After spending more time than either of us would probably like on wait time charts, we’re back on the ground at Magic Kingdom to see how touring goes on what should be a mildly-crowded weekday in September. If you’ve missed our new style of post, you can pull up any of the previous renditions:
- Walt Disney World Wait Times and News for 9/8/20
- Walt Disney World Wait Times and News for 9/9/20
- Walt Disney World Wait Times and News for 9/10/20
- Walt Disney World Wait Times and News for 9/11/20
We cover news, daily wait times, operating hour changes, and more. I’ve cleverly concealed two jokes in each post, so you’ll want to be on the lookout for those too.
Ordinarily, I would just stumble down from my penthouse atop Bay Lake Tower and waltz over to Magic Kingdom for Park open, but we’ll start today at the Transportation and Ticket Center. This is where you’ll start your day if you’re arriving in and parking your own vehicle. If you’re staying at an off-property resort that offers its own transportation, like Shades of Green or many of the Disney Springs area resorts, you’ll also be dropped off in the parking lot/drop-off area that’s currently just behind me. The public Lynx bus picks up and drops off in the same location and it’s also an option for guests using Uber/Lyft.
Typically, I suggest guests using Uber/Lyft request to be dropped off at the Contemporary Resort to take advantage of an easier walk over, but you will need to get past the security person out front. At least 90% of the time this will be no problem when the driver tells them that you’re being dropped off and not checking in to the resort, but you can occasionally run into a small interrogation from someone who is fairly certain that they own the place. Starting the day with an early breakfast reservation at The Wave or Chef Mickey’s will guarantee you admittance to the resort. After breakfast, you can follow the other walkers over to Magic Kingdom.
Chef Mickey’s opens at 7am and The Wave follows at 7:30am, so you should have plenty of time to be on your way over by 8am to 8:30am. Chef Mickey’s is currently a characterless all-you-care-to-enjoy family-style meal that costs $25/adult and $14/child, which may make it more or less attractive than when it was twice as expensive and featured the Fab 5 meeting tableside. You can pull up the menu here. It’s basically a limited assortment of food that Chef Mickey’s would normally serve brought out to you in unlimited amounts. I have been and it’s just fine, but you can spend less and come away with better food at The Wave. Chef Mickey’s probably does offer a more energetic ambiance with the vibrant colors and monorail passing by. The Wave is really more like a new-age, windowless cave without Duran Duran playing over the top of your Florida-inspired omelet. I’m very rarely doing anything, so I can come sing some songs while you eat if you think it would improve the experience.
While a lot of Disney’s current health and safety protocols actually make things easier than they were before the March closure, arriving at the Parks before they open is not one of them. Historically, you could park at Magic Kingdom before 7am without any trouble. The resort monorail would also start up at 7am and drop its first guests off at the Park before 7:15am. Now, Magic Kingdom’s toll plaza doesn’t open until slightly after 8am most days with the 9am official open. If you arrive much earlier, you’ll likely be rerouted in a circle around the parking lot until closer to 8:10am or so.
According to the signage, the monorail won’t start dropping guests off at Magic Kingdom until 8:30am. With physical-distancing protocols in place, Disney doesn’t want people congregating en masse in any one location.
So this is out. That may not be a bad thing as you enjoy the air-conditioning of your vehicle and the sights and sounds of Bay Lake and World Drive. Of course, if you’re not expecting it, you may be far less amused by your surroundings.
So if you’re driving yourself, I’d currently plan on arriving at the toll plaza at about 8:10am. If you’re boarding the monorail, confirm that it will stop at Magic Kingdom if it’s before 8:25am. From the Contemporary, a monorail departing after 8:15am should stop at the most popular theme park in the world. From the Polynesian, the 8:20am monorail should make its Magic Kingdom stop. From the Grand Floridian, the 8:25am monorail is the one you’ll want to be on. Otherwise, you run the risk of running the loop again. You can always get off at the Contemporary and walk, which is the best way to arrive at Magic Kingdom’s main entrance first, but it will take some time from the other monorail resorts to undertake that.
On the left ahead is the temperature check inside of the tents.
The familiar A-frame warning signs guide us.
We’ll be held in front of the temperature check until the first buses arrive at Magic Kingdom, the first cars park, and the walk over from the Contemporary begins. I would give a big shoutout to the temperature check folks, who have never failed to zap me with their little temperature gun with a comforting smile. I’m sure it’s not easy being on your feet most of the day dealing with the general public. It also gives me an opportunity to feel tall as I squat down so they can hit my brain full of high-res thoughts.
At 8:21am, the first guests who parked their own vehicles are beginning to arrive. You can sort of make out their feet under the bridge in the distance. You’ll remember that the parking trams are not currently operational at any of the Parks. This walk will probably feel a lot longer at the end of the day. The temperature check process typically starts at the Transportation and Ticket Center at 8:20am.
The Express Monorail is usually the fastest way over to Magic Kingdom.
There are more monorails on the line and it’s a direct ride that takes about three minutes. You can opt for the Resort Monorail if the Express Monorail line is significantly backed up, but you’ll have to factor in the time that it takes to board it and stop/load at the Polynesian and Grand Floridian Resorts. That’s assuming that those stations are open. With only the DVC rooms/villas/bungalows currently open at those resorts, there shouldn’t be many waiting to board. Come early October, it’s expected that the Polynesian will close its monorail platform during its lengthy refurbishment. That will save you a few minutes if you’re headed in that direction. At some point, you’d think they’d start using a catapult. The worst thing that could happen is you have to take up residency on Discovery Island and then they make a documentary about you. We’d also know more about towel service there.
The Epcot Monorail remains closed and likely won’t reopen until Park Hopping is reinstated. The entrance to the Express Monorail is to the left of Epcot’s, followed by the entrance up to the Resort Monorail. The Ferryboat dock is further down to the left where it says “FERRYBOAT.”
We’ll play a bit of hopscotch as we funnel around the Express Monorail entrance. “What is this line for?” is always a tourist favorite, but even I don’t know where I am half the time anymore. That may say more about me than it does the number/arrow system.
In the days of physical-distancing, just about every mode of transportation will take longer than it did before.
Most of us have probably been crammed into a monorail with more people than they’ll let into a Chiefs game. I’ve stood inside a monorail cabin on more than one occasion thinking, “Really? You thought six inches was enough space for two double strollers and your entire family reunion?” But as it turns out, you can put up with almost anything for three minutes. It helps if you work on your scowl leading up to your vacation so people are less likely to bother you. Instead of getting up at 7am to make FastPass+ reservations, you might wake up at the same time and practice looking mean in the mirror.
Now Disney has pulled the sun shade down for you as each part of the cabin is typically reserved for a single party.
With the monorails operating at what must be 25% capacity, long waits can develop quickly.
By design, I’m on the first departure of the day.
We’ll enjoy the scenic ride over to Magic Kingdom:
You can see that the first buses of the day have indeed beat us, but there are only going to be a couple of them, and they’re only going to be containing a handful of people.
Those arriving via Disney bus also have to go through the temperature and bag checks that we’ve already completed.
Eventually, this pathway will lead to the Grand Floridian. It also looks like we have some dock work going on. Considering the path comes from and leads to the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, the old Disney would have paved it in gold. The new Disney will probably charge a toll. Not really, but it would be funny if you had to put a a quarter in the equivalency of a parking meter before a gate allowing one person to go through went up and then quickly lowered with the speed of a guillotine.
As I’ve mentioned before, staying physically-distanced in queues with clearly-defined markers is relatively easy. You might say it’s even like a real life mini-game as you try to keep up with the party ahead of you as they turn corners and move from marker to marker. In narrower public spaces, you may run into a lot more people a lot closer to you than you might like. Whenever that happens, it’s usually easy enough to push them away…I mean wait to the side for a second and let them pass.
With both monorails arriving at the same time, there’s a decent number of people headed down towards the Most Magical Place on Earth.
But it’s easy sailing after that. As soon as anyone is able to arrive at the Park entrance, you’ll be able to head inside. That’s why Disney holds people at a variety of locations earlier in the morning, including your own vehicle as you circle around the toll plaza waiting for it to open closer to 8:10am.
I’m inside the Park at 8:40am and free to head to the attraction of my choice, even if most won’t begin operating until 9am. Most of the stores on Main Street will be open should you prefer to do some morning perusing.
Back before the March closure, we were let inside Magic Kingdom at 7:45am and then held in the Hub in front of the Castle Forecourt Stage for the Welcome Show featuring Mickey Mouse. I’ve long campaigned for the Welcome Show to be replaced by me barking bad touring advice from the window atop Cinderella Castle where Fairy Godmother used to pop her head out. “The algorithm says to go directly to The Barnstormer!” It’s socially-distanced and practical. You wouldn’t even have to pay me. I already have the Fairy Godmother outfit. Platinum level Patreon users have seen this with their own eyes.
Now, it’s an easy walk into the Park as most people are delayed in one way or another getting over here.
Coming in from the Contemporary is your best bet as Disney walks those guests over first. But even then, you’ll need to be in place on the walkway around 8am to be among the first to head through temperature and bag checks. With the light morning crowds, there isn’t necessarily a great hurry.
You’ll be fine even if you scan your ticket/MagicBand at the entrance right at 9am. But that is less and less true with wait times going up. Arriving earlier will only result in lower crowds, less stress, and an easier overall experience.
Disney patrols the Hub to enforce the mask policy most of the day, but as Americans, we typically try to get away with whatever we think we can get away with. The couple ahead is taking advantage by pulling their masks down before Disney has deployed those cast member enforcers. I’m not entirely sure what the point of the mask pull-down is. If people don’t believe it’s you because they can’t see your chin, you may need to relegate yourself to wearing the same shirt every day so there’s less confusion. You could also write your social security number somewhere on your body. On the other hand, with nobody within a hundred feet, and the fact that we’re outdoors, we could probably calm down. It feels so good to judge though.
Without much to do during quarantine other than mope and spend 30 minutes a night browsing Netflix before settling on one of the same three episodes of The West Wing, I was preparing myself for a busy summer of figuring out how to best tour the Parks given the new conditions and the lack of any FASTPASS priority. After all, I have made a fortune by telling people to “just get a FastPass+ for it.” I don’t know if I or Disney was more surprised that people without incomes were not in a big hurry to return to the most expensive vacation destination in America that also happened to be in the epicenter of a global pandemic. Not to mention the fact that it’s the summer in Florida, which is only pleasant if you are some type of lizard.
But with largely nonexistent crowds and short wait times from the middle of July through the first week in September, you almost couldn’t screw things up even if you set out to do so.
And as tourists, you can bet that plenty of these people gave it their best shot.
Overall, our touring strategies have not changed a whole lot in the post-FastPass+ era. From earlier in the week, you may remember the post, “The Highest of Wait Times at Walt Disney World Given Current Capacity Limits.”
Here’s the chart for Magic Kingdom:
We do love to discuss averages and maybe this will be the last time that I mention “it’s a small world” sees longer average waits than Peter Pan’s Flight. But those longer waits don’t materialize until later in the morning. At 10:30am, small world is still at 20 minutes, while Peter Pan’s Flight is rocking a 35-minute wait. It still makes more sense to visit Peter Pan’s Flight first. Likewise, the difference in averages between Pirates of the Caribbean and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is a mildly-shocking five minutes. But Pirates of the Caribbean posts five minutes for the first hour of the day, while the Mine Train is at 45 minutes basically right from the start. Physical-distancing causes certain rides to get backed up in the afternoon, causing longer waits later in the day, but the wait times build in a similar fashion as they have over the last couple of years. In other words, you won’t need to modify your touring strategies that you’ve used in the past for the most part.
More good news – most attraction wait times are a lot more forgiving than they were in the FastPass+ era, thanks to the fact that everyone is in the same standby boat. The first-come, first-served system “feels” fairer than FastPass+, particularly when you don’t have one for a ride with a long wait. After spending 25 minutes constantly refreshing the My Disney Experience app for a 4th FastPass+ for one person for Big Thunder Mountain at what would typically end up being an inconvenient time of day, I used to walk that FP+ queue with my head held high thinking, “What on earth are these idiots thinking waiting in line for 85 minutes? Just get a FastPass!” Towards the end of the previous FastPass+ era, those 4th FP+ opportunities dwindled considerably as more people were privy to how they could best take advantage of the system.
Anyway, the point is that touring is largely easier at the moment. And at worst, if you do end up waiting 20 to 30 minutes for something, it’s not because three hundred people arrived after you in FastPass+ and boarded before you. The wait is simply the wait for most guests.
It’s 8:45am as we look at a colorful and empty Mad Tea Party, which will begin operating in about 15 minutes.
There is not exactly a big rush of people coming in behind me. Particularly at Magic Kingdom, with the difficulty getting across the water, we enjoy a nicer cushion. Of course, you have to be one of the people on this side of the lagoon for that to be true. If you arrived later, you may find yourself very frustrated in a very long monorail line.
We can even stop and smell the flowers.
On this particular morning, I ran into some bad luck right off the bat. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, my first planned stop, was down, and wasn’t going to be up for at least a couple of hours. I could have ridden in a total of about ten minutes had it been open.
“No trouble” I thought, as I proceeded to my next planned stop, Peter Pan’s Flight.
That ended up being a no-go, too.
It was also down with no guidance from cast on when it would be ready to go.
“No trouble” I thought, as I proceeded to Splash Mountain.
We’ve got one family waiting for Haunted Mansion to open at 9am.
And not a whole lot of people coming this way.
Or going this way. It’s now 8:53am, so the Park has still not officially opened. This would make for a good photo opportunity, particularly with your masks on and your social security numbers clearly visible.
Not a whole lot of people have managed to make it back here yet in the golden morning glow. Florida isn’t great, but it does have its moments.
Typically, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad begin operating a few minutes before regular Park open. My original plan was to do Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Peter Pan’s Flight before moving on to Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain.
Since Magic Kingdom reopened, Splash Mountain posts the longest average wait. It’s always a popular attraction in the summer with the “big drop” helping to cool people off. It’s particularly popular now with the announcement that the Princess and the Frog overlay will arrive at some point. The trip that people are currently on may be their last opportunity to experience the Magic Kingdom classic. And wait times are now higher with physical-distancing measures in place, which means only two of the four rows will be filled unless a party is large enough to take up more space. Imagine having five friends.
As I walked by Splash, cast announced that the ride wouldn’t be opening until 9am. That seemed a little strange since we’re typically allowed to get in line before then, but if Big Thunder Mountain was going to be operating earlier, and there were all of three guests in sight, heading to the wildest ride in the wilderness first seemed like a fine idea.
And at 8:57am, we have found our first open ride of the day. It only took 20 minutes!
There’s nobody coming in behind me.
It’ll be a straight shot to load:
As you can see, there’s “literally” nobody waiting to board as we return to the station. In most cases, cast will let you ride a second time without disembarking if there’s nobody waiting for your row and the ride loads and unloads in the same spot. That makes a re-ride possible on something like Big Thunder Mountain, but not possible on a ride like Slinky Dog Dash or Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, where the rides drop guests off in one location and then the next group boards in a second loading area. It will probably never happen, but I’ve always wanted to go through that tunnel in between the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster drop-off and pickup area. Now that I’m pushing 40, my dreams have been scaled back considerably. I used to want to be a wizard. I’m pretty sure Disney World blogger is a lesser achievement.
At 9:03am, I was back out front. This was not exactly how I was planning on the morning to go, but you can’t complain too much about getting a priority attraction out of the way just three minutes into the morning.
I pulled up the My Disney Experience app to see if there was any movement at the Mine Train or Peter Pan’s Flight:
And the app confirmed that both were indeed temporarily closed. I probably would have retraced my steps if both rides were open. But since they’re not, we can head to Splash Mountain next door.
But it was down too, which must have been the reason why they didn’t originally let us get in line. About 40 people were lined up outside hoping for an imminent opening.
But with no logs cycling, it’s a good indication that the ride isn’t on the verge of opening. When you see the track drained, you know you’re in for at least a few hours of downtime. Once the logs start cycling, it’s a good indication that operations will resume in the near term.
With three of our first four planned stops of the day down due to technical trouble, we’re not off to a particularly auspicious start, despite getting Big Thunder done in eight minutes, which I think is a new record.
Should you run into similar circumstances with priority attractions down first thing, you have a few options. The easiest is to hold off and ride them in the last hour, when waits reliably drop. That’s more difficult when it’s three rides in three different places. With Peter Pan’s Flight, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, and Splash Mountain all down, along with the current 6pm close, we’d likely want to return to Peter Pan’s Flight around 4:30pm to be on the safe side, followed by the Mine Train. If there was time after that for other attractions, then we’d be able to visit them before finishing the night at Splash Mountain. Splash has the longest duration, and will likely have the longest wait later in the day, so it makes the most sense to end there.
You can also keep an eye on the My Disney Experience app for when the attraction first posts a wait, indicating that it’s reopened. If you’re in the vicinity, you can try to hurry over, hoping that you’re able to arrive before the other people doing the same.
The other option is to simply get in line when it’s convenient and serve your time in lime. Waits only go down after 1pm for the most part, so the later you’re able to return to an available attraction, the better.
We’ll head to Jungle Cruise next. Something tells me we won’t run into a lot of resistance.