I remember walking down Main Street USA in 1996 toward the infamous Castle Cake that marked Walt Disney World’s 25th-anniversary celebration. As an eight-year-old girl, I thought it was awesome, and looking at pictures of that pink monstrosity still brings a smile to my face. Fast forward to 2011, Magic Kingdom was celebrating 40 years and I was very involved in the Disney online community at the time as a co-host of the Generation Mouse podcast. Some of my co-hosts were heading down to the celebration, but I was planning a wedding while doing my student teaching and a Disney trip just wasn’t in the cards. But, I promised myself I would be there for the 50th! I marked Friday, October 1, 2021 down on my calendar as a date to remember.
We booked this trip 500 days out, as early as Disney lets you book because I knew it was going to be a popular weekend. We booked flights using the last of our Spirit credit and of course, they canceled it and put us on a less-desirable flight that had us land in Orlando at Midnight on Friday. I heard people online talking about getting to the Magic Kingdom by 5 am and I knew with arriving so late, something was going to have to give. My plan was the get to the park for the early resort guest hours at seven, but traffic was insane so we got there right as it opened to everyone at eight with the bus driver taking us the back way to the park.
We walked through the turnstile and just hit a wall of people (top). There was a cast member standing outside the Emporium explaining to people that the store is on a virtual queue and at park open it was already full for the day. This was our first time in the parks since 2014, I wasn’t going to waste my time standing in line all day for merchandise. We headed to Liberty Square to pick up our breakfast from Sleepy Hollow that I had ordered in advance on the app. I was really glad that I had ordered in advance because the line went a ways back from the ordering window, almost back to the castle.
We finished our breakfast and headed to Tomorrowland for our first ride of the day, bracing ourselves for the long lines that were predicted. The line for Space Mountain wasn’t bad, in fact, after riding once, we got back in line and did it again. I think in total, we rode Space Mountain 5 times, Splash Mountain 4 times, and Big Thunder twice with plenty of other rides in between. The longest wait of the day was for Jungle Cruise in the afternoon. It was listed as a 40-minute wait, but I think we waited close to 60. On one of our runs through Space Mountain, one of the cast members yelled “You should be happier! It was supposed to be busy today!” My travel agent even texted me at one point asking if the wait times on the app were correct because she couldn’t believe it.
Besides merchandise, the quick-service food was also insanely busy on the 50th. We had pre-ordered our lunch from Pecos Bills in the morning and when we got there to check-in, we were told it may be another hour before we could get our food. Luckily, I was able to cancel that and we walked over to Columbia Harbor House and got our food almost immediately.
We had a really hard time getting a dining reservation for any restaurant in the park that day even with my travel agent getting on the phone bright and early on the day we were able to book. I kept checking the app every day, though, and the night before I managed to get us a reservation at Skipper Canteen. The downside of this reservation is it was at the same time as the fireworks. We weighed the options and with the busy day and very little sleep, we opted for the sit-down meal and I cannot tell you how glad I am that we made that choice! The theming in Skipper Canteen is so much fun as it goes along with The Jungle Cruise, but the food was amazing! Being able to wind down at the end of a busy day in the Magic Kingdom with a glass of wine was a great bonus!
Overall, it was a wonderful, exhausting day, in my favorite place. Main Street was a zoo the whole day so we just avoided it and enjoyed the shockingly short lines for the popular attractions. We got back to Coronado Springs late and did it all again the next day at Epcot! Check back next week to read about that!
Thanks for stopping by! If you are thinking of planning a trip to Disney, reach out to my friend and travel agent Allison at Adventures Away Vacations. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.