Frozen Ever After Epcot Wait Times, FastPass+ Availability, Rope Drop, Strategy, and Review

We’ll begin our look at some of Walt Disney World’s new additions with the Frozen Ever After ride that takes over for Maelstrom in the Norway Pavilion at Epcot. This post will be nearly spoiler free and I will walk you through the queue and the on-ride experience with photos and video separately. So if you don’t want to know that Olaf dies at the end then you can click the “X” long before we get to that point. The view above is the rope drop crowd headed to Frozen Ever After. And no, this is not from the first day.

I’ll cut to the chase. If you can secure FastPass+ for the ride, you absolutely want to do so over any of the other Tier 1 FastPass+ choices. It’s not even close. Frozen Ever After enjoys a miserable hourly capacity in the vicinity of Maelstrom, which puts it around 1,000 riders per hour. Over the course of a regular 12-hour day, that means somewhere between 25% and 50% of the people that visit Epcot will have an opportunity ride. And that assumes just one ride per person and 100% uptime, which looks like it will be rare moving forward.  Over each of the first three days of operation, Disney has closed the standby line in order to move all of the FastPass+ returners through the ride. With hours of downtime each day, you’ve got hundreds of FP+ users returning after their return window. Using FastPass+ here is a no-brainer as it will save you more time than any other FastPass+ attraction. It will also guard against the strong possibility that the ride will become “FastPass+ only” at some point during the day and you won’t risk standing outside in the sun for an extended period of time.




Maelstrom and the ride system that arrived with it, opened all the way back in 1988. That’s almost 30 years ago. Wait times were typically short prior to FastPass+, usually peaking around 20 minutes.

Here’s a couple weeks of wait times at Maelstrom before it closed back on October 5th 2014:

Larger: http://www.easywdw.com/reports13/maelstrom_wait_times.jpg

At the time, a lot of people seemed to be blaming renewed interest on higher waits. And that certainly comes into play over the last three days leading up to the closure, but 40- and 50-minute peak waits were the norm before then with the occasional 70-minute wait showing up. The ride also closed at some point during the day on 9 of 22 days or a little over 40%.

Larger: http://www.easywdw.com/reports13/maelstrom_wait_times.jpg

We obviously don’t have a lot to go on with the ride opening just four days ago, but posted waits so far have been attrocious, peaking each day at 3+ hours. The question marks indicate potential downtime or when the ride is not accepting standby riders. When Frozen goes FastPass+ only, it no longer posts a standby wait.

Unfortunately, I think we have a situation at Frozen that’s very similar to when Test Track reopened. You have what is historically a ride system prone to breakdowns and then on top of that, Disney has added a layer of technology that is also prone to malfunction. At least Frozen doesn’t have to close due to inclement weather.

Heading to Frozen Ever After first thing in order to experience a short wait is not going to be viable for most guests, which is a departure from how high priority attractions at the other Parks work. While the march to Toy Story Mania is somewhat unpleasant, an early arrival and a relatively quick walk over will result in a wait that should be under 15 minutes. At Mine Train, we are smart enough to take a right at Cinderella Castle towards Mad Tea Party and it’s relatively easy to arrive at that attraction and enjoy a wait under 15 minutes. Above is the main entrance at 8:15am on Wednesday June 22nd. There’s easily ten times as many people as there would have been at the same time last week.

I was able to use the breakfast line trick to move in front of a lot of people. As a reminder, Disney reserves a set of entrance tapstiles for those with breakfast reservations, but opens these lines to all guests closer to Park open – in this case about 8:25am. If you arrive later, you might send half of your party down here to the far right to wait for the lines to open up and have half of your party wait in a regular line. That way, if the breakfast tapstiles don’t open to all guests, you’ve hedged your bets. If you’re headed to Frozen first, strongly consider arriving closer to 7:45am than 8:15am.

Disney should allow people to enter the Park around 8:30am. I had lunch with a family on this particular afternoon that had entered from International Gateway and they were actually closer to the front of the pack headed to Norway than I was, so those heading in from the BoardWalk/Beach Club/Yacht Club/Swan/Dolphin are not necessarily at a disadvantage compared to those heading in from the main entrance.

There is a ton of ground to cover on the walk up to Norway. As I wait to go in, you can see people running into the Park ahead.

Disney does very little in trying to get guests to slow down. You will see plenty of people run past.

If you are headed elsewhere, you will have a much easier time – going to Soarin’ or Test Track or Joy/Sadness first thing makes a lot of sense if you are able to use FastPass+ at Frozen Ever After.

My advice is to be content with the one ride on Frozen should you secure FP+. You don’t want to deal with this if you don’t have to.

I am curious about whether the path to the left here represents a possible short cut into the holding area in front of La Cantina de San Angel. It doesn’t really seem like it…but I will test it the next time I rope drop.

The holding area is in front of La Cantina de San Angel in Mexico. Cast members will yell at you to keep right so those with breakfast reservations at Akershus can bypass you. An 8am reservation at the princess breakfast would put you at a distinct advantage should you be able to exit the restaurant no later than 8:50am. Of course, 100+ people book breakfast, pay the $10/person no-show fee, and then camp out in front of the ride. If you are heading in from the main entrance, you will be behind a couple hundred people from Akershus already.

The wait here clumped together with 1,000+ other people without shade with the sun bearing down is incredibly unpleasant here in June. The RealFeel at 9am is going to be 90+ degrees through September. Tomorrow’s estimation is 96 degrees at 9am.

People behind me on day two.

Day 1 stretches back even further. The July 4th situation is going to be out of control.

Disney will release you towards Norway just before 9am.

The path widens a bit in front of Mexico.

It’s a good opportunity to try to bypass those headed straight down the middle.

Larger: http://www.easywdw.com/reports13/frozen_ever_after_stay_left.jpg

Disney will walk you past Norway and then have you double back towards the ride entrance and into the ride queue. You want to be as far to the left as possible for the easiest turn into the queue. Those on the right will have to make a wider turn and will be behind anyone heading in from the same area on the left.

Here I am lined up back in China somewhere with hundreds more people arriving after me. Keep in mind that I arrived at 8:15am and moved here at a reasonable speed. The ride has not been operating at Park open either of the last two days. On this particular morning, Disney announced that there would be a delay of 20 to 25 minutes.

My original plan was a complete bust. I was going to try to ride Frozen then see how viable it would be to ride Test Track, Sum of All Thrills, and Mission: SPACE after, assuming the majority of people will be preoccupied with Norway.

But I had a lunch reservation to make at noon and was honestly not sure I was going to be off the ride by then. By 9:20am, the line backed up past the Temple of Heaven.

The wait from just inside the indoor queue portion is about an hour assuming standby is open and the ride hasn’t gone down for an appreciable amount of time. It would be longer with more FP+ returners. And add to that however long you wait outside.

So if you want to ride Frozen Ever After in standby first thing, you need to be prepared to arrive 75 minutes before the stated open and then move as quickly as possible to the holding area in Mexico. Stay to the left, bypassing as many people as possible when the path widens in Mexico and Norway, and then hurry into the queue as quickly as possible. Another option is the pre-opening breakfast at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall in Norway. If you plan to eat there, ask for the check after you order drinks and be out in front of the entrance no later than 8:50am.

It’s difficult to say how often Frozen Ever After will go FastPass+ only moving forward. But if it does, it’s likely that standby will reopen once Disney is able to move the majority of those waiting with FP+ through the ride. If you hang out in the area waiting for standby to open then you can sneak in the queue and likely experience a much shorter wait in the vicinity of 20 to 40 minutes. There is of course no telling when or if this will happen, but it has every day thus far.

The other option is to go last thing at night if you are willing to skip IllumiNations. That of course assumes that the ride is operating and does not break down. But as long as you are in line prior to the official closing time, Disney will let you ride.

If you are visiting over two days and unable to secure FastPass+, which is a real possibility for those staying off-site or selecting FastPass+ closer to a given date, then you may try one of the tricks listed above on your first day – hang out to see if standby reopens or try to ride last thing. If neither of that works and you have to ride, then trying to grin and bear the morning nonsense makes sense if you can arrive early and move quickly. If you can’t, then it might make sense to visit later in the afternoon. If you’re going to wait 2+ hours then you might consider the afternoon when waits are going to be longer everywhere else and instead spend the morning visiting other attractions with short waits. If you’re not done with Frozen until 11am then Test Track/Soarin’/Mission: SPACE etc. are all going to be seeing peak waits. If you visit those three rides early in the morning instead, then you can experience each with a short wait and then prepare for the Frozen wait, which is going to be long either way.

I’ll be discussing the ride experience separately since this is already a wordy post. I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed it and I think it’s worth your Tier 1 FastPass+.

As far as this sort of hysteria trending down by _________, the answer is probably not. Consider the rush to Toy Story Mania, which opened in 2008, or Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, which is now 2+ years old. These attractions remain the top priorities at their respective Parks and most people present at rope drop continue to head to those attractions first thing. So at the moment, 95%+ of the people headed to Frozen on a given day are going to be experiencing it for the first time. Fast forward six months or a year and that number is going to be similar. Even two years from now, the vast majority of those visiting will have never experienced Frozen Ever After. And because the ride is legitimately fun, a lot of people are going to be angling to ride on a return visit too.

Good luck out there.

Comments

    • josh says

      Depends a lot on how long the ride has been down earlier in the day. My advice is to book around 11am if you have your pick of times. I don’t think there is much use in hurrying up to Norway to use FP+ first thing because you will spend additional time walking and will be missing low waits at other attractions. With the 11am FP+, there will be less possibility for downtime and you can continue up through World Showcase after.

      Thus far, waits with FP+ have been anywhere from 10 minutes to 60+.

      • Ann says

        What are everyone’s thoughts or experience entering the park thru the international gateway vs the fron entrance?

        Does this save any time?

        Thanks for replies. I will be choosing fastpasses in a couple of days!!

  1. Jillyb says

    Lawd have mercy! What a mess! I am so thankful that my FP+ window opened up on June 13th. I was able to get a FP+ for a party of 2 on our first EPCOT day for 11:50 – 12:50. Now I just have to hope that there’s no down time before our FP+!

  2. Diane says

    Thank you for this detailed report on Frozen Ever After. We do not have Fast Pass+ for our July trip and were thinking of rope drop standby. We are now going to skip it completely and try for a Fast Pass on our October Trip.

  3. Jenny says

    Wow. Thanks for all of this info. I can’t get my FP+ until 7 days before, so I’m assuming that it won’t be available for us. How long does the first round of seating take at Akershus normally? I have a PPO ADR for Akershus, but I also have 2 kids who will want to meet all the princesses, so rushing through an expensive meal doesn’t sound like my best bet. In my situation, if I can’t get the FP+ and want to minimize the wait, sounds like my only choices are to pay the $10/pp no-show fee (which I can’t believe I am actually considering) or try to keep 2 preschoolers up until Illuminations to ride.

      • Max says

        Meet and greet has kept wait shorts with 4 rooms for characters. The wait has rarely gone over 45 minutes, it was 10 minutes the other day when I was there. They don’t even have a dedicated extended queue, they just run ropes out into the courtyard.

        • josh says

          I will have a separate post on the Sommerhus, but waits have indeed been short so far. They did a nice job with it.

          Hard to say about Akershus. Arrive by 7:50am and you will be among the first to go in. Get the check early and be on your way by 8:50am or you risk being behind the rope drop crowd.

        • Jess says

          When you say there are 4 rooms of characters in the Summerhus, does that mean there are 4 separate Anna and Elsa pairs going at once?? Lol.

          • Linkura says

            Yup!

            And josh, I was so waiting for this post. It’s so fascinating how many people would be willing to wait in egg-frying sun for 3-5 hours for this ride.

    • Ashley says

      Jenny, I’m in the same boat as you, except my kids are a bit older and we won’t be at EPCOT at night, but at AK (where we are using our FP for nighttime stuff). I, too, was not even considering the no-show for our PPO breakfast (we love breakfast! bacon and eggs! princesses!) but like you, the thought has now entered my head. Our ADR is for 8 am so I planned on arriving at the entrance at 7:30 and will ask for our check as soon as we enter. We’ve done CRT a few times and my kids met all of the princesses on previous visits when they were younger, but I still hate the idea of skipping this meal.

      • Heather says

        It looks like Frozen could be 30mins at 9am, and 60mins+ by 9:15am. Interesting to see how EMHs go here.

        I wonder how Soarin’s rope-drop compares now, will it be under 30mins if you get in line by 9:15am?

    • Bob says

      There is nothing special about this ride. Don’t waste your valuable time . If you make your children wait in line for any more than 30 minutes for Disney’s worthless crap it is child abuse.

  4. Josh says

    I am so thankful I was able to book an 8:10a at Akershus for our trip this fall. Though just in case, we’ll still probably try to hit Epcot for a few hours on arrival day and hopefully FP Soarin’ one day and Frozen the other.

    • Glo says

      Are you going to chance the frozen ride without a fast pass after your breakfast? I too have an 8:10 reservation and was hoping to save the fast pass for another ride.

  5. Mad Hattered says

    Thanks for taking one for the team, Josh. Luckily, I have no interest in this blatant disregard for the World Showcase, so I will avoid this area at all costs!

  6. Lynne says

    Whoa! Thanks so much for heading out in that. I’ll never understand the holding areas, but what do I know? This does seem to bode well for riding Test Track and/or Soarin’ first thing, assuming I can nab Frozen FP+ for my two Epcot days.

    It’s definitely an interesting time.

  7. Gina says

    Oh Thank God I decided to get Fast Pass for this!! lol!
    And thank you for no spoilers, Josh!! Please warn us when the spoilers are posted! :)

  8. Jossalyn says

    How is this impacting waits at rope drop for Soarin and Test Track? Is it reasonable to walk on Test Track and Soarin before heading back to ride Frozen with FP+? Is it possible to do all 3 Tier 1 attractions plus A&E meet & greet with only one day at Epcot?

      • Yreland says

        As long as you fastpass Frozen (and it’s running), it can easily be done. We did all except meet and greet today (Soarin twice), Sommerhus meet and greet was only 10 minutes when we walked by. All by 3:30.

        • Kbuist says

          Yreland, what was your itinerary to get those 3 rides all in? Were you able to do anything else in-between? We’re going in mid August and I was thinking of just skipping Frozen so we could RD test track and FP soarin.

  9. John says

    After reading this post I changed my plans for late August, I had planned to go to Epcot for EMH am and hop to AK for FP+ in the evening. Now I’ve switched my FP+ to Epcot and Ill go without FP+ in AK. Waiting 30+ min for the evening safari will beat the frozen wait, hey I might be able to get a SDFP+ for safari anyway.
    Thanks.

    • Stephanie says

      Just did the safari at sunset at AK. Honestly it is not worth going. I was very disappointed and AK is my favorite park.

  10. Matt says

    What about during extra magic morning hours? Lines should be significantly shorter during that hour right? Is the ride opening at 8am on that day?

  11. Felicia says

    We have an 8 am Garden Grill. I was thinking eating quick would get us ahead of the park. Sounds like we would still be behind the pack that is let in at 8:30. We also have an 8:10 at Akershus. Is that our best bet? No FPP

  12. Miriam says

    Looking at the wait times chart from the end of Maelstrom, it didn’t seem to suffer too much downtime. Is it reasonable to assume that they will be able to work out the kinks and the massive amounts of downtime we’ve seen so far will not be the norm? Is it wishful thinking that this will happen by the end of August?

  13. JOANNA says

    I have an 8am breakfast at Garden Grill, can I make it to the Frozen Ever After ride before the rope drop crowd? thanks

  14. Amanda B. says

    I have an 8pm FP set up for our August trip. With it being down so often I am worried. We would have no time to come back later because Epcot closes at 9pm. Has anyone had this happen. Does the FP extend to the next day like the Fantasmic FP does??

  15. Beth says

    That seems like it is so crowded that if you are not trying to ride and just trying to walk around world showcase, you might get stuck in a jam and have to push your way through. Is there an alternative path or protected walkway around this line? Is hard for the average person walking by to get to the other countries?

  16. Nancy Hughess says

    You are a hero Josh for going through this more than once. Thanks for helping me decide how to plan for October.

  17. Frank says

    FP today 6/25 around noon. From entering fp line to getting off boat 15 min. End of standby line just outside building 120 min. Far as I could tell everything working on ride compared to glitches on videos.

  18. Lisa says

    Thank you Josh! Taking one for the team! Family and I are headed down in April next year, definitely need to meet and buy you a drink!

  19. Rod Handler says

    “As far as this sort of hysteria trending down by _________, the answer is probably not.”

    People still wait 70+ minutes for Peter Pan every day of the year. And that ride is older than me. So I agree with you, Frozen Ever After will have long waits from now until the day it’s closed to become a new attraction.

  20. Rod Handler says

    “So if you don’t want to know that Olaf dies at the end then you can click the “X” long before we get to that point.”

    After watching Star Wars VII I could believe that! I remember everyone saying “Han Solo dies” and I thought they were just playing a joke on me. I didn’t believe it right up until the point where he took the lightsaber to the gut. (caution: spoilers in previous sentence).

  21. Sarah says

    Seriously folks, if you don’t have FP+, I would reconsider this one. We just got back from WDW, and we were there on the 24th. There was a 3 hour wait almost all day- when the ride was open. It closed for a substantial amount of time, and we even heard at one point that they had drained the water from the ride to address the issues they were having. It is a fun ride and very well-done- we actually had someone in our party with a disability pass, so we were able to get a time to come back and ride with FP. I would not wait hours for it though, and OMG that rope drop line. There’s no way. We rode just before the fireworks, and it was still a 3 hour wait for stand-by.

    • Amanda Pete says

      Hi – I just got back too. Rode with FP+ 2nd day it was open. Took 45 minutes to get through the line, some of that in very hot sun. I did like the ride, but wasn’t worth that wait to me.

      Anyway, just FYI: They were not issuing DAS return times for the Frozen ride when I was there (maybe it changed before or after your party was able to get one). Just mentioning that for others – so they know that its possible that they cannot get it and will need to rely on FP. (So, use the FP for Frozen, and get DAS time for Soarin or other Tier 1 with long wait).

  22. craig says

    Just did epcot yesterday. Used a fp for sorin’ mission space and spaceship earth. Was able to ride frozen 75min wait, spaceship earth (fp) mission space (fp) test track, sorin, and even sat through figment and Pixar shorts. All done between 11:00 and 5:30.
    If you can definitely use fp for frozen. With the 3rd theater open at sorin wait times are regularly sub 40min.

    • Sarah says

      Totally agree. We actually got in line for Soarin’ last week- there was a 50 minute posted wait. There was air-conditioning, lol, so we decided to go for it. Took us about 20 minutes.

  23. MinnieLex says

    I’m visiting this Saturday 8/13, live about an hour away so I’m driving in Saturday morning and driving back home the same day. I’m a passholder so I don’t have a FP. We’re planning to arrive early… but probably not by 7:45am. Would it be beneficial to make a breakfast reservation at a Boardwalk/Yacht & Beach Club or a Swan/Dolphin restaurant so that we can park there and enter through the international gateway? If they hold people at the international gateway entrance until 8:30am, do they let people go straight to Norway at that time or is there another holding area? Any advice is appreciated!

  24. Laura says

    Hey there! Love your posts. I have a question,
    We will hopefully have an 8 am Akershaus ADR on May 2 of 2017. Our plan is to actually go straight to Test Track after, so around 9. Will it be hard to get through the hoards of people waiting in line? We were going to take the walkway by Odyssey Center to get to TT.

  25. Robin Davis says

    Has the ride been running more smoothly (fewer glitches/closings) now since it has been open for several months? We were unable to secure a FastPass and will be there in 4 weeks.

  26. Teresa says

    FP+ is never available for Frozen! I have tried all year and randomly picked different days just to try and get a FP for Frozen! Do they even do FP for this ride? ALWAYS says unavailable.

  27. Tara says

    This was great advice! Thank you! FastPass was not available 30 days out, it must have filled with Disney resort guests and folks that tried at midnight! We went the week before Easter, so it was busy. We got into the park around 8:40 and was in line for the ride by 9:01. Once in line it was just a 35 minute wait. Now that I know my way around Epcot I will hopefully arrive sooner next time. Thanks for posting.

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