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I prefer to go later in the day and evening although we don't go often at that time. To work with dinner and resort pool schedules we usually go early. We hit the popular rides first and work from there except MK where we usually start with Adventureland and work our way around.
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Super fun question! I reed entered Disney Parks fandom in 2014, I think. Maybe 2012. So, I've had a learning curve.
I started out with what I grew up with...rope drop, break, return for fireworks. Maybe a QS meal, but mostly picnic stuff.
Now, I love to tour the parks alone when I have the chance. The perfect solo day for me is an early but relaxed AM...I like to be there for rope drop, but don't need to be first, if you know what I mean. Once I'm in the park, I just do what I feel like though. If I want to get a cup of coffee or stand in line for a candy cane instead of aim for a headliner attraction, that's what I do. When the buzziness of the parks gets to me, I go for shows and other passive activities, get a decent meal, or head out for a change of scenery. Come evening, I like to have a drink or two while I wander the parks. Experiences like queuing or just checking out the windows on Main Street become super magical at that time.
I still haven't found my flow with kids. I often go with DS, who just doesn't love the parks. It's a bit of a struggle. I've decided it's no longer worth it to rope drop, because he is a sleeper inner and if he gets woke early, he has a hard time enjoying himself. I think the ideal would be a later AM, a rest in or out of the parks, a huge Icecream or a coke, and then really enjoy the night.
It all depends on the time of year and the weather. When the weather is a bit cooler, I like to go at rope drop and stay all day (usually hopping to another park). When the weather is warmer, I like to go at rope drop then head back to the resort to swim or maybe take a nap and then hit the parks to close.
It depends on the purpose of the trip, who I am travelling, as well as the weather and the park hours.
For me, I would go rope drop to closing, and even stay for Evening Extra Magic Hours. I cannot get enough. The only time that doesn't work for me is in the summer - the afternoon heat is killer! Then I would definitely go early, and take a break, returning for dinner and evening fun.
Now since I go solo I still get up early, get on the bus by 8:30am and hit all the popular rides...then eat lunch...and then I lose steam.... usually go to another park. I rarely go back to the resort mid-day.
This trip coming up though will be with my DS and we are going to take breaks in the middle....this will be interesting...love new ideas and plans!
Kate in PA All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them- Walt Disney