Our last night at Magic Kingdom “BC” was pretty special and memorable. We attended a private DVC party with virtually no crowds, saw a special fireworks show, met the Fab Five characters in royal attire, devoured a Fantastic Frankfurter Feast at Casey’s Corner, and wandered around soaking up the atmosphere.
This was actually a couple of weeks before the Walt Disney World theme parks closed indefinitely, but we didn’t do any of the parks on those final days. Our last visits were to Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios for the debut days of Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway and Flower & Garden Festival. (In a regrettable and ironic twist, our last time doing anything “Disney” was a stop at Character Warehouse on a grocery run.)
At the time, I didn’t think anything of that night in Magic Kingdom. While we were certainly cognizant of the circumstances, the prospect that Walt Disney World might close didn’t even cross our minds. I didn’t even intend upon doing a “party report,” instead choosing to simply enjoy the evening. In retrospect, I’m now even more happy about that decision, as it allowed us to savor the experience even more…
We’ve also attended other Moonlight Magic events about which I have not written, in large part because it seems like needless boasting. If you’re a Disney Vacation Club member who is eligible to attend, you’re likely aware of this free event and know it’s worth doing as the rare thing offered by Disney that’s truly free.
If you aren’t eligible to attend, reading about and seeing photos of an event you can’t experience doesn’t do you much good. Maybe it nudges you towards purchasing Disney Vacation Club, which is sort of the idea. (Disney’s idea, not ours–we wouldn’t recommend anyone buy into DVC right now.)
In any case, these are strange times. Since it was a really fun night, I’m running low on ideas, and a few people wanted to hear about our meal at Casey’s Corner, here’s this party report…
We start the evening at the Main Street USA Train Station, where we met up with friends and made our way into Magic Kingdom. The first order of business was grabbing maps and checking out where the rare characters would be meeting.
There were several options in Fantasyland, so we decided to make that our first stop. We were already about 15 minutes “late” to the start of Moonlight Magic at this point, and feared that the characters would be a lost cause. At past parties, wait times for rare characters have been prohibitively long.
Along the way we happened to see Fab Five characters in regal attire in each of the Plaza Gardens. It initially seemed too good to be true: there were no lines and Cinderella Castle was perfectly-positioned as the backdrop.
From a distance, it looked like they were doing a promotional photo shoot for something. Given that these meet & greets were not on the Moonlight Magic maps, we assumed that was the case. Nevertheless, we decided to go closer just to check things out.
Honestly, we were a bit surprised when our Moonlight Magic wristbands granted us entry into the Plaza Gardens. Only a couple of minutes later, we had a private audience with Queen Minnie and King Mickey Mouse.
It was so quick that I didn’t even have my camera ready, and scrambled to dial in the right settings. I failed, but got tremendously lucky that my 1/8 second shutter speed somehow didn’t suffer from camera shake or subject movement.
I’ve long claimed that we aren’t “character hunters” per se, but that’s probably no longer accurate. While we don’t have a particularly keen interest in it and definitely are not avid hunters, we do seek out enough fur characters to deserve that designation.
It’s almost a de facto interest. Rare characters are an easy (read: lazy) way for us to get photos of ourselves, and it’s something unique to do at events like this.
Given that our favorite “thing” to do at the parks during low-crowd events is simply to walk around and enjoy the atmosphere, meet and greets also offer an odd sense of accomplishment.
There’s something to be said for “we met 5 rare characters!” as opposed to “we wandered aimlessly for 4 hours.” Maybe? Perhaps not.
Our success with the Plaza Gardens meet & greets, and the eerily low crowd levels in the Central Plaza had us pretty excited. We began speculating as to why “no one” was at Moonlight Magic, and hurried on our way to PhilharMagic. There, we expected to breeze into the room with the Onward characters, laughing and skipping with these new trolls (??? we haven’t seen the movie yet) in a scene straight out of a Walt Disney World promotional video.
Instead, we were greeted outside of PhilharMagic by a Cast Member who advised us that the line had already been cut for capacity. That brought us back to reality pretty quickly. Think of the below photo as symbolizing our range of excitement while walking up to PhilharMagic. (In actuality, it’s from a different day/month/year, but I also just edited it.)
Other meet and greets around Fantasyland either had similarly long lines or were for more pedestrian characters with whom we didn’t “need” photos. After briefly regrouping, the aimless wandering began.
This is what we spent the bulk of the night doing, and it was glorious. This was the least busy night we had experienced in Magic Kingdom since our “Duo of Delightfully Dead Halloween Parties” that occurred last year during a hurricane scare. It was a bit surreal.
It was also surreal because current events were already casting a cloud over the evening. At this point, Bob Iger had already stepped down as CEO and Walt Disney World had started to take some precautionary measures. No closures had been announced or even hinted at, but we speculated on that. Nevertheless, the collective mood was largely upbeat and happy.
In hindsight, it seems like such a foregone conclusion and inevitability that the parks would close. Admittedly, I didn’t think so at the time. I’m still surprised and impressed by how quickly Americans embraced physical distancing and the need to stay at home.
Disproportionate attention has been paid to the (very) vocal minority of dissenters, but the reality is that most Americans have understood the stakes, and done their part. Some of these restrictions are anathema to America’s founding principles, so it’s heartening to see people willingly sacrifice for the greater good. But I digress.
I didn’t take any photos as we made laps of Magic Kingdom, so you’ll just have to take my word that we savored the serenity of the park. There’s a great collective energy that comes from being around other guests (and right now I find myself longing for that), but there’s also beauty in relative solitude. It’s like your senses are heightened, and you notice every detail, sound, and scent of the park just a little better.
Throughout the night, we never did see many other guests outside of the meet & greets. They had to have been somewhere, because Main Street was reasonably crowded for the fireworks.
This came as something of a surprise, as so much of Magic Kingdom was a ghost town prior to this. I had planned to swoop into a prime spot near Partners at the last minute, but that wasn’t an option. Instead, I opted for “the Hump” on Main Street.
This fireworks show is an eclectic, mixed bag. It’s actually more ambitious than you might expect for such an event, with its own soundtrack of pop remixes of Disney songs with pyro choreography to match.
I’m a pretty big fan of the show, but not necessarily on its artistic merits. More simply, I love the color and arrangement of the bursts. It’s an incredibly photogenic show for long exposure photography, which is obviously not the main metric humans watching fireworks with their eyes would use to evaluate a nighttime spectacular.
Here are some more fireworks photos:
Finally, our Casey’s Corner Fantastic Frankfurter Feast. Those last few words might sound like hyperbole chosen due to my fondness for alliteration. They’re not (well, only in part). It’s nice of Disney Vacation Club to offer these parties in the first place, but it’s really nice that they give us free meal vouchers.
We dined at Casey’s Corner at the end of the night, and the Cast Members were going “above and beyond” in distributing meals. It wasn’t just us–everyone was being asked if they wanted more sides and desserts. All told, the receipt for our meal reflected $48 worth of items before being zeroed out. (The below photo doesn’t show our drinks or the sides.)
The Fantastic Frankfurter Feast food itself was most memorable for making me a bit sick. After a couple bites of the plant-based Loaded Slaw Dog (which is shockingly fantastic), Sarah was done–leaving the responsibility to eat the rest riding on me. Suffice to say, my stomach was up to the task…although it probably shouldn’t have been.
It turns out one person should not eat ~$40 worth of hot dogs, fries, and mac & cheese so close to midnight. I believe that’s actually going to be the premise of the Gremlins reboot. In my defense, who could’ve possibly known that at the time?!
That’s when the real highlight of the evening occurred: enjoying a leisurely late night meal while sitting on Main Street with Cinderella Castle in the distance. I’m always a sucker for hot dogs, but there’s something particularly gratifying and indulgent about comforting food with a comforting view as the culmination of a fun night.
It was pure bliss and also a stroll down memory lane–we used to do this often back in the day when we more aggressively toured Magic Kingdom. We’d “forget” to eat dinner, and Casey’s Corner would be the last place open. It’d offer something to scarf down, while also being a chance to slow down and savor Magic Kingdom at its finest hour. That night at Moonlight Magic, the feast offered a nice way of digesting the evening, while also providing a nostalgia trip. Little did we realize at the time that it would also be a nourishing memory that we’d look back on with fondness once the parks closed.
Have you attended one of the Moonlight Magic events at Walt Disney World? Did you meet any rare characters? What did you think of the experience? Any questions or thoughts about anything in this party report? Hearing your feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts or questions below in the comments!