We’ll take a visit to Magic Kingdom now that our series at Disney’s Hollywood Studios has (thankfully) concluded. If you’re wondering what touring that theme park from the afternoon through close looked like, including whether or not we had success making it through all three Toy Story Land attractions and over to Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway in the last hour operation, then you might pull up this post. Now moving on to greener pastures, we’ll enjoy a leisurely walk up Main Street, ride the Omnibus up and down the main drag, and check out how the Cinderella Castle spruce up for the 50th anniversary is going. We’ll follow that up with a Fantasyland rope drop along with the usual run of pictures, touring tips, and tangential rants.
Daylight Saving Time, or the lack thereof, always seems to have more of an effect than you’d expect from a one-hour time change. Somehow, it’s always light out now as we pass by a couple of buses dropping guests off at 7:28am.
At the time, construction was continuing on a new walkway from the Contemporary to Magic Kingdom. That should be the pink pathway on the far right of the picture.
An expanded security checkpoint that will eventually be used to screen guests arriving by Disney bus was nearing completion.
We may also see the expanded bag check used for the various boat launches, so the screening process doesn’t happen so close to the docks.
If you’ve visited over the last several months, you’ve probably seen this setup if you’re arriving on a Disney bus. Security for those guests arriving at the Transportation and Ticket Center, whether it be via their own vehicles, on charter buses, or a variety of other vessels, is typically more congested as construction continues at those checkpoints across the water as well.
Construction projects around property have reportedly ceased during the theme park closures, though it’s possible that we’ll see things ramp back up in the coming weeks so Disney can take advantage of the fact that they have 12 extra hours per day to work on projects without disrupting guests and the overall atmosphere of the Parks. On the other hand, it’s unlikely that Disney wants to write down bigger losses given the lack of revenue across just about all of their segments other than streaming on Disney+. And even then, the fact that you can now stream Frozen II, and will be able to stream Onward come April 3rd, is probably an overall loss compared to what those movies would have made in additional box office receipts and home video sales. It will be interesting to see if projects end up happening faster or slower than originally anticipated. The Ratatouille ride over at Epcot looked like it was slated for a Memorial Day Weekend opening, but you’d have to think that would be pushed back for a variety of reasons, including low attendance and an assortment of operational changes once the Parks do reopen. A lot is obviously up in the air at the moment.
It’s 7:32am, which is an arrival that’s earlier than necessary unless you have a pre-opening breakfast reservation at Be Our Guest, Crystal Palace, Plaza Restaurant, or Cinderella’s Royal Table. I’m here early to see how much crowds increase throughout the morning and to enjoy the sights and sounds with far fewer people around. Just gazing out across Seven Seas Lagoon as the sun rises over the Contemporary, Polynesian, and Grand Floridian Resorts for a couple of minutes is worth the early arrival, and a sight that most of us are probably looking forward to returning to sooner rather than later.
On our last rope drop at Animal Kingdom, we ran into an “actual” opening later than we had experienced before, which gave us less of an advantage in the early morning for a number of reasons, including the fact that more people have an opportunity to arrive and increase wait times as the morning progresses. With Flight of Passage actually starting operation at 8:30am with a 9am open, it means that we’ll be done with that ride around 8:50am, finished with Na’vi River Journey around 9:05am, and at Kilimanjaro Safaris around 9:10am. With Flight of Passage starting operation at 9am, it means we’re done with the ride around 9:20am, then done with Na’vi River Journey around 9:45am, and not to Kilimanjaro Safaris until about 45 minutes later, when a lot more people will have already had an opportunity to get in line before us.
Over the last few years, regular guests without any sort of early-morning reservations have been let inside Magic Kingdom around 7:47am with the regular 9am open, while those with pre-opening breakfast reservations, tours, and a variety of other early morning activities were let in about two minutes earlier. Guests with pre-opening reservations etc. use the entrance touchpoints on the far left and are then held in the courtyard until that same 7:45am
We experienced that 7:45am rush ourselves last month, when I reviewed the paid Early Morning Magic event with the Cinderella character bonus.
Back to our most recent visit, those without a reservation to grant us earlier access were held until 8am, and then released onto Main Street, where the majority of the stores are open, in addition to Starbucks and Guest Services inside City Hall. Unlike Animal Kingdom, this won’t affect our touring priorities or timing, as we’ll be released after the Welcome Show concludes at 8:59am either way. It does give us 15 minutes less to enjoy Main Street, though.
In case anyone needs an Omnibus ride up Main Street this afternoon pic.twitter.com/VjpQCZr1ST
— josh (@easywdw) March 14, 2020
This time around, Peter Pan’s Flight will be my first stop. It’s a moderate priority in the grand scheme of things, which means I’m not in much of a hurry to race up Main Street and stand there for an hour so I’m in the best possible position to be the first person there. If Seven Dwarfs Mine Train was my first stop, then I’d want to be waiting in that holding area to the right of Cinderella Castle and directly on the path towards Mad Tea Party by 8:15am. For Space Mountain, hanging out in the area in front of the bridge over to Tomorrowland by 8:40am or so would be smart. The same is true for those rope dropping a priority in Adventureland, like Jungle Cruise, or a priority in Frontierland, like Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. We’ll take a look at crowds in those spots once we shift our focus to touring strategy in the next Part.
For now, I’ll enjoy a ride up Main Street on the Omnibus. If it’s not the most glamorous way to travel, then it’s certainly the most unique. You can ask the driver if you or someone in your group can sit up front. If that spot is taken, then the upper level offers an interesting vantage point.
Other vehicles also travel up and down Main Street, with these smaller cars typically transporting one or two groups, making for a more private experience.
You’ll board any of these vehicles just inside the entrance in the street around the Flag Pole. The Omnibus pulls up right in front of Tony’s Town Square and offers a good opportunity to race away from the restaurant even faster than you could on foot.
As the morning progresses, the Omnibus will become more and more popular as people realize that it’s a real thing that they can ride.
We can ride back towards the train station too pic.twitter.com/sizef4X0Zf
— josh (@easywdw) March 20, 2020
But you can also board the vehicles in front of Cinderella Castle and then ride back around to the Train Station and Tony’s. It’s not uncommon for there to be just one or two people headed in that direction, since it’s opposite of where you’ll find the attractions and upcoming Welcome Show. Typically, your driver will require you to disembark and then climb back on if you’d like to take a round trip, so you can enjoy the walk up Main Street, then board the Omnibus and take it back to the train station, and then either re-board or hop on another vehicle for the convenient drive back up Main Street. The later in the morning it gets, the more people you’ll get to honk at.
I took the opportunity to head up to the Main Street Train Station, which remains open for guests to peruse, even if the Railroad is expected to be closed for the next year-plus for Tron construction in Tomorrowland:
For what may have been a full year, one of Disney’s steam trains was parked up here for guests’ closer inspection and photo ops.
After Magic Kingdom reopens, we may see the train move again, but it was most recently stationed in Fantasyland at Storybook Circus. It would certainly be neat to get a better look at the Frontierland station if they move the train exhibition over there.
Refurbishment projects continued around Main Street, including on City Hall’s facade.
Streamlining these projects is potentially unlikely, but it probably depends on how long the closures last and what kind of safety protocols Disney and their construction partners can enact in the meantime.
Disney is apparently building another Main Street bypass on the other side of Main Street…
In between Casey’s Corner/The Emporium and Crystal Palace/Baby Care.
You may be familiar with the bypass on the other side of Main Street, which is primarily used in the hour leading up to the nighttime fireworks and then in the half hour or so after Happily Ever After concludes. The bypass functions as an easier and less-congested walkway for guests to enter or leave the Park with Main Street typically full of guests waiting for the nighttime spectacular and/or moving very slowly towards the exit after. You may have also walked through the bypass on the Tomorrowland side, which also starts to the left of Tony’s Town Square, before Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween or Very Merry Christmas Parties. Along that route, you’d pick up your first bag of Halloween candy or first Christmas cookie.
It makes sense that they would want a bypass on the other side of Main Street, since there are obviously a considerable number of people over there too. Of course, part of the plan is probably for some number of guests to head through The Emporium on their way out instead, but it’s likely that those just trying to barrel through to the exit actually disrupt those who are trying to shop, potentially to the point where those looking to spend money would give up and put off those purchases until the next day.
Of course, the biggest project currently underway is the transformation of Cinderella Castle.
Last month, Disney offered this concept art for the “newly-enhanced Cinderella Castle” that is currently undergoing a “bold, shimmering[,] and royal makeover.”
If you thought the single crane that Disney uses to hang and take down the Castle Dreamlights in the fall/winter is ruining your vacation, then you should check out what the Castle looks like with all of these cherry pickers surrounding it.
The Castle “literally” looks like its sprouted spider legs as we take a look from a variety of vantage points. For all we know, by the time we’re eligible to return, the Castle may have walked off:
It will be interesting to see what the Castle looks like after painting concludes…
And how close the final color comes to Pepto-Bismol. An economic downturn is potentially not the best time to debut your new golden castle, either, although I’ll admit that I’m making similar upgrades to my shanty, at least if adding indoor plumbing is akin to wrapping your castle turrets in 24-karat gold.
The hour or so before Magic Kingdom officially opens, from 8am to 8:55am, is also a good opportunity to scope out some shopping opportunities. You may not want to purchase anything that you’ll have to carry around all day, but come 11am, there will be a lot more people milling about in here. Before the Park officially opens, you can browse to your heart’s content without much interruption and then quickly return to grab what you liked on the way out. Package pickup and sending your purchases back to your Disney resort also remain potential options if you’re nervous that something might sell out or don’t want to deal with the crowds later in the day.
The calm atmosphere of the early morning is also a great opportunity to enjoy some of the water features, flowers, landscaping, and details that may be more difficult to appreciate later in the day:
Hopefully, the Cinderella Castle project will be finished up sooner rather than later, whether the projects are able to eventually proceed during the closure, or if they get going in earnest once the Parks reopen. Considering how much Disney was pulling back when times were good, it seems like a massive decrease in profits and revenue doesn’t bode well for future investment, at least in the near-term. But you never know. I’m trying to play the hopeful card to the best of my ability.
In the next Part, we’ll check out how quickly morning crowds develop at the various holding areas in front of Magic Kingdom’s six Lands, and then get going with our morning at Peter Pan’s Flight and beyond.