazy audio malfunction during the first scene or two. ‘Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow’ kept playing at random times and the dialogue didn’t match anything. It was really disappointing but I assume it all got worked out as the last three scenes went off without a hitch. There was no cast member apology or anything of the sort on the way out though, which struck me as kind of odd. While it was a disappointing ride, it was nice to be inside and warm for a while as the temperature had dropped quite a bit.
Somewhere in between the Carousel of Progress fiasco and dinner, Melissa and I went to Country Bear Jamboree again. Both Country Bear shows I saw that day had full theaters and Carousel of Progress was relatively full, as well. Both shows, especially CBJ, are really fun with a full crowd. Also, as a member of the Country Bear Jamboree Fan Club, I feel the need to point out whenever the show has a full theater.
Eventually we met back up for dinner at Columbia Harbor House with the family who had stuck around in the parks. It was a solid dinner and remains the best counter-service dinner option in Magic Kingdom. After dinner, we made the quick walk over to “it’s a small world.” Here’s a shot of my favorite scene.
From there we walked back to Main Street to catch Happily Ever After followed by Once Upon A Time. It was very crowded on Main Street, and throughout most of the day in Magic Kingdom, but we found room to stand near the middle of the street once everyone was told to stand up. There sadly wasn’t enough room to set up my tripod though.
This was our first time seeing Happily Ever After on the trip. Earlier in the week we’d seen Holiday Wishes! While I like both shows, it’s pretty clear that Happily Ever After is the better overall show. The technology and flow are wonderful, and the length of Happily Ever After is always a pleasant surprise. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Disney World update their holiday shows in the next few years to make them closer to Happily Ever After.
We hadn’t seen Once Upon A Time in nearly two years. For me, it’s the type of show that I’m always happy to see if I”m in the area but I won’t go out of my way to see it otherwise. After re-watching it I’m not sure if it changed my opinion but I was impressed. The projections are sharp and the storytelling is well done for being that type of show.
After the shows ended, we tried to hit as many attractions as we could during the Magic Hours while also staying warm. We went on Pirates, Haunted Mansion, The Teacups, Dumbo, The Barnstormer (three times because they let us keep going around without getting off), Buzz, Space Mountain and the PeopleMover. Extra Magic Hours at Magic Kingdom are becoming one of my favorite Walt Disney World traditions and you can often get in a decent amount of rides in 2 hours. While it’s not the same amount as you could in an After Hours official event, it’s also not far off and you don’t have to pay the extra $100 to do this.
Once the park closed, I went back to Main Street to take some photos. The results were mixed and I was surprised at how many people were still in the park. Anyway, here are a few that are halfway interesting.
While looking through the windows on Main Street, which recreate The Christmas Carol that time of year, we ran into the man who we’d sat by the night before at Epcot’s Candlelight Processional. I’ve already detailed all of this in a previous post, but that conversation meant a lot to me. It was the cherry on top of a great day at Magic Kingdom.
Our family left the next morning. Melissa and I went to Hollywood Studios for a few hours before our flight left, spending all of our time in Toy Story Land. We had a FastPass for Slinky Dog Dash and were just as impressed with the attraction a second time through. After that we took our first spin on Alien Swirling Saucers, which is a good amount of fun. Unfortunately, the queue is already showing some wear and tear.
Frankly, this is happening in several areas of Toy Story Land. I don’t know why people feel the need to pick at the decor and it’s really too bad that they do. Accidents happen but if you see a tear like the one above, tell a Cast Member and please don’t pick at it or let someone in your party pick at it. Of course, this is a bad look for Disney too. While I don’t know enough about the material to say this definitively, seeing this problems like this throughout Toy Story Land gives the impression that parts of it were made cheap. All of Alien Swirling Saucers queue looks pretty bland and cheap to me and that’s where the biggest of these issues were.
We walked over to Woody’s Lunch Box after our ride and had a bad experience (not including the food, the food was delicious) there. With about an hour to go before we had to catch a bus back to our resort, we placed a mobile order at Woody’s Lunch Box. The plan was to eat and then take a leisurely walk out of the park, catching a few more Christmas decorations along the way. After about 15 minutes of waiting, I went up by the mobile order window assuming that our food would be done soon. Shortly after, the app said our order was completed. Then I waited for my name to be called out. Then, I waited some more. After talking to a few people and then waiting a while longer, we finally got our food after 45 minutes. I have no idea what the issue was and think this was more of a one-time problem than anything else. There were some others waiting for their food for quite a while but not as long as me. It was unfortunate but I don’t really expect that to be a problem ever again. If it is then my favorable opinion of Woody’s Lunch Box will likely change.
We ate our food as we walk/ran to the bus. While we made it back to Old Key West before the Magical Express got there, we definitely didn’t make it 15 minutes ahead of schedule like they tell you to! Before long, we were on the bus and headed home, exhausted and happy.
Going during a busy season and with a large group were new experiences for us at Walt Disney World. While I’m not sure that I would do Thanksgiving weekend with a large group inside the parks again, the trip as a whole was a blast and we had a great time with family. Despite the crowds, both Melissa and I loved the Christmas decor and entertainment. I think both of us would say that it’s our favorite season to go now, considering the decor and weather.
Another reason the trip was slightly different for us is that it was our first Disney trip since Tokyo Disney Resort. While we don’t constantly compare all of the parks, it was hard to ignore some park operations and maintenance differences. I did find that frustrating at times but not to the point that it really detracted from our vacation as a whole. With 2019 being a huge year for Disney World, I’m eager to see how the resort will react as a whole. Will the parks look beautiful, with exceptional operations and maintenance or will the problems we see in Toy Story Land become a norm? For now, Disney World still remains one of our favorite places and one that we plan to visit often in the next year.
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