Magic Kingdom Fantasyland and Frontierland Touring in the Current Normal
We pick our morning at Magic Kingdom back up after experiencing Seven Dwarfs Mine Train on Saturday, July 11th, 2020. You’ll remember that this is the first day that Magic Kingdom Park and Disney’s Animal Kingdom reopened to the public. In Part One, I discussed what to expect from the arrival experience. That process will likely now be more time-consuming and put you in front of Magic Kingdom’s entrance later in the morning than if you arrived at the same time before the extended theme park closure.
That includes Disney not beginning to park guests until around 8am. Then, social distancing measures limit the number of guests who are able to ride the monorails and ferry boats. Part Two walked us up Main Street. We also discussed some concerns that you might have with the safety measures Disney has and hasn’t enacted since reopening, and successful or unsuccessful they might be.
At 9:04am, or just four minutes after the Park officially opened, I’ve already completed the most popular attraction at Magic Kingdom. The posted wait remains five minutes, but it’s probably climbed to a solid ten. A year ago, the wait would have been 70+ minutes already.
There are three or four reasons why crowds are so low. First, a lot of people are still waiting to get across the water to Magic Kingdom’s entrance.
Second, several hundred people ran into similar Park Pass problems as I did. They’re stuck waiting at guest services outside the Park. That line will take a couple of hours to dissipate. Fortunately, that phenomenon should be a one-off problem.
The third and fourth reasons go hand in hand. Magic Kingdom still had Park Pass availability for both Disney resort guests and guests staying off-site with regular theme park tickets. There was no availability for annual passholders. So this was not a capacity day, despite the fact that thousands more annual passholders were potentially willing to visit. Instead of allocating some of that availability to Passholders, even if it was with just 24 or 48 hours in advance of the date, Disney elected not to do that.
Under the current conditions, Disney is going to have to allocate more of their Park Pass availability to passholders if they want to increase attendance and revenue. You could argue that Disney would prefer a much slower ramp-up; it’s also obvious that they’re willing to welcome additional guests because there is still Park Pass availability for other ticket types. Most people from out-of-state are not willing to travel to Florida at the moment, which makes a lot of sense.
With Disney putting tickets and packages for the rest of 2020 back on sale just a couple of days ago, it’s going to be some time until we see crowds increase substantially. You’ll remember that a lot of resorts, including the All-Star Complex and Art of Animation, haven’t even reopened yet. The All-Stars don’t even have a publicly-acknowledged reopened date. Disney could be intentionally keeping the allotment of Park Passes for annual passholders lower, in hopes that they will book an on-site stay. Disney doesn’t seem too concerned that their sizable and loyal annual passholder base is having so much trouble even booking a Park Pass to visit a theme park using a ticket they’ve already purchased. Since reopening, Disney has paused the sale of new annual passes, so they’re well aware of the issue.
After Mine Train, I moseyed across the way to The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Without too many people in line, it’s an easy attraction to experience as we progress through the line without any pre-shows to slow us down. It may not be obvious at first glance, but that’s hand sanitizer at the attraction entrance.
The automatic machines have worked well in my experience. They dispense an appropriate amount of sanitizer automatically after you hold your hand under the mechanism for a moment. So far, I haven’t run into a single empty/non-working unit. I’m sure people have occasionally been unlucky, but if one dispenser is out, there will be another available in short order. All attractions should offer sanitizer at the attraction entrance, at load, and then again at the exit. At Disney, using hand sanitizer is optional.
At Universal Studios, a team member squirts hand sanitizer on your hands before you board most attractions. I’m not sure what the opt-out process is there because I’ve never tried. People do have allergies and whatnot. Potentially, if you did have an issue there, you could show them that you have your own sanitizer, and squirt some on your hands. I have no idea if they wouldn’t let you on an attraction if you refused the squirt. At Disney, you can opt in or out. I usually opt in, but sometimes I’ve just put some on from the attraction that I just exited, and will bypass the dispenser at the entrance. It also occurs to me that I usually put my hands right back on my phone or camera immediately after. Bacteria probably covers both of those things. Such is life.
Winnie the Pooh was a walk-on at 9:05am. Like other attractions, Disney has roped off the interactive queue elements.
Some covers are more graceful than others.
Here’s what the same area looks like without the ropes. In the distance is where you’ll see the beige cover in the previous image. At that “game,” you can move some bees along a metal wire from hive to hive. You may also note that it cost $89 extra to experience a wait this short back in February of this year during Early Morning Magic.
The honey wall, where kids and adults can touch the screen and slide the virtual honey around, is also unavailable. It’s part of the standby queue, and we’ll be re-routed ahead through what used to be the FastPass+ line. The honey wall has always been a disgusting inclusion that I stay as far away from as possible. I’ve never seen anyone clean it during the day. But the kids do love that sort of thing and they are either immune to getting sick or sick, depending on the child and day. On the other hand, the wall probably isn’t any grosser than any of the other railings around the Park. There’s just something about watching so many people smear their hands along it.
Things look to be picking up in Fantasyland in just the minute or two that it took me to walk the empty Winnie the Pooh queue.
There’s another hand sanitizer dispenser at boarding.
With physical distancing measures in place, your party will be seated in its own honey pot:
I arrived at 9:05am, boarded at 9:07am, and was back outside at 9:11am. There was still nobody waiting in line. The posted wait for the day never exceeded 15 minutes. On Monday, July 13th, or the first weekday that Magic Kingdom reopened to the public, the ride posted a 5-minute wait all day. It never even hit ten minutes. Over the last five years, the average wait is 35 minutes.
Mine Train was up to 20 minutes with the queue now extended outside the entrance. With the required six feet between parties, lines at many attractions will appear much longer than they actually are, given the actual number of people waiting. Without physical distancing, the number of people in line now would be somewhere around the bed of gemstones just outside the indoor portion of the queue. That’s not very far out. You won’t believe how far the queue for Mine Train extends. I would tell you now, but I really need pageviews, so you will just have to wait for Part Seven.
I opted to continue on to Peter Pan’s Flight, which is historically one of Magic Kingdom’s highest priorities. That’s thanks largely to the low capacity. In the past, heading over there immediately after Seven Dwarfs Mine Train would result in an actual wait of 10 to 25 minutes, depending on how quickly you moved through the mine. If you didn’t get over to Peter Pan until closer to 9:30am prior to the extended closure, you’d wait about 45 minutes most days. Currently, I see exactly one stroller parked at Prince Charming Regal Carrousel. The only people close enough to us on the left appear to be looking at a Park map. These are always good signs. There are few things that throw a wrench in our plans quite like a tourist knowing where they’re going.
At 9:11am, there’s probably more people at your local grocery store than out and about in Fantasyland. I count about 14 people.
And while there’s some number of people in front of me through this pathway, which is typically much more congested, none of them are taking the left turn into Peter Pan’s Flight.
At 9:11am, Peter Pan’s Flight is posting a 5-minute wait. Historically, the wait is over six times that at the same time of day.
“it’s a small world” is a very wholesome choice for this time in the morning. It’s also something that we’ll be able to walk on with a short wait in a couple of hours. It doesn’t make much sense to experience it now. The long length of the ride will also put us behind schedule. With crowds this light, that fact will end up being less important.
The queue for Peter Pan’s Flight will eventually fill, but on the day of my visit, the posted wait never exceeded 35 minutes. On Monday the 13th, the wait peaked at 15 minutes. That’s basically unheard of.
There are a number of advantages to the social distancing aspect. A couple of those we’ve previously discussed, like not having people on top of us in line. I have yet to hear “Please fill in all of the available space” across 40+ hours in the Parks since they reopened to cast, passholders, and regular guests. Sometimes, I just say the phrase out loud to myself to feel a little more normal. Even as I type this, I’m packed in against the corner of my office, just for the feeling of a little comfort.
Another advantage is that you may have more than a moment to enjoy some of the details in the queues.
Here at Peter Pan’s Flight, we have a moment to take a look at the portraits before moving on to the next marker, six feet away.
We’ll continue on, about six feet at a time:
We’ll see a number of loading processes and queue configurations that differ from the past. Here at Peter Pan’s Flight, not a whole lot has changed from normal operation. This safety marker replaces the old system, where you’d move from the 3s, to the 2s, to the 1s, and eventually to your pirate ship. Unlike most other attractions, I don’t think the seating arrangement has changed much at Peter Pan’s Flight. They never seat parties together on the ships. Cast should fill every vehicle, since they’re more than six feet apart from each other and have giant backs:
We meet another hand sanitizer dispenser at the end of the walkway down to the exit. I arrived at 9:12am, and was back out front at 9:21am, for a total experience time of nine minutes. That’s a couple minutes less than the ride typically takes with FastPass+, so we’re doing well above-average.
Looking at Prince Charming Regal Carrousel, and in the direction of Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, crowds have not exactly picked up. There are a few more people around.
In the ten minutes since we got in line for Peter Pan’s Flight, the wait has gone up *checks notes* zero minutes. I could go back around again if I wanted.
Since it was the first day that Magic Kingdom reopened, I continued on to my next priority to see if things were any worse elsewhere. I think I can make out four guests and one stroller.
Sometimes it’s difficult to tell just where the social distance markers are headed. This should be for Peter Pan’s Flight, which continues down to Columbia Harbour House, and then switches back around towards the attraction entrance. We’ll see this area largely filled in later in the afternoon. Back in February, if the standby line was legitimately backed up this far, you’d be looking at a wait of around three hours, considering about 70% of the ride’s capacity would go to FastPass+ and Disability Access. With physical distancing in place, your actual wait if this line were filled in would be about a half hour, if that.
Columbia Harbour House, my favorite Magic Kingdom quick service, remains closed.
It may be a bit of a shame because there’s plentiful outdoor seating behind Liberty Square Market should you prefer to sit outside.
Ordinarily, you would find me sitting at the upstairs window at Harbour House. Given the current conditions, I might prefer to eat outside in the open air, even if it’s Florida in July.
I stopped at Haunted Mansion next.
There looked to be about three people ahead of me.
At the time, we had the option of walking through the interactive queue or bypassing it. I don’t think any of the virtual queue elements would be functioning, but adding the queue to the rotation increases the number of people who will fit inside the line before it spills outside and towards Liberty Square Riverboat. At least one person is taking the opportunity to give it a look-over. They may just be lost.
Haunted Mansion is one attraction where we do see major modifications.
The stretching room no longer functions. It’s just straight through to the next room, where you’ll load your doom buggy.
It makes some sense that Disney would make that call. It’s difficult to social distance groups in the dark. There also isn’t a whole lot of available space in the stretching room, particularly when parties can’t be within six feet of each other. Fans of Haunted Mansion will certainly be disappointed, though you probably remember the gist of it. Those who have never experienced the attraction probably don’t even realize something is amiss. If I went to a theme park that I hadn’t previously visited, and walked right through a room, I’d probably just assume that it was standard procedure.
On the plus side, we’re not jam-packed into this room, fighting our way to the front left, where a narrow walkway eventually takes us onto a moving walkway that carries us to our buggy.
Most of us have probably experienced the wall-to-wall crowds in the loading area as people push their way left. With physical distancing in place, that will no longer happen. Would I trade a couple of minutes of unpleasantness here to enjoy the stretching room? Probably. But being able to walk on Haunted Mansion without being delayed at all is nice too.
I arrived at 9:13am and boarded at 9:16am. Even if I was able to walk right into the next stretching room back in February, it would have taken at least five more minutes to board.
One thing I did notice is that spending so little time in the dark before embarking through the mansion meant that my eyes didn’t have time to adjust to the lack of light, and it made it much more difficult to see some of the subtler details. If you’ve ever visited Halloween Horror Nights at Universal, you probably know what I’m talking about. It’s significantly more difficult to find your way around inside the mazes/houses when it’s still light out. With the event typically starting around 6pm, you’ve got three hours of sunlight before darkness descends.
We’ll enjoy the ride:
Here’s another example of where the alternate access entrance comes into play. This is near the ride’s exit. You’d bypass 99% of the line, including what used to be the stretching room. As I mentioned before, Disability Access and Rider Swap work largely as they did before. A cast member at the attraction will explain how the process works.
The humidity has hit my camera lens at 9:34am. That means Mansion took 12 minutes, which I think is a record low. With my glasses also fogging up, it’s occasionally difficult to tell if it’s my lenses or the camera’s lens suffering from some moisture. Either way, the ride remains a walk-on with the hand sanitizer full at the entrance on the left. There’s another sanitizer unit before you’ll board and along the exit path.
I’m heading over to Frontierland to see if waits have already had an opportunity to build there.
This is certainly the most people we’ve seen so far this morning.
We’ll discuss why Splash Mountain has realized a sudden resurgence in popularity in the next post, but it’s already posting a 40 minute wait, which is longer than any other in the Park, including Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Peter Pan’s Flight. That’s virtually unheard of at 9:30am, but it will likely be the reality for the foreseeable future.
I opted for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad first.
Big Thunder was posted just five minutes less at 35 minutes. I figured we’d give it a shot to see. It’s 9:39am. The average wait at this point in the morning is 25 minutes, so we’re above average here, compared to what we’ve seen previously.
The fact that the line wasn’t backed up outside of the covered queue was a good sign, particularly given social distancing. All of the lines will appear longer than they actually are.
There aren’t a whole lot of people around as we look back at Frontierland.
With no FastPass+ in play, virtually all of the ride’s (limited) capacity goes to standby. We should be in pretty good shape.
From seeing the pictures of all these acrylic barriers, my assumption was that the queue would be even more unbearably warm than usual.
It would stand to reason that the plastic would capture and keep some of the heat in. I didn’t really notice a rise in temperature, though.
That may be in part because one can only get so hot.
It’s actually sort of fun trying to keep up with the social distancing markers around all the twists and turns.
It can also be a bit of a challenge as you have to crane your neck around corners to see if the people ahead have moved on.
Here’s the next marker ahead, with new barriers on the right. The queue elements on the left were installed years ago. What foresight.
I thought the barriers would be more annoying, but it wouldn’t even bother me if Disney elected to keep them up. People, myself included, are gross. If some plastic is going to keep spit and other germs from traveling from person to person, that seems like a positive thing. On the other hand, if the plastic simply turns into a petri dish of sorts over the course of the day, that’s less good. I have no idea if bacteria sticks to the plastic, and becomes more dangerous, instead of wafting away into the air.
As with other queues, Disney has roped off as many of the interactive elements as possible. They don’t want you touching anything. You don’t want to touch anything.
Seeing no trains barreling down the mountain is both good and bad. It means fewer people are likely going to crash on a runaway mine car. But it also means fewer trains are barreling down the mountain, which means we’ll wait a bit longer. There aren’t a lot of places outside Walt Disney World where seeing people screaming on an out-of-control train is a good thing.
Perhaps my favorite sight at Magic Kingdom is watching the Riverboat float by. The lack of people makes the scene all the more serene.
If there was a canary up there, it’s probably telling us to go home.
One more look at Frontierland before we continue down to board:
As you can see, they’re keeping two rows empty in front of most parties.
And in some cases, even more rows than that. It looks like rows 2, 3, 4, and 5 are empty. Somebody might have just fallen out.
Row requests may or may not be accommodated. In the past, I’ll sometimes request the back row, where the wildest ride in the wilderness is the most wild. The pictures are also typically more interesting with a full train ahead of me. If you request the back row, cast may not be able to send you down there, past a dozen other people, to stand within a few inches of the group ahead of you. There also isn’t much room to stand off to the side at the front of the line. You can always ask, but don’t be surprised if your request can’t be accommodated at this time. And don’t pitch a fit. Whatever they tell you is the policy.
For whatever reason, we have considerably less physical distancing behind us, with just the one row separating two larger parties. It may not have been intentional as a group boarded before they were supposed to, or a cast member may have miscounted. There is/are still probably the six feet between guests and the ride is outdoors, so it shouldn’t be too much of an issue. If anything, you may want to sit in the front when possible and scream in your heart rather than out loud. That’s gotten me through ten years of Tony’s Town Square, which is where we’ll be headed for lunch.
That’s the second hand sanitizer station that I passed as I exited. There’s also the one at the front of the attraction and one at the front of the next attraction I’ll visit. We won’t focus on this much in the future, but the sheer number of dispensers is worth noting.
I arrived at 9:39am, and boarded at 9:54am, so my actual wait was just 15 minutes, or less than half of what was posted. The actual wait now is probably about ten minutes.
Disney is probably being conservative with some of their wait times at the moment because they don’t know what to expect, either. You can also occasionally run into a deep cleaning delay, which usually takes 15 to 20 minutes. If they underwent a deep clean while I was in line, the queue would have stood at a standstill, and my actual wait would have been closer to what was posted.
So far, my day has gone well. I’ve accomplished:
- 8:20am – 8:45: Standing at guest services trying to fix a Park Pass/ticket issue. Eliminate that problem and I could have ridden Seven Dwarfs Mine Train two or three additional times.
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train: 8:53am – 9:04am
- The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh: 9:05am – 9:11am
- Peter Pan’s Flight: 9:12am – 9:21am
- Haunted Mansion: 9:23am – 9:34am
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad: 9:39am – 9:59am
That’s five major rides during the first hour of operation. The day of my visit has also been the busiest day so far, as it was reopening day on a Saturday. Each subsequent day has seen even lower crowds and wait times. Not that you can wait much less than five seconds.