We head out to Magic Kingdom Park on the unseasonably warm, unseasonably foggy morning of Tuesday, February 11th, 2020.
We’re here for Early Morning Magic, which you shouldn’t confuse with Extra Magic Hours, Disney After Hours, Villains After Hours, Extra Extra Magic Hours, Magic Morning, or any other possible combination of similar words.
(Expanded) Early Morning Magic is actually relatively easy to get our collective heads around at the moment, because only one Park offers it. Disney’s Hollywood Studios offered Early Morning Magic for a time, but hasn’t since before Galaxy’s Edge opened back in August 2k19. Somewhat surprisingly, the event was never added at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, even though you would think the Park would be ripe for it with Avatar and Satu’li Canteen available for breakfast right there.
Here’s Disney’s rundown of the Magic Kingdom event:
This is not our first foray into the world of Early Morning Magic.
The event is actually almost four years old. “Back in the day,” the courtyard in front of the Mickey Floral would have looked like this just before Early Morning Magic got underway. You can pull up the website’s original review of the event from April 2016 here. I also reviewed the event in 2017 here. I also reviewed the event in December of 2018, or a little more than a year ago, here. Originally, just three Magic Kingdom attractions were open for Early Morning Magic, with a full buffet breakfast offered at Pinocchio Village Haus in Fantasyland. Now, seven attractions are open, and breakfast is largely a plated affair at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe.
Of course, this is not a history lesson, and the past is of little consequence as we are largely concerned with how things currently work. I do remember that first event back in 2016, when it was just me in the back row and some other dude in the front row on Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. Over and over again. Sometimes I wonder where he is. What he might be doing.
To check in for Early Morning Magic, you’ll head down to the far left, where a cast member will scan your ticket or MagicBand to verify your participation. Since I just scanned myself, I’m now in line for a wristband at 7:40am.
Tickets cost $89 per adult ages ten and older and $79 per child ages three to nine. Unlike the various Disney After Hours events, daytime admission is required to participate in Early Morning Magic. You can pull up Disney’s official word and check for reservation availability here. The event is typically held on Sundays and either Tuesdays or Thursdays throughout the year. Reservations typically become available about six months in advance and rarely sell out. Online, tickets need to be purchased at least a day in advance.
There will probably be a dishearteningly-large number of people waiting alongside you in the courtyard. We’re mixed in with a thousand or more who have pre-opening breakfast reservations at Be Our Guest Guest Restaurant, Crystal Palace, Cinderella’s Royal Table, or The Plaza Restaurant, in addition to a number of people with tour reservations, and then everyone who is also doing Early Morning Magic. Heck, there are a hundred or more people with 8am Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique reservations here too, for that matter. On the other side of the courtyard, hundreds of ordinary guests are also waiting to head up Main Street, where they’ll be held until official Park opening at 9am.
Don’t let what may be a chaotic opening scene concern you too much; the number of people you see out here will not be the number of people waiting in front of you once you arrive at Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.
Right at 7:45am, we were let onto Main Street.
Even I was surprised by the large number of people present, despite being here at opening hundreds of times over the last ten years. It’s not very obvious, but there are PhotoPass photographers out should you elect to stop for a picture.
Back when I attended Early Morning Magic in December 2018, I took this picture from around the same place at around the same time, and there are considerably fewer people around.
But never mind the past as we’re back to the task at hand at 7:49am.
We no longer get to go through Cinderella Castle first thing, which is a bit of a bummer. It’s always magical to walk through there, with the mosaics telling the story of Cinderella lining the walls, before the narrow corridor opens up into the expansiveness of Fantasyland with Peter Pan’s Flight to the left, Prince Charming Regal Carrousel straight ahead, and the Mine Train just off to the right.
We’re headed around Cinderella Castle to the left, which is the same place that we’d go if we had breakfast reservations for Be Our Guest Restaurant or Cinderella’s Royal Table.
We’re holding our purple Early Morning Magic wristbands up as we pass through this checkpoint.
It was almost unbelievable how many more people there were compared to my previous Early Morning Magic visits.
Here we are in 2020.
Here I am passing what would have been the same bench in 2017. The path now is actually much wider than it would have been back then.
Disney is currently celebrating the 70th anniversary of Cinderella, and at no additional cost, has added several extras to the Early Morning Magic event. This does not affect the number of tickets sold, and really, it won’t take up a whole lot of our time, but it should be a nice little assortment of extras. If you’re attending the event after March 3rd, then you can simply ignore the following references to a couple of characters that we’re going to see.
The Fairy Godmother will likely be the first of the Cinderella characters that you encounter.
She, along with Suzy/Perla and Anastasia/Drizella, rove around Fantasyland a la Disneyland, only stopping in short spurts to greet guests and take quick pictures.
That means it may take a little persistence to get their attention.
But should you miss them the first time around.
You’ll eventually catch up to them.
I’m assuming the Tremaine sisters are helping a guest with his or her FastPass+ reservations there underneath the blue Guest Experience Team umbrella.
You may or may not be able to make out the Fairy Godmother with a small semi-circle around her in front of the Carrousel.
The characters are a fun little addition should you have an opportunity to attend Early Morning Magic over the next month or so. Frankly, I’m surprised Disney sprung for it given such little fanfare and with no increase in the cost. It would be fun to see a different theme every couple of months. Rapunzel could be out with Flynn or Belle with Gaston and company.
If you would like to meet the characters, then I’d do so before 8:40am, as that’s around their cutoff time. The Fairy Godmother is part of the Welcome Show on the stage in front of Cinderella Castle that begins right around 8:55am.
While I wasn’t thrilled with the crowds heading back to Fantasyland to start the morning, you can see how quickly they’ve dissipated at 7:59am.
Outside of the very, very, very end of the night, you’re never going to see this few people in this corridor in Old Fantasyland. This is also at 7:59am, so we have a full hour to enjoy these low crowds until everyone else rolls in from the Hub at 9am.
There are seven attractions open during Early Morning Magic. Below, I’ve arranged them in order of priority based on how much time you’ll save versus waiting in standby later in the day. The number in parentheses is the attraction’s average wait at 12pm:
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (100 minutes)
- Peter Pan’s Flight (75 minutes)
- Princess Fairytale Hall (40 minutes)
- The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (40 minutes)
- “it’s a small world” (30 minutes)
- Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid (30 minutes)
- Mad Tea Party (20 minutes)
So if you’re trying to rationalize the cost of the event, every ride on Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is saving you over an hour and a half in line, as well as potentially opening up FastPass+ slots for other attractions. Knowing that I’ll be able to visit Mine Train, Peter Pan’s Flight, and others, I’ll be able to book FP+ for Haunted Mansion, Jungle Cruise, and Big Thunder Mountain to use later in the day, without worrying about missing these Fantasyland priorities.
From a strategy perspective, about 65% of the people attending Early Morning Magic are headed to the Mine Train first thing, with 20% headed for Peter Pan’s Flight. That means Mine Train will see its longest waits right off the bat, with the actual wait getting shorter as the event goes on. Thus, it makes more sense to do something else first.
The first four attractions on the list above are really the only ones that I would consider doing during Early Morning Magic. You could potentially have a boat to yourself on it’s a small world, and be one of only fifteen or twenty people on the entire attraction, but it’s going to eat up about 15 minutes of your time. That’s significant when you only have an hour. FastPass+ for small world are plentiful and waits are typically manageable until at least 10:30am.
Journey of the Little Mermaid is out of the way, which means it will take some time to get over there, and FastPass+ are among the easiest to secure later in the day.
You could potentially hop on Mad Tea Party at some point, as the ride only takes about five minutes, and is convenient to The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. But the top four are the attractions that most people are going to want to key in on. If you have little interest in them, then you’re spending an awful lot of money to do things that you could just do with everyone else with the opening of the Park. Nobody is starting their day with Journey of the Little Mermaid.
If you’d like to meet the princesses at Fairytale Hall, then I’d start there. Virtually nobody does, which means you’ll likely have more time with each one. This is more ideal when you are not a single adult male blogger. Cinderella and Elena meet on one side and then you’ll need to get in line a second time to meet Tiana and Rapunzel.
After meeting with the various Cinderella characters around Fantasyland for the 70th anniversary, we opted to get in line for Peter Pan’s Flight, where we waited five minutes to ride the first time:
Our first ride on Peter Pan’s Flight took us from 8:01am to 8:09am. A couple of families are heading to it’s a small world. Bless their hearts. While the ride appears to be closed, it’s actually open. Just most of the queue is walled off.
We got back in line for Peter Pan’s Flight to a line that was about 70% shorter. You’ll notice that as the morning goes on, people tend to spread out.
This time, we were on-board in about three minutes:
Our second ride took all of six minutes and we could have basically walked right back on if that’s what we wanted to do. I’ve already saved two-and-a-half hours in line versus riding Peter Pan’s Flight twice in standby in the afternoon, and it’s only 8:16am.
It doesn’t look like there’s a tremendous amount of demand for Fairytale Hall as we pass by on our way to Mine Train, but the posted wait for both sets of princesses would hit 20 minutes at one point. My estimation is that the actual wait is a third of that, but the whole Cinderella thing probably added some interest in meeting the princesses.
For the shortest waits, you’ll want to visit Seven Dwarfs Mine Train after 8:30am, but I don’t think we’re going to let a 7-minute actual wait stop us. Ten minutes is posted.
Theoretically, we’d be slightly better off going to The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, but we’ll be able to walk on that attraction at our convenience later in the morning.
There are a number of different Early Morning Magic queue configurations that you might see over the course of the event.
Currently, we’re being sent through standby, which is a good indication that our wait is going to be a couple of minutes longer.
But we don’t have to go all the way around the barrels before we head to the loading platform, so don’t let anyone tell you that you’re wasting your money on Early Morning Magic. That’s at least eight steps saved.
We waited about five minutes to board the first time:
In the past, if the line is short enough, a cast member will remove the ropes here so you can swing back around into the FastPass+ return line without having to exit all the way out of the queue and go back through again. That saves another couple of minutes per ride.
We’re not quite at the point where the ropes will come down, but we’re close during our second ride, where we waited about three minutes:
Our second ride only took seven minutes, and at this point, the rope that we could have used to get right back in the FP+ line was down. You may or may not be able to tell in the picture above, but the rope that’s up on the right is usually also up on the left. There were enough people backed up that it seemed kind of awkward to go through the newly-opened passageway, only to have to then walk past a backed up line to reach the end of it.
So we just went back around again. It’s rough out there.
We waited about six minutes this time:
Our rope is back up, even if the line is now shorter. If it wasn’t, we’d shave about two minutes off each ride. Four shavings, for a time savings of about eight minutes, and we would have been able to add another ride through the Mine during Early Morning Magic, so it’s not for nothin’.
There are always two big questions when it comes to Early Morning Magic. The first is how it affects the Be Our Guest breakfast advantage to Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. Basically, if you eat breakfast at Be Our Guest, finish before 8:55am, and wait outside in the line pictured above, then you’ll be among the first regular guests to ride the Mine Train. You’ll be able to beat everyone who is coming in from the main entrance since the entrance to the attraction is right around the corner. You can read about what that advantage looks like in practice here and here.
On days with Early Morning Magic, the process for Be Our Guest breakfast folks differs slightly depending on the day and who is in charge, but the standard procedure is to walk the people in this line waiting after breakfast into the standby line for Mine Train at about 8:55am. Guests attending Early Morning Magic can continue to use the Mine Train’s FP+ line through 9am, and Disney will either hold the breakfast people from boarding until right at 9am, or send them through the ride when there are no Early Morning Magic guests waiting to board.
So the short answer is that Early Morning Magic does not have a significant impact for those using the Be Our Guest breakfast advantage. Or, you’re at least no more likely to run into bad luck on one of those days than any other, and you’ll still be among the first of the “regular” guests to board the Mine Train or Peter Pan’s Flight, if that’s the direction that you want to take it.
As far as Early Morning Magic is concerned, cast members are very good about checking wristbands throughout the morning. We didn’t see anyone who hadn’t paid for the event boarding any of the rides or meeting any of the characters. If you are attending breakfast at Be Our Guest on an Early Morning Magic day when the Cinderella characters are out, then you may want to explain to the kids (or dads) beforehand that they’re going to see a couple of characters that they aren’t going to be able to meet quite yet.
The Fairy Godmother’s meet times are not published, so they’re not guaranteed, but she typically meets behind Cinderella Castle from:
- 10:10am – 10:40am
- 11:10am – 11:40am
- 12:20pm – 1pm
And then she meets near the Castle Wall across from Friar’s Nook and Prince Charming Regal Carrousel from:
- 2pm – 2:30pm
- 3pm – 3:30pm
- 4pm – 4:30pm
The Tremaine sisters, along with Lady Tremaine, Cinderella, and Prince Charming, meet at 1900 Park Fare dinner at the Grand Floridian. You can pull up a recent review of that experience here.
They also typically move around Fantasyland near the Castle Wall from:
- 9:20am – 9:50am
- 10:30am – 11:10am
- 1:30pm – 2pm
- 2:30pm – 3pm
So you may be able to find them then. Suzy and Perla do not ordinarily appear during the day, so Early Morning Magic is it.
The other question people are typically concerned about is how much of an effect Early Morning Magic has on daytime crowds.
And the answer is virtually none. As we approach the 9am regular opening, the Early Morning Magic attendees are spread out among several different attractions, breakfast, and potentially moving on to another attraction elsewhere. If anything, the fact that several hundred people will be at breakfast between 9am and 10am pulls more people away from the attractions than it pushes towards them on Early Morning Magic days.
If you’re planning two or more Magic Kingdom rope drops, with one of them having a Be Our Guest pre-opening breakfast attached, then I’d probably book that breakfast on a morning without Early Morning Magic, just so you’re not dealing with a few hundred extra people headed into the Park, along with the potential slowdown at Mine Train first thing. But if you can’t, it’s really not a big deal. I would tell you if it was.
It’s 8:50am, which means we have ten minutes of Early Morning Magic time left. We could ride the Mine Train at least once more during the event, and probably sneak one last ride in just before regular Park opening, for a total of five rides, instead of the three that I’m currently sitting at.
We opted to head for The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.
While this is an easy 4th or subsequent FP+ to grab later in the day, you’ll miss the interactive queue.
Which is completely empty during Early Morning Magic. The kids may enjoy having the playground area to themselves for a few minutes. Your blogging buddies may instead spend their time trying to find some chipped paint.
We were on-board in two minutes:
We were back out front at 8:57am, which means we could head to the Mine one last time before everyone else arrives from the Hub.
The Be Our Guest Breakfast folks are heading through standby in anticipation of their first ride.
We’ll see the rope drop crowd momentarily.
With breakfast at Cosmic Ray’s in Tomorrowland, it makes sense to head in that direction next.
Breakfast is served through 10am, which means we probably want to spend 30 to 45 minutes taking advantage of low waits in Tomorrowland.
It’s a little difficult to tell in this picture, but that’s the mass of humanity waiting to head to Mine Train from the Hub. To be in the front of this group, you’d need to be in the holding area around 8am, and wait the hour before it’s time to head to the attraction. With Early Morning Magic, I’m six rides and a couple of meet and greets in already. Here is a larger picture of the rope drop crowd just starting to move towards us at 8:59am.
For Early Morning Magic, you’ll be contained in the areas where the open attractions are located. There’s a holding area here about even with Cosmic Ray’s, where we’ll be held until 9am. Breakfast is being served at this point, and if you want to head in that direction instead, they’ll either point you inside the building, or send you around to the entrance on the other side, depending on the time of day.
I was a little surprised to see so many people on Mad Tea Party as we braced for our walk over to Tomorrowland at 9am. A lot of the people attending Early Morning Magic are only interested in doing each attraction one, or maybe two, times. That’s why we’re able to ride the Mine Train with much shorter waits in the middle of the event.
We were slightly behind the times due to taking a few extra photos, so we’re behind the hundred or so Early Morning Magic attendees headed to Tomorrowland.
We want to be at breakfast around 9:45am to make sure that we have ample time to get our entrees, beverages, and to load up at the buffet. If we eat now, then waits will be much longer after we’re done.
Tomorrowland Speedway is the first attraction that you’ll see, and Early Morning Magic attendees have the greatest advantage there, since you’ll easily be able to beat those from the main entrance. Riding now would take about ten minutes. Riding at 9:45am would take about 40 minutes.
We’re heading for Space Mountain, which is the highest Tomorrowland priority.
Just about everyone in this picture is a regular guest coming in from the Hub.
We’ll take a left at the Disney Vacation Club kiosk.
Several hundred people from the main entrance are headed in this direction.
So it makes sense to move quickly for Space Mountain.
For Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, PeopleMover, or Astro Orbiter, you can take things much slower. You’ll walk right on any of those even if you arrive at 9:15am instead of 9:01am.
Depending on how quickly you move over here, Space Mountain will take between 15 and 40 minutes first thing. If you don’t get moving over to Space Mountain right around 9am, then I’d probably do something else.
Even being behind everyone else that was headed to Space from Early Morning Magic, I’ve still managed to beat about half of the people coming in from the Hub.
The line for Space Mountain initially moves incredibly slowly as people file into the narrow entrance. As long as you move relatively quickly, you don’t need to concern yourself too much with this. The posted wait is 15 minutes at 9:05am,
Disney was running both sides of the ride at Park open, which we always like to see.
But they’re only loading half of the vehicles on each side, if that, which is going to slow things down considerably.
This is 9:17am and the actual wait is already up to 25 to 35 minutes if you were to get in line now.
I arrived at 9:02am and was on-board at 9:20am:
I was back out front at 9:27am, for a total experience time of 25 minutes. That’s about as long as the ride would take with FP+ later in the day.
Astro Orbiter’s wait is only about ten minutes, which would make it a good choice if we didn’t need to be at breakfast in the next 15 minutes.
I opted for a quick ride on Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin from 9:28am to 9:38am.
The incoming crowds are relatively light as there’s some space between the rope drop rush and most of the other people who are going to get here around 10am.
It’s 9:39am as we head to Cosmic Ray’s for what I’m sure will be a delightful breakfast.
Tomorrowland Speedway’s wait is already up to a half hour, which would have made it a good choice to begin our day if we didn’t want to deal with the rush to Space Mountain.
On my previous visit to Early Morning Magic, the wait to receive a breakfast entree was 15+ minutes.
I was happy to see that Disney was using two Bays and a cast member was directing guests to where they’d find the shortest waits. Instead of waiting 20 minutes, we waited less than five.
There is exactly one breakfast entree option, which includes Scrambled Eggs, Pancakes, Breakfast Potatoes, Bacon, and Sausage. Drink choices include Regular Coffee, Decaf Coffee, Hot Tea, Orange Juice, and Apple Juice. They should be able to serve other drinks that the quick service usually offers, like soft drinks, should you ask. I’m a big chocolate milk guy, so I asked about getting one of those, and they handed me one without any issue.
If you’ve ever had the Bounty Platter at any of Disney’s various resorts, then you know exactly what to expect from breakfast here.
The quality of the food would be just about the last reason that I would book Early Morning Magic. It gets the job done, and this is $12-worth compared to ordering a similar entree at Pop Century, but it’s not what you’re going to be raving about after the event.
On the plus side, demand is so high that the food is fresh, and you can ask about substitutions should you prefer to leave the bacon, sausage, etc. off. It may take an extra minute, but they’ll hand you a plate of bacon if that’s what you want.
Several additional offerings are available at the Toppings Bar.
With brown sugar.
The buffet area is a little confusing because some of the items double up on both sides, like the strawberry yogurt, while other items are a little different. For example, closest to us, we have a variety of cantaloupe, pineapple, and strawberries on the right.
On the other side, it’s honeydew, watermelon, and grapes.
But after some amount of walking around in circles, you should be able to grab a little of everything.
Ham and cheddar cheese.
Parmesan and salami.
A few pastries are also available, including croissants.
According to Disney, they would be “adding a sweet touch to our all you-care-to-enjoy breakfast” for the Cinderella celebration.
This cinnamon roll with the chocolate logo is that touch.
But you’ll always find a similar offering, even if you’re attending well after the 70th anniversary celebration comes to its conclusion, a day before the movie actually debuted on March 4th.
We do see a couple of nice little extras.
With a note that “Product” is available at “Sir Mickeys [sic].”
Overall, this is how my morning shaped up:
- Meet Fairy Godmother: 7:51am – 7:54am
- Say hello to Suzy and Perla: 7:55am – 7:57am
- Try to marry Anastasia Tremaine again: 7:58am – 8am
- Peter Pan’s Flight: 8:01am – 8:09am
- Peter Pan’s Flight: 8:10am – 8:16am
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train: 8:18am – 8:29am
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train: 8:30am – 8:37am
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train: 8:38am – 8:48am
- The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh: 8:51am – 8:57am
- Space Mountain: 9:02am – 9:27am
- Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin: 9:28am – 9:39am
- Breakfast at Cosmic Ray’s: 9:40am – 10:10am
Altogether, I met five characters, rode Peter Pan’s Flight twice, and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train three times, along with The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Space Mountain, and Buzz Lightyear once each over the span of about two hours. We then sat down to breakfast for a half hour before moving on. Based on the average noontime waits for the attractions that I experienced, I saved 490 minutes in line, which is over eight hours. If I had skipped the characters, or if they weren’t available, then I would have been able to add another ride somewhere as well.
SO IS IT WORTH IT?
Outside of initially having to deal with a lot of people on the way back to Fantasyland, Early Morning Magic provides a largely stress-free environment to enjoy some of Disney’s most popular Fantasyland attractions. With Early Morning Magic, you won’t have to worry about getting Mine Train FastPass+ or stand around for an hour in order to ride it exactly one time with a short wait after the Park opens. The event will also put you in a good position to knock out two Tomorrowland priorities. A passable breakfast is also included. If Disney elects to plus the event moving forward, you’ve also got that going for you.
The $89 cost, on top of however much you’re paying to get into the Park that day, is a sizable one, but I think it’s probably fair given the high cost of operating the Park and the attractions, as well as keeping wait times low to nonexistent.
On the other hand, a family of four is looking at paying about $400 to attend Early Morning Magic, which is obviously a lot of money. Early Morning Magic may or may not be the splurge for you, but there aren’t a lot of better ways to get your day at Magic Kingdom jump-started quite like this. Just don’t let those Cosmic Ray’s sausage patties weigh you down too much.