We pick things up at 10am outside Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in Frontierland. If you’re wondering how we got here, you can pull up the previous update, which also links back to what I’m guessing are twelve additional parts.
So far, my day has gone better than I was expecting. You’ll remember that it was both a Saturday and the first day that Magic Kingdom reopened to guests.
I’ve been able to accomplish:
- 8:20am – 8:45am: Standing at guest services trying to fix a Park Pass/ticket issue.
- 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
Every day since my visit has been less crowded with even lower waits. That may change this weekend now that Disney has reallocated Park Pass reservation availability, pulling some from the Disney Resort Guests and Theme Park Tickets Guests categories, and increasing the number of spots reserved for Annual Passholders. With more local visitors able to attend the Parks, it’s possible that crowds will increase, particularly on the weekends. Even if you were to add a couple thousand more people to Magic Kingdom, the experience would not be tremendously different. You’d be adding 50 more people to 60 different places. Obviously not exactly that. But something like that. We’ll continue to see how things play out. What you see in this series is at least as crowded as it has been so far. We’ll certainly be back to reassess throughout the summer.
Splash Mountain should prove to be even more popular over the coming months. Posted at 45 minutes just before 10am, it currently sports the longest wait at Magic Kingdom. Jungle Cruise is actually second at 40 minutes. We’ll get over there shortly.
As you have undoubtedly heard, Disney announced last month that they would be overlaying Splash Mountain with “The Princess and the Frog.” There is no timeline for when the project will start or end.
Officially, this is Disney’s reasoning:
The approach to retheming or “plussing” attractions (as Walt Disney referred to it) begins with Imagineers asking the question, how can we build upon or elevate the experience and tell a fresh, relevant story? It’s a continuous process that Imagineers are deeply passionate about. And with this longstanding history of updating attractions and adding new magic, the retheming of Splash Mountain is of particular importance today. The new concept is inclusive – one that all of our guests can connect with and be inspired by, and it speaks to the diversity of the millions of people who visit our parks each year.
You can pull up the full release here.
After hearing news of the retheming, I was surprised that the ride would reopen with Magic Kingdom on July 11th. Disney announced the changes just two weeks prior to the Park reopening. Disneyland, where Splash Mountain will also be replaced, doesn’t currently have a reopening date. If the ride was problematic because of its origin in “Song of the South,” you’d think Disney would have a good reason to keep it closed beyond the usual budgetary blame game.
Disney’s announcement has increased interest in Splash Mountain. I heard several people in line comment that this would be their last opportunity to ride, so they better take advantage. You’ve also got the whole summer-in-Florida thing pushing people towards rides where they might be able to cool off a bit. There’s also the fact that the ride will be operating at around 50% of its capacity with physical distancing. All of that should mean longer waits.
I started my approach just about backed up to the tunnel underneath the Frontierland Railroad station. That’s well outside of the indoor portion of the queue.
Based on the fact that few people were getting in line behind me, it “felt” like it was just about the worst time to get in line.
Even still, I only waited seven minutes until I arrived underneath the ride’s marquee.
As with other attractions, the length of the line appears to be much longer than it is given the six feet between parties.
Disability access and those using rider swap will continue to use the FastPass+ queue, which is why markers are down on the other side of the walkway. VIP tours are also set to resume next month, and most of those will utilize the old FastPass+ queues as well. There are no physical barriers in the queue.
At least until you get to the very end. This is probably about 12-feet-worth.
My total wait ended up being 25 minutes.
They were seating separate parties in the first and last rows of each log.
I’m not sure if that’s six feet or not. Certainly, just about everyone going down the big drop screams and does something with their hands. It’s not unusual to see people slide their masks off for the picture. Officially, that will result in Disney removing the picture from your My Disney Experience account. As usual, I sit in silence, completely nonreactive, screaming in my heart. I’m also actively counting down the minutes until my Tony’s Town Square Restaurant reservation, knowing that it could be my last meal for a number of reasons. I wish I was kidding about any of that.
Disney has turned off virtually all of the sprayers, which means you should only get about 27.2% as wet as usual. In the past, we’ve seen Disney institute similar water spray settings during cooler parts of the year, when you might not want to be…splashed.
We’ll enjoy the ride:
While interest in Splash Mountain is probably slightly higher due to Disney’s announcement, the merchandise is significantly more popular. Because of that, there’s actually a virtual queue just to enter the store attached to the ride. This is to the far right of the attraction entrance, past the walkway up to the railroad station, and just outside the restrooms. You’ll give the cast member your name and phone number, and you’ll eventually receive a text message that it’s your turn to come back to the store. It took me about 2.5 hours to receive my text, and by the time I returned, just about everything had “sold out” for the day. I still had to stand there for 20 minutes to find this out. Disney does continue to restock certain items. I don’t know if somebody is running back and forth from the warehouse or what.
It’s 10:44am, which puts my total experience time around 40 minutes. That’s about 15 minutes longer than the ride typically took with FastPass+. For disability access or rider swap, you’d still head to the old FastPass+ entrance here. That’s why there’s still a cast member out front. If you’re part of a VIP tour and have room, I’d appreciate it if you would call me over to join you. That way, my touring plan will look even smarter.
The Briar Patch store opened during cast and annual passholder previews. It has since closed as Disney focuses on the store attached to the attraction. After riding Splash, you’ll find that the door to the store is closed, and you’ll be routed around instead.
During my ride, Splash’s wait dropped to 30 minutes, which is probably still exaggerated by five to ten minutes.
Big Thunder Mountain’s wait also dropped ten minutes since we were here last. It now reads 25 minutes. Splash’s wait is still the longest in the Park.
With two days at Magic Kingdom, you likely want to start in Fantasyland one day and in Frontierland on the other. You could also end your day in Frontierland. By visiting Big Thunder and Splash in the last hour of operation, you’ll wait less than if you got in line during peak crowds from 10am to 3pm. At the moment, that means heading back here around 6pm. Historically, we’d want to be to Splash by 10am or so in the summer to avoid a 20+ minute wait. You may need to be there closer to 9:30am these days, which means that it makes sense to start or end the day there. My own 25-minute wait was far from prohibitive.
Ahead on the right, across from Pecos Bill and next to Golden Oak Outpost, is a “Relaxation Station.” It’s indicated by that A-Frame sign that says “Relaxation Station.” I’d probably continue ahead and sit at Tortuga Tavern instead. It’s at least covered. The idea behind the Relaxation Stations is that you’ll be sat far enough away from the other people that it’s “safe” to take your mask off. Amusingly(?), you’ll find a number of these stations in small, indoor, enclosed areas. As long as we’re not at Pecos Bill, I feel like we’re doing okay though.
Tortuga Tavern is immediately on my left as we look ahead to Caribbean Plaza. Seating there is mostly covered, while still being outside.
Pirates is posting a 15-minute wait at 10:50am.
Perhaps this will be the last time that I point out that the queue appears to be much longer than it is because we’re about six-feet apart. One thing I noticed is that it’s a lot easier to keep your distance when your party is one or two people large. When you’ve got 5+ people, there’s considerably less space to pile in on between the markers. Without physical distancing in place, and with FastPass+ in operation, the wait would be about an hour from back here.
At Pirates, seating depends on party size/makeup and where the guests in the adjacent boat are seated. In the first boat ahead, it looks like guests are seated in the first and last rows. In the boat behind that, there are guests in rows one, two and six.
Here, we have guests seated in rows one, two, and five. Luckily, figuring out where to go is not your problem. They will tell you.
In my boat, cast sat a group of three people in the first row and me in the back row.
I waited about 16 minutes:
Pirates took about 27 minutes, which is about ten minutes longer than the ride typically took with FastPass+. Considering it’s going on 11am, waiting an extra ten minutes ain’t bad at all.
In this direction, there aren’t a lot of people around at 11:17am. I think I count nine here. That’s the Tortuga seating on the right. In some locations, it’s possible that a cast member will shoo you away from a closed venue. At Epcot, we tried to take some of our Festival Food to Lotus Blossom Cafe in the China Pavilion. Seating there is outdoors and covered. Disney had roped it off. That meant our choices were baking outdoors standing up in the sun, or risking the indoor air-conditioning of Akershus Royal Banquet Hall in Norway, which is now a Relaxation Station. A couple people were already sitting at Tortuga, so you should be fine there. As someone who has “enjoyed” the Golden Oak Outpost seating section more than I would like to admit, I can confirm that it’s hot over there.
The line for Pirates was only getting longer.
At least Magic Kingdom was ready for it, unlike Hollywood Studios.
The extended queue is already necessary. Worse, we’re about a half hour away from a storm. The people out here are about to get soaked. Not these people. But the ones who will be here then. You may want to pack an umbrella or poncho as you find yourself waiting outside more often than not, even with fewer people in line.
Even with the line extending outside, you’re looking at what should be an accurate 25-minute wait.
We’ll have to see if crowds and wait times demonstrably increase this weekend now that Disney has shifted capacity to Annual Passholders. You’ll remember that as recently as July 15th, Passholders couldn’t book Disney Park Passes for any Parks for the rest of July and into August. Now, Passholders can book any Park that isn’t Hollywood Studios virtually any day for the rest of 2020. Availability continues to be worse on weekends. If you are somehow flexible in your travel dates, I’d expect weekdays to be even less busy than usual. A Monday to Friday trip would be less crowded than a Thursday to Monday trip. But even then, Animal Kingdom was completely dead this past Sunday.
Ordinarily, most local-ish passholders probably wouldn’t go near Magic Kingdom in July. With the Parks closed for four months, and the pictures of light crowds and low waits circulating, that may be slightly less true. Of course, that demand is at least partially offset with the “unprecedented times.” You’ll remember that the day of my visit was the most crowded that Magic Kingdom has been since it reopened. Obviously, based on most of these pictures, that’s not very crowded.
We’ll continue to Jungle Cruise and go on from there.