Night Rides at Walt Disney World

Night Rides

Night at Walt Disney World is my absolute favorite time to be in the parks. The majestic appearance of Cinderella Castle, the way light reflects off of each of the triangular panels of Spaceship Earth, the Tree of Life illuminated from below, and the warm glow of neon on Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards are just a few of the reasons Disney parks after dark are simply amazing. I truly believe that the parks have two entirely different feelings during daylight and at nighttime. Come follow me while I explore the four theme parks of Walt Disney World to see some of the best rides to experience at night as they are completely transformed with different vibes from their daytime selves.

Castle and Partners
Castle and Partners
Spaceship Earth
Spaceship Earth
Tree of Life
Tree of Life
Hollywood Boulevard at night
Hollywood Boulevard at night

 

Animal Kingdom

Admittedly, this is the park I have spent the least time in after dark, mostly due to the fact that there are few times a year that you are able to see Disney’s Animal Kingdom after dark. Since the park is not open into the late night hours, usually not past 8pm or maybe even 9pm on the rare occasion, there are limited opportunities to experience attractions here at night. One such opporunity is during the Expedition Everest Challenge in May. This is a 5K through the Animal Kingdom followed by a scavenger hunt that takes you almost over the whole 5K course again. It is great fun and a unique change to get to see this gorgeous park late at night since the after party goes typically until 2am or so. For those that aren’t able to participate in this fun RunDisney event, the best attraction to ride at night is definitely Expedition Everest. The ride’s twists and turns and drops and backwards section seem even more thrilling when you can’t see what lies ahead. I strongly encourage any thrill seekers to make sure they try to do this at least once. It is not to be missed!

Expedition Everest at night
Expedition Everest at night
View from Everest at night
View from Everest at night
End of Everest tracks at night
End of Everest tracks at night

Hollywood Studios

Stepping into Disney’s Hollywood Studios at night, one can see how the extensive use of neon makes this park come to life. The heyday of Hollywood never looked better than under the fabulous glow of the bright neon colors lining Hollywood and Sunset. The crown jewel of the park at night is the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. It sits ominously looming over Sunset Boulevard, with its imposing exterior emblazoned with evidence of that fateful lightning strike. Much like Everest, part of the excitement of this ride at night is in the surprise and not knowing what is coming next. For those who have ridden Tower of Terror during the daylight, you can often tell when you are to the point of dropping by the telltale sliver of light peeking through the elevator doors ahead. Not so at night. This added element of surprise and not being able to anticipate when the drop is coming as well as during the day increases the adrenaline rush for me.

Tower of Terror at night
Tower of Terror at night

Epcot

My favorite park at night hands down is Epcot, and World Showcase in particular. The lighting softens from the often harsh Florida sun. Music wafts gently across the World Showcase Lagoon. Libations flow and guests are satiated by the phenomenal dining offerings presented by this park. Illuminations is a magical experience for me. But this isn’t about ambiance, food, beverages, fireworks, or even music. This is about Test Track baby! (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.) The newly revamped Future World attraction is incredible at night. I love the way the ride gives you a great dark ride inside and then whoosh! You are speeding around the track on a 45 degree angle pushing towards that top speed of 65 miles per hour. When you coming flying through those doors and into that night air, it is invigorating to say the least. Plus, the view of Epcot at night as you whip around the track is amazing!

Illuminations
Illuminations
Test Track at night
Test Track at night

Magic Kingdom

Spread out across the Magic Kingdom you will find fantastic examples of rides that I find are superior after dark. In Adventureland, the Jungle Cruise takes on a new mystique while exploring the Nile, Congo and Mekong Rivers. If you have never done this at night, what are you waiting for? The skippers corny jokes even take on a life of their own by lantern light. Just adjacent to the Jungle Cruise, the Magic Carpets of Aladdin provide a fun experience on your flying carpet that seems a bit more … adventurous (see what I did there) than during the day. Plus, it is a bit harder to spot the spitting camel at night, adding another element of adventure in trying to avoid it. Frontierland also plays host to two excellent choices for night rides. Both Splash and Big Thunder Mountains are far more exciting (in my humble opinion) at night. I love the moment on Splash right before you go down the five story drop when you catch that glimpse of the castle all lit up in all her glory. If you can try to time it right, Wishes as seen from Big Thunder is a transformative experince. It is one of my favorite views of the fireworks show.

Splash Mountain at night
Splash Mountain at night
Big Thunder at night
Big Thunder at night

Although it is entirely indoors, except for the queue, which is infinitely better at night (especially during Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party), the Haunted Mansion is another great night ride. This Liberty Square attraction takes on an otherworldly and creepy ethereal feel to it when the sun goes down. I love when it is foggy and you can hardly see the tombstones in the graveyard and just barely catch the sound of the howling dog. Fantastic! Not to be left out is Fantasyland. Dumbo is so stunningly beautiful, especially now with the dueling Dumbos and the gorgeously lit fountains with alternating colors. I can stand in that queue transfixed by the serenity of changing lights and the soft sound of the water pouring out underneath the playful pachyderms.

Haunted Mansion during MNSSHP
Haunted Mansion during MNSSHP
Haunted Mansion pet cemetery
Haunted Mansion pet cemetery
Dumbo at night
Dumbo at night

Last, but certainly not least is my favorite land at night, Tomorrowland. The neon popping off the corner of seemingly every edifice is an inviting beacon to this part of the park. An attraction that I do not often do, but if I do will always choose to do at night is the Astro Orbiter. Sitting atop Rockettower Plaza, this spinning ride, similar to the Magic Carpets of Aladdin and Dumbo, seems to fly even faster through the cosmos at night, especially on that descent. Saving the best (again, in my opinion) for last, the Tomorrowland Transit Authority Peoplemover is a 12 minute break from the hustle and bustle that usually is the Magic Kingdom. At night, you can admire the gorgeous neon of tomorrowland, view lights on the edge of Main Street USA and of course see the luminous Cinderella Castle transform from blue to pink to green to orange before your eyes. You can read more about my love of this attraction here in a previous post dedicated to this classic Magic Kingdom ride.

Tomorrowland at night
Tomorrowland at night

 

Have you done any or all of these at night? If so, what are your favorites? Did I miss any of your favorite attractions to experience after dark at Walt Disney World? If I have, please feel free to share your thoughts. Hope you enjoyed!

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Disney T-shirt Collection

T-shirt from runDisney I’d love image copyright Disney

People often ask what Disney items I collect. I don’t really do pins, other than for the races I’ve done or special occasions like Epcot’s 30th. Vinylmations aren’t really my thing because I know there are ones I like, but I can’t deal with the blind boxes and not knowing what I’m going to get. My weakness, when it comes to Disney, and other things, is my affinity for t-shirts. I’ve collected them since I moved to Florida in the late 1990s and thought I had a few added to the collection over the years. It wasn’t until I went to take pictures for this post that I realized that the number of Disney t-shirts I now own is pushing fifty.

Most of my Disney t-shirts have stories behind them as to when and where I purchased them. Others, I have no recollection of how I acquired them, but I am fairly certain that I purchased them all, if not all but one or two. At an average price of probably $20-25 each after discounts, I am a little embarrassed at the amount of money I’ve probably spent (well over $1,000.), but I do love them and the memories they bring. So I thought I’d take this time to share my t-shirt collection and what a few of them mean to me.

I wish I had a picture, or could find the shirt, but the first Disney t-shirt I actually remember getting (or having my mom possibly buy it for me) was in middle school on my first trip to Epcot in 1993. I loved the France pavilion so much and was a scholar of French at the time, so it was a perfect fit (or so I thought at the time) when I found a shirt that featured helpful phrases and words in French with their translation into English. The brilliant thing about this shirt was that the words were printed upside down, so I as the shirt wearer could read it a little easier. Dorky, I know, but I loved it and really wish I could lay my hands on it. I’ve spent over an hour looking and I’m temporarily calling off the search.

When I was in middle school and high school, my favorite Disney character was Winnie the Pooh. I had a stuffed Winnie the Pooh that even sang when you pushed a button on the hunny pot he was holding. I’m sure I still have him around here, but not sure where. These three shirts have survived a good two decades almost now.

Winnie the Pooh So Squeezable
Winnie the Pooh So Squeezable
Winnie the Pooh Midnight Smackeral
Winnie the Pooh Midnight Smackeral
Luvable, huggable Pooh
Luvable, huggable Pooh

The older I got, the more I realized that Mickey Mouse was actually my favorite character. I would say he probably makes up the character on the highest percentage of my shirts.

Mickey Live Laugh Relax tank
Mickey Live Laugh Relax tank
Mickey Swirl Design
Mickey Swirl Design
Mickey with bats
Mickey with bats
Mickey Woody
Mickey Woody
Mickey You Gots to Chill
Mickey You Gots to Chill
Peace, Love & Mickey Mouse
Peace, Love & Mickey Mouse
Surfing Mickey
Surfing Mickey

Over the years I have acquired a love for Disney t-shirts from the parks, whether to celebrate anniversaries or just favorite attractions.

EPCOT Center from WDW 40th Anniversary
EPCOT Center from WDW 40th Anniversary
Epcot 30th Anniversary
Epcot 30th Anniversary
The American Adventure Epcot 30
The American Adventure Epcot 30
The Magic Kingdom Shag
The Magic Kingdom Shag
Peoplemover
Peoplemover
Pirates of the Caribbean
Pirates of the Caribbean
S is for Sparrow POTC
S is for Sparrow POTC
Disney MGM Studios Where Animation Comes to Life front
Disney MGM Studios Where Animation Comes to Life front
Disney MGM Studios Where Animation Comes to Life back
Disney MGM Studios Where Animation Comes to Life back
Star Tours Judge Me By My Size, Do You front
Star Tours Judge Me By My Size, Do You front
Star Tours Judge Me By My Size, Do You back
Star Tours Judge Me By My Size, Do You back
Star Tours I Am the Rebel Spy
Star Tours I Am the Rebel Spy
Plaid Mickey WDW 71
Plaid Mickey WDW 71
WDW Surfboards
WDW Surfboards
WDW Tour Quadruple Decker Bus
WDW Tour Quadruple Decker Bus
Disney Tradition Built by Characterss front
Disney Tradition Built by Characterss front
Disney Tradition Built by Characterss back
Disney Tradition Built by Characterss back
Disneyland
Disneyland
Red Car Trolley at Disney California Adventure
Red Car Trolley at Disney California Adventure

My favorite sports team trains at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports, so they even have Disney Atlanta Braves shirts.

ESPN WWOS Atlanta Braves Spring Training
ESPN WWOS Atlanta Braves Spring Training

Miscellaneous shirts

Don't Worry Be Happy
Don’t Worry Be Happy
Dopey I'm Smarter Than U Look
Dopey I’m Smarter Than U Look
Captain America
Captain America
The Avengers
The Avengers
Darth Vader Who's Your Daddy
Darth Vader Who’s Your Daddy
Will Turner POTC tank
Will Turner POTC tank
Tropical Minnie
Tropical Minnie
Muppets I Love Nerds
Muppets I Love Nerds
Kermit Geek
Kermit Geek
Goofy Simplicity
Goofy Simplicity

Even my favorite actor, Sean Connery, was featured on a t-shirt I got at MGM about fifteen years ago.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Then there are the holiday shirts. The one that was the hardest to get and to wear after earning it was the 24 hours Leap Day in 2012.

Mickey Leap Day
Mickey Leap Day
Mickey Boo
Mickey Boo
Mickey May Your Holidays Be Bright
Mickey May Your Holidays Be Bright

I only have one Disney resort t-shirt and that is for my favorite resort, Disney’s Polynesian Resort.

Disney's Polynesian Resort front
Disney’s Polynesian Resort front
Disney's Polynesian Resort back
Disney’s Polynesian Resort back

The shirts I am most proud of, and have paid the most for individually, are those from my RunDisney races.

Mickey's Halloween 5K 2010
Mickey’s Halloween 5K 2010
Buzz and Woody's Best Friends 5K 2011
Buzz and Woody’s Best Friends 5K 2011
Beauty and the Beast Royal Family 5K 2011
Beauty and the Beast Royal Family 5K 2011
ESPN The Weekend 5K 2011
ESPN The Weekend 5K 2011
Expedition Everest Challenge 2011
Expedition Everest Challenge 2011
Disney Halloween 5K 2011
Disney Halloween 5K 2011
Expedition Everest Challenge 2012
Expedition Everest Challenge 2012

My latest addition to my collection came last weekend in The Adventures of the Gummi Bears t-shirt.

The Adventures of the Gummi Bears front
The Adventures of the Gummi Bears front
The Adventures of the Gummi Bears back
The Adventures of the Gummi Bears back

In doing this, I noticed that I don’t have any Animal Kingdom shirts. I saw one the other day that I really liked, so this may be the next one to join the others.

Disney's Animal Kingdom t-shirt
Disney’s Animal Kingdom t-shirt

Do you collect anything? Do you have more Disney t-shirts than me? Do you have a favorite?

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These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things

Image Copyright ABC Family

So the other night on twitter I asked what people’s favorite song was from the Sound of Music when mine came up randomly in iTunes (Something Good, btw). One of my friends answered My Favorite Things. While struggling to come up with a topic for a blog post, I was reminded of this when I saw Do-Re-Mi-Fa trending on twitter and saw it as a sign. Inspiration has to come from somewhere, so why not twitter? I’ll take this opportunity to highlight some of my favorite things at Walt Disney World. Some are obvious choices as E Ticket attractions and others may not be as well known.

At the Magic Kingdom, and probably in all of Walt Disney World, my favorite ride is Pirates of the Caribbean. I guess I’ve been enamored with the idea of pirates in general since we did Peter Pan as our second grade play. Despite the fact that I always tend to get soaked from either the cannon fire or even the drop, this remains my fave. I love the smell of the queue, have a whole soundtrack of the theme song with various remixes (yes, this exists), and the addition of Captain Jack Sparrow certainly didn’t hurt or compromise the integrity or feel of the ride, in my opinion. Two other classic attractions round out my top three in MK: Haunted Mansion and the Tomorrowland Transit Authority Peoplemover. I have been fortunate enough to take a walking tour of the Haunted Mansion and it was beyond incredible. The storytelling on this is probably the most complete of any attraction in the Magic Kingdom. TTAP is just a great ride that gives you an overview of Tomorrowland with narration. You can read more about my love of the Peoplemover here.

Pirates!
Haunted Mansion
TTAP

Disney’s Animal Kingdom is not my favorite of the four parks by a long stretch, however there are some things that I completely love about this park. The theming of Harambe and Anandapur are spectacular. I especially love the artwork and details in the Asia section of the park along the Maharajah Jungle Trek. It may also be because the tigers are my favorite animals to visit. As far as rides are concerned, I love the Kilimanjaro Safaris, especially towards the end of the day. I used to think that I’d see more animals first thing in the morning, but the last few times I have ridden in late afternoon I saw way more. My favorite show, possibly in all of WDW, is the Festival of the Lion King. It has great interactivity for the kids, lots of entertainment with singing, dancing, aerial acrobatics, and my absolute favorite part: TUMBLE MONKEYS!!! The quality of this production is always great and is fun for everyone.

Maharajah Jungle Trek
Lion
Tumble Monkeys

Disney’s Hollywood Studios is magnificent at night, possibly stealing the show from the other parks with the luster of old Hollywood and the luminescence of neon. While I’m not a huge fan of all of the rides, I do love to experience some of the lesser appreciated attractions. Probably my favorite activity at the Studios is the Animation Academy. I have done this dozens of times, and typically go twice each day I visit that park. You can see some of my attempts at drawing here. Another attraction that I enjoy and try to catch each time is Mulch, Sweat & Shears. If you haven’t seen these guys (and sometimes girls) perform, you are missing out on one of the best live acts in WDW. They cover great rock songs from the 60s through today. Usually found on New York Street, but sometimes by the Sorcerer’s Hat, Mulch is a great way to spend some time rocking out and dancing to some music you don’t often hear in the parks. Last, but certainly not least, is my favorite ride in DHS: the Great Movie Ride. It harkens back to the classic days of Hollywood with nods to some of the greatest films in cinematic history. For more in depth details on some more of my favorite things at the Studios, take a look at my blog post from a few weeks ago here.

Chip
Mulch, Sweat & Shears
Great Movie Ride

Finally, this brings me to my favorite park (actually I go back and forth between MK and Epcot, but most of the time Epcot wins). I am completely fascinated with World Showcase at Epcot, partially because I love to travel, but haven’t outside of the US. This is like a magical journey that transports me to lands both near and far when I set foot in WS. My favorite film in Epcot is definitely Impressions de France. As several of my friends know, I love (j’adore) this attraction to the point where I have practically memorized the script and can recite it almost verbatim, including the parts in French. The scenery all around France is magnificent, the score is beautiful, using classical works from composers like Maurice Ravel, Camille Saint-Saens and Claude Debussy just to name a few. I have even made a cd of the tracks used in the film. You can ask for a copy of track listing from the Cast Members as you exit through the gift shop. Since Test Track is out of commission, my favorite ride is Spaceship Earth. I know some fanboys take issue with Dame Judi Dench’s narration, but being a James Bond fan, I don’t mind. Plus, I don’t have recollection of the Cronkite or Irons versions. Taking the time to “thank the Phoenicians” has become a ritual part of every trip. My third favorite attraction in Epcot goes to the entire American Adventure pavilion. This includes the Fife & Drum Corps, shows like Candlelight Processional, Flower Power Concert Series, Eat to the Beat Concert Series, the Voices of Liberty and the American Adventure attraction itself. Americana is something that is near and dear to me and all of these elements combine to celebrate some of the best things about this great nation of ours.

Impressions de France
The Phoenicians
Davy Jones

What are some of your favorite attractions? Hope you enjoyed learning about some of mine.

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