We’ll rope drop Magic Kingdom from Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa’s recent walkway/bridge addition that connects the resort directly to the most popular theme park in the world.
Technically, guests staying at the Polynesian Village Resort can use the same walkway since the two resorts are also connected via pathway. It would be a bit of a hike from the Studio Villa buildings that are currently open on the opposite side of the resort, closer to the monorail and ferry. And even more technically, you could use the Grand Floridian walkway all the way from the Transportation and Ticket Center, as you can walk from there, to the Polynesian, then to the Grand Floridian, and then on to the pathway. The only way that would get you ahead is if you were dropped off at least 90 minutes before official Park open at the TTC drop-off, so you could make the ~45 minute walk over. Beginning your morning with a 45-minute walk, particularly as temperatures increase heading back into the summer, is probably not high on anyone’s vacation agenda, but if I keep up with my Billy Blanks Tae-Bo DVDs, we may find the energy to go for an early morning jaunt just to see how it works one of these days. The worst thing that could probably happen in that scenario is getting tackled by security at the Grand Floridian where they demand to see something made by Louis Vuitton. If only they made a proper ascot that didn’t clash with my navy blue fisherman’s shirt.
In this case, our journey begins at the Grand Floridian. At the risk of going soft, I would admit that I miss some of the…grander flower arrangements around property as this vase lays empty several months into reopening.
One of the joys of being such an artistic, tilt-focused photographer is the fact that I don’t actually have a straight-on picture of a single thing at Walt Disney World, even after eleven years of trying. These flowers on the left would be in the same vase during holiday time as recently as two years ago. The arrangement is a couple feet high and full of roses and other seasonal flowers.
As one might postulate, the walkway over to Magic Kingdom is outside on the Narcoossee’s side. We are currently standing in the middle of the lobby.
Below is where we’re headed on the map:
Red may not have been the best color to choose for our arrow pointing in the direction of the walkway to Magic Kingdom, but it’s also the only color that came with this computer, so we are kind of stuck in that regard. Hopefully the Grand Floridian will switch things up and become a blue resort in the near future or my next computer will come with purple or green as arrow color options. From the main building, you basically exit and head to the left towards the boat dock or Narcoossee’s. Only instead of taking a right towards them, you’ll stick to the left, passing the marina and Gasparilla Island Grill until you’re nearly at the convention center. That also puts the walkway a bit further from the Villas building, which is on the opposite side of the resort and will result in a walk of an extra two or three minutes from those rooms.
We can only hope they survive the trek.
Signage outside the main building points the aristocrats in the correct direction. Left. I would guess the signs closer to the Villas say, “Bourgeoisie, this way.”
Despite being a brisk 50-degree morning by ordinary standards, that equates to about -7 degrees in Florida Temperature Units. The pools still opened at 7am to little fanfare.
It’s 7:41am, so we can catch a bit of the color in the sky as the sun rises before making our trek over to the Park.
Not a whole lot of people use the walkway over to the Magic Kingdom.
With the official 9am open, the Park should actually let you in between 8:15am and 8:30am, depending on anticipated crowds. On what should be a relatively low-key day in January, we should be looking at closer to 8:30am.
We’ll head outside the lobby and take our left towards the walkway.
The Grand Floridian’s layout is a little on the convoluted side, but it shouldn’t take long to get your bearings. To get to the Magic Kingdom walkway from where I’m standing in this picture, I want to take a left. The Sugar Loaf building, Narcoosee’s, and boat dock are ahead.
But since we’re in no particular hurry, and I’m actually lost myself, we can head towards Narcoossee’s with the Castle in the distance. It does make for a nice picture if you walk all the way down one morning as the sun comes up.
And then the boat dock over to Magic Kingdom ahead with Cinderella Castle in the distance. But if you’ve come this far, you’ve missed the walkway over to Magic Kingdom.
It’s this easy. Basically, just exit the lobby and take a left.
Or you can always rely on one of Disney’s maps. There is something to say for self-sufficiency.
The nice thing about the walk from the Grand Floridian compared to the one over from the Contemporary is that it’s a pretty walk the whole way…for the most part.
We’ll pass by the marina and the boat that I’ve been hiding in over the last nine or ten months.
After taking a left past the Gasparilla Grill quick service and Sago Cay building, we’re on our way to the right here in what may not be the most glamorous start to our walk. I’m not sure what I was expecting.
Confetti, perhaps. Something to feel a little more alive than a concrete walkway and the mild assurance of another white rectangular sign with a somewhat vague arrow. Waking up at 5am to the glorious sound of the Magic Kingdom ferry’s “HONK” is how you know you’ve really made it in life as you find yourself wide awake in a $3,500/night Polynesian Bungalow. You can bet those people don’t miss a lot of rope drops or Kona Café breakfast reservations.
The only potential non-magical portion of our walk is at the start, where we’ll pass by the unloading area for the convention center.
From there, it’s pretty straightforward as we enjoy the sights and sounds of Seven Seas Lagoon as we occasionally take a look back at where we’ve come from and then ahead to where we’re going:
In all of Walt Disney World’s ingenuity, it took them about 50 years to build this short bridge connecting the Grand Floridian to Magic Kingdom across about ten feet of water. You would think it would be an ideal opportunity to put down a number of baking sheets and just have college program kids lay down as those staying at the Grand Floridian sort of walk across them, paying special attention not to get their feet wet. If that’s a little too dystopian, they could have always rigged up the Oregon Trail ferry to move people across, dysentery notwithstanding. The people on the other side coming in from Chef Mickey’s…..harder to say.
As you’re probably aware, the Electrical Water Pageant is housed back here behind the bridge. After 50 years, you would think they might be able to come up with another area to store the floats, such as around Fort Wilderness or just about literally anywhere else than this corner.
But everyone has their home and this is evidently it. The Pageant must have signed a 100-year contract to stay here with an ironclad no-trade clause. You can’t cover too many bases.
We’ll continue on.
As you may have noticed, we haven’t run into a whole lot of people over the course of our ambling over from the Grand Floridian.
A moment of zen pic.twitter.com/UFY0TZutQu
— josh (@easywdw) January 19, 2021
I started walking along the path at 7:55am with the official 9am Park open.
Ducks, monorails, and construction noise. The blogging trifecta pic.twitter.com/bI4mzpDCe0
— josh (@easywdw) January 19, 2021
And in no hurry whatsoever.
One pleasantly brisk morning pic.twitter.com/XMI5oGdYlL
— josh (@easywdw) January 19, 2021
I think I saw a total of eight or nine people, all of whom passed me as I focused on ducks and the mist on the water.
The monorails are in testing mode, so we don’t need to be concerned about anyone from the Transportation and Ticket Center or Contemporary or Grand Floridian beating us to the punch. The watercraft also aren’t yet transporting guests. Those coming in from the Contemporary and Grand Floridian Walkways will be among the first to enter the Park.
Here we are looking back at the Grand Floridian from the new dock.
The nice thing about walking over from the Grand Floridian or Contemporary is that you choose when you leave and have almost complete control over when you arrive, versus the various other types of transportation, where you may be waiting for a bus with 15 available seats that doesn’t materialize or a gondola system that decides to get going a few minutes later than usual. You could have probably crawled faster than I walked from the Grand Floridian and there are probably a total of 18 people waiting in front of me at 8:22am, or 27 minutes after I started my own meandering. Should you have more focus on traversing the walkway with the proper amount of gusto, the walk is probably about ten minutes from where it starts. You’d then need to add however many minutes it takes to walk over to said pathway, which is likely between five and ten minutes depending on where you’re coming from at the resort.
Pulling back up our map of the Grand Floridian, I wouldn’t necessarily factor the walkway’s position into your building request. In 2021, with tax, the cheapest room at the resort is $737 on a weekday for an outer building garden view room, up to $1502 for a theme park view room on a weekend, ignoring any of the Club Level stuff that isn’t available at the moment. Sugar Loaf is the usual outer building Club Level escape with Sago Cay and Conch Key offering some of the more expensive views of Cinderella Castle on its endcaps, while also housing less expensive rooms closer to the interior of the resort. While the walkways may be a little confusing, the resort is on the compact side of things, and even if you’re coming from Big Pine Key on the opposite side of where the walkway is located, or the Villas, you’re only looking at adding two to five minutes to the walk, which is less time than it would take to make it up to the monorail station or walk out to the buses. We may still be able to arrange some baking sheets to slide on, but you’ll have to do so without the help of the college program kids at the moment. Just give it a little more time.
Grand Floridian walkway guests enjoy their own Evolv scanner on the right this early in the morning with secondary baggage check on the left, in addition to the usual temperature check.
In my experience, those coming in from the Contemporary walkway have a slim advantage just based on their sheer numbers. You can see them heading in before me.
There are a couple hundred of them and about 25 of us.
Nonetheless, this shouldn’t have a substantial impact on our morning as thousands of guests remain standing around waiting for buses from their resorts or to be let through security and then on to the monorail at the Transportation and Ticket Center. Walking over basically guarantees us 30 to 60 minutes of relative freedom inside the Park – something that you don’t really find elsewhere.
After some number of years of the Railroad being down for maintenance and Tron construction, scrims have finally gone up on the Main Street station as work progresses there. The façade will likely be replaced, basically in its entirety over the course of about a year. You know you’re in a little too deep in the Disney fandom when you’re looking forward to the train returning more than the opening of Tron. But that’s where I am. If I wanted someone to drive me around on a bike, I’d head to the convention center, where it would likely be far more dangerous and that much more exciting.
At 8:32am, we’re headed inside.
A limited number of attractions will be operating before 9am, with most coming online at official Park open.
Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Peter Pan’s Flight are our usual first two stops, since starting there will save us 50 to 90 minutes in line versus visiting during the peak crowds of the afternoon.
We could also head up through Adventureland to see if Jungle Cruise or Pirates are operating. And if not, continue to Splash or Big Thunder Mountains, the latter of which should be up barring technical difficulty.
But with Mine Train still sporting the longest average and peak waits, we’ll plan on starting our day there, since we’re in front of 99% of the visitors who will arrive throughout the day. It may appear like there are a lot of people already inside the Park, but this is basically everyone before they disperse to the various attractions. You may want to try to verify the time on the clock to the left as I’m not seeing the sun for guidance.
Obviously, we’re not the only ones inside the Park, as guests from the Contemporary and a few from the buses were let go in front of us. I’m also tragically slow as I take a picture every five steps.
Main Street Bakery Starbucks is open and welcoming guests. On cooler mornings, it’s that much more popular. Luckily, we’re not yet stuck waiting on a sticker outside the building.
We should be in good shape even as we’re behind a number of people who beat us from the Contemporary and a couple buses full of a handful of guests each.
Most people will be headed in the direction of the Mine Train – the quickest way to get there is to go down the path to the right of Cinderella Castle towards Mad Tea Party and then continue on to the left towards the attraction entrance. It appears like most people know this.
Adventureland and Frontierland look to be significantly less popular on the opposite side.
An unencumbered, early morning walk through Cinderella Castle may also “feel” special. Ordinarily, the doors through the fortified structure would be closed as Disney prepares the Welcome Show that isn’t currently taking place. Then throughout the day, the doors would regularly be shut again to prepare for Mickey’s Friendship Faire, which is also currently off the docket. And then again in anticipation of the fireworks…also off the docket.
So if Peter Pan’s Flight is your first stop, you might head through the Castle first. Otherwise, it would be a longer route to the Mine Train and put you behind additional people should you take the route through the Castle. But you’re also talking to the guy who stood there and enjoyed listening to the water flowing from the fountain for a while.
But alas, Mine Train is our destination as we follow the usual path.
As with all of the other Parks, you won’t find any ropes or barriers blocking access to the various attractions or lands. Disney doesn’t currently want people to do much congregating.
Looking behind me as I dillydally at 8:38am, it looks like I’m still enjoying a favorable position. But there are people heading this way, which reinforces the importance of some amount of quickness.
Our goal is rarely to be the first person on anything or move as fast as possible, since it’s unlikely that you’ll find yourself in such a favorable position with strollers and dad in tow. We always have our elbows to throw if things seem to be getting a little tighter.
At a minimum focal length of 70mm on our very large, very creepy lens, we’re zoomed in a little more than we’d like in this shot, but we’re headed right for the Mine with fewer people than it probably appears in the picture. You’ll also want to keep right to enter the queue and potentially drop off a stroller.
Any time a lens requires a tripod mount on the bottom, as this one does, you know you’re going a little too creepy with it.
While the previous lens weighs about 3.5 pounds and extends longer than either of us would like, we’ve also got this little guy on hand, which helps balance things out. Canon does make larger lenses, but these are basically the smallest and largest you’ll see at the Parks.
After some amount of dawdling, I got in line for the Mine at 8:42am.
And would be on board nine minutes later:
I was back out front at 8:56am, for a total experience time of 14 minutes, or around two minutes longer than the ride would have taken in the legacy FastPass+ days, which is pretty good. I could have shaved a minute or two off by hurrying over as fast as possible, but you probably won’t find yourself in that position either with everything to see and experience on Main Street and up through Fantasyland on the walk over.
The 35 minutes now posted at 8:56am may be slightly optimistic.
With very little FastPass+ usage – it’s basically Club 33, Disability Access, and Rider swap – and six feet between parties in line, it can be difficult to gauge actual waits as they extend into the distance. But with the line stretching back at least around the corner and into Storybook Circus, 35 minutes would be somewhere between optimistic and realistic.
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh was not running as of 8:54am, which means we could wait a few minutes for it to ideally open at 9am, or spend the time walking to and from Peter Pan’s Flight.
So that’s what we’ll do.
A few more people are straggling in through and around the Castle.
The Park isn’t technically open, and I’ve already been on the most popular ride, almost like in the Be Our Guest Breakfast advantage days. Who would have thought we’d ever pine for a return to the normalcy of the $26 Croissant?
“it’s a small world” is one ride that we’re going to have to reassess if they don’t go through with installing the barriers in between the rows to increase capacity. I’m going to wait three minutes for Peter Pan’s Flight now, and over 30 minutes for “small world” at noon. We’ll return to that conundrum when the time comes later in the afternoon. Otherwise, the façade is again out from behind scrims and looks great. Personally, I wouldn’t rely on keeping my little fortress up on six-inch pegs as we see there in blue on the right, but it apparently works so long as you replace them in what seems to be every three to five weeks.
We’ll make our usual move to the left through Peter Pan’s Flight.
Which should basically remain a walk-on with five minutes posted.
Themed acrylic barriers. What a time to be alive.
When we come back in the afternoon, the line for Peter Pan will actually stretch back far enough to route through the inside of Columbia Harbour House. And no, they won’t throw any fried shrimp in your general direction while you wait. I’ve tried. On multiple occasions.
I arrived at 8:59am and boarded at 9:02am:
And I’m back out front at 9:07am with two priorities down just seven minutes into the official part of the day.
In the next part, we’ll return to The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and then move on to Haunted Mansion and Jungle Cruise as we hope our good fortune continues.