We head out to Disney’s Magic Kingdom for one last rope drop prior to the theme park closures that started a week ago, on March 16th. In the first Part of this series, we took a nice walk around Main Street, focusing on the flowers, water features, details, and serene atmosphere that you’ll find inside the Park between 8am and 9am with the regular 8am open. Even if you’re not planning on rope dropping a super priority like Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, it may be worth arriving a little early to enjoy the sights and sounds of Main Street when it will be less congested than any other part of the day, outside of an hour or more after the fireworks crowd exits at the very end of the night.
This is 8:30am on the bridge leading into Tomorrowland. About 80% of these people are headed for Space Mountain first thing, with 9% breaking off towards Buzz Lightyear, and another 9% on their way to Tomorrowland Speedway. At least 2% don’t know where they are going, where they’ll end up, or what they’re currently doing. There’s probably somebody over here thinking that they’re inching closer and closer to Splash Mountain, which I suppose would be technically true if they backed up a little bit towards the entrance to Adventureland.
Wait times will end up being about 15% lower than average over the course of the day, which likely wouldn’t have been the case if there wasn’t so much uncertainty over health and travel. Once the theme parks reopen, it’s likely that crowds and wait times will be even lower than what we experience today. How long those low crowds last will depend on how much lead time we have between Disney’s announcement that they’ll reopen and when the actual date falls, in addition to how quickly overall travel capacity increases and what sorts of offers Disney makes to try to lure people back in the face of increasing economic hardship. Currently, Disney hasn’t officially extended the theme park closures past March 31st, though it seems like they will have no other choice. It will be easier for the company to keep the theme parks closed if they’re able to secure billions in loans from the government in order to pay its employees, rather than laying most of them off come April 1st. We’ll certainly know more in the coming days. With fewer than ten days until the current March 31st cutoff, I’m sure there are people anxiously waiting to hear what, if anything, Disney has up its sleeves. With Easter coming April 12th, and the weeks leading up to the holiday historically being some of the most expensive and busiest of the year, we’re looking at a lot of disappointed people and a lot of lost revenue.
By 8:45am, there’s a much steadier stream of people heading towards The Hub than what we saw in the videos in the first Part of the series, when I was “literally” the only person on the Omnibus that’s currently bound for Cinderella Castle on the left.
With so many attractions at Magic Kingdom, it’s relatively easy to make your first stop of the day a major priority that doesn’t necessarily take a lot of effort to make it to in front of most other guests. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train remains the highest priority, and really the only attraction that requires an arrival around 8am to eventually enjoy a short wait after the Park opens at 9am. Space Mountain is the second-highest priority, where it makes sense to be positioned on the bridge into Tomorrowland around 8:40am. Above is the crowd headed to Adventureland and Frontierland at 8:50am, or about five minutes before the Welcome Show featuring Mickey Mouse begins. If you joined the group now, and were the last person to arrive at Jungle Cruise, Big Thunder, or Splash first thing, then you’d wait less than ten minutes.
Ahead on the left is the crowd waiting in front of the path that leads to Liberty Square straight across or Fantasyland ahead and to the right.
Potentially, you could move more quickly to either Peter Pan’s Flight or Big Thunder Mountain from the Liberty Square holding area instead of the route that we’re going to end up taking to Peter Pan. Personally, when I’m not rushing to the Mine Train, I like to watch the Welcome Show front and center and then begin my day by walking through Cinderella Castle. Unless you’re a staunch veteran of visiting Walt Disney World, I usually recommend keying in on an attraction other than the Mine Train for your first ride on your first day at Magic Kingdom, just so you can avoid that rush and the potential stress of arriving early enough and then hurrying over to the attraction’s entrance. You can certainly do the Mine Train thing, but you’ll be positioned in a spot where you can’t see much or any of the Welcome Show, and the walk to the Mine Train is basically the least pleasant way to start the day. Those with pre-booked FastPass+ at Seven Dwarfs Mine Train are the best off. If you can’t score a FastPass+ for Mine Train or another priority before the day of your visit, then you could refresh FastPass+ availability throughout the day, trying to capture someone else’s canceled/changed experience. I’d rather refresh FP+ for 45 minutes during lunch, when I’m enjoying a cold beverage, air-conditioning, and the promise of food, than waiting being cramped together for an hour waiting for the Park to open and the rush to Mine Train to start. Of course, we typically begin our day doing just that, as it’s a fool-proof way to enjoy the Mine Train without having to worry about refreshing the app, and also puts us in a great position to continue waiting less time for other attractions.
There are few classier ways to arrive for Mickey’s welcome than the Omnibus, which is dropping off a couple dozen people in front of Cinderella Castle a few minutes before the show starts.
I’ve seen a number of strange things during my ten years on the ground covering theme parks in Florida.
But watching about a dozen construction workers across a half dozen cherry pickers actively working on cleaning, priming, and painting Cinderella Castle during the Welcome Show is up there on my list of oddities.
Pulling the cherry pickers down to ground level for the five-minute duration of the show may not have been practical, but it certainly made for a ‘”unique” experience, particularly considering their bright orange color and spider-ish leg look. There is no timetable for when the work on Cinderella Castle will be completed, but the fact that they were working through the early morning and afternoon must have made the project a priority back when it was ongoing. As I write this post, most or all construction across property has ceased. It’s possible that it will start back up before the theme parks reopen, but it’s impossible to say what that will look like or when it will be.
Once Mickey and the gang make their exit after the Welcome, the walkways up towards the Castle will open on both sides.
It’s likely that those headed towards Fantasyland from Liberty Square, by heading across the bridge into Magic Kingdom’s most patriotic Land and then taking a right before Sleepy Hollow Refreshments, will arrive at Peter Pan’s Flight before most of us headed through the Castle now that Mickey takes a couple of extra bows. But in my case, I’m willing to wait five or six extra minutes in line in order to enjoy the Welcome Show at my leisure, as well as have plenty of space around me while I’m doing it.
For the sake of efficiency, this path, with the picture taken on a different day, will likely be faster. Once you arrive at the Castle, you’d take a left and then another left after Mickey’s PhilharMagic.
I’m heading through Cinderella Castle at 9:01am, or just one minute after the Park officially opened.
Heading through the Castle is probably your best bet for Princess Fairytale Hall if you’d like to make the Princess Meet and Greets your first stop. This is not the way you want to go if Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is your first destination, as you’ll arrive after everyone heading in from the walkway that leads towards Mad Tea Party before breaking off to the Mine Train. Here’s a look at the Mine Train rope drop process from around this time last year, when crowds were much heavier.
I’m taking a left towards Peter Pan’s Flight.
As usual, I’m a good distance from where I would be if I were in more of a hurry. These pictures don’t take themselves, and I’m purposefully arriving later than I could so we’re not artificially further ahead than you would be if you’re slower, arrive later, or crowds are heavuer.
The posted wait time is somewhat irrelevant – it says five minutes here, but it will read 15 minutes in a few moments and then 25 minutes shortly after that.
Being a couple minutes back in line will give us a little more time to enjoy the various effects in the standby queue.
FastPass+ bypasses this whimsical area entirely and Tinker Bell jumps from lamp to lamp alongside other fun effects.
And I’ll still be on-board the ride in about ten minutes:
I arrived at 9:02am, and was back out front at 9:16am, for a total experience time of 14 minutes. That’s only a couple minutes longer than the ride typically takes with FastPass+ later in the day, so I did pretty well for myself.
While rope dropping Swiss Family Treehouse is probably the most wholesome/confusing choice you could make first thing in the morning, heading straight for it’s a small world is probably the Fantasyland equivalent. I’ll end up using a 4th FastPass+ there later in the day. The wait will be under ten minutes for at least an hour, so we’re in no hurry as the exterior refurbishment continues and most of the indoor queue is walled off.
I could head just about anywhere in Fantasyland, other than Seven Dwarfs Mine Train or Peter Pan’s Flight (for a second time, in this instance), and wait less than five minutes to experience the attraction of my choice. Princess Fairytale Hall, where I could meet Cinderella and Elena in one line, and Rapunzel and Tiana in the other, would be a viable choice with waits that will peak between 45 and 90 minutes later in the day. You could meet all four princesses over the course of about 15 minutes now.
I’m not one to stop for a theme park breakfast during one of the best hours of the day to tour Magic Kingdom, but Friar’s Nook, across from the Mine Train and to the right of Winnie the Pooh, does serve a breakfast menu. The Doughnut Holes would certainly be something that you could take on the go. The Sausage and Gravy Tots are good ammunition should someone try to edge their way in front of you on your way to your next attraction.
Given the below-average crowds, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train was “only” 55 minutes, which is 20 or 30 minutes before average for 9:20am. That’s still much longer than I’d like to wait – it would probably make more sense to wait 90 minutes here at 1pm than 55 minutes now, given the fact that I’ll be able to walk on several more attractions now before appreciable waits form. If I got in line for the Mine Train now, at 9:20am, I wouldn’t be done until at least 10:35am. By then, waits everywhere else would be substantially higher. I’m going to be able to basically walk on Winnie the Pooh, Dumbo, Barnstormer, and the Little Mermaid Ride in succession. That wouldn’t be true in 90 minutes.
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh is a higher morning priority than you might expect, because its low capacity and propensity to dispense a relatively large number of FastPass+ experiences per hour causes wait times to quickly build in the morning, to the point where the actual wait will hit 20 minutes by 9:30am most days, and at least 30 minutes by 10am.
Considering the entire length of the standby line is only around a hundred feet, that can make for a pretty agonizing time as you barely move.
The hubbub of the kids playing in the interactive queue is either charming or harrowing depending on your disposition. You can probably guess where I come down on that spectrum. Let’s just say that I was happy to basically walk right on at 9:19am.
Live look at me emerging from my bunker in a couple of
After Magic Kingdom reopens, “rumors” indicate that all of the honey Winnie the Pooh is after will be replaced with toilet paper and hand sanitizer, ever just out of reach.
Me, who was just assigned Rise of the Resistance boarding group 75,000, looking over at my friend who scored boarding group three as we press the button on the app at the exact same time and I watch him fly away towards the ride.
The chair that I’ve been sitting in for the last ten straight days. I haven’t destroyed my house. I’m just redecorating for the fourth time in three days.
As difficult as this is to admit, this is probably my exact reaction when I hear that Hollywood Studios is reopening.
Sorry, I’m Winnie the Pooh in this scenario.
Twitter, judging you no matter what you’re doing.
“I’ll just have one margarita with lunch…”
Me, about 20 minutes into my quarantine diet.
Even during rescue attempts, it’s important to keep your distance.
Did somebody say toilet paper was in stock?
I arrived at 9:19am, and was back out front at 9:26am, for a total experience time of just seven minutes. With FastPass+ later in the day, it would take about 12 minutes, so I’m ahead of the game.
At this point, I have a few options with where I can head next. On a less busy day like today, and one that’s probably staffed to the gills despite the low attendance, Space Mountain and anything else in Tomorrowland would be viable. On a busier day, Space Mountain’s actual wait would already be a half hour by 9:30am, and quickly heading to an hour by 10am. Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, Tomorrowland Speedway, or Astro Orbiter would all be viable stops, though, even given heavier crowds.
I decided to take it easy and head up to Storybook Circus.
Dumbo was a walk-on.
Normally, I’d head to The Barnstormer first, since wait times build there faster, but there were so few people in sight that I knew it wouldn’t be a problem to visit Dumbo as I passed it. At least half of the elephants were flying empty.
The wait was about two minutes for the next cycle to start.
In a bit of a surprise, Pluto was meeting outside Pete’s Silly Sideshow up the path ahead, probably trying to push people towards the pair of meet and greets that are scheduled inside of the tent. You can meet Goofy and Donald and Minnie and Daisy in short order with some fun backdrops.
There’s really only one good time to go to Disney World – and that’s when they’re expecting it to be crowded, but for whatever reason, the people don’t show up. If Disney isn’t expecting heavy crowds, then they’ll staff accordingly, which can cause wait times to be longer than when attendance is much higher. We’ve seen that time and time again with only one dock open at Pirates of the Caribbean or only one side in operation at Space Mountain. This should have been the heart of spring break, with the high prices and massive crowds that historically come along with it, but it wasn’t happening with so much uncertainty. Of course, this isn’t the sort of thing that you can typically plan around. But it will be interesting to see how low crowds are once Disney World eventually reopens, and how long those low crowds last before people begin returning. A lot of that probably depends on when they let us go outside again. Somewhat amusingly, crowds and wait times went up as the actual closure approached and people wanted to get “one last visit in.”
There were about 12 people in and around The Barnstormer.
Which means a 5-minute posted wait.
Granted, I have never been to Shanghai to see Tron over there, but I wasn’t expecting it to consist largely of this box.
Of course, we have 18 months of theming on the way, but they didn’t exactly do a great job of hiding the show building in Pandora, at least as you head into the parking lot.
This is all obviously visible from inside Magic Kingdom.
It will certainly look neat at night once the ride opens, hopefully in time for the Park’s 50th anniversary next October.
Here’s what construction looks like on the other side. That’s obviously Space Mountain with Tron behind it.
There’s a lot of work to be done with construction now halted. We’ll see how much overtime Disney is willing to pay when they’re strapped for cash.
Usually, it’s a bit of a rush to take these pictures from The Barnstormer’s queue, but we basically have the place to ourselves.
That means front row, baby!
Combined, The Barnstormer and Dumbo took about 15 minutes.
That’s a major departure from what we saw last month, when the queue for The Barnstormer was completely full and extended past the entrance and into the external switchbacks. On the bright side, the standby line moved so slowly then that I was still able to take the same pictures of the Tron construction.
Here’s what the Tron building looked like a month ago. It’s fun to be able to see all of the progress as it’s being completed, unlike Pandora at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, which was basically a complete surprise upon its opening. The same is true of Galaxy’s Edge at Hollywood Studios, where overhead views from helicopters were our only peek into what was coming down the line.
So far, my morning couldn’t have gone much better. I’ve been able to:
- 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
Next, I’ll head to Journey of the Little Mermaid and see how long it takes to ride Seven Dwarfs Mine Train with FastPass+. Then we’re off to Adventureland and Frontierland.