We’re heading out to Disney’s Animal Kingdom to see what we can expect from the rope drop experience to Pandora for Avatar Flight of Passage. Every day from now until November 2nd, Animal Kingdom will open at 7am for those who are eligible for Extra Magic Hours. Regular open follows at 8am. Previously, we saw what it takes to rope drop Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Over there, Extra Extra Magic Hours start at 6am with regular open at 9am.
It’s a bit humid here in Central Florida. Last year, September was our hottest month on record. After the sun comes up around 7am, we should be able to see a little better.
As usual, I’m arriving a little earlier than necessary and then after the Park opens, I’ll fall behind those who arrive after me to better simulate your own experience. Above is 6:25am on the morning of Thursday, September 5th, 2019. It’s a day after Hurricane Dorian passed, which means crowds are likely lower due to the number of people who canceled their trips. Nevertheless, our plan of attack will remain the same and the processes that we see should be similar or exactly the same no matter when you visit for Extra Extra Magic Hours over the next couple of months. I’ll quote the average posted wait time at the same time of day for the entire Extra Extra Magic Hours period so far to give you an idea about what a “normal” day might look like moving forward. I’ll also offer some advice on what you might consider doing on a much busier day.
But as I mentioned during our visit to the Studios, the number of people who are eligible for Extra Magic Hours doesn’t change much from day to day. Overall Walt Disney World crowds are driven by the number of off-site guests who visit. If anything, Disney’s own resort occupancy is higher in September and October than it is during “busier” times of year, thanks to discounts and popular fall events like Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and the Food and Wine Festival. But the fact that this week would have been the third or fourth least crowded of the year, even without the hurricane threat, means that what we’ll see is the absolute best case scenario. At least if you ever see someone say, “It’s always busy at Disney World,” you can refer them to September 5th, 2019. It wasn’t. And they should feel bad.
Being so early, people are slow to arrive. If you’re heading to Flight of Passage first thing, then you likely want to arrive at bag check around 6:30am. This is the scene behind me at 6:40am, as things remain sparse.
Ten minutes later, at 6:50am, the space is filling up. If more people are present, Disney may open the Park closer to 6:45am than 7am, as they had been doing in the days running up to my visit. Certainly, your morning won’t be ruined if you arrive closer to 7am than 6:30am.
At 6:57am, the sky is alive with the bright pink light illuminating significantly more people.
But it looks like we’re only talking about 300 people, if that. With no FastPass+ offered during Extra (Extra) Magic Hours, nearly 100% of an attraction’s capacity goes to standby. With Flight of Passage moving through about 1,500 people per hour, even if I’m the last person to arrive before Extra Extra Magic Hours officially get underway, my wait should only be about 20 minutes. That’s not bad at all for someone who arrives around 6:55am and doesn’t have to wait long for the Park to open.
It would have been nice to see this in Pandora instead of outside the Park…
Between 6:45am and 7am, the Park will open to all.
Those eligible for Extra Magic Hours go left and scan their MagicBands/tickets or show their resort ID to be let through into Discovery Island and then on to the operating attraction of their choice. After making it past this step, you won’t have to prove that you belong again by scanning your MagicBand etc. at the individual rides. As I was standing here waiting to scan my Band, a lady asked if “this is the line for the ride.” Not quite. But in a way, I suppose you could say that it is. The ride is just about to start as we arm our elbows and get ramming.
The early start takes a lot of the pressure off of the rush to Flight of Passage.
On a day with a regular 9am open, there would be about two thousand more people vying for position.
I don’t have to elbow these people out of the way, but it’s a habit. I can’t help myself.
For every 300 people that manage to arrive at Flight of Passage in front of you, you’ll wait about 20 more minutes.
If you’re headed anywhere other than Flight of Passage, then there’s absolutely no hurry whatsoever. It still makes sense to arrive before 7am to take full advantage of your time, but you won’t run into an appreciable wait anywhere other than Flight of Passage before 8am.
The other operating attractions are:
- Expedition Everest
- It’s Tough To Be A Bug
- Na’vi River Journey
Yes, It’s Tough To Be A Bug. Really. Kilimanjaro Safaris comes online at 8am, along with TriceraTop Spin. Kali River Rapids, the Mickey/Minnie Meet at Adventurers Outpost, and The Boneyard open at 9am. The first Festival of the Lion King is at 11am with Finding Nemo the Musical following at 12pm.
We’re taking a left to Pandora.
At this point, about 80% of the people waiting out front have passed me.
I’m not too concerned. I also thought falling behind a little more than usual might offer a better idea about how things would go with more people arriving earlier in the morning. With your 6:30am arrival, it doesn’t necessarily matter how many people arrive after you.
As long as you move quickly to the ride, you’ll wait about the same amount of time even if there are 100,000 people filing in after. Above is 7:08am or about ten minutes after we were initially let into the Park. If I hurried here, I would have arrived closer to 7:04am.
98.3% of the people present at rope drop will be headed to Flight of Passage. Here it looks like one couple, potentially lost, is headed to River Journey.
I’ll take a right towards Flight of Passage.
It’s looking like a last place finish. We’re probably all winners by not being at Universal at least.
While we missed the sunrise, it’s still pretty, and without a thousand people rubbing up against you in order to probably not save any time in line, much easier to enjoy.
Just as a reminder, this is what it usually looks like on a regular 9am open.
You could say it’s less pleasant.
We’re here at 7:09am. Don’t be too alarmed if the line initially moves slowly as just about everyone stops at the same place I did to take the first picture in this post.
The posted wait will likely be 30 or 45 minutes, even if the actual wait should be significantly less.
I’m seeing 30 minutes. That’s also the average for this time of day during the Extra Extra Magic Hours period so far, which began here on August 29th.
This early, we’ll be funneled into the FastPass+ line in order to get to the boarding area sooner.
You can ask if you can look through the standby queue if you’d like. Obviously, any time spent there will mean a longer wait for Flight of Passage. But as just about the last person to arrive, my wait wouldn’t appreciably rise if I spent two or three more minutes looking around.
At 7:15am, I’m past what will become the merge with standby later in the day. At this point, my experience time will be just about as long as the ride takes with FastPass+.
Just five minutes later, I was in the first pre-show.
18 minutes later, at 7:37am, I’m back out front, for a total experience time of 28 minutes. On a busier morning, I’d probably want to move on to Na’vi River Journey next in order to stay ahead of the crowds for the rest of the morning.
But with so few people in attendance, and curious what the actual wait time would be, I got back in line for Flight of Passage.
I think I see four people down there.
But there’s a steady stream heading back on the ride.
This time, there were even fewer people waiting ahead of me.
I got in line at 7:37am and was uh…happily watching the pre-show at 7:46am.
We were on-board at 7:55am, or still five minutes before the Park officially opens.
A little humid.
Those ineligible for Extra Magic Hours should be released right at regular Park open, or 8am, which means 8:06am is around the time that they’ll begin to arrive in Pandora. Typically, Flight of Passage will be posting a 45-minute wait at this point, which it will maintain until 8:30am, when the wait goes to 60 minutes and then higher. With so few people able to arrive for the Extra Extra Magic Hours (EEMH), you could potentially begin your day at Flight of Passage if you’re coming in at 8am. Your actual wait will probably be about 40 minutes if you’re here by 8:10am and closer to 25 minutes if you’re here five minutes earlier, at 8:05am. If you are eligible for EEMH, you’ll want to be on your way to other attractions by 8:15am in order to stay ahead of everyone at your next few stops.
I’m heading over to Na’vi River Journey.
You may remember my insistence that there’s absolutely no rush here whatsoever. If you have other plans for Flight of Passage, whether that be with FastPass+ or riding last thing at night, then you can easily head over here at 8:15am and wait just a couple of minutes, if that. You could also ride over and over and over again with no wait whatsoever from 7am to 8am. Because the loading and unloading areas are in different places, they won’t let you stay on, even if you’re the only person on the ride.
I’m not going to see another person in front of me.
I arrived at 8:07am and was on-board about four minutes later after walking the queue, taking a few photos, and waiting for the next available boat.
Things are beginning to pick up a bit at 8:20am.
But River Journey’s posted wait is still just five minutes. On average, you’ll see a 10-minute wait posted here at this point in the morning. It goes up to 15 minutes at 8:45am and 30 minutes at 9am. At 8:30am, I’d expect your actual wait to be about ten minutes, and at 9am, about 20 minutes.
If you’re wondering, it’s still humid.
And there was still “literally” nobody in line. There’s also nobody waiting for the next boat:
As we disembarked our second ride at 8:30am, there is another person coming. I THOUGHT THIS WAS SUPPOSED TO BE A LOW CROWD TIME. Potentially, the amusing thing is that after riding Flight of Passage once, about 75% of the people headed elsewhere. It appears that only about 5% of them elected to make River Journey their next stop. Perhaps they’re headed out to Everest instead. Or they could be on the bus back to All-Star Sports.
By 8:30am, more people are arriving. On this particular day, I could get back in line and wait about five minutes. Moving forward, it’s probably closer to ten.
The Pandora drummers arrive at 8:30am, both without the need for oxygen and with sunglasses. It’s a good thing that the Valley of Mo’ara and Batuu are so accommodating to humans.
I’m now heading out of Pandora at 8:35am, with two rides each on Avatar Flight of Passage and Na’vi River Journey under my belt.
With not a lot of people streaming in. It’s still pretty early in the day for most tourists.
So far, my day has gone as well as absolutely possible. I ended up doing:
- Flight of Passage: 7:09am – 7:37am
- Flight of Passage: 7:37am – 8:06am
- Na’vi River Journey: 8:07am – 8:20am
- Na’vi River Journey: 8:20am – 8:31am
On a much busier day, only one ride on Flight of Passage may be viable, but it’s so early in the morning that few people are going to be able to arrive at the Park that early, even if late morning crowds are heavier. Two rides should be doable most days, particularly if you move quickly to the ride to start the day. I ended up being behind just about everyone who was there before 7am, and my total experience time was still under 30 minutes on both rides. Na’vi River Journey should also see waits short enough to ride twice there without any trouble. If you’re more paranoid about long wait times developing at other attractions, simply ride each Pandora ride a single time.
In order to reduce walking and and make an easy circle around the Park, I’m heading to Kilimanjaro Safaris next.
We’ll pick things up there in the next part.