In case you didn’t see Wednesday’s EPCOT post, we’re in the middle of some revisiting of parks offering Extended Evening Hours! Back when they first debuted, they were the absolute best way to save time in the parks. Low crowds, low waits, nothing standing between you and a spectacular evening (or late night). In fact, in our original Magic Kingdom test, Chrissy was able to accomplish 10 attractions with 31 total minutes of waiting.
Unfortunately, our results from our EPCOT comparison were disappointing. The Extended Evening Hours were more crowded and our testing teams couldn’t get as much done as the original. So we knew that we needed to try out Magic Kingdom too. Thanks to some dauntless testers (and good-looking, I’ve been asked to call them good-looking), they bounced back immediately from their EPCOT test and stayed up late at the Magic Kingdom the very next night. And, double bonus – they tested three different strategies instead of just two.
Magic Kingdom: The Setup
So many rides to choose from!!!! This is the blessing and the curse of Magic Kingdom. Especially if you have limited time. Because choosing really cool headliners means spending more time in line. And choosing certain popular but long-duration attractions like it’s a small world or Haunted Mansion could save you wait time compared to mid-day, but because they’re lengthy, they also eat up a lot of time. So we sent in our testing team with three different strategies with different balances of good attractions with low durations and high time savings.
Team 1 was following the low-duration plan. It tried to hit as many lowest-duration attractions as possible, with as little walking in between them as possible, regardless of satisfaction or wait time savings. The idea here was perhaps that getting a lot done would make the participants feel like they accomplished more, and would end up adding up more time savings than just waiting for one big headliner.
Team 2 had almost an exact opposite goal. Theirs was the avoid-high-waits plan. It tried to hit as many attractions with the highest average waits as possible, with as little walking in between them as possible, regardless of duration or satisfaction. I wanted to be able to compare the results of these sorts of opposite ends of the spectrum.
Team 3 got the special “Becky’s mix”. This was aimed at being the best balance between short duration, wait avoidance and satisfaction. It’s definitely not a “best of Magic Kingdom” list, but it’s also not all-spinners-all-the-time.
Here were the initial line-ups for each plan:
- Team 1 = Buzz Lightyear, Astro Orbiter, Tomorrowland Speedway, Mad Tea Party, Dumbo, Barnstormer, Under the Sea, Carrousel, Winnie the Pooh, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Peter Pan’s Flight, Magic Carpets, Big Thunder
- Team 2 = Big Thunder, Pirates, Haunted Mansion, Peter Pan’s Flight, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Winnie the Pooh, Under the Sea, Space Mountain, Buzz Lightyear, Astro Orbiter
- Team 3 = Buzz Lightyear, Mad Tea Party, Dumbo, Under the Sea, Winnie the Pooh, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Peter Pan’s Flight, Pirates of the Caribbean, Big Thunder Mountain
Team One Results
11:00 pm – Team One entered the queue for Buzz right at the very start of the Extended Evening Hours. The posted wait time was 25 minutes, but the actual wait time was an astounding … 2 minutes.
11:08 pm – After defeating Zurg (I assume), it was quick hop over to Astro Orbiter, with a posted wait of 15 minutes and an actual wait of 12 minutes.
11:27 pm – Note here that the in-park tester was very tempted to yell at everyone actually doing Speedway this late at night and ask for their motivation. Were they also running tests? Who feels the need to drive rickety cars this close to midnight??? The posted wait time was 10 minutes and the actual wait was 5 minutes.
11:40 pm – After driving rickety cars, who wouldn’t want to spin like crazy? Mad Tea Party had a 5 minute posted wait, but was only a 2 minute wait.
11:47 pm – If you want short-duration attractions, you do more spinning. Dumbo also had a 5 minute posted wait, and was once again just a 2 minute wait.
11:53 pm – Speeding along and already at Barnstormer. Posted wait was 5 minutes and actual wait was 2 minutes. I sense a trend …
12:00 am – When the clock struck twelve, the extended hours were halfway over and the team had already accomplished 6 attractions. Not too shabby, and on track to out-pace our original test! Under the Sea had a 5 minute posted wait, but was actually a walk-on. Technically it takes you one minute to walk through the queue, so it was a 1-minute walk/wait.
12:11 am – Apparently no one likes riding the Carrousel after midnight, but … SCIENCE. There was a 5 minute posted wait, but the actual wait was a true 0. It takes you zero minutes to walk through the “queue” and pick out a horse.
12:16 am – Now the real tests begin. Winnie the Pooh was still managing to hold a 20 minute posted wait with 45 minutes to go in Extended Evening Hours. Thankfully, the actual wait was only 11 minutes. Still, not anything like a walk-on.
12:33 am – Here’s where things could’ve ended. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train was posting a 45 minute wait at 12:30. That would’ve eaten up basically all of the rest of the time, even if it was double what the actual wait was. Thankfully, it was more than triple the actual wait, which was a totally manageable 13 minutes.
12:53 am – Our intrepid tester hustled over to Peter Pan’s Flight with 7 minutes to go. The posted wait time there was an impressive 40 minutes. And the actual wait was an even more impressive … 1 minute. That’s right. The posted wait time was FORTY TIMES the actual wait.
Unfortunately, the next step in the plan was a lengthy walk to some Magic Carpets, but our tester did a bit of quick thinking and plan deviation …
12:59 am – Just before turning into a pumpkin (or should that have happened at midnight?), they breezed through the queue of it’s a small world, ignoring the posted 5 minute wait and walking right onto their boat.
Team Two Results
11:00 pm – Our tester entered the line for Big Thunder right on time, with a posted wait of 20 minutes. Her actual wait for the wildest ride in the wilderness was a decent 10 minutes.
11:17 pm – A quick walk over to Pirates yielded a 10 minute posted wait with a 9 minute actual wait. Hooray for some posted wait times being close to accurate!
11:40 pm – With a third of the time already having passed, Team Two was on to attraction three, Haunted Mansion. The ever-helpful (jokes) 13-minute posted wait there was actually just a 5 minute wait. Pretty good for this popular attraction.
11:55 pm – Fortunately/Unfortunately, quickly accomplishing the first three steps led to getting to Peter Pan’s Flight at a time where it was still pretty popular. The posted 40 minute wait, thankfully, wasn’t accurate. But there was still a 17 minute actual wait.
12:19 am – At this point it was obvious that Team Two wasn’t going to accomplish as many attractions as Team One, but that was never the goal anyway. Quantity of time saved was supposed to reign instead of quantity of attractions experienced. So with 2/3 of the time having passed, Team Two entered the queue at Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. The 45 minute posted wait was actually only 15 minutes.
12:38 am – Almost right outside of the exit, Team Two entered the queue for Winnie the Pooh with a 20 minute posted wait. But the actual wait was just 1 minute.
12:47 am – After an exciting bounce around, it was time to go Under the Sea. Once again, the posted 5 minute wait disguised what was really a 1-minute walk-on.
12:53 am – This is when our Team Two tester broke down a little. Ha! She could’ve rushed over to Space Mountain for one more attraction, but a different duty called and she opted for a bathroom break instead. Hey, we’re all human. Theoretically, had she made it to Space Mountain, there would’ve been a 15 minute posted wait and something like a 5 minute actual.
Team Three Results
11:00 pm – Alongside Team One, Team Three had a lovely 2 minute wait for Buzz Lightyear even with the 25 minutes posted wait.
11:11 pm – Here the teams diverged, and Team Three went for a lovely spin on Mad Tea Party with a 5 minute posted wait and 1 minute actual wait.
11:17 pm – Getting the rest of the spinning out of the way “early” in the plan, the team entered the queue for Dumbo with a 5 minute posted wait and only had a 2 minute actual wait.
11:28 pm – Next it was on to Under the Sea, with its similar 5-minute posted wait and actual 1-minute walk-on. So far, so good.
11:48 pm – Over at Winnie the Pooh, the posted wait was 20 minutes, but the actual wait was only 3 minutes. Interestingly, this is significantly lower than when Team One entered the queue about 30 minutes later.
11:57 pm – The real test of each plan – the wait at Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. The posted wait was, once again, 45 minutes. Our team’s actual wait was 21 minutes, and for what it’s worth, that’s the longest recorded actual wait we have for this attraction during extended evening hours. Between 11 pm and 1 am, the posted wait time varied pretty significantly, but we have 7 actual timed waits from that timeframe, and all fell somewhere between 13 and 21 minutes.
12:22 am – With just about a third of the time remaining, Team Three was at Peter Pan’s Flight. The posted wait was apparently stuck at 40 minutes from 11:40 through the end of the park day, but the actual wait was an easy 4 minutes.
12:35 am – The team walked up to Pirates of the Caribbean …. and all of the way through the queue and to their boat. The 10 minute posted wait was actually a 1-2 minute walk-on.
12:52 am – Team Three quickly made their way to Big Thunder Mountain to try to finish up their plan (the only team to do so). It had a 5 minute posted wait, but they walked right on.
12:56 am – If you read the EPCOT test, you know that the testing team there experienced a bit of Disney magic when they were allowed to re-ride Soarin’ the end of the night without exiting or reloading. Well, Team Three pulled a bold move and asked if they could re-ride Big Thunder (since no one else was in the queue). They were met with … a big “NOPE”. Undeterred, they rushed through the queue one more time like the good overachievers that they are, and they rode Big Thunder one more time to close out their very successful 2 hours.
Results and Comparison
Team One was able to accomplish 12 attractions in the two hours, an impressive number. They had a total of 15 minutes of walking between attractions (pretty good, especially compared to EPCOT) and 39 minutes of waiting. When we compare back to the original test, 39 minutes of waiting for 12 attractions isn’t bad. More attractions, a little more waiting, and less walking.
Team Two only finished seven attractions in the two hours (but could have technically done a eighth). That included 20 minutes of walking between attractions since they had more ground to cover, and 57 minutes of waiting. Seven attractions, compared to 10 in the original test, and with more waiting sounds like it’s a loss. But they were attractions that command higher waits during the day.
Team Three finished 10 attractions in the two hours. Hooray! They did so even while physically covering more ground than any other plan, with 25 minutes of walking. They also had a total of 36 minutes of waiting. They also got to experience Pirates and Big Thunder with that amount of wait time, skipping over things like Speedway, Barnstormer and Astro Orbiter that were in plan number one.
I have one results asterisk to share, just like I did for EPCOT. In that case, Remy being down for the last hour of “regular” park operations could’ve thrown things off compared to normal. At Magic Kingdom, there was heavy rain from about 9:30 pm to 9:50 pm that could have driven out large crowds of people that may have otherwise been willing to stick around for Extended Evening Hours. Maybe.
Even without crunching too many numbers, it’s pretty easy to say that Extended Evening Hours at Magic Kingdom are more pleasant and more “worth it” than their counterpart at EPCOT. There are more things to do with less walking. That being said, if you’re aiming to do something like the 12 attractions we were able to accomplish with Team One, you’re not going to just be meandering and enjoying the ambiance. That requires some real grit and hustle! Probably best to find a balance of “these are the attraction I want to do” and “isn’t it nice here without hoards of people”.
- Team One’s slate of 12 attractions would’ve taken approximately 240 minutes of waiting to accomplish on the same park day even if using an ideal touring strategy without early entry or Genie+/ILL. With early entry, that total wait would drop to under 180 minutes. Even still, the Extended Evening Hours wait of 39 minutes is an incredible win. That’s a time savings of 141-201 minutes.
- Team Two’s 7 attractions would’ve taken approximately 170 minutes of waiting to accomplish on the same park day even if using an ideal touring strategy without early entry or Genie+/ILL. With early entry, that total wait would drop to about 120 minutes. So the 57 minutes of waiting during Extended Evening hours saves 63-133 minutes.
- Team Three’s 10 attractions (yay for the under-the-wire bonus ride) would’ve taken almost 300 (THREE HUNDRED!) minutes to accomplish on the same park day even if using an ideal touring strategy without early entry or Genie+/ILL. Crazy town. With early entry, that total wait would drop to about 230 minutes. Y’know, so much better at just under 4 hours. So the Extended Evening hours total wait of 36 minutes yielded time savings of 194-264 minutes. Yeehaw.
I promise I didn’t rig the system to make the “Becky’s Mix” plan look the best. It just is the best. It shows that finding the right mix for your party of high-wait attractions and low-duration attractions that you love is what is most important.
But, overall, Extended Evening Hours at Magic Kingdom are totally worth it. Even if it was 25% more crowded because the weather was perfect and no one left the park, the results would still be impressive. You can save a lot of time with the right plan.
Have you experienced Magic Kingdom Extended Evening Hours recently? What were you able to accomplish? Let me know in the comments! And stay tuned for our comparison to a Magic Kingdom day with Genie+ stacking to see which allows for more efficient touring.