by Fairy Diva
2016 brought a lot of new to Night of Joy, an annual contemporary Christian music festival hosted at Walt Disney World and held in early September. Contrary to the title ‘Night’ of Joy, the event actually consists of two nights, featuring a variety of Christian artists, allowing guests to pick which acts they wish to watch. Concerts are ongoing from around 6:30 p.m. through approximately 1:00 a.m. This was my second year to attend, and this year’s experience was quite a change from last year. See my review on last year’s Night of Joy here. How did I enjoy the changes, and what should we expect in 2017?
Since its beginnings in 1983, Night of Joy has been a ticketed event held at Disney’s Magic Kingdom (with the exception of a couple of years at Disney’s Hollywood Studios). Guests have been able to enjoy the worshipful atmosphere of the concerts with Cinderella Castle providing the perfect magical backdrop. Dining, shopping and rides were open for those attending the event. This was quite convenient and provided lots of Disney fun during down times between the concerts, which were spread between a stage at Cinderella Castle and two performance areas in Tomorrowland.
It was announced that Night of Joy would transition from Magic Kingdom to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex for 2016. This came with much backlash from fans, who associated the concerts with the Magic Kingdom (as did I). While I did feel a bit of disappointment from this announcement, I knew that I would be attending Night of Joy 2016 regardless, so I went into the weekend with an open mind.
For starters, the tickets for Night of Joy seemed reasonably priced, with options for one-night tickets or a ticket for both nights. The Friday-night-only ticket was $39 plus tax when purchased in advance. The Saturday-night-only ticket was $114 plus tax and included admission into any one of the four theme parks. With the purchase of a two-night concert ticket, guests received entry to both nights of concerts, a one-day ticket to one of the four theme parks, and (if purchased before August 9) entry to one of Disney’s water parks.
So, how did Night of Joy 2016 compare with previous years? Here are my thoughts- the good and the bad. Let’s start with the bad and get that out of the way. My concern with this year’s event was location. I had never even been to the ESPN Complex, but I worried that the magic of Magic Kingdom would be missing from the overall feel of Night of Joy. And honestly, it kind of was. However, I was not totally disappointed with the new location. I will explain this later, but I did miss walking down Main Street USA around 1:00 a.m. after watching some of my favorite artists perform.
My other issue was transportation. While I am sure there were buses available for Night of Joy between resorts and the ESPN Complex (I saw a few – like maybe two- on the roads), we waited almost an hour at Disney’s Boardwalk Resort and never had a bus come for Night of Joy. After waiting so long, I called the desk from the bus stop, and the person I spoke with did not even know what Night of Joy was. So that was quite frustrating. Thankfully, we had driven to Walt Disney World, so we used our personal vehicle to drive to the ESPN Complex, after missing an hour of concert time due to waiting on the bus. When leaving the ESPN complex, I never noticed the bus stop area. Again, I am sure it was there, but I felt the transportation end was not up-to-par for this event.
Now, let’s look at the good. Because there was a lot of good -actually great- to this weekend. Despite the absence of Cinderella Castle , Space Mountain and a late-night snack of Nutella and Fruit Waffle from Sleepy Hollow (those are SO good!), the ESPN Complex turned out to be an excellent venue for these concerts. Two performance areas, the Jostens Center and the HP Fieldhouse, were indoors and air-conditioned! This was a vast improvement from standing in the heat and a massive thunderstorm during last year’s Night of Joy weekend. The HP Fieldhouse and Champion Stadium had seating, which made the waits between performers much more comfortable.
Food was available in many locations throughout the ESPN Complex. New to Night of Joy this year was a merchandise area for the performers featuring a variety of offerings. Additionally, there were many activities provided for both little ones and large groups. A play area was located in the Jostens Center and the fields were open for play and recreation. There were meet-and-greet times with some of the artists. The entire experience was enjoyable, and just as I was starting to miss some of the Disney magic, I was pleasantly surprised to see a few Disney friends. Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Goofy were all available for pictures in the Jostens Center, with super-short wait times (at least when we were there).
Overall, Night of Joy was a wonderful experience for 2016. There are many changes going on at Walt Disney World lately, and though Night of Joy, in location, is part of that change, the event remains one of my favorites. Though missing a bit of Disney magic (which we still enjoyed greatly during the daytime hours), the worshipful and exciting atmosphere of Night of Joy thrived throughout the entire complex. I will definitely attend in 2017 when Night of Joy returns to the ESPN Wide Worlds of Sports Complex September 8-9.
Are you ready to plan a weekend at Night of Joy 2017? Contact Patricia with All for Dreams Travel to start planning today!