Friday, December 4, 2009

The Early Bird Gets The Mouse: Magic Kingdom

Ah, Magic Kingdom - the heart of Walt Disney World. And it's also the most popular park in The Mouse. This means planning is more valuable here than anywhere. That's why our #1 tip (Get there early, very early - before rope drop) is especially important for this park.

When it comes to planning on an early morning at Magic Kingdom, there's more here to accommodate for than any of the other 3 parks - most notably, because of the fact that you have to go through the Ticket and Transportation Center first. This is where the most time is lost for guests.

Let's work backwards. On non-Extra Magic Hour mornings, the park will open at 9:00 am. And sometimes, like with the other parks, it might be slightly earlier than that. In fact, Magic Kingdom has their fun rope drop ceremony at the Railroad Station - which should be seen too, making for another reason in which to be at the turnstiles well beforehand. That ceremony usually happens 10 or so minutes before opening. So to accommodate for that, you'd have to be there at 8:50. Well, you don't want to be at the end of the turnstile lines, because you also want to get into the park in the front of the pack, so you can get to where you're going quickly once you're inside (that is the goal, remember - to get the most out of what that park has to offer that day). So that pushes the time to be AT THE TURNSTILE even earlier: 8:20 - 8:30... at the latest.

Now, because of delays on the monorail, long load/unload times on the ferry, parking issues, long lines, tram loading delays, etc., plenty of time has to be padded on in order to get to the front gates of Magic Kingdom for 8:20. To be safe, give the travel time on the actual boat/monorail a full 15+ minutes. For this, I would plan on arriving at the TTC for about 8:00 am. That should have you walking up through security to the front gates by about 8:20.

Once you're in line (and hopefully toward the front of the turnstile lines) before rope drop, you'll have a great chance at seeing/doing everything you want to do at Magic Kingdom that day. For my family, our plan for Magic Kingdom may be slightly different than a lot of families out there - our kids are 7 and 10 - and are thrill ride junkies. Some of the most popular attractions in MK (Dumbo, Peter Pan, Winnie The Pooh, Cinderella's Carosel, etc.) hold minimal interest to them these days, so we don't battle those crowds first thing in the morning. For us, The Mountains are what it's all about.

Don't get me wrong - the mountains fill up quickly in the early AM too...that's why you should still be here at rope drop to ensure you're not waiting all day in lines to do the Splash, Big Thunder and Space Mountains.

That being said, OUR plan for Magic Kingdom goes as follows:

8:20 Get in line at the Magic Kingdom turnstiles
This should enable you to get toward the front end of the lines, giving you the ability to be amongst the first in the park, and the first to be where you want to be - Splash Mountain in Frontierland.

9:00 - 9:10 am: Walk down Mainstreet USA and SOAK IT IN
This is where the Magic Kingdom plan diverts slightly from the other parks...don't just sprint to Splash Mountain for a fastpass like we recommend you do for Soarin' or Toy Story Mania. Main Street USA and the Castle on a soft, sunny, bright morning is a sight not to be missed - and to cherish. Take a few minutes to take it in. Take some photos - capture the beauty that's unique to this park. Like we always say, the Mouse Is In The Details - not just the thrill rides. Enjoy and smell the roses here a little.

9:10 am: Head immediately to Frontierland for fastpasses to Splash Mountain
OK, now that you've made the breathtaking trek down Mainstreet, it's time to get the ball rolling. Fortunately, as we said above, the mad dash for a lot of people is to Fantasyland. The secondary rush goes to Frontierland for Splash and Big Thunder, and the rest go to Tomorrowland for Space Mountain.

This gives you an opportunity to utilize the methodology we went over in our Epcot and Hollywood Studios' plans. Get the fastpass for the most popular ride (Splash - don't ride it!) head immediately to Big Thunder right next door, ride it, then head to Space Mountain and ride it. By the time Space is done, the Splash fastpass should be ready - should you choose to use it then. You COULD also save them for a little later in the day when it's even warmer - just in case you get wet.

9:15 - 9:20 am: Get in line at Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
At this time, after having secured your Splash fastpasses, Big Thunder should have a relatively short line - 15 minute wait at the most. Give it another 10 minutes to ride the attraction and get off, and by 9:30 - 9:40, you should be finished with Big Thunder. Another huge attraction under your belt.

9:30 - 9:40 am: Head to Tomorrowland and Space Mountain
This is a good walk. Good as in it's long, and good as in there's a lot to see as you make your way there. This walk will take slightly longer or shorter depending on your party though. 10-15 minutes should be considered a decent estimate for most people though. By the time you get over to Space, the wait could be any number of possibilities. Since the new refurb, I'm going to say there will be an uptick in its popularity. That means a slightly longer wait time, and in the interest of playing it safe, by 10:00 am, you might be in for a 30 minute wait. Still, not too bad. The comfort comes in the knowledge that you have a fastpass for Splash, and you can ride it basically whenever you want at any point for the rest of the day.

9:50 - 9:55 am: Ride Space Mountain
As we mentioned, the recent refurb might make this a 30 minute wait or so at this time in the morning. So by at about 10:20 - 10:30, you'll be done with both Big Thunder and Space Mountain, and you have Splash in your back pocket.

This opens up the rest of your day to do whatever else you want, with a much more relaxed pace because those 3 rides have already been either done or have been accounted for. Fairly soon, the opportunity to get another fastpass should be coming up. I'd recommend either getting one for Buzz Lightyear or Peter Pan. Both of these rides are among the other attractions besides the mountains to get big lines later in the day - you could definitely use FP's for either or both.

That leaves many attractions and shows to hit over the course of the rest of the day, all usually have shorter lines than the 5 listed above - if they have lines at all.

Make sure to look at the time schedules and make time for:
Haunted Mansion
Pirates of the Caribbean
Mickey's Philharmagic
It's A Small World
Carousel of Progress
Tomorrowland Transit Authority (TTA)
Monster's Inc., Laugh Floor Comedy Club

Remember, those are the rides/attractions my family loves at MK. The rest they could see or not and not be broken up about it. But if you're a family that has young ones, by all means make sure you ride Dumbo, Winnie The Pooh, The Barnstormer and character meet & greets and the like.

In the end, as with the other parks, getting there early (before rope drop), will enable you to get YOUR most important rides/attractions done and out of the way early, and it'll open up the rest of your day to take more slowly.


  1. I think we are going to have to utilize our Dumbo strategy on our next trip (I just know my younger son will want to ride it). Most people don't realize that the load/unload takes so long on Dumbo, thus the LONG lines and wait times. That will be our first ride at MK - any other times will just have to be a bonus!

    Have been on Space Mountain since the refurb?

  2. Hey Blondie,

    Just saw that you posted here! Sorry I took so long to respond.

    We have been on Space Mountain! Check out our archives on the sidebar to see our full review (A Nip And Tuck (and some botox) For Space Mountain - November 22, 2009). We liked it, but were slightly underwhelmed. But it's definitely a much-needed improvement! Worth the effort to see.

    As far as Dumbo, yeah, it is indeed that popular. It's too bad they don't have fastpasses. You're just gonna have to hit it quick and move on. If I were you, I might go there, do that, then go to Peter Pan and get a fastpass for later. Then go hit Small World or Pooh or Pirates or something that shouldn't be that long a wait yet.

    Thanks for replying!