This is sort of random. As if there’s something on this website that could be construed as logical. Someone on the forums had asked about October 2011 Walkabouts and it reminded me of one of my favorite posts – A Tale of Two Magic Kingdoms – October 22nd Versus October 23rd. It basically takes a look at a “worst recommended” Saturday at Magic Kingdom compared to a “most recommended” Sunday with pictures of the same things at the same times (in most instances) to give you a more accurate idea of what you can expect. The difference in crowd levels and wait times may (or may not) surprise you.
I’ve mentioned this before, but occasionally on Internet forums and the like I’ll see people saying that going to the recommended Parks is more important when it’s “busy” than when it’s “not busy.” At least in my (correct) opinion, it’s actually much more important to go to the recommended Parks when it’s “not busy.” First of all, with various discounts, Disney is much more adept at filling their resorts throughout the year. I listen in on every earnings conference call and Disney will quote occupancy in the 80-84% range all year. With 25,000+ rooms on property and more coming online with the Art of Animation, that translates to something like 75,000 resort guests at any given time. When the overall crowd level is higher, it’s fueled mostly by off-site visitors. Disney occupancy may also tick higher, but more expensive pricing and fewer discounts usually translate to similar occupancy numbers. That means we have the same number of Disney resort guests chasing the Extra Magic Hours and entertainment schedules in September as we do over Christmas.
In addition, when crowds are heavier in the summer, over spring break, etc. the operating and entertainment schedules are similar from day to day. In July, the operating/entertainment schedules are virtually identical from day to day with long hours and plentiful entertainment. That “helps” even out crowds over the course of the week. During slower times, we see longer hours and evening entertainment only on certain days at Magic Kingdom and to a lesser extent now Hollywood Studios. While the addition of Fantasmic to just about every night all year makes seeing the show easier, we no longer enjoy the huge fluctuations from day to day that we saw before June 2011 when Fantasmic was only scheduled on two or three nights each week throughout much of the year.
A lot of people prefer to visit the theme parks when they’re open longer and offer evening entertainment. That makes a lot of sense. If you’re going to Walt Disney World, you most likely want to see Main Street Electrical Parade, Wishes, and Fantasmic. When those shows are scheduled less often, days that do offer them are overwhelmingly busier than days that don’t offer them because so many people want to see the shows. Also, those days are usually marked by longer hours, which a lot of people assume means more access to the feature attractions. Unfortunately that isn’t the case, because heavier crowds equate to longer lines, limited FASTPASS availability, increased congestion, and a poorer overall touring experience.
Also in September through December, we have to contend with the Mickey’s Party schedule. On three or four nights during the week, Magic Kingdom will close at 7pm and offer neither the Electrical Parade or Wishes during regular hours. Days that do offer the Parade and Wishes are incredibly crowded, even when Disney World “isn’t busy” because so many more people want to see it. That’s what we see in the post above in October.
At Epcot, attendance is typically about 40% higher on the day that it offers evening Extra Magic Hours when the overall crowd level is lower than a five. The major exception is the Food and Wine Festival, where Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays see even heavier crowds than the Wednesday with evening Extra Magic Hours attached. At Hollywood Studios, evening Extra Magic Hours days see an increase of about 25%. The Studios usually hosts evening Extra Magic Hours on Mondays that are also very popular at Magic Kingdom. In part, the Extra Magic Hours schedule is designed to distribute the predictable Disney resort guest population to certain theme parks on certain days. It isn’t a coincidence that the Studios has evening Extra Magic Hours scheduled on most Mondays along with a morning Extra Magic Hour at Animal Kingdom to help pull people away from Magic Kingdom.
Disney also knows the natural progression of those arriving on Sunday for a traditional weeklong vacation. It isn’t a coincidence that Disney schedules the Electrical Parade and Wishes on most Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. A lot of people arriving on Sunday head to Magic Kingdom on their first full day. It’s also why Magic Kingdom usually hosts evening Extra Magic Hours on Sundays. It causes people to add an extra day to their tickets because they plan to arrive and head out to the world’s most popular theme park Magic Kingdom for a later night. People also like visiting on the Saturday before they leave. Thursdays are also popular with people that visit first Magic Kingdom thing on Monday then visit Epcot on Tuesday, Animal Kingdom or Hollywood Studios on Wednesday, and are then ready to revisit Magic Kingdom on Thursday. Because Parades and Fireworks are expensive, Disney is able to offer both to the highest number of people possible by scheduling the entertainment on days that people naturally visit. The limited availability then drives additional attendance.
I feel like that was sort of a rant, but that’s where we’re coming from with the Park recommendations and overall crowd numbers. It’s a mistake to ignore the recommendations when the overall crowd level might seem to be low, especially at Magic Kingdom and Epcot. Hollywood Studios doesn’t see the crazy swings that it saw when Fantasmic was scheduled less often because the operating schedule is more uniform. We still see longer hours and a second Fantasmic on most nights where the Studios hosts Extra Magic Hours, but that isn’t usually a driving force because people are still interested in visiting Magic Kingdom.
Okay. We’ll talk about how I want to punch people that come back from a September vacation and say “Magic Kingdom was extremely crowded, but we walked on Space Mountain with no wait four times at 5pm” another day.
It’s 5:07pm on a highly recommended day at Epcot. We’ve been seeing some crazy lines at Spaceship Earth over the last two weeks with the Easter level crowds. You may remember April 1st:
Where we have the extended queue running up and down both sides of the attraction.
Today’s wait times.
Disney is being totally weird about the Test Track refurbishment.
As you may remember, the attraction is closing “literally” the day after tomorrow. For sure. And Disney hadn’t made any mention of it on Disney World.com until this morning. Today, they added the refurbishment to the website with inaccurate dates. That’s what it looks like right now. This is a company with a market cap that exceeds 75 billion dollars. That can’t find anyone to add two lines of text with accurate information to their website. It’s bizarre. As of 7:37pm, it now says it’s from June 1 to July 31. The link.
The Pizza Truck that used to sit outside the attraction has gone missing.
I would guess Disney is going to build a safe house for the a capella group to hide in.
Not too much congestion moving up through the Mexico Pavilion.
Maelstrom was closed again. It looks like they’re leading guests out of the queue.
Forget Mickey ears, I’m wearing a beer mug on my head.
You may remember our lengthy look at the Germany Pavilion back in August, including lunch at Sommerfest and a look in the various shops.
But we were missing a meal at Biergarten. No longer! It’s located in a pretty nondescript location that is “literally” a hole in the wall.
Inside, it’s one of my favorite restaurants as far as theming is concerned. One potential upside/downside is that virtually every table seats eight people. If your group consists of fewer (or more), you’ll most likely be seated with “strangers.”
Looking to the left of the stage toward the entrance and buffet lines.
Further left. The pictures aren’t great, but I probably wouldn’t have been able to get anything with the old camera, so that’s nice.
The working water wheel is my favorite part of the area.
The Oktoberfest Musikanten are a lot of fun. They perform intermittently, usually beginning at 1:15pm, 2:15pm, 3:15pm, 4:45pm, 5:55pm, 7:00pm, and 8:05pm. Each show lasts about 25 minutes. I recommend a reservation that begins about 25 minutes before the performance starts. That will give you enough time to be seated and fix a plate before the performance starts and you’ll comfortably be able to enjoy the show during the meal. Afterwards, you’ll have time to chat without the music blaring. Unlike Mo’Rockin, which also appear out on the Morocco promenade, the Musikanten only perform inside the restaurant.
Plate #1. Sorry it isn’t half eaten. Or is it?
But this isn’t DISboards.com. I now have two big Walt Disney World regrets in my life. Back in January, Lynda was gracious enough to invite me to Victoria & Albert’s on their Platinum Plan, which would have meant it was “free” for me. I declined the invitation because I’m an idiot and it was three days after I was getting back from being in Washington and didn’t have a suit here in Florida. One of the dumbest things I’ve ever done. The second is that I didn’t take a picture of my liter of beer. You can see it in the right corner there.
I guess a sort of picture. This will give you a better idea of the size.
Even the drinks menu is nicely themed.
The full liter for $13.00 is really one of the best drink deals in the theme parks and certainly in the World Showcase. We saw the 16 ounce Moretti yesterday at the Italy Pavilion for $9.00. A liter is 33.8140 ounces, so you’re getting more than twice as much beer for $5.00 less. And just your standard “macro import” would run you about $8.00 at the various countries.
During the Food and Wine Festival, a 22 ounce would run you $11.75. So that’s pretty awesome. Note that all four beers were available for the Festival too.
Wine pricing is a little rougher, but I like the choices. The Dr. L Riesling is a nice choice if you’re looking for a bottle tonight and a good value at around $12/bottle.
Most of the light is provided by lamps sporadically placed around the restaurant. It’s dark most of the time.
Food choices (should be everything available):
Bean Salad, Mixed Greens Salad, Cucumber Salad, Tarragon Dressing, Dreamy Herb Dressing
Cabbage Salad, Smoked Rainbow Trout, Beet Salad, Tomato Salad
Shrimp Salad, Sausage Salad, German Pickles, Herring Salad, Macaroni Salad, Potato Salad
Rolls, Pretzel Rolls, Sausage Selection, Butter
German Sausage with Sauerkraut
Meatballs and Meatball’s Sauce
Salmon and Roasted Chicken
Gravy, Spatzle, Sauteed Green Beans
Roasted Pork and Sauerbraten….right?
Curry Ketchup, Ketchup, Sweet Mustard, Mustard, Applesauce, Apricot Chutney
Vanilla Sauce, Red Berry Compote, Not Sure, Black Forest Cake, Bavarian Cheesecake, Vanilla Pudding
Long Apple Strudel
Pot Roast, Potato Dumplings, ?, ?
Display Only. Do Not Engage.
I hope you cared because it took forever to crop those!
The buffet area. There are two sides with virtually identical offerings. As you’re looking at the area, the one on the right seemed to be less busy because it’s further away from most of the tables. Overall, congestion usually isn’t a problem.
This was a very filling buffet. I went in starving and was surprised how full I was after just one plate. And trust me, I can eat. I liked most of the items, in particular several of the cold salads, sausages, bratwurst, and the shrimp. The pretzel bread is amazing. I would have loved to have walked out of there with a dozen of them slung over my shoulder in a bag. And I’m not saying I didn’t. The macaroni & cheese is divine. The only big “miss” was the pot roast I thought. Also on the downside, the Sauerbraten and Roasted Pork were both pretty salty and the “More Potatoes” dish didn’t seem to be cooked properly. I’m also not sure what it is about buffet meat carvers that make them act like it’s the biggest inconvenience in the world to slice you a piece of pork. But it seems to be part of the job description.
The beer I ordered was the Schofferhofer Hefeweizen, served at the perfect temperature in a nice big glass. I like liters of beer because I can look at my mom with a straight face and say, “What? This is only my third.” If you’re looking for something light/as inoffensive as possible, the Pilsner is probably the way to go. The Oktoberfest is also very drinkable and slightly higher in alcohol content (5.5% versus the 4.8% in the Radeberger). The Oktoberfest is a little more interesting overall than the Pilsner. And I like the Hovels too. So you really can’t go wrong. I would probably shy away from the Radeberger Pilsner because it’s available in a lot of grocery stores at $8 for a 6-Pack. For the Hefeweizen, it’s very orange, which is typical of the style. I liked it a lot and it seemed to pair well with most of the food. I do miss the Spaten brews, in particular the Optimator. It’s a better overall beer with a 7.2% alcohol content. It’s also hilarious to offer someone a sip and say, “Girl, I didn’t know you liked to dopplebock.” Dopplebock is the style of the beer.
Service was perhaps too good. It seemed like every time someone looked away from their plate that the server would come by and pick it up. With large beers, children, dancing, etc. there can be a lot of getting up. Otherwise, service from Marla/Brenda was excellent. Drink orders were taken immediately and most sat waiting by the time we returned from the buffet. We had a group of about 20 people and several total bills. She took care of figuring it out early in the meal so we didn’t have to wait later on and didn’t push us out the door. We were there for about two hours, which is longer than they probably wanted.
The ambiance of the restaurant and the entertainment are a lot of fun and a nice bonus. I love the polka music. I don’t usually mind the community aspect of the seating arrangement, but you never know when someone like me is going to sit down. I would guess they would let you move if it came to that. *Awkward*
Ordinarily, Biergarten runs $32.99/adult for dinner and $21.99/adult for lunch. With the Easter upcharge, it was $36.99. That’s in line with most other Disney buffets that don’t feature characters or a picture package. It’s pretty rough, but you’re not going to do much better elsewhere for dinner, especially if you consider the buffet includes the fountain beverage and dessert. I like it for lunch because the offerings are very similar and it’s less expensive.
Dancing during the show.
A special thanks to Scarlett for inviting me along. It was an entertaining evening.
Paul Revere and the Raiders were performing as part of the Flower Power concert series.
You’ve heard of them. Can’t say I approve of the message though!
I want that keyboard!
Yay, no one in line for Spaceship Earth!
Trip advisory! It was very hot on Spaceship Earth! Hotter than it was outside! Like as if the air conditioning wasn’t functioning properly or much at all! To the point where it was hotter on the ride than outside! SHUT IT DOWN!
Just kidding. You don’t have to reschedule your vacation.
The shots came out okay:
Will keep at it. In this case, a faster lens would be helpful. I was using the 24-105mm F4.
I’ll be checking on Rapunzel tomorrow when she moves from her current location in Fairytale Gardens.