We set out for Disney’s Animal Kingdom on the afternoon of Thursday, May 16th, 2019. While most of our touring guidance revolves around arriving early and touring efficiently in the morning, an afternoon or evening arrival can work similarly well provided you go about things in an intelligent manner. In addition, Animal Kingdom is going to be offering a morning Extra Magic Hour from 7am to 8am every day between August 29th and November 2nd as part of Disney’s “Extra, Extra Magic Hours” that coincide with the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opening. If you’re not eligible for Extra Magic Hours, or have no intention of arriving at a theme park before 7am on vacation, then you’re probably not going to be able to ride Flight of Passage in the morning without a wait that exceeds an hour. At least if you can’t score a rare FastPass+, which are typically unavailable 60+ days in front of a given date. The late arrival, with plans to visit Flight of Passage at the very end of the night, then becomes your best option to experience what will become Disney’s second most popular ride in a post-Galaxy’s-Edge world.
For those who are eligible and able to arrive at the Park by 6:30am during the Extra, Extra Magic Hours initiative, you’re going to be in luck. There won’t be a lot of people there that early, particularly if they’re keying in on one or more early arrivals at the Studios on other days, which will be opening at 6am every day during that same time frame. Somebody who got up at 4am to be at Hollywood Studios at 5am probably isn’t going to be up at 5am the next morning to do something similar at Animal Kingdom. Even if you are eligible to arrive early, you may still elect to sleep in and tour the Parks later in the day instead, particularly with temperatures that cool into the evening. In this post, I’ll outline some basic late arrival touring strategies as I go about the day, ultimately ending with Na’vi River Journey and Avatar Flight of Passage at the end of the night. I’ll actually be getting in line for Flight of Passage right at 8:59pm with the 9pm close. In case you’d like to bypass the rest of this series, I waited just about 45 minutes for Flight of Passage.
Late arrival touring strategy is basically the opposite of early morning touring strategy. In the morning, we identify which ride will see waits that rise the fastest and visit it first. Our next attraction is typically the one where waits rise second-fastest, followed by another attraction where waits quickly accumulate, and so on, ideally visiting each attraction before long waits develop. As wait times peak, we begin to use FastPass+ where priority boarding will save us the most time. This works because crowds and wait times typically rise throughout the morning as more and more people arrive and get in line for something.
An afternoon arrival is the exact opposite. When you first arrive, there will be more people in the Park than when you exit. That means we’re going to want to start with the anytime attractions, since standby waits will be prohibitive at the popular attractions. Most of the time, we’ll also want to book key FastPass+ experiences for shortly after we’re planning on arriving because we’ll save more time than if we use them later in the day. We can then refresh FastPass+ availability to score additional experiences throughout the afternoon and evening. You may also want to prioritize shows, characters, or attractions that won’t be available later in the day. I use http://wdwent.com/ to pull up the show schedule for the week in an easily-readable format. Orlando Theme Park News also posts the actual Times Guides for the week here.
This consolidated version, with next week’s show times, may also help offer an idea about what to expect:
We continue from Part One, where we enjoyed a couple of Omnibus rides up and down Main Street, the “Let the Magic Begin” opening show with Mickey Mouse at the Castle Forecourt Stage, and a ride on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. At 9:30am, Splash Mountain is still posting a 5-minute wait.
Disney continues to push the “Disney play app,” which I have not, and will never, install. I’m sure Disney will abandon it in short order, just like the Shop Disney Parks app. At one time, Disney was looking to add interactive elements to a number of queues to keep guests engaged in the experience. Apparently, we’re all better off staring into our phones. It’s hard to argue with that.
We’re heading out to Magic Kingdom on the morning of Tuesday May 14, 2019, to undertake what should be one of the easier rope drop opportunities at Magic Kingdom in Big Thunder Mountain in Frontierland.
Last month, we took a tougher road, beginning with Seven Dwarfs Mine Train during Easter week in much heavier crowds. You can read all about that in this series.
Unfortunately, today’s experience is only going to back up 53.7% of our long-running narrative, that we can accomplish more on a busier day with an 8am open than we can on an average day with a 9am open, and that rope dropping Frontierland before heading to Adventureland results in short waits at priority attractions all morning. During the Easter week rope drop, with an 8am regular open, I mentioned that I was probably able to accomplish more than on a regular 9am open day with much lower crowds. With so few people able to arrive at a Walt Disney World theme park before 8am, we basically have an extra hour to enjoy low crowds and waits, regardless of elevated afternoon crowd levels. That’s going to turn out to be true. I was able to do more, in less time, with lower waits, on the busier Easter week day.
Unfortunately, the second part of the narrative isn’t going to pan out so well. Starting with Frontierland should be one of the best time-versus-hassle propositions. Being among the first people to Flight of Passage, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, or Slinky Dog Dash is typically going to require arriving at least an hour before open and then quickly hurrying to the attraction with a couple thousand other people whose sole interest is to elbow their way ahead of you. With Frontierland, we should be in no big hurry to our first destination – much like in the olden days, it takes a while for people to migrate west. Ideally, we’ll run into less dysentery, though I’m planning on having lunch at Cosmic Ray’s, so history may repeat itself. At least 90% of the people present at rope drop are headed elsewhere – most to Seven Dwarfs, but some to Peter Pan’s Flight and others to Space Mountain. That’s going to remain true. But with capacity reductions, bad luck, and the joy that is FastPass+ priority, we’re going to run into some issues that aren’t easy to resolve.
What I’m sure will end up being a stunning conclusion to our day – if for no other reason than I’ve managed to stay at Hollywood Studios for more than five hours – gets underway here on Hollywood Boulevard just after 1:20pm. We continue from part one, which discussed what to expect from rope drop. Part two focused on what to do immediately after. Part 3 included a stop for one of the best quick service salads in any theme park, in the Fairfax Salad, with stops at Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy, Tower of Terror, and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster.
After finding some amount of success in the most popular theme park in the world, the Geek Squad/Guest Experience Team has taken up residence at a variety of kiosks inside Hollywood Studios. My big dream in life – actually the only thing that I’ve ever really tried to achieve – is becoming a very small bug on the wall inside Guest Relations, so I can listen to all of the ridiculousness that tourists must bring in with them all day, every day. If you have a question or just want someone to look at you with a blank face for a little while, then the Guest Experience Team may be able to offer some basic advice. There is probably a reason why I have never held a guest-facing position in my life. I would just say, “It’s Hollywood Studios. What exactly were you expecting?”
We continue our day at Hollywood Studios after finding some amount of success inside Toy Story Land with stops at Star Tours and then Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster.
This is where I’ve been:
- Slinky Dog Dash: 8:45am – 9:15am
- Alien Swirling Saucers: 9:20am – 9:50am
- Toy Story Mania with FastPass+: 9:54am – 10:17am
- Star Tours: 10:34am – 10:58am
- Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster with FastPass+: 11:12am – 11:37am
And this is where I’m headed – through the open doors in between the entrance to Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and the venerable Pretzel Palooza.