Our morning at Magic Kingdom continues a little differently than we had originally envisioned. Our plan was to start the day at Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Peter Pan’s Flight, Big Thunder Mountain, and Splash Mountain, but three of those were down to start the day. You can pull up Part One, which also covers the arrival experience from the Transportation and Ticket Center/parking lot, here. That will take you to where we are now, which is only about three minutes into official Park open. But logistics are important and you will want to traverse the lagoon via catapult or any other means possible. The Express Monorail did the trick for me, and it will for you too, so long as you know what to expect.
Of course, we’ll get to the safety of The Magic Carpets of Aladdin in due time. There is no risk of being forced to take buffet food pictures at the buffet or having to talk to Queen Elsa about the going rate for a pound of ice as you glide peacefully through the air on a spinner. There is a reason why I spend so much time up there. Our next stop is Jungle Cruise, where waits not only build quickly, but also peak higher than most other attractions.
At 9:12am, we have a 5-minute posted wait. The skipper-led excursion typically averages about 35 minutes as one of Magic Kingdom’s most popular/highest-wait rides given capacity reductions with physical-distancing.
I’ll end up waiting just about two minutes, despite a reasonable number of people in front of me on this side of the queue. Later in the day, the line will wind around out of view on the other side before spilling out towards Swiss Family Treehouse, even on “less crowded days.” Hopefully there are still a lot of those in our immediate future.
I was having flashbacks to my last ride, where cast placed me in one of the two seats that aren’t protected by the overhead cover. On that ride, it started raining halfway through, and I was the only adventurer getting wet as the cloth worked to keep everyone else dry. It was both a little funny and a little sad. Such is the story of my life.
This time, we’ll enjoy a sunny, happily-protected ride:
I arrived at 9:12am, and was back out front at 9:25am, for a total experience time of 13 minutes. You can’t get through the Jungle much quicker than that. You can see that they’re ready for the longer lines later in the day with the ropes and social-distancing markers already leading away from the entrance. Cast are already poised to send people down to where I’m currently standing, which would not be near the loading area with the rest of the courtyard full.
I pulled up the My Disney Experience app to see if any of the rides that had originally been down opened:
And they’re still all closed. At least we just finished with the ride that now posts the longest wait in the Park. It’s almost like we know what we’re doing.
I ran into some friends outside of Jungle Cruise. I know. I was probably more surprised than you are. After screaming at each other for a couple of minutes about where we might like to have lunch, we settled on The Plaza. There was plenty of same-day availability for a reasonable time:
We shouldn’t have any trouble making it back over to Main Street in just under three hours. Waits typically peak in the afternoon, so we’ll benefit from a sandwich and the air-conditioning during the hottest and busiest part of the day. Sometimes, the promise of a cold Chocolate Milk Shake is all your brain needs to do everything it can to block out your time spent in Princess Fairytale Hall. I’m not sure what the princesses do to forget, but it probably involves Franzia and a whole lot of, “You would not believe what happened to me today.”
I still remember standing there, cringing just about as hard as I’ve ever cringed, as some guy filmed the princesses on his iPad while gifting them red roses and professing his love. I wanted to yell, “Bro, you’re not doing us any favors.” On the other hand, maybe he is, and my own awkwardness doesn’t even register. Instead of hiring someone to improve the quality of the content on this website, I could pay them to be really weird to the characters right before it’s my turn. “easywdw, a breath of fresh air,” they’ll say. Talk about words nobody has ever uttered.
Under some amount of duress, I would admit that I have largely lost track of time over the last six(?) months. That is probably not a good thing for someone who spends the majority of their waking hours creating and analyzing theme park wait time charts. And most of their time asleep having nightmares about them.
But some time ago, and probably around November of last year, I made a mistake. I stopped at Pirates of the Caribbean before Jungle Cruise. Both were still sporting low waits, and I had basically walked on everything up until that point. So I figured I would just stop at Pirates and it would save me from having to backtrack. If there’s anything theme park bloggers hate, it’s the potential for burning a couple of extra calories.
I learned my lesson. After finishing up with Pirates, Jungle Cruise’s actual wait climbed to 20+ minutes, while Pirates was still at five. I should have bypassed Pirates and gone to Jungle Cruise first, knowing very well that wait times for the outdoor boat ride with potentially-problematic scenes build faster than the wait times for the indoor boat ride with potentially-problematic scenes. Add the re-imagining of Splash Mountain with the whole Song of the South tie-in, and they could rename this area to Potentially-Problematic-Scene-Alley. It sort of has a ring to it.
With the rides about a minute away from each other, you’ll likely want to ride Jungle Cruise first, even if wait times for both are initially short. Without FastPass+ coming into play, and the low morning crowds, it’s probably less of an issue. But if you put it all on the line like I did, you may wait longer than you’d like at Jungle Cruise after Pirates of the Caribbean.
It was just before 9:30am and Pirates was still showing five minutes. With social-distancing limiting most boats to just two rows of guests, the line will back up later in the afternoon, and will eventually prove to have one of the Park’s longest average waits.
I was on-board and in the first row about three minutes after initially getting in line, which is about as long as it takes to walk the queue in the dark when you run into everything. You can see that there isn’t even anyone else around this early to fill the boat in front of me.
These pictures are from Wednesday, September 2nd, when Magic Kingdom still closed at 7pm, and wait times were still very short. From our most recent update, we’ve seen wait times rise considerably over the last week. Here’s the chart of the Park’s daily average waits with the day of my visit highlighted:
The 11.9-minute average that I experienced is considerably shorter than the following week’s average, which almost doubled to 20.7 minutes. Weekend wait times are a big part of what pushes those weekly averages higher. Still, the following Wednesday saw wait times that were about 2.5 minutes longer. We’ll continue to reassess our plans based on how much we can reasonably expect to get done. The good news is that Wednesdays remain the best day to visit and will put us on the best path towards a good time with lower waits. Even if Saturday’s waits are about twice as long as Wednesday’s, it doesn’t matter if we’re there on Wednesday and not Saturday. We’ll see how things shake out later this week.
For now, we’ll enjoy a problematic-scene-less boat ride, all alone on the water:
I arrived at 9:29am, and was back out front at 9:42am, for a 13-minute total experience time. That’s probably close to another record low. There might have been three people walking ahead of me in the queue.
While waiting for my problem-free boat to pull up to the dock, I checked the trusty My Disney Experience app to see if any of the rides that I initially skipped had opened:
And they hadn’t.
But there are still plenty of opportunities to experience short waits:
Although none of those are particularly convenient to Adventureland.
We’re 45 minutes into the day and there still aren’t a lot of people around. One wonders how many are still toiling away across the water, waiting for some mode of transportation to take them across or around the lagoon. Likewise, with fewer buses on the road that now begin moving guests much later in the morning, you may find yourself waiting longer than you’re expecting at your resort for a bus that now fits about 20 people.
So far, I’ve made it through three priorities, though two of those were not the ones I was originally expecting.
I thought I’d head over to see if the logs on Splash Mountain were cycling.
They looked poised to, but hadn’t gotten quite there yet. Had things been flowing freely, I may have opted to stick around. Once Splash returns to service, the wait will quickly climb to 30+ minutes on its way to 60 minutes. There are only two ways that most of us will be able to avoid that wait – either be there right when the ride opens or get in line just before Park close.
Big Thunder’s actual wait should be just a couple of minutes. It’s posted at ten.
I opted to head towards Haunted Mansion. Even on a less-crowded day, actual waits in the afternoon can hit 20+ minutes.
It’s possible that I’m just about the only guest in Liberty Square. It looks like we have one or two people playing Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom at the window on the far left. Very wholesome at this hour. A family looks to be deciding if their political affiliations will allow them to head inside Hall of Presidents on the far right. Either way, the Hall is a better stop in the middle of the afternoon with higher waits elsewhere.
Cast were putting a sign outside Liberty Tree Tavern reminding guests that walk-up seating is available. They’re using Diamond Horseshoe next door as overflow seating should demand…demand it.
My departure from Frontierland is not a coincidence. I’m headed back towards Fantasyland, hoping that Peter Pan’s Flight or Seven Dwarfs Mine Train would reopen, in addition to stopping at a few more attractions that don’t require early arrivals.
Haunted Mansion, another priority, is on the way. It’s posting 15 minutes at 9:49am.
It ended up being about ten minutes, with most of the wait caused by a brief delay for the cleaning of the doom buggies:
I arrived at 9:49am, and was back out front at 10:09am, for a total experience time of 20 minutes. Five or six minutes of that wait was due to cleaning.
While I was initially waiting to board, I pulled the app back up:
Our three priorities were still temporarily closed.
But five minutes later, things had changed:
Just before boarding, Peter Pan’s Flight reopened. We may have an opportunity to get over there before an appreciable wait has materialized now that we’re off Haunted Mansion.
The line for Peter Pan’s Flight was quickly circling around outdoors ahead on the right. Fortunately, the line hadn’t yet stretched back here. These physical-distancing stickers on the ground are for Peter Pan’s Flight. You don’t want to be standing on one.
Getting over to a priority ride that has just opened/reopened is the one way to potentially sneak in with a short wait, outside of holding off until much later in the day. But you have to be quick. Checking the app to see if a ride has come back up is not exactly an original idea. You also have all of the people who are naturally passing by and will jump in line when they see that the wait is short.
Back in the FastPass+ days, getting in the standby line after a ride reopened was usually a bad idea, as virtually all of that ride’s capacity would go to those with FP+ priority boarding. Virtually nobody from standby would be able to ride because there were so many people returning with FastPass+, particularly when a ride was down for 30+ minutes. Without FastPass+ in play, it’s merely a footrace to the standby line. Had I not been just about to board my doom buggy, I would have been over here about ten minutes earlier. Still, even backed up outside the building, my wait shouldn’t be too long.
As I’ve pointed out a dozen times, and may now stop, it’s a small world posts a longer average wait than Peter Pan’s Flight. Cast typically fill just two rows on each small world cruise, versus every pirate ship on Peter Pan’s Flight. But waits also grow more slowly at small world, so we should have an opportunity to get over there with a short wait after Peter Pan. That goes back to how our touring strategies haven’t necessarily changed all that much with FastPass+ out of the picture, even if afternoon wait times now look different. We don’t want to wait 35 minutes for Peter Pan’s Flight a whole lot more than we want to wait 40 minutes for small world.
Short posted waits can sometimes work against us as they attract people to get in line and Disney isn’t quick enough to catch up and raise the wait. Posted waits typically run about 15 minutes behind reality, and are occasionally manipulated intentionally to control crowd flow. We’re used to seeing inflated wait times to start and end the day, for example. But if the 10-minute wait for Peter Pan’s Flight holds, we’ll be in luck.
As it turned out, my wait was all of eight minutes:
Largely by happenstance, I timed the opening of Peter Pan’s Flight well, arriving about fifteen minutes after it first began accepting guests. My total experience time was just 12 minutes, which is only about two minutes longer than the ride traditionally took with FastPass+. I also got to enjoy the full interactive queue experience going through the standby line. If FastPass+ was online, a few hundred people with FP+ priority would have arrived after me and boarded before me, pushing my actual wait up to 40+ minutes even if I was the same number of people back in standby.
I pulled up the My Disney Experience app to see how we were looking:
And Liberty Square Riverboat now joins the lineup of attractions that are temporarily closed. Luckily, wait times are not yet dire enough that we’re ready to board the meandering river cruise. While it’s disappointing that we can’t yet return to either Mine Train or Splash Mountain, we’ve still experienced the four attractions currently posting the longest waits. It’s possible that’s by design. “Maybe he was born with it,” they’ll say. Or, maybe he looks at a lot of wait time charts. This may also be a poor time to bring up the fact that I can Photoshop almost anything. Fortunately, your membership fees do guarantee my honesty.
So far, this is how my morning has stacked up:
- 8:05am arrival at the Transportation and Ticket Center. Temperature/Bag Check started at 8:22am. I boarded the Express Monorail at 8:28am and was inside Magic Kingdom at 8:40am.
- Passing by closed attractions that I initially had the intention of experiencing: 8:40am – 8:54am
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad: 8:55am – 9:03am
- Not riding Splash Mountain: 9:03am to 9:03am
- Jungle Cruise: 9:12am – 9:25am
- Pirates of the Caribbean: 9:29am – 9:42am
- Haunted Mansion: 9:49am – 10:09am
- Peter Pan’s Flight: 10:10am – 10:22am
I should be able to walk on a few more Fantasyland attractions and potentially a Tomorrowland attraction or two in front of lunch at The Plaza Restaurant at 12:10pm. So far, my longest wait was probably about eight minutes for Haunted Mansion, about three-fourths of which was due to cleaning procedures. Peter Pan’s Flight was also about that long. That’s not too bad overall.
In the Next Part, we’ll try to beat the 25+ minute average waits for small world and then continue to The Barnstormer, Dumbo, and Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid.