Saturday is when being on a solo trip really paid off. My day started bright and early, meeting at the Magic Kingdom at 7:30 a.m. before an 8:00 a.m. rope drop. I was among a group of about 50 die-hards who volunteered to experience just a piece of what TouringPlans.com employees do to test the efficacy of various touring plans before they’re published, and to collect raw data regarding wait times. (If you click on the photo to enlarge it, you can probably find me standing in about the third row, just left of center). We were dividing into groups of 3 to 5 people each, and given a list of attractions to visit. We were to walk at our normal pace (it’s not a race, it’s data collection) to an attraction. Note the time we got in line on the chart provided and note the time we actually boarded the attraction. We enjoyed 7 attractions in the 2 hours allotted for the test, including headliners like Big Thunder Mountain and Space Mountain, and a couple of notoriously slow-loaders (Jungle Cruise and Peter Pan’s Flight). Ultimately, it was worth the early wake-up after a late night. I had fun with my group, and I gained some interesting insight into a product that I swear by when planning Walt Disney World vacations.
The touring plan testing wrapped up at 10:00 a.m. near Carousel of Progress – just as Reunion attendees were gathering for one of the most-anticipated Reunion events of the year – Carousel of Progress (The Rocky Horror Edit). Len and Laurel from TouringPlans.com wrote a complete script, with parts distributed as meet participants gathered for the shows (yes, showS – the group filled two Carousel of Progress theaters). We shouted out our lines, based on cues in the show’s dialogue. To get a better idea of how it went, check out the re-enactment done on the WDW Today Podcast. Suffice to say, it was hilarious, loads of fun, and best of all, I got to meet fellow DISDad and sometimes DISDads Podcast Panelist CJ Fragola at the meet. (Edited to add the picture that CJ had taken).
Followign CoP, we headed over to Sleepy Hollow for an early lunch (I’d hoped to get breakfast at Captain Cook’s before the Touring Plans meet up, but we were running late, so I was HUNGRY)! We were on the hunt for a brand-new offering that I’d read about at the Disney Food Blog – the Chicken and Waffle sandwich. In the words of Matt Hochberg, it was outstanding! It was tasty and filling, with just a touch of spice from the sauce and just enough sweetness from the malted waffle to balance it all out. The waffle are made to order, so each sandwich comes out exceptionally fresh. The only downside is that they can get backed up – our decision to go ahead and grab lunch early probably saved us a 20 minute wait. We hung out for a while after lunch – Lou Mongello was hosting a meet at Sleepy Hollow, so there were lots of people to meet and talk to. After lunch, I was pretty tired, and I knew we had a late night ahead of us, so after snapping a few photos of Fantasyland Expansion construction progress, I decided to head back to Pop for a nap.
I felt refreshed when I woke up, and connected with “Turkey Leg” Jeff over Twitter DM (this was definitely a social media-heavy trip). We arranged to meet up at Hollywood Studios to grab a quick service dinner and maybe hit a couple of attractions before meeting up with the rest of the Reunion crew for our Fantasmic! dessert party. We decided to try the new Fairfax Fare gourmet hotdogs. I tried the Macaroni & Cheese with Truffle Oil Hot Dog. It was not nearly as successful as the Chicken & Waffle sandwich at Sleepy Hollow. It wasn’t bad, it was just rather bland. The macaroni and cheese was quite obviously microwaved, and the truffle oil flavor was almost non-existent. After eating, we walked around a bit, figuring it made sense to let our food digest a bit before hitting attractions, and then decided to get in line for Rock-n-Roller Coaster, since the group would likely begin gathering soon in that courtyard. Unfortunately, just as we approached, word started getting around that Rock-n-Roller Coaster was down, and many in the line of people who had been waiting for the coaster were going past us in the other direction, heading for Tower of Terror. Oh well. So much for a ride before gathering. Instead, we hung out and mingled with the growing group of Reunion participants, waiting for our Fantasmic! dessert party.
It was getting cold as party time approached, and I was glad that I’d bothered with the sweatshirt and denim jacket I’d brought with me. We were led through a backstage area, behind the Tower of Terror (no photos allowed), and in through a back entrance to the theater. The private party gathering areas at Fantasmic! are at the top of the theater, and while it was nice not to have to fight the crowd for seating, I have to admit that I don’t love the view from the party area. As you can see from the photo I posted, while you have a pretty good perspective on the action, there is too much scaffolding/lighting equipment in the way, and it really detracts from being able to get immersed in the show. There were also fewer dessert options at Fantasmic! than there were at Illuminations – pretty much just Mickey head rice krispie treats (and hot chocolate, water, and lemonade). But the show was stil pretty good, and the company was great.
After Fantasmic!, we were again led backstage over to the theater where the Disney, Jr. show runs. The theater was set up with tables and chairs and a buffet of really good hot and cold appetizers. We were given raffle tickets as we entered the theater, and for the next hour or so our hosts proceeded to give away prizes. Sadly, I didn’t win anything. But I did come within one number of winning a family vacation! That was exciting, right until the last number was called out.:-( After a while, we were all asked to line up and follow our guides to our next stop for the evening. We all assumed we were headed for the Osbourne Family Lights, as that was really the focus of this entire event. But we were led from Disney, Jr. up through Pixar Place. And as we passed by Toy Story Midway Mania, the FastPass Return Time was listed as 10:37 p.m. – coincidentally, exactly the time that we were walking by! Yep. We got a surprise private ride on Toy Story (and it was the one chance I got to ride it on this trip) 🙂
Once the last of the group exited Toy Story Mania, we were led to a darkened Osbourne Family Lights display along New York Street. Our hosts were invited to throw the switch, and we were given about an hour-and-a-half to enjoy the lights. The entire park had been cleared of other guests, so it was just our (relatively) small group experiencing the lights together. I got some incredible pictures of the lights. I have to admit that I was so mesmerized by the sights, I didn’t even remember to look for the cat hidden in the display (but I did manage to track down some hidden Mickeys). The time to leave came too soon, and I said my goodbyes to friends new and old on our way out to the parking lot. I had a VERY early flight out on Sunday morning, so I started packing as soon as I got back to the resort. (It was, after all, technically morning already at that point). I got in about a 4-hour nap before I had to head to the airport, exhausted. All-in-all, it had been a whirlwind trip and it started a bit slow. But by the end I was sad to go and glad to have been there.
I can’t thank my wonderful wife enough for encouraging me to go ahead and take this solo trip. I don’t think that I’d enjoy visiting Walt Disney World solo on a regular basis. But it did give me an opportunity to experience the resort and the parks in a uniquely different way, and I’d do it again, in the right circumstances. I still think I’ll probably bring the family along for the Convention in January though. 🙂