Question about park hours at MK
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On a day that the park is open 8am-7pm (opens early for resort guests), is it not as busy? This would be in Oct., on 10/4?
When the MK closes at 7pm in Oct., that indicates that Mickey's Not SO Scary Halloween Party will be held that night. I think those days are considered to be lower-crowd since many people who don't have park hoppers will skip MK due to it closing so early, considering it to be a waste of a ticket (Touring Plans usually has those days as a 1 out of 10 crowd-wise). If you don't mind the shorter park hours, and are not planning to attend the party, it could be a good strategy to avoid the crowd.
I figured that we could eat dinner somewhere (an ADR) at the very end of the day.
Keep in mind that the Magic Kingdom-area restaurants will be hard to get into on party nights.
I'd plan on going for a meal somewhere else -- like at the Animal Kingdom Lodge or the Boardwalk area. You want a restaurant that won't require a park ticket to get into, and won't be swelled with pre-party crowds.
BoardWalk area is right next to Epcot - that's the Yacht and Beach Club, and BoardWalk resorts. The resorts surround Crescent Lake, with an actual boardwalk around half of it, walkways encircling the rest. You could take a bus from MK to one of those resorts, do dinner, maybe even catch IlluimNations at Epcot afterwards. If you have Park Hoppers, you can walk through Epcot afterwards for the bus back to your resort.
Co-Author, PassPorter's Walt Disney World, PassPorter's Disney Cruise Line, and PassPorter's Disneyland and Southern California Attractions
From the Magic Kingdom, take a bus to the Beach Club/Yacht Club (you could dine at Beaches and Cream, Cape May Clambake, or Yachtsman Steakhouse), or a bus to the Boardwalk and eat at any of the restaurants there, or a bus to the Swan Dolphin and eat there.
To watch some of Illuminations without having a ticket, you can stand on the bridge between the BC/YC and the Boardwalk. It's an obstructed view, but still a worthwhile thing to do.
If you are going in Oct. you do not want to skip Epcot. The food and wine fest is going on that time of year. I go and spend a week just at Epcot. LOL Also if you can swing it the MNSSHP is really nice too. If you are looking for more places to eat, Epcot has some of the best restaurants in WDW.
A couple of years ago I went to Magic Kingdom on a day when Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party was to happen later that night and I thought the crowds were great. One reason is those with tickets to the party can't enter until 4:00 PM so the lines for the attractions weren't as bad compared to a normal day. Based on that I think it would be same thing if you went despite Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party taking place later that day.
We're not going to do the Halloween party but I will consider Epcot. I'm not sure we'll go there as DD will most likely be more interested in MK, AK, or HS.
There is an awful lot of great stuff at Epcot that appeals to kids, from the Seas with Nemo and Friends (Turtle Talk with Crush is as cool as it gets) to the WHEEEEEEEEEEEEE! factor of Soarin' to the Kidcot stations in World Showcase. And what kid wouldn't love a sweet treat from the bakeries in France and Norway, a rainbow kaki-gori in Japan (sweet fruit flavored shaved ice, what Americans call a snowball or cold cup), or the hilarity of the Beverly Challenge at Club Cool in Future World? Many older kids like the thrill rides, Test Track and Mission: Space, or enjoy the slower rides of Norway's Maelstrom and Ellen's Energy Adventure (which has dinosaurs).
Then there's the International Food and Wine Festival, which is like a huge buffet spread out all around World Showcase, with foods and beverages from about 30 countries. Even picky eaters cannot possibly walk through World Showcase during the FWF without finding some foods that they will be talking about long after the trip is over.
Now, for your MK day, as Dave mentioned, there are lots of great restaurants in the Epcot Resorts, and since you won't have park hoppers, you'll need to find a place for dinner that's not in a park. Also, as others have said, on MNSSHP nights, the restaurants in the MK area are mobbed beyond all reason and sanity, so it's better to try for something in a different part of WDW. You mentioned going to DTD for dinner, which is certainly not a bad choice, since there are some great restaurants there. But I'm going to direct you to the other side of WDW property, to the Animal Kingdom Lodge's fabulous buffet, Boma.
Boma is a fantastic buffet, full of African inspired dishes and desserts. As with most buffets, it's perfect for picky eaters because of the huge variety of foods - everyone is sure to find plenty of things that they like at Boma. I'm particularly fond of the roast beef and several of the chicken dishes, and for dessert I like the bread pudding with warm vanilla sauce (note: the vanilla sauce tastes a lot like the white frosting that's used on cinnamon rolls, and who doesn't love THAT?)
Eating at Boma also gives you the benefit of visiting AKL. Aside from the restaurant, there is a lot to see at AKL, and in the evenings there are fireside stories and educational activities for the kids, and there are always some animals on the savannah out back that the kids love to see up close. While you're there, take the elevator up to the 5th floor and walk out onto the faux suspension bridge that spans the lobby. The view is terrific, especially out the 6-story wall of glass that makes up the rear wall of the lobby.
If you're not in the mood for Boma, try the Trail's End Buffeteria at Ft Wilderness campground. One of the hidden gems of WDW, Trail's End is a simple American-style buffet, with great, hearty, down-home food, a comfortable, relaxed, quiet atmosphere, and the best part is that it's almost never busy - you can walk in and be seated immediately with no ADR almost any night of the year. When dinner is over, wait till dusk, and walk around the campground for a while, enjoying the Halloween decorations that Guests put up on their campsites (though it's got NUTHIN' on the Christmas decorations!)
Sad to hear that u are skipping MNSSHP. I hear that its great, it's on my bucket list for Disney things to do. Maybe sometime when my daughter is in college, we can't get away now in october with school.
Enjoy your trip!
We will be there over Halloween and dont plan on going to the party either.... but we are staying on property and will be going to out resort party or another resort party that night. If you dont like the crowds then stick to your plan and go to MK any way... it will still be a long full of fun day.