Our pace on this trip was slower than it’d normally be, but we had actual destinations. We weren’t just walking around with purpose to nowhere in particular, which is normally what Sarah and I do. This made for a more efficient trip to Walt Disney World than normal.
A big part of the slower pace was the dog. Not her inherent slowness (to the contrary, I think she was built for speed), but because having a dog in Walt Disney World is probably the easiest conversation starter I’ve ever seen. From kids asking to pet the dog to adults wanting to know about the breed and beyond, my dad was constantly stopped.
I’ve shared before that I’m far less social in person than my writing might lead you to believe, and that undoubtedly comes from my dad. I used the term ‘stoic’ to describe him before, which isn’t totally apt but seemed like a nice way to put it. Let’s just say a regular fixture of his attire is those novelty Disney shirts with Grumpy on them.
I don’t know how he talked to so many people. I cannot imagine doing that, and I have 20 fewer years of ‘eroded patience’ than him. To his immense credit, though, he was friendly with everyone who talked to him, and even accommodating to the kids’ requests. Maybe age mellows the Bricker men rather than making us even more surly. That would sure be a pleasant surprise.
At this point, my parents headed back to Fort Wilderness, with my mom thinking they might take a break and return for evening Extra Magic Hours.
After eating, we faced a dilemma: return to Magic Kingdom for sunset or stay at Grand Floridian. On the pro leaving side: Magic Kingdom is way more photogenic, and there’s a specific shot I wanted in New Fantasyland with a sky like this. On the pro staying side: the sky was already starting to look pretty good and we were thinking we might be hungry again in an hour, making a Gasparilla Island Grill redux appealing.
When it comes to Disney, we almost always vote with our stomaches…so we stayed.
The sunset turned out to be beautiful. I won’t go overboard sharing photos of it here (I took 200+), but here are a few:
I could’ve had even more, but right as the light peaked, I had an idea for a cool and unique (to my knowledge) photo of the monorail. So I went where I needed to be, and waited. And waited…
After seeing two monorails in the other direction, I was starting to suspect the monorail on the track I needed was not running, but I didn’t want to give up since I’d already invested a lot of time in this shot. It was one of those situations where you’re stuck between cutting your losses and being fearful you’ll miss out if you do.
After finishing with the sunset and dusk, we headed back into the hotel to find a Grand Floridian mug we had seen on display in Gasparilla Island Grill. After our stay at the Grand Floridian Villas at Christmas, I’ve really come around on the resort, and coffee mugs are one of the few souvenirs I actually use.
I wish I had a good photo of the mug because it’s really cool, but all I have is the above that I posted on Twitter. Unfortunately, I can’t take a good photo now because I ruined the mug the very first time I washed it. (If you want to skip a pointless rant, just scroll down to the first ‘Once Upon a Time’ photo. You’ll probably be happier if you do.)
I’ll ready admit that this is a pretty common occurrence with me. I’ve been “banned” from washing Sarah’s clothes because I’ve ruined so many things in the washer and dryer. Same has happened with the dishwasher.
I accept zero responsibility for this. If you’re a manufacturer, how can you live with yourself producing a food holder or clothing that’s incompatible with modern technology?! This isn’t 1932 and we are not barbarians. Hand-washing anything is distinctly unpatriotic.
Thanks to this philosophy, laziness, and/or ineptitude, I continually (accidentally) buy stuff that is incompatible with our washing robots, and ruin things. I call it ‘Dishwasher Darwinism.’
While I present this in jest, it really does frustrate me (at least when it comes to dishes–I understand some nicer clothing is made with materials that must be hand-washed). There’s no good reason a coffee mug should not be dishwasher safe. Cheapness of production methods on Disney’s part is not a good reason.
Now that you know more about my appliance-compatibility philosophy than you ever cared to know, let’s head back to Magic Kingdom…
We arrived around 45 minutes before Once Upon a Time, which was about perfect timing as I could choose any spot for viewing the show thanks to off-season crowds.
I chose one of the worst spots available (at least for the fireworks): directly in front of Cinderella Castle. I’ve wanted to shoot from this location for a while, but it’s always packed with people when I arrive, even when other spots farther back are relatively uncrowded.
This was something I could live with, as we’ve seen Wishes! hundreds of times, and I was only going for a few, specific photos of castle-level fireworks.
There was a bonus with this that I didn’t consider, and that was Once Upon a Time viewing.
It’s a solid spot for Once Upon a Time, since that show is almost entirely projections, which are best viewed closer.
I want to give other guests the benefit of the doubt and assume this is their rationale for going so close, but…guests still claim viewing spots each night for the Main Street Electrical Parade and refuse to be discouraged even when Cast Members inform them there’s no parade.
I think the more likely scenario is that most of these guests assume closer to the castle = better view for fireworks.
Another upside, at least for Once Upon a Time, was that everyone in our area remained seated. That was quite pleasant. For Wishes!, Cast Members made everyone stand and fill in all available space.
This elicited an audible groan from the viewing area.
It was still enjoyable watching Wishes! from this location (little did I realize it’d be the second-to-last time we’d ever see it), but it’s never a spot I’d recommend to a first-time viewer.
Perhaps that’ll change once Happily Ever After debuts, as I assume that show will be more projection-heavy and lighter on pyro.
My mom had returned to Magic Kingdom, so we did all of the attractions she wanted to do, which were basically those my dad couldn’t. Splash Mountain and Big Thunder were first on the agenda, followed by Dumbo and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, which we did twice, managing to get in line the second time 2 minutes before the end of Extra Magic Hours. We might’ve also done Space Mountain–I don’t recall.
Both times we did Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, I was really adamant about everyone getting the mine buckets spinning to produce Snow White in the center. No one else shared my enthusiasm the first time, so we failed.
I thought I’d be vindicated the second time as I got multiple buckets spinning at once (I think other adults were giving me some side-eye at this point, but whatever) and others managed to do their part, too. However, one of the dwarfs never appeared, meaning Snow White never appeared. We were robbed.
We finished with the attraction after the park closed, so I was limited in what I could photograph, and stuck mostly to Fantasyland followed by Main Street as a result.
Lines were among the shortest during Extra Magic Hours that I’ve seen anytime in recent memory. I remember around 5 years ago when Magic Kingdom would be open until midnight in mid-August (despite many schools having already gone back into session), with 3 hours of Extra Magic Hours.
We’d plan visits during this time of year (despite the weather) due to those late hours. By 1:30 a.m., almost everything was a walk-on…which is probably why they cut back on EMH and stopped doing closings so late in mid-August. It was a good run while it lasted. The strides Walt Disney World has made in ‘operational efficiency’ in only a few years are pretty impressive. There used to be several hacks for beating crowds 5 years ago that simply do not work today. While I miss being able to take advantage of these, I can hardly fault Disney for ‘fixing’ the inefficiencies that knowledgeable guests could once exploit. Anyway, that wraps up Part 4 of our Walt Disney World trip report!
We’ll pick up the following day at Magic Kingdom (again) in Part 5. If you’re planning a Walt Disney World trip, read our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for comprehensive advice, and the answers to just about every frequently-asked question.
Do you miss the good ole days of 3 a.m. Extra Magic Hours at Magic Kingdom during the summer? Have you ever viewed Once Upon a Time or Wishes from this ‘front row’ spot? Thoughts on the Disability Access Service Card process and service at Walt Disney World? Any other feedback or opinions about anything else we discussed in this installment of our Walt Disney World trip report? Share any questions, tips, or additional remarks you have in the comments!