Last week I took a quick trip to Disney World with my 8-year old son. This was my first time traveling completely alone with him and it was easier than I thought it would be, so single moms or dads thinking about going it alone, I highly recommend giving it a try. Here's a few highlights from the trip just to get me back into blogging again. I have so much to tell you in depth later.
Weather: If you read here often, you probably know that I advise people to bring a heavy coat from November through early March. When you read this, you may have thought to yourself "Is she crazy?" Well, no. The thing is, it can get really cold in Orlando during this time of year. It can even snow. But I have never needed more than a heavy coat and gloves. This trip was the exception. Not only did I need a heavy coat, I actually had to go out and buy some thermal underwear, hats and scarves, things we might use once a year in North Carolina and that I never considered bringing to Orlando. Given how many guests I saw walking around the parks wrapped up in blankets and Disney Snuggies (sigh), I'd say many people were caught off guard. I felt terrible thinking that it might have been their only trip to Disney World and this was the weather they experienced.
Crowds: Our first day in the parks was December 4th, which was also the last day of the Christmas parade taping in the Magic Kingdom. Crowds were very manageable with the exception of the Magic Kingdom on parade taping day. I know that crowd experts will tell you that the taping doesn't effect the attractions in the back of the park but I think it does, particularly in the afternoon when parade spectators start enjoying the parks themselves. Still, it was a relatively low crowd day, so it was manageable.
During our trip, there were the usual lines for the top five headliner attractions, but most everything else was a walk-on and fastpasses were readily available until late in the afternoon (with the exception of Toy Story Midway Mania and Soarin'). Posted wait times without a fastpass for Toy Story Midway Mania were around 60 - 85 minutes within an hour of the park opening, although our actual waits were about 25 minutes less.
I think it would be interesting to look at crowd levels based on cold weather days. It was so bitterly cold and windy at some points that walkways in the parks were virtually empty. It wasn't until you went into the shops and restaurants that you realized that the parks were actually full, but didn't appear to be since people were huddling wherever they could to get warm. Shops were just unbelievably crowded this week.
We attended Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party on December 7th and the park was almost empty that night, although the two previous parties were sold out. I suspect that some people braved the first couple of hours, but by 9:00 p.m. the park was a ghost town. If you could handle the cold and were dressed for it, it was a truly amazing time to be in the park. I lost count how many times we rode Peter Pan; everything in the park was a walk-on or a five minute wait at the most. Cast members were lively and especially cheerful due to the low crowds. We had some great character interactions with only a two or three minute wait.
Pop Warner: I know a lot of people worry about the effect of Pop Warner on crowds, but it didn't seem to be an issue. I saw several small groups a day in the parks, all escorted by at least one adult. The kids were excited and giggly, as you would expect, but well-behaved. The exception would be the groups I saw at Downtown Disney, who didn't appear to have escorts and were pretty loud.
Decorations: The one thing you can usually count on is that Disney will pull out all the stops at Christmastime. The parks and resorts are gorgeous. In the past few years, I've heard people say that they were putting up fewer decorations, but I didn't notice it myself. This year, I did, unfortunately. I generally try not to be one of those gloom and doom Disney fans who are always looking for things the company does wrong, so I'm sad to say it was it was particularly obvious in the Magic Kingdom, which is usually spectacular. Given the state of the economy and the fact that even Disney has suffered some real losses, I'm not surprised. I do hope it's not a trend, however.
More later, including a surprising visit to Babycakes NYC in Downtown Disney. Hint: They're vegan and they're delicious.