We’re in the midst of Independence Day Weekend, which is historically one of the busiest three day stretches of the entire year. We’re not quite talking December 25th – January 1st crowds or the week leading up to Easter, but July 4th Weekend is always guaranteed to be busy. According to the July Crowd Calendar, Animal Kingdom is not recommended. It notes that while Magic Kingdom will be extremely busy, it won’t be as busy as tomorrow and the nighttime crowds for the special Celebrate America Fireworks will be slightly lower. Let’s see what we’re dealing with.
Here we are arriving at 2pm. Based on the number of people waiting to enter, it looks like we have early confirmation that this isn’t necessarily the place to be this afternoon. If you arrive at a Park midday and there’s a line like we see here with closed turnstiles on either side of you (usually to the left), I recommend getting in line closest to the closed turnstiles, even if it’s slightly longer than other lines. If things get backed up, Disney usually opens additional turnstiles to help speed up the process and you’ll be in the best place to quickly switch over to the newly opened line if you’re standing right next to it.
I’m tired already and it looks like it’s time for lunch. This is the Smoked Turkey Breast Sandwich from Flame Tree Barbecue. Full menu and seating pictures available here: https://www.easywdw.com/menus-and-seating/flame-tree-barbecue-discovery-island-major-quick-service/. This sandwich was surprisingly bland for something described as “served on sunflower bread with cranberry mayonnaise with fresh fruit.” I was expecting more of a pronounced cranberry flavor, but there wasn’t much flavor at all, either from the mayo or the turkey itself. I usually order the pork sandwich or ribs, but was in the mood for something cold and a touch “lighter.” I don’t think I’ll be returning to this sandwich any time soon. On the plus side, the slice of melon was fresh.
Thanks to a huge theater (and limited appeal/replayability?), It’s Tough to be a Bug rarely has a posted wait time longer than five minutes. This indicates you won’t have to wait any longer than it takes for the next show to begin.
One interesting thing we see in the summer months or whenever temperatures are 90+ is the fact that wait times at Kali River Rapids are actually longer than Animal Kingdom’s two major headliners – Expedition Everest and Kilimanjaro Safaris. Because most people prefer to ride it in the afternoon to cool off, wait times begin to increase substantially around 11am and continue to be long throughout the afternoon. If you want to ride Kali when it’s hot out, you may actually want to FASTPASS it before Kilimanjaro Safaris or Expedition Everest because return times are often much further into the future. We’ll see that at Expedition Everest in a moment. This is right before 3pm, so FASTPASS return times are over four hours out and likely after most people will or want to leave.
As previously noted, wait times were actually longer at nearby Kali River Rapids. 55 minutes is a decently long wait at Expedition Everest, but I don’t usually think “oh man…” to myself until I see 75 minutes. That’s when you know things are really, really busy.
This is “DJ Dino-Mite,” who hosts a dance party sort of thing in DinoLand USA from 2:30pm to 6:30pm. As you can see, the party isn’t exactly cracking at the moment. He basically stands on top of the car and makes comments about the weather.
Posted afternoon waits at DINOSAUR were 30 to 50 minutes. It says 50 minutes here, but FASTPASS return times were just 40 minutes in the future. With FASTPASS, the total time it took to get through the line and ride was 21 minutes, which is about three minutes longer than average.
That concludes our short Animal Kingdom excursion. We’re now off to Magic Kingdom. Any day with special fireworks is extremely crowded at Magic Kingdom. For Independence Day, Disney offers the Celebrate America show at 9pm on July 3rd and 4th. It’s a 13-minute narrated show that features “360 Degree Fireworks.” More in that later.
This is why we can’t have nice things. Remember those cute little hats that marked which FASTPASS machine issued tickets to Mickey and which issued tickets to the Princesses? Well, it turns out people constantly stole them. Disney has replaced the hats with these little signs. You’ll be happy to know that Mickey Mouse FASTPASSes don’t have much of an effect on your ability to collect FASTPASSes for other attractions. This FASTPASS was collected at 7:21pm and I can collect another FASTPASS for another attraction at 7:25pm, which is just four minutes in the future.
Here we are just after 7:20pm. You’ll notice that most of Main Street and the Hub area are already taken by people lined up for Main Street Electrical Parade and the Celebrate America Fireworks. The Fireworks don’t start for 100 minutes and the Parade is still 190 minutes away. Hopefully there will be room for your author when he’s actually ready to stake out a spot.
Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade is closed for refurbishment until October 1st. The good news is that Disney has gotten really good at creating believable-looking tarps.
Certainly crowded, but nothing close to what it’s going to be like tomorrow. What we’ve seen recently from Big Thunder Mountain is that FASTPASS return times are just 40 minutes in the future pretty much no matter the time or crowd level.
Also regardless of crowd level, Peter Pan’s Flight wait times are almost always in the 45-60 minute range in the afternoon and evening. FASTPASSes are gone.
This is the Penne Pasta with Meatballs from Pinocchio Village Haus. The Village Haus really is an underrated quick service location, in my opinion. This was a generous helping of pasta with large meatballs, served hot and fresh. I also enjoy their Chicken Parmesan (which in reality is basically a large chicken nugget with pasta sauce and a side of the same noodles) and pizza. There’s also plenty of indoor and patio seating, which is always appreciated.
A lot of people in Fantasyland just after 8pm. Wait times of 40+ minutes at Winnie the Pooh are common, which is surprising to some people.
A lot of people in Tomorrowland as well. The posted wait time at Space Mountain was 80 minutes, but my money would be on a considerably shorter actual wait, though I didn’t have the heart to send anyone through. That’s a serious line at Buzz Lightyear though and it might be even longer than 40 minutes if FASTPASS users keep arriving.
A ton of people on Main Street and in the Hub area at 8:20pm, about 40 minutes before the start of the fireworks. Luckily, I found a great spot in the Hub area right in front of the Castle. Because the Main Street Electrical Parade was scheduled after the Fireworks, most people want spots that they can stay at for the Parade. The area in the Hub that’s part of the Parade route isn’t terribly popular because it will be cleared out after the Fireworks. Since we prefer to see the second Main Street Electrical Parade anyway because it will be so much less crowded, we should be happy getting a prime spot for the Fireworks and then moving over to Liberty Square or Frontierland for the late Parade.
I’m admittedly not much for photography, but I did snap some pictures of the Celebrate America Fireworks. I’m sure others will have a better look. The Celebrate America Fireworks are among the best at Disney World. New Year’s Eve is a little more spectacular, but not much. This is a “360 Degree” show, meaning Fireworks are shot from all around the Magic Kingdom. There’s a good shot of the Fireworks over Tomorrowland in the second to last image. The 360 Degree aspect also means Fireworks are shot off behind most of the audience above Main Street. I find this to be a bit distracting because 99% of the people are going to have their eyes glued to Cinderella Castle. The Fireworks are great for those watching from the Polynesian Beach or other area outside Magic Kingdom, but it doesn’t offer much for anyone inside the Park. I recommend keeping your eyes forward because nothing you see behind you will be better than what’s going on above the Castle.
The worst part of the ordeal is trying to get out of the Magic Kingdom at the conclusion of the show. As I pointed out earlier, most of the people you see aren’t interested in moving because they’re staying put for the 10:30pm Main Street Electrical Parade. With evening Extra Magic Hours this evening, we also have people trying to move toward Fantasyland and Tomorrowland, as well as thousands of people trying to exit the Park. It took me 20 minutes to get from the Hub to the exit and that’s only because I’m slithery and made it to the “express exit” relatively quickly. The express exit is located along the pathway to Tomorrowland Terrace, just past the Plaza Restaurant. It will take you behind Main Street and let you out right next to Tony’s Town Square Restaurant. This is where you want to be if your intention is to exit Magic Kingdom after the Fireworks. It’s still a hassle to get over there. In a perfect world, you’ll want to be on the Tomorrowland side of the Hub/Main Street so you can make your getaway over to the express exit location. Traffic on Main Street was not moving at all after the Fireworks and it probably would have taken me over an hour to get out otherwise. If you can’t get over to the express exit, try to walk through the Main Street stores. They’re all connected and it’s usually easier than traversing the street.
One last look as the Main Street crowds prepare for the Parade.
Overall, it was a fun, crowded day at Disney World. The Fireworks are spectacular, but I’m glad I only had to wait 40 minutes for them and was able to exit relatively unscathed. Waiting three-plus hours for anything is too long in my book, especially in the Florida heat and humidity. It would have been rough had I not taken my own advice.