After attending an Annual Passholder preview at Disney's Animal Kingdom (you can read all about our experience there too!), we were more ready than ever to leap over to Magic Kingdom during its opening weekend! Tad couldn't wait to ride Space Mountain, and Lily prepared her best princess outfit to match Cinderella. Leap was really craving a Dole Whip from Aloha Isle, while I was probably most excited for seeing Cinderella Castle's new makeover in person. We were able to do all of that (and a lot more!) when we experienced the Magic Kingdom reopening Sunday. A lot of emotion hit me at once as we walked down Main Street, U.S.A. with Disney music blasting from the speakers and Cinderella Castle glistening in the background.
We imagine you have many questions: How has the park experience changed? What are the character experiences like? Well, we're so hoppy to share all the details from our day (plus, a repeat visit a couple weeks later!), so we can help you prepare if you decide to return to the parks in 2020. Keep reading to find out how many times we went on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad!
Entry into Magic Kingdom Park
We took our own advice from the Animal Kingdom preview day ("arrive later to avoid any lines of cars during the parking process"). We drove straight through the parking toll booths at the Transportation and Ticket Center around 9:40 a.m., slightly after the 9 a.m. opening. No other cars were in front of us. Score! We parked immediately in the Aladdin lot, which was close to the front. The parking trams were not running, so keep that in mind when you arrive and leave at the end of the day.
Once again, the entry process went smoothly, and we zipped through the temperature screening and security checkpoints. Security used normal metal detectors (unlike the fancy new ones at Animal Kingdom), so everyone had to put their electronics and other metal items into a bin. You could keep everything else inside your bag and proceed to walk through. They only checked bags if the detectors went off. This time, I set it off so I stepped aside. A security officer looked through my bag with a flashlight (he didn't touch anything inside with his gloved hands while I held it open) and finished by feeling the outside of the bag.
The monorail and ferryboat both had new procedures — each with their own pros and cons. We took the monorail in and the ferryboat out at the end of the day. Every monorail cabin had a partition that split it in the middle so that the guests sitting back to back were separated. Each party had its own row. While we preferred the ferryboat for its open air, we did notice that the monorail smelled very clean. Meanwhile, the ferryboat had circles on the ground to designate where each party should stand. This mode of transportation also resulted in some hiccups because larger parties tended to spread out a bit more. If you have a larger party, we suggest splitting up your group so you can leave enough space for others. There were also circles a little too close to the railings, and people were touching them. We chose one near the middle of the boat, and it worked for us.
The bus station, walkway from Disney's Contemporary Resort and resort ferries were operating as well. Each had their own temperature screenings and security bag checks. During our repeat visit, which was hosted by Disney, we took the monorail from Disney's Contemporary Resort at 10 a.m. (an hour after park open), and we went straight through the temperature check, security screening and hopped immediately on the monorail.
Magic Kingdom Attractions and Wait Times
We monitored the wait times on Saturday (opening day) through the My Disney Experience app and not too surprisingly, the park seemed slightly busier than when we went the following day. But overall, you can expect the popular rides, such as Splash Mountain and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, to have about 20- to 35-minute wait times while the majority of the rides stuck to 15 minutes or less. Sometimes, the lines ended up being actually much shorter than the posted wait time. Late in the afternoon, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad was showing a 25-minute wait, but it was a complete walk-on! Guess who went on three more times in a row after that?
Because of social distancing in the queues, it would often look like a line was very long. For instance, the line for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train began right at the entrance of the queue. However, it only took us 17 minutes with a posted 20-minute wait time. We waited 11 minutes for Peter Pan's Flight, 5 minutes for Space Mountain and 4 minutes for Haunted Mansion! Splash Mountain went down a few times throughout the day. Frogtunately, we were passing by when it reopened and hopped in line. It was a walk-on, but by the time we got off the ride, it had a 35-minute wait that started at the ride queue's entrance.
During our repeat visit July 30, crowds were slightly busier than our July 12 visit. The pathways were still open and spacious, but more people seemed to walk down Main Street upon entering (around the same time as the first visit). The highest wait times averaged about 30 to 45 minutes, as we tracked them once again all day long. Again, we encountered that sometimes the actual wait times were shorter than the posted wait times. We entered Big Thunder Mountain Railroad when it said 45 minutes, but we waited 16 minutes.
Just like at Animal Kingdom, every ride had new health and safety measures in place, including floor markings six feet (or more) apart and touchless hand sanitizer dispensers near the entrances and exits. Interactive elements in queues, such as the jewels in Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, were roped off. Some queues had plexiglass barriers when it was not possible to maintain physical distancing in switchbacks or places where the standby and FastPass+ lines are next to each other. There are no FastPasses available. However, people with a DAS card or those taking advantage of rider switch will typically use the FastPass+ line.
The majority of attractions were open, except for Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor, Tomorrowland Transit Authority Peoplemover, Casey Jr. Splash 'N' Soak and Enchanted Tales with Belle. Nighttime spectaculars and daily parades were not running.
Character Experiences at Magic Kingdom
Speaking of parades, you can still see your favorite characters in cavalcades throughout the day. While you may not be able to hug them, they will wave and blow kisses to you from afar. There are several different cavalcades so you can see a variety of characters:
- The Royal Princess Processional: Merida & Angus, Rapunzel, Tiana, Aurora, Ariel, Belle, Elena, Jasmine, Snow White, Cinderella and the Fairy Godmother
- Mickey & Friends Cavalcade: Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Donald, Daisy and parade dancers
- Fantasyland Friends Cavalcade: Gaston, Winnie the Pooh, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Aladdin, Mary Poppins and Tigger
- A Goofy Cavalcade: Goofy, Max, Clarabelle Cow, José Carioca, Panchito and parade dancers
- Tinker Bell & the Lost Treasure: Tinker Bell
- Main Street Philharmonic
All of the above cavalcades and processionals hoppen randomly and move along the normal parade route from Frontierland to Main Street, U.S.A. Shortly after the conclusion of a cavalcade, some characters will appear above Town Square at the train station. During our visit, we saw the princesses and Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy and Pluto greeting guests down below. While not advertised as its own cavalcade, we also saw Eeyore and Rabbit (Piglet joined on a separate ride later in the afternoon) riding in a Main Street trolley. They traveled down Main Street, went around the Cinderella Castle hub and ended back in Town Square.
As you view the cavalcades, be mindful of the other frogs around you and maintain your distance. They go by slower than the character boats at Animal Kingdom, which means there is a little more time for people to gather. From what we saw personally, our fellow frogs next to us were respectful. But there aren't any ground markings along the route, so it can be easy to forget, especially when the tadpoles are excited to see the characters.
You may also spot additional characters at designated locations throughout the park. Buzz Lightyear and Stitch can be found sporadically (raised on the Rockettower Plaza Stage) in Tomorrowland. Chip 'N' Dale sail on a raft down the Rivers of America, best seen along the pathways in Liberty Square and Frontierland. The Country Bears greet guests from the balconies of the Country Bear Jamboree theater. Jack Sparrow may suddenly appear in Adventureland. Our personal favorite interaction was Anastasia and Drizella bickering from above on the backside of Cinderella Castle.
Restaurants and Retail at Magic Kingdom
Certain restaurants were using mobile ordering exclusively, including Aloha Isle, Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe, Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Cafe and Pinocchio Village Haus. One thing that changed since the preview at Animal Kingdom is you can now select an arrival time window — like a choosing a FastPass+ window — instead of being assigned one. This is a great time for a reminder to update the My Disney Experience app. (The app prompted us to update it over the weekend.) It seemed like this change greatly improved the lunch process and prevented crowds from forming outside of the restaurants as frogs waited for their food to be prepared.
We ordered lunch from Pinocchio Village Haus right after we rode Space Mountain. We were still in Tomorrowland and an arrival window for "Now - 12:15 p.m." was available, so we placed the order. We did not hit "I'm Here, Prepare My Order" until we walked over and were outside of the restaurant. We're glad we waited because we immediately got a notification that our food was ready! Tables were designated as off limits (and chairs were taken away from those that were). When we finished eating, we noticed a cast member cleaned our table as soon as we left.
Leap did get his long-awaited Dole Whip in the afternoon. We used mobile ordering again, and it was ready within seconds.
For retail locations, pay attention to the signs when entering or exiting a shop, especially the Emporium which has multiple entryways. There was a designated entrance near the middle of the Emporium. While queues for registers had floor markings, it was harder to figure out the correct flow of traffic inside. For that reason, we recommend being extra vigilant in gift shops. If possible, try to get your shopping done earlier in the afternoon, as opposed to waiting until just before the park closes. Walking through the Emporium at 6:30 p.m. was the most congested area we encountered all day.
Touring Advice for Magic Kingdom
After experiencing it firsthand, we stick to our advice about arriving late. You do not have to get there as early as park opening unless you want to be one of the first frogs inside. At Magic Kingdom, there isn't a singular ride that attracts more people and has a longer wait than all the others. Instead, we found that frogs are spread fairly evenly throughout the park. Splash Mountain, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Peter Pan's Flight were the three big rides that reached 35-minute waits. Not too much of a surprise there!
During our repeat visit, we noticed that the attractions in Frontierland and Adventureland consistently had higher wait times all day, and were shortest first thing in the morning. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train averaged 30 to 45 minutes, but dipped down in the late afternoon. Meanwhile, most attractions in Fantasyland and Tomorrowland had lower wait times that stayed the same for the majority of the day. Based on this latest visit, we'd recommend starting out in Adventureland and ending in Tomorrowland.
If you're a big character person, Magic Kingdom is the best park (so far) to see the most characters. We know it's strange not being able to get close to them, but we think these cavalcades are pretty neat! We don't normally see this many princesses together, and the Fantasyland Friends Cavalcade has a unique mix of characters. Never knew I needed to see Aladdin and Winnie the Pooh on the same float! Within the first hour of walking into the park, we spotted the princesses, Goofy's cavalcade, Eeyore & Rabbit's trolley ride, the Main Street Philharmonic and Mickey's cavalcade without leaving Main Street, U.S.A and the Cinderella Castle hub.
We noticed during both the Animal Kingdom preview and the Magic Kingdom reopening weekend that the crowds thinned out in the late afternoon. The hot, sunny weather might have contributed to this, as we did not experience any typical Florida summer thunderstorms either day.
Additional Magic Kingdom Reopening Tips and Tidbits
- If you need to take your mask off for a quick break, there are three mask relaxation areas: Tomorrowland Terrace, Pete's Silly Sideshow and Golden Oak Outpost. We recommend the Tomorrowland Terrace location because while it's not indoors, the area is covered and has overhead fans to cool you down. While Pete's Silly Sideshow has AC, we just feel more comfortable in an outdoor setting. Golden Oak Outpost is located between Frontierland and Adventureland and is the smallest relaxation area out of the three. Technically, there is a 30-minute time limit, but cast members are not enforcing it because most guests do not stay that long.
- Because there are a lot more rides at Magic Kingdom, we still suggest getting your higher priority rides done earlier in the day, so you don't risk the chance of not being able to ride them due to cleaning or weather delays.
- We didn't notice too many PhotoPass photographers out and about. In the morning, we didn't see any in front of Cinderella Castle or Main Street, but some appeared in those spots later in the afternoon. And if you do find one, they will not take any photos without masks or use your personal devices to take a photo. On a similar note, if you take masks off during a ride, you will not get the ride photo (these rules apply at any of the parks).
- Take advantage of the low crowds to get photos or video of Cinderella Castle's new colors at many different angles! Seriously though ... Tad has done some of his best work to date.
Do you have any questions about Magic Kingdom reopening? If you're planning to visit the parks, let us know what you're most excited about in the comments below.