Guest Blogger Ryan Kilpatrick started his life long love of Disney when he visited Walt Disney World with his grandparents in 1982, just a week after Epcot opened, and got his picture in Communicore printed in Southern Living magazine. Since then, he’s drafted his wife and kids into the mix! Between Disney trips he started his blog, The Disney Film Project, where he is starting the adventure of watching all the Disney shorts and features in chronological order. You can find him on his blog or on Twitter.
Let me take you back to 2001 – I was a poor guy, just moved to Atlanta, working a dead end job that took a lot of my time and paid very little money. I just bought a house, had a new son, and was trying to make ends meet. But the whole time, I kept my Disney obsession healthy by listening to Mouse World Radio or reading Disney sites. But I just couldn’t find the time to take a full vacation down to the World.
I’m sure many of you know what I’m talking about. You read the Unofficial Guide or you listen to podcasts, and you think to yourself, “Gosh, I’d love to go to Disney World, but I don’t have the time or money to stay for 4 days or more.” My solution was simple – make it a practice to just go down for the weekend, experience what I could, and be sure to come back. In other words, to have a Disney Weekend.
It started in Thanksgiving of 2001 with my wife and 11 month old son, and continues to this day, with my daughter joining the fun. In fact, my son and I just did a Disney Weekend the first weekend in June.
We focus so often in the Disney community on all the different things to do at the parks and resorts, that it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Having a weekend only trip is an automatic fix for that. Since you know you only have the one weekend, you focus on the things you really want to do.
There are lots of advantages to the Disney Weekend. My favorite is that you can go more often. Taking 1 or 2 days off a year to take 3 or 4 Disney trips is a lot easier than taking off five or more days for a longer trip. Also, you can talk some reticent Disney travelers into going with you. If there’s someone you want to go with you to the World, but you can’t convince them, it’s not that hard to have them give you a weekend to try it out. We did that with my parents and in-laws, and now they join us regularly.
Since we go fairly often, we’ve taken to giving our weekends a theme. For example, the last one the whole family went on was Halloween themed. We went down for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party one night, then spent the next day doing all the “scary” attractions like Haunted Mansion and Tower of Terror.
But we’ve done a whole bunch more. For many years, we always did the Christmas trip, where we did Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party on a Friday night, then spent the next day doing the Epcot Holidays Around the World, seeing the decorations at the resorts, and finishing the day at the Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights.
One spring, we decided that we would go down and do a Western themed weekend. We stayed at Fort Wilderness, hit Hoop Dee Doo on Friday night, then spent the next day doing all the Frontierland attractions, rode the Great Movie Ride and got hijacked by the bank robber (after a couple tries) before finishing up the day with dinner at Whispering Canyon followed by smores and a movie at Fort Wilderness.
Our most recent attempt, by my son and I, was the infamous four parks in one day challenge. He had gone to spend the week in Jacksonville with friends of ours, and I had to stay back in Atlanta to work. But, since he had one of the Give A Day, Get A Day tickets, and I had my Annual Pass, I decided to surprise him with a day at the World.
I drove down Friday night after work, and spent the night with our friends. I woke him up at 6 a.m. on Saturday and told him the news, and away we went. When I asked him what attractions he wanted to see, he said, “Tower of Terror, Expedition Everest, Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain and Spaceship Earth.”
I took a deep breath. “You realize that means all four parks in one day?”
He smiled. “Why not?”
Why not? indeed! We made our plans, and following the rules of 3 attractions in each park (as set out by the WDW Today crew), we added the rule of having a snack or meal in each park as well. Here’s what we did:
Studios – Star Tours, Great Movie Ride, Tower of Terror – Éclair for a snack
AK – Everest FP, Safaris, lunch at Tusker House, Primeval Whirl, Triceratop Spin, the Boneyard
Epcot – Spaceship Earth, Mission Space, Ellen’s Energy Adventure (nap!), Journey Into Imagination, ice cream from Fountainview, and Test Track (single rider)
Magic Kingdom – Jungle Cruise, Pirates, Big Thunder, Splash, burger from Cosmic Ray’s, Buzz, TTA and the Mad Tea Party, before settling in for the fireworks.
Whew! It was a long day, but an extremely fun one. Not all the weekends we’ve done were that busy, but you can see it was a great way to spend a weekend. What are your ideas for great Disney Weekends in or out of the parks? What themed weekend would you want to try?