Walt Disney World (FL)

Attraction Tips – Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

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At this point, I have been to Walt Disney World more than I sometimes care to admit in polite company. I’m not ashamed; it’s just that other people start asking questions, and it becomes a whole big thing about people studying me like a sociology experiment, and I just don’t want to get into it. I’m sure some of you can relate. However, all that experience has led to some interesting observations on the inner workings of the World. Along with the data that we collect here at TouringPlans.com, it allows for some interesting tips on how to make the most of certain attractions. So, here’s the first in what I hope is a series of attraction tips, starting with Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.

The majestic peaks of Big Thunder Mountain

As one of the peaks in the Magic Kingdom mountain range, Big Thunder is a destination first thing in the morning. As such, the crew here advises going to the attraction before 10 a.m. or in the hour before park closing to minimize wait times. It’s a ride that even some small kids can ride and enjoy, so long as they are 40″ high. A little known fact is that kids 7 and under cannot ride alone. I don’t know why they would necessarily, but keep that in mind when sending the children off to wait in line by themselves while you go grab a Mickey bar.

Tip – Sometimes if you go to Big thunder first thing in the morning, you may be able to ride twice without getting off! I did this one summer morning, and it was amazing. To do it, follow the rope drop crowd directly to Big Thunder and be on the first train. If the crowds are light enough, you get to ride twice.

If you haven’t heard of the baby swap, it’s the best way for adults and older kids to take advantage of the ride without leaving the younger kids alone on the street. Simply approach the cast member at the beginning of the line and let them know you’d like to do the child swap. The cast member will let one adult and the older child into the ride, then give the other adult a FASTPASS to come back when the first party is through. It allows the older kid to ride twice, both adults get to ride, and the younger kid gets to avoid being thrown around like a rag doll.

Check the wait times when you approach Big Thunder

Tip – If you have children who are not big enough to ride or are too scared to ride, take them down to the playground under the railroad tracks near Splash Mountain. It’s a good way to entertain them when doing a baby swap or just while older kids ride.

When you’re approaching the ride, make sure to take a look at the wait times, either on the sign out front or on our Lines mobile app. Big Thunder does a fairly good job of passing people through, especially for a roller coaster. Even at a crowd level of 8, the wait time is still on average around 40 minutes. If the wait time exceeds 20 minutes, it’s best to grab a FASTPASS and return later. Typical Big Thunder FASTPASS return times are less than a couple hours away on most days. If the wait times are under 20 minutes, just go ahead and jump in line.

Tip – If you grab a FASTPASS and you only have under 2 hours to your return time, spend your time around Frontierland. You can easily while away the time by taking in the Country Bear Jamboree, the Enchanted Tiki Room, and maybe even the Liberty Square Riverboat with minimal waits. Then return to Big Thunder ready to ride.

While you’re waiting in line, make sure to appreciate the details. The Imagineers took great care to put some great jokes, scenery, and other gags throughout the queue. Many of the props were actually taken from the 1800s time period the ride is set in, and still others were created specifically for the ride. Every barrel, crate, or wagon in the queue has something to read or enjoy. It makes even a 30 minute wait fairly enjoyable.

The queue is amazing. Make sure to check it out.

Tip – The left side of the queue generally moves quicker than the right, so if you have a choice, take the left hand side.

Once you get down in the bowels of the mine area, the loading will take place at the bottom of a ramp leading into the ride. If there’s one thing I can tell you, it’s to make sure you know how your party is going to ride before you make it to the bottom of the ramp. Tell the greeter how many people are in your party then proceed immediately around the corner to the stalls that open up into the trains. When the train comes into the station, the stall doors will open and you’re off on the “wildest ride in the wilderness!”

What about you? What are your favorite tips or experiences with Big Thunder Mountain Railroad?

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6 thoughts on “Attraction Tips – Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

  • I love riding this one at night — beautiful views of the Castle, and there’s a lift hill outside where it can seem on a clear night that you’re just heading right up to the stars. Love this ride!

  • Seems when I read about child swap the assumption is there are 2 children – one that can ride and one that can’t. We have 4 kids – 12, 10, 3, and 1. We are going to the World in a few months. How can we use child swap? Thanks for the article – fantastic info – I hope you keep coming with the ‘Attraction Tips’!

    • You should still be able to use child swap with your 4 kids. Assuming the 12 and 10 year old want to ride and the 3 and 1 year olds do not, just tell the cast member at the entrance and they will give you two Fastpasses to return. As I said above, you will likely need to present both of the younger kids to the cast member to show you’re not trying to scam them.

      One thing to note, though is that with one parent and two kids, you will have one member of your party riding by yourself on Big Thunder, since the seats accomodate 2 guests each.

  • Can you still do Child Swap even if you child / Children are tall enough to ride, ie just too scared to ride and too young to be left alone.

    • Honestly, it depends on the cast member. Some of them will ask to see the child you are doing the swap with, and others will be fine with it. I don’t know the official Disney policy, but I think they are more than willing to offer a kids swap for that situation unless you encounter the most rigid of cast members.

  • During one of the late nights a few years ago, I and a 11 year nephew of my girlfriend actually did Big THunder Mountain 6 times in a row, and had fun everytime.


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