Today we are doing something that is very rare for this website. We are actually going to follow its advice.
Today’s (Thursday February 23rd) Monorail hours with the 7am morning Extra Magic Hour/8am regular opening at Magic Kingdom and Epcot’s usual 9am – 9pm day:
With the fairly unusual 7am morning Extra Magic Hour at Magic Kingdom, we have the Resort Monorail opening at 6:30am instead of its usual 7am. The Express Monorail begins operating 30 minutes prior to the general opening as usual.
Disney is busy gearing up for the Flower and Garden Festival that begins March 7th. We have this new flower/butterfly scene below and a playground area being constructed in the top right corner.
A look back from the monorail.
And another one on the opposite side. That’s the Butterfly House in the upper left.
It’s about 8:25am so we have some last minute pruning and maintenance going on.
In an otherwise empty theme park.
It isn’t even 8:30am and we already have some significant lines forming in front of the turnstiles.
There had been a question as to where the turnstiles are located in relation to the trams/monorail/security. Most people will pass through this way as we have the parking lot trams to the left, the exit from the Epcot Monorail behind us, and the resort bus stops also to the rear
Once you pass through security, you’ll proceed through here to the turnstiles. You can see the lines forming in the distance.
We have about 40 people in line already at the turnstiles on the far left.
About 20 people in line at the turnstiles down here to the right.
And a total of 7 people at the two turnstiles all the way over here. Where these people are standing is typically the last turnstile that will be manned by a cast member at opening. The furthest two turnstiles are used as an exit.
This “parade of ECVs” was kind of bizarre and something I’ve never seen before. Each one has a flag or some other item representing one of the countries that they probably aren’t actually from.
A look down at the turnstiles at 8:40am. As we saw back in September when Disney first removed the “rope drop show” along with the ropes themselves, a prerecorded voice comes on exactly at 8:45am and says hello to you in the languages of the World Showcase. He then asks you if you’re ready for the time of your life, which is usually met with a meek response. So in true announcer form, the voice again asks you if you’re ready for the time of your life, which is usually met with a slightly stronger reaction. At 8:47am, the turnstiles begin operating and you’re let into Epcot to go wherever in Future World you please. Soarin’, Test Track, Mission: Space, and any other Future World attraction will be operating.
Stitch begins appearing at 8:45am.
Along with Daisy. Come back later because their lines will be short and we don’t want to take the time now to visit. If you don’t think you’ll be able to get the kids past them, head into Epcot on the left side of Spaceship Earth.
And please don’t get in line for Spaceship Earth first thing. Come back at 5pm and the wait will be ten minutes or less. Our morning priorities are the Character Spot, Soarin’, and Test Track.
I’ve seen some concern expressed that people staying at the Epcot Deluxe Resorts are let through the International Gateway entrance later than the main entrance. The walk is also a bit further to Soarin’ or Character Spot from the International Gateway. We took a detailed look at the new rope drop procedure from the International Gateway in this post.
Zoomed in, we can see that people are already streaming in from the International Gateway entrance at 8:52am, meaning they were let through the turnstiles around the same time as the main entrance, or 8:47am. These people are taking a shortcut to Soarin’ through the walkway that takes you to the Imagination Pavilion.
Which would cut a couple of minutes off the trip. These people are headed down toward the base of World Showcase, where they’ll probably take a left and continue walking toward the Fountain. That works too, especially if you’re headed to Test Track, Mission: Space, or something else.
Not a lot of people coming through this way. As you might be aware, there is no transportation to the main entrance from the Epcot resorts. You would either walk or take the boat to the International Gateway. If you’re staying at one of the Epcot Area Deluxe Resorts (Beach Club, Yacht Club, BoardWalk Inn, Swan, Dolphin), I don’t think you need to stress out over trying to get a cab or or taking your own car to the front entrance. The nice thing about the International Gateway is that the number of people that arrive by 8:40am is fairly consistent throughout the year. The International Gateway only used by those staying at the Epcot area resorts or possibly those with a breakfast reservation, so off-site guests aren’t a concern whatsoever. While occupancy can be variable and is probably slightly higher over busy weeks like this one, you’re not going to see a wild increase in lines or crowds at 8:30am. If you’re that concerned about getting into Epcot as early as possible, just arrive at the International Gateway by 8:25am and line up at security. You’ll probably be the first people through security and the turnstiles. Generally speaking, “rope drop” at the International Gateway is much more subdued than the main entrance. Whenever I’ve been over there, people are just hanging out around the benches rather than bothering with a formal queue.
We’ll start by visiting the Character Spot. Most of the conventional wisdom overlooks the Character Spot, where you can meet Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Donald, and Goofy in their classic outfits one after the other. If you’re interested in visiting the characters here, I actually recommend visiting first thing in the morning or sometime after 7pm. Afternoon waits on a day like today will be 50+ minutes and it doesn’t offer FASTPASS.
I wasted a bit of time taking those pictures above, so we have a few groups in front of us already.
But there’s going to be a lot more people here in just 20 or 30 minutes.
Can’t beat the pure joy of seeing your child meeting the fab five. The nice thing about the Character Spot is that there’s only one formal queue to meet all five characters. You’ll probably be waiting a minute or two for your turn at each character, but it’s more convenient than the individual queues you’ll run into at places like Animal Kingdom’s Character Greeting Trails.
Up to Soarin’ at 9:06am.
A steady stream of people walking down the stairs to Soarin’.
There are several positives to riding standby this early in the morning. Obviously, lines are going to shorter than just about any other time of day. Second, the FASTPASS return time will be sooner than any other time of day in case you would like to ride later. Third, people with FASTPASS aren’t a concern because the earliest return time is around 9:40am. Because FASTPASS returners have the priority, you’re looking at a much longer wait later in the day even if fewer people are somehow in the standby line.
With the high overall crowd level (8) and the popularity of Soarin’, FASTPASSes are already 80 minutes out at 9:09am. The return time of 10:30am to 11:30am is pretty convenient though, because it will give us enough time to ride Soarin’ and then head over to Test Track, Sum of All Thrills, and Mission: Space before returning to the Land Pavilion to ride Soarin’ with FASTPASS, have lunch at Sunshine Seasons, and hop on Living with the Land and/or Circle of Life.
At 9:11am, the posted wait time was:
20 minutes. With a lower overall crowd level, the posted wait time would be closer to 10 minutes.
We’re backed all the way out here. Later in the day with FASTPASS returners, this would be closer to a 60 minute wait, if not longer.
I was back out front at 9:42am, for a total wait/ride time of 31 minutes. That’s not too bad. Even with FASTPASS, you’re looking at about 25 minutes worth of wait/ride time because you’ll still be waiting in the secondary line and then in the preshow area.
By 9:42am, the posted wait time was up to 60 minutes.
With FASTPASS nearly three hours out. This past Tuesday, the peak wait at Soarin’ was an even 200 minutes.
We’ll take a look at Sunshine Seasons’ breakfast menu while we’re here:
That Panini sure looks good. There’s really no way I would take the time to order, pay for, and eat a meal this early in the day though. We want to get over to Test Track and some other attractions as early as possible because waits are only going to get longer as more people arrive. I prefer to eat a smaller breakfast either back in the room or on the way to the theme parks. Clif Protein Bars are my usual go-to. Light, cheap, relatively high in calories and protein, and they taste like cardboard. Really makes you look forward to eating at Lotus Blossom Cafe later.
We’ll take a look at the treat case while we’re here:
Like everything else at Sunshine Seasons, the desserts are better than most anywhere else.
No wait over here at Living with the Land, but most people will want to head over to Test Track. If you’re doing a more compartmentalized two-day approach to Epcot where you basically split Epcot in half, you may want to head over here after Soarin’. I prefer the compartmentalized approach because it minimizes waits at every attraction, decreases walking, and gets you up to World Showcase to enjoy the Pavilions when few people will be around.
A lot of people out here in front of the Land Pavilion already at 9:50am. With my fiddling around, I’m about 20 minutes behind where I would be if I was in a hurry to move from place to place.
Looking in the opposite direction up at the Land Pavilion – a lot of people incoming.
Checking the wait times on where we’ve been and where we’re headed. That five minute wait at the Character Spot is up to 40 minutes already and the wait time at Test Track is up to 30 minutes with FASTPASSes just under an hour out.
Test Track with a 30 minute posted wait and a line out the door. I think we’ll skip the standby line and grab FASTPASSes after Sum of All Thrills and Mission: Space.
My advice is to do Sum of All Thrills before Mission: Space because Mission: Space has a much higher capacity. We’ll take a look at the line again after disembarking from the attraction (spoiler: it’s much longer). With lower crowds and/or more of a hurry, this is about where we would be if we rode Test Track under normal circumstances. It’s just before 10am.
We’ve taken an extended look at Sum of All Thrills in the past, but I’ll rehash a bit of it for you. This is the simulator we’re going to be stepping in after we design our ride. It’s upside down at the moment.
You’ll begin in this preshow area where you’ll be introduced to physics along with a brief explanation of what we’ll be doing in the next room.
This is the design stage where you’ll step up to one of these tables and swipe your card given to you in the previous room.
First, you’ll select the intensity of the ride by choosing between the bobsled (least intense), roller coaster, and jet-fighter (most intense). Then, you’ll choose from a variety of drops, turns, lifts, etc. Using the ruler, you’ll set the height of the lift and the dial is used to set the speed of your vehicle. In the upper right hand corner is a button used to test the course. If you set the speed too high, the lift too short, etc. the screen will tell you that you need to recalibrate and try again. Once you complete one piece, you’ll move on to the next until you finish the course.
And you can give it a generic name and then “upload” the course to your card.
You’ll give your card to one of these cast members and then board your KUKA RoboSim 4-D Simulator. The cast member can see you on the monitors there, so try not to scream too many obscenities. Or try to scream and make as many obscenities/obscene gestures as possible. There are free lockers up here to place any loose items during your 90 second ride as well.
Overall, it’s a fun and recommended experience. Lines typically hit 15 to 25 minutes in the afternoon. Keep in mind that the posted wait time very rarely changes from 15 minutes regardless of how many people are in line. Even with 15 people in line, you’re looking at the entire process taking about 20 minutes.
The line at 10:20am is much longer than it was 25 minutes ago. It’s going to take these people 30 to 40 minutes to get through the ride.
We’ll continue with Mission: Space, Kringla Bakeri, and more Flower and Garden Festival.