Started off the morning with a later than usual wake up call due to the late night last night, 8am. Grabbed a quick breakfast at the Mill and we were off to the Magic Kingdom by a little after 9:00. Arrived and had plenty of time so we wandered into Tomorrowland and went for a Spin on Buzz followed by the People Mover and the Astro Orbiter. Once back on the ground walked around Tomorrowland and stopping to check out Cosmic Rays dinner menu, for later, then we headed over to Frontierland and hopped in line for the D23 lunch at the Diamond Horseshoe. Enjoyed a leisurely lunch with the D23 gang and then used a Fastpass for Peter Pan followed by Winnie the Pooh. Walked through Toontown and hopped on the train, along the way spotted Big Al out for photos so grabbed a few and that inspired our next attraction… we took the train to Frontierland and then stopped by the Country Bears. After the show walked through Adventureland and had some time to kill so roamed around the Hub and castle. A little after 2 we headed over to Sleepy Hollow to get checked in for our Castle Suite tour. @ 2:30 sharp we headed for the castle. The tour lasted about half and hour.. Once back we headed down Main Street to the reserved D23 viewing space for the 3:00pm parade and received our wristbands for the evening. After the parade walked over to the Contemporary to check out the new wreath and then hopped a monorail to the Polynesian to see what was new there. Grabbed a launch back to the Magic Kingdom and headed down Main Street and into Tomorrowland. Ate dinner at Cosmic Rays and then killed some time in the hub waiting for the 5:40 street party then 6:15 Castle lighting. Walked out to Liberty Square and there was no one around yet for the D23 reception so we walked onto Haunted Mansion. Then joined the D23 group at the Liberty Belle doc and onboard for some Holiday treats. The Very Merry Christmas party had just begun at 7:00pm. Headed for the Castle and the Christmas show at 7:45 then down Main Street for the 8:15pm parade from the reserved viewing area. After the parade we walked back up Main Street and found a spot for the Holiday Wishes show at 9:30pm. We then waded through the crowds to get to the new Tomorrowland show at 9:50pm. After the show grabbed an ICEE and then roamed around some of the other Christmas party offerings starting in Tomorrowland and working my way around through Fantasyland and into Liberty Square before heading down Main Street to find a spot for the late parade. After the parade headed for the busses, back to the Riverside, and to call it a late night/early morning.
D23 Magic and Merriment Day 2:
- Today was the second and final day of the D23 Magic and Merriment event. It was a latter start time of 11:00am at the Diamond Horseshoe. We had the morning to relax and then enjoy the Magic Kingdom. We showed up a little after 10:30 and by 10:45 the line stretched back into Liberty Square. It seems everyone arrived early for the start of Day 2.
- The doors opened about 11:00 and we were let in. Once inside we fed directly into a buffet line in the center of the room that had lunch. There was a smaller soup station on the far right then drinks and dessert along the bar on the left. We got our food and found a seat. The horseshoe was packed. They said for events they normally seat 180 or so and our 200 really pushed it to the limit.
- Once everyone was inside and seated, around 11:30, Becky and Jeffery took the stage to go over the days events. They then distributed the tickets for the Very Merry Christmas party this evening as well as replacement DisneyQuest tickets (seems the original ones were not correct and instead of being valid through January 2010 were only valid on one date in January... Also they awarded one group the honor of being the Grand Marshall in the daytime parade.
- We then had time to talk, take pictures, and enjoy lunch. Around noon the Dapper Dans took the stage for a performance. It was great to hear them inside. Then by 12:30 the room had emptied quite a bit with the start of the castle tours and everyone else heading out to the park.
- I was a little disappointed in this kickoff to the day. I was hoping for a presentation or two on the Magic Kingdom holiday celebration, or the Very Merry Christmas Party, or the Castle Suite (or all three). Instead it was lunch and the Dapper Dans. It was a nice lunch but the dessert was the best, they had Mickey ice cream treats.. those were a crowd favorite.
- The rest of the day you were pretty much on your own to enjoy the Magic Kingdom. You were asked to show up for your Castle Suite tour time about 15 minutes early. The gathering spot was Sleepy Hollow. Our time was 2:30, and we arrived early maybe 2:10. The group ahead of us was just heading off for their tour. Each group was about 10 guests. A guest relations CM showed up about 2:30 to escort us up to the castle. She talked a little about the history of the space and the suite as well as what we were going to see. We waited by the doorway for the previous group to exit then we entered the reception space, elevator, and up to the suite.
- We were given a brief tour of the suite then some time to roam around and take pictures, ask questions, etc.. I thought this worked out great and I did not feel rushed or hurried. The space itself is not that large, but there is plenty to see. Overall I thought the room looked great and how can you beat the location but it was not overwhelming as I thought it may be. It was really just a really nice hotel room in a great location. From what I have seen the suite at Disneyland looks more impressive (someday I hope to have the opportunity to see it first hand to compare).
- After our tour we headed down Main Street for the 3:00pm parade that had just started. There was reserved seating for us roped off in front of Exposition Hall. This seemed like a high traffic and odd place for reserved seating, but it did give us a great view of the parade and it was not crowded at all. Also as an extra perk at the end of the parade they came around and issued us wristbands for the evening so we did not have to go wait in line! A nice little perk.
- We were on our own again with no D23 events scheduled until a reception at 7:00pm at the kickoff to the Christmas Party.
- There was a hospitality location set up at the Liberty Belle dock and onboard the boat for us. This ran from 7:00pm till midnight. There was hot chocolate, apple cider, and cookies onboard. Pretty much the same fair you could get at the other treat locations around the park, but this one had no line and was just us D23 people. For the first 45 minutes or so the D23 staff was on hand to talk, answer questions, pose for pictures, etc.. they then thanked everyone for attending and that concluded the official portion of the event. It was kind of an anticlimactic ending to the event. Also I was a little disappointed to see that they put out some krispi treats and other treats and those vanished very quickly and no more appeared while we were around. At all the other food/reception portions of the event things were replenished instantly almost and if you wanted something it was there for you. But this seemed to be a very limited supply of these and we did not get any :(...
- There was also reserved seating for the 8:15 Christmas parade, again in front of Exposition Hall. We headed down and this worked out great to have an un crowded/reserved area with perfect parade viewing. A nice way to cap off the event.
- In conclusion to the D23 event I want to re-iterate what I said at day 1. I thought this was a good event. I enjoyed myself and the opportunity. The price point was on the high side, but I can see why it did cost that much. I would have liked to have seen a little more done, especially the second day... things seemed to really loose steam by then. The highlights for me were the morning presentations on the first day and then the Dinner/Osborne lights to cap off the first day. The Castle Suite tour was the highlight of day 2. I had very high expectations go into this and I thought the event fell short of them. I know its unfair to compare events but I thought the Disneyland USA event set an extremely high standard to follow and this was on top of a well done Studio/Archive tour and a fairly well done first Expo.
Observations from the park/resorts:
- We spent the morning roaming around the Magic Kingdom since we had a ton of Fastpasses to use and free time till lunch. Due to the small crowds we did not have to use many of the Fastpasses though.
- There was no Christmas version of the Country Bears again... I guess its gone forever... this is too bad.. I really enjoy the show (both the holiday and regular versions).
- In the afternoon we had some time so made a trip over to the Contemporary to check out their decorations and the new wreath. I was disappointed to not have any access to the Bay Lake Tower (I guess I could have followed someone in but if Disney does not want guests there I figured it wasn't worth visiting).
- We caught the 5:40 Move It! Shake It! Celebrate It! Street party from near the hub. I had only seen this during the day and have to say it works much better during the day. There are no real lights on the floats and the lighting in the hub is terrible. It was basically white lights hitting the floats. Nothing like the lighting Disneyland uses... I think Disneyland's Street Party works better at night where as the WDW version needs to stick to the daylight hours.
Very Merry Christmas Party thoughts:
- This was my first time attending any after hours party at Walt Disney World. I have stayed away from them for the most part because of the price point and not being very interested in some of them. I have purposely stayed away from the Christmas party on principle. I do not think you should have to pay extra for all the holiday offerings. I think that some of them should be part of the regular day guest experience, as they had been before the parties started. It bugs me to have to pay so much more for access to things that I think should be part of the regular experience and then the party should have events that are above and beyond. So I wanted to start off my comments saying I came in with a jaded opinion.
- After experiencing the event I left with a similar feeling. I enjoyed the evening and the entertainment. I thought the event had too many people and the lines were a bit on the long side for being an after hours event. It really felt like a normal crowd almost. For example most of the E-tickets were 20-30 minutes in length when I walked around. On the other hand the park did not feel as crowded as Gradnites feel at Disneyland.
- Mickey's Once Upon a Christmastime Parade - This is offered twice per evening and it is an extended Christmas parade. I thought this was great and if you watched along Main Street there was snow falling during the parade. There were tons of characters and performers and this was a highlight of the evening.
- Holiday Wishes - Celebrate the Spirit of the Season - This is the fireworks show that runs once per event. I found the show to be much better than the standard Wishes show, but it really fell short emotionally compared to Disneyland's Believe in Holiday Magic. Holiday Wishes also utilizes launch locations from around the perimeter of the park which was a great effect to see the sky lit up all around on such a grand scale. This was my first time experiencing these launch locations from inside the park. I had seen them from outside on past trips.
- A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas Show - This show took place a handful of times at the stage that was constructed for the short lived Stitch show. It featured some dancers, Stitch, Mike from Monsters Inc, and Buzz Lightyear.. kind of an odd mix of characters for a Christmas show. I thought this was ok.. I thought the old show in the Galaxy theater was substantially better (the Mickey's Once Upon a Christmas show).
- Celebrate the Season show - This show runs three times per night on the castle stage. I really enjoyed this show and thought it was fun and kept moving.
- I did not take in Belle's Enchanted Christmas due to timing conflicts and other priorities so I have no comments on it.
- There were also two character dance parties set up. Ray's Jingle Dance and Place in Cosmic Rays and The Fantasyland Pavilion Cotillion in Ariel's Grotto. I stopped by both and the crowds were healthy and all seemed to be having a great time.
- Some other stats: There were seven locations passing out treats (cookies, hot chocolate, cider). And four locations that had merchandise for the event (shirts, pins, etc..), and a couple character meet and great locations. There were approx 30 attractions open for the evening.
- Bottom line... if I were asked would recommend the event... this is a hard call to make. I think the Christmas shows, parades, fireworks, are worth seeing. Is it worth avoiding the holiday madness (when they are available to the general public with paid admission) and instead paying extra to cram it in one night that is a personal call. I am guessing I will not shell out the money to go to one, as I had not in the past.
Pedometer Information for the day: