Friday – Expo and Inaugural Party
We decided to make the most of this weekend, and went all out to make it a wonderful family holiday. The start of the adventure was using the Eurostar for the first time. Four trains later we arrived at Disney Parks and used the free hotel shuttle bus to take us to check in. We have never stayed on site before, and Disney really do pull out all the stops to provide a special experience throughout. We stayed at the Santafe which had the theme from “Cars”. I’m pleased that we were in the “McQueen” building.
After getting settled we made our way to the Disney Village so we could get to the expo. We were starving by this point and pleased to see McDonalds next to the expo.
The expo was relatively small, and you had to queue for everything. Everyone was friendly enough, and it did not take too long for us to get our bibs. However, we had to go to the other end of the expo to get our tops, and then queue for a wrist band for the inaugural party, even though we received our ticket from the hotel. Lots of needless queues as I feel they could have given us this all in one go, especially as the top sizes had ben preordered, and you could not pay for the party on the day. The tops looked great, but unfortunately only the half marathon one was drifit. I bumped into my mate Paula which was great!
We dropped all our gear off at our hotel and came back for the inaugural party. I was a little disappointed when we arrived and realised it was only for the studios. I know this is the first time, but when we booked it had been advertised as “exclusive access to the Disney Parks”, not for the Walt Disney Studios. At 60 pounds per ticket, including a ticket for my 3 year old, I had expected this access to extend to the main park. I guess you are paying for the exclusive use of the park, and don’t get me wrong, it was great, but not as advertised.
As we queued up to get in (there was a long queue half hour before opening time) we were given a programme. Again, a little disappointing that when advertised as “all you can eat at a selection of restaurants and vendors” I expected numerous places to eat with a variety of options. Now, in Disney Parks this would have been more likely, but in the Studios what this translated to was 2 restaurants with burgers and pasta as options. Also, only 6 attractions were open, which really limited what we could do as Benjamin and Amelie. Most people didn’t have young kids. But there were some that looked Benjamin’s age, and they did not have a wrist band. I think I would have been less concerned if we had not paid for him.
When we were allowed in we made our way to the far end of the park to get to see Spider-Man. Others went elsewhere so we thought get to Spider-Man first and the restaurant was next door. What annoyed me was this tailored event, with clear timings had just opened, and as we got first in line for Spider-Man I was advised he was not there yet. After waiting 10 minutes with no sign of him we went and joined a queue for food, one which was not there when we went passed it initially.
The queue was taking a while and the reason for this was that they had not done the pasta yet. When thy finally gave us it about 15 minutes later it was microwaveable pots which they had clearly not followed the instructions to. I had the burger, and this was stone cold, I assume this was because I got the first batch which they had prepared earlier. The whole dining experience really was a let down, and meant this was poor value for money for us. We would not do this again, especially as next time we would have to pay for Amelie aswell.
After our food the rest of the experience got much better. Still not good value for us, but for two adults, or older children it would have been great to go on the popular rides without really queuing. I took my boy to see Spider-Man and the staff were lovely, he had plenty of time with him.
My wife then wanted to go on one of the fast rides so I took Amelie and Benjamin to the kids part whilst she went. On the way I saw a queue and it was for Skully out of Monsters Inc so we queued up there, and this is where Kirsty joined us again. Skully really was great with Benjamin, and the holiday became a theme of him giving great big hugs to them all. Amelie was very interested, but not confident enough to go right up to them.
We got side tracked on the way to the rides again with Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse and Woody.
Buzz came out as we were about to go to the rides but we didn’t queue up for him otherwise we wouldn’t have gone on any.
Although it was advertised as being exclusive access until 23:30, the rides stopped at 22:00. It had been a very long day for us, so we would not have made it to the end anyway, so we’re happy to go back to the hotel after a lovely first day for the family.
Saturday – 5k and kids race
Kirsty was signed up for the 5k. Naturally I would have loved to do it, but it’s only fair that she gets an opportunity aswell. This was pretty much the first time she had run since London Marathon 2014, so was going to be a big challenge for her. She set off early for the 7:00 start, as the kids were fast asleep we decided it was best for her to go without us. I got up a little later, got the kids ready, went to breakfast and went to make the finish. We managed to arrive just as Kirsty was finishing.
Here’s what she said of the experience:
So my last run was London marathon… 2014!! I decided to take a little break after that gruelling feat.. and the break extended.. I had our second child.. and never found my running mojo again. So when my lovely husband entered me into the Disney 5k I worried I wouldn’t even get round! But as it was a Disney run I hoped I would be surrounded by enough magic and fools in costume *joke!!* that my lack of running ability wouldn’t matter.
The day arrived and the children were out cold.. they never sleep so I wasn’t going to wake them up for anything! I secretly enjoyed sneaking off and eating breakfast in peace, but go flustered when after a 20minute wait with many other runners at the hotel bus stop we were told the buses weren’t running! A quick warm up run to the park was just what I needed to get me warned up.. as if I wasn’t nervous enough!
Arriving at the start line and surrounded by some amazing costumes I started to relax.. no queues for the toilets, no pressure to get into our pens, just a lot of joyful Disney music and happy people, I couldn’t believe how relaxed the atmosphere was. And that summed up the race! Nice and chilled, some people walked, some people ran, some stopped for the huge queues to have photos with characters, and others like me just soaked up the fun and enjoyed a steady run around the park. It was different to any other race in that spectators couldn’t watch the run as it was through the parks.. even the finish line was out of bounds. On the one hand it would have been nice to see my family on the course or at the finish but at the same time the staff along the route gave plenty of support with their constant shouts of ‘Alez alez!!’ And the fact that only runners could see the race made it all the more special and intimate.
I couldn’t believe that I ran the whole thing with just a couple of stops for photos and it has definitely reignited my running mojo! The medal was awesome and the finishers pack decent for a 5k race when I wouldn’t have expected anything more than a bottle of water. Paul has already casually suggested Disney run 2017 and I certainly won’t be ruling it out. An awesome weekend all round!
We were all really happy to see Kirsty at the finish and I am so proud of her as always. We had a bit of time to kill before the kids race so we went to go in the park. Unfortunately they did not honour the usual early start for hotel residents to access the park. Understandable I guess, but certainly not great as it was not advertised, especially for the numerous guests who were nothing to do with the weekend. So instead we just looked around Disney Village for a bit, then made our way for the kids race.
It was Benjamin’s first race, a 100m dash. The start line was chaotic, so many people for different events, this start really was not well organised. When we were allowed through I asked if Amelie could run. I had not booked her previously as when we booked she was a few months old, and by her age Benjamin was not walking, and now she is a running loon it was to late to book. I expected the answer to be no, but I think my story and fact I had one entered in same event led the race director to allow it. Really nice touch!
Considering the first race was for 1-3 year olds I was surprised by the long delays. By the time we started the kids were getting hard work. When we started it was a shame that rather than letting the kids run so many of the parents literally pushed other kids out of the way to get through. I know this is out of Disneys hands but I real low point. I was looking forward to a nice run with my kids and others just rushed (trying to get to Mickey first). It did not help that Benjamin, whilst on the front, decided to do a roll, this ended with a parent kicking him in the head and Benjamin quickly becoming scared and wanting to be picked up. At the end we were greeted with medals and a cuddle with Mickey Mouse.
I asked Benjamin what he thought:
I like running. I’m Spider-Man and I run faster and faster. And I like Mickey Mouse and I like the man gave me medal and baby medal and me water and baby water and daddy water.
After the day’s events we decided to hit Disney with style. It was magical, we had lovely food, saw numerous characters and went on lots of rides.
We had a quick stop off at home to freshen up then headed back for the Parade. We got a spot near the exit and it soon got busy, but we wanted to fit this in.
We had to be quick after it finishes to get to the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show. Now this is a show not to be missed. Good food, all inclusive beer, and a show with Mickey and friends and lots of horse riding. The areana is set up so every seat is a good seat, but we had the best tier seats and it was a great night. I thoroughly recommend the show, and the fact we got to keep our cowboy hats was a good treat.
After the show we made our way back to the park for the firework show. We were all tired and it had been a long day, but we knew the next day would be no better so we thought we would give it a go. It was another late night, but again, an experience not to be missed.
Sunday – Half Marathon
Now it was my turn to run. I woke up early for the Inaugural half marathon. Amelie had been ill all week, and I woke up with a really sore throat and blocked nose, which I had been feeling the last couple of days. On top of this I had a terrible headache, but I’m sure this was to do with the 6-7 pints I had at the show the night before. Not my typical race day preparation, but it’s not every day I get all inclusive beer.
So, I had a quick breakfast, as Spider-Man and made my way for a 7:00 start. I was in the queue by 6:30, and immediately attracted attention. The rules said no masks of any kind, but I took the chance and pulled my morph suit over my head and no one said anything to me. In fact all the marshals were cheering me. I also had a couple of people take photos with me at the start. It was really difficult to see as it was still dark, so I could see maybe a couple of feet ahead of me, and this was worse with the lighting making it more difficult. When we started I was really cautious as it was crowded (with an alleged 11,000 runners) and I could barely see in front of me. This led to a much slower start than I had anticipated. As it got lighter the sun was in my eyes and actually made my vision worse, it lit up the material over my eyes so it was hard to focus beyond the mask, but nevertheless I continued, but just at a slower pace, concentrating on my footing.
The half marathon started with 5k within the two parks. This was a great experience. I did not get the best experience as described by Kitsty, because I could barely see. I skipped past the first couple of characters because of small queues and they were not main characters, but then I decided to stop and pose. I’m actually really impressed with how the photos turned out because I could just about make out that I was in the shot, but was not confident that I had framed the photo well. As my costume got sweaty I could not tell whether the photos were taking, but I tried anyway. It added a lovely dimension to the run, and it did not add too much time to my run. I had considered passing by without stopping, but I did not want to waste the experience, and I certainly was not going to win, so I just enjoyed it. I loved that event the characters seemed excited to see me, especially Alice 😀😀
The route on the whole was flat and fast. It took us out around the parks no surrounding areas, and through the resort hotels. The marshals and aid stations were great, with water every few miles. The first time I took water on I tried to do it through the morph suit, and almost drowned myself. It is hard enough drinking from cups at the best of times, but with the suit it absorbed all the water and it went up my nose. I skipped the next aid station, but then with power aid in cups I decided to take down my mask and walk the aid station, then I put mask straight back up and continued. Again all adding time, but it was hot, especially so in the Spider-Man outfit, and I needed to take on water.
Crowd support was a little sparse, but the volunteers were really friendly and everyone was happy to see Spider-Man. The sections around the hotels were a bit better and towards the end we ran through the Disney Village which was full of family so great support. The best support had to have been the first 5 k in the parks as it felt like the whole section was full of people cheering you on. It was a shame that after this there were no more characters until the end. It would have been nice to dot them around by aid stations at least.
As we got to the finish line I could see Donald and Daisy Duck waiting for me, and I finished in a little over 1:46. The medal and finish was great, it was actually difficult knowing where to go as everyone wanted Spider-Man to go to them.
When I met up with the family we decided to go straight to the park to make the most of it before it got to busy. The whole day was relaxed and not that busy. We had a lovely day on all the rides and saw a few more characters. We watched Mickey and the Magician which was really good, then went for a lovely meal in the Rainforest Cafe.
I’m glad we stayed for the fireworks the night before as we were tired and ended up having a relatively early night.
Monday – home time
We knew we had a long day ahead of us, but wanted to make the most of the day. We had our first breakfast together as a family before going to the park. It was great taking advantage of the resident early entry as the rides were empty and queues that would usually take 30-60 mins took us 5 or less. We had done pretty much everything we wanted so just enjoyed our last day before leaving. I will not bore you with the 6 hour journey home with two tired little ones, but let’s just say we were pleased to get home.
This Disney weekend away really was magical. Perfect for families, but frankly there seemed to be more runners there without children than anything else, and plenty of Americans. The whole weekend was great, and if you love running and you love Disney then you will want to do this!
For more reviews of this event check out: