Disney World: “Disconnected” FASTPASSes at the Magic Kingdom

Take a quick look at these first few entries from a recent RideMax plan and see if you notice anything strange:

RideMax Plan Disconnected FastPassNotice how the plan has our FastPass runner grabbing one set of FastPasses at Dumbo, then immediately getting another set at Peter Pan’s Flight?

If you’re familiar at all with the way the FastPass system works and saw this on your RideMax plan, you might be raising an eyebrow about now or even writing us demanding a refund. “How can this be?” you want to know… “There’s no way I can get two FastPasses so close together, is there?!!”

Actually, right now at least, there is!

The “trick” here is that the new FastPass machines for both Dumbo and The Barnstormer are “disconnected” from the rest of the FastPass network, and from each other. This means that if you get a FastPass from either of these two machines, the other FastPass machines in the park won’t know about it, and vice-versa.

Theoretically, this means you could actually grab three FastPasses in a row: one for The Barnstormer, another one for Dumbo, and yet a third one for any other attraction in the park.

Because RideMax is set up to take advantage of this loophole for the time being, if you see this in one of your plans you’ll know what’s going on. (We’ve also included a brief tip at the bottom of the plan making this clear.)

Of course, Disney could change this policy at any time — and we’ll adjust RideMax accordingly if they do — but in the meantime this is fun to know, and to take advantage of!

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Fantasyland Expansion at the Magic Kingdom – Soft Opening!

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, ย 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!)

Enchanted Tales with Belle Entrance

The entrance to Enchanted Tales with Belle. 35 minute wait around noon.

Gaston's Tavern

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
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Gaston himself, signing autographs!

Gaston's Tavern Entrance

Close-up of the entrance. “I use antlers in all of my decorating…”

Gaston's Tavern Menu - Short
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Menu highlights posted outside…

Gaston's Tavern Full Menu
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Here’s the full menu for Gaston’s Tavern.

LeFou's Brew
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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!

Red's Apple Freeze from DCA
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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.

Little Mermaid Ride at Disney's Magic Kingdom

The building housing the new Little Mermaid ride. Very nice detail here!

Little Mermaid attraction entrance
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Here’s the standby entrance for the Little Mermaid attraction. 20 minutes doesn’t seem too bad for as crowded as this area was.

Little Mermaid FastPass Ticket
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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.

Little Mermaid FastPass Machines
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The Little Mermaid FastPass machines are located back over at the entrance to PhilharMagic, alongside the Winnie the Pooh FastPass machines.

Be Our Guest Restaurant at Disney's Magic Kingdom
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The walkway leading up to the new Be Our Guest restaurant.

Be Our Guest Restaurant
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Nice architectural detail here too!

Disney's Be Our Guest Restaurant Menu
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Be Our Guest Restaurant menu, page 1. (Sorry about the glare!)

Be Our Guest Restaurant Menu
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Menu page 2.

New Fantasyland
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Looking back toward Fantasyland from the entrance to the Be Our Guest restaurant.

Beauty and the Beast Stained Glass
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Beauty and the Beast stained glass, just inside the restaurant entrance in the left alcove.

Be Our Guest Restaurant
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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.

Be Our Guest Restaurant Seating Area
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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!

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Disney’s Hollywood Studios Opens Early! (Sort of…)

Rock 'n' Roller Coaster - Disney's Hollywood Studios
Arriving early just to ride Rock 'n' Roller Coaster? Don't Bother. (Click for larger image)

Just a quick post today.

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.

Toy Story Mania FastPass - Disney's Hollywood Studios
An early return time for Toy Story Midway Mania. The nicest benefit for arriving early!

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?

Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

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RideMax Roulette at the Magic Kingdom: Twelve Random Attractions, Four Hours, One Plan!

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.ย 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 generator to 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:

  • Barnstormer
  • it’s a small world
  • Jungle Cruise
  • PeopleMover
  • Peter Pan’s Flight (twice)
  • Pirates of the Caribbean (twice)
  • Snow White’s Scary Adventures
  • Splash Mountain
  • 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:

RideMax Roulette at the Magic KingdomWith 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!

Monorail GateWe 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!

Magic Kingdom EntranceOnce 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)!”

Magic Kingdom Main Street USAWe’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.

Magic Kingdom TomorrowlandThe early-morning crowds are headed toward Space Mountain…

Magic Kingdom - Empty Tomorrowland…while I turn left after passing Stitch and move toward the Tomorrowland Speedway. I’m all by myself as I walk over here.

Tomorrowland Speedway - Magic KingdomI’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.

Peter Pan FastPassMeanwhile, Liesle acts as our “runner” and grabs that Peter Pan FastPass (she didn’t care for *two* rides on the Speedway anyway ๐Ÿ™‚ ). The FastPass has a “ride window” of 9:40am-10:40am, which works well for our planned visit time of 9:56am.

Tomorrowland Speedway - Yellow CarI’m in the first car on the Speedway, taking in the fresh morning air!

Tomorrowland Speedway - Red CarLiesle joins me for the second ride on the Speedway. Red car this time! ๐Ÿ™‚

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.

Dumbo Construction - Magic KingdomAfter 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.

Dumbo - Magic KingdomThe line for Dumbo is already starting to build. It’s 9:19am.

Barnstormer - Magic KingdomThe 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!

Dumbo QueueA view of the Dumbo queue from up high on the Barnstormer track.

Storybook Circus - ConstructionA view over the wall of the construction going on at Storybook Circus.

Dumbo IIDumbo as seen from the Barnstormer. Note the Fantasyland construction in the distance. It’s coming along!

Barnstormer - EmptyNo line here as we exit the ride. They’re sending this one out with empty seats.

Dumbo QueueIt’s 9:25am, and the line for Dumbo is already getting a little ridiculous!

Storybook Circus RestroomsWe’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.

Fantasyland Construction - Magic KingdomI 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! ๐Ÿ™‚ )

Empty Splash Mountain

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!

Empty Splash MountainNot much going on here at the Splash Mountain entrance. It’s 9:40am.

Splash Mountain FastPassI 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…

it's a small world - Magic KingdomEven 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.

Peter Pan - Magic Kingdom(Sorry for the crummy picture. It’s just a phone, folks! ย ๐Ÿ™‚ )

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…

Fantasyland RestroomsThat doesn’t prevent us from taking a quick break, though. ย ๐Ÿ™‚

Magic Kingdom SnackOn 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!

Jungle Cruise EntranceWe 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!

Jungle Cruise SkipperSkipper John did a nice job…

Jungle…and I think these guys will get the point… in the end.

Jungle Cruise LineHere 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.

Pirates of the Caribbean - Magic KingdomAt 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?!!

Peter Pan FastPass Ticket - Magic KingdomMeanwhile, 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.

Pirates of the Caribbean AuctionAfter 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.

Splash Mountain FastPass Entrance - Magic Kingdom

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. ๐Ÿ™‚ >

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.

Tom Sawyer's Island - Magic KingdomI 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.

Lunch at Columbia Harbor House - Magic KingdomWe 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.

Food Receipt
(Merchandise coupon. Click image for a larger view.)

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.

Magic Kingdom ConstructionA view from the top floor of the restaurant of the construction going on outside.

"it's a small world" Queue - Magic KingdomAs 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!

Peter Pan Magic Kingdom - FastPass QueueWe 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!

Magic Kingdom Fantasyland CrowdsAs 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?!! ย ๐Ÿ™‚

Magic Kingdom CastleI also paused for a quick picture of the castle, taken from Fantasyland.

Tomorrowland Speedway Crowds - Magic KingdomOn our way to the PeopleMover, I notice the crowds now for the Speedway. I’m glad we visited this early in the day!

PeopleMover - Magic KingdomWe 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.

Castle - Magic KingdomThe view of the castle from the PeopleMover.

Tomorrowland Speedway - Red and Yellow Card“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…
Exiting the Magic Kingdom

Our Exit!

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?

Please post your ideas below!

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Disney FastPass Changes!

OK, you’ve all probably heard by now the FastPass rumor that Disney plans to start “enforcing” the FastPass windows at Walt Disney World beginning March 7th, 2012.

Is the rumor true? I’m not sure just yet. But you can be sure I’ll be in Walt Disney World on March 7th to check this out, and I’ll report back here on my findings!

Since some of you have asked how this might affect RideMax, I’ve included this short video to help explain what this change means, and how you can use RideMax to help plan for it.

Disney FastPass: Changes Coming?
Disney FastPass: Changes Coming?

Enjoy!

 

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