I stopped by Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom today, hoping to catch a glimpse of the new Fantasyland improvements. I wasn’t disappointed!
(Note that due to technical difficulties, some of the pictures below may be resized incorrectly. Until this is fixed, you can see an undistorted view of any image by clicking on it. Sorry for the hassle!)
The entrance to Enchanted Tales with Belle. 35 minute wait around noon.
Courtyard area in front of the new Gaston’s Tavern quick service eating location. I love the architecture and attention to detail back here!
Gaston himself, signing autographs!
Close-up of the entrance. “I use antlers in all of my decorating…”
Menu highlights posted outside…
Here’s the full menu for Gaston’s Tavern.
LeFou’s Brew. Anyone else think this looks EXACTLY like Red’s Apple Freeze at DCA? Sorry to say, this isn’t quite as good as the DCA version. Although the basic taste and texture is quite similar (including the foam!), Red’s Apple Freeze is carbonated, giving it a little extra kick!
Not to digress to much, but here’s a picture of Red’s Apple Freeze from DCA. A better beverage, in my opinion. Both of these seem to be something of an imitation of the Butterbeer concoction at Universal, but I prefer Disney’s take on this.
The building housing the new Little Mermaid ride. Very nice detail here!
Here’s the standby entrance for the Little Mermaid attraction. 20 minutes doesn’t seem too bad for as crowded as this area was.
Yes, the ride does offer FastPass. Unlike the recent Dumbo and Barnstormer FastPass additions, these machines ARE connected to the rest of the FastPass network. So when the ticket says another FastPass will be available after the time shown, they really do mean it. You can ignore this blurb on the Dumbo and Barnstormer FastPasses, at least right now. Meaning, you can get FastPasses for Dumbo, Barnstormer, AND another attraction all within minutes of each other, or as quickly as you can walk between the FastPass machines.
The Little Mermaid FastPass machines are located back over at the entrance to PhilharMagic, alongside the Winnie the Pooh FastPass machines.
The walkway leading up to the new Be Our Guest restaurant.
Nice architectural detail here too!
Be Our Guest Restaurant menu, page 1. (Sorry about the glare!)
Menu page 2.
Looking back toward Fantasyland from the entrance to the Be Our Guest restaurant.
Beauty and the Beast stained glass, just inside the restaurant entrance in the left alcove.
To the right, a hallway containing menus, I think. This area wasn’t open to the public today, as they weren’t serving food today.
The seating area for the new Be Our Guest restaurant. This is a really beautiful area, full of rich detail. I’m looking forward to eating here!
All in all, I had a nice tour of this new area today. It’s very nicely themed, and the extra space in Fantasyland is a huge improvement.
Note that by the time we returned to use our FastPasses for the Little Mermaid attraction, they had closed the ride, so I’ll have to save that for later. I guess it goes to show that if you do happen across this area and find the ride running, it may be best to simply hop in line, rather than bothering with the FastPass. The attraction has such a HUGE guest capacity that the line should move quickly, and you never know how long they’ll keep things open during this “dress rehearsal” period.
I’m looking forward to these attractions officially opening in early December, but until then, these soft openings are a great way to see this new area!
If you’re a RideMax subscriber, or if you read some of the great Disney-related blogs, you know that Disney’s Hollywood Studios normally allows guests through the turnstiles about 15 minutes before the “official” opening time.
When I visited the Studios yesterday, however, I noticed that the only attraction that was actually open for guests before 9:00am was Toy Story Midway Mania.
While you could get a FastPass for both Tower of Terror and Rock ‘n’ Roller coaster right away, the standby lines for both of these were held back until the “official” 9:00am opening time.
So, if you’re arriving early thinking you’ll actually be able to visit Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster right away, you’re better advised to visit Toy Story Mania instead. By doing this, you can also get a VERY early return time for the Toy Story FastPass, as shown in the image above.
Still a question in my mind is how best to handle this early opening in RideMax. Would you like to see us actually move the “opening time” in the software to 8:45am? Any other suggestions?
As I’ve been working on RideMax, I’ve noticed that regardless of how many wait time statistics we gather, or how many Times Guides we collect, if I’m trying to learn how to improve RideMax, there is simply no substitute for simply taking a RideMax plan to the park and trying it to see how well it works.
So in that spirit, I thought it might be fun to choose a group of random attractions, plug them into RideMax, then take the resulting plan to the park. Liesle and I did just that yesterday at the Magic Kingdom, and I thought it would be fun to share our experience here.
The Magic Kingdom Plan: Four Hours, Twelve Attractions
I started this process by using a random number generatorto select 12 Magic Kingdom attractions. I should say up front that the list wasn’t *completely* random (and I’ll share more about this in the comments if anyone is interested), but here is the list I used, in alphabetical order:
it’s a small world
Peter Pan’s Flight (twice)
Pirates of the Caribbean (twice)
Snow White’s Scary Adventures
Tomorrowland Speedway (twice)
The options I chose in RideMax for this experiment were as follows:
Start time: 9:00am (park opening)
End time: 12:50pm
FastPass Runner mode “ON” (with the runner willing to skip any attraction)
“Water Rides” setting to warmer part of the day (10am-4pm)
Without further suspense, here is the plan RideMax came up with for our April 23rd visit:
With a total estimated wait of just 61 minutes (or roughly five minutes per attraction, on average), I thought this looked pretty decent. There is even a nice gap of “free time” that we could use for a lunch break!
Before I give the play-by-play (with pictures!) of our day at the Magic Kingdom, I’ll go ahead and share the overall actual results of our test:
Total Wait: 48 minutes
Average Wait: Four minutes per attraction.
Shortest Wait: 0 minutes (Tomorrowland Speedway, both visits)
Longest Wait: 9 minutes (Jungle Cruise)
The play-by-play account of our visit follows, and I’ll conclude with some thoughts I had on improvements to RideMax as a result of this trip to the park.
Ready… Set… GO!
We begin our day at the monorail gate, waiting to board. It’s 8:33am. I know this is an exciting picture, the kind of thing most folks dream of when planning that Disney vacation. Save this one for the scrapbook!
Once through the turnstiles, we wait near the left entrance for the park to open, while watching the opening ceremony. “Good Morning… Good Morning… to YOU (and you, and you and you)!”
We’re walking down Main Street USA, just before 9:00am. Liesle volunteered to be the FastPass “runner” for the first FastPass on the plan, so she’s going to get our Peter Pan FastPasses, while I make my way to the first attraction on the list, the Tomorrowland Speedway.
The early-morning crowds are headed toward Space Mountain…
…while I turn left after passing Stitch and move toward the Tomorrowland Speedway. I’m all by myself as I walk over here.
I’m the very first rider for the day.
It’s 9:02am. Actual wait is 0 minutes, versus the 3 minutes on the RideMax plan. It’s a nice start — I’m slightly ahead of schedule.
Meanwhile, Liesle acts as our “runner” and grabs that Peter Pan FastPass (she didn’t care for *two* rides on the Speedway anyway 🙂 ). The FastPass has a “ride window” of 9:40am-10:40am, which works well for our planned visit time of 9:56am.
I’m in the first car on the Speedway, taking in the fresh morning air!
Liesle joins me for the second ride on the Speedway. Red car this time! 🙂
We entered the line for this second ride at 9:09am, and again we walked right on, for a wait of 0 minutes. This time the plan had an estimated wait of 5 minutes, so we’re even a bit more ahead of schedule now.
After exiting the Speedway, we’re still ahead of schedule, so on the way to the Barnstormer, I stop to take a picture of the construction on the second Dumbo.
The line for Dumbo is already starting to build. It’s 9:19am.
The Barnstormer is next up on the plan. We arrive at 9:20 — 10 minutes early. We wait for 3 minutes, versus the 1 minute shown on the plan. This is the first time we’ve been on this attraction since the recent re-theming. I like the view from up here!
A view of the Dumbo queue from up high on the Barnstormer track.
A view over the wall of the construction going on at Storybook Circus.
Dumbo as seen from the Barnstormer. Note the Fantasyland construction in the distance. It’s coming along!
No line here as we exit the ride. They’re sending this one out with empty seats.
It’s 9:25am, and the line for Dumbo is already getting a little ridiculous!
We’re still ahead of schedule, and now seems like a good time for a restroom break. The new restrooms here at Storybook Circus are nice.
I stop to take a picture over the construction wall. Progress continues on the new Fantasyland!
It’s 9:34am, and next up, Liesle visits Snow White while I take my turn as “runner” and get the FastPasses for Splash Mountain. Liesle waits for a total wait of 8 minutes versus the 2 minute estimate on the RideMax plan. (I had the iPhone — with the camera — so we didn’t get a picture of Snow White. Sorry! 🙂 )
On my way over to get the Splash Mountain FastPasses, I notice there are empty seats on Splash. It’s pretty cool this morning — in the 60’s — so that may be contributing to the lack of crowds. I’m glad we used the RideMax option to visit this later in the morning when it should be warmer!
Not much going on here at the Splash Mountain entrance. It’s 9:40am.
I pick up our Splash Mountain FastPasses a few minutes earlier than shown on the plan.
Notice these “expire” at 11:20am, but our RideMax plan doesn’t have us scheduled to ride this until 11:26am, or AFTER the official window is over. That “GP 11:35” in the lower right corner indicates our “grace period” for these should allow us to ride until 11:35am, but we may still be cutting it close. I’m mentally prepared to adjust on the fly if necessary, but we’ll see…
Even though our plan had me skipping both Snow White and “it’s a small world” while I ran for FastPasses, I was able to make it back before Liesle finished Snow White.
We entered the line for “small world” at 9:47am, and wait for 6 minutes versus the 0 minutes shown on the schedule. This puts us slightly behind schedule for Peter Pan, which is up next.
(Sorry for the crummy picture. It’s just a phone, folks! 🙂 )
We arrive with our FastPasses for Peter Pan at 10:08am, which is a bit later than the 9:56am time shown on the plan. We’re still well within the FastPass “ride window” though, so this goes smoothly. We wait for just 2 minutes, versus the 5 minute estimate.
Since we’re still running a bit behind schedule, I’m starting to worry just a little that we’ll end up waiting longer for the Jungle Cruise, which is next on the list…
That doesn’t prevent us from taking a quick break, though. 🙂
On our way over to the Jungle Cruise, we also stop and grab our favorite trail mix at the fruit stand in Liberty Square. This is really good stuff, and helps tide us over until lunch!
We arrive at the Jungle Cruise 8 minutes later than the time shown on our plan, but the estimated wait is still just 15 minutes, which matches the RideMax plan’s estimate exactly.
We only end up waiting 9 minutes, though. This would be our longest wait of the day!
Skipper John did a nice job…
…and I think these guys will get the point… in the end.
Here is a picture of the Jungle Cruise queue at 10:43am, just after we exited the ride.
I’m sure glad our RideMax plan had us avoid this mess! (Shameless plug, I know…)
Next up, Liesle will go and get another set of FastPasses at Peter Pan, while I go do the first of two rides on Pirates of the Caribbean.
At 10:44am, I wait 5 minutes for this, versus the 7 minute estimate shown on the plan. I’m glad I’m shaving some time here, even if it’s just a bit, as it makes me feel more comfortable about making that Splash Mountain FastPass return time.
By the way, since we didn’t really recognize this guy shown above on the water mist screen in the Pirates attraction, it makes me wonder if we’re the only ones who just never got around to seeing the fourth installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies?
WHO IS THIS GUY?!!
Meanwhile, Liesle picks up our next set of FastPasses for Peter Pan. These should work well for our scheduled return time of 12:36pm, right after our lunch break.
After grabbing the Peter Pan FastPasses, Liesle meets me for round two on Pirates. We enter the queue at 11:00am, for a total wait of 6 minutes, compared to the 8 minute estimate on the RideMax plan.
We exit the ride at 11:16am, which gives us just barely enough time to get over to Splash Mountain before the FastPass “expires” at 11:20am, without having to cut into our 15-minute grace period.
Even though we could have entered the FastPass line on time, I decide to test the “grace period,” and wait until exactly the time shown on the RideMax plan before entering the queue, at 11:26am. (Liesle lets me brave Splash alone, since she didn’t feel like getting wet.)
As I presented my “newly-expired” FastPass to the Cast Member at the entrance, our conversation went something like this:
Me: <Hand cast member my FastPass ticket, and proceed to enter the queue.>
CM: “You know you’re late for this, right? I’ll let you in, but you should try to be on time next time.”
Me: “I thought I had a grace period.”
CM: “You do. Do you know how long it is?”
Me: “15 minutes.”
CM: “You’re smart!”
Me: < Proceeded to continue into the queue, thinking that the CM’s must not see too many guests who actually know about this grace period. 🙂 >
I ended up waiting just 4 minutes in the FastPass line, versus the 9 minutes shown on the plan. And honestly, I think the FastPass may have only saved me a minute or two over the regular queue, if that, due to the cool weather today.
In retrospect, it probably wasn’t worth the walk over here this morning to get the FastPass. Better taking into account “cool weather” and its effect on the wait at Splash Mountain is probably something we could improve in RideMax.
I exit Splash Mountain at 11:46am, and meet back up with Liesle, who has been enjoying the big rocking chair in the nearby Briar Patch store.
We decide to head over to Columbia Harbor House for lunch, since it’s near Peter Pan, our first scheduled attraction after lunch. On the way over, I take this picture of the raft returning from Tom Sawyer’s Island.
We both decide on the salmon. It was a bit dry and overcooked, but still seemed like a better choice than some of the other “breaded” items on the menu.
I also noticed this merchandise discount coupon on the back of our food receipt. Good for 20% off several of the merchandise locations around Walt Disney World, as long as it’s used before noon.
A view from the top floor of the restaurant of the construction going on outside.
As we leave the restaurant and head over to Peter Pan, we notice the queue here for “it’s a small world.” I’m glad we visited this one earlier!
We decide to head over to Peter Pan a bit early, but either way we would have still been in the official FastPass return window, which was good from 12:05pm to 1:05pm.
We enter the FastPass line at 12:26pm, for a 3 minute wait versus the RideMax estimate of 5 minutes. This is a NOT the time of day for the standby queue!
As we exit Peter Pan and head over to Tomorrowland for our final attraction, I take this picture of the crowds in Fantasyland. Why do people do this to themselves?!! 🙂
I also paused for a quick picture of the castle, taken from Fantasyland.
On our way to the PeopleMover, I notice the crowds now for the Speedway. I’m glad we visited this early in the day!
We arrive for our last attraction of the day: The PeopleMover!
At 12:42pm, our actual wait is about two minutes, versus the one minute shown on the RideMax plan.
The view of the castle from the PeopleMover.
“PeopleMoving” over the Speedway!
What Did We Learn?
As we finally wrapped up our day, there were a few things I want to observe:
We could better take into account “weather” factors as they relate to Splash Mountain. (This would also apply to Kali River Rapids at Animal Kingdom.) The standby line was so short that I really didn’t need that FastPass.
For this particular plan, the FastPasses worked out really well, despite Disney’s recent enforcement of the FastPass window. We obtained three FastPasses, and the RideMax plan had us using all of them within the allowed timeframes, though one of them crept into the “grace period.”
I’m guessing if we had a plan that extended LATER into the day, we may have run into more FastPass timing issues, which could have caused us to manually adjust our plans on the fly. Given that timing the standby lines isn’t nearly as critical later in the day, however, this may not have been a big deal — though it could cause problems if shows or parades were involved. This is a case where using the mobile version of RideMax to “recalculate” with those shows in mind might be helpful.
We received “surprise” FastPasses for PhilharMagic along with the Peter Pan FastPasses. We may need to add a “tip” to the RideMax plans advising customers to ignore these things, since they normally aren’t needed, and trying to fit this in during the time shown on the FastPass could really mess up a schedule!
Which brings us to…
Twelve attractions in four hours, including a nice break for lunch, with an average wait of just four minutes per attraction. What a great way to spend a Monday morning!
What about YOU? As you read this report, did you have some ideas for improving RideMax? Are there suggestions you have?
For those wondering, “UEA” stands for the Utah Education Association, which typically holds its annual convention on a Thursday and Friday in October. Schools in Utah normally close for the convention, making a perfect excuse for many Utahns Escaping to Anaheim!
The UEA break this year is October 20-21. Though not as crowded as spring break or Christmas week, UEA does bring some extra crowds into the park, with some folks even leaving town early and arriving before the official break begins on Thursday.
So, what can you do to help cut down your wait and enjoy your Disneyland visit over UEA weekend? Here are three tips:
Tip #1:Arrive early in the morning. You’d be surprised at how much time you can save in line by simply arriving at Disneyland in time to be among the first guests entering the park for the day.
There are two reasons for this.
First (and most obvious), the lines for some of the popular attractions are at their shortestof the entire day first thing in the morning. Some folks mistakenly believe they can make up for this by staying late into the evening, and to some extent this is true, but don’t be surprised if you still see an hour-long posted wait for Splash Mountain at 10:00pm! Clearly, arriving early is still better than staying late if you’re trying to avoid the crowds.
The other reason for arriving early is that you can get much better use of Disney’s FastPass system early in the day. Consider that first thing in the morning, once you have obtained one FastPass, you are allowed to obtain another one in as little as 40 minutes or so after obtaining the first one. Contrast this with later in the day, when you may have to wait two hours before obtaining the next one, or worse, FastPass may even be gone for the day for some of the more popular attractions (Star Tours, anyone?)!
Tip #2: Maximize your use of FastPass! Even though FastPass has been in use at Disney’s parks for over 10 years now, it’s amazing that some guests still seem to think Disney charges for this service, or don’t know how to get the most from the FastPass system. So let me emphasize this point: FastPass is FREE, and it can save you a lot of time in line!
Once you obtain that first FastPass of the day, make a mental note of the time at which you can obtain your next one (this time will be indicated at the bottom of your first FastPass ticket). Then when that time draws near, send a “runner” from your group over to obtain your next FastPass ticket, and continue this process throughout the day.
The RideMax for Disneyland planner can help you prioritize which FastPasses to obtain first (and we’ve reserved at least one Disneyland FastPass “trick” for our subscribers), but even without the software you can save time in line by carefully noting the time at which you can obtain your next FastPass, and gathering them accordingly.
Tip #3:Take a midday break! If you’ve followed my advice above and arrived early, you’ll find it’s very difficult to “burn the candle at both ends,” and stay late into the night as well, especially if you’re traveling with young children. If you’ve followed tip #2 and racked up a stack of FastPasses by 2pm or so, feel free to leave the park for a much-needed break back at the hotel during the busy afternoon hours. (Many RideMax plans include a large block of afternoon “free time,” so this break can fit naturally into place if you’re using RideMax as well!)
If you follow this last bit of advice, who knows? You might be surprised to find that the kids enjoy the hotel pool almost as much as they enjoy the park itself!