Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Disney World 24 Hour Summer Kick Off Celebration 2015 Recap

Let it be known, I am a Disney devotee. No, I'm not obsessed with Mickey Mouse and no I can't remember or recite every Disney film but I do love the Walt Disney World Resort (and Disneyland!). It seems it all began when I was around 4, assuming I saw TV ads since the Disney channel was always on in our house, I began begging my parents to take a trip to Disney World in Florida. My mom decided to plan our first trip, a couple months later we packed up (along with my older brother and grandparents) to drive to Orlando, FL (yes, it sounds like a felt like it at times). I can still remember that first trip, it is one of my favorite memories growing up. Needless to say we were hooked after that. Now I realize some people hate Disney, they don't like the corporation, theme parks, business, you name it. My family  has been going for years and we have never had a bad trip. Is it crowded? Yes. Is it hot? Yes. Children screaming and crying? Families arguing? Yes. All of these things happen at Disney but if you plan the correct way, it really is a fun vacation. Just understand, you must plan your trip. I have heard many times it is a "working vacation" and that's true but Orlando is a vacation hot spot for a reason. There literally is something for everyone to enjoy.

Enough of me gabbing about Orlando (I'll save that for a separate post) let's get to the 24 hour summer kick-off event that was held this past weekend (May 22-23). This was a spurt of the moment trip, we actually had Southwest free flight vouchers that were about to expire so Friday at 11am we hopped on the plane for a 24 hour adventure. We landed earlier than expected, grabbed a cab (this is much easier in my opinion then waiting on a shuttle plus it gets your there faster) and soon we were pulling up to the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa. Let me state Disney hotels are expensive but in my opinion they are worth it just for the convenience and transportation options. The monorail hotels are my personal favorite because we spend so much time at Magic Kingdom it's just easier to get around. To maximize cost be sure to check out the Walt Disney World website (summer rates now posted) and look for discounted prices including special rates for annual passholders and Florida residents. After freshening up for a few minutes in our room, we headed over to Hollywood Studios. By now you should all know I have a serious sweet tooth. I just couldn't resist tasting this precious Star Wars themed cupcake (made especially for Star Wars Weekends, so be sure to try one before they end) at Starring Rolls Cafe located near the board where you check the ride wait times. It was very good, I only had a few bites (although a friend finished it off) but it was very tasty! They also had Darth Vader and Jabba the Hutt options but Yoda was definitely the cutest.

Did I mention Orlando was HOT? It was similar to walking around a sauna. We were all sweating through our clothes so I bought a cute Disney tank to wear later (FYI don't wear your favorite outfit during the summer heat walking around a theme park). We did a few rides then went over to Epcot which is a short walk away from the Studios. You can accomplish a lot more by walking at Disney than waiting on transportation like a bus or boat if you don't have a ton of time. Plus, you can burn more calories so you can have a few more treats and not feel guilty. Epcot has a wide array of restaurant options but we didn't really have time for a sit-down options we mostly did snacks "around the world". After lunch we went back to the hotel to rest for about an hour before heading out to the Magic Kingdom for the remainder of the 24 hour celebration.

Feeling revived after a nap, we were ready to hit the celebration! First thing I noticed was the large crowd size but what did you expect? It's Disney and the summer. 

Upon entering we were handed these super fun pins promoting the new Disney/Pixar animated film "Inside Out" coming out this summer. Yay for free Disney surprises!

Another tip, utilize FastPass +!! Please, please create your My Disney Experience Account and sync your park tickets to your Magic Band. We got to the park around 7pm and had fast passes for The Haunted Mansion, Splash Mountain and Space Mountain. Honestly, the whole night is a bit of a blur, the lines were long but not terrible. It's just that we have been so many times that I have no desire to wait 70 minutes for a ride when we could go to a less popular attraction and get out of the heat. I won't sugarcoat the next part but around 10pm it did get extremely crowded. Like the most crowded I have ever seen the park. A lot of this probably had to do with the fact that it was lightning due to heat and many of the rides had to close while this was going on as well as postponing the fireworks and night parade. It was just a big cluster on Main Street so we took the time to cool off at Gaston's Tavern with some of Lefou's brew (how great is that souvenir mug?) over in New Fantasyland.

After the refreshment we mostly wandered around (looking and feeling like zombies), I may or may not have dosed off during a few showings of The Carousel of Progress and The Hall of Presidents as well as a movie viewing of Frozen. All of a sudden I checked my watch, it was 4am! We could see the light at the end of the tunnel, the crowd seemed smaller now but still a lot of people. It should be noted several of the more well-known attractions closed at 4:30am (I'm guessing to be checked and set for the park opening again in a few hours) so we did several rides with very little wait. By this time it was close to 5am so we browsed the gift shops and I got a really cute coffee mug. I was sad that the 24 hour merchandise was sold out but I think all of that was gone within the first few hours of the event. Feeling refreshed since this is around the time I wake up normally, a Starbucks break was in order to re-energize the rest of the group. Of course I had to try this cutie and it was delicious! Again, only a few bites but more than enough to get a sugar high.

Time was ticking and the clock was getting closer to 6am.

It was fun being in the park so late and it's always so pretty even in the dark.

I always smile thinking of all my favorite memories that I've made at Disney with family and friends. It's funny how something small will jumpstart a memory. 

Soon the DJ by Cinderella's Castle was telling the crowd to move toward the exit on Main Street U.S.A. There was a cute little finale with the characters and one last firework so everyone could make a wish and I guess it also meant summer had begun. Then it was a mass exit so instead of waiting in line for the monorail we took a fast walk over to the Contemporary Resort (my favorite hotel!) and picked up one of these.

There are several Joffrey's coffee shops throughout the Disney resort including one on the first floor of the Contemporary. The donut was hot and great to share after a long night and provided a much needed sugar boost. We had literally walked around Disney ALL night. After catching the monorail we arrived back at the Grand Floridian. It was so serene and peaceful in the early morning hours. Overall I would definitely attend this event again. Yes, it was crowded but again it's summer and Disney. Go, prepare for some crowds and heat, relax, take in the scenery and have a great time!

A shower and packed bags later it was sadly time to leave and make our way to the airport. I would have felt more sad if it wasn't for the fact I have a weekend trip with one of my best friends coming up at the end of June and a trip to Universal Orlando happening in July. So, as they say in Disney, "See ya real soon!" 


**Disclaimer: all pictures are my own unless otherwise noted. All thoughts and opinions are strictly my own.**

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