Just spent Marathon weekend at Disney World without a single park pass. Does the World hold its own as a runcation destination even without a single ride on an attraction? Our weekend was so packed that I don’t see where visiting a park would have added a bit of value. I’ll describe what we did, and you let me know if you agree.
Friday late morning we arrived in Orlando and went straight to the Expo at ESPN Wide World of Sports. This complex was teeming with runners and supporters when we got there, but the waits for packet pickup and shopping were very reasonable: under 10 minutes wherever we went. The RunDisney Expos are larger than many local race expos, with about 3 dozen vendors. Shopping at the Expo and meeting one or two running celebs took about two hours. We ate a quick hot dog at concessions, and moved on to our resort for check-in.
2. CHARACTER DINING
Supper on Friday night was at 1900 Park Fare. We enjoyed the buffet and met the Royal Family. The three of us were entirely impressed with the Step Family. They aren’t just face characters, they are improv specialists. By the end of dinner, we had our absentee sister hired on as Cinderella’s replacement. This wasn’t our only character experience: details to follow.
Saturday morning was Volunteer day. The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society is the charitable organization that supports the volunteer effort. If you’ve ever seen the purple Team In Training runners, you’ve seen people running races to raise money for this research organization. The WDW Marathon Weekend is a top fundraiser for the Society. As part of the volunteer squad, my mom and I headed out at 5:45 am for a shift doing crowd control after the half marathon. Mears transportation crew were there to lead the exodus. Our team handled over 2400 runners and spectators moving back to Pop Century and Art of Animation via buses. We worked hard, and made it back to the hotel by 1:30 pm.
After a nap and snack we headed out to Disney Springs via the Resort bus. Rain was definitely moving in according to radar, so we decided to hit our favorite shops and then head back before the green blob arrived over our heads. Fortunately, the Generic Disney Park Umbrella was available for purchase at a many locations. An early supper at the Resort quick service restaurant was followed by an early bedtime. That’s the only real way to prepare for a 3 am wake-up call.
Sunday was the marathon. The morning began and ended at Race Retreat. Traveling with my 70-something mom had spurred me to purchase the Retreat so that she would be safe from the elements while I slowly made my way through the race. We met the characters from Pinnochio, including these fine gentlemen. After eating breakfast we headed back to the resort for a dip in the pool and a late lunch.
Reservations for California Grill were at 9:15 pm, so we journeyed to the Contemporary via monorail (Mom’s favorite) early enough to see Wishes from the Observation Deck. The music feeds through speakers at the top of the Resort. The viewing angle was about 45 degrees of center front, as you would expect from the map. It was cold for Florida, but the views were gorgeous. Dinner took a delicious hour and a half. By that time, we were ready for a good night’s sleep. We headed back to the resort and just conked out.
7. CHARACTER DINING GOODBYES… and more shopping
Monday was our last hurrah before heading out. We had late breakfast reservations at Cape May Cafe that included a visit with Minnie, Goofy, and Donald. After filling up we took a long walk around the Boardwalk, dropping by Boardwalk Bakery -just to look-then shopping at Thimbles and Threads to burn off the Mickey Waffles before heading to the car for the drive.
At no point did I feel rushed. There was no race to rope drop. No sense of urgency to make a FastPass window. It was unusual because I’ve never been to Disney World without park tickets. But it was an extremely pleasant, enjoyable long weekend. I would definitely do this again.