I’ll recount my experience seeing the Celebrate America Fireworks from the Polynesian Resort this year for no reason in particular.
If you’re wondering why we’re interested in seeing the Magic Kingdom Fireworks from a location not named Magic Kingdom, this is a good example from last year, where I did see the Fireworks inside the Park. We talk about “a wall of people” from time to time, but that isn’t always completely accurate. This is a wall of people. There’s “literally” no way to move through this crowd. And when the Fireworks are over, it’s going to be a clustercuss as we try to move to the exit. Speaking of “people,” I do spend a lot of time in the theme parks and I’ve never been run into by an ECV user. That probably has something to do with the fact that I almost always look behind me when I stop and can appreciate how difficult it is to drive one of those things around the Parks. I bring this up only because this is really the only time I’ve had someone try to run me over with their stroller. After the Fireworks, the best way to exit the Park is through the “back entrance” in Tomorrowland. And even that is going to take 20 or 30 minutes from where I’m standing now, which is relatively close to Tomorrowland.
Here we are arriving at the Polynesian Resort’s beach. It seems like every year there are the persistent rumors that Disney is going to “close the beach” or “issue wristbands so only resort guests can watch.” I can assure you that it would be virtually impossible to successfully close the Polynesian Beach. You can see how wide just this entrance is. Disney would have to run rope all the way down the grass on both sides and then somehow police it with additional cast members. They’d have to do the same thing on the other side and every other possible entrance/exit. On the actual day of the event, it seemed like the official stance was, “We aren’t going to issue wristbands unless it gets too crowded.” This would be even more impossible. There’s absolutely no way they could comb the crowd in pitch black and personally escort thousands of people off the beach. Then shut down anyone else arriving without wristbands. An announcement wouldn’t do much good and if people weren’t personally escorted off property, they would just shift elsewhere until the Fireworks actually started. No one is going to drive ATVs around in the dark searching and destroying non-resort guests. That’s ridiculous. You may well see certain areas that are roped off and other people wearing wristbands. That did indeed happen this year. I’m not sure why a specific section was roped off. It may have been for resort guests that had requested a particular reserved section. It could have been for concierge guests or managerial types or filming. But that certainly isn’t representative of the entire beach. We didn’t run into a single security person of any variety and had no problem plopping down in a prime location. In fact, Disney even trots out “bonus” food kiosks outside on the beach along with merchandise locations to cater to the heavier-than-usual crowds. They wouldn’t be selling hot dogs out on the beach if they weren’t going to let non-resort-guests visit.
Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t cooperating. The Volcano Pool had already been cleared and the beach would be shortly.
As we’ve seen before, it basically turns the Polynesian Resort into a refugee camp.
But you don’t want to be out there during one of these.
Despite my confidence in the lack of a security presence, I decided to hedge my bets at the Kona Cafe Sushi Bar. Even if there is some sort of “find and remove” tactic employed by Disney, we should be fine with a receipt from Kona Cafe, which is what will print here. I will say that the Kona Sushi Bar is understaffed. There’s basically one server running around the small number of stools/chairs at the Bar and also filling take-out orders like ours. Prepare to wait 15 or 20 minutes, even with only a few people in front of you. They also have to prepare and box the sushi, which is time consuming in its own right.
This is the line for Captain Cook’s, the resort’s quick service, which is offering an abridged menu with only the items that are easiest to prepare. I think you’re looking at around an hour wait, though it’s difficult to gauge how fast it’s moving.
We took a better look at the Polynesian and the Sushi Bar a couple of weeks back in this post. Unfortunately, I don’t have very good pictures of the sushi because they were taken in the resort’s lobby, which isn’t exactly ideal lighting. With the weather, we were discussing where we could even eat this as Captain Cook’s was slammed and the rain made eating outside impossible. Luckily we found a bench in the lobby.
This is the Spider Roll – Tempura Dipped Chesapeake Soft Shell Crab, wrapped with Pickled Ginger, Cucumber, Carrot, and Gold Tobiko with a drizzle of Savory Yuzu Tartar Sauce – $14.99. The sushi here is very good and it’s prepared consistently fresh throughout the evening. It’s definitely a viable alternative to Captain Cook’s. The sushi at California Grill is better, but it’s harder to get a reservation there and you aren’t necessarily guaranteed seating in the bar.
The Kona Combo Plate – Luau California Roll, Salmon Sashimi, and Tuna Poke – $13.99.
Not the most appetizing thing we’ve ever seen, but this was very good also. They aren’t huge portions, but they are more filling than you might expect. I had a bite of the Tuna Poke and it was also very good. I don’t have a lot of words to describe sushi, but I can assure you that you’ll like it if you like sushi.
To go orders were being sent away in these cute little bags that are actually pretty good quality. But Disney is totally doing away with quality and unique offerings, right? They aren’t “last forever” quality, but you could certainly reuse them a few times.
We were notified at around 8:30pm that the beach was open again via a cast member announcing it to each group in the lobby. No mention of wristbands or anything else. I have a look at seeing the Fireworks at the Contemporary Resort here.
The show wouldn’t start until about 10:15pm. Due to the crazy weather, some additional preparation needed to be completed. Fireworks viewing from The Grand Floridian Resort is here. There’s also viewing/seating on the boat dock.
The beach right before the Fireworks started. You can sort of tell it’s crowded, but there’s definitely more room. The rain/delay may have scared some people off. But just imagine Disney trying to go through that with flashlights interrogating people as to whether they were staying at the resort and then making them prove it.
We’re actually further to the right, off the physical “beach,” in a grassy area that juts out much further than the beach does. We have a head-on view of the Castle and there are far fewer people over here.
The spectacle in case you missed the first posting. It really is one of the two best shows of the year.
I like the look of those “long exposure” fireworks shots as much as the next bro, though they aren’t particularly representative of what the show actually looks like. I’m not a big fireworks person, but this is a great show.
If we somehow got shot down at the Polynesian, we also could have walked back to the Transportation and Ticket Center and watched from the boat dock there. The view isn’t quite as good, but it would still be fine and they also pump the music in over there.
The delay was unfortunate, but it was still worth taking the time to experience it. Unlike at the Magic Kingdom, we had an easier time keeping dry. And honestly, there’s something to say about being able to see all of the fireworks from this far back. Inside Magic Kingdom we’re not going to get the whole panoramic view. Exiting is also going to be much easier. All we have to do is walk back to the Transportation and Ticket Center to pick up the car. If you were heading back to your resort via Disney transportation, you could take the Monorail at the Polynesian to the Magic Kingdom and then find your resort bus there, but it’s going to be crowded. It’s one of those times that springing the cost of a cab might be a good idea. Theoretically, you could walk back to the Transportation and Ticket Center and then transfer to the Epcot Monorail. With Epcot’s IllumiNations beginning at 10pm, you would ordinarily be able to get there in front of the exiting crowds.