We’ll head out to Magic Kingdom on the morning of Thursday January 21st. Maybe I can stop mentioning it now, but bag check remains more thorough than it had been prior to mid-December. It’s just past 8:30am and Disney has ten extra bag checkers in addition to the ones in operation closer to the monorail. There is no wait whatsoever. In the larger image, I count 14 additional security cast members. You may remember that Disney originally outsourced the extra security before bringing it all in-house a couple of weeks ago.
I took the picture outside of security at 8:31am and arrived here in the courtyard in front of the train station at 8:33am. That’s how little time it took. This is about 15 minutes later than I’d like to be, but the low overall crowd level is more forgiving. A lot of the time, by 8:30am I’d be stuck waiting outside of the tapstiles.
Here at 8:44am, Mickey and the gang are welcoming us from the train station. If you look at the enlarged image, you’ll see that the courtyard is closed off to additional guests. This normally happens closer to 8:30am than 8:45am, at least barring a tornado warning or something. The welcome show has been starting 20 minutes prior to open every day for more than a year now. So with your 8:15am arrival, you’re just waiting about 25 minutes for the entertainment to start.
It was a shortened version of the Welcome Show for one reason or another and we were already on our way before 8:45am. I make a big deal about arriving early here, but there are only a couple of attractions that really require a hustle – namely Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Anna/Elsa, and to a lesser extent, Peter Pan’s Flight. If you’re headed anywhere in Adventureland or Frontierland and don’t want to deal with the hubbub, you can hang back or enjoy the Welcome Show from the middle of the Mickey Floral without concern that doing so will extend your wait from two minutes to sixty. The same is true for Tomorrowland and the rest of Fantasyland. I’m going to get in line for Space Mountain just before 9:40am and walk right on. Of course, earlier is better and will allow you to churn out more attractions in the precious first 90 minutes of operation. But for those with multiple strollers or if you just don’t want to deal with the hurried masses, don’t feel like you need to be at the front of the pack for the vast majority of attractions. Hollywood Studios is really the most important of the rope drops for Toy Story Mania, followed by Epcot for Test Track and in time, Soarin’ again. Animal Kingdom is the most forgiving, at least until Avatar opens.
It might look like there’s a ton of people in the courtyard, but there really isn’t. So Mine Train or Anna and Elsa – Yes, hurry. Anywhere else, hurry if you like, but arriving three minutes after the front of the pack isn’t going to make a big difference.
Last month I took a video of the walk up Main Street towards Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.
I was not originally planning on heading to Mine Train first, but the walk up Main Street was easy enough that I called an audible and deemed it a viable choice. As a reminder, if you’re headed to Mine Train, you want to take the route to the right of Cinderella Castle rather than going through it. If you’re headed to Anna/Elsa, Rapunzel/Cinderella, Peter Pan’s Flight, Enchanted Tales with Belle, or something on that side of Fantasyland then you want to head through the Castle for the fastest route.
The work on the Castle ramps has taken a couple months longer than anticipated, but one ramp is open and the other should be opening shortly. That actually helps those headed to Mine Train because a lot of people will instinctively head through the Castle.
As usual, I’ve already managed to fall behind 150+ people headed toward Mad Tea Party.
And then a left toward Mine Train. Nobody headed through Cinderella Castle has any hope of beating you here and would have to fall in behind everyone headed in the appropriate direction. It helps that the only way into the ride is over here as ropes and cast members block anybody going straight for the regular entrance. Everybody has to file in down closer to Mad Tea Party. This is because the line quickly extends out towards Storybook Circus within minutes every day.
Most people will have just a moment or two to look at the various interactive elements in the queue. This lady in front of me kept trying to shoo her kids along only to become so enamored with touching the screen that she stopped herself. Then she face planted into a pylon while looking down to get her camera out to take some sick flash pictures in the queue…and then during the dark ride scene. Nothing beats flash pictures of your family in the dark while you’re moving, I always say.
So I started walking from the train station at 8:45am, arrived at the entrance to Mine Train at 8:51am, and was ready to board at 9:02am.
The faster you move, the less you’ll wait. Last month I covered a plan that began at Mine Train and then went in the opposite direction to Peter Pan’s Flight, Haunted Mansion, Big Thunder Mountain, etc. That post is located here in case you missed it.
The wait for Mine Train at noon averaged 91 minutes in 2015. I waited less than ten minutes for the Welcome Show and then about that long in line, so I’m already up 70 minutes compared to showing up here later in the day.
By the time I got back out front at 9:08am, you’d be looking at about a 65-minute actual wait at this point. And the line is usually further back by this time. If you can’t move quickly to Mine Train, it’s best to head elsewhere first thing. Otherwise you’re just going to run into longer lines everywhere else by the time you disembark closer to 10:15am. Everybody waiting at the end of this line could easily experience four or five priority rides in the time they’re going to be stuck in line.
I was very loosely following the website’s 2-Day cheat sheet touring plan that starts in Tomorrowland:
And when I say “very loosely,” I mean like none of the attractions in the order as written. The thing about the 2-day touring plans here and at Epcot is that they’re not exactly illuminating and the only way to make them better is to try some different things. So here we are trying different things. The other thing about Magic Kingdom is that I really hate Space Mountain and Tomorrowland Speedway and if I had it my way, would never see the inside of either vehicle again. That’s why you’ll usually see me go through the Fantasyland/Frontierland/Adventureland/Liberty Square side. So if I was running this plan to spec, there would be no wait at Space Mountain, followed by skipping Buzz because it’s closed for refurbishment, followed by Speedway (which I don’t desire), Winnie the Pooh, etc. Nothing very interesting.
There is actually one hitch in this plan and it’s The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. 10am is a little later than you ideally want to ride it. The capacity is terrible and Mine Train pushes a lot more people in this direction than we would have seen before it opened. Back in the Dumbo-Or-Peter-Pan’s-Flight-First-Or-Else days, Winnie the Pooh would be in the corner of Fantasyland that nobody was headed towards. Now a lot of people walk by it on their way to Mine Train or see it immediately after picking their stroller back up. The good news is that if you have kids, there’s a fun interactive queue that you’ll have 10 to 15 minutes to experience. And if you don’t have kids, hopefully you skipped the Speedway and got here in time to experience a shorter wait. The cheat sheet does budget 20 minutes here, which gives you 17 minutes in line plus the 3-minute ride. That’s about right.
I got in line at 9:08am and was at this point on the ride at 9:20am prepared to make a sarcastic comment on Twitter about how this is me irl.
And literally one second later the ride broke down, which is a relatively common occurrence here. In fact, it’s closed at some point during the day every day in January except for four.
The rescue operation took 13 more minutes as we marched along the ride track.
Mad Hatter greeting with Alice in back of/in front of Mad Tea Party, which is common in the morning.
It’s now 9:35am and the wait for Speedway would be about seven minutes with a 10-minute posted wait.
Here we are at Space Mountain at 9:37am.
I could theoretically exit without riding, but I’m actually too chicken to use the chicken exit, so I just end up riding. And then complain about it because who doesn’t want to listen to somebody complain about riding rides?
Actually, this is my favorite complaint that I’ve seen in some time:
Imagine a Walt Disney World vacation that goes so poorly that even though your hotel and all dining are already paid for, that you’re still so desperate to leave that you’re willing to pay another $1,000 to go home four days early. Maybe they thought they were going to Orlando and took a wrong turn into Damascus. Or worse, Bansky’s Dismaland theme park, which I feel like you could still enjoy well enough for a few days. If somebody was going to comp me a $100 dinner at California Grill in exchange for giving every cast member on property free reign to try to spit on me, I think I’d probably take it. And if you were really willing to drop a grand to get out of there, the Orlando Ritz Carlton is only $293/night this time of year. You’d still have $100 left over to purchase blindfolds and earmuffs so you could potentially taxi back on property in peace to use those free meals at the hellscape that is Sanaa for lunch.
Maybe the fact that the moving walkway wasn’t working was enough to send them over the edge.
Anyway, I was back out front at 9:55am AFTER HAVING TO WALK THE ENTIRE WAY BACK TO THE MAIN ENTRANCE. That’s a total experience time of 18 minutes when the cheat sheet originally allots a full 20 minutes first thing.
I wanted to kill a little time before moving on to Dumbo, so I strolled over to Astro Orbiter, which used to be a higher priority in the legacy FASTPASS days if you wanted to ride it due to the abysmal capacity.
These days it doesn’t really seem like anybody cares enough to bother. I got in line at 9:56am and was on the platform ten minutes later.
Everybody in line will be reassuring their kids that this is “just another Dumbo,” but I can assure you that it’s much, much, much worse.
I mean if Dumbo lifted you up 150 feet in the air and tilted your elephant inward so you were about to fall out and die then sure. They’re the same.
It didn’t help that the rocket in front of me and the rocket in back of me both had orange cones strapped down, presumably indicating that you probably didn’t want to chance them. I wonder what poor blogger fell out of those. This is dangerous work.
“Joking” aside, Orbiter does offer some great views of Tomorrowland and the Contemporary in the distance.
But it does take a while. I only had to wait through one elevator ride and then one spin up on the platform and my total experience time was a full 20 minutes, or longer than Space Mountain took.
Going on 10:20am, Space Mountain’s wait changed from ten to fifteen minutes right before I snapped this shot.
I thought this was supposed to be a low crowd time and it’s WALL TO WALL PEOPLE. I CAN BARELY BREATHE IT’S SO CONGESTED. I might just throw $500 on the ground and leave.
Passing by Speedway again at 10:22am with a 20-minute posted wait. It would be closer to 13.
Unfortunately, we have another hiccup at Dumbo, which is posting a 30 minute wait.
They were only running one side, which in turn halves capacity and basically doubles wait times. Looking over Dumbo wait times in January:
That’s one of the trade-offs here when crowds are at their lowest levels of the year. Peak crowds today will easily be less than half of a random day in July, but some of the variable capacity rides do see longer waits in places. That’s why Dumbo’s wait is twice as long as Space Mountain and why the wait was actually shorter earlier in the month when crowd levels were higher.
You may remember back in May when I was literally the only person riding. Talk about embarrassing.
Anyway, most people riding Dumbo probably have kids in tow and they may want to spend 15 minutes playing anyway. If not and you run into one spinner operating, you may opt to return later. Waits will be nonexistent after 7pm or it’s an easy 5th or 6th FastPass+ choice later in the day.
I arrived at Barnstormer at 10:30am with a 10-minute posted wait.
And was flying high for 37 seconds at 10:38am.
If you wanted to, you could pop into Minnie/Daisy and/or Goofy/Donald at this point. You’d wait less than five minutes for either.
Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid, colloquially named “Mermaid Ride,” is not particularly time sensitive here in the next slot. And then that ride is followed by lunch, so if you find yourself unexpectedly behind or ahead of the game, you’re not in any trouble.
Here at 10:45am, the Ariel’s Grotto Meet and Greet is posted at a paltry 15 minutes still. If you’re interested, you almost always want to meet her before some of these other rides, including Mermaid Ride, Dumbo, and Barnstormer, due to the much more limited capacity.
Here we are at Mermaid Ride at 10:47am with a 10-minute posted wait. Looking over wait times in January:
11:30am is about as late as you’d want to push it to more or less walk on in most scenarios. If the ride experiences downtime, like it did on the 24th, you’ll see a longer wait. But otherwise, you’re fine 2.5 hours into the day’s operation.
The queue is a lot of fun to look at too if you do end up waiting six or seven minutes, though the best part is usually roped off.
It ended up being six minutes between when I got in line and was on-ride, which is basically no wait at all.
I was back out front at 11:02am, so the total experience time was 15 minutes. The cheat sheet budgets 20 assuming you’re going to arrive a little later and find yourself behind a few more people.
That’s about as far as this post takes us. This is the Old Fantasyland corridor at 11:11am.
35 minutes is about as short as you’ll ever see Peter Pan’s Flight at this time of day.
With the low overall crowd level, you could sneak on a ride like it’s a small world with an actual wait in the vicinity of 15 minutes. The average here would be around 20 minutes and as many as 30 or 35 on a busier day.
Otherwise, it’s just about time for lunch with Be Our Guest Restaurant, Pinocchio Village Haus, and Columbia Harbour House all just about a two minute walk away, which is one of the reasons why it makes sense to end the morning portion of the plan around here. I’m headed off to Skipper Canteen myself.
In what I ended up doing, the only snag was Dumbo, which would have had an actual wait around 20 minutes, which is probably not adverse with kids in tow. It also shouldn’t be much of a problem until September as crowds pick up and both sides are operating daily. Most of the time you’d wait seven or eight minutes in the 10:30am time slot.
We should see three or four more posts from this particular day, including new lighting effects and interactive elements at it’s a small world, some odds and ends from around the Park, a Skipper Canteen review, and a look at using FastPass+ for Festival of Fantasy.