By Carlye Wisel
January 27, 2017
Magic Kingdom Mornings Update
Credit: Cory Disbrow/Getty Images

Having the quintessential Magic Kingdom morning is an artform. Set the alarm for 5am, rally the family to get out the door, and wait—patiently!—in front of the Disney World park. Soon, Mickey and Minnie arrive on a steam train alongside beloved Disney characters, officially opening the park while guests shuffle in behind cast members.

If this sounds anything like your pre-dawn Magic Kingdom routine, prepare to be shellshocked, as it’s completely gone. Instead of waiting outside, guests can now file into Main Street, U.S.A. early to shop, have breakfast or grab a coffee before a brand-new Cinderella Castle welcome show invites them to enjoy the park. Walking around the happiest place on earth sounds better than waiting in a corral, sure, but this small switch could completely upheave your family’s Disney World schedule, even if you typically sleep in.

Longer lines, morning crowds, and an entirely new game plan for your next vacation? If you’re left wondering what to do in the wake of this change, read on:

Understand how this will affect your schedule.

The benefit of arriving first to a Disney park is that lines are slow for first hour of the day as guests continue make their way in. No one’s boarding in advance—you could never, and still cannot, go on a ride before the Magic Kingdom opens—but early birds positioned themselves to get on first and take advantage of that blissful first hour. Not only does Magic Kingdom now place crowds closer to the attractions, thus allowing queues to fill more quickly, but puts a higher volume of guests inside the park before opening than ever before. With the ability to enjoy pastries and a cup of joe before a castle show and not be stuck in a massive crowd, there’s more incentive than ever to arrive at the Magic Kingdom prior to its opening, which will make for longer standby times.

Don’t wake up for “magic moments.”

The strain of arriving crazy-early was always offset by the glimmer of hope that you could be chosen as “family of the day” and help Mickey open the park from atop the train station. Feel free to snooze, because with the show moving inside, the coveted gig is sadly no longer offered.

Head to the furthest attractions in the Magic Kingdom once you arrive.

Adventureland, Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, and the like will still be blocked off until “rope drop,” what Disney insiders call the moment you can fully enter the park. If Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is a priority, head to that immediately, otherwise consider walking towards Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, or Dumbo. Many guests will enter the first attraction they see, which leaves rides located in the back corners of the park less busy for longer.

Consider park-hopping in the morning instead.

Since the early bird promise of quickly boarding rides at Magic Kingdom appears to be gone, spend the opening hour at other parks instead, where many feature attractions have larger guest capacity and can support longer morning queues. Ideally, if you hit the major coasters and experiences at Animal Kingdom or Disney’s Hollywood Studios first-thing and schedule your Magic Kingdom fastpasses to begin around 11am, you can ensure back-to-back entertainment all morning long.

Change your Crystal Palace reservations.

Guests can enter the Magic Kingdom over an hour early with pre-9am breakfast reservation at Be Our Guest, Crystal Palace, or Cinderella’s Royal Table, a perk that has now lost its luster. Tables at Be Our Guest and Cinderella’s Royal Table are so in-demand that reservations are worth keeping, but anything after 8:20am at Crystal Palace will now put you at a disadvantage with the looming crowds on Main Street. Consider moving your meal to later on in the day, when their buffet fare will provide more options and you can enjoy the Winnie the Pooh meet-and-greet with ample time.

Focus on a different photo op.

Another perk to having a pre-park breakfast reservation in the Magic Kingdom is the ability to take a family portrait in front of Cinderella Castle without crowds in the background. As this will now be difficult, think about snapping that picture at nighttime instead. It’ll take over an hour after it closes for the crowds to clear out, but you’ll be rewarded with an empty Main Street and a stunning photograph.

No reservation? Decide what you’ll eat in advance.

Several restaurants on Main Street are now open for breakfast, with limited (and caloric) options. Casey’s Corner serves pastries as well as daytime fare like corn dog nuggets and a hash brown-topped hot dog, Sleepy Hollow has a waffle sandwich, and Plaza Ice Cream Parlor offers a dessert-turned- breakfast with its doughnut sundae. Go for the mini Mickey Waffles—a crowd favorite!—a breakfast sandwich at Starbucks, or packing granola bars and cereal to enjoy on the way over.

Find new ways to cut down on time.

Consider cancelling a dining reservation and instead booking a schedule-saving event, like Early Morning Magic, which offers breakfast and exclusive access to three Fantasyland rides before the Magic Kingdom opens. If you’re a small family—or one that doesn’t travel lightly—Disney’s new Express Bus Service could be ideal. At $15 per person per day or $24 per person for the week, it internally transfers guests between all four parks, alleviating the need to wait for buses, re-enter or double-up on security checks, saving hours over the course of a vacation.

Rethink your Fastpass plan ASAP.

Don’t plan on riding everything in the first hour like you used to, as the lines are likely to be longer. Budget only one or two rides before the crowds arrive, and reserve any absolute must-see attractions or meet-and-greets with Fastpasses for later that day.

Though, it’s not bad news for everyone.

Casual visitors who would never consider arriving in the first few hours of the day have nothing to worry about. If you only have one day in the Magic Kingdom, it essentially gives you more bang for your buck. Have any princess-obsessed tykes in tow? They’re bound to prefer the castle show to the train one, as it features more princesses, extra characters, and is much easier to view. If you like having time to get the kids settled, you can use the restroom and sunscreen up before it’s time to go—and any spouses dragged out of bed against their will can get a dose of Starbucks without holding everyone up from making their way to Peter Pan’s Adventure.