We’ve covered just about every possible Magic Kingdom rope drop destination this year. Above is an above average number of people waiting for the “Let the Magic Begin” welcome show presented by Mickey Mouse on the Castle Forecourt stage in front of Cinderella Castle. Upon its conclusion, all of these people will be released to the attraction of their choice with the majority headed straight for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. But even with thousands of people waiting to burst into the various Lands, we can still find a lot of success by visiting the highest priority attractions that will see the longest afternoon waits first thing before moving on to the medium and low priority attractions before sizable waits have an opportunity to develop.
Our mornings typically start with Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, which remains Magic Kingdom’s most popular ride with waits that rise faster than any other attraction. Our Mine Train rope drop, just a couple of days before Easter back in March, shows just how busy things can get.
We also rope dropped the Mine Train on a Saturday in July to see if peak summer waits and crowds really have dropped as much as we thought. We also rope dropped the Mine in March. And in November. Among others.
And Frontierland for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. The Frontierland/Adventureland rope drop is my favorite because it’s the easiest and least stressful, while still including a great assortment of attractions that you can enjoy with short to nonexistent waits, including Big Thunder Mountain, Splash Mountain, Jungle Cruise, and Pirates of the Caribbean.
We pick things up on a particularly grey morning back in Fantasyland. It’s 8:45am on Sunday December 16, 2018. This post covers our walk back to Cinderella’s Royal Table and Be Our Guest Restaurant for breakfast and includes about 70 pictures around Main Street taken on the same morning.
Like most Sundays, Magic Kingdom is hosting Early Morning Magic, a paid event that you can read about here. These days, several hundred people typically participate in each event and they’ll have access to the entirety of Fantasyland with the majority of the attractions operating exclusively for them between 7:45am and 9am. That includes Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Peter Pan’s Flight. I’m often asked what effect Early Morning Magic has on touring for everyone else. If you’re headed to Seven Dwarfs Mine Train first thing, either back here from Be Our Guest Restaurant or up front from the main entrance, then it’s probably going to delay your morning touring by about five minutes. If you’re starting with any other attraction, including Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Peter Pan’s Flight, or what have you, then you’ll feel no ill effects.
Back in November, when we rope dropped the Mine Train from Be Our Guest Restaurant on a day without Early Morning Magic, we were walked over to the attraction at 8:55am.
This time around, we’re not going to be walked over until 8:59am, which gives the Early Morning Magic people their full 75 minutes of exclusive time on the attractions.
You can see a little bit of the smoke that accompanies the fireworks at the end of the Welcome Show as we turn the corner towards the Mine Train.
I was also further back in line than last time. If you are eating breakfast at Be Our Guest, then you ideally want to be outside the restaurant by about 8:45am. A line forms along the railing as pictured in the two images above this one. If you arrive outside at 8:52am, like I did, then you’ll wait six or seven extra minutes to ride.
It’s far from the end of the world, but every minute counts in the early morning as wait times quickly increase. If you get in line for The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh at 9:10am then you’re going to wait about two minutes. If you get in line at 9:20am, then you’re going to wait closer to ten. Then from there, every subsequent attraction will have a longer wait the later you arrive.
Just a minute after I staked my claim in line at 9:01am, about a thousand people from the main entrance started to arrive behind me and now find themselves lining up back towards Storybook Circus.
That’s one key point about the Be Our Guest Restaurant pre-opening breakfast advantage – even if we are delayed by a couple of minutes due to Early Morning Magic or the ride opening a couple of minutes late due to mechanical trouble, we’re still in the best possible position to experience Mine Train with the shortest possible wait. Everyone that files into the queue from the main entrance at 9am will do so behind us.
Disney removed the digital games that appeared in the standby queue a few months ago, ostensibly to help keep people moving.
Amusingly, it “feels” like even more people now stop and take pictures with the gems or try to bang on them like drums. This isn’t Pandora!
We started moving through the Mine Train queue at 9:02am and I was on-board at 9:12am.
I was back out front at 9:18am to a 95-minute posted wait and a standby queue that extended past the entrance. That’s 14 minutes later than November, when I rope dropped the Mine Train from Be Our Guest Restaurant on a day without Early Morning Magic and was finished at 9:04am. About half of that delay is due to how much further back in line I was because I arrived outside at 8:52am rather than 8:45am. And about half of that delay is due to Early Morning Magic and our walk through the queue starting at 9:01am instead of 8:55am.
I had in mind to visit all of the attractions in Fantasyland that post a wait, here with the average wait in parentheses:
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (90 minutes)
- Peter Pan’s Flight (60 minutes)
- Both Princess Fairytale Hall Meets (40 minutes each)
- The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (35 minutes)
- Ariel’s Grotto (30 minutes)
- Enchanted Tales with Belle (30 minutes)
- it’s a small world (25 minutes)
- Journey of the Little Mermaid (20 minutes)
- Dumbo the Flying Elephant (20 minutes)
- The Barnstormer (20 minutes)
- Prince Regal Royal Carrousel (10 minutes)
- Mad Tea Party (10 minutes)
- Mickey’s PhilharMagic (10 minutes)
The combined duration of those 13 attractions is about 100 minutes. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train might see a 90-minute average wait, but the on-ride time is only about three minutes. To that, we’ll add the combined average wait of 13 attractions, which comes in at 400 minutes. We’ll also add five minutes to each attraction to account for walking the queue/loading/unloading the attraction. That’s a total of 565 minutes, or just under nine and a half hours.
Magic Kingdom was open from 9am to 6pm on this particular day with Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party scheduled. So if we were to somehow experience all of the attractions with their average experience times, we wouldn’t be able to accomplish everything in Fantasyland over the course of the day. The 9.5 hour total also assumes we skip lunch and don’t stop to use the bathroom, in addition to teleporting to the entrance of each attraction. Add 45 minutes for lunch, three minutes to walk between each attraction, and 20 minutes for various breaks, and it’s an 11-hour day to get everything done.
Hopefully with a little bit of strategy, we’ll be able to accomplish everything in much less time.
Back to the morning at hand, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh was posting a 20-minute wait at 9:19am.
It ended up being about ten:
I was back out front at 9:37am for a total experience time just under 20 minutes.
We visit Winnie the Pooh early due to its miserable capacity and the fact that actual waits will hit 20+ minutes by 9:30am. It’s actually one of the easier attractions to secure as a 4th or subsequent FastPass+, which potentially means that I could skip it now and instead try to get a FP+ for it later. But with just nine hours of regular Park operation and above average attendance, I’m going to have to refresh FP+ availability dozens of times to find anything approaching a decent selection and that’s searching for just one person. So realistically, we need to do as many attractions as possible in standby early in the morning, ideally with short waits.
Next up, we’ll visit Princess Fairytale Hall, where we’ll ordinarily be able to meet Cinderella and Elena on one side and Tiana and Rapunzel on the other. For reasons that I can’t possibly guess, Sundays are typically the most common day for cast members to call out of work. My estimation is that the princesses are up particularly late on Saturday evenings overseeing their various kingdoms. As such, two “visiting princesses” are advertised in place of Rapunzel and Tiana.
Fairytale Hall has been open for a few years now and is a great opportunity to meet two princesses at a time with FastPass+ or in the early morning when waits are reliably short.
Back when Frozen was big and Anna and Elsa met here, Fairytale Hall was the highest Magic Kingdom FastPass+ priority and a top rope drop spot.
These days, the remaining princesses are much less popular. There’s nobody in line in front of me at 9:40am at the same time Seven Dwarf Mine Train is posting a 75-minute wait and Peter Pan’s Flight is already up to 45+ minutes.
If you’re wondering, as a single adult male, if it gets any less awkward meeting the princesses as you age very ungracefully, the answer is no.
Very much no.
Meeting what ended up being Aurora and Snow White took just seven minutes.
I honestly don’t know which one of us finds this more traumatic.
The Cinderella and Elena meet took about the same amount of time, so I arrived at 9:39am and was back out front at 9:52am for a total experience time of just 13 minutes to meet four princesses.
Mine Train’s wait has fallen from its morning high. Most people present at rope drop clog up the queue first thing, but relatively few people arrive between 9:15am and 10am, which gives the attraction an opportunity to move through some people. As always, the worst place to be in Magic Kingdom is at the end of that 75+ minute standby line first thing. It makes far more sense to experience short waits elsewhere and if you’re going to wait a long time for the Mine Train, to get in line later in the morning or afternoon when waits are long everywhere.
Crowds aren’t too bad as we head back to the Little Mermaid section of New Fantasyland.
Just about everything in Fantasyland, other than Mine Train and Peter Pan’s Flight, remains a walk-on before 10am.
We’re getting another princess out of the way in Ariel at her Grotto.
At 9:57am, the posted wait is ten minutes.
And that’s exactly as long as it took.
We prioritize the character meets because their hourly capacities are so low and there’s only a couple hundred FastPass+ experiences issued per hour for each, making a 4th or subsequent FastPass+ sometimes difficult to obtain. On the plus side, the character meet FP+ are some of the most likely to be changed/canceled after parents find out that their kids aren’t quite as amendable to the situation as single adult male Disney bloggers.
Things remain quiet throughout this corridor. Ariel’s Grotto is up to a 15-minute actual wait while Journey of the Little Mermaid would be around two minutes with Dumbo around five minutes and The Barnstormer approaching fifteen.
As usual, I’m not following my own advice.
It makes more sense to ride Barnstormer first as waits typically rise earlier in the morning due to its lower capacity.
But Dumbo was posting 20 minutes, which seemed like it was about 15 minutes overstated.
The play area was open. Kids have an opportunity to run around while the parents can sit and watch/refresh FP+ availability.
As I suspected, I was on-board in about seven minutes.
For whatever reason, cast weren’t loading three or four elephants on each spinner, making each flight about 30% empty.
You’re late pic.twitter.com/sE4L5Td7QZ
— josh (@easywdw) December 16, 2018
It didn’t seem to have much of an impact on wait times as I arrived at 10:09am and was on-board at 10:17am. That’s perhaps two minutes longer than the minimum.
I’m going to pay a bit for riding Dumbo first with The Barnstormer posting a 15-minute wait at 10:21am.
It ended up being a little more than 20.
The small First Aid kit followed by the much larger Second Aid kit is one of my favorite things at Magic Kingdom.
I was on-board at 10:42am for a total wait of 21 minutes. That’s probably too long to wait in standby, but with above average crowds, the only way around it would be to ride between 5pm and 6pm or use FastPass+.
As I mentioned earlier, the FastPass+ situation later in the day is going to be dire. Here we are checking at 11:43am to find absolutely no availability for one person for The Barnstormer, let alone Big Thunder or Buzz.
One of my pre-booked FP+ is for Enchanted Tales with Belle.
Even Winnie the Pooh, which is notoriously available as a late day FastPass+, is showing no availability before noon. Of course, I’ve already experienced both that and Ariel’s Grotto in standby.
No Meet and Greets see availability. Luckily, I’ve already met both sets of princesses.
When you see no FastPass+ for Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor, it’s usually time to follow Mickey to the Hot Dog Hills. One of my other pre-booked FastPass+ will be for Peter Pan’s Flight.
No surprises here, necessarily. My third pre-booked FastPass+ is for a re-ride on Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.
Closing things out, there isn’t even any availability for Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid.
That means the only attractions with additional availability are Dumbo, it’s a small world, Mad Tea Party, and Mickey’s PhilharMagic. Certainly, we would be able to book some of the currently-unavailable attractions after a number of refreshes, but it’s unlikely that their return times will be immediate. And larger parties are going to have even more difficulty finding additional availability.
So a willingness to wait 20 minutes, even for the likes of The Barnstormer, is going to be necessary if we want to experience it.
As of 10:45am, I’ve accomplished:
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train: 9:01am – 9:18am
- The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh: 9:19am – 9:37am
- Princess Fairytale Hall Aurora and Snow White: 9:38am – 9:44am
- Princess Fairytale Hall Cinderella and Elena: 9:45am – 9:52am
- Ariel’s Grotto: 9:57am – 10:09am
- Dumbo: 10:09am – 10:21am
- Barnstormer: 10:22am – 10:45am
I waited about 10 minutes at Mine Train, 12 minutes at Winnie the Pooh, three minutes at both Fairytale Hall Meets, 10 minutes at Ariel’s Grotto, 8 minutes at Dumbo, and 20 minutes at Barnstormer. I could have cut about seven minutes of the wait off Barnstormer by going there before Dumbo. Other than that, there probably isn’t much I can do to reduce waits.
In Part Two, we’ll continue trying to experience everything that Fantasyland has to offer. You’ll find it here.