This post is part one of my visit to the Magic Kingdom this past Tuesday, March 22nd, during the busiest period of spring break. Like the RideMax Roulette visits I’ve done previously, I took along a RideMax plan to see how well things would hold up on such a busy day.
Before I get started, I should warn you that I got a bit carried away with this recap of my visit, so I split it into two separate posts. The recap contains northward of 250 images total. Even split in two, it’s still a very large download for each half.
I just warn you about the post size especially if you’re on a cellular data plan with limited data — you may want to read this someplace you have a fast (and free) wifi connection. 🙂
My plan on Tuesday was to arrive when the park opens and leave by early afternoon. (The alternative would have been to take a break in the middle of the day and return in the evening, but my list of attractions wasn’t *that* long.)
Unlike RideMax Roulette, where I leave attraction selection mostly to chance, this time I just decided to visit the attractions I was in the mood for. My list included the following twelve attractions, in alphabetical order:
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
- Buzz Lightyear
- Dream Along with Mickey Show
- Haunted Mansion
- it’s a small world
- Jungle Cruise
- Pirates of the Caribbean
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
- Splash Mountain
- Tom Sawyer’s Island
I made the decision on the previous Saturday to visit on Tuesday, and knowing that FastPass+ (FP+) reservations for the Mine Train would almost certainly be gone so close to my visit date, I chose Jungle Cruise, Pirates, and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad for FP+. I plugged my attractions, FP+ selections, and an 11:15am lunch break into RideMax, and it came up with the following plan:
This looked pretty good to me, with an average wait of just nine minutes per attraction, so I logged into Disney’s system to secure my FP+ reservations according to the plan above.
That’s when I hit a snag.
It turns out that the 1:40pm time slot for Big Thunder was no longer available, even for a party of one. So, just to experiment, I decided to simply omit Big Thunder as a FP+ choice, and see what would happen. Below is the plan RideMax came up with:
I wasn’t too thrilled with this plan, as the estimated wait time had gone up by almost a half-hour, and the walking time had increased as well. Specifically, that 25-minute wait for Big Thunder didn’t look too appealing, and Haunted Mansion wasn’t looking too good either, since it was pushed so far out into the day now.
I did notice in Disney’s system that there were FP+ reservations still available for Big Thunder from 8:30-9:30am. Other slots were available in the late afternoon, but I planned to be long gone by then.
This 8:30-9:30am slot is earlier than I normally like to use FP+, but I also noticed that the plan above had me riding Big Thunder during that window anyway, so I figured I might as well go ahead with that reservation. I secured the 8:30am FP+ reservation in Disney’s system, then specified my reservation time in RideMax’s FP+ options. RideMax then came up with the following plan:
Note that this plan has more walking time than the other two, but at least the wait estimate is decent now — in fact it’s lowest of the three plans I’ve looked at so far. It does seem a bit “criss-crossy” to have me going back over to Tomorrowland later in the day for the Peoplemover after I’ve been in Adventureland, but I’m willing to make the sacrifice if it will lead to lower waits.
So, I decided this plan would work well for my purposes, and I headed out to the Magic Kingdom bright and early Tuesday morning.
(NOTE: Click on any image in this post for a larger view.)
The first thing I noticed after pulling into the parking lot just after 7:00am was that the section closest to the transportation center had been blocked off with yellow traffic cones, presumably for the “preferred parking” available now with a $15 up-charge. I parked in the section of cars on the far right side of the image instead.
I literally spent maybe thirty seconds of walking time to reach the preferred area. I’d have to be making $1,800.00 an hour before I’d break even on that one — sort of a no-brainer when you arrive this early.
Disney wasn’t running the express monorail, and it looked like the ferry had just left, so I hopped on the resort monorail instead. Note the bustling crowds this time of day.
Of course, right after I sat down, they announced there would be a delay…
…so I moved over to the next ferry boat instead, which was also packed, as you can see in the image above (this was *after* the boat had begun moving).
I hope these pictures help reinforce the idea that these 8:00am openings are like gold — even during an incredibly busy season of the year like spring break. Had this been a 9:00am opening, you would have seen many more folks here.
It was a foggy morning on Bay Lake, and the scenery made me glad I was “forced” to take the ferry.
There’s the castle, off in the mist…
…along with Space Mountain just before the sun came up, with an appropriate boost in the photo’s saturation, just for effect.
For any photographers who are interested, I decided to travel light today, and shot the entire day with my “nifty fifty,” a small 50mm lens attached to the front of my DSLR.
Although I took it as sort of a “photographer’s challenge” to shoot at a fixed focal length like this, I’m not a total photographic purist — I cropped in tighter in post-processing on many of these images.
I was inside the gates by 7:28am, and here was the scene that greeted me — not too crowded at all. They would do the opening ceremony at 7:45am today though, so my 7:00am arrival at the parking lot was just about right. It might have even been cutting it close, as you never know if/when some glitch might slow you down a few minutes.
With my first destination being the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, I would normally line up outside the right tunnel, but I wanted to try and get a rope-drop picture from the middle of the street, so I decided to use the left tunnel, since this side isn’t encumbered with the wheelchair rental area.
Folks, that’s the happiest duck on earth right there.
Notice that the few people who *are* lined up, are in front of the main rope. Since my goal during the rope drop process is to eventually end up in the middle of the street, I’m going to line up on the right side of this crowd, just behind the shorter rope you see near the map display case.
There is literally nobody here at the “side rope” yet. I think people sometimes are afraid Disney won’t lower this rope, so they all line up directly in front of the tunnel. But by hopping in line here, I’ll actually be in a better position once the countdown finishes.
Still not terribly crowded at 7:34am. Eleven minutes until rope drop.
Very friendly Cast Member explaining how this whole rope drop thing is going to work.
I planted my size 15 shoes right next to the planter adjacent to the tunnel. “Pole Position” for rope drop, lol.
Crowds filling in a *little* bit now, but still not bad. This is just as the opening ceremony had started or is about to start.
OK, so standing here does have it’s drawbacks. This is about as good a view of the opening ceremony show as I would get. If you’re headed to the Mine Train first thing though, I’d say watch the ceremony on YouTube before your visit… you won’t miss too much lol.
TEN!… NINE!… EIGHT!…
…and we’re off!
Here we are about to merge with the other group who entered from the right-side tunnel. If I wasn’t trying to get a picture from the middle of the street, I’d prefer to be on the far side of *that* group, near (or on) the sidewalk.
Nice view of the castle ahead as we walk down the street. Note there are already a few guests in the park who had arrived for early breakfast.
Here’s the “money shot,” holding the camera high over my head and pointing it backwards. If you look closely at the clock off in the distance (or click on the picture for a larger view), you can see that it’s now 7:48am. If you were expecting to ride the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train with minimal wait and had just arrived at the front gates, you’d be WAY too late now.
It was a little tricky fighting the crowds when I moved from the middle of the street over here to the path on the right side of the castle, but I survived somehow and still ended up near the front of this group. Of course, I was by myself and not pushing a stroller along, so that definitely helped. Again, I’d very much recommend walking down the *right* side of Main Street if you are trying to get here and be among the first group of guests in line for 7DMT.
This is the Cast Member that will lead us into the Mine Train queue, and I’ve basically glued myself to his right side by the time we’re making the left turn near Winnie the Pooh.
I was actually first in line behind the Cast Member, but there were already a few guests in line before us — probably either guests from an early breakfast or off-duty cast who pulled a favor. The attraction seemed to be opening just a tad late, so we waited here for a minute or two before they let us in the main queue.
Note the guests off in the distance running from the opposite direction toward the 7DMT queue. These are the poor folks who didn’t get the memo that the queue for Seven Dwarfs begins from the path on the *right* side of the castle. They’re probably looking at a 30 minute wait at this point by the time they finally make it over to the back of the actual line that has already formed.
It’s 7:59 and we’re working the mine. In rhyme.
PLEASE DON’T EAT THE APPLE!
Here’s a look at Fantasyland after we exit our first ride. Not too crowded yet, as most folks are still in line for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.
Peter Pan is already posted at fifteen minutes though, and it’s only 8:06am.
7DMT is already at 45 minutes…
…with the line starting back here near the teacups. Note there are still more guests coming from the other direction, who took the long way to get here.
This is where a little bit of research can go a long way — even though these folks made the effort to actually get up early and be here for rope drop, it was a bit of a strategic error that they missed the right-hand pathway in front of the castle. Getting in line here now will eat up a lot of the advantage that arriving this early would otherwise get you.
Next up on the plan is Buzz Lightyear. Very uncrowded over here in Tomorrowland this early in the day.
I’ll take it!
Buzz looks sort of surprised to see me. You’d think he’d be used to the crowds by now. Or maybe he just noticed my big feet.
Let’s do a little tutorial here, shall we? I’ll point out a few of my favorite targets. Hitting these will score you some big points. (And if you have Buzz tips you’d like to share, please do so in the comments at the end of the post.)
In the first room is the target on the inside of the robot’s left hand (the hand in the lower part of the image above). To hit this one, it helps a lot to be sitting in the left seat.
Hitting the target on the giant claw, still in the first room, can also rack up points.
Another really good one is the target near the top of the volcano in the second room.
Probably the best one (that I’ve found at least) is the target at the very base of Zurg, which you can often only hit as you’re either just entering or just leaving the third room. Someone can help me out here if I’m wrong, but I think this one gets you 100,000 points.
To clarify, it’s the target at the very bottom of the image above.
A close-up, just in case. 🙂
There’s a target at the base of this robot thing in the projection tunnel, and you can sometimes see the sensor mounted on the wall when you get closer. I usually have a hard time finding this one until it’s practically too late though, at the point where we’re already moving into the next room.
The price I paid for taking pictures instead of using the laser cannon.
Yes, Liesle was in New York today, so I’m riding solo. 🙁
It’s now 8:19am and we’re not due at our next attraction — Dumbo — until 8:40am, per the RideMax plan. We’re running ahead of schedule thanks to the early park opening and the less-than-expected wait at Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.
I decide to try and redeem myself by riding Buzz Lightyear again, but this time I’ll focus on scoring rather than taking pictures.
OK, well maybe *one* picture. It was that target at the base of Zurg that put me over the top.
It’s now 8:27am and there is still very little wait here.
Space Mountain is already posted at 20 minutes, though I’m guessing the actual wait would be shorter.
I’m just shy of 6’8″ tall, so the ill-fitting lap bar on Space Mountain is always a challenge for me. It can actually be painful to ride, so we’ll be passing on this today.
Next up is Dumbo, so I decide to take the back pathway from Tomorrowland to the Storybook Circus area. It’s nice and deserted, with just that one guy off in the distance taking advantage of the smoking area.
We pass along the back of the speedway as we go…
…and I thought the sun rising on the spires of Space Mountain looked cool from back here. With the pretty backlight on the trees, I decided to do a bracketed exposure, and merged it later in Lightroom.
Here we’re looking back the way we came.
As I came around the side of The Barnstormer, I could see that both Dumbo spinners were already running. This is unlike less-busy seasons of the year when they’d normally just have one side open this early in the day.
It’s now 8:35am and the wait for Dumbo is posted at ten minutes, but it’s basically a walk-on.
Lots of empty pachyderms available…
It’s 8:43am and Splash Mountain is next up on the plan, so I thought I’d take a few wait time pictures as I head across the park. Here Winnie the Pooh is showing a 25-minute wait. It gets busy quickly here thanks to the huge draw of the Mine Train ride.
7DMT is at 45 minutes now…
…and Peter Pan is climbing fast.
Thanks to it’s huge capacity, it’s a small world is posted at just ten minutes, and that estimate is probably nine minutes higher than actual.
The five minute posted wait here lines up perfectly with the estimate on the RideMax plan.
But even five minutes is high. Tuesday was a very cold morning by Florida standards (in the 40’s Fahrenheit), so this isn’t much of a draw yet at this point.
It’s 8:54am and we’re already on our way.
Some lovely scenery as we ride along…
You get a nice view of a deserted Frontierland from up here early in the day.
Ugh… Here we go!
Whew! Glad to be back!
We made it!!!
Never say I don’t know how to have a good time lol.
Next up on the RideMax plan is Big Thunder, using FP+. It’s 9:13am, and we’re basically seven minutes ahead of the RideMax schedule. (We’d be even further ahead if we hadn’t done the second round on Buzz Lightyear earlier.)
Note that even though it’s still early in the day, the posted wait here is already thirty minutes, so this seems like a decent use of FP+.
RIDEMAX TIP TIME: All else being equal, use the LEFT SIDE where the line splits in two here. The right side is not only a bit longer thanks to the “outside track” on the turn down below, but the last three rows of the trains leaving from the right side can be used by wheelchair guests coming in from the exit area as well. This effectively reduces the capacity of the right-side train as far as this line is concerned.
Off we go!
My one lens flare shot of the day here.
Hang on to them hats and glasses, folks!
We’re off the ride by 9:28am…
…and the posted wait is still thirty minutes.
Time to head over to the Haunted Mansion, which is next up on the RideMax plan.
Passing the Liberty Belle on the way.
The RideMax plan allowed for fifteen minutes here, but the posted wait is still just ten. We’ll probably do even better than that.
Not very crowded here still, thanks to the ride’s huge hourly capacity.
Going through the graveyard area was optional today, so like these folks in front of me, I also opted to skip it.
If you followed my last round of RideMax Roulette earlier this month, you know why we’ll stand under the parasol.
The ride stopped a couple of times after we exited the stretching room, causing a delay of a few minutes before we were finally able to board.
The many looks of Madame Leota:
Above: “Ummm…. Is it time to wake up already? I’m hungry! Flower & Garden Festival, here I come!”
“Do you seriously mean to tell me I just spent $5.75 for this shrimp taco, and THIS IS ALL I GET???”
“WELL, DO YOU???”
“Oh, I think you really need to reconsider that portion size!!!”
“You disagree? I don’t want to hear it. Get. Me. A Manager….. NOW!”
“I’m sure that next year you’ll do better, right?… RIGHT???”
“Goooood. I’m glaaaad you see it… MY WAY!”
We get the Presto… Change-O finale!
“Hurry baaaack…. Hurray baaaack…”
We’re back out in front by 9:50am, and the estimate is a bit higher now…
…and the crowd is a bit larger.
As we conclude Part One here, we’re still running a bit ahead of the RideMax schedule, and it’s a good thing, because we’ll need some padding for what comes next.
As soon as Part II is posted (soon!), you can read all about what comes next: the small world letdown, Fort Langhorn, Pecos Bill’s Cafe lunch review, and insanity at the FastPass+ kiosks.
(EDITED LATER TO ADD: You can now read Part II here!)