Disney's Leap-Day Venture: 24 Hours of Nonstop Magic

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DisneyDisney (DIS) waited for Dick Clark and Ryan Seacrest to count down as the ball dropped in Times Square before dropping a bombshell of its own.

The family entertainment giant revealed that it will keep its original Disneyland in California and Magic Kingdom park in Florida open for 24 hours on Feb. 29, 2012.

As part of a "One More Disney Day" promotion, Disney is playing up the somewhat rare nature of the leap year's extra day by keeping its two busiest stateside parks open from 6 a.m. through 6 a.m. the following day.

Logistically speaking, Disney's used to running its parks for long hours. During seasonally potent travel periods, Disney's flagship parks open at the crack of dawn and sometimes stay open past midnight. Still, going for a full 24 hours represents a unique challenge.

It's a Small World -- With a Challenging Plan

In Florida, the Magic Kingdom is slated to close at 8 p.m. the night before, giving Disney plenty of time to clean up its parks and bring in fresh staff to greet the early risers at 6 a.m. on Feb. 29. The real planning nightmare will be clearing out the park 24 hours later.

You see, the park opens just two hours later for guests staying at any of its resorts through its "Extra Magic Hours" feature. An hour after that, the general public will be allowed to go through the turnstiles during the normal 9 a.m. opening.

It will still be worth it for Disney. The company is going to milk this promotion over the next two months the same way that it has with recent annual specials that have included everything from free admission on birthdays or daily winners of overnight stays in the park castles. Between now and the "One More Disney Day" promotion, Disney will also be giving away four-night getaway packages to either resort every single day.

Endurance Tips From a Theme Park Lifer

If the novelty of staying inside one of the self-billed "happiest places on Earth" for a full 24 hours has piqued your interest, go in with a game plan. It's at this point where I'll remove my financial analyst hat and don my mouse ears.

I practically grew up at the Florida parks, but I attack the parks differently now that I have a family of my own. We arrive early to take advantage of the shortest queues of the day. We leave around lunchtime to avoid the crowds and occasionally cruel weather. We come back at night to finish what we started.

However, as a kid, I pulled plenty of open-to-close treks with my parents and sisters. If you really think you can hold up for 24 hours straight, here are a few tips to keep you sane.
  • There are only a handful of table-service restaurants at either park. Make your lunch and dinner reservations early. There's nothing wrong with the more plentiful counter-service eateries, but your feet will thank you if you can let waitstaff pamper you for an hour or so.
  • There will be plenty of time to hit all of the major attractions in 24 hours, but do take advantage of Disney's FastPass. There are distribution centers at Disney's most popular rides that spit out tickets to return to shorter lines later in the day. You can only have one active FastPass at a time, so save it for the truly long queues.
  • Stay hydrated. Water bottles aren't cheap, but free water fountains are plentiful.
  • A day at Disney involves a lot of standing around in lines, so take advantage of the shows and attractions that will let you sit.
If your game plan is to marathon-ride Space Mountain -- and I'm sure plenty will attempt to do exactly that -- you won't make it 24 hours.

Longtime Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz owns shares of Disney. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Walt Disney.


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NWRGeek

How they really made the announcement: they started a commercial with 5 minutes to go in 2011 asking what you'd do with an extra day and that it should be spent at Disney, and to "stay tuned for a major announcement". Then, the ball dropped and 5 minutes into 2012, Disney did another one saying the same things for a few moments then that they'd be open for 24 hours.

January 16 2012 at 1:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Gary

I love it! Very good place to visit so long. You will spend more on food and drink so be prepared. There are some great places to eat. Grab a Turkey leg and munch for a long time and make reservations for dinner at one of the great dinner houses. Take proper clothes and have a blast!

January 04 2012 at 1:42 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
damkids

i love disney park in florida

January 04 2012 at 10:14 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply