Welcome to Part 5 of our early summer 2019 Walt Disney World trip report. This post covers a day at Magic Kingdom, including (briefly) evening Extra Magic Hours.
No park tests you quite like Magic Kingdom. It’s the only Disney World park that is clearly more than a one-day park, so any single day visit will miss something. However, I was very happy with what I was able to accomplish on this day.
ABOUT THIS TRIP REPORT
This trip report covers our May 2019 visit to Walt Disney World. It’s designed to provide a final set of notes for visits in summer 2019 before August 29, 2019 when Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opens.
This trip report is in six parts (links open in new tabs):
Part 5 - Magic Kingdom Day (with evening Extra Magic Hour) (this post)
And two additional review posts:
Unlike several other days in this report, I did not have morning Extra Magic Hours this morning, so the approach to the day should be helpful to most of you. Our next Walt Disney World trip report will probably be the opening of Galaxy’s Edge. That report will cover post-Galaxy’s Edge strategy.
What’s New at Magic Kingdom
Let’s start with a few updates from Magic Kingdom before moving onto my itinerary for the day.
Castle Pathway Construction. The pathway between Sleepy Hollow and and Fantasyland is under construction. This was a narrow pathway (being widened) that is sometimes useful in rope dropping Peter Pan’s Flight. During construction, we recommend going through Liberty Square, past Haunted Mansion, and past the Tangled bathrooms to reach Peter Pan’s Flight.
TRON Construction. TRON remains under construction behind Space Mountain and Tomorrowland Speedway. The best views of the construction come from PeopleMover. Target completion date for this project is 2021.
Tomorrowland Speedway Construction. This one looks to be wrapping up and is scheduled to reopen mid-May. Cast Members have even begun testing the cars. Update: Tomorrowland Speedway has reopened!
Walt Disney Railroad Construction. With TRON construction ongoing, the Walt Disney World railroad is halted. A train is parked at the Main Street Station, as covered in the below itinerary.
Waking Up and Bus To Magic Kingdom
Over the past few weeks, I’d grabbed the following FastPass+ reservations at Magic Kingdom:
11:25AM Peter Pan’s Flight
12:35PM Space Mountain
1:35PM Splash Mountain
I actually modified from a 4:55PM Peter Pan’s Flight this morning after weeks of trying to improve that time. Same-day modifications remain substantially easier than two to three weeks out.
If you’re familiar with our Magic Kingdom Rope Drop Strategies, then you know that this is a setup for a Seven Dwarfs Mine Train rope drop. Splash Mountain is chosen for the third slot because it’s a long ride, and we don’t want to have to waste early morning time on it.
On my way to the park, there actually was a 4:10PM Seven Dwarfs Mine Train FastPass+ available. On an ordinary day I would have swapped for this, but I wanted to do the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train rope drop for y’all.
I decided to push rope drop a little late today. The park opened at 9AM, and I boarded a bus to Magic Kingdom from Pop Century at 8:20AM, arriving at 8:39AM. For most of summer, I’d prefer to be at the park no later than 30-45 minutes early.
While the line for the bus was pretty long, there were actually two Magic Kingdom buses ready to take guests. This is another win for bus operations—hopefully they’ve actually committed to improvement with Galaxy’s Edge right around the corner.
Magic Kingdom Rope Drop (Seven Dwarfs Mine Train)
There were decent crowds when I got to the gate at 8:43AM.
Main Street U.S.A. had a lot of energy on this beautiful day.
Rope drop was a tiny bit different than last time I visited Magic Kingdom, and guests were held within the hub—not allowed onto the bridge into Fantasyland. I thought it was because of a morning event, but I haven’t found anything scheduled.
Regardless, the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train crowd still starts on the northeast corner of the hub in front of the castle. From this point you get just a good enough view of the brief morning show “Let the Magic Begin.”
The crowd was pretty loose, so I navigated a few rows into it but not too far. Keeping pace with the group in front of me, we reached the queue for the ride at about 9:02AM, and I was on at 9:18AM.
You want to be with this group—people who come from the other direction will just be routed to the back of this group as the queue builds in the direction away from Cinderella Castle..
Here are the 9:13AM waits. You can see two character greetings—which I almost never talk about—are already at an hour. If you had Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Space Mountain, and Peter Pan’s Flight FastPass+ you could probably rope drop one of those greetings before heading to Frontierland (but read on…).
From Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, I went out west. I passed by Peter Pan’s Flight on the way, which had a not-so-bad posted 35 minute wait.
All quiet on the western front. I love Frontierland in the morning.
At 9:26AM, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad had a posted wait of 15 minutes. I boarded 13 minutes later at 9:39AM.
What a view.
Here’s the longest waits at 9:44AM. Mickey and Minnie are down to 40 minutes. Tinker Bell was down to 15 minutes. So you’re probably best not to rope drop a visit to Tinker Bell.
As is my usual practice, I headed to Jungle Cruise next. Alternatives at this point are Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean. At 9:47AM the posted wait for Jungle Cruise was 15 minutes and I was on at 10:01AM.
Things went crazy in the next eight minutes and the wait ballooned to 55 minutes. This was probably a little exaggerated, but something like 30 minutes, as people finish off their first two rides of the day, is to be expected.
Typically I’d consider Pirates of the Caribbean here, but it was posted at a ridiculous 70 minutes after opening late (all the FastPass+ returns from the morning were probably rushing to it). Having no interest in finding out what that looked like, I headed to Haunted Mansion’s posted 15 minute wait.
10:13AM and a few guests are starting to head out west.
I was in line at 10:14AM and on the ride at 10:35AM.
Wait times were doing all sorts of strange things by 10:43AM.
I’m not going to try to make sense of any of this except to say I didn’t care because I’d ridden the two with the longest waits (Jungle Cruise and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train), had FastPass+ for two others in the top five (Peter Pan’s Flight and Space Mountain), and was confident I’d make time for the fifth (Pirates of the Caribbean). This is exactly what we plan for.
Late Morning at Magic Kingdom
This would be a great time for a character greeting or a ride with a shorter wait, but it’s my traditional coffee time. Main Street is so special at this time of day—early risers coming for coffee, late arrivals who avoided the stress of rope drop. And everyone walking in marveling at Cinderella Castle.
I grabbed coffee at the Main Street Bakery and caught parts of the 11AM Move It! Shake It! street dance party and the 11:05AM Dapper Dans.
At 11:30AM, I watched Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire. This is a fun show, and definitely a must-do as part of your Magic Kingdom day.
Here’s a look at the 11:47AM wait times.
Of course, wait times mean nothing to us, because after the show it was FastPass+ time! I started with Peter Pan’s Flight, tapping in at 11:55AM when the posted wait was 60 minutes. I was on at 12:05PM.
With some time to kill before my Space Mountain FastPass+, I rode the Prince Charming Carrousel. Usually I recommend saving this for later in the day, but this was the sort of thing where walking anywhere else would probably be a waste of time. I queued at 12:09PM and was on at 12:25PM.
I love the above picture with the Small World / Peter Pan corridor in the background. Crowds were picking up everywhere, but not awful.
I tapped into the Space Mountain FastPass+ queue at 12:34PM when the posted wait was 60 minutes. I was on at 12:42PM. After Space Mountain, it was time for lunch at Cosmic Ray’s. What a theme park lunch…
With another gap before my 1:35PM FastPass+, I watched Country Bear Jamboree, one of my favorite parts of Magic Kingdom. As I’ll note below, since there were evening Extra Magic Hours I’d be around for, Enchanted Tiki Room (not open during evening EMH) would have been a better choice than Country Bear Jamboree (open during EMH).
At 1:37PM, I arrived at Splash Mountain to see a long FastPass+ queue. This isn’t shocking—it’s a hot day and the time is at the intersection of post-lunch and pre-parade.
I discussed lengthy FastPass+ queues in Part 3 of this trip report, so I won’t repeat those points. The posted wait time for the ride was 105 minutes, and I was on at 1:55PM, an 18-minute FastPass+ wait.
Tap / Grab / Modify at Magic Kingdom
With my third FastPass+ out of the way, it was time for my favorite part of my Magic Kingdom today—FastPass+ Tap / Grab / Modify. I headed into Fantasyland, with its high density of easy FastPass+ picks.
I always say if the walkway between Peter Pan and “it’s a small world” is passable without stopping, the park isn’t that crowded.
I’m just going to run quickly through how I did this afternoon:
1:49PM grab 1:55PM Winnie the Pooh
2:20PM tap onto Winnie the Pooh (posted 35 minute wait); board at 2:26PM
2:22PM grab 2:40PM Dumbo
2:35PM tap onto Dumbo (posted 55 minute wait); board at 2:39PM
2:36PM grab 7:05PM Barnstormer; Modify to 2:45PM
2:44PM tap onto Barnstormer (posted 25 minute wait); board at 2:49PM
2:48PM grab 6:05PM Buzz Lightyear; Modify to 3:15PM
At this point it was time for the Festival of Fantasy Parade. Coming from Storybook Circus I wanted to point out that the Casey Jr. Splash Play Area has all the splash gear your kids might need for sale.
Also I love castle pics from all angles.
Since I was heading to Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin next, I parked myself on the Tomorrowland side of the parade route.
Continuing the afternoon…
3:32PM tap on Buzz Lightyear (posted 20 minute wait); board 3:39PM
3:48PM grab 3:50PM Little Mermaid
3:55PM tap onto Little Mermaid (posted 35 minute wait); board 3:58PM
3:57PM grab 4:00PM Mad Tea Party
4:11PM tap onto Mad Tea Party (posted 15 minute wait); board 4:14PM
4:13PM grab 5:00PM Pirates of the Caribbean; Modify to 4:30PM
4:28PM tap onto Pirates of the Caribbean (posted 35 minute wait); board 4:35PM
4:33PM grab 4:45PM Magic Carpets of Aladdin
4:46PM tap onto Magic Carpets of Aladdin (posted 25 minute wait); board 4:54PM.
That’s eight rides in three hours. But not just any three hours—the three hours of the day that will have some of the longest wait times. Even with short waits for these rides today, it looks like FastPass+ saved me over 200 minutes. I waited a combined 43 minutes for rides with wait times totaling 245 minutes.
But I want to take a second to discuss why I think some of this was a mistake. With Extra Magic Hours until midnight (I had access to these as a guest of a Disney hotel), all eight of these rides would be open until midnight.
By contrast, several attractions closed earlier than regular park close—Tom Sawyer’s Island at 6PM, the Liberty Square Riverboat at 7PM. Enchanted Tiki Room closed at 9PM with the rest of the park, and I didn’t manage to find time for it today.
Now, I was also impacted by two other things. Emily was coming around 5:30PM, and she’d want to ride some rides I’d already visited. And we had a 7:40PM dinner reservation.
This is the long way of reminding you to pay attention to attraction closing times and the final performances of any entertainment you want to watch. Riding eight rides that will be walk-ons during Extra Magic Hours might not be the best use of 2PM to 5PM.
Early Evening at Magic Kingdom
I had a few choices—riding the Liberty Belle, visiting Tom Sawyer’s Island, the Enchanted Tiki Room— but I went with the Hall of Presidents. This is one I skip a lot, so I thought I’d pay it a visit today. I caught the 5:16PM show and exited at 5:39PM.
Meeting Emily at the front of the park, I swung by the Walt Disney World railroad station. A train is parked there during TRON construction, but you can still sit in it and take a look at it.
First on Emily’s priority list was PeopleMover. This is the top of our Magic Kingdom must-do list. We queued at 5:56PM when the posted wait was 10 minutes, and were on at 6:01PM.
We paired it with a visit to Carousel of Progress at 6:14PM. Walking back to Fantasyland I grabbed a few shots…
We caught the 6:49PM showing of Mickey’s PhilharMagic. With a little time before our 7:40PM dinner reservation, we squeezed in Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. It had a posted wait of 20 minutes at 7:11PM and we boarded at 7:25PM. This view (again)!
From there we were off to our dinner at Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen.
We finally had the chance to dine in the S.E.A. room. We order pretty much the same meal every time we’re at Skipper, but we love it and we love the theming.
While we typically don’t eat table service int the parks, we always find that a lunch or dinner escape from the craziness of Magic Kingdom is welcome. (Fine—it’s also the only way to get beer in Magic Kingdom.)
We could have comfortably been done by 9PM in time for Happily Ever After, but we decided to stay until just before the end of the show. I’d snagged a 9:30PM Splash Mountain FastPass+ (the park closed at 10PM), so we just needed to beat the post-show crowds there. We boarded that with just about no wait in the FastPass+ queue.
With just enough time left before PeopleMover closed, we took a quick walk over there and rode it at 9:53PM. Space Mountain was down, so we got to pass through it with the lights on, which is always a nice treat.
Magic Kingdom Evening Extra Magic Hours
I took distressingly poor notes during evening Extra Magic Hours, but I’ll try and report best I can. But first, some thoughts…
I really do not like Magic Kingdom’s Evening Extra Magic Hours. My fundamental issue is that wait times start wherever they happen to finish at the end of the day, vary without any predictable pattern, and are inaccurately posted throughout the night.
With no FastPass+ during this time and no obvious touring strategy, you’re sort of left with a hodgepodge of wait times to try and balance. You definitely can’t accomplish a good deal, it just isn’t as organized as other parts of the day.
We only wound up fitting four attractions into this time—Space Mountain, Country Bear Jamboree, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, and Haunted Mansion. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Space Mountain alone are huge gets, so we can’t complain.
Basically, until 11:30PM, no major rides were under 20 minutes. You could probably walk onto the lesser Fantasyland rides, but even some of those had posted waits of 20+ between 10:30PM and 11PM.
So how should evening Extra Magic Hours at Magic Kingdom fit into your planning? I’d say plan to fit one major ride in (Space Mountain, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, or Peter Pan’s Flight) and up to three minor rides (or another major ride). For two or more major rides, queue ASAP. If you have some minor rides, start with them for 30 minutes and then get in line for a major ride.
Reviewing this Day at Magic Kingdom
Because of the doubling up on a few rides and our long dinner, I missed out on a few things at Magic Kingdom today. For starters, Astro Orbiter is always tough to place perfectly in a day, and I just never took the 30 minutes to visit it.
I missed Main Street Vehicles, which I often miss unless rope drop goes very smoothly and I remember to hustle over there before their typical 10:30AM close. If you arrive early enough, you can actually usually grab one down Main Street before the park opens.
Enchanted Tiki Room was another miss. I would have prioritized it, but we’ll be in Disneyland in a few weeks and will make time for it there. And of course, I skipped character greetings, which is my usual practice. There were others, too—Liberty Square Riverboat, and Tom Sawyer Island.
While at Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom you’ll hear me point out downtime or things I could have skipped, I think it’s pretty clear here that at Magic Kingdom, sacrifices have to be made. The park remains more than a one-day park, but I was happy to see that with solid rope drop strategy and FastPass+ strategy, I had no trouble getting through a substantial amount of it in a single day.
Thanks for reading Part 5 of this trip report!
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