The day we opened Magic Kingdom

Tuesday, November 11, 2014
Hands down, one of the most amazing parts of our recent Disney World trip was getting picked to be the “First Family” and help open the Magic Kingdom. In preparation for our trip I read a few blogs and websites about what it was like getting picked to be this special family and of course wanted it to make it happen for us.

Disney trips are full of all kinds of magical moments, many that you can create for yourself and some that are created for you by cast members. We went into the trip saying that above all we would have fun and play, go with the flow, be extra friendly to cast members and always say “yes” when offered to participate in something.

Getting picked to open magic kingdom is kind of the holy grail of extra special magical moments. Getting picked to do it has a whole lot of luck involved, but some strategy as well. I told myself before the trip that I would not no crazy worrying about it, but my general plan was to pick one day to try to get picked.  And we would keep trying once per trip until we got picked or until I got tired of trying. I had no expectations that we would get picked the first time we tried.

There is no perfect recipe that will ensure getting picked, but this is what we did and how our morning unfolded. First off being there at a less busy time of the year helped by default. Fewer people in the parks means less people to compete with. Really the most critical feature though is to get to the park early. Very early. So early that the cast members question why you are there. 

We were staying at Bay Lake Tower this trip which meant we were walking distance of the Magic Kingdom gates which was handy. We left our room about 7 and were at the Magic Kingdom at 7:15 when the park was not set to open until 9 am. There were some other folks there that had early breakfast reservations (which would preclude you from getting picked…because you wouldn’t be around for park opening), but we were the only people there just waiting for the park to open. We walked up to a turnstile, looked for one staffed by a friendly, experienced looking cast member, and started visiting with him. His name was Darryl (I think?!?) and we enjoyed the almost hour we got to talk to him. It stayed pretty quite around there for a while yet but eventually other people started arriving and creating a crowd. At one point I did disclose to him that we were there early because we had this crazy hope that we might just get picked to open the park.

Darryl told us he had no idea who picked or what the process was and wished us good luck. He did however tell me that the family the day before had come from that side of the entrance and that being dressed in disney clothes would be to our advantage. And he also asked me if I would rather open the park or be in the afternoon parade, to which I said open the park that we would be back at our room for naptime by the time the afternoon parade rolled around. At this point I was still keeping my expectations low and figured he was just making friendly conversation.

It was after 8 when they let us through the turnstiles and up to the ropes and official entrance to the park. We went left and stationed ourselves right in the front middle of the rope. It may not matter but I had heard the left was the best place to be and sweet Darryl had said the family the day before was on the left. We had brought lots of snacks and toys to keep Perry entertained while waiting outside the park and it worked well. We played and laughed and were going to have a good time no matter what.

We had not been at the rope more than a couple minutes when a man dressed as a janitor walked over to us and told us he had been talking to our friend Darryl. It was about this point when I realized what was happening and my heart started racing. Darryl clearly had more insight into the process than he had let on. The cast member went on to say that he understood we had gotten there quite early and that we might like to help open the park. Why yes, yes we would! After we quickly agreed we were ushered under the rope and given a seat on a bench to wait. We were beyond excited.

Despite reading a lot about it online, we didn't really know what all to expect from our first family experience. Other than the fact that it was going to be awesome.

The first person we met was this sweet lady named Barbara who was our host for the morning. She was so fun. She took us into the park (dancing) and made sure to stop and take a picture of us with the masses of people behind us waiting at the ropes. That made us feel special.

She then took us on a little drive around on the fire truck with a photopass photographer in tow. Perry ran immediately to the waiting firetruck and climbed on up. One of the best parts of the experience is the fact that a photopass photographer stays with you the whole time snapping away and then gives you a photopass card of all the pictures. In addition to a voucher for a free print.

Then Barbara led us up the ramp to the main street train station. 

So this is where trip timing really played to our advantage. You see the Railroad was closed for refurbishments the whole month of October. This bummed us out initially because P loves trains and we knew he would love riding the one at Disney World. However the way the park opening usually goes is all the characters ride in on the Railroad and get off just in time to open the park. Without the train running all the characters had to come and gather in the train station....with us. So what happened next is not typical of the first family experience...but we got several minutes of private interaction time with more characters than you could even count. It was our own little characterpalooza.

It was incredible to see all of them gather around and fuss over Perry. All of the girls loved him and he went around hugging all the princesses one by one. Anastasia gave him a big kiss on the cheek (and left the lip marks to prove it) and asked Perry to marry her...his first proposal at 20 months of age. Meanwhile Elsa and Anna discussed taking him back with them to Arendelle. Of course Perry's favorites were Mickey, Minnie and Pluto.

This is one of my favorite pictures of all time.

We had explicit instructions on how the opening would go. To line up behind Mickey mouse and follow him out over the train tracks and stand between him and the fire chief. Count down from 5 and smile and wave. Simple enough. 

So fun.

And with a countdown and some fireworks the park was open. But it wasn't quite over for us. We followed Barbara back down stairs and re-boarded our firetruck for a trip all the way down main street to the castle. 

We were also handed 3 bonus fastpasses to just about any big attraction or meet and greet in the Magic Kingdom (since it was a few minutes past opening by this point and we missed the prime rope drop attraction time).

We were dropped off at the castle to begin our day not as the first family but as a typical park guest family. At this point we looked at each other and said I think if we did nothing else today it would go down as a beyond amazing day at Disney. But the day went on to be even more awesome.

Whew. And all of that happened in the span of about an hour. Case end point of why it needed a post all it's own. I still have to pinch myself and look back at pictures to convince myself it really happened. Major bucket list check.

I think my biggest tips for getting picked would be to be early (very early), be dressed in cute Disney clothes (mom and dad too…at least in Disney colors), be very friendly with the cast members, have fun (and look like you are having fun), and it never hurts to just ask. I can’t help but think having a cute little red headed boy also may help tip the tables in your favor as well. : )

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