The Magic Kingdom is the busiest park in the world. Once inside the park, that’s apparent. But for such a highly attended park, the journey inside is usually a piece of cake. Much of that can be attributed to the benefits of staying on-site at Disney: early entry and buses. Neither of those amenities were available for this visit. We joined the masses entering the parking lot.
Entering the parking lot was easy. The trams were plentiful and prompt. If the time it takes to enter a Six Flags park was a unit of time (we’ll call it a flag), I’d say it took 1/10th of a flag to pass through the metal detectors despite having crowds beyond Six Flags’s wildest dreams. Then getting through the turnstiles didn’t take more than 30 seconds. So why did it take 2 flags to enter the park? The boat.
There’s one critical step I omitted between the tram and metal detectors- the boat or monorail. To make the experience even more magical, the Magic Kingdom is isolated from the parking lot. After encountering a full queue for the monorail, we figured the boat across the Seven Seas Lagoon may be faster. As the Holy Grail’s Knight in Indiana Jones would say, “We close…poorly.” It took a half hour to cross the pond, but it provided some beautiful vantage points of the castle.
We still had some time before our Space Mountain FastPasses were valid, so we decided to grab lunch at Casey’s Corner. Now usually I’m more of a burger guy, but if you dangle a 1 foot hot dog in front of me I’m going to shove that thing in my face and love every single inch (I just realize how wrong that sounds). The restaurant was packed, so we had to wait 1 flag, but afterwards it was time for our journey to the cosmos.
Space Mountain’s queue was posted at 80 minutes. Thanks to Fastpass, we boarded as quickly as we could walk through the queue. I’ve ridden Space Mountain dozens of times, but I’m still giddy every time I board those rockets. Yes they’re coaster trains, but they’re more akin to lounge chairs with how low and cushy they are.
After waving the French national flag to the on-ride photo (aka leftover napkins from lunch), we were treated to the same great ride as always. While the interiors and exteriors (in appearance at least) are similar between the versions in California and Florida, the rides are significantly different. California’s focuses on turns, with each tighter and more intense than the last. Florida’s focuses on drops, with each longer and taller than the last.
There are four drops in total and each gives a nice pop of airtime. Despite being a coaster shrouded in darkness, the scariest feature is the abundance of headchoppers. It is true that vision is pretty poor. But that honestly makes the headchoppers all the scarier. I thought for sure my 6’3 buddy was going to receive a haircut from none other than Mickey Mouse himself. 8.5 out of 10
If the crowds waiting for the monorail and boat didn’t already indicate a busy day at the park, then the following will. The Peoplemover had a 20-30 minute wait. I didn’t even think that was possible with the ride’s capacity. But sure enough the ride’s queue snaked around Astro Orbiter. We waited it out and it soon became apparent why. The ride wasn’t being run at max capacity. While some trains were full, others were half full, and a few were entirely empty.
I’m not sure I’ll ever wait that long for the Peoplemover again, but we still enjoyed ourselves. It’s relaxing and more importantly (especially to those on the west coast) open.
Fastpass number 2 was ready, so we snaked our way through the congested pathways of Fantasyland to ride the wildest ride in the wilderness. That would be none other than Big Thunder Mountain. The regular wait was bordering an hour, so we were ecstatic to skip that. 5 minutes later, we were boarding the back car, which is undoubtedly the place to ride this Disney classic.
If you’re lucky enough to ride towards the back, you’re treated to a ride filled with some surprisingly abrupt pops of airtime and wild laterals. The latter are particularly noteworthy during the 360 degree downward helix after the second lift. I really need to try the Paris one someday since that one seems to be the consensus best one, and I already love the installations stateside. 8 out of 10
We tried to sneak on over to Pecos Bill to grab a drink, but the Festival of Fantasy Parade would have none of it. Guess we’ll watch the parade experts do their thing. I enjoyed the parade back in 2015 and immediately recognized several of the floats. None were more impressive than Maleficent’s fire breathing dragon. The only thing missing was a view free of selfie sticks.
After a cup of water, we decided to board another classic attraction, Pirates of the Caribbean. I was astounded to see a posted wait of 60 minutes, but we doubted it was really that long. Turns out our skepticism was rewarded, as the wait half of that. We were assigned the front row, which I thought nothing of, but my buddy had a look of consternation in his eye.
Apparently the front row gets quite wet now according to him, though we didn’t get more than a gentle splash on the ride’s lone plunge. As great as the feature length films are (the first two at least), I definitely prefer the theme park attractions. The endless array of characters (who aren’t dolls singing an infectious tune) and the grandiose scenes combine to create a memorable attraction.
Honestly if I wasn’t told beforehand that the scene of the man chasing the woman was reversed for political correctness, I probably wouldn’t have noticed. There’s simply too much going on. The one scene I hope that never changes is the initial scene after the plunge where you’re dropped into the battle. That scene always has me in awe.
We went from a classic dark ride to a newer one (even though it’s 20 years old at this point) for our third FastPass, Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin. My buddy is an expert and was adamant he’d register a perfect score (999,999) since he knew where the three highest value targets were located. After he continuously nailed the volcano, I believed him.
He was absolutely torching me until the ride had a temporary stoppage in front of the Zurg animatronic towards the end. The stoppage wasn’t more than 30-40 seconds, but it was enough time for me to multiply my score faster than a Catholic rabbit and also register a perfect score. Technically we tied, but deep down I’ll admit defeat to an experienced rider.
It’s still one of the best shooters out there, but I do wish that the guns weren’t mounted to the vehicles. I can’t think of another non-screen based shooter with mounted guns like this. For that reason, I much prefer the Disneyland installation.
It was now 4:30. Our plan for the day was to always end up at Animal Kingdom to enter into Flight of Passage’s queue just before closing. If it came down to it, I would wait almost 3 hours to experience such a new, highly regarded attraction, but it seemed avoidable if queued once all the FastPasses were finished for the day.
We had a dilemma. We could leave Magic Kingdom now and give us plenty of time to enter Animal Kingdom. Or we could first hit the lone Magic Kingdom attraction we had left; the one that just happened to be my favorite attraction at the resort.
Seven Dwarfs is a fun coaster, but it's not a must for me in a shortened visit. My favorite is none other than Splash Mountain. Due to downtime earlier in the morning, we were unable to get a FastPass, and once it reopened, the queue was hovering around 90 minutes all day with no FastPasses in sight.
We decided to pay Brer Rabbit a visit first. Because of the shear amount of time it took to enter Magic Kingdom, we agreed the time lost entering, exiting, and changing parks would have been equivalent (if not more than) to the posted wait time of 90 minutes. We knew we’d cut it close at Animal Kingdom, especially since I could only move so fast on a busted ankle, but appeared to have enough time assuming they didn’t close off the park entrance.
The line moved rapidly for the first 2/3, but then we came to a grinding halt. Oh please tell me the ride didn’t break down again…
“Looks like Brer Fox and Brer Bear are causing some kind of commotion downstream…”
Son of a biscuit.
“Normal operations will continue but you will experience longer than usual wait times.” Wait, what?
Confused at what I heard, I quickly put two and two together. All of the downtime earlier in the day led to an influx of FastPasses swamping that queue. As we neared the end of the queue, it seemed the ratio of FastPass to standby guests was close to 9:1. Well that’s quite a commotion by Brer Fox.
I also learned one of the reasons why the park was so busy during my wait. Turns out there was a massive cheerleading competition at the resort. We realized this after one of the squads began their routine in the middle of the queue line. While most of the queue cheered them on, the cast member was quick to terminate it after seeing a lift.
While the wait took closer to 2 hours, it was still well worth it to experience the best flume anywhere. Actually that’s an understatement. It’s one of the best rides, coaster or non-coaster, anywhere. The attraction has everything you could want- impeccable theming, a cohesive story, a beautiful musical score, several drops, and a long ride time.
The final plunge was even more special on this trip. As we re-emerged into the daylight, the sun was setting over the castle. It was gorgeous. But the moment was fleeting as that final plunge was fast and sure packs a wallop.
It was about 6:35. We had calculated that it would take 15 minutes to reach the front gate, another 20 minutes from the gate to the car (via the monorail and tram), 20 minutes to Animal Kingdom, 10 minutes to pass through the gate, and another 10 minutes to reach Pandora. That would bring us to 7:50 pm.
As long as Animal Kingdom’s gates were open, we were primed and ready to experience the hottest attraction at the resort for a wait less than what we encountered at Splash Mountain.