What will be our last visit to Magic Kingdom “until further notice” comes to its conclusion, as we head to Columbia Harbour House in Liberty Square for lunch, and then circle around to Tomorrowland to see what’s happening over there.
Around this time last year, Harbour House debuted a new Wedge Salad. The Wedge was very trendy…probably about ten years ago, until restaurants realized that the last thing Americans who order a salad want to do is have to cut up a bunch of lettuce themselves in order to eat it. Served with about ten plump shrimp for eleven dollars, and tossed in a nice zesty zinfandel vinaigrette dressing, it was still a nice, relatively light and potentially healthy option in a theme park that was still dominated by chicken nuggets and Mickey burgers.
Now, your Harbour House greens option is the “Harbour Salad – Mixed Green Salad with Shredded Cheddar Cheese, Apples, Cucumber, Onion, and Apple Cider Vinaigrette” for $9, or with Chicken, as pictured, for $12.
As far as Disney fast food salads go, this one was pretty good. The salad was nicely-dressed with the vinaigrette, which lent a sweet, tangy overall flavor with plenty of fresh, crisp lettuce providing a bed for the other ingredients, which included slices of juicy apple and tomato and crunchy cucumber and onion. It was filling, without being overwhelming, and particularly with the unseasonably-high temperatures, refreshing in the afternoon heat.
Columbia Harbour House remains my favorite Magic Kingdom quick service, offering a nice variety of options:
You can go Full Fried if that’s the direction you want to take it with the chicken, shrimp, and fish, or try something that’s a lot different than what you’ll typically find at Disney World quick services, and ideally something slightly healthier. Since I have nothing else to do “until further notice,” I’ll be updating the website’s quick service reviews so you can pull up the menus, pictures, and thoughts of all of the items at each location in one place.
The $4.49 “Minnie Mouse Chocolate Lava Cake – Chocolate-Chip Lava Cookie served Warm with Buttercream and a Chocolate Minnie Bow” was added to Harbour House’s menu last month.
As far as mass-produced quick service desserts go, this was really good too. The chocolate chip cookie casing is soft for the most part, with crispy edges, and it’s filled with a rich, fudge-like melted chocolate inside. There’s a little bit of buttercream frosting on top that holds the milk chocolate Minnie bow in place. There aren’t a lot of quick service desserts that I would advocate attaching to an order, but this would be a good one to share a couple bites.
Disney had recently debuted this Mary Blair artwork on their beverage cups and disposable popcorn containers.
It’s hard to say whether or not your average Walt Disney World visitor will “get it.”
But at least we’re close to it’s a small world, and the artwork is timeless, even if it doesn’t immediately click for some people.
I ended up enjoying lunch in the expanded outdoor seating area in between Liberty Square Market and Columbia Harbour House, finding it more comfortable than the upstairs seating at Harbour House, which is about 50x more popular than it was a few years ago. Once further notice comes, I’ll probably return to the indoor dining space given the higher humidity. Harbour House’s second floor had gotten so popular that Disney had to put high-top tables up there, so you potentially wouldn’t even have the option of sitting down while you go about your meal.
In my opinion, a theme park lunch should be an opportunity to relax, which is one reason why I recommend considering something like Liberty Tree Tavern:
The Colony Salad is $18 there, versus the $12 I paid for a similar Chicken Salad, but the potential comfort may be worth paying a little more. You can pull up my review of just about everything on the menu at Liberty Tree Tavern here. Sharing an appetizer and entree won’t set you back a whole lot more than picking up two quick service entrees, and you may even have room for that Ooey Gooey Toffee Cake dessert.
I’m on my way to Tomorrowland at 12:40pm, when the average wait for small world is 35 minutes. Using FastPass+ there before lunch certainly wasn’t the biggest time-savings, but I still saved a half hour versus standby, and I appreciated the calmness of the lengthy attraction.
After scanning my ticket/MagicBand at small world, I was eligible to book a 5th FastPass+, so I fired the My Disney Experience app back up:
I was heading for Tomorrowland, and knew that I didn’t want to do Space Mountain, so I tried to key in on a convenient return time for Buzz Lightyear. Here on the first refresh at 11:47am, the first return time for The Barnstormer is more than four hours in the future, with Buzz not initially being available until 5:55pm, which is over six hours in the future. That’s a good indication that FastPass+ availability is tight, even on a day with below-average crowds and wait times. We’ll be able to refresh FastPass+ availability to find earlier return times, but it’s going to take some work, particularly if you’re searching for a group of four or more.
After a few minutes of refreshing, I scored a Buzz FastPass+ for 12:20pm – 1:20pm, which will fit into my itinerary perfectly, as I’ll arrive there after lunch around 12:50pm.
I’m passing by Peter Pan’s Flight at 12:40pm with its usual 60-minute standby wait. You’ll remember that I waited about ten minutes first thing in the morning, after enjoying Mickey’s welcome to the Park from the center of the Castle Forecourt Stage.
Earlier on in our day, I mentioned that waiting 75 minutes for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at 9:15am was just about the worst place you could be, considering so many other attractions were either walk-ons or would have waits under ten minutes at that point. Here just before 1pm, Mine Train’s posted wait is 90 minutes as wait times have peaked just about everywhere else. That’s “only” 15 minutes longer than the wait was much earlier in the day.
You’d be much better off waiting that extra 15 minutes for the Mine Train now, when the posted wait for Winnie the Pooh is eight times longer than what was posted early in the morning, and 20 times longer than what I actually waited. As always, it makes sense to abandon your plans to visit a super-headliner if you’re running later than you’re expecting. It might make sense to rope drop Seven Dwarfs Mine Train if you can arrive by 8:15am and be among the first to arrive, but it makes much less sense if you arrive at 8:50am and arrive at the attraction much later, only to wait an exorbitant amount of time. Flexibility, and knowledge of which attractions see wait times that rise fastest, are the keys to a successful morning touring.
Crowds remain light as we head into Tomorrowland with the Speedway on our left and Cosmic Ray’s on the right.
The PeopleMover had been down for several days due to technical trouble leading up to the day of my visit.
In addition to taking a high-capacity attraction out of Magic Kingdom’s lineup, we also like to ride the PeopleMover to get a better look at the Tron construction. Instead, this is about as good as we’re going to do from this side. You can still sort of see it behind the PeopleMover track.
With a very steady stream of FastPass+ returners at Space Mountain, the posted wait is 80 minutes there. You may remember that I had a chance to grab a 12:30pm FastPass+ for the indoor roller coaster, but passed based on my fragility.
Astro Orbiter, which doesn’t offer FastPass+, looked to be sporting a wait in the vicinity of 30 minutes. That wait isn’t going to get any more comfortable as temperatures rise. Like you, I’m not exactly ecstatic about a stay-at-home mandate, but Central Florida has been seeing record-high temperatures this week with 95+ degree highs over the weekend. So at least we’re not missing some cool spring days outside.
Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin was sitting at “just” 25 minutes at 12:50pm, which is exactly half of what’s posted at this point in the day, on average.
If you haven’t been to Buzz in a while, then the queue layout may surprise you, as we wind around the (empty) FastPass+ switchbacks.
Since FastPass+ was first implemented a great number of years ago now, seeing Buzz’s FP+ return line stretch back around outside, and even past the entrance to Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor, wasn’t all that uncommon.
This is never a sign that you want to see at a Walt Disney World theme park.
Unfortunately the queue reconfiguration means those with FastPass+ won’t get to see the Buzz animatronic in the queue.
Unless you’re able to peek around this wall for a moment in time.
But even then, we might be able to catch a wing. Disney removed a lot of the details in the standby queue as well, so you’re not necessarily missing a whole lot being blocked behind a wall.
We’re also being rerouted into a slightly longer hallway before we board our space cruiser:
With FastPass+, Buzz took ten minutes, which is below average given a much-higher number of people using FastPass+. They’re probably all eating lunch at Cosmic Ray’s.
Once construction gets underway again, we should see Tomorrowland’s overhaul continue.
At the moment, reworking the fins that line the second story of the buildings in this area, along with a fresh paint job, seem to be the the priority. It’s possible that some issues with construction, and potential safety, are what caused the PeopleMover to shut down for a few days prior to the theme parks closing in their entirety.
Overall, our last visit to Magic Kingdom for some time went better than expected, thanks in large part to peak level staffing on Disney’s part, and only an average number of people showing up by lunchtime.
I was able to accomplish:
- Enjoy Main Street and watch the Welcome Show with Mickey: 8am – 9am
- Ride Peter Pan’s Flight: 9:02am – 9:16am
- Ride The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh: 9:19am – 9:27am
- Ride Dumbo: 9:30am – 9:37am
- Ride The Barnstormer: 9:38am – 9:45am
- Journey of the Little Mermaid: 9:50am – 10:01am
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train with FastPass+: 10:04am – 10:18am
- Pirates of the Caribbean: 10:33am – 10:55am
- Splash Mountain with FastPass+: 11:01am – 11:23am
- Big Thunder Mountain with FastPass+: 11:24am – 11:36am
- it’s a small world with FastPass+: 11:44am – 12:10pm
- Lunch at Columbia Harbour House: 12:11pm – 12:40pm
- Buzz Lightyear’s Space Range Spin: 12:52pm – 1:03pm
At this point, I could continue searching for additional FastPass+ opportunities on the My Disney Experience app or website, while continuing to mix in high-capacity, low-priority attractions. In this area, Carousel of Progress and Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor would both be good opportunities to get off my feet in some air-conditioning. The quality of the FastPass+ experiences that I’m able to secure will come down to my propensity to click the refresh button, the number of people that I’m searching for, and luck. Like with trying to join a Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance boarding group, you’ll have more luck with more people searching for FP+ availability. Plenty of times, one member of our group has seen a FastPass+ return window come up on their screen that the rest of us hadn’t. So if you’re visiting with two, three, four, or more people, consider having everyone look for additional FP+. Waiting in line or for shows to begin are prime times to be refreshing availability, and a great excuse to no longer have to converse with those around you.
Walt Disney World is now closed “until further notice,” with Disney’s announcement coming on the afternoon of March 27th, or just about five days before they were officially set to reopen. Universal has committed to closing through April 19th, with the likelihood that an extension until the end of the month is coming down the pipeline in the future.
The above picture was taken at 1:10pm, and the lack of people is almost unbelievable considering we’re talking about spring break in the middle of March. Once the Parks eventually do reopen, this will probably “feel” crowded, for at least the first few weeks, as travel capacity increases and health concerns eventually alleviate. We’ll certainly be back out there to reassess how things are looking once the go-ahead order arrives.