If I had one important piece of advice to give to first time Disney World visitors, it would be to maximize your time at Disney by arriving at the theme parks as early as possible. Those first few hours of the day are a terrific time to get a jumpstart on your theme park visit as you’ll experience some of the lowest crowds, temperatures and lines of the entire day. However, with FastPasses already booked and dining reservations not up for a few hours, a lot of early morning visitors are at a bit of a loss when it comes to a morning touring strategy. For that reason, we’ve put a list together of some of our favorite attractions to ride as soon as we get to the parks.
Magic Kingdom: When you arrive at Magic Kingdom first thing in the morning you’ll notice an interesting phenomenon, EVERYONE will make a crazy beeline for Fantasyland. Rides like Peter Pan’s Flight and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train will be bombarded as soon as the gates open so trust us, save both of those rides for your FastPass selections and maximize your time by going against the grain with one of these choices.
1. Splash Mountain – Heading over to the far corner of Frontierland is a wise move first thing in the morning. You’ll find this section of the park nice and quiet with thinner crowds and relatively empty lines. If you don’t mind a bit of water first thing in the morning Splash Mountain is a great choice. It’s very common to be able to walk right on in the early AM which is a real time-saver when you consider that lines will get up to 6o minutes and stay there for the rest of the day.
2. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad – I usually ride these Frontierland attractions one right after the other first thing in the morning and usually manage to walk onto both. We always try to hit Big Thunder early as this queue can get scorchingly hot as you approach the afternoon. Again it’s not uncommon to see lines longer than 45 minutes during the rest of your visit so you’ll appreciate the fact you can usually waltz right on as soon as you get to Magic Kingdom.
3. Pirates of the Caribbean – This Adventureland attraction sits in this uncomfortable area of not being one you definitely want to use a FastPass for but at the same time not wanting to wait in line if the queue starts to get upwards of 45 minutes. If you pop by first thing in the morning you’ll find that you can usually board straight away. That means you can save your FastPasses for rides that will have much longer queues midday but still get to enjoy this attraction without much hassle. My family usually does Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain and then over to Pirates all within the first 45 minutes of our Magic Kingdom day.
Animal Kingdom: Your go-to morning rides at this theme park will be largely dependent on whether or not you’ve been able to nab a coveted FastPass for the attractions in Pandora. Some rides are definitely better than others to hit up as soon as you arrive let’s take a look.
1. Flight of Passage/Na’vi River Journey – Since the current FastPass system only allows guests to book a FastPass for one of these attractions per day, chances are when you arrive at Animal Kingdom you’ll be following the heaving masses to the gates of Pandora to take your place in line. If you want to experience either of these rides without a FastPass then first thing in the morning is the only sensible time to do it. It’s not uncommon to see the wait times in excess of 60 minutes for each of these rides during the rest of the day. With a bit of determination and a chance to try out your speedwalking, you should be able to get one of these two rides under your belt in the first 30 minutes of park opening.
2. DINOSAUR – I spoke above about going against the grain and Dinoland U.S.A is another case in point. If you’re not fussed about the Pandora attractions then go right to Dinoland U.S.A when everyone else goes left to Pandora. This is another ride where you may not want to use your FastPasses but where lines can still get a bit too long to warrant the wait. However, any time I’ve headed straight for Dinosaur first thing in the morning I’ve been able to walk right on. Dinoland is nice and serene compared to the rest of the park in the morning so it makes a nice start to the day.
3. Expedition Everest – Thrill ride enthusiasts may want to hit up Animal Kingdom’s only coaster to start off your day. It’s a bit of a walk to the Asia section of the park so there are fewer crowds and you can usually step directly onto the ride. However, this doesn’t last long. Lines will fill up pretty quickly in the morning and stay consistently long throughout the rest of the day making it a good early option. The views from the first big climb are also breathtaking and make it a fun and memorable way to start your visit.
Epcot: Unlike Magic Kingdom, Epcot operates under a tiered FastPass system, this means unfortunately that guests only get 1 FastPass in Category A which includes the most popular attractions. Because of this, you need to strategize carefully.
1. Frozen Ever After – If you’ve got Anna and Elsa fans then your best option is to high-tail it through Future World first thing in the morning and over to the Norway Pavilion to find your place in line for Frozen Ever After. Don’t be surprised to see a long line of princesses already waiting as a strategy for many parents in-the-know is to book an early morning reservation at the Akershus Royal Banquet Hall and then simply jump in line when the park opens. That being said, the lines you’ll find first thing in the AM are usually a lot shorter than they will be during the rest of the day. The line also tends to move a lot quicker than is posted so don’t let the long wait times on the sign put you off.
2. Soarin’ – The lines for Soarin’ will also give you a run for your money if you leave it until too late in the day. I find from personal experience that this is a ride that breaks down a lot! So, if I don’t have a FastPass for this attraction you’ll usually see my family heading straight toward The Land Pavilion to try and jump on before the lines get too crazy. The ride is also next to Sunshine Seasons which can serve as a nice breakfast spot once your flight is over!
3. Test Track – Depending on which Category A attraction you’ve picked, this is another worthy first thing in the morning ride. Lines for Test Track get long by mid-morning and stay that way all day. If you’re in a position to take advantage of the Single Rider line than it may not be an issue but if you’re with a family that would prefer to stick together and don’t have a FastPass than make this ride your first port-of-call.
Quick Tip: It’s big, its shiny, its silver and even though it may beckon you forward, I typically try and avoid riding Spaceship Earth first thing in the morning as everyone walks through the gates and seems to be enticed by it. You’ll actually find short lines for this ride later in the day so come back to it after lunch!
Hollywood Studios: So strategies here will change a lot once Toy Story Land opens but for the moment, the park shares a tiered FastPass system similar to Epcot meaning a good early morning strategy is always helpful!
1. Toy Story Mania – Lines for this much loved Pixar-themed attraction are always crazy as it’s the most family-friendly ride in the park. If you don’t have a FastPass then definitely try to get it out of the way as soon as you can in the morning. You will encounter families racing to find their places in line and the wait times go up quickly in the morning so the earlier you get there the better. Lines are often at the 60-minute mark or longer for the duration of the day so you’ll be glad your early morning determination paid off!
2. Jedi Training Academy Trials of the Temple – If your little ones want to go toe-to-toe with some formidable Star Wars baddies then get ready to do a Black Friday-like dash through the theme park to get your little Padawans signed up for Jedi Training Academy. Spots for this interactive show fill up amazingly fast and if you aren’t there straight away you’ll be out of luck. So if its up there on the must-do list, prioritize it! Here are some Trials of the Temple sign-up tips.
3. Tower of Terror – I find the line for Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster always crazy so my family doesn’t usually think about doing it without a FastPass. With that in mind, Tower of Terror is usually one of our go-to morning options. Early in the AM, it is possible to get onto this formidable attraction with minimal wait times. I also find that an important component of the Tower of Terror experience is looking at all of the incredible elements you’ll find in the ride queue which largely go unnoticed if you’re rushing through on the FastPass line. Not everyone likes being thrown down an elevator shaft first thing in the morning but if you can muster the courage, heading here first is a good option.
Readers should note that some of these attractions may not be open during Extra Magic Hours so be sure to plan accordingly! I always try to have a bit of a game plan first thing in the morning with a few alternatives in the event of ride closures or longer than expected wait times.
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