Animal Kingdom 9am Rope Drop to Pandora Part 2 – 7/25/17

We pick things up after moving through the two Pandora rides in standby on the morning of Tuesday July 25, 2017. Part 1, which details the rope drop experience, is located here in case you missed it. As a reminder, this is the end of the line for Flight of Passage at 9:36am or 36 minutes after official open. The actual standby wait would be somewhere between 150-180+ minutes. You might remember that I was standing inside the gift shop after riding at 9:10am, or just ten minutes after official Park open. This puts me in the best possible shape to continue with my day, hopefully enjoying short waits outside of Pandora. Let’s see what we’re up against.

After Pandora, there’s basically three directions you could go – Africa, Asia, or DinoLand. Here’s a look at wait times over the course of the day:

Larger: Here.

These waits are above average – the weather had been pretty poor the previous few days, which typically keeps some number of people away from the Parks, and Animal Kingdom/Magic Kingdom in particular. Once the weather clears up, more guests flock to Animal Kingdom/Magic Kingdom than would otherwise. Tuesdays are also typically the busiest weekday at Animal Kingdom. So the cards are stacked against us.

DinoLand is the most foolproof Land to visit after Pandora. While my rope drops have gone pretty well, it’s certainly possible that you could be delayed on Avatar Flight of Passage due to technical difficulties. It’s also possible that your arrival will be delayed a bit and waits for Flight of Passage and River Journey will be longer than they would if DAD WOULD JUST GET OUT OF BED ON TIME. I could be at my next attraction around 9:45am. According to the chart above, Everest is already up to 20 minutes, but DINOSAUR, Primeval Whirl, and Kilimanjaro Safaris should all be walk-ons. By 10:30am, Everest is at 45 minutes and Safaris is up to 40, while DINO is still sporting 20 minutes through 11am. So I opted to head to DINOSAUR next and use FastPass+ at Expedition Everest and Kilimanjaro Safaris later in the afternoon.

A steady, but not overwhelming, number of people crossing the bridge into Discovery Island at 9:40am.

The walk towards DINOSAUR is a far cry from the crowding surrounding Flight of Passage.

Yes, hello there. 10 minutes at 9:46am seems doable.

But there were only six other people in front of us in the queue and we walked right into the pre-show.

Disney was only loading one of the two sides, but we aren’t going to see any negative consequences of that…yet.

Still the most underrated ride at Walt Disney World.

And back out front at 10:01am for a total experience time of 15 minutes. (Total experience time being the amount of time it takes between entering the line and being back out in front of the attraction.) According to the attraction page, we’re expecting a total experience time of 18 minutes when using FastPass+, so we’re even ahead of that, which shouldn’t be surprising given the six other people walking the queue.

I go back and forth on the intelligence of going to DINO or Primeval Whirl first and usually it doesn’t much matter. DINOSAUR typically sees the longer experience time, while waits are longer at Primeval Whirl given capacity reductions. Personally, I like to ride DINO, hate my life during Primeval Whirl, then try to repair my body during TriceraTop Spin afterwards. Strictly from a touring efficiency perspective, you’d probably want to do Primeval Whirl before DINOSAUR in most scenarios. Otherwise, the posted wait is 20 minutes at 10:04am.

And with one side operating, an actual wait of 20ish minutes is likely.

I wanted to try Yak & Yeti breakfast (which turned out to be a very bad choice, but still probably better than riding Primeval Whirl), which ends at 10:30am, so I called an audible and skipped Primeval. Along with It’s Tough To Be A Bug, it’s the easiest FastPass+ to secure as a 4th (or even 7th or 8th) selection later in the day. So if I have another momentary lapse of judgment later in the day or decide that I no longer value the alignment of my vertebrae, I can always return later.

So we headed over to TriceraTop Spin, which is going to be a walk-on at 10:06am.

Weeeeee. We were on our way at 10:12am for a total experience time of six minutes. Of the spinners, TriceraTop probably has the least impressive views, but the time investment is so little that it might be worth hopping on.

Off to breakfast, which I review here. While we’re only about 75 minutes into regular operation, if you’re present for an early Pandora rope drop, you will probably be ready for a break given the morning heat and humidity.

After breakfast, Kali is posting 40 minutes just before 11:05am. 20 minutes later, it’ll be posted at 120 minutes. That’s still “two hours” rather than “one hour and twenty minutes.”

And over to Expedition Everest.

Crowds have picked up a bit here at the end of July, though Animal Kingdom is nowhere close to pulling in the number of people or the amount of money that Disney was expecting with the Pandora opening. Daily attendance this summer has hovered around 29,000 guests, which is below the average of around 31,000 that the Park enjoyed last year. But we still have August. And October.

Expedition Everest is posted at 45 minutes at 11:09am.

Fewer than a dozen people waiting in single rider, which should mean an actual wait of around three minutes for those that opt for that route.

You might be able to catch a glimmer of the hawk during the ascent if you’re sitting towards the front of the train.

If you’re placed towards the back, you may have to wait until the descent to see it pop up and even then, it’s pretty well camouflaged. You might notice it in the upper left of the frame underneath the orange flag. You also might not.

Here’s a look at Everest wait times since Animal Kingdom began opening at 9am on July 5th:

Larger: Here.

An arrival at Everest around 9:45am is around the best you could hope for if you have plans on riding both Pandora attractions first thing – 10am would be more conservative. If you skipped Na’vi River Journey or Flight of Passage (in particular) then you could arrive much earlier and find much shorter waits.

Amusingly(?), several direct lightning strikes knocked Everest out for the majority of July 21st and 22nd.

Here’s the wait times chart from one of my June rope drops:

Larger: Here.

At Everest back in June, you’ve got a full two hours before the wait hits 20 minutes before it goes up to 45 minutes at 10:45am. So far in July, the average wait is 41 minutes at 10:45am. So the waits at that time of day are very similar – the difference with the 8am open is that it offers the extra hour in the morning to get over to the attractions when waits are still short. With the 9am open, you’ve only got about 45 minutes before waits start becoming oppressive at headlining attractions outside Pandora.

Still, with FastPass+, my total experience time is just 12 minutes as the wait has dropped to 35.

Here in the summer, you’re going to see a big jump at Kali River Rapids around 10:30am, here with the 120-minute wait just before 11:30am. A look at wait times from the last couple of weeks:

Larger: Here.

The 120 minutes we see on this particular Tuesday is actually the longest wait time before 1pm of the entire month, but the 47-minute average is going to be prohibitive. It’s a smart use of a pre-booked FastPass+, which will also protect you against the ride going down for lightning. If you don’t mind riding later in the day, it’s a walk on virtually every night after 8pm, even if the posted wait remains 20ish minutes. And waits remain short before 10am.

Over to Africa.

And to Kilimanjaro Safaris.

The posted wait is 25 minutes at 11:35am, but looked closer to 45 minutes given the length of the line. Here’s posted waits for July:

Larger: Here.

Heading to Safaris after Pandora usually makes sense if that’s what you’d prefer to do – Africa is more convenient to the alien landscape. But by 10am, actual waits are already hitting 20 minutes on average and you can find yourself in the unlucky situation of seeing a 30+ minute wait from time to time.

As a reminder, you’ll find the permanent FastPass+ entrance closer to the standby entrance, where there are now four touchpoints to help reduce congestion.

This picture captures how inspired this particular safari ended up being:







The pictures last time were a lot better, including baby elephant Stella taking a bath. On the plus side, you might notice the grey, fuzzy flamingos down on the left.

Last time, we saw them moments after being born.


And back out front at 12:06pm, for a total experience time of 31 minutes, which is pretty good.

Not much to see along a particularly crowded Gorilla Falls Trail:





Entering and exiting Pandora through New Harambe has not been a problem after opening weekend. Theoretically, Disney can shut the Africa -> Pandora corridor down for crowd control purposes.

People waiting 50+ minutes for Festival of the Lion King…with FastPass+…








The path that connects Pandora and Africa is a pleasant one. From Africa, continue walking past the Festival of the Lion King theater behind Tusker House. From Pandora, the entrance/exit is on the opposite side of the “main” entrance next to Tiffins/Nomad Lounge/Pizzafari, basically to the right of Satu’li Canteen in the back of the area.





You may run into the occasional tour group, but anybody that visited over the summer four, five, or six years ago will tell you that the number of groups is easily down 80%+ and the size of each group is typically smaller. There’s a lot less yellow and green with such high taxes levied on group travel originating in Brazil. The Brazilian Real is up about 30% compared to the late 2015/early 2016 lows, but the Brazilian currency is still down over half compared to the 2011 highs.

While scoring a day-of Flight of Passage FastPass+ for a group larger than two people is going to take a lot of luck and a lot of refreshing, day-of Na’vi River Journey FastPass+ are typically more plentiful. It’s probably not fair to attribute that directly to people that ride in standby early and decide that they want to switch out a second leisurely ride through the dark for the excitement of Expedition Everest, but somebody is cancelling those FastPass+ for the middle of the afternoon. Anyway, I managed to secure River Journey for a prime 1pm-2pm return time on the night before by refreshing every few minutes while I didn’t work on blog posts. This is the end of the line at 1:20pm.

95 minutes.

Lawwwwwwwwwd hammercy.

I’m guessing the Donald Trump animatronic for Hall of Presidents will be using a different hand mold.

With FastPass+, the total experience time was 13 minutes.

Standby is a lot longer.

Pandora, or more accurately, the Valley of Mo’ara, remains pretty chill most of the day. You absolutely don’t need to be concerned about “braving the crowds to use a FastPass+ in the middle of the afternoon.” One nice thing is that you have to go out of your way to visit the area. It’s not like the walkway past Peter Pan’s Flight and it’s a small world, where thousands of people constantly pass through in order to get where they’re trying to go.

But still, a healthy number of people moving in and out of the Land.

Overall, this is what I accomplished:

  1. 7:15am: Arrival 15 minutes earlier than necessary.
  2. 7:42am: Through bag check.
  3. 8:17am: Enter Park.
  4. 8:37am – 9:12am: Flight of Passage
  5. 9:14am – 9:25am – Na’vi River Journey
  6. 9:46am – 10:02am: DINOSAUR
  7. 10:06am – 10:12am: TriceraTop Spin
  8. 10:20am – 11:05am: Breakfast
  9. 11:09am – 11:21am: Expedition Everest with FastPass+
  10. 11:35am – 12:06pm: Kilimanjaro Safaris with FastPass+
  11. 12:06pm – 12:35pm: Pangani Forest Exploration Trail
  12. 12:35pm – 1:10pm: “Shaved ice” and corn on the cob.
  13. 1:21pm – 1:33pm: Na’vi River Journey with FastPass+

That’s a pretty successful morning with the 45-minute breakfast and 35-minute snack breaks probably mirroring stops that most people will need to take given the heat and humidity of the summer. Instead of sitting around ingesting bloggable snacks, I could have instead visited shows or taken in some of the atmospheric entertainment.

As in the past, those with Avatar Flight of Passage FastPass+ will have an easier time in the morning by skipping the simulator ride first thing. You can skip the entirety of the rope drop mumbo jumbo, hang back, and still ride River Journey with a wait under five minutes. Immediately head to another Land and you’ll find short waits there as well and a whole lot less stress and aggravation to start the day. Otherwise, with the success I had moving through Flight of Passage and Na’vi River Journey first thing, it would be viable to head to Kilimanjaro Safaris or Expedition Everest immediately after, but DinoLand remains a safer option. Using FastPass+ at those two attractions in the late morning or afternoon works perfectly well.

I’ll see what’s next.

Comments

  1. Chrs says

    Josh, quick question since I cannot seem to log in to your forums, Do you know if the brownie they used to sell at Staring Rolls Cafe is served anywhere else? My Wife loved it and is trying to see if she can still get it anywhere. Thanks in Advance.

        • Michelle (UK) says

          Yeah, they definitely do have a lot of the Starring Rolls treats at Trolley Car Starbucks. We asked a CM and he pointed them out…mostly pastries and cakes, I don’t specifically remember there being a brownie but it might have been there. One thing they don’t have (or didn’t at least in May) is the delicious apple danish, which was my favourite counter service breakfast in WDW :-(.

  2. cdmurphy727 says

    Why were people waiting 50 min for Lion King? Just like standing in lines or was it necessary for some reason?

    • josh says

      It was a pretty crowded day, but those people could have certainly returned in 20 minutes if they wanted to. At least they’re waiting under cover with some fans blowing overhead.

  3. Tall Todd says

    A 9:00 a.m. open still nets an 8:17 a.m. park entry? Guess a PPO Tusker House isn’t really ‘worth’ anything….

  4. Websteroni says

    “I’m guessing the Donald Trump animatronic for Hall of Presidents will be using a different hand mold.”
    <>

  5. Ava says

    What time would you recommend arriving to avoid the rope drop madness but still find a short wait at Navi River? We have a FP+ for Flight of Passage later in the day and were just going to skip Navi River, but if we can ride it in the morning with a short wait we’ll do that before heading to DinoLand.

    • josh says

      If they are walking people to the ride around 8:35am, I’d probably be at bag check by 8:20am. That give you five minutes to move through that and ten minutes to walk to Pandora. Just follow the mass in. 98.8% will be headed to Flight of Passage.

  6. CMM says

    Help me out here:

    “Daily attendance this summer has hovered around 29,000 guests, which is below the average of around 31,000 that the Park enjoyed last year. But we still have August. And October.”

    Is this sarcasm or are we expecting crushing crowd levels in October?

  7. Brent says

    If Kali River Rapids is also on the agenda, would you FastPass+ that over the Safari and either standby Safari or attempt a 4th FP+?

  8. Tim says

    I’m sure this has been said before, but what exactly accounts for October being so crowded now? I thought it was always most busy when kids were not in school, and barring a holiday, October doesn’t seem like it’d fall in that category.

    • RebeccaMcK says

      Several states have a fall break now. For years our district in Colorado has just over two weeks off starting with Columbus Day weekend. I don’t know what other states do this but ours is one of them.

        • RebeccaMcK says

          Ours in our particular district in Colorado is from October 6-20, and I forgot to mention that the fall breaks are mostly due to many of the schools being on a modified year-round schedule. Our summer breaks are shorter (my kiddo returned to school a couple days ago), and it’s not all of the districts in our city but one or two of them that follow this schedule.

    • Hannah says

      A lot of schools here in the Southeast are moving to a balanced / year round calendar, so kids now get at least 1 and often 2 weeks of fall break in October.

  9. Chris says

    Love an AK post, it’s the most difficult park to plan for with all the changes in the past year. Do you know what time the attractions other than those in Pandora are opening?

  10. Shannon says

    Thanks for the great post. I will be visiting the first week of February with my husband and 5 year old. My 5 year old is tall enough to ride Expedition Everest but it is too scary for him to ride. Am I better off getting a fast pass for my husband and myself or are we better riding the single rider line (since we will need to take turns anyway) and saving our Fast passes for something else? Josh, I think that I read in your book that the single rider line at EE is rarely more than 10 minutes. Thanks for any advice that you have.

  11. Mike says

    Figured I should share my rope drop experience at AK from this past Saturday. It was a morning EMH (8 am-9 am), so we weren’t quite sure how it would play out. Based on reading your rope drop reports, I decided that we should arrive around 7 am, and our day ended up working out perfectly.

    We arrived at the park at 7:04 am. There were maybe 30 people at bag check – true to form, most were lined up in the middle/to the left side because people sure do love lines. I headed to the right side and was first in line at bag check. They let us through bag check at 7:30, and I headed straight through the metal detector (knowing that it would slow me down if I tried to walk to the side only to be called back). My fiance went through the no bags line and somehow ended up behind me. We hustled to the gate and took a spot on the far right (in the shade!) where we were behind just two other people. They let us in only about 10-15 min before 8, and we started the scramble toward Pandora.

    By time we got to the bridge, we were packed in with maybe 50 people in front of us. Ended up in the preshow for Flight of Passage a few minutes before 8, and off the ride by 8:15. Ran to Navi River Journey, which was essentially a walk-on. Got off the ride around 8:25. Did the PhotoPasses in front of the floating mountains and in front of the main plant on the bridge into Pandora, and wrapped that up by 8:30. We then proceeding to Everest, Dinosaur and Primeval Whirl and were done with those by 9:30. So we managed to fit in a majority of the park by 9:30 without using a FP.

    After that, we wandered, snacked, then used FP’s for Safari and Dinosaur, had lunch at Flame Tree, and wandered Pandora some more. We had completed everything we wanted to do by 1 pm. We headed back to our hotel for the afternoon to relax by the pool. We headed back to the park for the evening since we wanted to see Pandora at night, and we had a FP for Flight of Passage from 7-8 pm. Managed to secure a 4th FP for Everest, a 5th for Dinosaur, and a 6th for Primeval Whirl. Closed out the night with a wander through Pandora at night and a nightcap at Nomad,

    Pretty much the perfect day at AK. Thanks to you Josh for all the helpful guidance in your posts. Can’t stress enough how much better our day was for having planned it correctly.

    • dusty cheatham says

      it just shows with planning it can be done. relax I know Disney is $$$$$ . there are plenty of tools at everyone disposal to learn about how to tour Disney. if you are going to throw $1000.00 on the ground please do it smart.

  12. Dorliss Chambers says

    I’m skipping Animal Kingdom until Star Wars Land opens at the Studios. Too much trouble for one attraction and I like the other parks better anyway.

  13. Shawn says

    The wait time reports that you show are great. Where do you get this data? Is daily updated data available somewhere? I would love to monitor the wait times as we get closer to our visit at the end of August.

  14. TriSeb says

    We were here on 8/4 and I can confirm that Josh has the most accurate instructions and play by play write up. I followed his instructions and the information was spot on. +1

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