Thursday, October 25, 2012

Character Conundrums and The Main Street Electrical Blockade

A Magical Morning Spent Ahead of the Crowds
Our day had begun seven hours earlier at the crack of dawn with a wake-up call, courtesy of my daughter's unbridled excitement.  One princess breakfast, a converted prince, two sets of FASTPASSES, a dozen rides, a Castle Forecourt show, four teacups, and one important lesson about "commando touring" later, and we were ready for a break.  Because we'd arrived early to the Magic Kingdom that morning, we'd been able to completely "stay ahead of the crowds."  Now, instead of spending our afternoon waiting in hot lines with hordes of people, we were cooling off in our resort's pool and napping in our air-conditioned hotel room.

Tip TimeIf you plan to take a daily break, and you don't want Mousekeeping to arrive while you are resting in your room, you can request that they service your room in the mornings.  Mousekeeping cannot guarantee time slots, but they will do their best to accommodate you.  

Afternoons are best spent in the pool
Four hours later, we were refreshed and ready for some more magic in the parks!  Because we did not add the Park Hopper option to our tickets (more on the Park Hopper in a later post), our only choice that afternoon was to return to the same park we'd visited earlier in the day--the Magic Kingdom.  On our walk back to the park, I reviewed our touring plans for the evening.  While researching our trip, I'd learned that the Magic Kingdom offers spectacular nighttime entertainment.  On select evenings (and almost every night during busier times of the year), over half-a-million twinkling lights illuminate the park during The Main Street Electrical Parade.  Every night, Cinderella Castle is silhouetted by a truly amazing fireworks display called Wishes Nighttime Spectacular (unless it is replaced by a special holiday fireworks show).  Since we'd planned two full days at Magic Kingdom, however, I'd decided that we would save the evening entertainment for our second night.  On this night, while most people were watching the parade, I planned to take advantage of the light crowds in the other areas of the park and experience some attractions with (hopefully) very little wait.

Our little character junkie with her favorite chipmunks
When we arrived at the gates of the Magic Kingdom for the second time that day, we noticed that Chip and Dale were greeting guests outside the Main Street Railroad Station.  By this point in our vacation, our daughter had become a full-fledged character junkie.  Over the past two days, our three-year-old had developed an uncanny internal radar, capable of locating any character present within a two-mile radius.  Therefore, it came as no surprise that, as soon as Sadie caught a glimpse of those chipmunks, she was physically incapable of resisting their magnetic pull.  In contrast, with the possible exception of his favorite mermaid (on whom he'd developed a bit of a "guppy crush"), my son had showed little interest in the characters so far.  This disparity had the potential to create quite a character conundrum, as it does for many families.  Before we left for Disney World, however, I'd considered the possibility that we may be faced with a dilemma like this.  Once again, having a touring plan helped me come up with a guideline for meeting characters.

As I'd learned that morning, it is crucial to allow room in your touring plans for a certain level of spontaneity.  However, if you acquiesce to riding each attraction ten times or you agree to meet every character that you happen to see, your morning will fall apart, and you will completely defeat the purpose of a having a touring plan.  To avoid this, I identified the most popular characters whose lines typically become prohibitively long in the afternoons and evenings, and I worked them into our morning touring plans.  I explained to the kids that, while we would try to meet all of the important characters at some point, we would not be stopping for furry creatures in the mornings.  Then, in the evenings, we could be more flexible and Sadie could meet a few characters on impulse.

Tip Time: Arriving early and following a touring plan allows you to enjoy the headliner rides in the morning with very little wait.  Consequently, your evenings will be much more relaxed, with plenty of time for spontaneous diversions like giant chipmunks.

The castle, all aglow
After enjoying some quality time with Chip and Dale, we spent the entire evening riding high-capacity attractions, browsing shops for souvenirs, and appreciating all of the little details that make Disney World so magical.  As the sun began to set over the Magic Kingdom, the castle started to glow in a variety of changing colors...and our kids began to fall apart.  The parade had just finished, and we decided that we should get our sleepy kids into bed before they melted down completely, so we started to head back toward Main Street.

Unfortunately, unbeknownst to us, Main Street becomes completely clogged immediately after the parade, morphing rapidly into the Main Street Electrical Blockade.  A wall of people are trying to move toward the exit, while another wall of people are attempting to head toward the castle for the fireworks.  When we hit the Castle Forecourt that night, we came to a veritable standstill where we remained for nearly ten minutes.  When we finally started moving, we inched along for almost a half hour until we finally reached the entrance.  Needless to say, this was a decidedly un-magical way to end our day.

Tip Time: Since that evening, I have discovered multiple strategies for avoiding the Main Street Electrical Blockade.  The content of your touring plan dictates which strategy is best for your family.

Finally free of the crowd, we began our walk back to the Contemporary Resort, feeling frustrated and grumpy from being trapped in a logjam of people.  When we had almost reached the lobby of our hotel, however, the first "boom" of the Magic Kingdom fireworks shattered our bad moods.

"Look, Mom!" my son exclaimed, as he looked behind him, squinting between the trees that blocked the barely visible Wishes Nighttime Spectacular.  "Fireworks!"  Realizing that we could catch the fireworks finale from our balcony if we hurried, we began racing through the lobby to hop on the next elevator to our floor, the kids laughing with abandon.  When we reached our room, we flung open the door and tore to our balcony, just in time to watch the night sky explode with color.  Huddled together, we stared at Cinderella Castle as it shimmered in the night, not moving until the last ember dissolved in the sky, all of our frustration melting away with it.

Next Up: Epcot

The Magic Minus the Mayhem

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