For those who follow this blog, you know that I like to play a little game I call “RideMax Roulette.” I select a list of attractions at random, plug them into RideMax, then take the resulting RideMax touring plan to the park.
I decided to do this again last Thursday, February 25th, when the Magic Kingdom opened at 8am. These hour-earlier-than-normal openings are great, as they can really give you a jump on the crowds. (This advantage for 8am openings applies at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World, by the way.) Add to that the fact that Thursday was a “RideMax Recommended” day for the Magic Kingdom (even without the 8am opening) and it sounded like a great day to get out and take a RideMax plan for a spin.
The list of sixteen attractions I’ll be visiting — and which I plugged into RideMax — are the following, in no particular order:
- Winnie the Pooh
- Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Undersea Adventure
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
- Buzz Lightyear
- Haunted Mansion (twice)
- Splash Mountain
- Jungle Cruise
- Tiki Room
- Prince Charming Regal Carrousel
- Mickey’s PhilharMagic
- Liberty Belle Riverboat
- Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor
- Tomorrowland Speedway (twice)
Just to show you something of the process I go through when I create a plan with RideMax, I first created the plan without selecting any attractions for FastPass+. Here is the initial plan RideMax created:
I’m not finished yet, though, because I’ll definitely want to use FP+ to see if I can reduce the amount of time I spend in line. Because it’s hard to know in advance which FP+ will be available for any given date and group size, you get to decide for yourself which specific attractions you want to use FP+ for when creating your RideMax plan (and the “Tips” inside RideMax itself can help you prioritize if you’re unsure).
In considering where to use FP+, I like to create a plan like the above which uses no FP+, then look at the following:
- If the plan begins right when the park opens, which attraction is showing up first thing on the RideMax plan? Because the minutes right when the park opens are so valuable in terms of short wait times, if FP+ is available for that first attraction, it’s likely a good candidate to consider using FP+ for.
- Which attractions in the list have the longest wait times? These are also good candidates for FP+, if available.
Using that first criterion above, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train would be a good candidate for FP+ because it’s the first thing on the list and is taking up that very valuable first time slot. Unfortunately, I’m creating this plan just two days in advance of my visit, and FP+ reservations for 7DMT are long gone by now. I’ll just have to bite the bullet and ride this one standby.
So, using the second criterion, I’d look at what are the attractions with the longest wait times, and are there FP+ reservations available for these? In the plan above, the two attractions that stand out the most are the Tomorrowland Speedway and the Jungle Cruise. I typically don’t like to use FP+ for a “show” attraction like PhilharMagic (with 14 minutes just being a conservative worst-case scenario estimate, and where FP+ likely wouldn’t make a bit of difference), so the next one I’d consider using FP+ for is Splash Mountain.
I check these three attractions off on the FastPass+ options screen in RideMax, and have it re-run the plan. I get the following, quite different touring order:
Note that in this plan with FP+, RideMax has knocked 53 minutes off the original overall wait estimate, and a couple of minutes off the estimated walking time as well, so this looks pretty decent.
FastPass+ reservations were still available for all of the time slots indicated on the plan, so I made those reservations, then took this plan to the park. (And if those time slots hadn’t been available, I could also have specified to RideMax the time at which I wanted to use the FP+ reservations, and it would have planned for these accordingly.)
I arrived in the parking lot a little later than I had hoped, but I was still on the resort monorail by 7:24am. (The express monorail wasn’t running yet.) As you can see, we were packed in pretty tight here without a lot of elbow room.
Above is the scene that awaited me after passing through the turnstiles (along with my first-ever metal detector security check. That extra lens in my jacket pocket must have looked scary lol). It’s now 7:35am, so I’ve made fairly good time getting here. (By the way, you can click on any image in this post for a larger view, then use your browser’s BACK button to return to the post.)
Even though the above scene may look fairly busy, this is really nothing compared to the crowds you’d see 25 minutes before a 9:00am opening. So again, these 8:00am openings are golden.
In the picture just above, I’ve made my way to the opposite side of the crowds shown in the previous picture, and I’m now standing over near the wheelchair rental area. Especially if I’m heading to Mine Train first thing, I like to get as close to the tunnel as possible, even if it’s off to the right-hand side a bit.
Here, I’ve moved into position in an empty spot of concrete nearer the entrance tunnel.
The countdown finishes at 7:45am, and we’re off!
Note that I like to stay on the right edge of the crowds as we make our way through the tunnel and down main street, especially if I’m visiting the Mine Train first, as I am today.
The castle comes into view. The guy in the coat is one of the Disney Cast Members leading the way, so I don’t want to get ahead of him, even though I’m walking briskly and staying close.
We next head up the pathway just to the right of the castle, and I manage to get a picture of the crowds coming in behind. At this point it’s 7:49am.
The Cast Member with her hand raised is the one leading the way to the Mine Train, so I’m doing my best to keep up.
Unlike several previous visits doing Mine Train first thing after rope drop, I wasn’t the first person in line, but I was still close. I’ll still be in the first train leaving the station.
You can see the flood of guests coming in behind us as we make our way through the Mine Train queue.
This is one of those cases where if you’re even 60 seconds behind the first folks entering the queue, you’re looking at a much longer wait. That ten-minute estimate on the RideMax plan assumes you’re also following the tip on the RideMax plan for getting here quickly.
This is a fun ride, but I’m not convinced it’s worth the hassle, to be quite frank. I’m just here for the RideMax Roulette, thank you. 🙂
Looking into the window of the cottage near the end of the ride.
Next up on the the RideMax plan is Winnie the Pooh. Because the park opened early and we we beat the estimate for the Mine Train, it’s only 8:05am at this point, so we’re already fifteen minutes ahead of the RideMax schedule. The plan called for a ten-minute wait at 8:20am, but we’re early, and we should do better than that.
Much better, actually.
We survived a very blustery ride, and finish at 8:13am.
With the 8:00am opening, the wait for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train isn’t really too bad at this point. The park has already been open for 20 minutes, and it’s still just showing a 30-minute wait.
Not the greatest picture, but hopefully you get the idea. The line for the Mine Train starts just outside the attraction entrance. Much shorter than you’d normally see 20 minutes after opening if today had been a 9:00am opening time.
Next up on the RideMax plan is the Barnstormer. As I walk past Dumbo, I noted that they only had one spinner running this early in the day. Sort of typical these days, I guess.
We’re basically twenty minutes ahead of schedule now, as we arrive at Barnstormer at 8:17am rather than 8:37am. Just as you can have a sort of “cascading failure” if you arrive later than a plan was assuming, we’ve had “cascading success” as we’ve so far arrived at each attraction earlier than planned.
Lonely Cast Member watching that FP+ control point. I was able to walk right onto the ride.
Here I am at the end of the ride, which I shared with just a handful of other guests. Still nobody in line here.
Time for a break.
Next up is Ariel’s Undersea Adventure. It’s 8:25am and this area is still pretty deserted.
Ten minutes seems to be sort of a lowest-possible default wait estimate here. In reality, the queue was virtually empty.
Aaargh… So close!
Next up is a quick ride on the “carrousel,” as Disney likes to spell the word.
My trusty steed.
The view of Fantasyland from the carrousel. It’s 8:48am and still not super busy here.
The back of the castle as seen from the carrousel. I cropped in tight so you wouldn’t see the crane and want to cancel your vacation. (You’re welcome.)
Just checking back in with the wait time for the Mine Train ride. Still a thirty-minute posted wait here at 8:51am…
…and thirty minutes at Peter Pan.
Next up on the RideMax plan is the Haunted Mansion. I get in line at 8:54am, as opposed to the 9:09am on the plan, so I’m still running ahead of schedule even with all of the stopping to take pictures.
I had to fight off the crowds to meet my appointment with Madame Leota.
Nice early-morning scene from the Haunted Mansion queue. I’ll be boarding this later today.
RideMax tip time: As you enter the stretching room, stand under this portrait on the wall. (You’ll thank me later.)
Madame Leota, charming as always…
…but psycho-bride… not so much.
Blurry picture of my favorite effect at the end of the ride.
It’s now 9:09am and time for our second ride through the Haunted Mansion per the RideMax plan. The estimated wait is now five minutes higher than before…
…but the queue is still very manageable.
THOSE EYES THOUGH!!!
I ended up in the other stretching room here, but the tip on where to stand still applies.
Blurry in-the-dark photo after exiting the stretching room, but here’s your reward for standing under the parasol girl.
She’s still hanging around these regions beyond.
It’s now 9:24am, and still very doable here.
Time now to hop over to Tomorrowland…
…for my visit to Buzz Lightyear. It’s only 9:33am, but the RideMax plan didn’t have me arriving until 9:47, so I’m 14 minutes ahead of schedule at this point. I ended up doing better than the 14-minute estimate on the plan, waiting just three or four minutes instead.
Don’t give me too much hassle over this score. Trying to juggle a DSLR camera with one hand and steer and shoot with the other isn’t very forgiving on points.
I exit Buzz Lightyear and walked over to Space Mountain to check the estimated wait. It’s still just 10 minutes at 9:45am.
Next on the RideMax plan is the Tomorrowland Speedway. As I was walking from Space Mountain over to the Speedway entrance, I noticed that they still were just running three lanes of cars. Note the parked cars on the fourth track on the right-hand side of the picture above.
I’ll be riding Standby first, followed by a second ride using FastPass+. The estimated wait was twenty minutes…
…but twelve minutes later I’m taking this picture. RideMax had allowed for eighteen minutes, so I’ll still be ahead of schedule when I’m finished here.
After a bathroom break and a quick lens change, I’m ready for Round 2, this time with FP+. Note that the Standby estimate is ten minutes higher than before, so this seems to be a good use of FP+.
Note that when I set up my advance FP+ reservations in Disney’s system, I tried to choose the FP+ reservation hour such that the time shown on my RideMax plan was approximately in the middle of that hour. This would allow for me to be slightly ahead of or behind schedule and still have the reservation work. So even though I’m a few minutes ahead of schedule, my FP+ reservation was valid at this point.
You can see the castle and associated crane from the Speedway.
Someone a few cars ahead of me ran into some engine trouble climbing the hill, so we had to stop for a couple of minutes here.
You’re welcome. (I’m sure a 6’8″ guy getting in and out of one of these things — twice — qualifies.)
10:27am and still not running that fourth lane.
Here is the scene in front of Buzz Lightyear at 10:31am, and I’m glad my RideMax plan had me visiting this earlier.
Time for Laugh Floor. I got in line at 10:32am, or roughly fourteen minutes ahead of schedule.
Remember folks, she’s watching… AAAALWAYS WAAAATCHING.
The Monsters’ goal here is to have us laughing so hard that we fill up the laugh canister. At the beginning of the show, we’re showing zero gigglewatts.
Here are Sam and Ella telling Eiffel Tower jokes. (And believe it or not, my own mother has an uncle and aunt with these names, so “Sam an’ Ella” jokes have been a part of my life from a very young age. 🙂 )
Half FULL on the gigglewatts, despite what Roz says.
It’s 11:04am, and lunch is next up on the RideMax plan. Since I’m heading back over to the Liberty Belle Riverboat after lunch, I decided to eat counter service at Columbia Harbor House today.
On the way, I couldn’t resist taking a few pictures of the “Move It! Shake It! Dance and Play It!” mini-parade.
Black! nose! = Chip!(!)
OK, it’s 11:15am and I’m ready for lunch.
Knowing I’d opt for a “quick” counter-service meal when I created my RideMax plan, I allowed for a 30 minute lunch break, but wish I had allowed for more. Even though you can often find shorter lunch lines by eating this early, with the earlier opening time today crowds had already formed here. It took me more than twenty minutes from the time I got in line until I was finally seated with my food. Good thing I was running ahead of plan, but in the end it wouldn’t be *enough* ahead to keep from throwing a monkey wrench into the day later, as you’ll soon see.
Above is the menu for Columbia Harbor House. (Again, you can click on any picture here for a larger view, then use your browser’s BACK button to return to this post.)
And for good measure, here is the kid’s menu and sides.
They were cranking out the food quickly…
…but it still took me more than 20 minutes before I was seated on the second floor with this nice view of Fantasyland out the window.
Pro tip: I almost always go upstairs when I’m eating at Harbor House, as the crowds seem to be fewer and the view better.
I opted for the Anchors Aweigh Sandwich, which Disney advertises as “White Tuna, Lettuce, and Tomato on Toasted Multigrain Bread with Potato Chips.” At the risk of TMI, I substituted fries for the chips, as I had been having some “dental trouble,” and was afraid the hard crunch of the thick chips might lead to problems which I’d later regret.
This sandwich is sort of my “go-to” move when I eat at Harbor House and don’t feel like having some of the grease-heavy items on the menu, such as the chicken nuggets or fried fish options. It’s about what you’d expect from a tuna sandwich, with some extra nuttiness in the texture of the bread that makes it a slight cut above what you might prepare for yourself at home. Despite its seeming simplicity, it fit the bill nicely. I especially recommend this if you don’t want something too heavy as you’re making your way through the park in the middle of the day.
I should also note that this sandwich pairs well with the clam chowder on the menu. I didn’t get this today, but it’s a nice combination when you’re in the mood for some variety with your sandwich and when it’s not too hot outside.
I also opted for the Seasonal Cobbler, which is a very dense, moist dough filled with blueberries (at least that was the flavor de jour for today). I hadn’t had this before, so it looked interesting, I guess.
Here is a cross-section picture, which gives you a better idea of what’s inside.
As I bit into this though, I was surprised because IT HAD A STRONG SOAPY FLAVOR to it. Yes, just so you know that wasn’t a typo, it was S-O-A-P. I know taste buds can fool you sometimes, so I double checked and took another bite, and sure enough, soap it was. As I explored this a bit more, I found that the soapy flavor was in the icing on the top of the cobbler, so I sort of nibbled at the bottom of the dessert from that point on.
I know I should have taken this back and received a refund (I’m sure they would have given me one), but I was in a hurry at this point and didn’t want to wait in the long serving line again, so I just threw away the remainder.
My guess is that the icing had been mixed in a bowl that hadn’t been rinsed too well or something. I’ve never had this happen before at Disney, so I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt that this was a seldom-occurring thing.
But still. SOAP!
If you can ignore the soap for a moment, my take on this dish is that it’s just OK, and probably doesn’t deserve the $4.29 price tag. It sort of reminds me of fruitcake. Not a bad thing necessarily, but I think I would have been better off spending another $1.70 and getting the chowder, even if the chowder wasn’t as clean as the cobbler was. 🙂
Next up on my RideMax plan was the Liberty Belle. Note the sign here, which indicates that it “Departs on the Hour and Half Hour.”
Trouble was, between taking pictures and dealing with a soapy dessert, I arrived at the roped entrance to the ride at exactly 11:58am. I had counted on “Disney efficiency” or something to have the rope close at exactly noon, but in this I was disappointed. I was probably ten feet away from the rope maneuvering through the crowds when the cast member closed off the rope.
Despite my pleas to allow me in (even noting that it wasn’t quite noon yet), the Cast Member at the entrance was completely unpersuaded, telling me that once she closed the rope, that was it, and the next departure would be at 12:30.
So, I really did miss the boat on this one. Here is the ride I should have been on, leaving the dock without me.
At this point, I had a decision to make. Remaining on my RideMax plan are the riverboat, Splash Mountain, the Tiki Room, Jungle Cruise (also with FP+), and Mickey’s PhilharMagic. I still wanted to ride the riverboat at some point, but knowing that I also had a FP+ reservation for Splash Mountain that I didn’t want to give up, I decided to head over there. I’d just see how the timing worked out with the other items on the plan, and if I were near an hour or half-hour mark at some point, I’d come back.
It’s 12:05pm and the posted wait for Splash is up to 40 minutes.
Using my FastPass+, I’m on the ride six minutes later.
Nice overview of Frontierland up here.
If you didn’t know you’re in trouble by this point…
…you know now.
This is my last picture before we drop. I know you wanted a picture on the way down, but there are limits to my sacrifices for this blog. The camera was tucked safely inside my jacket by that point. 🙂
Ahhh…. what a life.
By the time I exited Splash Mountain, I was again just a bit too late to make the next riverboat time slot, so I headed over to the next thing on the RideMax plan, the Enchanted Tiki Room.
Believe me, you don’t want to make these guys angry.
Same goes for him.
I rushed out of the Tiki Room just in time to finally make the next departure of the Liberty Belle Riverboat. Here is a picture I took from the riverboat, looking back at the entrance. And sure enough, just as before, the rope went up before the hour mark, at 12:58pm.
The difference this time was that the Cast Member took the rope down long enough to let in some last-minute stragglers.
Help me… I’m trying not to be bitter. 🙂
One of the advantages of playing RideMax Roulette from time to time is that I visit attractions I might not otherwise choose, and this is a case in point. It had been a long time (years, maybe?) since I’d been on the riverboat, and it really is a nice way to relax for a few minutes and enjoy some of the various sights around the island.
I had forgotten how close you get to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad on the riverboat.
Although Aunt Polly’s was open for a while within the last year or so, it was definitely closed today. I miss the cold fried chicken.
This empty seating area nearby still looks like a nice place to relax for a few minutes though.
Something to keep in mind as you exit…
Between juggling the schedule to make it onto the riverboat and the short bit of “free time” RideMax had built into my plan, I arrive at the Jungle Cruise earlier than planned, at 1:23pm. My FastPass+ was good now though, thanks to my placing my reservation on either side of the actual time RideMax had planned for me.
Here’s an iPhone picture of the FastPass+ line. ALL of these people in the roped-off queue area are in the FastPass+ line! Sort of disappointing that guests are only limited to three advance reservations for FP+, and we still end up waiting in this.
It took thirteen minutes before we finally boarded the boat and were on our way.
Back out in front at 1:50pm. The long line on the right is the FastPass+ entrance; the one on the left is the line for the FastPass+ kiosks, for those who need help with their FastPass+ reservations, or who are trying to make a fourth (or fifth, etc.) reservation.
At this point, the only thing left on my RideMax plan is Mickey’s PhilharMagic, so I head back to Fantasyland next. Here is the line for the Fantasyland FP+ kiosks at 1:57pm.
Standby wait for Mickey’s PhilharMagic. We basically waited inside until the next show before walking in.
The 3-D effect doesn’t photograph well, so here’s a nice view of the curtains lol.
It’s 2:26pm, and we’re finished with our RideMax plan. This is the view of Fantasyland at that time.
Aren’t you glad we arrived early, followed our RideMax plan, and are leaving now, rather than just getting started? 🙂
I noticed these cool Star Wars baseball caps on my way out through the shops.
And thought this sweatshirt was pretty cool too. Last week was probably one of the last times you’ll need these for the next few months though.
Goodbye Magic Kingdom!
As always, if you’re looking for custom plans to help you navigate the parks and spend less time in line, whether at Walt Disney World or Disneyland, be sure to subscribe to RideMax.
And finally, what did you think of today’s round of RideMax roulette? Would you like to see me cover something else specific here on the blog? Let me know in the comments below!