Our goal was exploring most of the Magic Kingdom. We’d been told that early December is a quiet time so we were a little surprised by how this day ended up.
There’s a Starbucks on the grounds that we planned as our first stop but just like the day before walking through the main gates changed everything. You enter the park underneath the train station into a courtyard with Main Street USA in front of you that perfectly frames Cinderella’s Castle in the distance. The street is lined with little shops and Disney characters along with throngs of people. It’s just mesmerizing.
We made our in and had the nagging feeling that the huge crowds we were wading through might be a problem later on. Main Street is a natural choke point, all traffic has to pass along before it can spread out to the different wings of the park proper, so I thought maybe the crowds were just due to that. As we entered Starbucks that thought went away. Packed is not the right word. We placed our order and found a quiet little side street near the gates to eat and think about what we wanted to see before we trekked deeper into the park.
In front of the Castle is a large courtyard with all the wings splitting off in different directions. There is a garden in front of the castle with a Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse statue and Iris explained the history of it, why it was there, and I quickly realized she was going to be the tour guide today. She pointed out all the little details, things that I probably would not have noticed; for instance the garbage cans follow the theme of each wing. We watched the crowd for a minute trying to judge where people were headed before we moved on to Tomorrowland.
We were able to do a fair bit but as people continued to arrive we grabbed the train over to Frontierland hoping it would be a little quieter. As soon as we made our way down from the station we looked at the sea of people and made the decision to give up on the Magic Kingdom and head to Epcot. On the way out we asked a cast member if this was normal.
“Well,” he said, “It’s always busy here.” He paused. “But this is busy.”
That was a sign. It still took us about 30 minutes to make our way to the gates and the monorail for Epcot.
I’ve been to Epcot during a work trip in 2001 so I kind of knew what to expect. I suggested we go right to the country pavilions and grab some lunch so we made our way through Canada, Britain, France, Morocco, and Japan. We shared a salad in France and had sushi in Japan. Since we knew that we would be coming back to Epcot later in the week we headed back the way we came to do some of the rides near the entrance instead of looking at the other pavilions. A quick stop in Britain for a Guinness in a souvenir mug, and we were on our way to the Test Track. The wait was showing 60 minutes and knowing me I made sure to stop and pee before we got in line.
Weaving through the the line, slowly inching forward I realized something. I really do know me, I know I just had a beer, I know that if we don’t get out of line I’ll most likely wet myself on the ride. When we asked a cast member halfway along the line if we could step out to use the restroom something unexpected happened. She pointed us to another cast member further along the line who opened up a side door and let us know where the nearest washroom is. I asked Iris if we wanted to get in line again after this and the guy heard.
“Oh no, just come back to this door. We’ll put you back in line at this spot.”
Blown. The. Hell. Away. My silly bladder didn’t make us waste 40 minutes in line because Disney rules. I can understand the reasoning now, a long line with little kids, naturally something like this is going to happen. But it was still completely unexpected.
Next up was another 60 minute line at Soaring. The guy behind us asked me about my leg tattoo, and this was the start of the most interesting conversation that day. He is a bodyguard, martial arts trainer, and lifelong Disney pass holder. His grandfather was a regular and so well known with the cast that when he passed away the Disney president at that time called his family to give his condolences. He had so much knowledge, so much to pass on that it was almost overwhelming. As we made our way to the front of the line we went through as a group of three just so we could keep chatting. Nearing the ride itself he and Iris were comparing notes between Disney World and Disneyland, figuring out what was different between each coast.
Soaring was great as well.
The Magic Kingdom was open until 1am for people staying in resorts, and as it was just 10:30pm we jumped on the monorail and headed back. The crowd was gone and we made our way through most of the rides that normally have long wait time the. The Tiki Room, Big Thunder roller coaster (at night, in the dark, I was less than thrilled), Pirates of the Caribbean, The Haunted Mansion (at night, in the dark), and ended it off with Peter Pan’s flight.
Starting at 9AM, ending at 1AM. A very long second day indeed. We needed something relaxing to follow this up with and the Animal Kingdom was the best choice.