We’ll move through the rest of my day relatively quickly. There is Hollywood Studios to get to, after all.
It’s now after 11:30am all the way back on September 2nd, and you can see that we’re not exactly running into a lot of resistance as we move out of Storybook Circus in Fantasyland and towards Tomorrowland. In case you missed the previous parts, here they are:
- Magic Kingdom Morning Touring with a Transportation and Ticket Center Start – Covering the Magic Kingdom arrival experience and what you can do to be among the first in the Park
- Magic Kingdom Morning Touring with the Priorities Down – How the early morning went at Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, and more with Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Peter Pan’s Flight, and Splash Mountain all down at Park open, and what you can do to experience rides that are down with the shortest waits once they reopen
- Disney’s Magic Kingdom Low Early Morning Crowd Touring – We move on to several easy Fantasyland attractions that still have short waits
What we lack in title originality we do make up for in sheer number of words.
Normally, you’d already see quite a backup at Tomorrow Speedway, but there aren’t a lot of vehicles on the road, or people in line.
Mad Tea Party spins with empty teacups that would be filled if anyone was waiting.
I’ve got about 30 minutes in front of my lunch reservation at The Plaza.
To make sure I don’t go over time, that probably means a stop at Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin. I could do the Speedway instead if I were so inclined. I’m not. But I could.
I’d probably choose the PeopleMover instead, but it’s expected to be closed for refurbishment through at least Thanksgiving.
Space Mountain was posted at 20 minutes, which is still more than reasonable for a priority attraction at a time of day when waits typically peak. We’ll be able to walk on after lunch, whether we want to or not.
Next door, Buzz and Stitch typically switch off for socially-distant selfies at the Rocket Tower Plaza stage.
Astro Orbiter will be another stop for after lunch. The wait could be 30 to 40 minutes here with just one party per elevator headed up to the launch site. That’s true even with ten or fifteen groups ahead of you.
You could walk right into the next Carousel of Progress show, which isn’t always true now with social-distancing. With short waits at other attractions, demand for the anytime attractions also stays low. If Space was posting 60 minutes, and Buzz was coming in closer to 30, as they often are on the weekends, the line for Carousel of Progress would be a lot longer as people seek out something else to do. That’s the big problem that we’re going to run into at the Studios – there just aren’t a lot of alternatives to the long ride lines. In my experience, you start to go a little mad after your third straight viewing of Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy.
Buzz was posted at just five minutes. The line stretches out here a ways, likely because they just finished a cleaning cycle.
But I’ll still be inside in about five minutes.
And it can be a lot worse. Those markers on the ground in the distance likely lead to Buzz. There isn’t much else open in this corridor with Monsters, Inc. Laughing Floor currently offline.
My expression every time I see an entire family pull their face masks down the moment the lights go off at a show.
They were only filling every third vehicle, which looked to be a little more conservative than is probably necessary. You’d think every other one would be sufficient, particularly with Universal now filling every row on roller coasters like The Hulk.
But even with the longer line and being particularly socially-distant here, I was still on-board in under ten minutes:
I arrived at 11:40am, boarded at 11:49am, and was back out front at 11:56am, for a total experience time of 16 minutes. The posted wait has caught up to the past reality, and is now showing ten minutes when it’s probably back to being five.
Now that Disney has formally confirmed Stitch’s Great Escape isn’t coming back, there’s no more signage.
I pulled up the My Disney Experience app:
And noticed Splash Mountain was now posting a wait, which means it’s opened for the first time today. There isn’t a whole lot I can do about that with a lunch reservation in 15 minutes. Our current plan is to get in line at the end of the day, when the wait should be shorter than at any point other than right after opening. I’m not the only person who will realize that the ride has opened, which means a lot of people will be hurrying over. If I didn’t have the lunch reservation, then I could potentially walk all the way over there now, but I’d also have to walk all the way back to Tomorrowland to experience the rest of the attractions here. At Magic Kingdom, there aren’t two points much further away from each other than Splash Mountain and Carousel of Progress.
Instead, we’ll walk over to The Plaza:
These days, Disney would prefer that you do just about everything possible via the My Disney Experience app, from opening the door to your resort room, to ordering quick service food, to making and checking in for dining reservations:
You should see your next dining reservation under “My Plans” on the home screen of the app if you scroll down a bit. If you don’t see it, you can click the hamburger button on the lower right next to the magnifying glass/search button, then click “My Plans,” and then on the reservation. On this screen, you’ll tell them how many adults, children, and infants are in your party, so they can grab the appropriate number of menus when it’s your turn to be seated. You’ll also notice that even though our reservation is for three, we can add a fourth person. This is usually true when the table you’ll be assigned will accommodate the extra person.
There’s the reservation under the “My Plans” screen
Depending on your phone settings, you may need to give the My Disney Experience app access to your location. They are probably following you either way.
I can’t remember ever receiving an apology about ride downtime before. I guess once they find out you are about to spend $20 on lunch, the red carpet comes out. I wouldn’t apologize to the guy trying to make a pickle salad from the Pecos Bill condiment bar, either.
We’ll confirm our party size.
We can also let them know about accessibility needs, dietary requests, and make up a birthday in an attempt to extract a free cupcake or awkward applause.
This system obviously works the best if you have a newer smartphone, the app, and a U.S. phone number. Without those things, you can still check in at the podium or ask about making any modifications there. This is probably an exercise in cost reduction as much as it is about safety. When they said I could be whatever I wanted to be as a child, I should have chosen “automation” instead of “Disney World blogger.” But who could have foreseen 35 years ago that we wouldn’t require our server to pay for our Chicken Crispers at Chili’s.
Once you check in, you should receive a text stating as much. It’s always nice to confirm that you’ve successfully completed the process. Just a couple minutes after checking in, and before our reservation time, we were ready to go.
Like just about every other restaurant on property, Disney has either removed tables or placed signs on some indicating that they’re unavailable. It’s not as tight in the dining room as it may appear in this picture, but there are obviously other people here. As far as sit-down dining at Magic Kingdom is concerned, the only outdoor seating available is at Tony’s. And I probably wouldn’t recommend that on a number of fronts.
Also like most other restaurants, Plaza has pared down its menu:
You’ll have to ask for a paper copy.
They would prefer that you scan a QR code on a piece of paper that they leave on the table, since they dispose of this stuff after each party. Instead of pulling up a fancy PDF version of the in-restaurant menu, scanning the QR code merely pulls up the restaurant menu on DisneyWorld.com. You can do this in your browser without the need for any scanning.
Pricing and availability are often different online, so you may want to ask your server for a paper copy or about any differences. We’ve made it through a number of changes at Disney World over the years. The “secret menu” era was probably the worst. If there is something available, put it on the menu. That’s the purpose of the menu. I shouldn’t have to waste multiple people’s time by asking about something that’s available that purposefully isn’t included on the document that’s sole purpose is to inform me about the availability of said item. “Why yes, we do just happen to have nachos served out of a giant plastic hat that takes four people to wheel over. I’m glad you asked.”
I’m not a big dessert guy, but something about a $7 Chocolate Milk Shake sounded satisfying after running around Magic Kingdom in a face mask for 3+ hours. So I went for it. It was indeed cold, creamy, sweet, and refreshing. Just as good as it looks.
I went with the $19 “Cheese Steak Sandwich – Shaved Beef, Peppers, Onions, and Provolone Cheese.”
It seemed to be on the small side of things, like I was missing the other half, but the steak was tender, and the onions and peppers added some spice in between the soft, crispy roll. The cheese was also melted appropriately and it was served hot, which you don’t see all that much these days.
The mashed potatoes also seemed to be on the skimpy side – this is about four bites-worth – but it made for a manageable, filling meal. They were appropriately soft and clumpy with a “real” potato texture, topped with the Plaza’s rich beef gravy. Fruit, fries, and maybe another vegetable would be your other side choices.
The $22 “Plaza Burger – Honey-Barbecued Beef Brisket, Cheddar, Lettuce, and Tomato” is another option that’s been on the menu for years. Typically, the more Disney does to hide the low quality of their hamburger patties, the better the whole thing will taste. The amount of tender, tasty brisket probably outweighs the bland patty underneath. Since we’re doing our best to make this a negative blog, the cheese could have probably been melted a little more thoroughly, the lettuce didn’t enjoy its usual crispy crunch, and I’d take the old steak fries over what the Plaza currently serves. But other than all of those things, it was a large, satisfying meal that you could probably share. Cosmic Ray’s has a $14 burger on their menu, and this is easily 1.5 times as much food. Plus, you’ll enjoy being able to sit down and relax at The Plaza. That has not typically been my experience at Cosmic Ray’s, though I have been informed on occasion that it’s the best quick service at Walt Disney World.
Rounding out lunch, we’ve got the $22 “Home-style Meatloaf – Hearty Slices of Meatloaf, Mashed Potatoes, and Seasonal Vegetables.”
“Slices” isn’t the first word that comes to mind as we inspect this hunk of beef that appears to already have a bite taken out of the side. But I assure you that despite all things pointing to the contrary, we are professionals here. The dish is photographed untouched. Everyone probably has their favorite version of meatloaf prepared by a close family member, and this is probably not nearing that. On this particular occasion, the flavor was so bland that we thought there might have been a mix-up and we were served a vegetarian version. “Is this meat?” is not a question that should come up with a dish that is called “meatloaf.” The green beans were also simply steamed – you’d probably want to see some butter, salt, and pepper while on vacation. The Gravy and Mashed Potatoes certainly helped pull everything together, making for a warm, comforting bite. It ended up being a filling, but entirely forgettable, dish.
We’ll take the opportunity to walk through the Castle after lunch:
I am not entirely sure what is going on in these mosaics. But if someone insists on touching your feet at the end of your story, it’s probably not a good sign.
The Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique remains closed.
But it appears like after getting her feet touched, everyone just rode away. In the grand scheme of things, that might be a happy ending.
Disney released the “Big Thunder Mountain Railroad ‘Minnie Mouse: The Main Attraction’” series of merchandise here on September 17th, requiring Disney to use a virtual queue just to get into the store. Of all the things that I might associate with a wild mine car cascading down a distant frontier mountain, Minnie Mouse would probably not be one of them. Nothing stops eBay, though. And speaking of which, if you’re ever selling your shoes online, don’t send pictures of you with your feet in them to the guy posting as BlairFromMilwaukee. It’s not really her. His name is Greg. And he’s in his 50s. And he’s not buying your old flippy floppies, no matter how many pictures you send.
Oh, low September crowds. We barely knew thee.
Lunch at The Plaza is typically one of the fastest sit-down experiences around. Even after lingering for a few minutes, trying to brainstorm potential celebrations that might elicit awkward applause, it’s just 1:30pm.
Mine Train had opened while we were eating. The line now stretches outside the entrance and around the corner.
With a 35-minute posted wait. In the FastPass+ days of no physical-distancing, the standby wait from this spot would be about 150 minutes. You’d have over three hours of people with FastPass+ priority arriving, on top of everyone who is carrying a current FastPass+. That’s 3,000+ people with priority access. Take that away, and add six feet between parties, and the 35-minute wait is probably about accurate. To ride this and Splash Mountain to close things out, I’d probably return to Mine Train an hour before Park close and then move towards Splash after.
Of course, if this is your last opportunity to experience Splash, you may want to join the line now no matter how long it might be. It’s possible that the log ride will go back down later in the day. And there’s no chance of it operating with lightning in the area, which is frequent during the summer.
I’m heading back to Tomorrowland. Things have not exactly picked up at 1:45pm.
With the higher wait times that we’re now experiencing, you’d likely run into a few more people. Still, there is a big advantage to visiting on a weekday, and a Wednesday in particular.
While I waited about nine minutes for Buzz earlier, the wait would be about two minutes now.
We’ll be able to walk right in to the next Carousel of Progress show.
We’ve got the usual setup inside the theater, which is every other row closed. There are also three empty seats left in between each party of up to four.
We’ll enjoy the show:
Carousel of Progress took about 25 minutes. Almost all of that was spent sitting down, in air-conditioning, with just a couple of other people in the theater.
I moseyed over to Astro Orbiter, where there were just about ten groups in front of me, if that.
But even then, with only one party going up and down each elevator, I ended up waiting 25 minutes:
That did not necessarily seem like the best expenditure of my time, considering any other available Tomorrowland attraction would currently be a walk-on. But to wait less, I’d have to return to Tomorrowland much later in the day. With Mine Train and Splash still on the docket for late arrivals, there may not be a great opportunity to leave Tomorrowland, come back, and also take care of those priorities. At the time, I didn’t realize I had waited so long. I may have just been happy to stand in place, knowing there would be no photos to take, eventually edit, and then write about 2+ weeks later. As if I have anything else to do.
Fortunately(?), the later we arrive at each subsequent attraction, the less time we’ll wait.
Space is posting ten minutes.
I had both cars that make up the train to myself because there wasn’t anybody there to fill the seats. I still turned around and complained about the ride the entire time, even if there technically wasn’t anybody back there. “Practice makes the dream work” or whatever they say. After years of trying to brace myself against the rocket, using a number of different limbs in a wide variety of positions that some may consider unnatural, I finally found that the trick is to just relax. It’s why they say the drunk drivers always survive the crashes. They just plow into the tree with a smile on their face, not real sure of the difference. My attorneys at Smart Lawyering tell me that I cannot officially endorse this approach, but after years of hobbling off at the end of this thing, just letting Space Mountain throw you around however it sees fit may create the best overall outcome.
And I was back out front just 12 minutes after entering the queue, which is probably another record low. Not bad for the middle of the day. Or, at the moment, with three hours until close.
This is what I ended up doing:
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad: 8:55am – 9:03am
- Jungle Cruise: 9:12am – 9:25am
- Pirates of the Caribbean: 9:29am – 9:42am
- Haunted Mansion: 9:49am – 10:09am
- Peter Pan’s Flight: 10:10am – 10:22am
- it’s a small world: 10:23am – 10:45am
- Dumbo: 11:01am – 11:10am
- The Barnsormer: 11:11am – 11:16am
- Under the Sea ~ Mermaid Ride: 11:18am – 11:30am
- Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin: 11:40am – 11:58am
- Lunch at The Plaza: 12:05pm – 1:25pm
- Carousel of Progress: 1:45pm – 2:10pm
- Astro Orbiter: 2:11pm – 2:46pm
- Space Mountain: 2:47pm – 2:49pm
With the Park currently closing at 6pm, I’d have to decide on my strategy for Mine Train and Splash. With a second day at Magic Kingdom, I’d only need to key in on one or the other. Prioritizing Splash probably makes more sense for most people, since it’s more likely to be down, and may not be there when you visit next. To do both today, getting in line for Mine Train around 5pm, and then Splash as close to 6pm as possible, would be smart. If I really didn’t want to risk missing Splash, getting in line now, regardless of the wait, would make sense. I’d just want to check the skies and the weather app to see if lightning is on its way. If it is, they’ll shut the ride down again.
We’ll see about tackling Hollywood Studios next.