It was a clear night ~ the stars were out and there was a bit of a breeze to cool things down. It was definitely a jeans and sweatshirt kind of an evening here in Florida, but it was perfect for a night at Disney’s Animal Kingdom for Disney Vacation Club ‘s Moonlight Magic.
So ~ there may be a few of you who are curious, what is Disney Vacation Club (DVC) and what is “Moonlight Magic?” The brief explanation is that DVC is Disney’s version of a timeshare and Moonlight Magic is one of the member only events DVC hosts to celebrate those who own a DVC timeshare. Because this post is more about what we personally experienced at Moonlight Magic, I’ll have you click here for more DVC info and here for more on Moonlight Magic. (PS – I added the links for easier access to the sites ~ I am not at all affiliated with DVC other than being a vacation home owner).
Our DVC story in a few brief words…
We purchased into the Disney Vacation Club back in 2013, about five or six years after my husband REALLY wanted to take advantage of this tremendous opportunity. For us, it made sense (though I’m not sure why it took me so long ` ME, the Disney fanatic!). Ever since Chef George prepared a special batch of allergy-safe blueberry muffins in 2007 for our little guy (who at the time had food allergies to eggs, wheat, peanut, milk, fish, oat and corn), I have been hooked on Disney vacations. When someone takes the time to treat my son as if he is a prince, celebrity or even someone just as special as the next kid, they have my attention….and my money!
DVC celebrates its members
Anyhoo ~ Disney Vacation Club likes to make sure that its Guests know how special they are to them by providing them various opportunities and events throughout the year. Moonlight Magic is one of those events. It started back in 2015 with four Members Only nights at Typhoon Lagoon during the summer. Each year since, it has grown to include other parks and more nights. In 2018, it will host a total of fourteen separate Moonlight Magic events at six different parks throughout the year!
So – what makes these events so special? Grab a Dole Whip and let me share.
Last night, when we arrived at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, there was a fairly decent crowd standing between big light blue Event Balloons, all waiting to be scanned in for the event at 7 PM. As we are Annual Passholders, we chose to enter the Park early and see what we could do before the festivities began. We entered and were immediately directed to another designated location inside the Park where we were able to pick up our specialty bands. From there, we took time to enjoy an attraction or two (the boys REALLY love Expedition Everest). Once the park closed at 8:30 PM, only those wearing the bands were allowed to stay and enjoy select attractions and free food! The Cast Members were pretty tight that night. They were checking arm bands everywhere.
Free Food by Moonlight????!
Yes, you read that correctly! During the course of the evening, light refreshments were offered at various locations throughout the park. For our event, we picked up Mickey Premium Ice Cream Bars at Creature Comforts (aka, Starbucks) and then hot dog / chips / a cookie and a drink at Pizzafari. Apples and carrots were also being offered and there was no shortage of food. If we wanted something that was available, we just had to ask the Cast Member and it was given! My hubby and middle son were in their glory (despite not being huge fans of hot dogs)!
Food allergy info
Disclaimer: I did not formally interview anyone for this information. This was simply the experience we had and the information provided to me by the manager who took care of us.
Now – let’s talk about food allergies during an event like this.
For those of you who read my blog on a regular basis for the food allergy content, I did do a little research (but plan and hope to do more). Just like they do during regular park hours, Disney does take dietary restrictions into consideration and there was at least one location during our event that had a manager who was ready to care for those Guests with restrictions.
When we had first arrived at Pizzafari, the Cast Member at the door said they were unable to accommodate food allergies at their location that evening, but she did direct us to Restaurantosaurus. There, the first Cast Member we met did not feel confident giving an answer, but he purposefully directed us inside. I marched in there, met a vibrant young woman from Puerto Rico named Ana and began to share our situation. She immediately turned to her manager, Ashley, who was taking care of another food allergy Guest. We patiently waited and Ashley was with us in minutes.
Now, I beg of you to heed my advice. If the Cast Member at the entrance does not know….do not let that discourage you. Go in and ASK! It is important to know as a food allergy parent or someone with food allergies yourself that you have to feel comfortable asking questions. When on a Disney vacation, the Cast Members’ goal is to ensure that your trip is magical.
It was so encouraging when the manager was attentive and willing to see what she could do considering our son’s medical condition. There may not have been a plethora of options, but the options for regular Guests were not extremely extensive either. I mean, they are feeding the masses. The point is that Ashley listened to the complexity of our situation, we reviewed options together and found something that our son could eat. Bonus points!
So, for those planning to attend a Moonlight Magic event in the future, here are some of the ideas/options that were given to us. Please remember that we are egg, peanut and tree nut. Be sure to mention your specific allergies at the start.
- Hot dog with or without the bun (if the bun was an issue)
- Veggie burger (may have been location specific)
- Apples, carrots
- Enjoy Life cookies.
Keep in mind that this was one location, one event. I am fairly confident that it is going to be dependent upon the locale and generalized offerings. I have heard that chicken tenders are sometimes offered at festivities such as these, but I cannot confirm this. If they do, Guests should make sure to order the ones designated as allergen-safe if need be. I’m glad that Ashley was willing to work with us and it was a pleasant experience where my son felt confident and safe. THAT meant the world to us.
So – biggest tip? ASK!! Do not be afraid to talk to the manager at the Quick Service locations.
We were fortunate and I know the cross contamination safety of these treats are currently under debate. Nonetheless, our little guy enjoyed a few of the Mickey Premium Ice Cream Bars that night. They do contain milk and soy allergens, to which he is not allergic, but they had no other extra disclaimers on the packaging regarding potential cross contamination. He is a very sensitive food allergy child and we do not take chances with foods whose packaging has disclaimers referable to his allergies. However, he had NO REACTIONS. This was our positive and magical experience. Be sure to do your own research, discern your own comfort level and make a well informed decision before offering this to a food allergy Guest.
Dancing by Moonlight
Okay – well, there was more than just food to experience ~ contrary to my middle son’s opinion! Throughout the parks, dance parties were taking place with heightened excitement. There was a contagious beat, bright colorful lights and Disney characters out there living it up with Guests. We saw Donald and Pluto showing off their fancy moves over in Dinoland.
OH, and speaking of DinoLand…
Each reserved Guest received a game coupon to use in the carnival area of Dinoland. These games usually cost Guests a little extra and it’s not something we normally do because of the expense. So, this was fun to be able to pick a game and test our luck. Unfortunately, our luck didn’t come with us that night, but I did hear that a friend of mine had a son who won TWO games using coupons (and then gave his spoils to his sister – awwwww!!)
Attractions at Moonlight
Okay – the question that is on everyone’s mind. Are all the park attractions are available during these events? Well, the answer is a swift no. Oftentimes, they will close the less popular attractions or those that are not conducive to evening operation. For instance, we were at Disney’s Animal Kingdom for this event. Kali River Rapids was not an option. Kilimanjaro Safaris closed at 10 PM, likely for the animal’s sake. What attractions were available to us included Expedition Everest, Dinosaur, Primeval Whirl, Na’vi River Journey and Avatar: Flight of Passage.
HUGE PIECE OF ADVICE: If you plan on staying for only the first half of the night, plan on long lines when it comes to the more popular attractions. Avatar: Flight of Passage was an 85 minute wait at one point earlier in the evening. The key is to plan on staying as late as you can. The lines do drop down to FastPass style timing as the hours tick by.
Special Moonlight Character Meet and Greets
During any special event at Walt Disney World (such as Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween or Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party), one of the huge draws is the opportunity to snap photos with characters who are not normally found in the Parks. During this particular event, we found Carl from UP scootering around from time to time. Jiminy Cricket was also snapping photos with Guests. In Dinoland, I think we spotted Darkwing Duck posing with DVC members.
Okay ~ so how can YOU get in on the action?
One must be a Disney Vacation Club Member and, obviously, either at Walt Disney World or living near it at the time in order to attend an event like this. Members can bring a certain number of guests, but must be present themselves. The member will need to show his/her membership card when receiving the special armband and your whole party must be together. Reservations are required and can be made online. They will not allow walk-ins the night of the event. Registration is first open to those who will be staying in DVC resorts at the time. However, the window opens up for other DVC members (such as locals like us) to register a short time after. There is high potential for them to reach capacity, so it is important to watch those dates closely.
Future dates include:
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom: April 17th, May 16th. (SOLD OUT)
- Typhoon Lagoon: May 30th, June 11th
- Epcot: July 16th and August 15th (recently moved from August 13th).
- Disney’s Hollywood Studios: September 19th and 26th, as well as October 3rd.
- Disney’s California Adventure Park: November 15th
We love being Disney Vacation Club members and look forward to years and years of magical vacations with them.
If you or your family members have enjoyed any of the Member Only events, share your story!! I would love to hear the experience you had!