After years of touring the Walt Disney World Parks and resorts, it’s always amazing how many things we haven’t quite been able to do. In our case, along with many other Disney fans, it’s a bit of a revolving list of things we want to do next in the parks. The list never really ends, but constantly gets added to as Disney continues to grow and develop.
So, when the timing lined up to close down the Magic Kingdom, we had to give a shot. First, I have to say this is an experience that every Disney fan or even first time guest has to do at least once. It’s like stepping back in time. The crowds of the day really diminish about 30 minutes prior to close and slowly, yet surely each “land” within the park is blocked off to new guests by a row of cast members. It’s like you’ve stepped back in time, however briefly, to years ago when the parks weren’t quite as crowded as they are today.
There are so many elements of the experience that you can’t see any other way. If you want to share this experience with family or friends, here’s what I see as the best way to “shut down” the Magic Kingdom. Perhaps the easiest way to do so is to find a day during your trip when the park closes at or around 9:00 or 10:00pm. The days may be few and far between with the mass amount of extra magic hours for resort guests available, but an early closing could make all the difference. To really experience closing time, stick around until roughly a half hour (depending on when the park closes for the night) after the scheduled park closing time. Main Street will remain fairly busy, but the rest of the park will slowly drain of guests leaving behind a one of kind experience.
Imagine an empty Fantasyland or even Tomorrowland, there’s truly nothing quite like it. Of course, all of the rides have ended their operation for the night and a few cast members will still be stirring around, but the views are really second to none. It feels as if you have the park to yourself for even a brief moment. It’s something we all dream of, but will likely never experience. You can’t help but think, it must be the same feeling Walt felt night after night as he walked through Disneyland after the crowds had subsided for the day.
As an added bonus, simply ask the cast members or security monitoring each lands entrance if you can simply take some pictures and they’ll be more that happy to let you do so! Capturing that memory is really an outstanding way to remember the night and share the unique experience with others.
As you walk down Main Street as the last few guests filter out, take a moment to just think back on how many Imagineers and cast members over the years have devoted a small portion of their lives to create this place and the memories that we have enjoyed for generations. The entire experience really makes you think back on the experiences you’ve had with friends and family throughout the parks in a way that is truly hard to put into words. Make a quick stop up at the top of the Main Street Station and you’ll be honestly shocked at how different the view is from any other time of day. There’s no crowd below you, no mad rush to popular attractions, and a simple quiet that you can’t experience any other way.
While you’re waiting for guests to clear out, don’t forget to catch “The Kiss Goodnight.” While it is quite a simple show at the end of the night, it really brings home the nostalgia factor of a day in the parks and is one of those simple touches that sets Disney apart from all the rest. It completes the story of your time in the park for the day, and creates a fitting closing to a day at Walt Disney World. While this really isn’t an attraction or even a piece of any Disney itinerary, it’s something we didn’t do for years, but has become a new “must-do” part of our Disney vacation. The simple 2 or 3 minute show is nothing mind blowing, but something you’ll likely never forget.
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