Since there’s nowhere that I’d rather be on a Saturday in Florida at 7am in July than Magic Kingdom, we set out to rope drop the world’s most popular theme park on the morning of July 28th.
This continues our summertime touring strategy series where we visit the various theme parks and see what it takes to experience the most popular attractions during what is now far from the busiest time of year.
If you missed the previous updates, our early morning to Slinky Dog Dash and Alien Swirling Saucers at Hollywood Studios is available here, with the post chronicling the rush to Flight of Passage at Animal Kingdom located here.
It’s 7:12am with the regular 8am open, which has proven to be a rarity this summer with the Park typically opening at 9am. Magic Kingdom’s 10pm closes during the summer months are the new normal, of course, but some number of guests that remember the old 12am closes of June – August 2k11 at least try to feign surprise come 9:59pm when things begin to shut down.
Bloggers leaving be our guest tonight pic.twitter.com/BDTX6VFbqZ
— josh (@easywdw) July 28, 2018
“All joking aside,” this was the scene around 10:20pm on Friday July 20th. With Happily Ever After slated to begin at 9:15pm, we’re about an hour after their conclusion, so it isn’t like this is the post-fireworks-rush.
Back to the morning in question, those with early morning breakfast/tour reservations head down to the far left.
With the 8am open, an early morning breakfast reservation will actually hinder your morning touring as you sit down to eat during the hour with the lowest waits of the day. Should you be visiting on a day with a 9am open, then Be Our Guest does offer an advantage to Seven Dwarfs Mine Train or another Fantasyland priority. You can pull up my last experience there, along with a review of the $25/person breakfast at Be Our Guest Restaurant, in this post.
Back to the main entrance during one of the prettiest times of day.
Here’s a look out front exactly one minute before we scanned our MagicBands/tickets and headed into the courtyard in front of the train station. There’s only about 100 people here at 7:25am.
Enjoy the brief opportunity to enjoy some wide iPhone pictures before it’s time to zoom into 85mm for the rest of the day.
It’s not so important here, but we’re headed to our favorite rope drop position off to the right side.
Everyone else is going to line up straight back from the entrance as seen here at 7:35am.
At the same time, there’s nobody standing behind me. A point that I try to not take personally.
Those with early morning breakfast reservations and tours do see a slight advantage, heading inside at 7:42am.
The rest of us followed a minute later.
Since I’m heading to Seven Dwarfs Mine Train first, it’s worth keeping up with the crowd hurrying towards Cinderella Castle. For basically any other attraction, including Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, or what have you, there’s far less of a rush.
It’s worth moving quickly to Peter Pan’s Flight as well, but most of the Fantasyland crowd is headed to Mine Train.
As always, there’s only one intelligent direction to head for Mine Train.
The path to the right of the Castle with Mad Tea Party ahead in the distance. Unfortunately, I didn’t hear a single, “slow down” or “no running,” during my scamper up Main Street.
This time around, we were allowed to travel further ahead than past visits, up until the area just in front of Mad Tea Party.
How far we’re able to travel before finally being turned loose towards Mine Train isn’t of much consequence. I’m assuming Disney thinks it’s “safer” to have a much wider holding area with less distance to travel as part of the clump.
I’ve been part of this mass of humanity heading towards the Mine more times than I’d like to count. This is what things looked like from the back of the rope drop rush back when people were held further back at the bridge over into Fantasyland. If it weren’t for my incredible elbowing skills, I’d probably be among the last people to arrive at the ride instead of the very first. Every single time.
The new holding area probably is better overall, but it also means that the group is going to be a lot more dense as it arrives at the Mine Train entrance. With the longer walk across the bridge, there’s more of an opportunity to break away from the mass as people’s walking speeds vary so much. Once we got to the narrow queue, we were still massed together nine or ten wide and it was a little uncomfortable trying to move everybody over.
The other downside to the new holding area is that you won’t be able to hear or see “Let the Magic Begin,” which is the 4-minute welcome show that takes place on the Castle Forecourt Stage five minutes before the official regular Park opening time.
Granted, the stage was barely visible from the old Mine Train holding area, but the audio was clear.
Here’s the scene behind me as the Welcome Show started at 7:55am. There’s only about 250 people here.
If you’re thinking, “wow that sounds like a lot of people,” the website can only laugh.
Here’s a previous, wider shot of the walk to Mine Train ahead. We’re going to be instructed to head towards the wall on the right to file into the queue.
And here I am at 7:59am.
Following just a minor amount of annoyance – there are always those people that mistake an impolite move for an intelligent one – I was on-board Mine Train just ten minutes later at 8:10am.
I was back out front at 8:16am for a total experience time of 16 minutes, which is pretty good for the start of the day. As always, I’m on the slow side of things, so 200+ people easily made it in front of me on the short walk to the attraction. Those able to muscle their way forward at an advanced pace can shave off a few minutes.
As we’ve learned from past experience, the 8am regular opens are a blessing because so few people are able to make it out to the theme parks early enough to take advantage of the extra time. The early start means that we’re going to be able to enjoy even shorter waits at the morning priorities before we move on to other attractions, which should also see shorter waits as those that think “9:30am is early enough” clog up the standby queue at what will be a 75+ minute wait at Mine Train come 10am.
But even I was surprised by just how few people had made it to Mine Train by 8:15am.
Here with an 8am open during spring break earlier this year, the 75+ minute line for Mine Train stretches back to Storybook Circus at the same time.
But here on a Saturday in July, the line barely stretches past the covered area just outside the indoor portion of the queue. I could have gotten back in line and probably waited about 30 minutes for a second ride, and a lot of people were doing just that. It’s not what I want to be doing this early, but it’s potentially nice to have the opportunity. And there’s more of a grace period for those that are slowed down by late buses or meandering dads.
My next stop is The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, a ride that should take less than ten minutes this early even given heavier crowds and is incredibly convenient to Mine Train.
Given the low crowds, I probably could have snuck into Peter Pan’s Flight with a 15ish minute wait, but I had elected to grab a FastPass+ for it to use later in the morning, just in case things didn’t go quite as well as planned. Most of the touring plans that I publish attempt to be as fool-proof as possible and work just the same whether you’re visiting in what is now one of the slowest times of the year in late July or the prime time that is the middle of October. So I play things a little bit more conservatively than what’s potentially possible. We might as well enjoy ourselves.
Here at 8:18am, it’s pretty much a straight shot to the loading platform.
And I was on-board three minutes later.
And back out front at 8:25am for a total experience time of seven minutes.
Mine Train is still posting a 30-minute wait.
Before we continue further, I would point out that I’m expecting most Mickey’s Party dates from August through December to see 8am opens. And the crowds and wait times that we see today should be similar to those 60+ dates this fall. Of course, we’ll be back to see how things are looking shortly after the first Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party……on August 17th.
After completing Mine Train and Winnie the Pooh, there’s a few different directions to go. Tomorrowland makes some sense for Space Mountain, Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, Tomorrowland Speedway, and Astro Orbiter, probably in that order. To minimize walking, I could stay in Fantasyland, perhaps visiting Princess Fairytale Hall before moving on to Ariel’s Grotto, Dumbo, The Barnstormer, Journey of the Little Mermaid, and it’s a small world.
Heading off towards Adventureland or Frontierland with a stop at Haunted Mansion on the way also makes sense.
This time around, we’ll try Adventureland before moving over to Frontierland to use FastPass+ at Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Splash Mountain.
Peter Pan’s Flight is still posting a 15-minute wait just before 8:30am. The actual wait is probably close to 20, which is still really good for 30 minutes after open.
We’re heading to Haunted Mansion with minimal resistance.
The posted wait is 15 minutes at Haunted Mansion, but it should be closer to two:
I arrived at 8:30am and was back out front at 8:46am, for a total experience time of 16 minutes. That’s only two minutes longer than the absolute minimum. Later in the day, the posted wait will be as long as 85 minutes.
A look at the crowds coming in from Liberty Square at 8:47am.
I’m sure at least one person on the DIS is reporting this as WALL TO WALL CROWDS as we speak.
It’s 8:50am and I could safely head to Big Thunder Mountain and Splash Mountain in Frontierland to experience short waits there, perhaps with the need to then use FastPass+ at Jungle Cruise and Pirates after. Riding Splash/Big Thunder will take about 45 minutes even with very short initial waits.
I again opted to play it safe, choosing to ride Jungle Cruise and Pirates of the Caribbean in standby before using FastPass+ at Splash and Big Thunder.
Waits build faster at Jungle Cruise, so it makes some sense to visit there first, but Pirates is a 5-minute wait at this point in the morning.
A couple of people at The Magic Carpets of Aladdin.
And onto Jungle Cruise:
I arrived at 8:54am as there was a boat waiting for me to board and here I am back out front at 9:06am for a 12-minute total experience time. That’s absolutely as short as things get here. You might remember the following “chart” from the Disney After Hours review that chronicles the minimum experience time at most attractions:
It’s the number in red after the comma.
The crowd that’s formed in Caribbean Plaza at 9:07am. WE COULDN’T BELIEVE HOW CROWDED IT WAS. EVEN FIRST THING IN THE MORNING.
Pirates is still posted at 5 minutes at 9:08am:
I’m back out front at 9:21am for a total experience time of 13 minutes, which is also the minimum amount of time that this attraction takes.
So far, things are going just about as well as they possibly could. I’ve accomplished, all in standby:
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train: 7:59am – 8:16am
- The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh: 8:17am – 8:25am
- Haunted Mansion: 8:30am – 8:46am
- Jungle Cruise: 8:54am – 9:06am
- Pirates of the Caribbean: 9:08am – 9:21am
And it only took 2,041words to get here.
In Part 2 we’ll head to Frontierland before returning to Fantasyland.