14 May 2018

DisneyWorld at Night

Scott went to the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine conference this last month in Orlando, Florida, and I was lucky enough to tag along to work from the hotel. The conference took place at the Swan and Dolphin Resort on the Walt Disney World campus, so the conference had a connection to Disney and offered reduced fare tickets to DisneyWorld. Ticket options connected with the conference included purchasing multi-day park hopper passes or purchasing one day tickets, or even less expensive afternoon or evening only tickets to one park. Since Scott was going to be in conference sessions all day, we decided to get evening tickets for each day that we were there.

I had been to DisneyWorld twice as a kid, and Scott had only ever been to Disneyland in California. So we were excited to explore the parks as adults. DisneyWorld is so big now, with so many parks! We decided to spend one night at Disney's Hollywood Studios, one night at Epcot, and our last night at Magic Kingdom. We had so much fun going to Disney just in the evening and thought we would share some of tips we learned about DisneyWorld.

 1. Choose your lodging wisely. The cost of staying at a Disney resort was about $100 more per night than staying at a nearby hotel, and the nearby hotel was probably $50+ more than if we had rented a local condo. The conference had a block of rooms at the Disney resort and connections with a hotel nearby that would have a shuttle to the conference every day. Disney resort hotels offer free transportation to and from parks, and the hotel that we stayed at had a complimentary shuttle to Disney parks. However, we didn't realized until we arrived that the shuttle only left at certain times of day, and it never left for the parks in the evening. So we couldn't use that benefit, and since we had a rental car I ended up driving Scott to the conference whenever he wanted instead of him being at the mercy of the shuttle schedule. Knowing what I know now, if I could do it all over again I'd probably book a condo to save money and have the convenience of a kitchen for the week, since none of the hotel benefits actually mattered to us.

2. Uber or park at Disney. Parking at DisneyWorld parks is currently $22 for the day, no matter what time of day you arrive. So when our tickets allowed us to enter the park at 5:00 PM, we still paid $22 for parking. Sure, there's some convenience, but for four hours that price tag hurts. Depending on where your hotel is located from Disney parks, taking an Uber/taxi/Lyft can be as inexpensive as  $10/one way. So it's about the same cost. We tried to be cheap one day and figure out how to take the free park transportation from Disney Springs (where you can park for free) to the parks, but as the bus transportation is really only intended for resort guests, getting to the parks from Disney Springs is complicated on purpose. So we decided to save our time (and my frustration) and just pony up the fee to park on site. It hurt my pride, but because of that fiasco we have the best story about Pedro the helpful parking attendant, who shall never been forgotten, at Disney Hollywood Studios.

3. Epcot is all about the food! We ate only at the counter options in the park, but if we had had more time I would have loved to sit down for dinner once. When I was a kid I didn't see the value of Epcot. There are very few rides, though they upgraded the Norway ride since I was a kid and now it draws lines. I realize now, though, that Epcot is probably the most adult oriented park (focuses on foodie-ness, technology, futuristic, etc.), which made it a great place for Scott and I to spend the evening.We loved the one night eating our way through the countries of Epcot because I had looked through Disney Food Blog and found all the recommended dishes in each park (yes, I plan around food!). Scott and I walked from country to country throughout Epcot in search of the best foods, and along the way we stopped at the Frozen Ever After ride and the Chevy Test Track. My favorite food choice was the Signature Poutine in Canada.

4. Do NOT miss Magic Kingdom's firework show! Magic Kingdom was possibly the least magical of all of our Disney experiences. Rides broke down, crowds were huge, lines were long, staff left early at the end of the night, and surprisingly some of the rides weren't maintenanced well (I'm looking at you, Buzz Lightyear). When the Happily Ever After firework display began at the castle, we took the low crowd opportunity to Fast Pass a ride. In order to get to the ride we walked past the castle, and in retrospect we should have just stopped and enjoyed the show because it was incredible! The technology that changes how the castle looks and displays clips of movie was so awe inspiring. Instead we rushed to Tomorrow Land for a ride, which ended up being a disappointment, and when we got out of the ride we caught the VERY end of the fireworks. I don't want to give anything away if you've never seen the show, but that ending was THE MOST MAGICAL THING we experienced at Disney. This show really unifies the crowd through their love of favorite Disney characters. So fun to hear everyone singing together.

While we have a few other tips about the airport and are still in an on-going debate about whether Disneyland or DisneyWorld is greater, that's it for now. I hope you enjoy your Disney adventure and stop to soak in the magical moments.