A Virtually Crowd-less Opening Day at Magic Kingdom
Unsurprisingly, we are still at Magic Kingdom Park on reopening day. You can pull up the previous post in this series here.
So far, this is where I’ve been:
- 8:20am – 8:45am: Standing at guest services trying to fix a Park Pass/ticket issue.
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train: 8:53am – 9:04am
- The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh: 9:05am – 9:11am
- Peter Pan’s Flight: 9:12am – 9:21am
- Haunted Mansion: 9:23am – 9:34am
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad: 9:39am – 9:59am
- Splash Mountain: 10am – 10:44am
- Pirates of the Caribbean: 10:50am – 11:15am
- Jungle Cruise: 11:19am – 11:46am
- Enchanted Tiki Room: 11:47am – 12:07pm
- Swiss Family Treehouse: 12:15pm – 12:21pm
- Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin: 12:33pm – 12:41pm
- Astro Orbiter: 12:44pm – 12:59pm
That’s a solid four hours as lunchtime approaches. I’ve experienced 12 attractions, including most of the Park’s highest priorities. As I’ve said about 30 times already, this is as busy as Magic Kingdom has been since the Park reopened on July 11th, a little more than a week ago. As far as these posts are concerned, we’re moving a little more slowly as we consider some of the safety protocols and loading procedures where Disney has made modifications.
The bottom line is that the queue/loading modifications are not a big deal, for the most part. If anything, it’s significantly more pleasant to experience an attraction with nobody in the row in front or behind you. Where cast place you on the vehicle isn’t your problem to figure out. If anything, the lower crowds, and shorter wait times, seem to have both guests and cast more relaxed, even if things are not exactly normal. That’s unusual for July, with the heat and long wait times putting many people on edge, particularly in the early afternoon. Once nobody is having fun, it’s probably time to go back to the resort. You’re not impressing anybody by “doing more” if everyone is miserable the entire time.
For the sake of moving about the Park, I’ve experienced each attraction once. I easily could have cycled back through Buzz Lightyear for another ride with no wait. Other attractions, like Jungle Cruise, Big Thunder, and Splash Mountain, would be better choices for late afternoon or evening re-rides. We will see just how few people stick around after lunch.
It’s not going to be a whole lot of people as we head back to Main Street just before 1pm.
Cinderella Castle is quite pink here from the side. How it looks differs throughout the day as light levels and the angle of the sun change. On pictures you see online, the colors depend largely on the photographer’s settings/editing software.
I’ll go through some color “enhancements” on the same photo. In the first image, the colors are relatively flat. They become more “vibrant” by the end. The second one is probably closest to reality:
“Turning the colors up” is one of the most common editing techniques. This is all done with just the vibrancy setting in Adobe Lightroom.
Here’s another look at the side in the afternoon sun.
Painting continues, particularly on the pieces in the courtyard in front and behind the Castle.
Here we have another look at the Tomorrowland Terrace Relaxation Station. That area used to print money for Disney during the Happily Ever After Dessert Party days.
I think it’s safe to say that Disney is not currently printing money. With the reduced crowds, and guests who are more likely to head off-property for lunch/dinner, one wonders how profitable things are at the moment. Disney already has the cost of my Annual Pass in their pocket. My presence costs them money unless I shell out some money on food, drinks, merchandise, etc. Of course, many people do exactly that.
In our Animal Kingdom series next, there are typically more cast members than guests in the pictures. It wouldn’t surprise me if Disney fires 25,000+ people by the end of the month, and reduces staffing considerably. It will be several months until things pick up, and it could be even longer if conditions in Florida don’t improve.
Here’s a look at the tarps over some of the pillars that line the PeopleMover track. Some amount of construction may be preventing the ride from reopening. Disney is not in a big hurry to finish any cosmetic projects.
Disney is cracking down on guests walking and eating/drinking with their masks off. You’ll need to be socially-distanced and stopped in order to go to town. I’d probably take the opportunity to find a shaded table out of the way. Tortuga Tavern and Tomorrowland Terrace come to mind. At a minimum, you probably don’t want to post a video of yourself walking around eating a Mickey Ice Cream Bar with your mask pulled down. Of course, with the evolving rules and regulations, what’s “okay” today may not be “okay” tomorrow.
We’re on Main Street at 1:10pm with Casey’s Corner closed on one side and Plaza Ice Cream Parlor closed on the other. Plaza Restaurant remains open.
Can’t say I miss the monthly hot dog releases. Someone is either throwing darts at a list of ingredients or actively trying to find five things that resemble food that don’t go together, then placing them precariously on top of a foot-long hot dog. It’s possible that giving them more time to come up with new toppings will turn out to be detrimental in the long term.
It’s been hot, which is something that you might expect from Florida in July. As I stood there taking this picture, two of the balloons inside of the balloons popped.
The clock on the right confirms the time of day. A cast member is pulling down what is now an empty balloon. It wouldn’t surprise me if we start asking if the balloon is half full or half empty, rather than the glass.
The scrim on City Hall remains, as it did before the Park closure. I think many of us were hoping that Disney would go to town on refurbishments, working around the clock to get as many projects as possible done before reopening. That obviously didn’t happen.
Guest Services inside is open, despite the closed doors out front. The entrance is on the left. Disney intends most stores and other indoor areas to be one-way only with one distinct entrance and exit. In practice, this doesn’t work too well as people pass by each other on their way to one thing that they aren’t actually going to buy to another. If you want to stay away from the people, stay away from the larger stores. You can always scope things out first and leave if it “feels” a little more congested than you’d like.
While I was happy to be able to walk through Cinderella Castle all day with the lack of stage shows and fireworks, ropes block the upper level of the Main Street Railroad station. The railroad is not operating and characters appear up there intermittently.
This will have to do.
If I’m remember correctly, Tony’s Town Square is the only sit-down restaurant at Magic Kingdom that offers outdoor, patio seating. Those are the tables on the left. If you’d prefer to dine in an open-air environment, it may be your one shot.
You’ll want to double check the menus as you potentially select which dining reservations you’d like to make, now up to 60 days in advance, rather than 180+. Here’s Tony’s:
Tony’s removed the Italian Trio, Grilled Pork Chop, Ravioli, Sustainable Fish, Garlic-Parmesan Wings, and Garlic Knots from the menu. A couple of relatively inexpensive items remain, with an average entree price around $25.
My Spaghetti and Impossible Meatballs were pretty good. I still hesitate to comment on the price per pound of beef, but the fact that this is a meatless product may make it safe. Impossible Beef goes for $10-$12 a pound in stores, compared to $4-$10 a pound for ground beef. You may be able to stick it to Disney by going the pricier, meatless route. It’s unlikely that Disney is using pork or beef on the higher-end of things.
Lunch took a little over an hour, and it was a nice break to sit down in air-conditioning. With the 10-hour operating hours at all Disney World theme parks at the moment, you may find that an afternoon break is prohibitively time-consuming. Instead, scheduling a sit-down lunch with plenty of water/drink refills, and some lengthy, indoor attractions may help you recharge without needing to head to the buses/ferry/monorails and then back again later in the day.
While Disney isn’t offering any traditional character meets, you’ll see a lot of characters in a variety of cavalcades, processionals, and appearances. At Magic Kingdom, they all happen on Main Street. Here we have Peter Pan, Alice, and Winnie the Pooh.
With Mary Poppins and Aladdin on the back of what is normally a Move It! Shake It! float.
Tigger bounces along on foot/paw.
Less than five minutes later, Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald, Pluto, and some parade performers appeared on top of the train station for socially-distanced waving and picture-taking.
Ten minutes after that, the Main Street Philharmonic rolled down Main Street.
It threw me off a little bit to see face characters and other performers without face masks. Several members of the Philharmonic are also in higher-risk groups as they parade up and down Main Street, as well as tour Frontierland. Obviously, you can’t play the trumpet in a face mask, but I’m not sure this is essential entertainment. Six drummers marching down the street in masks would add similar energy.
About ten minutes after the Philharmonic passed, another parade float came our way:
A couple of these characters in the Goofy Cavalcade you can’t even ordinarily see at Magic Kingdom. It’s always a pleasure to see Clarabelle.
About ten minutes later, the princesses rolled through:
I am probably biased in that I absolutely hate character meet and greets. They are incredibly awkward. I also hate staking out a parade spot for an extended period of time as more and more people try to wiggle their way in front of me. The cavalcades are a great way to see and interact with a wide variety of characters over the course of about an hour. This is the sidewalk immediately after the princesses passed, so it isn’t like we’re doing a lot of fighting for attention.
Live look at me returning to Hollywood Studios pic.twitter.com/5KGTaIGuyt
— josh (@easywdw) July 11, 2020
It looked like just about everyone who waved at the characters received a smile and a wave back. The cavalcades begin in between City Hall and the Firehouse on Main Street, head up and around The Hub in front of Cinderella Castle, and then come back and exit the way they came. You might grab a Dole Whip, Citrus Swirl, or another snack and spend about an hour on Main Street, properly distanced.
It’s also easy to pop into one of the stores on Main Street in between cavalcades for a little air-conditioning and shopping. Once you hear the music change, the characters are on their way.
Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom continues with card distribution in the Firehouse.
After lunch, the cavalcades, and some more time at guest services trying to work out some ticket and Tables in Wonderland problems, we’ll take one last lap around the Park.
It’s just after 4:30pm with the Park closing at 7pm, or in about 2.5 hours.
Crowds and wait times are even lower than what we saw in the morning. To hit things hard, and get as much done as possible, you obviously still want to arrive early. If you’re already considering a lengthy break, you may instead opt to arrive around lunchtime. With no fireworks to keep people around, the low wait times, and the whole face mask in Florida in July thing, people are much more likely to leave early.
There are more people waiting for Carousel of Progress to start than are waiting for Buzz Lightyear. Very wholesome.
Space Mountain was “literally” posted at five minutes. You could walk right on.
There might have been six people in line for Tomorrowland Speedway.
With crowds as low a they’ve been, social distancing has been a breeze just about everywhere other than Hollywood Studios. And in stores.
It looks like there’s one family headed up to the Speedway. Crowd levels weren’t even this low during Disney After Hours/Villains After Hours last year.
Storybook Circus, in the back of the Park, was even less crowded.
At least half the Dumbos fly empty.
I opted for The Barnstormer for a better look at Tron construction.
There it is.
As things stand, it looks pretty terrible, particularly with the Walt Disney World Railroad, Barnstormer, and Space Mountain as its backdrop.
Hopefully the show building doesn’t end up just sitting there.
Front row, baby!
It looks like there are about five people on one of the Dumbo spinners. The playground inside the tent is closed.
Casey Jr. is supposedly open, but it’s dry.
Storybook Circus is your best opportunity to get away from the people.
I forget what this tent is or was supposed to be, but there are an assortment of covered, outdoor tables in there.
Pete’s Silly Sideshow is now an indoor, air-conditioned Relaxation Station.
I think I see four people around Dumbo.
I promised some pictures of the end of the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train in Part Seven, and here we are. These markers on the left are behind the mountain, opposite the Mine’s entrance. They’re also nowhere close to the end of the line.
You’ll see significantly fewer strollers and ECVs these days. Hyping low crowds and short wait times may not be the most responsible thing to do here, even if I’m passing on the reality of the current situation. This is part of the Mine Train queue on the left with the umbrellas, but it’s still nowhere close to the end. Prince Eric’s Village Market on the left remains closed.
As does Gaston’s Tavern.
This is another good opportunity to get away from the people. The restrooms back there probably offer a little more privacy at the moment as well.
There did not appear to be a lot of interest in Be Our Guest Restaurant, which is currently serving its $62/adult and $37/child prix fixe meal during lunch and dinner now. You can pull up my review here. To extend your day a bit, you could make the latest dinner reservation possible. With a 6:45pm dinner, you’d be sauntering out around 8:15pm to virtually nobody else in the Park.
Across from the bridge over to Be Our Guest, you’ll find the end of the line for Mine Train. It’s somewhat convenient in that it’s actually pretty close to the attraction entrance. You’ll just need to go the long way around before eventually arriving at the actual queue. Imagine if you strolled over to the Mine Train’s entrance, only for the cast member to tell you that the line starts just a few steps away. Unfortunately, it’s headed in the wrong direction.
Enchanted Tales with Belle is the other major attraction that’s closed, in addition to the Laugh Floor.
Right at 5pm, Mine Train was posting a 20-minute wait. It’s probably closer to ten. At the same time last year, it was 90.
Like other meet and greets, Princess Fairytale Hall is shuttered.
With so many things operating, I found Magic Kingdom’s closures to be the least bothersome. World Showcase at Epcot, on the other hand, is a lot more depressing with so many stores and restaurants closed.
At Prince Charming Regal Carrousel, you’ll be assigned what is now a row. You can select a stallion from that line.
The back side of Castle.
Or with the colors turned up. This is just one slider in Lightroom making the scene look completely different. Photography is a scam.
It looked to be easy enough to socially distance at Pinocchio Village Haus. Unfortunately, the upstairs dining area is closed off. An outdoor table is the safest route, but something about fast food chicken parmesan outside in Florida in July doesn’t sound particularly appealing.
The line for Peter Pan’s Flight stretched a good distance outside and around the corner.
The current 10-minute wait may be a little optimistic. With physical distancing in place, you’re probably not looking at more than 20 minutes. With Disney loading every pirate ship, Peter Pan’s Flight actually becomes a relatively high capacity attraction.
“it’s a small world” might typically enjoy a much higher capacity. With Disney potentially only filling two rows per boat, that capacity drops dramatically. Still, with crowds this low, you could walk right on.
Looking down towards Liberty Square, the markers on the left should be for Peter Pan’s Flight, indicating the line can be much longer.
Haunted Mansion sits at a 5-minute wait, which is exactly what we saw much earlier in the morning.
The afternoon exodus reminded me of Disney’s Animal Kingdom before Rivers of Light and some of the other nighttime enhancements kept people around later into the evening. I suppose that we again live in that timeline. There’s got to be 50 people leaving for every two arriving. We’ve still got 90 minutes of Park time.
I feel like Disney went back and forth on whether Diamond Horseshoe was going to open. It basically worked as overflow seating for Liberty Tree Tavern, though it’s a la carte menu of barbecue “favorites” was quite different. It’s not currently operating.
“Feels dystopian” may be our new saying. There’s a marching band coming towards us and about eight guests around in a theme park that averages 20 million visitors a year.
The Country Bears appear above their attraction throughout the day.
They’re transporting three parties at a time to and from Tom Sawyer Island.
Looking back at the Castle.
Big Thunder was sporting a 25-minute wait at 5:11pm. It would make some sense to save Jungle Cruise, Pirates, Big Thunder, and Splash for the last 90 minutes to two hours of operation.
On the other hand, Splash has seen considerable technical trouble since reopening. It’s closed here. Disney dumped the queue, which is why so many people are heading this way.
Cast members are evacuating the logs, one by one. With one shot at riding Splash, you obviously need to be there when it’s open. Trying earlier in the morning is a better bet in that scenario. If the ride is closed then, you’ve got eight or more hours for it to reopen. If you visit at 6pm, and it’s closed, the chances that it will reopen are slim.
Pirates has dropped from the 25 minutes we saw earlier to 5 minutes.
Even given shorter overall waits, it still makes some sense to experience the anytime/high-capacity shows/attractions from 11am to 3pm or so. Tiki Room, Mickey’s PhilharMagic, Liberty Square Riverboat, Country Bear Jamboree, Hall of Presidents, and Carousel of Progress are all good examples. They also benefit from being largely indoors and air-conditioned. Even the Riverboat is typically pleasant during the heat of the day, with the boat creating its own breeze. I didn’t find any of my wait times to be prohibitive, but waiting three minutes is better than ten, especially if you’re planning on experiencing some of those shows anyway.
By avoiding the heaviest crowds of the day, you’ll be more likely to be able to stay through close. You’ll probably also enjoy your late afternoon attractions more if you’re rested up a bit.
The Magic Carpets of Aladdin is still flying with at least half of the carpets empty and nobody waiting.
It doesn’t appear like there will be a rush on it, either.
The doors to Crystal Palace were open, potentially for someone to see what was still inside. It will be interesting to see if Disney comes up with more clever ways to get character meals back on the docket. They’re making a lot more money on a $55 buffet than a $12 hamburger.
With over 90 minutes to Park close, this is it.
I was anticipating being madder about the early closures, but with crowds as light as they’ve been, it wouldn’t make much sense to keep Magic Kingdom open any later. I’m already wondering about the sustainability of what they currently have in terms of crowds and revenue. Staffing is down, but not yet by a considerable margin. We may see that change in the next couple of weeks as fewer cast members are assigned additional roles. We may not see Magic Kingdom under the cover of darkness again until…something like October or November.
Main Street at 5:22pm. There might be two people coming into the Park instead of leaving it.
While the full flag retreat isn’t happening, you should still be able to watch them take the flag down at 5:15pm.
That about does it.
There’s nobody coming in.
And that long line for guest services has all but dissipated.
That concludes our first visit to Magic Kingdom since the theme parks reopened. Wait times have remained low since, with the only day approaching similar waits to what we saw on reopening day coming this past Saturday, July 18th. If you can, I’d avoid the weekends as much as possible as crowds will be significantly higher than weekdays.
As I mentioned previously, most Passholders wouldn’t touch Walt Disney World in July or August, but that’s very different given the 4-month closure. Of course, that’s partially offset by “the current times,” and further offset by the capacity caps. Even after Disney reallocated Park Pass availability to Passholders from Disney Resort Guests and Theme Park Tickets Guests, Passholders still took all of the available slots for every Park on Saturday and Sunday, July 18th and 19th. You can always pull up a live version of Disney’s Park Pass availability here. It looks like next Saturday, July 25th, is already sold out for Passholders. Hollywood Studios is the only Park filled for the other two segments.
We’ll focus on Animal Kingdom next before tackling Hollywood Studios. The Studios should really be the only “difficult” Park, so I’m giving them a little time to work things out before we tear it apart. That may be largely for my own sanity.