This is the part of the blog I hadn’t expected to write; but I’d be remiss if I didn’t give it due attention. Early on Monday, September 11th, Hurricane Irma slammed into Florida knocking out power for some 4 million homes and business and causing billions of dollars in damage. Almost all of Florida was affected; including, Walt Disney World, which closed for an unprecedented two straight days.
I called DVC Member Services on the 12th to make sure that the Moonlight Magic event was still a ‘go’ and that Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge where I was staying was ready to accept new guests. I waited on hold over 90 minutes. Fortunately, the event was still on; although, I was told that some areas of both Animal Kingdom Lodge were closed just as some attractions in the park may be as well.
When I arrived at the lodge on the 13th, you could tell immediately there was little Irma didn’t touch. The top picture here is of a walkway leading to the Lodge which illustrates just some of the damage Irma brought. Cracked, mangled trees and vegetation whipped bare by the high winds. Only the palm tree stands flourishing, a testament to being an indigenous species of Florida. Disney clearly did as much they could given the sheer scope and scale of the damage. Walkways were clear but even they could do little more than pile up debris for collection later.
In the park itself, they did an amazing job of clearing paths. You might not have even noticed a hurricane came through were it not for areas of the park made unsafe by trees which were cracked but not yet fallen. In these cases, makeshift barriers were setup with chairs and rope as well as Cast Members keeping a careful eye on guests as they passed.
This hurricane, needless to say, was pretty rough. My own home in the suburbs of Orlando was affected; but it was nothing compared to many who lost everything. My heart goes out everyone affected by this storm. We’re Florida Strong and we’ll rebound, like we always do. My thoughts are also with all of the dedicated cast members who undoubtedly worked long and tough hours to get these parks turned around for us. I wouldn’t have blamed Disney in the slightest had they cancelled this event; but they didn’t. And I thank them.
Wait, what’s Moonlight Magic?
In its second year, Disney Vacation Club’s Moonlight Magic series of events is a perk open to any member who either purchased direct or via resale prior to April 2016. Events in 2017 were already held at Magic Kingdom, Typhoon Lagoon, and Animal Kingdom. An event is still to be held at Epcot, which this year is replacing the DVC Merry Member Mixer, on December 4th and 11th; but how do you even know when and where to register for these events?
First, you need to know when to register, and to do that, pay close attention to the “Member Benefits & More” page on the DVCMember.com website here.
You’ll find details on all of the incredible events that are available to DVC Members here. For the upcoming event at Epcot, scroll until you find “Disney Vacation Club Moonlight Magic at Epcot”. Once on the page take a look at the “How to Book” box on the right side of the page or click the infinitesimally small “Read More” link under “Important Details”. There are two important dates, one for DVC Members with existing reservations and a date for those without. For the Epcot event, members with registration may book as early as October 24th, those without reservations must wait until November 7th.
Let me just say that it’s in your best interest to book a stay at a resort if you’d like to get in on this event and don’t want to hover over your keyboard the second open registration begins. Registration for the Animal Kingdom event was sold out the same day that it opened to members without booked stays. DVC began announcing 2017 event dates way back at the end of 2016; so, I took that opportunity to book a single night stay at my home resort for the event. If you’re dying to attend one of these, and I strongly suggest you do, this is your best bet at ensuring you get in.
Set your favorite reminder/calendar app to alert you to book when registration opens at 9am the morning event booking opens. For the upcoming Epcot event, that’s October 24th, or November 7th if you’re tempting fate. At roughly 9am – you might need to refresh a few times – the “Read More” link under “Important Details” will change to include a link to an online booking website. At the event registration site, you’ll be asked to give personal details including member number, email address, the number of people in your party, and where you’re staying on property, if applicable. You can bring up to 5 additional guests with you and only the person who registers needs to present their DVC Member ID at the gate. Your guests do not have to be members.
The secret to getting in to these events is simply to keep an eye on the DVC Member Website, look for when the booking dates open, and be sure to book as soon as you can. Consider making the trip and staying on property for the event. You do not have to be staying at a DVC Resort on points. Cash stays at any on-property resort do qualify for the early booking window. An important detail to keep in mind if staying at a non-DVC Disney Resort is that complimentary transportation is not provided. This could be a problem if you rely on resort transportation; so, plan accordingly if staying in a non-DVC Disney resort.
So why should you go to a Moonlight Magic event? Well, read on to part 2…
DVC Throws a “Wild” Party
As the sun is setting and I begin walking with my family towards the entrance of Animal Kingdom, a sense of excitement builds as I stroll past the throngs of day-guests walking the opposite direction. The experience begins at the ticket gate where helpful DVC Safari Guides are waiting to take my name and check my party in for the fun. We get our wristbands, tickets to enjoy complimentary games in Dino Land and, if you pardon the pun, are released into the wild.
We make a beeline for the Safari knowing that twilight is one of the best times to see some of the usually reclusive creatures on the Savanna. On the way, we walk right into the Harambe Wildlife Parti! The Harambe Village Acrobats are performing and stacking themselves into unbelievable configurations, dancing with the guests, and beating drums with an infectious rhythm that commands you to stop and take this in. After a dance-party finale that brings in any guest willing to get down and boogie, they roll out their mats and march away in a chorus of drums and song only to be replaced by the Karibu Sisters with incredible acapella performances.
As for the Safari, well, sadly Hurricane Irma left her mark on the Savanna. Trees had clearly been removed and animals were still scarce. It was one of the fastest Safari’s I’ve ever been on; but it’s completely understandable why given that the Safari had only reopened that morning after crews brought the landscape back to Disney expectations. Our Safari Guide was awesome; she did everything she could to add with words what we couldn’t see with our eyes.
After the Safari we headed to Everest for a walk-on ride followed by a stop of the recently opened Thirsty River Bar for some frozen adult beverages. I had the Himalayan Ghost which features Snow Leopard Vokda, Guava, and Odwalla Lemonade. Super tasty on a hot Florida night; but just a bit sweet for my taste, your mileage may vary.
Leaving Asia, we walked around to DinoLand to redeem those game tickets. The area had completely cleared by this time of day-guests so it was only the folks attending the party. Every game was routinely less than half full. Out of our five total tickets we walked away with two plush turtles, much to the delight of my two boys.
Exuberant from their turtle windfall they run over to the dance party happening in the promenade where Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, and Pluto are dancing and mingling with Guests. Each of my sons got the opportunity to walk up to Mickey and Minnie, chat with them, share high-fives, and of course show off their newly procured turtles. Never mind it was their dad’s mad Whack-A-Mole Skills; but hey, they’re 5 and 3, and both Mickey and Minnie were happy to show how impressed they were. Frankly it’s these sorts of uncontrolled character moments where you don’t have to follow the usual wait in line, snap a picture, then walk away formula that put the “magic” in these sorts of events.
By now it’s 10pm and my little ones are drunk on excitement and looking for sustenance. We stop off at Restaurantosaurus for one of the other signature elements of these events; free food! Admittedly it’s not a huge menu; but you certainly can’t argue with the price. We could ask for as much as we wanted of: hot dogs, chips, cookies, carrots, apple slices, and fountain drinks. The toppings bar usually at this location wasn’t open but they did have copious amounts of ketchup, mustard, and relish to top off our dogs. As we’re enjoying our snacks, Launchpad and Scrooge McDuck walk by waving to everyone! After our snacks, we walk outside to a kiosk handing out free Mickey Bars!
Now drunk on excitement AND sugar we make our way over to Pandora. Along the way we pass numerous character meet & greets: Daisy and Donald dressed in delightful Dinosaur costumes; Carl, Dug, and Russel from Up!; and the aforementioned Launchpad and Scrooge. We also pass by several stores with their usual merchandise along with some goodies exclusive to the event: luggage tags, mugs, and shirts were available with DVC branded Moonlight Magic logos.
Pandora was lit in all of its night-time splendor. The landscape is even more breathtaking at this time of night, with the sky completely dark and the illuminated glow of waterfalls appearing like a blanket of blue falling water. My wife and kids hopped on the Na’vi River Journey while I saw something I’m likely never to see again for at least the next several years: a 20-minute queue at Avatar Flight of Passage. Without photographic evidence, I wouldn’t believe it either; so I took the picture for proof. As I understand from other friends in attendance, the ride was a walk-on by the end of the event. That alone is magical.
The kids, now thoroughly exhausted having spent every bit of gas they had left beating the drums on the way out of Pandora, crash in their strollers as we leave behind Moonlight Magic under the light of the actual moon. We’re already anticipating next-year. DVC had done yet another remarkable job in creating a wonderfully unique event. Given the incredible effort it took to get this park back in shape after a massive hurricane, I can certainly say, that is truly magical.
Booking for DVC Moonlight Magic at Epcot begins October 24th, 2017 at 9am for members with reservations at a Disney property, and November 7th, 2017 at 9am for members without on-property reservations.
Please note: Moonlight Magic is part of “Membership Extras” and is not available to members who purchase via resale after April 4, 2016. You must own at least one contract purchased direct from Disney to take part in Membership Extras.