First thing’s first. Here’s progress on the hole at the Ticket and Transportation Center as of December 13th.
After spending the last few mornings honing my ideal Magic Kingdom morning, I’ve made a few revisions. As a reminder, the “ideal morning” plan is an (successful) attempt to minimize waits at the major attractions and characters in the first two to three hours of the day. The idea is to visit the attractions that will have long afternoon waits before they develop them. This occasionally includes attractions that aren’t the “biggies.” At Magic Kingdom, Astro Orbiter virtually always has a 30 to 45 minute wait by 11am, with a boring queue that snakes around out in the sun. Tomorrowland Indy Speedway is another example at Magic Kingdom. Here, you’ll find a 20 to 40+ minute wait by noon surrounded by car exhaust underneath the hot Florida sun. My personal opinion is that you should structure your morning with a specific plan of what you want to get done. The early morning is the best time to tour and your best opportunity to hit the major attractions with short waits.
Once it’s time for lunch and the crowds have rolled in, you can enjoy some flexibility hitting the less popular/high capacity rides, shows, characters, etc. while collecting FASTPASSes for the major attractions that have developed waits. I’ve found that this is a much easier sell than the prototypical “touring plan” that lists off 47.3 things to accomplish in an exact order over the course of a given day. By hitting the Parks hard in the morning, you can enjoy the rest of your day with increased flexibility and less stress, knowing you’ve gotten the major attractions out of the way already. If you have a spouse or travel partner less enthusiastic about a “touring plan,” it usually takes exactly six hours of your first day to convince them that they should shut up and follow the plan. At Magic Kingdom, just circle back around to Journey of the Little Mermaid, Space Mountain, or other attractions and point out the 60 minute waits, compared to the five you waited earlier. The following days should be met with less lip.
As a reminder, the ideal mornings elsewhere:
- Ride Kilimanjaro Safaris: 9am – 9:25am
- FASTPASS Kilimanjaro Safaris if you’d like to ride a second time or plan to return to this area for lunch: Return time of 10:05am – 11:05am
- Ride Expedition Everest: 9:35am – 9:50am
- Ride Primeval Whirl: 9:55am – 10:-05am
- Ride DINOSAUR: 10:10am – 10:30am
- Collect FASTPASS for Expedition Everest or Kali River Rapids: Return time of 11:30am – 12:30pm
- Ride Kilimanjaro Safaris with FASTPASS: 10:45am – 11:20am
There are a few changes you can make depending on what you have going on. If you don’t care about a second ride on Safaris or would prefer to ride later in the day, you can save some time by not making the walk all the way back over in the morning to use the FASTPASSes. Instead, catch the first Finding Nemo the Musical (usually 11am). That cuts down on walking if you’re not planning to visit Africa or Camp Minnie-Mickey after lunch. If you’re planning to visit the characters in Camp Minnie-Mickey instead of heading over to the thrill rides, you could spend 20 minutes after Kilimanjaro Safaris walking the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail before heading over to the 10am Camp Minnie-Mickey Meet and Greets. Then see the 10:30am Festival of the Lion King. That works well if you have young kids that are skipping Everest, Primeval Whirl, and DINOSAUR. Once you’ve gotten these attractions out of the way, you won’t run into appreciable waits elsewhere.
- Arrive at the turnstiles by 8:20am for the usual 8:45am open
- FASTPASS Toy Story Midway Mania with return time of 9:40am – 10:40am
- Ride Toy Story Mania 8:50am – 9:05am
- Ride Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster: 9:15am – 9:35am
- If you’re coming back to Sunset Boulevard for lunch or a show before 11:20am, you can collect a FASTPASS for Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster (preferred) or Tower of Terror now. Otherwise, consider waiting because it will be inconvenient to come all the way back here before 11:20am.
- Ride Tower of Terror: 9:40am – 10:05am
- Ride Toy Story Mania with FASTPASS: 10:15am – 10:30am
Here, you have some options. You could collect another Toy Story FASTPASS (if you didn’t opt for Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster/Tower of Tower FASTPASSes) with a return time into the early afternoon, probably around 2pm before heading to Star Tours. Or you could return to Sunset Boulevard to use those FASTPASSes and catch Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage (first show usually 11:30am) and/or have lunch at Sunset Ranch Market. If you’re skipping Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror with small children, visit the Toy Story characters across from Toy Story Mania immediately after riding in the morning. They first appear at 9:15am. After that, visit with the Sorcerer’s Hat characters which only visit meet until around noon and/or see Disney Jr. Live on Stage or Voyage of the Little Mermaid before returning to Toy Story Mania towards the end of the FASTPASS window.
Back to Magic Kingdom. Journey of the Little Mermaid has been seeing some pretty absurd wait times. I think the problem is the hype surrounding “New Fantasyland.” 99% of the people arriving in Enchanted Forest have absolutely no idea what anything is. When they arrive, they find out they have their choice between two meet and greets, whatever “The Little Mermaid ride” is, a single store, and a small quick service “Tavern” with a limited menu. And then depending on the time of day, they would bypass Be Our Guest Restaurant, wait in the 30 minute lunch line, or be turned away for dinner. So here’s what we’re looking at now:
- Arrive at the turnstiles by 8:35am
- Head directly up Main Street, through the Castle, and to Peter Pan’s Flight to collect FASTPASSes (Mermaid is connected now so you can’t grab both). If one member of your group can collect FASTPASSes for the entire group, do so and have them meet up at Step 3: Return time of 9:40am – 10:40am
- See Enchanted Tales with Belle: 9:05am – 9:25am
- Ride Journey of the Little Mermaid: 9:30am – 9:45am
- Visit Ariel’s Grotto: 9:47am – 10am
- Collect FASTPASSes for Winnie the Pooh at Mickey’s PhilharMagic: Return time of 10:50am – 11:50am
- Ride Peter Pan’s Flight with FASTPASS: 10:10am – 10:20am
- Get in line for Be Our Guest Lunch
If you want to do Enchanted Tales with Belle, there’s really no way around doing it first. Otherwise, you’re looking at 40 to 60 minute waits in the sun all day. It also takes some time, which is why we’re realistically not going to be out of there until 9:25am or so. The rest of the morning includes the rest of New Fantasyland, Peter Pan’s Flight, and lunch at Be Our Guest Restaurant, which lets guests in around 10:30am. 10:30am may seem a little early for lunch, but you’re not going to receive your food until closer to 11am. And with a 7am wake-up, you’ll most likely be hungry by 11am.
If you’re not interested in Enchanted Tales, your day opens up a lot, and you can more or less do things as normal. You’ll want to rely on collecting a FASTPASS for Journey of the Little Mermaid in the afternoon or plan to ride before 10am. Likewise, if you don’t care about having lunch at Be Our Guest, you have some more time in the morning. Instead of collecting FASTPASSes for Pooh, ride it in the standby line and continue to Tomorrowland. For example:
- Arrive at the turnstiles by 8:35am
- Head directly up Main Street, through the castle, and to Peter Pan’s Flight to collect FASTPASSes: Return time of 9:40am – 10:40am
- Ride Peter Pan’s Flight: 9:05am – 9:15am
- Ride The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh: 9:17am – 9:30am
- Ride Space Mountain: 9:40am – 9:55am
- Ride Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin: 10am – 10:15am
- Collect FASTPASSes for Journey of the Little Mermaid: Return time of 11:05am – 12:05pm
- Ride Peter Pan’s Flight with FASTPASS: 10:25am – 10:35am
- At this point, you could head to Be Our Guest for lunch or ride the other Fantasyland attractions before heading up to New Fantasyland
On a second Magic Kingdom morning, visit Merida first thing if you want to meet her. Otherwise, you can start in Adventureland with Tinker Bell and/or the attractions there before visiting Frontierland and Liberty Square.
Anyway, that’s where we are with that. Belle and having lunch at Be Our Guest are the two problems. You could put Be Our Guest off for later, but you’re looking at around 40 minutes to wait, order, and receive your food, plus 20 minutes to eat and another 10 or 15 minutes to look around.
It’s 8:28am on Thursday December 13th. Epcot has exactly two bag checkers, causing long backups. Ideally, I (and you) would have arrived 15 minutes earlier.
The RFID ticket scanners should be operational by now.
Which should in turn reduces lines at the other turnstiles.
Despite the line, I arrived at Spaceship Earth at 8:49am with the turnstiles opening promptly at 8:45am as usual.
With a later arrival than I would have liked, there are a lot of people ahead of us, but it remains a pleasant enough walk with the turnstiles working to reduce the number of people able to enter at any one time. It will be interesting to see how the RFID scanners affect entering the Parks. Will it speed up the process? Slow it down? Until Disney expands RFID to Annual Passes, will resort guests have an advantage?
Arriving at Test Track at 8:53am.
FASTPASS is already out to 9:55am.
Before Epcot even “officially” opens, the line to Test Track is all the way out the door. But here’s a million dollar piece of advice: At this point, everyone in the standby line is going to be spending time designing their cars. That’s going to take at least ten minutes before about 50 people are able to make their way to the loading platform. If you use the single rider entrance right after Epcot opens, you’ll bypass everyone in the standby line and be able to ride together because Test Track will be cycling empty cars. This works until around 9:40am, when FASTPASS users begin returning. I passed this advice on to friend-of-the-site Jimmy over dinner on the 14th, and he and his wife were the first two people to ride on Saturday. Since reopening, entering the single rider line has resulted in a shorter wait than standby or FASTPASS virtually around the clock, so keep that in mind if you’re in a hurry.
I opted to remain in the queue to see how long it would take to ride in the standby line with the line out the door.
By 9:09am, it was time to stand on my circle outside the Studio. Someone alert WDWMAGIC that “Studio A” was only intermittently lit. Why they don’t just shut the whole ride down when things are in this much disrepair is beyond me. I’m sure we’ll see tarps and nets shortly.
I was designing le perfectly drawn automobile at 9:12am.
And in the car at 9:21am.
This time around, the design process was less glitchy. It only froze once.
But out of the dozen or so times I’ve ridden, I’ve never seen the car I designed show up on the screens during the ride.
And since that’s the whole point of Test Track 2.0, it’s a little disappointing.
Not to mention the second half of the ride is basically driving through empty rooms.
Merry Christmas by the way.
The outdoor portion remains fun, though it doesn’t make any sense with whatever the new storyline is supposed to be.
Are we back to reality? Still in the simulation? Why is there a parking lot down there?
Back out front at 9:29am, so the whole process took about 35 minutes.
With FASTPASS all the way out to 11:10am or an hour and 40 minutes.
At this point, we’re headed over to Sum of All Thrills in Innoventions East, which is a straight shot across from the entrance to Test Track.
Due to capacity problems and a lack of other attractions, I don’t think it’s wise to try to ride both Test Track and Soarin’ in the standby lines first thing in the morning. I’m also not too keen on collecting FASTPASSes for one and then hurrying over to the other. With FASTPASS return enforcement and long lines forming immediately after Park opening, you’re going to be doing a lot of walking and not save a whole lot of time. We’re planning to rely on FASTPASS at Soarin’. With two days at Epcot, you could also opt to FASTPASS and then ride Soarin’ on the second morning, skipping it entirely today.
So to recap and what’s coming:
- FASTPASS Test Track: Return time of 9:55am – 10:55am
- Ride Test Track: 8:53am – 9:29am
- Ride Sum of All Thrills: 9:32am – 9:48am
- Ride Mission Space: 9:52am – 10:10am
- Ride Test Track with FASTPASS: 10:13am – 10:34am
- Collect FASTPASS for Soarin’: Return time at 10:45am is 4:45pm – 5:45pm (more on why it’s so far out later)
- Head up to World Showcase
Sum of All Thrills remains a priority over Mission: Space because of the lower capacity.
Close your eyes and bring your earplugs and you can pretend it’s Wizarding World’s Forbidden Journey. The technology is similar.
Per usual, you get to design your ride and then ride it in the simulator. Unlike Test Track, you actually get to experience your design rather than someone else’s. It’s actually a lot of fun and one of Epcot’s best attractions.
Disembarking just 15 minutes later, the wait is already up from 5 minutes to 20 minutes with only 10 or 12 people being admitted into the preshow at a time.
Posted waits at 9:50am:
Soarin’ FASTPASS wouldn’t ordinarily take off this fast, but only one of the two theaters was working until the other came online around 11am.
If you exit Innoventions East the same way you came in, you’ll continue walking towards Test Track and then take a left toward Mission: Space.
While it’s probably a waste of 100 million dollars.
Mission: Space is one of the best themed attractions on property.
But I think people increasingly want to do something, rather than simply sit in a box for a while. Mission: Space took 18 minutes, from 9:52am – 10:10am.
At 10:13am, it’s time to use our Test Track FASTPASSes. Test Track FASTPASS is out over two and a half hours already to 12:45pm with a 50 minute posted wait.
In the FASTPASS or Single Rider lines, you’ll have one minute to choose a pre-designed car from one of many kiosks:
Remember that if you want to go through the whole design process, you can do so at a console in the post-show.
You don’t have to select a car – you can just continue on. It probably won’t show up anyway.
Yay empty rooms.
With GRAPHICS! So next level.
And a Happy New Year!
Even with FASTPASS, it still took 21 minutes to ride with few people in front of me. By 10:35am, it’s more of a zoo outside Test Track with a 60 minute posted wait and FASTPASS out to 1:30pm – 2:30pm.
Character Spot continues to be just three characters – Mickey, Minnie, and Pluto. Goofy remains at the main entrance with Daisy and Donald only meets in Mexico. It’s 10:40am and this is a solid 40 minute wait. Since the Land Pavilion is on the way to Character Spot, there’s no reason not to pass through here to check waits, but you’ll probably want to return after 6pm, and ideally after 8pm when lines are much shorter. When we return around 3pm, the wait will be closer to 20 minutes. This phenomenon is probably due to those arriving after 10am and wanting to meet the characters first, not realizing that they’re way behind everyone else.
The easiest Character Spot entrance is behind Club Cool and Fountain View Cafe. You can still enter through the regular entrance, but the path will wind you around back here. The queue from the picture above is right inside the sliding doors. If the wait is too long, continue straight through and the Land Pavilion will be just ahead.
At 10:46am, both theaters are finally running and the wait time is 50 minutes. FASTPASSes are still out to 4:45pm – 5:45pm, but distribution will cool off a bit shortly. When one of the theaters is down, the default wait time is usually 60 minutes by 9:15am to deter people from entering the line. Disney would prefer you to come back when both theaters are (hopefully) running.
Around 11am, I like to begin heading up to World Showcase to stay in front of the crowds as much as possible. As more and more people arrive, Future World will only become more congested from 10:30am – 5pm. Once 5pm hits, it’s safe to return to Future World, when most people will have moved on to World Showcase. That makes the 5:45pm cutoff for FASTPASS convenient here as you’ll be able to return after spending several hours in World Showcase. You’d want to hit the Imagination Pavilion, Living with the Land, Circle of Life, Innoventions, and Ellen’s Energy Adventure before they close at 7pm. After that, Spaceship Earth and Character Spot would be good choices before returning to Soarin’ or Test Track after 8pm (8:30pm when Epcot closes at 9:30pm).
The IBM area in Innoventions is completed walled off in Innoventions West. Habit Heroes in Innoventions East, which has been shuttered since late February, should reopen one week from today.
Because I don’t value my own well being, lunch is at Electric Umbrella today.
I ordered the $8.29 Vegetable Flatbread – Roasted Zucchini and Eggplant on Red Pepper Spread topped with Yogurt Dressing.
It didn’t sound particularly good.
And I didn’t care much for it. The pepper spread seemed harsh, and while a “little different,” unnecessary. Tomato or tomato basil or something would have worked fine. A nice cheese topping also would have gone a long way and added a bit of heft to the dish. As it stands, this wouldn’t be much more than a decent snack for anyone but the lightest eaters. That said, I’m not necessarily the target demographic for anything vegetarian, so if you’ve tried it and enjoyed it much more, feel free to let me know I’m wrong. I love it.
Prior to the Flatbread introduction, Electric Umbrella served a Black Bean Flatbread, which was quite good and packed with protein. The profit margin on the Flatbread is probably 1000x higher and Liberty Inn serves a similar Black Bean Burger. Anyway, it’s there if it looks good and Jr. is forcing the group to a quick service that offers Chicken Nuggets.
11:34am wait times:
This is about what you can expect from your average day at Epcot. Fast forward to next week and you’re looking at 150 minutes at Test Track and Soarin’.
This is why you want to head up to World Showcase as close to 11am as possible. This is 11:40am.
The same flowers:
And in the distance.
Monsieur Paul has replaced Bistro de Paris in the France Pavilion. Both restaurants are run by the same company, run by the son of one of the world’s most famous chefs, Paul Bocuse. The atmosphere is supposed to be more casual, while continuing to offer upscale food. It remains a signature restaurant.
After spending a few hours photographing stuff at the Epcot area resorts, I returned to Epcot. This is 2:43pm, where the Character Spot wait is closed to 15 or 20 minutes. Test Track has a posted wait of 110 minutes and Soarin’ is at 55 minutes. Both are offering the last FASTPASSes of the day with return times of 8:35pm – 9:30pm.
That’s about it. We’ll hit San Angel Inn for dinner and the Candlelight Processional next time. I was going to include it in this post, but I have some things to do before flying out on Tuesday. We should see an update to the January operating schedule along with the initial release of the July hours tomorrow.