In what has become an increasingly rare occurrence, there are a few things of interest happening at Walt Disney World that don’t include a wall at Animal Kingdom moving from one side of the walkway to the other.
Disney installed guard rails along the Mickey floral to further persuade parents against letting their children run amok along the rockwork, only to have junior fall and then demand compensation because how could your stupidity be your own fault.
A scrim is still up on the cinema as the Cinderella Castle Crane continues standing tall in the distance.
Portions of Main Street were roped off with “wet paint” signs, which didn’t deter a stream of kids from ducking the ropes and plowing forward.
Both sides of the Hub are largely free from walls as the west side was unveiled on the 25th, with the east side following suit on the afternoon of the 27th.
The hub expansion adds a lot of walkway space on both sides.
The project’s principal goal is to facilitate faster and safer exits after Wishes, when this area gets slammed with 20,000+ people.
The Main Street Bypass is a big part of that plan. It connects the area between The Chapeau and Tony’s Restaurant on Main Street near the entrance/exit with the area in between Plaza Restaurant and Tomorrowland Terrace. Using the Bypass avoids the crowds that screech to a near standstill most evenings during the time in between the first Electrical Parade ending and Wishes.
In the future, it’s expected that both sides of the hub area will offer FastPass+ viewing for Wishes. You can see the semi-permanent installation of the Mickey touchpoints at the entrance to the east FP+ viewing area.
And on the west side.
With Wishes scheduled at 10pm, the area was restricted to FP+ users a full two hours early.
I’m standing in the center of the Wishes FP+ area and you can sort of see the Move It, Shake It, Selfie It Parade in the distance. The Wishes FP+ area isn’t ideal for Main Street Electrical Parade viewing because the Parade is so far away, but if you really don’t want the hassle of guarding a separate spot, it would sort of work if you only want to enjoy the music and see the tops of some of the floats.
While the amount of water has been reduced in front of Tomorrowland Terrace, there’s still a lot of it and it’s still pretty.
Back to the Casey’s Corner/Crystal Palace area, I’m not sure how obvious it is, but only the area circled is reserved for FP+ viewing. There are walkways on all sides.
This lousy picture was taken from the Wishes FP+ area looking back at the walkway, which is largely kept clear during Wishes and the Celebrate the Magic projection show that precedes it. Disney is allowing one or two rows of people to stand and watch the shows on the far side of the walkway.
A few more pictures of the Plaza/east side during the day just in case you missed the 4000 other sites that have posted the exact same thing:
And the Casey’s Corner/west side:
Hopefully Disney sprung for the ketchup-resistant AstroTurf as the area largely serves as a makeshift picnic space for people that can’t find a table after ordering a $10 hot dog from Casey’s Corner.
All in all, the hub expansion seems to be a major positive for the Park, aiding in guest flow and expanding the amount of Wishes FastPass+ viewing.
We booked Wishes FP+ for the first day it was supposed to be offered – February 27th. The plan was to see it on the east/Plaza side. We approached the area at 9:40pm and it was jam packed because Disney wasn’t using it for FP+ on this particular night, potentially because they didn’t expect this side to be done on time.
And considering this is what it looked like just 24 hours earlier, it’s hard to blame them.
We proceeded to the west/Casey’s Corner area, which was reserved for those with FP+.
With 5 minutes until Celebrate the Magic, the area was wide open.
And it remained that way through the end of Wishes.
I will stress that just because there are so few people on night 1 doesn’t mean that there won’t be more people moving forward, particularly considering the east side was not reserved for FP+ yet. Disney is likely looking at how many people can (un?)comfortably fit inside the space.
I saw a few early reports from people complaining that lamp posts blocked the view of the projection show and fireworks.
It’s true that there are lamp posts marring the view a bit, but I don’t think anyone that isn’t setting up an annoyingly large tripod to take long exposure shots of the fireworks will mind.
And I’d take a lamp post a hundred feet in the distance over a 12-year old on dad’s shoulders right in front of my face any day of the week.
There were so few people around that I was able to set my camera down on the ground and take a few casual shots from the back of the area.
Overall, it sort of remains to be seen what the average user’s experience will be with Wishes FP+ once Disney figures out how many to allocate each night. The Parade FP+ area isn’t overrun by any stretch of the imagination, so there isn’t necessarily much concern that Disney will try to stuff 1,000 people in a space that can comfortably accommodate 500. Moving forward, we can expect Wishes FP+ users to have an above average, comfortable view of both the projection show and fireworks.
One thing to keep in mind with the late night FP+ is that it does limit your ability to make 4th, 5th, etc. FP+ reservations because you need to use your initial allotment of three before you can make a 4th. Wishes will not be available as a 4th FP+ unless someone cancels. Wishes FP+ would be best on a day where you plan to arrive late – perhaps after visiting Animal Kingdom without FP+ in the morning or on an arrival night. Or you may find that a mostly hassle free viewing of the fireworks is worth giving up a potential 4th FP+ for The Magic Carpets of Aladdin. The choice is yours.
Construction continues in front of Cinderella Castle.
From the other side.
Walls still surround areas closer to the Castle, which will see the next round of work.
Good news for non-smokers as the smoking section behind Cinderella Castle on the walkway from Fantasyland down to where Cosmic Ray’s/Merida are has been officially removed.
The other major newsworthy note is that Be Our Guest Restaurant began accepting lunch reservations on February 25th. Like just about anything Disney does, securing a reservation on the first day was largely a fiasco for the first few hours with people unable to get through online or by phone. But by the early afternoon, reservations were seemingly available every day and I was able to book a reservation for the next day at 11:55am. Most of Magic Kingdom’s bigwigs were out front watching the process. If you know what the tops of their heads look like, you’ll see Phil Holmes (Gary Busey’s cousin and the Vice President of the Park), Maryanne Smith (General Manager of MK Food and Beverage), and a couple others. It was a good thing I was wearing my fake mustache glasses.
We arrived at 11:50am for our 11:55am reservation and the cast member out front scanned Lisa’s MagicBand. After the fourth or fifth attempt, the reservation popped up and we proceeded to pick up a red rose with an RFID chip that allows the cast member with your food to identify where you are sitting inside the restaurant. Theoretically they can use your MagicBand instead.
You have the option of customizing and ordering your food up to five minutes prior to your reservation time via the Disney World website or My Disney Experience app.
If you do that, you’ll bypass 10 to 15 minutes worth of line waiting for an ordering kiosk to open up.
Screens explain the kiosk ordering process:
The menu hasn’t changed recently:
The website already had reviews of every adult entree other than the vegetarian quiche. The orange eclair is also absent.
The kiosks provide pictures of all the food items and are somewhat intuitive. You touch the ‘+’ on items that you’d like to add and can pull up additional information by pressing the “show details” button.
Too much information perhaps. It turns out the Vegetable Quiche has an insane 44 grams of fat, 318 milligrams of cholesterol, and 1196 miligrams of sodium. To put that in perspective, that’s more fat than a McDonald’s Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese. That’s also more cholesterol than a 40-piece Chicken McNuggets and more sodium than four large fries. And if you’re wondering whether or not I still ordered it…the answer is yes.
Disney continues to pretend like they care about the health of your kids through the Mickey Check initiative, which seems to be synonymous with only offering food your kids aren’t going to want to eat. It’d be nice if they could reduce the amount of fat in the adult vegetarian entrees to something around a McDonald’s Big Mac, which “only” has 27 grams of fat.
The ordering process makes picking Kids’ sides easy.
Lisa ordered the $8.49 “Chip’s Delight” – Grilled Cheese with Tomato Soup and Green Beans.
This one is squarely aimed at pleasing most kids’ simple palates. The sandwich is just a thin layer of Kraft-Singles-quality cheese on white bread. The soup has the flavor and consistency of Chef Boyardee Spaghetti O’s without the pasta. I don’t necessarily mean this to sound overwhelmingly negative as this is likely exactly what kids are after, but I don’t think it’s a good substitute for an adult looking for a smaller meal.
My $9.49 Baked Heavy Cream and Half and Half – Mushroom, Zucchini, Bell Pepper, Onion and Chive Quiche served with Baby Lettuce coated with Champagne Vinaigrette.
So was the quiche worth shortening my life immeasurably? Absolutely not – it was almost completely devoid of any flavor whatsoever. I’m not even sure you can pick out where a vegetable might be hiding other than a speck of pepper near the top. I didn’t run into any identifiable amount of mushrooms or zucchini. It might be classified as “good” if it had 90% less fat, sodium, and cholesterol, but considering how terrible-for-you this thing is, you want to avoid it at all costs.
I don’t usually supply recipes on the site because really…we both know you’re having a Lean Cuisine and a 1.5 liter bottle of Woodbridge for dinner, but in this one instance I’ll provide the salad recipe should you wish to recreate it to impress someone or something:
- One handful spring mix
- Two tablespoons Ken’s Champagne Vinaigrette (I recommend purchasing it by the gallon)
- Mix together
The $4.19 Éclair à l’Orange – Custard Filling with zested Orange and finished with Chocolate Ganache was pretty sad looking on the plate – the four bites nearly collapsing on themselves in fear before the fork even hit it. I’m not a big orange-custard-filling person – that sort of citrus-without-the-citrus taste is pretty artificial even if there are actual oranges involved. Unless you’re on the Dining Plan, my recommendation would be to keep your four bucks to put toward a much larger cupcake or other treat later.
Despite having nothing positive to say about the food from this particular meal, the reservation system is a major improvement for those able to snag reservations.
From return tickets, to FastPass+ reservations only available to guests staying on-site and opening exactly 27 days in advance (sometimes), to 45+ minute standby waits, and everything in between over the last 2+ years, the reservation system brings some certainty and “fairness” to the process.
And I do recommend booking lunch. You can read my thoughts on the venue and every other item in this post. You want to book your lunch as close to 180 days out as possible.
One big bonus is that the fountain beverage cups are somehow still sitting out by the beverage dispensers. I’m not saying you don’t have to pay. I’m just saying they’re there.
We exited at 12:35pm to this line to order. This would add about ten minutes to your wait if you didn’t pre-order (which allows you to bypass the line).
So to recap:
- Arived at 11:50am for an 11:55am reservation and walked into the Castle.
- Ordered at the kiosk at 12pm.
- Received our food at 12:15pm.
- Exited at 12:35pm.
So the whole process took about 45 minutes. To be conservative, I’d budget an hour.
The website’s long running advice on experiencing Be Our Guest lunch with a short wait was to get in line right around 2pm. This allowed you to not only avoid the lunch rush, but also not waste precious morning touring time waiting for a fast food sandwich by getting in line around 10am. I circled back around right at 2pm and they were admitting groups without reservations. Back at noon, they were telling people the restaurant was “reservation only.” So if you can’t get a reservation, I’d try approaching the restaurant with a friendly smile around 2pm. If you absolutely must eat lunch here or the world will end, you’d want to start by approaching the restaurant entrance before 10am to check on availability. If they say no, just keep trying. Once 2pm arrives, your chances should go up.
Speaking of potentially better treats worth your money, as mentioned a while ago, Storybook Treats to the right of The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh offers two newish frozen yogurt flavors.
It’s difficult making cherry flavored ice cream/yogurt taste natural and not artificially sweet. Storybook’s $3.99 Orchard Cherry almost works – it’s still a little too sugary with a tinge of artificial flavoring, but it’s refreshingly fruity and a little different than the usual vanilla/chocolate.
Cake Batter was much more fake tasting and far too sugary, to the point where I “felt” like the sugar was crystallizing around my teeth as I ate it, if that makes any sense. Since it doesn’t, I’ll just say that it was very artificial tasting. Not bad necessarily, but you’re probably going to want to share it – the sweetness is pretty overwhelming.
Of course, there’s always swirl, though it’s a pretty chintzy size for $3.69. Still a better value than a Be Our Guest dessert though, in my opinion.
A few other things of interest from our February 26th visit. Tinker Bell waits remain low – this is at 11:30am, when waits for Mickey are typically peaking.
Mary Poppins was meeting with two penguins in between The Chapeau and Tony’s Restaurant on Main Street.
With most of the construction closer to Casey’s Corner/Plaza Restaurant complete, we’re seeing new flowers planted all around.
First day jitters. Do you see what’s wrong with this sign (that was fixed in the middle of the next day)?
Noon Fantasyland crowds.
We’re in the lull between Presidents Week crowds and spring break crowds with an overall crowd level of “3.” Magic Kingdom was not recommended on Thursday February 26th with the morning Extra Magic Hour attracting resort guests and pushing up wait times:
With the relatively low overall crowd level, Thursday’s waits are far from unmanageable, but remain higher than the recommended days around it. Compare these wait times to what I professed would be some of the lowest of the year back on January 28:
Peak and average waits are lower virtually across the board with the lower crowd level and recommendation.
Here is the full chart for Tuesday February 24th, a highly recommended day with an 11pm close:
It also includes the average wait times from February 24-28 to give you an idea about how the recommendations affect wait times. One thing to note is the weather was terribly wet on Saturday the 28th, which pushed down wait times. The 2/28 chart also includes wait times during evening Extra Magic Hours from 1am to 2am, when wait times are reliably nonexistent at most attractions.
Here’s the full chart for the most recommended day of the week, Wednesday the 25th with a “2” as the overall crowd level:
This isn’t quite as good as it gets, but it’s almost as good as it gets. And in the FastPass+ age with record attendance, that includes triple digit peak waits at Peter Pan’s Flight, two hour waits for the Mine Train, 40+ minute waits at Pirates of the Caribbean, and hour waits for Jungle Cruise.
The 26th again for the sake of being chronological:
And the 28th:
With 12+ hours of rain, waits on Saturday were significantly lower than they would be given clear skies. To compare, check out Animal Kingdom, the most recommended Park, on Saturday:
While DINOSAUR and Primeval Whirl are still posted at 20 minutes in the afternoon, both would be walk-ons virtually all day.
Rain isn’t kind to Test Track, which was closed most of the day, in turn pushing up wait times at some of the indoor attractions. Still, rain or not, you don’t want to be in standby at Soarin’ from 9:45am-8pm just about any day of the year.
And Hollywood Studios for the sake of completion:
People tend to flock to the Studios when it’s raining because most of its attractions are indoors. If the forecast calls for rain, Magic Kingdom is usually your best bet as far as wait times are concerned because most casual vacationers want sunshine in their pictures more than they want to wait 10 minutes for Space Mountain instead of 90.
Back to the afternoon of the 26th with Fairy Godmother meeting near the New Fantasyland courtyard walls to relatively short lines.
Far fewer strollers than the post covering Presidents Day Weekend.
No waits for a Fantasyland FP+ kiosk.
Light Old Fantasyland crowds at 12:45pm.
We rode Peter Pan’s Flight the following evening at 7:10pm with FP+ and an 80 minute posted standby wait.
It was 10 minutes between getting in line and being back out front.
Heavier in Frontierland.
30 minutes at Big Thunder at 12:50pm.
With FastPass+, it was exactly 15 minutes between the time we got in the FP+ line and the time we were back out in front of the ride.
35 minutes at Pirates is average these days.
The ride is expected to be closed from May 11th through September 25th.
With FP+, it was 15 minutes between the time we got in line and were back out front.
No extended queue necessary at the Treehouse.
In Tomorrowland, Sonny Eclipse is back hosting meals at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe.
We grabbed dinner here on the 27th. Ribs are still only available after 4pm, but they are no longer offered as their own entree.
I ordered the Combo, which comes out to a whopping $17.25 with tax.
It’s been a couple years since I ordered it. On the Dining Plan, it’s a no brainer because of the high cost. Out of pocket, the quality probably doesn’t justify the price, though it’s one of the more filling meals on property – you get half of a small chicken and three meaty/fatty ribs, in addition to the side of beans and mashed potatoes.
Lisa ordered the $9.99 Vegetable Burger with a side of green beans. Considering you get a bun and a microwaved-from-frozen patty for the equivalent of eight bucks, the chicken combo might look like a better value, even at twice the money.
This was incredibly bland before it was dressed up with toppings from the bar.
Nothing has changed on the chicken nugget front, though this style of thinner fast food fry is now ubiquitous property-wide.
The Tomorrowland Arcade is still walled off, though the games themselves are all still present behind them.
A tour of Tomorrowland on the PeopleMover:
Rocketower Plaza Stage now shares the same paint job as the Vacation Club booth.
Buzz Lightyear with a 25-minute posted wait at 2:50pm. It was 12 minutes between the time we got in line with FP+ and the time we were back outside the entrance.
One last FP+ time for your enjoyment, we got in line on 2/27 for Mine Train at 9pm with a 70 minute posted wait.
And were back out front 12 minutes later.
That’s what’s going on.