We veer off course a little bit with a return to Magic Kingdom on the morning of Thursday March 29, 2018.
Our last rope drop attempt earlier this month, as seen in this post, did not go particularly well. That includes a review of a pre-opening breakfast at Be Our Guest Restaurant and explains some of the (theoretical) touring advantages that come with it.
You might remember that I ended up waiting nearly an hour for Space Mountain, despite getting in line just 45 minutes after official Park open.
This time, we’ll do things a little differently, arriving at the main entrance at 7:05am with a regular 8am open.
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It’s 7:10am, which means there’s about five more minutes until the tapstiles open.
This early, it doesn’t really matter which tapstile you wait behind. Look for whichever line seems least likely that some guy will turn around every five minutes and take a picture of you.
As is customary, everyone present when the tapstiles open lines up straight back on either side of the train station.
But there is all this available space off to the side.
And this will be true for the next 15 minutes as more and more people line up straight back. At 7:30am, there’s about six people lined up behind me.
Compared to that mass of humanity straight back. There has to be 15 rows of people.
By 7:38am, we’ve largely run out of room straight back and people are beginning to fill in on the sides.
At 7:45am, people are backed up to the tapstiles.
And the entire courtyard has filled with fair-weather Detroit Tigers fans.
On a busy day with a regular 8am open, the sweet spot for arriving at the tapstiles is right around 7:25am.
That puts you in very good position to be able to fill in towards our preferred area off to the side without finding yourself twiddling your thumbs unnecessarily.
Plus you can hang out with this pot.
Those with pre-opening dining reservations and tours see a small head start. This is Disney moving them into the covered area underneath the train station at 7:30am. It’s appropriate to boo and hiss. If that idea seems uncomfortable, just pretend like you’re at Universal Studios and the feeling should come much more naturally.
They’ll be let go around 7:42am.
Everyone else is typically released at 7:45am.
As with our recent experience rope dropping Animal Kingdom, there’s a good number of runners.
Everyone in this picture is running, perhaps with the exception of the gentleman with the “turbo” button pressed on his ECV. I thought about peeling my banana and throwing it at him a la Mario Kart, but I need it for my food photos later.
As usual, I’m on the slow side of things, and at least a hundred people have run past me on my walk up Main Street. If you hear a crotchety old man yelling about “kids these days” and “where is the respect,” please say hi to me.
As usual, the path to the right of Cinderella Castle that heads towards Mad Tea Party is your best option for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. I’d head through Cinderella Castle for Peter Pan’s Flight or other Fantasyland attractions after the Welcome Show concludes.
For Frontierland, Tomorrowland, Liberty Square, or Adventureland attractions, in addition to other Fantasyland things, you can safely watch “Let The Magic Begin” from the center of the Hub and then proceed to the attraction of your choice. This post starts with Big Thunder Mountain and goes over how easy that is compared to trying to do Mine Train first.
As usual, we’re held before arriving at the bridge over to Fantasyland. Ahead is the number of people that managed to pass me on the walk over. Hopefully they all feel very bad about themselves.
And this is the crowd behind me.
Let The Magic Begin, the official name of the Welcome Show, begins five minutes before regular Park open, regardless of when that is.
And after the four-minute show concludes, we’re off. For some reason, nobody was receptive to my rants about the stock market crash in spring of ’72.
Passing Cosmic Ray’s.
Taking a left at Mad Tea Party towards the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train entrance.
It’s just about a 90-second walk to where you’ll fall in line against the railing at Mine Train.
This is right at 8am and I’m a considerable ways back.
There’s probably 200 people in front of me, which should result in an actual wait of about 15 minutes. It’s worth noting that several of the priority attractions are requiring guests wanting “Rider Swaps” to present the child that is too short or otherwise unwilling to ride. As I passed, there was a cast member talking to a woman who was pointing to her child in a stroller across the way, but the cast member insisted on seeing him or her before issuing the pass. Unfortunately, there are a lot of unscrupulous guests these days willing to do whatever it takes to get ahead, which makes things a lot more unpleasant for those of us trying to follow the rules. So if you are planning on getting a Rider/Child Swap, be prepared to present the child to the cast member at the attraction entrance or you may be further delayed.
There’s an awful lot more people behind me as they’re already backed up into Storybook Circus.
I ended up boarding at 8:17am:
I was back out front at 8:22am to a 105-minute posted wait.
That may be accurate as the end of the line is not visible in this picture.
Neither is the attraction entrance. That’s never good.
Nope. Still not there.
Next, I moseyed across the way to The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, which is sporting a 10-minute posted wait at 8:23am.
During my last rope drop, I did the same thing, and ended up waiting 16 minutes.
This time, I virtually walked on, despite arriving 23 minutes after Park open. On my last visit, when I waited over three times as long, I arrived just 19 minutes after Park open.
But that is a big benefit of the 8am start.
It means fewer people in the Park during the precious first hour of touring.
Most people are, at best, waiting at their resort for the bus to pick them up at 8am.
So even though it “felt” like there were a ton of people at rope drop, there really weren’t, relatively speaking.
At 8:32am, Mine Train is up to a two-hour wait, making our 17-minute actual wait to start the day worth the time and the hassle.
The end of the line is here, which should indicate an actual wait around 90-100 minutes.
With a 7:25am arrival, you’d wait 20 minutes to be let into the Park and then 15 minutes to be let loose towards the attractions. Add a 20-minute wait at the ride itself and it’s true that I’ve invested nearly an hour in experiencing Mine Train. But 35 minutes of that was before Park open and I’m currently in good position to visit other area priorities with relatively short waits. If you were to get in a two-hour line for Mine Train at 8:30am and finish around 10:30am, waits would be nuts virtually everywhere, as we’ll see for ourselves in a short while.
I was back out front of Winnie at 8:33am to a similarly-short posted wait and a total experience time of ten minutes. It was twice that on my last spring break rope drop with the 9am open.
This is how I managed to set up my FastPass+ experiences the night before:
It “feels” like we’re living in bizarre-o world when a 9:15am Pirates of the Caribbean FastPass+ is desirable. I was actually happy to be able to get it.
During the majority of my searching on the night before, the earliest return time for Pirates was after 5pm. There was no availability before then outside of an occasional 8am return time. We’ll see how much time I save heading over there around 10:30am.
Mad Tea Party was down at Park open – you can see the line for Tomorrowland Speedway filling in behind it. Peter Pan’s Flight was too, which presented an issue for anyone planning on heading there first.
I briefly contemplated going back over to Space Mountain, but the posted wait was already 40 minutes:
Next time, we’ll do a rope drop starting in Tomorrowland.
I decided to hammer out some more Fantasyland rides in front of my Peter Pan’s Flight FP+.
Dumbo was posting 10 minutes at 8:36am and had empty elephants flying, so I hopped in line:
I was back out front at 8:45am for a total experience time of nine minutes.
Spoiler: When we swing back around during the afternoon, the wait will be 80 minutes.
Barnstormer is up next.
From a wait times perspective, it makes a very small amount of sense to do Barnstormer before Dumbo, since waits for the roller coaster rise slightly faster and the duration of the experience is typically less.
But we’re talking about a minute difference.
I arrived at 8:46am:
And was back out front at 8:57am for a total experience time of 11 minutes.
I’m visiting the Storybook Circus attractions about a half hour earlier than is probably necessary.
But with the amount of time that it would take to backtrack here, in addition to the longer waits that I would experience around 9:30am, it makes some sense to move through these rides now.
New Fantasyland “crowds” at 9:03am. Most of the crowd shots moving forward will be at f1.4 at 85mm, which will blur a lot of the image. We’ll see how it works out when there’s more people in frame.
This is not one of those pictures, but we can clearly see a lack of people out here.
Journey of the Little Mermaid sits at five minutes at 9:05am:
I was back out front at 9:17am for a total experience time of 12 minutes, which is about as short as it gets. I would mention that it makes sense to visit Ariel’s Grotto before visiting the ride – the posted wait for the meet and greet is 15 minutes, but should be closer to seven or eight.
We’ll head over to Peter Pan’s Flight.
I don’t typically like to use FastPass+ prior to 10am.
But there are a handful of attractions where using FP+ early in the morning will save just about as much time as using it later in the day.
But since standby waits at most attractions rise as it gets later in the day and more people invariably arrive, it usually makes sense to ride as many attractions in standby as possible before using FP+.
Here at 9:30am, I’ll use my FP+ for Peter Pan’s Flight.
And I’ll save over an hour in line.
But the wait for my next standby attraction is only going to be longer since it’s later in the day and that many more people have taken the opportunity to get in line in front of me.
Here’s a wider look at Old Fantasyland at 9:25am.
But sometimes you take the FP+ experiences and times that are available to you – that’s particularly true at the highest priorities, which include Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Flight of Passage, Frozen Ever After, Peter Pan’s Flight, and the like.
I arrived at 9:25am, which you might remember is ten minutes after my official FP+ window closed.
But as usual, the “real” FP+ return window for rides is up to five minutes before and up to fifteen minutes after the stated time.
So my 8:15am-9:15am FP+ window is actually 8:10am-9:30am.
I don’t typically recommend planning to arrive during the latter part of that grace period, because that’s when unexpected delays can actually push you to miss your return time, but it’s there if you need it. If you are running late, calmly explain to the cast member what happened and they should let you on without incident, at least as long as you don’t look like you have a blog.
Things are already picking up considerably at 9:33am, or just over an hour and a half after official Park open.
I arrived at 9:25am and was back out front of Peter Pan’s Flight at 9:33am, for a total experience time of eight minutes with FP+.
That’s incredibly quick given the hour-plus posted wait.
I checked www.easywdw.com/waits and saw that Haunted Mansion was already posting a 35-minute wait.
So I headed over to see how it looked.
And there it is – the actual wait looks to be about a half hour.
Here’s a look at wait times over the course of the day:
By 9:45am, or less than two hours after the Park opened, the overall average wait for attractions that post one is over a half hour. 45 minutes at Buzz Lightyear. 30 minutes at Pirates of the Caribbean. 40 for Jungle Cruise. 80 for Peter Pan’s Flight. 90 for Space Mountain. 35 minutes for Big Thunder Mountain. But those waits are going to get a lot worse and it makes some sense to visit an attraction with a 20ish minute wait at this point.
I chose it’s a small world, which already has a line that fills the majority of the extended queue. At 9:30am.
But despite the long wait times and intense crowds that we’ll see later in the afternoon, my day has gone swimmingly so far. I’ve done:
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train: 8am – 8:22am
- The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh: 8:23am – 8:33am
- Dumbo the Flying Elephant: 8:36am – 8:45am
- The Barnstormer: 8:46am – 8:57am
- Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid: 9:05am – 9:17am
- Peter Pan’s Flight with FastPass+: 9:25am – 9:33am
That’s a solid morning – I’ve waited a total of about 35 minutes across six attractions, about half of which was Mine Train to start the day. The combined standby wait for those six attractions at 12pm is 425 minutes, or more than seven hours. So by arriving early and touring semi-intelligently, I’ve spent about 6.5 fewer hours in line. Not bad.
We’ll continue on in Part 2, which is available here. I have a feeling that it’s not going to be pretty.