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Brian Bennett

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Walt Disney World for Night Owls

Craig Conley (solution@pobox.com) sent me the following note and write up:

Hi Brian,

Love your trip reports and all the valuable info you provide! Enclosed below is not a standard trip report but some observations I made having recently visited WDW while my body clock was on a night shift schedule. I actually had a fantastic time experiencing WDW only at night, and even learned how to get back to my Disney hotel at 2:30 a.m. after the buses stopped running (without having to get a cab). So I offer my observations below, in case you'd like to include them on the website. Either way, thanks for all you do, and continued cheers!


by Craig Conley, solution@pobox.com

Are you a night owl, or does your job have you working the night shift or graveyard shift? If you are like me, you might put off a Disney vacation for fear that your unusual sleep schedule would prevent you from enjoying everything Disney has to offer. But put those fears aside--you don't *have* to be at the parks one hour before they open to beat the crowds and heat.

Indeed, doing Disney on a night schedule can be the best!

I recently returned from a four-night vacation to Walt Disney World during which I never woke up before 3 p.m. and never went to bed before dawn. I stayed on Disney property and did not have a rental car. Here are some tips and observations from my experiences:

Night owls should stay on Disney property. There are advantages to being Disney's guest, especially for night people, which I'll explain in a moment.

Choose the busiest seasons to visit. During crowded periods, including all holidays and summer months, the parks are open late.  On my schedule, I was waking up in the afternoon, just as most of the day visitors to the parks were feeling worn out and going back to their rooms for the night. I tended to have a light breakfast or skip it altogether, and then had "lunch" at the park around sunset. I still had from six to eight hours to enjoy the parks, which is enough time to see almost everything and not get exhausted in the process. It was less crowded, which meant that the lines for rides and food were shorter. The temperature was cooler and there was no heat exhaustion or sunburn to worry about.

Enjoy the nighttime ambience. After the sun goes down, the parks are especially magical with all sorts of nighttime illumination.  The Magic Kingdom is particularly beautiful lit by streetlamps and twinkling tree-lights. Many elements of the attractions can only be appreciated at night. For example, when standing outside the Haunted Mansion during the day, you can't see the person walking around the solarium holding a candle.  And on Big Thunder Mountain, during the day you can't see the couples dancing in the flooded saloon. At Epcot's Innoventions plaza, the walkways are lit with animated fiber optics that can only be seen at night. There is also special evening entertainment, such as fireworks and parades, which make nighttime very special.  

After you visit the parks, enjoy the Downtown Disney area. The restaurants at the Marketplace shopping district, Pleasure Island nightclub area, West Side entertainment district all stay open late.  In fact, these areas don't get really busy until about 11 p.m. If you have a late dinner, you avoid the long lines to get in to the restaurants at the traditional dinner hour. You may also want to enjoy the nighttime activities at Disney's Boardwalk resort, which has its own unique blend of clubs and restaurants. However, this area is generally not open as late as Downtown Disney.

After dinner and shopping, take in a movie at the West Side's AMC theatres. There are showings until midnight and often later.

Don't worry about transportation. On two nights, I saw movies that let out well after 2 a.m. The Disney resort buses stop running at 2 a.m. But that is no problem for guests staying on the Disney property. Just flag down a Disney security officer strolling around the area. He will ask where you are staying and then radio a Disney security van or a resort van, whichever is most readily available. You will be escorted back to your hotel in comfort, without having to deal with an overcrowded bus. Taxis are also on standby at Downtown Disney until well after the area closes, but why not treat yourself to being a V.I.P.?

After you get back to the hotel, you may still have several hours before bedtime. Luckily, the pools at the Disney hotels stay open 24 hours. There is no lifeguard after regular hours, but the pool will be quiet and relaxing and far more enjoyable than during the day (especially after a night of dancing at Pleasure Island). Summer nights in Florida are warm enough to make the cool water feel wonderful, and you'll be avoiding harmful radiation from the sun.

Before your trip, call Disney information at 407-W-DISNEY for the latest info on operating hours for the parks and Downtown Disney.  As you plan your nights, keep in mind that Disney's Animal Kingdom park tends to close earlier than the other parks, so you'll want to go there first thing when you get up. And be sure to make priority-seating reservations for dining at the California Grill, high atop Disney's Contemporary Resort. You can watch the Magic Kingdom's fireworks show from the public catwalks just outside the restaurant. The bird's eye views over the Seven Seas Lagoon and Magic Kingdom are unparalleled!


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