If you missed part 1 of this trip report, catch up by clicking here!
The following morning we were joined by the rest of our traveling party – my parents and sister. They arrived late but showed some real perseverance in getting up nice and early to be at Magic Kingdom by opening. It was one of those mornings where I could tell I’d need a nap before I even got to the park but that didn’t mean we were going to waste the beautiful weather and low wait times! As I wrote a few weeks ago, arriving for park opening (or before) is essential to getting on as many attractions as possible right now.
Catching a bus from Pop Century to Magic Kingdom is usually a hassle if going right around opening. To be sure, the line was very long. Thankfully, one of the changes during these COVID times is that Disney really rolls the buses through around opening and closing of the parks. In the middle of the day it’s the usual crapshoot, but at opening or closing I’ve definitely noticed an increase in buses. We waited for less than 10 minutes and saw at least 5 buses come through in that time.
Once inside of Magic Kingdom, we beelined to Space Mountain and were on the coaster within a few minutes. A 9 AM opening won’t make the difference that an 8 AM opening will but you’ll definitely be able to get a few E-ticket attractions out of the way before the crowds make their presence known. We continued on to Haunted Mansion after Space, trying to hit the best rides with the lowest waits.
I mentioned in the first installment that I had just bought a new camera lens before the trip and used it almost exclusively. With an aperture that stopped down all the way to f/1.4, taking photos on dark rides went better than ever! I’ll stop geeking out now because I’m sure most of you could care less and would rather look at photos than me talk about taking them. In short, Haunted Mansion is hard to take photos on but this time around was easily the best I’ve ever done. Here’s a few more photos from that ride through, including this creepy one.
My mom and sister went off for coffee after our couple of rides so I figured it was time for the breakfast of champions!
We rope dropped Aloha Isle (it opened at 10 AM that day) and found a place to sit across from the Country Bears, who were out on their rooftop. A few small parade floats passed by and we soaked in the morning sun before it got too hot.
I know that there are no meet & greets right now but Magic Kingdom, and the other parks to an extent, have so many character interactions. The Country Bears or Chip & Dale are constantly up above their theater and are a blast to interact with. It seems like there’s a float coming down Main Street every few minutes. I prefer this version of the parks where you can happen upon characters organically rather than wait in line. I think there has to be a happy medium somewhere in there when things get back to normal where we can do meet & greets along with characters being out and around the park.
After our Dole Whips were gone we hiked through Swiss Family Treehouse. There are some beautiful views from there as well as some beautiful lamps! Sometimes those two combine.
We eventually got the whole group back together and rode the Jungle Cruise. The wait times were all above 30 minutes at that point, save for a few smaller attractions, but the actual waits were always shorter than that. Jungle Cruise was around 20 minutes and we were lucky with a very strong showing from our skipper. Here’s some backside of water for you.
Next, we strode over to Big Thunder and got in the very long queue. Like Toy Story Mania the day before, this queue went into some unusual places including the currently closed Frontierland Train Station. Honestly, having the lines all stretched out like this is kind of nice since it feels like you’re constantly moving. I don’t notice my feet getting as tired and time seems to go faster than when you’re just standing.
Magic Kingdom’s Big Thunder has really grown on me in the past few trips. I love that it’s right on the water and the ride is always a joy. No, it doesn’t beat Disneyland’s simply because the effects aren’t there but if they ever add those then I’ll probably prefer the WDW version. Seems like a good time for a shameless plug for some fun Big Thunder merch!
I try not be too definitive in most things. There’s plenty of gray area in life and that even includes something as trivial as theme parks. Keeping in mind that something I don’t like is probably someone else’s favorite keeps things in perspective so I try not to be too negative unless I think a certain topic really deserves it. Oh boy, does Magic Kingdom’s dining scene ever deserve the negativity. It’s really bad right now with a few of the normal options closed. We were hungry after our morning of rides but opted to just share some nachos at Pecos Bill to tide us over instead of getting an actual lunch. The nachos were pretty good but that park is just void of interesting options right now.
After sharing our snack we moved on to whatever had the lowest waits. I’m not sure I’ve ever really seen the Little Mermaid queue since it’s almost always a walk on. With the spread out lines, it was kind of nice to explore. Honestly, it’s probably better than the actual attraction.
The Barnstormer typically has low waits, which is good since the ride is literally 30 seconds long. Depending on how interested you are in the parks, it might be worth going on just for the view of the TRON Coaster construction. You can get the best view of the upcoming ride from this queue. They have essentially wrapped up work on the canopy structure over the coaster track since this photo. There is plenty more to do and I don’t expect this to be open until 2022 but work is constantly being done.
I was running on fumes at that point and wait times were starting to soar so I decided to go back to the room for a little nap. Catching a bus back to a hotel during the middle of the day is always tricky. You could walk right on but you could also wait for an hour. Knowing your options is a good way to go. For example, while staying at Pop Century you could look for that bus or Art of Animation since it’s such a short walk across the lake between the hotels. Stretching it further, looking for a bus to Caribbean Beach or the Riviera and then catching the short Skyliner ride over is also an easy option. If you’re interested in more of a breakdown of this for all of the hotels then let me know in the comments and I can do a dedicated post.
After getting some good rest, I caught the Skyliner over to Epcot and met up with Melissa. I grabbed a couple of snacks from the Flower & Garden Festival to tide me over before a late dinner that night. Then we headed into the Mexico Pavilion. Epcot was pretty busy the following days but it wasn’t too long of a wait to get into that pavilion so we took advantage. Limiting the people in there certainly makes the experience a little nicer once inside.
Gran Fiesta Tour currently has the Three Caballeros as cardboard cutouts instead of the animatronics and that’s a huge downgrade. I enjoy the ride but those cutouts do not look good at all. Hopefully the animatronics eventually make their way back to the ride.
A few weeks prior to our trip, the Epcot entrance received its new lighting and design. For some reason I’d forgotten about that in the previous days but then the lightbulb turned on so we went and checked out that entrance! Of course, Spaceship Earth had a minimal wait so we had to take advantage of that.
Then we hung out around the entrance for a while snapping some photos. I really like the color scheme, lighting and new flags around the entrance. It looks very clean and sharp, reminiscent of an Olympic Village of sorts. I never got to experience Epcot in its heyday but I’m guessing that the feeling invoked by this reworked entrance is a bit of a throwback to that.
There’s also this beautiful Sorcerer Mickey topiary in the front. I’m not all that fond of the weird red lighting on it at night but it’s a beautiful way to enter the park with those trees behind it. This is such a marked improvement over the Leave A Legacy tombstones before it. I don’t know what Epcot is going to turn into and there are definitely times when I’m pessimistic about it but the entrance is a big win.
We had a late dinner reservation at Topolino’s Terrace and got a little too caught up taking photos of the entrance. That combined with a pretty big backup at the Skyliner station had us a few minutes late but the staff there was very kind and understanding. We’ll have a full review of the restaurant coming in the next few days but it was an excellent experience that I would recommend to anyone. After our meal, we walked out on to the deck and enjoyed the view.
It was very nice out there, to the point that I was pretty confused why they weren’t seating people outside during this strange time. I’d have happily eaten out there despite it being a little colder that evening. With extremely full stomachs, we returned to Pop Century and got some sleep. The next day would find us at Epcot and Hollywood Studios and that’s where we’ll pick up the next installment!
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Categories: Trip Reports