We set our sights on Frontierland on the morning of Tuesday, August 28th, 2018. This will conclude our late summer look at Magic Kingdom as the focus shifts to Epcot. Last week, we started our morning with Space Mountain in Tomorrowland in this rope drop touring strategy post. We also tried our hand at visiting Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, the most popular attraction in the Park, on what you probably thought was going to be a busier Saturday in July in this post. You’ll typically see me say that Frontierland is the easiest of the rope drop experiences and we’re going to put that to the test as I’m arriving at 8:33am on a day with a regular 9am open and the Early Morning Magic event also going on in Fantasyland from 7:45am – 9am.
Here’s how things are looking on Main Street at 8:38am, or a little less than 20 minutes before the Let the Magic Begin welcome show starts on the stage in front of Cinderella Castle and we’re allowed to head to the attraction of our choice.
Starting with Frontierland first may be a good strategy on your first morning at Magic Kingdom as it’s virtually stress-free compared to the rush to Seven Dwarfs Mine Train or to a much lesser extent, Peter Pan’s Flight or Space Mountain. It’s nice to be able to relax and enjoy the morning atmosphere in the glowing golden light.
There’s an opportunity to enjoy the Main Street Trolley Show and then ride one of the Main Street Vehicles up to the Castle.
Here’s a look back down Main Street ten minutes later, at 8:48am.
If you missed our look at this year’s Halloween decorations, then you might pull up this post with about 75 pictures around Main Street.
When Magic Kingdom first moved to the current rope drop procedure, where guests are admitted onto Main Street beginning at 7:45am, Casey’s Corner and Plaza Ice Cream Parlor both offered breakfast.
These days, your breakfast option is Main Street Starbucks.
You’re going to have to wait until 10am to vlog that hot-diggity-dog at Casey’s.
Plaza Ice Cream follows with an 11am open.
I’ll miss you, 7:45am Doughnut Sundae. You can see the rest of the original breakfast offerings along with our first look at the changeover to the current rope drop procedure, in this post.
If you’d prefer some morning air-conditioning, most of the stores that line Main Street are open for business.
It’s a good opportunity to check out the Alex & Ani bracelets, which are otherwise housed in the least convenient places around the store.
This is a below average number of people waiting to head over to Mine Train at 8:50am. Typically, the last person from the rope drop crowd to arrive at Mine Train will wait between 40 and 60 minutes. With the lighter Mickey’s Party crowds on this particular Tuesday, the wait if you got in line at 9:10am would probably be about 30 minutes. That isn’t so bad on its own, but it does mean you’ll be visiting each subsequent attraction later in the morning, when waits have also had an opportunity to rise. It’s best to get over here by 8:15am.
For Peter Pan’s Flight, you can be in position on one side of the walkway that heads through Cinderella Castle by 8:30am and be fine.
Some number of people line up to the left of Cinderella Castle in front of Liberty Square. Most of them will be headed to Peter Pan’s Flight. I’ve had more luck going through the Castle, but occasionally the route behind the Castle can be slightly quicker for the first handful of people that arrive. The route through the Castle is typically the safer choice.
For Space Mountain, being in position at the rope by 8:40am is smart. For any other Fantasyland or Tomorrowland attractions, you can safely let most people go in front of you if you don’t want to join the morning rush. I was among the last of the rope drop crowd to arrive at Space Mountain on my Tomorrowland rope drop day and ended up waiting 20 minutes. That’s far from dire, but it also meant waiting 5-10 minutes longer at each subsequent attraction.
Here’s the crowd in front of the bridge into Adventureland at 8:51am. If I was hurrying to an attraction there or in Frontierland, then it would make sense to be in position by 8:45am.
This time, we’ll enjoy Mickey welcoming us to the Park during a show that begins five minutes before regular Park open, or 8:55am in this case.
The show is probably not as iconic as the one that took place at the train station, but it’s far easier to see and those guests more-interested in the attractions can move much closer to where they’re headed versus the long, slow walk up Main Street of yesteryear.
At the conclusion of the show, I turned towards Adventureland.
And began my walk back to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in Frontierland.
I watched, with my own eyes, as a couple rope dropped Swiss Family Treehouse. I feel like it’s such a wholesome move that whoever does arrive first should be granted a thousand paper FASTPASSes to every Disney theme park ride in the world and then have to sign a non-disclosure agreement so word that it happens never comes out. For all we know, maybe that is exactly what happens *wink wink*. You could freely walk through the Treehouse at your leisure through at least 11am and there won’t be a wait to walk across the bridge at any point during the day.
Five or six people will inevitably stop at The Magic Carpets of Aladdin first. Actual waits won’t hit 10 minutes until at least 10am.
If you don’t want to do any backtracking whatsoever, then you could probably come up with a higher priority ride to visit first than Jungle Cruise, but it makes the most sense among the Adventureland attractions. The downside is that cast often wait until a full boat of passengers materializes before casting off, which can take a few minutes first thing in the morning. That’s why we don’t start with Astro Orbiter in Tomorrowland anymore – you won’t typically see the first elevator head to the loading platform for seven to ten minutes after open.
Waits at Jungle Cruise rise faster than Pirates of the Caribbean and peak higher, making it the higher priority.
I’m going to wait about 15 minutes for Jungle Cruise after first riding Big Thunder and Splash.
We’re continuing through Caribbean Plaza behind everyone in a hurry to get to Frontierland. And in my case, everyone that’s not in a hurry, too.
Riding Pirates of the Caribbean in standby around 10am is typically smart when waits are still reliably under five minutes. By 10:30am, you can run into actual waits that approach 20 minutes or more if only one of the two loading platforms are operating, as is often the case.
A look back at 9:05am.
And into Frontierland.
There’s just a handful of people coming over from Liberty Square. They may be Early Morning Magic folks that have finished an early breakfast.
Splash is cycling empty logs as few people begin their morning there.
And here we are at Big Thunder with a 5-minute posted wait. Feels crowded.
As expected, Big Thunder is only loading one side, which effectively halves capacity. Luckily, I’m here early enough that it won’t bog me down too much.
Still, it was about ten minutes from the moment I stepped into the queue until I boarded my runaway train.
That’s about five minutes longer than it would take if I was the first person to arrive.
I was back out front at 9:25am for a total experience time of 17 minutes. That’s about six minutes longer than the absolute minimum that the ride takes.
The posted wait is up to 10 minutes with the actual wait probably approaching 15.
We head to Big Thunder first over Splash Mountain for a couple of reasons, even if the flume ride’s peak wait is higher during the summer. First, Splash is a much longer experience. So even if we were the first people to arrive in Critter Country at 9:05am, we wouldn’t be off the ride and over to Big Thunder until about 9:27am, when the wait there would be longer than what I experienced arriving casually at 9:08am.
By riding Big Thunder first, we can make it over to Splash before a wait longer than a minute or two develops and enjoy relatively short waits at both.
It was about three minutes from the time I entered the queue to the time I was floating freely up…or down…or around… the river:
I was back out front at 9:47am for a total experience time of 22 minutes, which is almost the bare minimum. The actual wait now is probably around 15 minutes.
Over at Big Thunder, 20 minutes is posted, which is probably about accurate.
I’m retracing my steps towards Jungle Cruise as crowds get a little bit heavier in Frontierland at 9:48am. I could probably still roll a bowling ball through there and not hit anything, but that may say more about my skill level than the number of people.
A handful of people outside Pirates.
Pirates is still posted at 5 minutes, which is probably about right.
Meanwhile, the posted wait at Jungle Cruise has already risen to 25 minutes at 9:52am.
I decided to risk it.
And it worked out in my favor for the most part as my actual wait ended up being 15 minutes or about as long as my combined wait for Big Thunder and Splash earlier in the morning.
Considering how slow the standby line moved – there were maybe 50 people in line in front of me, at most – I could see how the actual wait could quickly rise to 25+ minutes given how little capacity is given to standby.
If 30 or 40 more FastPass+ returners arrived while I was in line, my actual wait probably would have been about 25 minutes.
With waits typically rising as it gets later in the morning, we obviously can’t be everywhere first thing in the morning.
And if 50 people waiting in standby is going to mean a 15 minute wait, we’re probably going to be in trouble at Jungle Cruise come 11am.
Here’s a look at Jungle Cruise wait times during the month of August:
By 10:15am, the average posted wait is up to 30 minutes with the actual wait probably averaging about 25. Getting here before 10am is best.
Here’s a look at Big Thunder Mountain Railroad waits in August:
At 10:15am, Big Thunder’s average wait is 37 minutes, or about 23.33% higher than Jungle Cruise. On the other hand, the second loading platform typically comes online at 10am, which actually reduces waits from about 10:20am through 10:50am, before they rise to 40+ minutes at 11am. Still, I don’t think I would advise trying to time that second loading platform coming online and it also happens at different times throughout the year. Riding by 9:30am, with FastPass+, or late in the evening are your safest bets.
Here’s Splash Mountain in August:
The wait at 10:15am is the same 37 minutes as Big Thunder, though that wait continues to climb throughout the day, peaking at 73 minutes at 1:15pm and not dropping under 60 minutes again until after 8pm. Comparing Big Thunder and Splash, you’ll notice that Big Thunder’s waits do climb faster in the morning – 17 minutes versus 18 minutes at 9:30am; 23 minutes versus 27 minutes at 9:45am; and 34 minutes versus 38 minutes at 10am. It’s certainly not a huge difference.
I arrived at Jungle Cruise at 9:52am and was back out front at 10:19am, for a total experience time of 27 minutes. That’s about 12 minutes longer than the minimum and about 10 minutes longer than the ride would take with FastPass+ most of the day. In the FastPass+ era, waiting 15 minutes or less for a ride that’s going to peak at 60+ minutes is pretty good.
Considering the humidity, which was unreal on this particular morning, it was difficult not to stop at Aloha Isle Refreshments for a Dole Whip; the purveyor of Hawaiian non-dairy frozen treats continues to open at 9am.
At this point, it would make a lot of sense to continue with Pirates of the Caribbean and if I wanted, The Magic Carpets of Aladdin. I had set my FastPass+ up the night before and the best I could get for Mine Train without refreshing a bajillion times was a 9:15am to 10:15am return time, so that’s where I’m heading next.
Here’s a look at Pirates wait times in August:
It’s pretty obvious why it’s our fourth priority on this side of the Park. While Jungle, Splash, and Big Thunder all hit a 30-minute average wait by 10:15am, it takes Pirates more than an hour longer to hit the 30-minute average. But Pirates hits a peak wait of at least 40 minutes every day in August with the exception of two, so prioritizing it at some point in the late morning is smart. 10:30am on a Mickey’s Party date is just about right.
In Part 2, we’ll continue on into Fantasyland for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train with FastPass+, then make stops at The Barnstormer, Dumbo, Journey of the Little Mermaid, it’s a small world, Peter Pan’s Flight with FastPass+, Haunted Mansion with FastPass+, and then close things out with a 4th FastPass+ back at Pirates of the Caribbean. All before 1pm!