Magic Kingdom Report: Castle Construction, Serene Sailing, Project Progress

It’s time for another update on Magic Kingdom construction, crowds, and changes. In this Walt Disney World park, we’ll take a look at the current projects around the park, plus sunset and evening photos from around Magic Kingdom.

Since our last update, Walt Disney World recently announced Dates, Details & Decor for “The World’s Most Magical Celebration.” This is the first of several promised reveals ahead of Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary, and we’re expecting many more announcements once it’s clear what can happen by October 1, 2021.

Walt Disney World wasted no time starting on those enhancements, with work already underway around Cinderella Castle. Speaking of which, this visit to Magic Kingdom had a sense of deja vu. Both in terms of seeing similar sights and a familiar feeling. I felt like a far less cool version of Bill Murray, muttering about how pitiful it is that all these people are “waiting to worship a rat.”

When we got home, I dove into my photo archives. Sure enough, exactly one year ago this week, we were in Magic Kingdom checking out construction progress on the Royal Makeover of Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom. The feeling then was actually a lot like today–a mix of excitement for what was to come against a backdrop of worry. One year later, the main difference is that rather than those trepidations growing with each passing day, it’s optimism that’s on the uptick.

Anyway, what’s old is new again, so let’s start with a look at work around Cinderella Castle…

Thus far, mobile cloaking devices (planters on wheels) have been installed in front of the Cinderella Castle Forecourt Stage.

This is obvious from up close, but once you get by the Partners statue or beyond, it’s totally unnoticeable.

Additionally, coffer dams have been installed on both sides of the moat, which has been partially drained to enable construction equipment to enter the water. Our expectation is that the cranes will be lowered during daytime hours, just as has been the case the last several years with the holiday Dream Lights installation.

The coffer dam is on the “wrong” side of the Liberty Square Bridge, meaning photos there are impacted. PhotoPass can easily work around this.

On the Tomorrowland side, the coffer dam is much closer to Cinderella Castle, allowing for normal reflections photos.

The above photo was taken from the Wishing Well, not the Tomorrowland bridge–hence the construction equipment being visible.

Walt Disney World hasn’t offered any information about the construction impacts during the installation of the 50th Anniversary decorations, but we believe last year’s Q&A with Jason Kirk, former VP of Magic Kingdom is instructive and could provide answers to questions some of you have asked.

While this info concerns the Royal Makeover that already happened, it appears Disney is utilizing similar strategy for this year’s enhancements…

Per that Q&A, experiences inside Cinderella Castle would not be impacted last year, meaning that Cinderella’s Royal Table ADRs wouldn’t be cancelled.

Additionally, he stated that Cinderella Castle “will remain uncovered and we will do our best to ensure guests are still able to capture special photos and memories in this iconic spot.” To reiterate yet again, this was during last year’s project. We’re simply drawing inferences from past precedent.

One thing last year’s press release stated is that Happily Ever After and Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire would continue as normal. Obviously, that’s no longer relevant…unless by “as normal” they mean “not at all,” which arguably would be accurate since it’s maintaining the current status quo.

In any case, work is being done to the Cinderella Castle Forecourt Stage this time around.

The surface of the Cinderella Castle Forecourt Stage is being removed and rebuilt.

While we’d love this to be a sign that a new stage show is planned for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary, it could just as easily be a matter of convenient timing since stage shows are on temporary hiatus right now. The latter makes more sense, but Disney doesn’t have a strong track record of doing work when convenient over the course of the last year–they’re typically doing work that is necessary or urgent and postponing everything else.

Moving along, looks like we have another “mystery project” underway ahead of Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary.

Can’t wait to see what this ends up being!!!

In actual construction news, progress continues to be made on the TRON Lightcycle Run canopy installation.

For more details and updates on Tomorrowland’s upcoming coaster, see TRON Lightcycle Run Info: Opening, Construction Photos & Concept Art.

Over in Fantasyland, the walls continue to grow around the queue of and facade of Peter Pan’s Flight.

This pushes the exterior line out into the narrow walkway in front of the Tangled toilets and into Columbia Harbour House. Regardless, we’re totally on board with more aesthetic refreshes to Fantasyland.

Work has concluded on the repainting of Village Gifts.

The golden hour light gives it a more natural, earthy look. It’s noticeably greener under midday light.

Aside from scattered construction walls and scrims, Magic Kingdom is looking excellent. The park’s flower beds are stunning and vibrant, and the Tabebuia trees are in full bloom.

With that said, I’ll spare you excessive horticulture commentary this time since it’s obvious to everyone (me included) that I have no clue what I’m talking about.

On a totally unrelated note, after much deliberation, we’ve added Be Our Guest Restaurant to our list of places to eat after being vaccinated. (Although it seems many others disagree, I still stand by our Prix Fixe Dinner Review.)

You probably don’t care, but we spent literally an hour of our visit to Magic Kingdom debating where we’re going to dine. The list’s #1 entry is Yachtsman Steakhouse, which would require either that restaurant to reopen or some sort of meat heist. So fingers crossed that opens in the next 2-3 months!

In the here and now, we can still enjoy the simple pleasures of modified Magic Kingdom operations.

Like villains and heroes coexisting in harmony, as our fearless leaders, the Country Bears, wave to the dastardly Gaston.

I really hope some of the things Walt Disney World has done with character experiences are carried over into normal operations.

Not necessarily these cavalcades–I’d personally take the full parade and all that entails in most cases–but the greetings.

Now let’s turn to crowds, attendance, wait times, and park congestion.

In the couple of weeks since our last Magic Kingdom report, Mardi Gras crowds at Walt Disney World have arrived and left, leaving attendance more or less the same as mid-February.

With that said, we noticed things were a bit “spotty,” for lack of a better term. For example, there were a bunch of strollers and ECVs parked at random between the Aladdin spinner and the Liki Tikis. That made the path very narrow here, resulting in congestion even though crowds weren’t particularly bad.

Not far away, there was ample breathing room in front of Pirates of the Caribbean, which is where all these strollers are normally parked.

On the other side of the park in Tomorrowland, it felt and looked like a normal off-season day.

No extended queue in use for Space Mountain, which had a posted wait time of 20 minutes by late afternoon.

We love walking around Tomorrowland at dusk. The background music plus lighting is so relaxing. Now if only we could ride through Tomorrowland on some sort of transit or mover of people. I can’t even imagine what that would be like, probably pretty sublime.

On that note, it is really nice to have the Liberty Square Riverboat back. I set sail for a serene sunset cruise aboard the Liberty Belle–here are some photos:

While it’s the least photogenic portion of the ride, my favorite part is the back half of the Rivers of America. This stretch truly feels like frontier.

There are lots of areas like this around Walt Disney World (most notably Fort Wilderness), but it’s remarkable to have a huge expanse of wilderness in the world’s most popular theme park. Always a great option for decompressing amidst a busy day in Magic Kingdom.

We wrap up our day in Magic Kingdom right at park closing time, as Mickey and friends wave “see ya real soon” to guests exiting the park. It’s no Kiss Goodnight, but still a very nice touch. (Setting aside our personal bias/nostalgia, this is probably more meaningful to kids.)

Although the recent park hour extensions in March mean that Walt Disney World is anticipating higher attendance, part of me is relieved that we’re not going back to Magic Kingdom closing before sunset most nights. We’ll take moderate to heavy crowds if it means evenings in Magic Kingdom. It also should mean that more of the normal park experience restored as things start getting back on track ahead of Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary.

Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!


Thoughts on anything covered in this Magic Kingdom park report? Excited to see Cinderella Castle (further) transform ahead of Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary? Hopeful that a new stage show is on the horizon, or think it’s just a project of convenience? Planning on visiting Magic Kingdom in the next couple of weeks or for spring break? Did you visit the week of Mardi Gras? If you’ve visited Magic Kingdom recently, what has been your experience with crowds and wait times? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!

16 Responses to “Magic Kingdom Report: Castle Construction, Serene Sailing, Project Progress”
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