Visiting Disney’s Magic Kingdom Park
Our alphabetical look at Walt Disney World continues with for those visiting Disney’s Magic Kingdom Park in summer 2020, and likely beyond. We started with Animal Kingdom before heading to Epcot and Hollywood Studios. Potentially, it would always make sense to start these sorts of series with the most popular theme park in the world. Perhaps by the time we finally do get to it, we really have things dialed in. This has not historically been the case, but you never know amid these unprecedented times. easywdw.com may yet rise again.
Potentially, Magic Kingdom is where we’re best off, given what appears to be low attendance caps and the wide assortment of still-available attractions. The short operating hours may yet come into play. Magic Kingdom is currently set to open from just 9am to 7pm every day through the end of October:
You can pull up the full version of the chart here, though the relevant hours in the left column are the same all the way down.
While we have highlighted what are likely some cost cutting measures in the past, we potentially have to give Disney credit for basically cancelling every upcharge event/add-on that they offer. Obviously you can’t have the Happily Ever After Dessert Party without the accompanying fireworks. Still, Disney cancelled all of its Early Morning Magic and Disney After Hours events. Potentially, there would be no better time to offer them as people visiting Disney’s Magic Kingdom prefer to guarantee lower attendance and wait times, even given higher costs.
This should be what we’re looking at when Magic Kingdom opens on Saturday, July 11th, 2020:
We’ll benefit from a wide number of attractions and several first stop priorities that would make sense. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is still obviously the highest priority, but those who want to avoid it first thing should be able to get in line at the end of the night and ride with a somewhat reasonable wait. You’ll remember that officially, there are no Park Hopping opportunities under the Park Pass system.
We should still be able to get in line for a priority attraction at the end of the night. We’ve long taken advantage of that at attractions like Flight of Passage, where the wait still averaged 150 minutes earlier this year. Actual waits at the end of the night were typically closer to 45 minutes. At Seven Dwarfs, the wait at the end of the night should come in around 30 minutes. Considering the rest of the Park is closed, your time isn’t necessarily wasted. To extend your day, you might consider dinner at a nearby resort before returning “home.”
From there, it potentially makes sense to start your day at Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, or Peter Pan’s Flight. Those three attractions are in three very different directions, which should help disperse crowds somewhat evenly. Capacity will still come into play as Disney only fills every other row on most attractions with cast members reserving certain types of vehicles for just one party.
Fortunately, neither one of us in charge of figuring out how any of this works. Tom Sawyer Island is officially reopening, but it’s hard to imagine that they’ll transport more than one party to the island via raft at any given time. That’s going to equate to some prohibitive waits, even if there are only 15 people ahead of you. Six months ago, they could all board the same raft. Come later this month, it could take three or four separate trips to transport those individuals across the water.
At Jungle Cruise, not only are the days of having to sit in the “VIP” section in the center of the boat out the window, but we’ll also see six feet left between parties. That likely means that the ride’s capacity drops to around 35% of its maximum, even assuming that Disney is running as many boats as possible. We don’t have to worry about FastPass+ priority anymore, because it isn’t offered. But 30% of a ride’s capacity was generally what Disney gave standby in the first place. The line likely won’t move any faster come July 11th than it did back in February.
Swiss Family Treehouse will reopen, but it’s hard to say what physical distancing will look like there, and potentially why Disney would bother, other than the fact that it takes approximately one cast member to operate. In the past, I’ve had people walk by me as I take pictures with just an inch or two between us. Those days are officially out, with the potential that there will be 6-foot measurements spaced out all along the route up and down the tree. Once the party in front of you moves along, you’ll follow.
For once, we’ll focus on Disney’s official list of what attractions are reopening with the Park:
- “it’s a small world”
- Astro Orbiter
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
- Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
- Country Bear Jamboree
- Dumbo the Flying Elephant
- Jungle Cruise
- Liberty Square Riverboat
- Mad Tea Party
- Mickey’s PhilharMagic
- Peter Pan’s Flight
- Pirates of the Caribbean
- Prince Charming Regal Carrousel
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
- Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom
- Space Mountain
- Splash Mountain
- Swiss Family Treehouse
- The Barnstormer
- The Hall of Presidents
- The Haunted Mansion
- The Magic Carpets of Aladdin
- The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
- Tom Sawyer Island
- Tomorrowland Speedway
- Tomorrowland Transit Authority Peoplemover
- Under the Sea ~ Journey of The Little Mermaid
- Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress
- Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room
That’s just one shy of 30 attractions reopening. At Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the number is 13. Animal Kingdom has 15. Epcot arrives with 18 reopening attractions. You can pull up Disney’s official list here, which may change as things progress.
That means the following attractions won’t be available:
- A Pirate’s Adventure game in Adventureland
- Electrical Water Pageant (on Bay Lake/Seven Seas Lagoon)
- Enchanted Tales with Belle
- Festival of Fantasy Parade
- Flag Retreat
- Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade
- Happily Ever After Fireworks
- Let the Magic Begin Welcome Show
- Main Street Vehicles
- Meet _________
- Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire
- Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor
- Move It! Shake It! Parade
- Once Upon a Time Projection Show
- Walt Disney World Railroad (closed for refurbishment/Tron construction)
Disney has also not scheduled a variety of entertainers, including the Citizens of Main Street, Casey’s Corner Pianist, Dapper Dans, and the Main Street Trolley Show. Basically, Disney doesn’t want to give people a reason to congregate.
On the plus side, according to Disney, we’ll see:
Character Cavalcades throughout the day, with Guest-favorite Disney friends appearing along the parade route—which will include:
- The Royal Princess Processional
- Mickey & Friends Cavalcade
- Fantasyland Friends Cavalcade
- A Goofy Cavalcade
- Tinker Bell & the Lost Treasure
This should provide some opportunity to potentially get close enough to take “selfies” with some of the characters from a safe distance. At a minimum, the potential for seeing Mickey and Friends without much of a wait is a good thing. Undoubtedly, the start times of these various performances will leak, even if they’re not published publicly. I’ll pass along that information if it’s prudent. Obviously, Disney doesn’t want a crowd to form, waiting for the characters to appear. I stopped publishing Characterpalooza times years ago because if I didn’t, the event would have stopped with too many people showing up and waiting for the characters to appear.
Outside of the parades, stage shows, meet and greets, and nighttime spectaculars, there are really only two attractions that will initially be unavailable. That’s Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor and Enchanted Tales with Belle. It makes sense, given physical distancing protocols, that neither would be viable. It’s also worth noting that Disney and the main entertainment union haven’t come to an agreement on terms for the entertainers to return to work. Once the parties reach an agreement, it’s possible that some of these stage shows would return in some capacity.
Mickey’s Friendship Faire might not be viable as is, but with half the performers, there could potentially be enough distance between them. Of course, that would mean new choreography. A show like Monsters, Inc. should be reconfigurable to eliminate some of the audience participation, where a cast member holds a microphone and walks around the room. Potentially, those visiting Disney’s Magic Kingdom will see more and more attractions back on the docket as the summer progresses. What will open in July is the bare minimum. Still, it could be quite some time until a fireworks show like Happily Ever After can be safely executed.
There are simply too many people, even given attendance caps, for the show to be safely distanced. Currently, the Park Pass system isn’t looking too hot for annual passholders:
The earliest they can get into a Park is a weekday during the last week in July. And even then, only Epcot is available. Magic Kingdom and the other Parks are full every other day. If you got in, that’s obviously a good thing. At Shanghai Disneyland, they planned to increase attendance by 5,000 people a week, after opening up under 30% capacity. With much of California and Arizona now “re-closed,” it’s possible that Disney just wants to send fewer cancellation emails. Something tells me that we won’t be so lucky with the first cast member previews at Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom less than a week away.
It’s also worth noting that Disney hasn’t yet increased the operating hours, which would theoretically also increase the number of people admitted. Currently, every Park is open for exactly ten hours:
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom: 8am to 6pm
- Magic Kingdom Park: 9am to 7pm
- Hollywood Studios: 10am to 8pm
- Epcot: 11am to 9pm
Here’s what Park pass availability looks like for Disney Resort Guests who are visiting Disney’s Magic Kingdom and the other Parks:
The news is significantly better for Disney resort guests, where just Hollywood Studios is unavailable during the first week back. After that, and through August, every date is available. That will quickly change when/if Disney begins selling tickets and resort packages again. If you had told me at the beginning of 2020 that Disney was going to stop selling theme park tickets later in the year, I would have exclaimed that I knew Rise of the Resistance was popular, but certainly it wasn’t that popular. Circumstances certainly change.
The semi-bizarre thing is that Theme Park Tickets Guests, a phrase that I cringe at every time I hear it out loud, offers the best availability:
You can pull up a live version of this chart at DisneyWorld.com here.
You would think that Disney would want to prioritize their resort guests first, potentially followed by passholders, and then day guests staying off-property. It doesn’t make a lot of sense that those giving Disney the least amount of money also have the best availability. Of course, with Disney not currently selling tickets for 2020 dates, there may simply not be that many people who are holding tickets, still planning on going in July, and have made Park Pass reservations for visiting Disney’s Magic Kingdom or anywhere else.
One wonders how many people are going to show up having no idea that they simply can’t buy a ticket and enter the Park. As a frequent theme park visitor, I hear people say all sorts of things. It isn’t uncommon for someone to not know which Park Galaxy’s Edge is in. On the other hand, with Hollywood Studios in such high demand, it looks like the people have figured it out.
It is worth noting that Magic Kingdom is filled to capacity for resort guests and annual passholders on opening day. Magic Kingdom will see two days of cast previews, followed by two days of annual passholder previews. That will give attractions, entertainment, custodial, etc. cast member an opportunity to practice what will “literally” be thousands of big and small changes throughout each Park. Even given the demand for those visiting Disney’s Magic Kingdom and the other Parks, we still haven’t seen an increase in operating hours. An increase would certainly help spread out crowds over the course of the day. It’s worth keeping in mind that in addition to union problems, Disney doesn’t have cheap College Program labor to rely on. Historically, that’s about 40% of Disney’s staff, and they give virtually all of their money, and then some, back to the company via rent and visits to the Parks.
Speaking of spreading things out, here are the dining outlets that are expected to reopen on July 11th:
- Aloha Isle
- Auntie Gravity’s Galactic Goodies
- Be Our Guest Restaurant
- Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe
- Joffrey’s Coffee & Tea Company
- Jungle Navigation Co. LTD Skipper Canteen
- Liberty Square Market
- Liberty Tree Tavern
- Main Street Bakery
- Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Cafe
- Pinocchio Village Haus
- The Plaza Restaurant
- Sleepy Hollow
- Storybook Treats
- Sunshine Tree Terrace
- Tony’s Town Square Restaurant
You can pull up these offerings, which do change, at DisneyWorld.com, here. This is a pretty limited list. It means the following will likely not reopen on July 11th:
- Casey’s Corner
- Cheshire Cafe
- Cinderella’s Royal Table
- Columbia Harbor House
- Cool Ship
- Crystal Palace
- Diamond Horseshoe
- Friar’s Nook
- Gaston’s Tavern
- Golden Oak Outpost
- The Lunching Pad
- Plaza Ice Cream Parlor
- Prince Eric’s Village Market
- Tomorrowland Terrace Restaurant
- Tortuga Tavern
- Westward Ho
The list includes a surprising number of favorites, including Casey’s Corner, Columbia Harbour House, and Plaza Ice Cream Parlor. With only a couple of “modified” character meal experiences currently available – one at Topolino’s Terrace at Disney’s Riviera Resort, and one at Garden Grill at Epcot, seeing Crystal Palace and Cinderella’s Royal Table on the list isn’t surprising. Both are character meals. Seeing Casey’s Corner, which has traditionally been the last bastion for “real” food on those now-rare days that Magic Kingdom was open past 11pm, is strange. During those late nights years ago, just about everything dining outlet would be closed except Casey’s and perhaps one Bay at Cosmic Ray’s. Those visiting Disney’s Magic Kingdom this summer will see fewer options.
From a physical distancing perspective, several locations that offer ample outdoor seating are on the closed list. Casey’s is one of them, with about 80% of its tables outdoors and more tables across the way outside Plaza Ice Cream. Tomorrowland Terrace’s open-air seating section is second to none. In the picture above, I’ve circled the seating area for the Happily Ever After Dessert party, but there are more than a hundred available open-air tables there. Seating for Friar’s Nook is also outdoors, as is seating at The Lunching Pad. All of those locations are set to be shuttered on July 11th with the reopening of the Park.
You’re going to have a hard time convincing me that it’s “safe” to eat at Pecos Bill indoors, with masks off, as numbers in Florida continue to climb at exponential rates. Tortuga Tavern, right next door, offers all outdoor seating. Of course, none of us really want to eat outdoors in Florida in July or August, which is part of the rub. Opening more locations would help spread crowds out and offer overflow seating. That’s basically why Diamond Horseshoe exists. People go there when they can’t get into Liberty Tree Tavern next door.
But both Pecos Bill and Cosmic Ray’s have historically relied heavily on their toppings bars, which likely won’t be available. Some heavy menu modifications are likely in the pipeline, though Disney hasn’t yet updated anything online. You can’t really serve bare bone burritos or hamburgers without any toppings. But it’s also virtually impossible to make all of the toppings available in some way.
We may see more of a Five Guys setup, where you add the toppings you want from a lengthy list. Considering people don’t even know what they want to drink, this sounds like a lengthy process. Mobile order, which Disney is pushing heavily, will come in handy. Unfortunately, I’ve had less and less luck with mobile order over the years, as cast don’t even look up your order until you ask about it. Physical distancing will be an issue if additional space for mobile order pickups aren’t added.
Dining at Magic Kingdom is basically the opposite of the attraction situation. Just 16 outlets are slated to open. At Animal Kingdom, 20 outlets will open. At Epcot, the number is 31, on top of 20+ Food and Wine kiosks. Hollywood Studios will open 17 outlets, which is still more than Magic Kingdom, despite what will likely be a pretty big disparity in attendance caps. There will be far more people inside Magic Kingdom than Hollywood Studios on any given day.
For quick service with somewhat comfortable outdoor seating, I’d probably walk my food from Pecos Bill over to Tortuga Tavern. Pinocchio Village Haus would also work. It’s unlikely that Disney has somehow improved air flow or installed state-of-the-art air cleaning devices over the last couple of weeks. If they were, we’d likely hear about it.
From a touring perspective, I sound like a broken record, but it’s going to come down to how many people show up. Capacity is also a big question mark for those visiting Magic Kingdom and the other Parks. We likely won’t have a good idea about what wait times will actually look like for a few days after the July 11th opening. You’ll remember that only Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom Park open on July 11th, with Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot following on the 15th.
To get Magic Kingdom on opening day, you would have needed to be up and online at 7am to make the reservation. You’d also need the appropriate tickets in hand. That takes some dedication and it’s likely that those attending on the first weekend will be knowledgeable about the Parks and how to go about touring. They’re also more likely to linger. Not that I would know anything about lingering.
Most of our strategies are based on people having no idea what they’re doing. We’ll certainly keep track of wait times from opening day on and see what’s possible. The website will also be on the ground to see how things progress all summer. I have no way of getting anywhere else.
That probably just about sums up what we know headed into opening week/weekend, which is coming up in less than two weeks. What we’re able to do is going to come down to ride capacity and how many people show up. Neither of those things is currently known. Some attractions that have historically performed poorly from a capacity standpoint may operate better given physical distancing protocols. Relatively speaking, of course.
On one hand, the rocket ships on Astro Orbiter are properly distanced. On the other hand, the elevators up to the platform, and the waiting area, very much are not. Theoretically, every pirate ship on Peter Pan’s Flight could be filled with six feet between each. On the other hand, on The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, it’s going to be just one party per vehicle. That will reduce capacity to about 60%. At Splash Mountain, it could just be the first and fourth rows filled, depending on party size. That’s a 50% drop in capacity. We’ll just have to see what the wait times distribution looks like.
Big Thunder Mountain isn’t going to look like this, with every row and space filled in.
But it also won’t look like this, with basically every row in front of me empty. Big Thunder will likely seat every other row with the potential that parties of four would be paired in the same car. The next car could then potentially be filled as well.
The good news is that we’ve always figured things out in short order, even with the opening of Pandora, Rise of the Resistance surprising us with the virtual queue, and a number of other curveballs thrown at us over the years. This won’t be any different. We will likely need to alter our plans as capacity potentially ramps up and additional attractions open. At the moment, if the attendance cap stays the same, and Magic Kingdom is open the same number of hours, every day should look pretty similar. I’m glad that I’m not trying to sell you a crowd calendar or Disney’s own character schedule back to you. What’s the difference between days if every day has no more available capacity? Or, you could simply look at the chart and see which Parks are sold out.
Over the next few days, I’ll finish updating the attraction reviews for Hollywood Studios and Magic Kingdom. I may also post about a couple of experiences on-site since the Disney Vacation Club resorts reopened with the theme parks closed and limited dining. We’re still over a week away from seeing these boats, along with the monorail and Skyliner, return.
There’s also a somewhat decent chance that all of this still gets pushed back. We can potentially hope. For those visiting Disney’s Magic Kingdom Park this summer, we’ll have things figured out by the time most of you visit.