We return to Magic Kingdom to attend the first of the expanded Early Morning Magic events with the breakfast now served at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe instead of Pinocchio Village Haus.
The website was on hand to review the very first Early Morning Magic event at Magic Kingdom all the way back in April of 2016. I thought much more highly of it than I was originally expecting.
We returned to the event late last year to see how things were going in this review.
More recently, we considered Early Morning Magic in Toy Story Land over at Disney’s Hollywood Studios – an event that I’m not quite as high on given the long wait times for Slinky Dog and the inconvenient location of the breakfast at ABC Commissary.
So what’s changed at Magic Kingdom? Originally, there were only three attractions open during Early Morning Magic: Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Peter Pan’s Flight, and The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Now, you’ll have the opportunity to visit those attractions, in addition to the Princess Fairytale Hall Meet and Greets (Rapunzel/Tiana and Cinderella/Elena), it’s a small world, Mad Tea Party, and Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid. On the surface, this seems like only good news – more attractions to experience along with more things to do to better help spread out the crowds. On the other hand, my assumption is that Disney is adding attractions at the same time that they’re significantly increasing the number of tickets sold.
Also, only the Princess Fairytale Hall Meet and Greets are anywhere close to priorities. The other three attractions can be safely visited without much of a wait until at least 10am and FastPass+ experiences are also among the easiest to book as fourth or subsequent selections. In other words, it doesn’t make much sense to ride Mad Tea Party, Journey of the Little Mermaid, or it’s a small world during Early Morning Magic. Worse, small world is going to take at least 15 minutes to experience – or about 20% of your total Early Morning Magic time and Journey of the Little Mermaid takes up around 12 minutes even if you’re able to walk right in, thanks to the long queue. Plus, it’s not near any of the other rides, so you’re looking at a walk of at least three minutes both ways.
Second, what was once a quaint, expansive buffet at Pinocchio Village Haus has moved to Cosmic Ray’s, where you’ll now be served a pre-determined plate of food at a level of quality that probably can’t be differentiated from the Art of Animation food court. We’ll see a lot more of what breakfast offers once we make it over there.
Fortunately, the good news is that Early Morning Magic didn’t “feel” any more crowded than it has in the past. The bad news is that Disney is definitely selling more tickets. The event used to sell out most mornings and currently has availability for 10+ people on every event day moving forward. But even if 150 more people showed up, I think wait times would still be reasonable for the most part. Above is the scene inside the queue for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at 8:24am – the ride is basically a walk-on and I don’t think I waited more than three minutes all morning.
Here’s how Disney describes the event:
In addition to the four newly-added attractions, the cost is also up $10 per adult and child compared to the events prior to December. As before, regular theme park admission is also required, unlike the Disney After Hours events. You can read my thoughts on After Hours at Magic Kingdom here and here.
As before, the event officially begins at 7:45am.
The exclusive time in Fantasyland continues until right at 9am.
Disney buses will get you to the Park in plenty of time as long as you’re at the bus stop by around 7am. Check the My Disney Experience app for the bus arrival time and plan on arriving a couple of minutes before its scheduled arrival.
Check-in for the event is on the far left. Guests with pre-opening dining reservations check in at the same area.
Once you receive your Early Morning Magic wristband, you’ll continue through these tapstiles on the far left.
At 7:27am, it “feels” like there are a lot of people already present. There’s several hundred people attending Early Morning Magic along with pre-opening reservations at Be Our Guest, Plaza Restaurant, and Crystal Palace, in addition to some tours mixed in. So chances are that the majority of the people you see are heading somewhere other than where you’ll be headed.
It’s not terribly important for Early Morning Magic, but I always recommend sneaking around the large crowd of people to enter in over on the side. Even if you don’t get here until 7:35am, you can still make your way in front of 90% of the people that were there at 7:15am that way.
We can also enjoy the train moving through the station on its last day of operation for some time as it shuts down for Tron construction.
We’re on our way right at 7:40am with a little head start over guests without pre-opening reservations.
Several PhotoPass photographers are out if you want to take a quick moment for a picture with fewer people around.
We’ll press forward towards the Hub.
We’ll head around to the left for early access into Fantasyland.
There are not a whole lot of people around.
The scene behind me.
There’s also a quick opportunity for a picture in front of Cinderella Castle without anyone else around.
This is where we’ll pass through on the way into Fantasyland, which is also where you go for pre-opening breakfasts at Be Our Guest and Cinderella’s Royal Table.
And after a short walk back, we’re in business.
We basically have free reign in Fantasyland with Peter Pan’s Flight and it’s a small world to the left and Princess Fairytale Hall, Mine Train, Winnie the Pooh, and Mad Tea Party on the right with the Carrousel straight ahead and then Journey of the Little Mermaid straight back and to the right.
Along with another picture opportunity.
Waits for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train typically go down as the morning progresses, making it slightly-smarter to start with Peter Pan’s Flight, Princess Fairytale Hall or The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Or if you really have to, it’s a small world, the Carrousel, Mad Tea Party, or Journey of the Little Mermaid.
I was interested in seeing how long I’d wait if I did things the “wrong way” as you’ll probably be itching to get on the Mine Train yourself.
I waited all of two minutes to start the event at 7:48am.
And that was basically just walking the queue and then being assigned a row.
Disney removes one of the ropes in the queue so you can reenter the line after riding quickly.
I was back on about three minutes later.
And back on three minutes later:
And back on three minutes later.
And back on three minutes later.
All in all, I rode six times from 7:47am through 8:30am.
That means each ride took about seven minutes. With FastPass+, the ride typically takes about 13 minutes to experience.
That’s about the same amount of time as one ride at rope drop assuming you’re among the first 150 people or so to arrive.
So that’s pretty good.
There are fewer people waiting for the Mine Train come 8:30am, but I think easy access to the Mine Train is why a lot of people are potentially booking Early Morning Magic. It does make a small amount of sense to do other things first, but unless you experience a wait longer than seven or right minutes, it’s probably safe to re-ride to your heart’s content. The average wait for the Mine Train during the day is about 90 minutes, so I’ve saved nine hours in line compared to trying to ride six times over the course of the day. With Magic Kingdom open from just 9am to 6pm on Mickey’s Party dates, that’s your whole day.
Here’s the scene outside the attraction entrance at 8:29am.
You’re never going to see this few people around during daylight hours outside of this event.
I crossed the path over to The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, which was posting a 5-minute wait.
With “literally” nobody in line, we should be on in a minute or two:
I arrived at 8:30am and was on-board at 8:33am, which means there was basically no wait.
After a quick lens change, we’re back in line at 8:40am:
I was back out front at 8:45am for a total experience time of five minutes. There’s nobody waiting to enter these hunnypots.
Here’s the scene on the walk over to Peter Pan’s Flight at 8:46am.
There’s a couple people on the Carrousel.
There shouldn’t be a wait longer than a minute or two for the Princess Fairytale Hall Meet and Greets. I’d expect that you might get a couple of extra minutes with the characters as well with so few people in line.
Peter Pan’s Flight is a walk-on.
There was “literally” nobody in front of me:
I was back out front at 8:53am for a total experience time of exactly five minutes.
I’m often asked what the effect of Early Morning Magic is on the rest of the Park and how it affects the Be Our Guest Restaurant breakfast advantage that I recently discussed here. The answer is that it has a very minimal effect. Early Morning Magic only consists of a few hundred people and by the time the Park opens for everyone, they’re going to be dispersed in a large number of places. Here at Peter Pan’s Flight, those finished with breakfast at Be Our Guest have formed a short line of about 15 people on the standby side. They’ll be let through the line right around 9am like they would be on any other day. And there’s nobody from Early Morning Magic still over here.
At Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, the folks finished with Be Our Guest breakfast are still waiting to walk over to the ride at 8:53am, which isn’t out of the ordinary. When we pass by again in about five minutes, they’ll be released and on their way through the Mine Train’s queue. So the advantage over the regular rope drop guests is almost the same as any other morning.
Here at 8:53am, I have a couple of options. Everyone being held in the Hub area waiting for the Welcome Show will be released in about six minutes. So if I want to be among the first to arrive at Space Mountain, I’d need to start heading that way now. If I ride something else and don’t get over there until 9:05am or later, then I’ll be looking at a 20ish minute wait, which we’ll see momentarily. For just about any other attraction, I can safely experience another Early Morning Magic ride with no wait and then proceed to my next destination after that.
I took the opportunity to ride Peter Pan’s Flight a second time:
I was back out front at 8:58am for another total experience time of five minutes. It looks like I could also jump back in line a third time if I wanted since those without Early Morning Magic privileges are still waiting outside.
Those waiting for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train after Be Our Guest have already been released towards the attraction’s standby entrance.
The regular rope drop crowd is turning the corner towards us at exactly 9am.
This is what we’re skipping by attending Early Morning Magic.
The people in the front of this mob will wait just a couple of minutes to ride Mine Train once.
While the person in the back of the mob will wait at least 45 minutes. Yes, both technically arrived in time for “rope drop,” but there’s a big difference between arriving at 8:10am and being among the first people to arrive at Mine Train and arriving at 8:50am and being in the back. You don’t want to be the person that arrives an hour late.
I’ll cover what I did between 9am and about 9:40am separately (Astro Orbiter, Buzz Lightyear, and PeopleMover), but we’ll move on to the breakfast, which now takes place at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe. Early Morning Magic attendees can visit any time between 8am and 10am, but I think it makes the most sense to eat around 9:40am. That gives you 40 more minutes to take advantage of short waits in Fantasyland or Tomorrowland. If you eat right around 9am, the waits you experience after breakfast will be longer than they were earlier in the morning. 9am to 9:40am would be a good opportunity to visit the Fantasyland attractions that don’t make sense to ride during the event. You could do small world, the Carrousel, and Journey of the Little Mermaid in about 40 minutes without any appreciable waits from 9am to 9:40am.
I enjoyed the previous breakfast buffet at Pinocchio Village Haus quite a bit.
The food, made and plated in the Be Our Guest kitchen, was fresh and plentiful.
You could grab whatever you wanted from the cold stuff.
There were plenty of hot options.
Drinks were readily available for the taking.
There was no standing in line. You could be in and out with a full stomach in around ten minutes if you wanted, though you could certainly linger in the quaint quick service if you liked.
Cosmic Ray’s is very much not that. First, you have to wait at the counter for a plate of hot food or to pick up any beverages. My guess is that my experience will not be the norm, but I arrived at 9:45am and was still standing there waiting for my food at 10am. If it was 12:30pm and wait times had already peaked everywhere, I would have only been moderately annoyed. But standing there for 15 minutes during some of the best touring time of the day was particularly aggravating. By this time, they had also ran out of sausage and were no longer allowing people to customize what they received. So if you didn’t want pancakes or bacon then you’d simply not eat it. Cast said special orders were slowing everything down.
The good news is that they were much more prepared for the second event and waits were nonexistent the entire morning. Cast were also delivering drinks to seated guests. So I think you can safely disregard my negative experience as being the exception rather than the rule.
On the first day of the expanded event, the cold buffet options were a bit disappointing. I want no part of this oatmeal.
Here’s the fruit, completely picked over.
A wide shot of most of the options.
On the plus side, the cheese was a nice, sharp cheddar and the salami enjoyed a meaty bite.
It’s a similar story with the ham and other cheese.
Granola was offered alongside yogurt.
With brown sugar.
There’s hot syrup.
And shredded cheese. The situation underneath the syrup dispenser isn’t pretty.
There were also a few pastry selections.
Little cinnamon rolls.
And condiments with the Wreck-It Ralph toy basically guaranteeing that the characters are coming to Tomorrowland.
Here’s the plate of hot food.
The quality was still pretty decent.
The eggs “felt” like they had been recently cracked open and freshly scrambled and the bacon was thick and crispy. The potatoes were plump with a nice mixture of spices and the pancakes were just fine – soft and fluffy.
While Cosmic Ray’s (arguably) doesn’t hold the same charm as Pinocchio Village Haus, the tables near the Castle offer pretty views.
And of course, there’s always Sonny Eclipse.
While the breakfast wasn’t on the same level as what was served at Pinocchio Village Haus, it does the trick and is quite filling. Eliminate the wait to receive the food and I think my takeaways would have been even more positive. All told, you really only lose four or five of the items from the Village Haus lineup. I just think that in this situation, a quick buffet where you can pick up as much of anything as you want without waiting is a better and more efficient way to go.
SO IS IT STILL WORTH IT?
With the price increase and the breakfast move, the event may be slightly harder to justify. But I was still able to ride Seven Dwarfs Mine Train six times and Peter Pan’s Flight and The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh twice each. With Mine Train’s average wait of 90 minutes, that’s nine hours saved in line. Peter Pan averages an hour wait, so I saved two hours in line there. Winnie the Pooh averages 30 minutes, so that’s another hour saved. That’s 12 hours of waiting that I’ve bypassed completely over the course of just 75 minutes. Hammering out those priority attractions early also opens up my FastPass+ opportunities to use them at other major attractions. I booked Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, and Haunted Mansion. Using FastPass+ there will save me another two hours in line and it would be a bit of a struggle to book those as 4th or subsequent FastPass+ experiences later in the day if I needed to book Peter Pan’s Flight and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train in advance, assuming that they are even available at convenient times.
One thing that remains difficult to capture is how stress-free the morning is. If you’re not participating in the event and want to experience Mine Train in standby then you’re looking at an 8am arrival to be among the first people at the holding area to the right of Cinderella Castle. Then you’ll stand there for an hour and take part in an uncomfortable, hurried walk to the Mine Train’s entrance, where you’ll be able to ride just one time with a short wait. By the time you’re done, Peter Pan’s Flight will already be sporting a 25+ minute actual wait, which means you’ll probably want to burn a FastPass+ on it later in the day instead.
The bottom line is that nothing you can do will set you up for an easier day at Magic Kingdom better than Early Morning Magic. Whether ten care-free rides on priority attractions plus breakfast is “worth it” likely depends on your budget and the opportunity cost. $80/person will buy you park hopping privileges for the duration of your trip, for example. It would also buy you a steak at California Grill, where you could enjoy the fireworks after. And “literally” hundreds of other opportunities.
Of course, if you care very little about the Fantasyland attractions and particularly Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, then this event also makes less sense.
But Early Morning Magic is recommended by virtually everyone that chooses to spring for the extra cost. It’s a lot of fun and remains a stress-free way to begin the day.