Magic Kingdom is the best park for buying Genie+ at Walt Disney World, but it’s not always necessary. This standby report walks you through my step-by-step day not using Lightning Lanes, from rope drop until park closing, with a look at everything I accomplished without spending extra money on paid FastPass.
You’ll note that the title calls this “My Party Day” in Magic Kingdom. Rather than being a misguided attempt to trick you into thinking I did something cool (that part is just a happy accident), this refers to the current party season in the park. Between now and late December 2022, the park opens and closes early for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party (MNSSHP) and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party (MVMCP) several days per week.
As we’ve discussed ad nauseum in other posts, party season really disrupts attendance patterns at Magic Kingdom. Crowds are significantly lower on days when those events are held in the evening, and significantly higher on non-party days. Thus far, all days of Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party at Magic Kingdom have been 1/10 or 2/10 on the crowd calendar except one. Meanwhile, several non-party days have been 8/10 to 10/10.
Attendance is already increasing at Magic Kingdom, including on party days–the most recent of which actually had 4/10 crowd levels. However, the most recent two non-party days had 10/10 and 9/10 crowd levels. This trend will only continue during the heart of the holiday season, party days will become busier because people will be “forced” into those days by the reservations system.
Meanwhile, 10/10 days in Magic Kingdom will be more common on days when MNSSHP or MVMCP isn’t happening. In short, crowds across the board are increasing–but the gap remains roughly the same between the shortened party days and the non-party days.
Consequently, we continue to strongly recommend doing Magic Kingdom during the day before MNSSHP, hopping to another park by ~4 pm. Even with 3/10 or 4/10 days, you’ll still come out ahead by avoiding Saturdays, Mondays, and other non-party days. The day I tested this was only 2/10, which made it easier for me than what you’ll encounter on a 4/10 day, but wait times will still be manageable. As compared to the chaos of non-party days, anything 5/10 or under is a great day at Magic Kingdom.
Anyway, let’s move along to my “party day” using standby lines at Magic Kingdom. (Because nothing screams ‘party’ like waiting in regular lines!) I’ve refined this over the course of several visits, so I’m going to present it in step-by-step itinerary form, as I think this is something you can largely replicate. Good luck!
Seven Dwarfs Mine Train – Our normal advice for beating the crowds at Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is doing it at the end of the night (best) or just sucking it up in the early evening and dealing with the line (more pleasant because the sun is down). Unfortunately, neither one of those are viable options on MNSSHP or MVMCP days due to the earlier closing time and mix-in before that. As a result of the latter, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train’s wait time actually climbs steadily beginning even before 4 pm.
Thankfully, the earlier park opening and Early Entry time offers one big benefit–after the initial “wave” of on-site guests during Early Entry, there is almost a lull for regular park opening. You’re still going to encounter posted wait times in the range of 45 to 65 minutes, but the actual wait–before Individual Lightning Lane use really picks up–will typically be far lower. In this case, my actual wait was 21 minutes on a posted 45 minute time.
Peter Pan’s Flight – It’s a similar story here. If you look at our normal 1-Day Magic Kingdom Itinerary, you’ll see we recommend starting with Jungle Cruise and the western side of the Magic Kingdom Mountain Range.
However, with the 8 am park opening time and extra early Early Entry, fewer guests are in the park for and before rope drop, making it the prime time to navigate to Fantasyland and fly above London and Neverland. Posted wait times for Peter Pan’s Flight can be all over the place and are frequently (very) inflated. My actual wait was ~20 minutes v. 55 minutes posted.
Splash Mountain – In a few trial runs doing this, I’ve arrived in Frontierland shortly before the 9 am hour, and have been surprised at just how quiet it still is. There are times when the wait for Splash Mountain is simply however long it takes to walk through the queue, or a short wait inside at merge (I’ve seldom seen many people using Genie+ at this hour).
Not really relevant to this run-through, but Splash Mountain is in rough shape and will likely only get worse rather than better before its closure. Some of the Audio Animatronics are even hanging their heads in shame; that, or they’re broken. Perhaps both.
Big Thunder Mountain – On a good day, you’ll get to Big Thunder Mountain before the first wave of Lightning Lane returns and breeze through the standby queue for a 10 minute or less actual wait time. On a bad day, the line could be short but still 20 minutes due to Genie+ guests.
I’ve had both at Big Thunder recently. Still, not bad for your 4th headliner and 3rd mountain of the day!
Pirates of the Caribbean – My experience with Pirates of the Caribbean has been more consistent, with the wait time being ~5 minutes once you complete the walk through the empty queue. Doesn’t matter what the posted time is–and it’s often quite wrong.
You could probably move Pirates of the Caribbean down a slot and do Jungle Cruise first. That might be a savvier approach once Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party season starts (or MNSSHP days hit 5/10 levels). For now, Jungle Cruise is a crapshoot post-rope drop, so I simply do them in order.
Jungle Cruise – In my admittedly anecdotal experiences at Magic Kingdom in the last few months, Jungle Cruise is right up there with Peter Pan’s Flight as having the most inflated standby wait time on party days. While posting wait times of 45 to 65 minutes, I’ve had actual waits of 30 minutes or less (sometimes much less) on several occasions.
It’s also inconsistent. There are times I’ve seen the Lightning Lane return line backed up out the front entrance when the ride was posting a 45 minute wait. It would probably make sense to jump in those standby lines “for the sake of research,” but I have a strong aversion to standing around in those switchbacks, so I’ve always passed on it.
Haunted Mansion – There was another day that I did this earlier in the party season when I accidentally saved (more like forgot) Haunted Mansion until mix-in, and that was a mistake. It probably doesn’t need to be done this early in the day, but it was convenient to my itinerary.
Posted wait time was 13 minutes. I’m not sure what my actual wait time was–less than that. (I just missed one Stretching Room load cycle, or it would’ve been a walk-on. Stopping to take the above photo was my downfall.)
“it’s a small world” – While “it’s a small world” can have lengthy wait times on busy days when many/most guests are buying Genie+ (I’ve seen it hit 55 minutes in mid-afternoon on non-party days), that’s not normally the case on low to moderate crowd days.
On a party day, this should be a near walk-on even closer to lunch, making the perfect midday filler.
Pinocchio Village Haus – While I’ve dined at Pinocchio Village Haus about a half-dozen times this year, this was the first time in ages that I had eaten food from Pinocchio Village Haus. I’ve been really wanting to try the Walt Disney World 50th Anniversary menu, so I did exactly that–and was pleasantly surprised.
Of course, the real reason for eating here is the balcony. This is my go-to spot in Magic Kingdom when dining solo–the seclusion, serenity, and scenery are all perfect.
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh – Don’t let that simpleton act fool you–Winnie the Pooh can be devious. Sometimes, the line for his ride looks really short, but Lightning Lane to standby ratio is absurd.
I have less recent experience doing the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh than other rides as a result, since it’s very low-priority for me. Anything above a posted 25 minute wait makes this a pass. While a 20 minute actual wait time might seem fine for midday, it’s Eeyore-like pace is brutal if you’re impatient (or don’t particularly care for this attraction).
Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin – By contrast, I’ve found the next stop–Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin–to be an exemplar of efficiency, relatively speaking during the midday hours on party days. The line usually continuously moves, and takes 15 minutes or less. (The same does not hold true on non-party days–those ~60 minute waits are inflated, but when the overflow queue is in use, you want to skip this.)
Although it’s a game aimed at children, doing this solo is one of my guilty pleasures. My goal is to see how quickly I can max out both guns, and then send Sarah a photo of my achievement. She doesn’t let on, but I can tell she’s always really impressed.
Space Mountain – I try to get a “feel” for the line at Space Mountain before doing it, either by passing it on my way to Buzz or doing the PeopleMover first and watching guest flow. Sometimes, the actual wait is inexplicably low in early afternoon. Other times, the Lightning Lane is backed up. For this test run, my actual wait time was ~20 minutes on a 40 minute posted wait.
If you’re reading this while formulating a plan for late October through December, I’d probably be inclined to move Space Mountain up considerably. If you don’t mind criss-crossing the park, I might do it right after Jungle Cruise. It’s not that bad of a walk if you cut through the hub.
PeopleMover & Carousel of Progress – Now we’re getting to the heart of the itinerary, with the highlights of Tomorrowland. Presumably, not much explanation is necessary here.
Simply sit back and bask in the glory of these great attractions. It’s (presumably) what Walt would want.
Country Bear Jamboree – I’m already dreading the volume of hate mail I’m going to receive for not rope dropping Country Bear Jamboree, then doing it again both (and after) lunch.
However, I assume the brilliant and beautiful readers of this blog have set aside a separate day at Magic Kingdom focused exclusively on this masterpiece. (If pulling your kids out of school, I’ve heard that some districts count CBJ as homework. Something to inquire about.)
Festival of Fantasy Parade – If you’re going to watch the Festival of Fantasy Parade and you want to meet Mickey & Minnie Mouse, do so from outside Town Square Theater.
Due to character staffing, this meet & greet is one of the longest lines in Magic Kingdom on party days. The only way to beat the crowd is by jumping in line right as Festival of Fantasy passes or using the Lightning Lane. To the best of my knowledge and testing, there’s no other approach that consistently works.
I didn’t do the meet & greet this day, in large part because I didn’t watch the parade from quite the “correct” spot. Instead, I bounced for the exit after Festival of Fantasy Parade, having accomplished everything I set out to do–and wanting to avoid the influx of guests soon arriving for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party.
Speaking of which, crowd dynamics are something to keep in mind on MNSSHP or MVMCP days. On a normal day, wait times peak between around 11 am and 1 pm.
On party days, the peak is more like 5 pm. Before that is a lengthy plateau from around 10 am until 2 pm. Totally different dynamic than a normal day, which should make sense given that the Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party mix-in occurs from 4 pm until 6 pm. During those couple of hours, crowds are definitely worse than earlier in the day.
Ultimately, the above step-by-step Magic Kingdom partial day plan/recap should underscore just how much you can accomplish during a party-shortened day at the park. I cannot overemphasize just how useful that 8 am opening time is on these days. It’s a world of difference as compared to a 9 am opening, and that’s especially true given the crowd disparity between party and non-party days. If you’re eligible for Early Entry, take advantage. (Seriously, read our Photo Report & Strategy: Magic Kingdom Early Entry at 7:30 am on Party Days for a look at why.) If not, be sure to arrive by rope drop. Seriously, do not squander those golden hours.
Given all of this, my view is that Genie+ is not worth it at Magic Kingdom on party days in terms of the time v. money cost calculus. This is the opposite of the conclusion we’ve reached every single time when using Genie+ at Magic Kingdom in the past year. Party season is literally the first time we’ve found that paying for Lightning Lanes does not make sense at Magic Kingdom because the backtracking required ends up eating whatever time you save skipping the (minimal) standby lines.
Of course, this could change as crowds increase. That might happen towards the tail end of Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party season or sometime during Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party season. Even then, I’d hazard a guess that anyone eligible for Early Entry will not need Lightning Lanes. For now, you don’t need line-skipping if you arrive by regular park opening and have somewhat savvy strategy. In short, save your money if you’re on the fence about Genie Plus, and do not buy it at Magic Kingdom during a party day (for now) unless you’re going to Park Hop. (In which case, Disney’s Hollywood Studios is the best second-half stacking destination right now.)
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Thoughts on my day in Magic Kingdom using standby lines prior to the start of Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party? Are you planning on buying Genie+ prior to MNSSHP or MVMCP, or sticking to free standby lines? Do you agree or disagree with my assessment that Genie+ is not worth buying on party days (for now) at Magic Kingdom? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!