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Opening Magic Kingdom

Opening Magic Kingdom

Friday, September 30, 2011

Extra Magic Hours--Are They Always Magical?

Guests at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel can take advantage of Extra Magic Hours offered at various parks on various days throughout their stay.  Most parks offer a round of Extra Magic Hours in the morning and at night, sometime during a week.  Even the water parks get in on the Extra Magic Hours during peak seasons.

During our most recent visit to Walt Disney World in July, we took advantage of some parks AM or morning Extra Magic Hours.  The thinking that it can be hot in July—it was;  and the World can be crowded in July—we didn’t notice this so much.  Extra Magic Hours can be a way to beat the crowd, as only resort guests are allowed into the park with Extra Magic Hours.  And, potentially beat the heat since you are touring earlier in the morning.

We are no strangers to Extra Magic Hours, especially the mornings when a park would open one hour earlier than normal to resort guests.  Only the husband has taken advantage of the PM Extra Magic Hours when he toured Hollywood Studios on his own.  We have especially appreciated the AM Extra Magic Hours at Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios.

There are various schools of thought about Extra Magic Hours.  Some Disney enthusiasts think Extra Magic Hours are dandy and wouldn’t think of missing the extra time in a park.  Others think that Extra Magic Hours make parks too crowded as more resort guests would choose that park over another not offering Extra Magic Hours and prefer to avoid the park with Extra Magic Hours.  And, still others would offer the advice to go to park on the day just after the PM Extra Magic Hours using the logic that the resort guests were just there the day/night before and the park would be less crowded the next day.

We have done all of the options listed above and for us, it comes down to our schedule and convenience.  We have scheduled ourselves to be in parks on the day after they have offered Extra Magic Hours and had a great time.  We have been to parks offering Extra Magic hours and also had a great time, with a minor exception.  We have found that AM Extra Magic Hours at the Magic Kingdom may not be for us.

Why?  Here’s why:  Half the park is still closed!

We thought our regular Magic Kingdom touring strategy would still work, but just an hour earlier.  Nope!  Our plan to get Splash Mountain Fastpasses just after park opening was foiled, as Adventureland and Frontierland, well, even Liberty Square are not open during AM Extra Magic Hours at the Magic Kingdom.  (When Toontown was still around, it wasn’t open either.)  Only Fantasyland and Tomorrowland allow for guest access during the AM Extra Magic Hours at the Magic Kingdom.

Well, when we discovered that, and I must say, we didn’t discover it until we were in the park, we quickly changed our strategy.  The husband the boy had gone off to ride Tomorrowland Indy Speedway and my charge was to get the first set of Fastpasses—which were supposed to be Splash Mountain and meet them at Jungle Cruise.  When I was blocked from entering that part of the park, I recalculated.  OK, I’ll snag Buzz Lightyear Fastpasses instead, but I need to meet them at Indy Speedway, as none of us are going to get to Jungle Cruise—at least not yet.

So, I waited outside the exit to Indy Speedway before we lost each other.  The new strategy included touring Fantasyland then implementing our regular plan at 9:00 am.  Fine. 

We enjoyed short waits and hardly any guests at both Winnie the Pooh and Peter Pan.  Small World was up next.  Yes, we had plenty of time to ride.  When we got off, it was time for the second set of Fastpasses and off the husband went to Splash Mountain. We continued on riding Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean, etc. 

By the end of our day, we had ridden the rides we wanted and made the best use of Fastpass.  At one time, we were holding 4 sets of Fastpasses! 

In addition to the disappointment was the element of surprise in finding out that a significant portion of the park was closed.  I hadn’t done my homework well enough to discover this before going.  When experiencing Extra Magic Hours at the other parks, the rides and attractions we were after were available either to ride or get Fastpasses.  Only at the Magic Kingdom did we experience frustration with Extra Magic Hours.

I am very appreciative of Extra Magic Hours and the access the Extra Magic Hours give Walt Disney World Resort guests to the parks.  I consider Extra Magic Hours a perk of staying on property.  I will, though, be more mindful when planning touring schedules in the future and thinking differently about which day(s) we visit Magic Kingdom.

Each guest has to determine the value of Extra Magic Hours for their touring needs.  If I was traveling with a small child and knew Fantasyland would be my primary destination at the Magic Kingdom, then AM Extra Magic Hours might be for me.  Thankfully, the rope drop ceremony is the same no matter what time the park opens!

I will add though, that AM Extra Magic Hours, at any park, work best when you arrive before the park opens.  This allows you to make the most of the extra moments the park opens.  If your family will struggle getting to the park early—you are, after all, on vacation—then AM Extra Magic Hours may not be for you and your family.

No matter what, being a Walt Disney World Resort guest is magical!

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