We return to Magic Kingdom on Saturday, May 18th, 2019, to see what it takes to successfully rope drop Tomorrowland on a day with an 8am open. Last week, we took an in-depth look at rope dropping Frontierland with Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, followed by Splash Mountain and Jungle Cruise. If you missed it, you can pull up Part One here with Part Two following here. We came out of the experience with a couple takeaways, including the fact that we probably want to be more purposeful in making it to our first attraction of the day as quickly as possible, even if our destination is less popular than Seven Dwarfs Mine Train or Peter Pan’s Flight. This is largely due to capacity reductions earlier in the morning. At Big Thunder, the attraction experienced a delayed opening and then was running just one of two loading areas, in effect halving capacity and at least doubling waits.
We also discussed the benefits of an 8am open and how much easier it is to tour because it’s much more difficult for people to make it out to the theme parks so early. That’s true even given much heavier afternoon crowds, as we saw during Easter, when I was able to get more done in the morning with the 8am open than I was able to accomplish on a much less crowded day with a 9am open. On this particular morning, we’ll enjoy an 8am open as we move towards Space Mountain a little quicker first thing.
It’s 7:32am as we approach the entrance.
As we reinforced last month during Easter week, with an 8am regular open, the tapstiles should allow the first guests into the Park right at 7:30am. We’ll then be held in front of the train station just like the good ol’ days (circa 2017).
There’s already a decent number of people in attendance.
Since it’s just after 7:30am, I’ll be able to walk right in and join them.
Crowds will continue to grow over the next ten minutes.
And at 7:41am, we were released inside.
That’s about four minutes earlier than usual, perhaps due to some cast member miscommunication. The exact timing doesn’t necessarily matter as you’ll want to be present anyway and where you stand at what point isn’t of supreme importance. If you’re headed to Seven Dwarfs Mine Train first thing, then it still makes sense to arrive by 7:20am if at all possible. You’ll be among the first people through the tapstiles and you can take up residence at the rope underneath the train station that leads into the Park. For other high priority attractions, including Peter Pan’s Flight, Space Mountain, and Big Thunder Mountain, arriving by 7:35am is still smart. You’ll be just fine showing up at 7:45am, but an earlier arrival will put you in a spot closer to the front of the group headed to your attraction of choice.
Since we visited Frontierland, Adventureland, and Liberty Square last time, I figured we would begin on the other side of the Park for this rope drop, beginning with the highest priority in Tomorrowland in Space Mountain.
Although I have in mind to move quickly to the Tomorrowland rope, there are still opportunities to snap some pictures in the morning glow.
At 7:44am, the cluster headed to Mine Train is already expanding backwards towards the Hub.
At the same time, there’s only a single row of people waiting to cross the bridge into Tomorrowland.
During the work that’s currently underway on the Liberty Square side of Cinderella Castle, which includes the widening of the path that runs next to Sleepy Hollow Refreshments up into Fantasyland, those with pre-opening breakfast reservations at Be Our Guest or Cinderella’s Royal Table will head over here to the Tomorrowland side and use this path towards Mad Tea Party instead.
I have six or seven lenses that I cycle through, depending on how creepy I’m feeling on a particular day. Usually, you’ll see me with a pair of lenses – the Sigma Art 35mm f1.4 and the Sigma Art 85mm 1.4, but I also occasionally carry the Canon 11-24mm f4L or the Canon 70-200mm F2.8L II IS. Unfortunately, this 24-105mm f4L lens that I have mounted today isn’t much for sunbursts, but we’ll be sure to return soon for some better sunny-time photos.
Five minutes before official Park open, “Let the Magic Begin” featuring Mickey Mouse starts on the Castle Forecourt stage in front of Cinderella Castle. As I mentioned last time, none of the holding areas in front of the various Lands offer a good view of said stage. This tree is blocking our view on this side. If your first stop is a moderate or lower priority – basically anything that isn’t Mine Train, Peter Pan’s Flight, Big Thunder Mountain, or Space Mountain, then you should be able to enjoy the Welcome Show front and center without worry that you’ll run into an appreciable wait first thing, even if the attraction isn’t operating at full capacity. For the big four mentioned by name in the last sentence, you’ll likely want to be closer to the rope leading into the Land and have in mind to hurry to the priority ride as quickly as possible.
At 7:58am, the Welcome Show has concluded and we’re on our way.
For Space Mountain, we’re basically headed straight back through the Land.
We’ll take a slight left around The Lunching Pad, which serves as the base for Tomorrowland PeopleMover and Astro Orbiter. It’s neat how two attractions basically form the roof of the quick service.
Around 85.2% of the people headed towards Tomorrowland first will begin their day at Space Mountain. With an 8am open, you could basically walk on Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin for an hour or more. It will be my third stop of the day and I’ll wait about two minutes at 8:55am.
A handful of people will be headed to Tomorrowland Speedway.
It’s your second highest priority in the Land, given the fact that the exhaust from the cars makes even a short wait unpleasant as the sun beats down. The miserable capacity also leads to long waits forming earlier in the day, particularly if they’re only loading a handful of cars first thing, which is typically the case. I’m heading over to the Speedway after Space Mountain. If you have kids or members of the group who aren’t riding Space Mountain, then it makes sense to start with the Speedway or Buzz instead. Both are very easy first stops and you don’t need to hurry as part of the clump if one of them is your first stop.
As usual, I’m falling behind a bit. For years, I’ve said that this is due to me wanting to portray a more accurate rope drop experience for those who don’t move very fast or arrive at a more reasonable time in the morning and therefore are further back in the pack. The truth is that I am just very slow.
It’s 8:01am as we arrive at Space Mountain and wait with bated breath, hoping that a wait time shows up above the standby entrance, signaling that the ride is ready to go for the day. Space Mountain is down at Park open about 7% of the time, and when that happens, the ride is typically down for about 2.5 hours, finally opening closer to 11:30am. If the attraction that you’re planning to visit first thing is initially down, then you’ll likely want to refresh FastPass+ availability after using your initial three FP+ and try to book the attraction as a fourth experience. Scoring a 4th FP+ for Space Mountain will take some refreshing, but availability should open up.
The other option is to head to an attraction that you were originally planning on using FastPass+ for earlier in the day, before wait times have an opportunity to develop. Experience that attraction in standby and then cancel the FP+. Then try to book the attraction that’s down as one of your initial three FP+ experiences.
Without knowing when Space Mountain will come back online, it’s unlikely that you’ll be in the vicinity when it does reopen, which could be anywhere from one minute to several hours. And rides that see considerable downtime almost always have much longer waits when they do reopen thanks to the increased number of FP+ returners heading back to ride. Standby sees very little capacity in that situation. In most cases, I’d move on to the next attraction on your touring plan and then, once you use your three FP+, refresh availability.
Luckily, we’re in business as the 10-minute wait time appeared just one minute later at 8:02am.
Here’s a look at Space Mountain’s wait times so far in May:
Space Mountain looks pretty chill this month. The average wait doesn’t hit 30+ minutes until 10am, a full hour into normal operation with the usual 9am open and we don’t see waits hit an hour, on average, until after 11am. The overall average of 56 minutes also “feels” relatively short. But even if waits don’t immediately rise, it still makes a lot of sense to move quickly to the ride when possible.
I’m probably about a hundred people back as I move through the queue.
At 8:05am, the first guests of the day are already on-board.
While just one side was operating first thing, the other side is ready to come online.
Amusingly, not only was just one side operating first thing, but cast members were only loading one half of the possible vehicles on that one side.
Nonetheless, I arrived at 8:01am and was on-board just eight minutes later at 8:09am. With both sides operating, my wait would have been about 30 seconds, though.
But considering I was among the first hundred people in line, an eight-minute wait doesn’t bode well for those behind me. That’s why we moved quickly.
Even ruder, not only do you now have to walk from unload to the gift shop, rather than stand on the moving walkway, but Disney has installed this ball pit that you “can’t” play in.
On the other hand, with Space Mountain running at 25% capacity…
There’s nobody else around.
Maybe a quick dip.
I like the aesthetic of the new exit ramp, though it may be missing the pastel color palette that we’ll be taking a look at around Tomorrowland momentarily. Is it the future or not?
Outside, the pathway that used to connect Tomorrowland with the Storybook Circus section of Fantasyland is closed as Tron construction continues nearby. The cranes are visible overhead.
I arrived at 8:01am and was back out front at 8:20am for a total experience time of just 19 minutes. That’s a minute or two less than the ride would probably take with FP+ later in the day. If I got back in line, I’d probably board again in about 15 minutes, which isn’t bad.
Of course, if you ride Space a second time, it means that you’ll wait a little longer at each subsequent attraction as more people have an opportunity to get in line before you. I’m heading to Tomorrowland Speedway next.
With the 8am open, we don’t have a lot of people streaming into Tomorrowland at 8:21am. That strengthens our stance that these 8am opens are worth going out of your way to experience. It’s so much nicer and less stressful than a 9am open.
If you skipped Main Street Starbucks, then you may want to try Joffrey’s Revive, the stand right outside Space Mountain.
Here’s the menu. You don’t have as many sizing options as Starbucks, but everything on the menu is good for a snack credit. They have a variety of donuts, pastries, and such as well.
You could walk onto the next cycle at Astro Orbiter, where only two or three people are waiting. Buzz also remains a walk-on.
We’re heading to Tomorrowland Speedway with not a lot of other people.
We can enjoy some views of the new color scheme on the walk over.
Pastels are in.
White seems to be very in.
We got a preview of the “new” color scheme when this Disney Vacation Club kiosk opened a couple of years ago. This is all a long time coming.
Everywhere we go, there we are.
Here’s the Speedway’s previous look. We’ve got a lot more yellow, but also a lot more details. We’ll see if more accents are added as the Great Tomorrowland Paint Job continues.
Tron construction closed the attraction for about five months.
The cranes, show building construction, and track are visible in the distance.
Speedway saw just a little bit of love during the refurbishment with an updated color scheme that should match the rest of Tomorrowland after it’s all done. Above is the current look.
Here’s the old old look with a similar blue railing color. The new color scheme is most evident on the wall on the far left in the picture above, which was previously white. Now it’s the same turquoise color as the railings.
Back to the morning at hand, I was mildly amused to see that they were only loading four cars at a time.
That’s less than 20% of the maximum capacity given the fact that there are two sides with twelve possible boarding positions along each.
That means only ten or so people will board every couple of minutes.
I may have to write a touring plan that only visits attractions where Disney can’t reduce the number of vehicles on the track. We could just ride Mad Tea Party over and over again and pretend like it’s some sort of accomplishment. It looks like about five tea cups are currently filled.
Other than a little bit of aesthetic work, not much has changed at the Speedway.
The cars certainly aren’t electric.
And they haven’t gotten any faster or any more reliable.
The track is supposedly shorter.
But we may be talking about losing six or eight inches.
That might be important if we’re talking about how close you are to the entrance of Rise of the Resistance at rope drop.
I’m guessing that every foot closer to the ride means your wait will be 5-7 hours shorter.
It will be interesting to see how much, if any, of the Tron track goes over the Speedway. Most of the vertical construction you see now is expected to be the building where you’ll load/unload the vehicles. A canopy will be constructed around it.
The usual backup remains at the conclusion of the ride. Since they’re only loading four vehicles at a time, it means they’re only unloading four vehicles too.
I arrived at 8:24am, boarded my car at 8:40am, and was back out front at 8:50am, for a total experience time of 26 minutes. That’s not terrible, but it’s also ten minutes longer than if they were even loading one of the two sides instead of one half of one of the two sides. At full capacity, my wait would have been two minutes, if that.
Here’s a look at wait times since the Speedway reopened:
Wait times haven’t been too bad, though the past week, before Memorial Day Weekend, should be one of the least crowded of the year. During the same dates last year, the overall average wait was 27 minutes, or just one minute longer. With the 9am open, it looks like your actual wait should be around 15 minutes as long as you arrive before 9:45am. FastPass+ is smart in the afternoon. Availability as a fourth or subsequent experience isn’t great, but there’s enough to go around and you should be able to score a good return time after someone else changes or cancels their plans. Attractions popular with the kids are the most likely to be changed since families with youngsters are more likely to switch up plans than adult couples or those with older kids.
Personally, I was just happy to be able to show off some of the moves I learned at Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy. You’ll have to pick up your license elsewhere as those booths were removed with the refurbishment.
Here’s what those looked like.
There was a lot more yellow going on back then. It’s possible that similar booths will return with a new color scheme. Bright yellow might have fit the future in 2k18, but it’s certainly not the future in 2k19.
In the next part, we’ll move on to Buzz Lightyear, Astro Orbiter, and the PeopleMover, before making a break for Fantasyland.