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Disney World Nostalgia Over Opening and Closing the Parks

by Ashley Metz on March 5, 2015 7 Orlando

I can remember being a little girl, enjoying Disney World. I enjoyed it all — the rides, the shows, the food. Like literally all of Disney World-all day long. We'd get up with the sun and go to bed well after the moon had made its debut. We covered more ground in one day than a marathoner; don't even get me started on the patented turbo speed "Mama Metz" walk. (Mama Metz Walk: a jog/speedy mall-style walk with full-on reckless abandon for anyone or thing in its path. Nothing gets in its way. It'll leave you breathless and looking forward to the wait in the line. Arms swing in a cartoon-like swarm and the words "Mooooommm waaaaait" are breathlessly uttered by anyone forced to keep up. Sorry ... love ya mom!!!)

Disney World nostalgia - Country Bears Jamboree

If it could be experienced, rode, or sung along with, we did it. Seriously, I feel like I know the Country Bears better than my own relatives. I've ridden the Carousel of Progress enough to go through a bajillion years (that was in '95 ALONE ... ).  We could have BEEN citizens of Main Street U.S.A. Looking back on those days are some of my most beloved memories. I had some of the deepest sleep on the boat and bus rides from the Magic Kingdom to Fort Wilderness Campground; granted it was a brief, full-on standing up, leaning on a pole or drooling on a stranger — but it was some good snoozing.

Disney World nostalgia - Dumbo statue

I can't blame my parents for opening and closing the parks in relentless Disney devotee style.  I'm sure I  probably had several overly tired meltdowns, complained about sore feet, and griped when we woke up before light. But no matter what, I enjoyed myself! My parents would squeeze every last dime and ounce of magic out of that trip. I don't mind, especially now that I'm a Disney obsessed adult.

But now I know opening and closing the park isn't always the best strategy. It works for some families but not others. So ... should you do it? And is opening and closing the parks something EVERYONE can do? Here's some food for thought. Let's get going (after all, there's so much to see ... )

Scream and Shout or Nap it All Out?

Disney World nostalgia - crowds

Ah ... the question to end all questions. Will your little ones be able to make it a full day in the parks if stopping for a break/nap isn't an option?  We'll, I have a not-so-simple answer. Yes and no. It really depends on your kids and your situation!  Some kids can hang with the big dogs. Some kids need structure, and that might mean stopping midday for a nap. You don't want to be miserable because you overdo it in the parks. Look at this way, if you choose to take a break you'll probably steer clear of meltdowns from heat, crowds and exhaustion, and possibly enjoy more of the parks because of it.

Guilty or not?

Should you feel guilty about taking a mid-day break from the parks? I say the answer is sure fire NO! Don't feel guilty! Ticket prices and the cost of a vacation are strong pushing factors that often lead to that crazed zombie-like approach to Disney World. While I enjoy the memories of packed days at Disney from my childhood, I never enjoyed the misery of living in that go-go-go zone. I say that you have to look at what you want out of your trip. Do you want quality or quantity? I always say go for quality! You don't want to be miserable because you overdo it in the parks. Taking a break or a nap should not be something to make you feel guilty! You can hit the parks hard in the morning, take a break when the crowds pick up, and hit the park hard again until close! That's nothing to be guilty about.

Technically Speaking ...

Disney World nostalgia - Magic Kingdom

Does it count as opening and closing the park if you leave a little while for a break? Technically, no. But there is a workaround that'll make you sound like a Disney boss when you brag of your opening/closing conquest to friends. If you literally are there at opening and leave at closing, you can work that into a yes (no one said anything about the middle). I say every situation is unique — your opening and closing of the park is something you can define.  Take breaks or full steam ahead ... either way you're sure to have a magical time.

So is opening and closing the parks something you've braved (or think you're going to brave)? Tell us in the comment section below your strategy for getting through the parks, whether it includes an afternoon break or not, and share some of your fondest memories from Disney World.

Until next time, keep it magical!

Ashley is the author of Disney: Done Right Blog. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter!


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Mar 10, 2015 at 12:28 a.m. Tamara Says...

We did about a week of opening and closing the parks when our kids were 4-7 years old (and again when they were 7-10). We were willing to go back to the hotel, but the kids weren't. Each day we kept thinking they'd sleep it, but they were always ready to go. To have the option to go open to close, here are our tips:

1) Eat a solid breakfast before leaving th hotel.

2) Pack a fanny pack with some snacks and a waterbottle that you can tap into when waiting in line. Takes care of hunger and makes the wait go faster.

3) Bring a backpack with sweatshirts and enough snacks to count as a dinner (applesauce, bagels, and peanutbutter were our favorites).

4)Stuff the whole backpack into a locker when you arrive at the park.

5) Have a long sitdown lunch in airconditioning about 1-2pm so the kids get a rest from walking and get fully rehydrated.

6) Anytime someone is tired, go to a longer show so they can rest (Country Bears, Hall of Presidents, etc)

7) An hour before the fireworks / evening show, go get your backpack from the locker.

8) Grab seats for the show and then enjoy your supper and use your sweatshirts to keep warm or sit on. For an extra treat, put a few lightup toys in the backpack too.

Mar 16, 2015 at 8:20 a.m. FrogBlog Says...

Wow, Tamara! Really smart tips. Sounds like you've had a lot of experience with this :)

Mommy Frog

Mar 6, 2015 at 12:45 p.m. Ian Says...

So we like to alternate our approach during our vacation. The first day is usually a fuller day and we stay longer before taking a break and then as a family we all return in the evening.

2nd day - we select a park like Animal Kingdom that is a shorter day and less intense. We don't go back to the resort (usually on-site) until we are finished with the park.

In the evening either my wife or I would would take the kids back to Magic Kingdom to see a fireworks show or parade either again or if we missed it while the other takes a break from the park and/or kids!

Mar 11, 2015 at 2:03 a.m. Ashley Says...

That's a great strategy, Ian! Seems like you've got it down to a magical science! :)

Mar 5, 2015 at 4 p.m. Cole Says...

We always open the park and stay until 2pm, head back to the resort offsite for a couple hours, then head back around 4:30/5 and stay until close.

This strategy works for us because:

1. We seem to get close parking because we're there first thing in the morning and enough people have left by 5 that we can get up front again.

2. We save money on meals by eating our big meal at our resort.

3. We avoid the busiest time of day at the parks.

4. Our feet get a break!

It might not work for everyone, but for our family it seems to be a tried and true method.

Mar 11, 2015 at 2:04 a.m. Ashley Says...

That's a smart way to make the most of your day, Cole! Thanks for sharing your strategy! :)Ashley

Mar 5, 2015 at 12:06 p.m. FrogBlog Says...

Hi Cole,

We agree. By starting early and then taking a break, you effectively skip the parks when they are at their peak crowd levels.

Keep hopping!


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