We pick things up on the morning of Thursday, September 12th, 2019, at 8:02am. In Part One, we started our day in Fantasyland for Extra Extra Magic Hour, which ran from 7am to 8am. During that time, I was able to do:
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train: 7:02am – 7:14am
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train: 7:15am – 7:28am
- Peter Pan’s Flight: 7:30am – 7:38am
- Peter Pan’s Flight: 7:39am – 7:47am
- The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh: 7:49am – 7:58am
With the early open, and virtually nobody willing or able to arrive at the most popular theme park in the world this early, I was able to accomplish quite a bit. Mine Train’s peak wait still exceeds 90 minutes most days, with Peter Pan’s Flight still averaging about an hour. Winnie the Pooh’s average wait is around a half hour. So in just the first hour of touring, I’ve saved about 4.5 hours in line compared to waiting for those same attractions later in the day.
Only Main Street, Fantasyland, and Tomorrowland are open during (Extra) Extra Magic Hour at Magic Kingdom. Come 8am, we could elect to stay in Fantasyland and experience some of the low- or moderate-priority attractions like The Barnstormer, Dumbo, and the like. Meeting the Princesses at Fairytale Hall or at Ariel’s Grotto would also make sense. I could also head to Frontierland for Big Thunder and Splash Mountains or over to Adventureland for Jungle Cruise and Pirates of the Caribbean. From a touring efficiency perspective, visiting Fantasyland during the whole Extra Extra Magic Hour makes the most sense. I’ve elected to go to Tomorrowland next, hitting Space Mountain first, followed by Tomorrowland Speedway and Buzz Lightyear.
The early morning will continue to pay dividends regardless of where I visit next, so long as I avoid the attractions that very quickly increase in wait times. Not coincidentally, those are the three that I’ve already experienced. At Animal Kingdom, the vast majority of those arriving during the first 90 minutes of regular operation instinctively visit Flight of Passage first, which takes the pressure off virtually every other attraction in the Park as they wait there for 90+ minutes. Because of that phenomenon, it opens up rides like Expedition Everest and Kilimanjaro Safaris for us, since we were able to ride Flight of Passage (twice) during the Extra Extra Magic Hour, as I covered here.
At Magic Kingdom, the few people that we saw entering the Park at 8am are heading to the Mine Train and Peter Pan’s Flight first thing. That makes it much easier for us to move on to any other attraction. The fact that it’s so early also means far fewer people are around. With a regular 9am open, I wouldn’t be over to Tomorrowland, after experiencing the Mine Train, Peter Pan’s Flight, and Winnie the Pooh, until after 10am, or two hours later in the day than where I am now. By 10am, you’re looking at ten thousand more people in the Park.
With the low crowds this early, I could ride Tomorrowland Speedway before Space Mountain. It would save two minutes of walking. On busier days, Space Mountain’s wait does build faster, so we’re heading in that direction first.
Seeing the mist coming from Cool Ship was neat.
It might make a little more sense in Adventureland, but you never know what the future might hold. Maybe just a lot of mist.
Space Mountain is posting a ten-minute wait at 8:06am. While FastPass+ is not offered during Extra Magic Hours, it does come online right at regular Park open, which is part of the reason why standby lines get so bogged down so quickly these days. Back when legacy paper FASTPASS was a thing, the first return time typically started 40 minutes after the Park opened, or 9:40am – 10:40am in most cases. Those who pulled those paper FASTPASSes would typically use them towards the end of the window, so the first 90 minutes of operation were virtually FASTPASS-free, which in turn gave almost all of an attraction’s capacity to standby. At Magic Kingdom, it makes sense to begin using FastPass+ as early as 10am at a super-headliner like Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, where doing so will save more than an hour in line.
With wait times typically going up as it gets later in the day, it makes sense to experience as many attractions as possible in standby before using FastPass+. If I use FastPass+ at Mine Train at 10am, it means that I’ll arrive at my next attraction later. If I’m going to rely on standby, then I’ll end up waiting longer or finding myself in a fuller show than if I had experienced that attraction before using the FP+. Above, we’ve got a pair of people using FP+ before 8:10am, which probably isn’t going to save them much time.
These days, 4th and subsequent FastPass+ availability comes down to your propensity to refresh the offerings for better attractions at earlier times. At 12pm, you’re looking at the same dismal selections as you would be at 2pm or 5pm. This is in large part due to Disney pushing on-site guests to book their selections in advance. Every day, more people book FP+ from the comfort of their homes, in turn reducing the day-of supply. But as you refresh availability, better selections will inevitably open up as people change and cancel their plans. Those who arrive early and refresh FastPass+ vigorously will enjoy the most attractions, regardless of afternoon crowd levels.
Not only are the Parks opening early on an unprecedented number of dates, but staffing over the first couple of weeks in September was also incredibly high, with both sides of Space Mountain already operating.
We’ve got empty rockets circulating and we were offered our choice of side.
Unfortunately, choosing neither side wasn’t an option. You can see that there’s only one person in the rocket in front of me. Everyone else in her party must have been smarter than us.
There’s nobody waiting:
We arrived at 8:06am, and were back out front at 8:21am, for a total experience time of 15 minutes. That’s six or seven minutes less than the ride typically takes with FastPass+ later in the day.
Tomorrowland Speedway is up next with a 15-minute wait.
The capacity gods do not shine down on us here, with Disney only loading and unloading four cars at a time.
That’s less than a fifth of the attraction’s theoretical capacity. You can see all of these cars that aren’t running.
My 11-minute wait is the longest I’ve experienced so far.
At least we get a glimpse of the Tron construction.
We arrived at 8:21am, and were back out front at 8:38am, for a total experience time of 17 minutes. That’s as long as both of my rides on Peter Pan’s Flight took, combined.
It potentially makes sense to ride Tomorrowland Speedway before Space Mountain if you’re coming over from Fantasyland, since it’s the first ride that you’ll see and the capacity reduction means very few people are riding at any given time. But Disney can just as easily close one side of Space Mountain, too, which would make it a higher priority. During the Extra Extra Magic Hours period, I’d probably ride Speedway first and then move on to Space Mountain. But you’re fine either way – the line for Speedway wasn’t much shorter at 8:05am than it was at 8:20am.
Fortunately, they can’t really reduce an omnimover’s capacity, with all of the vehicles being pulled on the track from the moment the ride starts up in the morning.
I’ll basically walk right on Buzz Lightyear:
Buzz took all of nine minutes, including a brief stop. We could have easily ridden again in the same amount of time.
At 8:48am, so few people are streaming in that we could ride anything in Tomorrowland again. There will be more people in line for the Speedway, but hopefully they’re loading more vehicles at this point. The actual wait for Space Mountain shouldn’t be above two minutes and Buzz is also right around there. We’d basically have the PeopleMover to ourselves as well.
Disney continues to very slowly update Tomorrowland’s aesthetic in front of Tron’s opening in about two years.
The pathway that connects Liberty Square and Fantasyland behind Cinderella Castle has reopened.
You might remember that Disney spent a couple of months widening it.
It probably wouldn’t have been a high priority fix on my list.
I haven’t personally been back here when the pathway was uncomfortably congested. It does appear like the tables that used to line the fence have not returned, which will reduce Sleepy Hollow’s seating area. The view there was about as picturesque as it gets. The picnic tables out of frame to the left are still there.
But it does look good.
And it’s functional, which is always important.
The walkway through Cinderella Castle is often closed in anticipation of a show, fireworks, etc.
Occasionally, that means a lot of people will be using one of the other walkways. On the opposite side, a path takes you down to just outside the entrance to Cosmic Ray’s on the Fantasyland side. I don’t think there’s word that a path widening is imminent over there.
Work continues elsewhere in Liberty Square, here behind Liberty Square Market and to the right of Columbia Harbour House.
The seating area was always a bit awkward with small tables, tiny chairs, and an assortment of planters making traversing the area difficult when it was busy.
A more streamlined seating area would increase capacity, but potentially reduce some of the charm. Of course, you might prefer comfort to style.
Just after 9am, Haunted Mansion was down for technical trouble. I’m planning on riding with FastPass+ before lunch, but riding now wouldn’t necessarily be the worst decision if you’re passing by on the way to Frontierland. I’m not taking a particularly direct path myself with all of these pictures.
I disembarked the Space Ranger Spin at 8:48am, and won’t be back to Big Thunder until 9:08am. The walk, at a reasonable pace, would take you about ten minutes without superfluous stops. You may spend your extra ten minutes grabbing snacks, stopping by the restroom, re-riding Buzz, or taking pictures of walls and pathways. No judgment.
Crowds remain light, but it won’t stay this way forever, so it still behooves us to move quickly from attraction to attraction, so we can get more done before long waits materialize.
On busier days, wait times at the priority attractions in Frontierland and Adventureland will become prohibitive before 10am.
I’ve got more of a cushion with the 10-minute posted wait just after 9am.
From an attendance perspective, this particular day should be among the 30 least-crowded days of the year at Magic Kingdom, though it is not a Party day with a 6pm close. Friday, with the 6pm close, saw wait times that were even lower. The good news is that as far as touring efficiency is concerned, our plan of attack doesn’t change. And even on days in October that do prove to be busier, the morning will go similarly well. It’s just too early for most people, even if more of them show up beginning at 10am. If heavier crowds later in September and into October are a concern, then visit on a Party day when crowds will be much lower.
It wasn’t exactly a straight shot to load on Big Thunder.
But most of the queue was roped off.
Which means our actual wait should be under ten minutes.
One thing we may see over the next seven-or-so weeks of Extra Extra Magic Hours is a reduction in capacity. Big Thunder was already operating both sides, even if it wasn’t quite at full capacity with one train still off the tracks. That’s why my wait is going to be so short. With just one side operating, my actual wait would be 15 or more minutes with the same number of people waiting.
We’ll hope for the best moving forward:
We were back out front at 9:22am, for a total experience time of just 14 minutes, which is right around how long the ride would take with FastPass+ later in the day.
With a RealFeel that’s still 85+ degrees at 9:30am, we won’t mind riding Splash Mountain this early. If you’d prefer to ride later, then you might elect to use FastPass+ here and at Big Thunder, so you don’t have to traipse all the way to the very back of Frontierland. If you do that, then you could either head straight to Adventureland for Jungle Cruise and Pirates or spend more time in Tomorrowland or Fantasyland. At 9:15am, everything in the Park that I haven’t done will still have an actual wait of under ten minutes.
I got in line for Splash at 9:24am, and it should largely be a straight shot to the loading area:
I was back out front at 9:46am, for a total experience time of 22 minutes, which is about three minutes less than the ride typically takes with FastPass+.
So far, this has been one of my most successful visits to Magic Kingdom of all time (of all time), thanks in large part to the Extra Extra Magic Hour from 7am to 8am. We’ll head to Adventureland for Pirates of the Caribbean, Jungle Cruise, and a Dole Whip next.