Here at Walt Disney World, it sometimes seems like we just barely survive one holiday peak season before another wave of tourists arrive. After the overwhelming crowds of Christmas and New Year, Orlando’s parks saw a brief respite before Martin Luther King weekend came around and packed the parks again. For this edition of Best Week Ever, we’re going to brave the happy hordes and enjoy a Magic Kingdom Martin Luther King weekend visit.
The Sunday before Martin Luther King Day dawned overcast and blustery in the low 50s (what we locals call “Florida Cold”). But by the time I arrived at the Magic Kingdom’s parking lot, the weather was beginning to clear up into a gorgeous day.
On my way into the park, I noticed that the racks of park maps and times guides had moved yet again. Last year, the boxes lining the walls of the tunnels under Main Street USA‘s train station were removed and replaced by movable displayed placed just inside Town Square. On this day, those map boxes had been shifted to the center of the entry tunnel.
My first destination for the day was Pirates of the Caribbean, which I had secured a FastPass+ for a few days in advance. As I was approaching the park, I received email notification that Pirates was temporarily out of service, and allowing me to use my FP+ for alternate attractions until the park closed. But the time I reached Adventureland, the ride had reopened, so I ended up using the “golden” FastPass+ as originally planned, bypassing the 45 minute posted standby wait and boarding my boat within 5 minutes.
Here’s a full ride through POV video of Walt Disney World’s Pirates of the Caribbean ride, recorded in 4K 2160p.
While the ride’s opening scenes are so dark as to be practically unfilmable, the bulk of the attraction looks pretty attractive, especially since the figures and lighting were cleaned up during the latest refurbishment.
As I was exiting through the PotC gift shop, I noticed these “Attractionistas” dolls. apparently they’ve been for sale since the fall, but they were new to me.
Next up: the wildest ride in the wilderness! As usual, the FastPass+ entrance to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad was a bit backed up, but once I’d scanned my MagicBand it was smooth sailing until the queue’s merge point. Much better than waiting in the posted 45 minute standby line!
Want to take a runaway train ride without leaving your couch? Check out this brand new full ride through POV of Magic Kingdom’s Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, shot in 4K video:
While BTMRR had a healthy wait, Splash Mountain right next door was practically a walk-on. I can’t imagine why guests — many of whom looked to have packed clothes for springtime weather — wouldn’t want to go on a water ride on a day like this?
Speaking of cold, if you catch one while in Frontierland, stop by the Smucker’s-sponsored Prairie Outpost & Supply, where you’ll find over-the-counter aid for whatever ails you.
Their Pepto Bismol products may come in hand after eating a chocolate covered Rice Krispie turkey leg treat or two…
Right next door to the Prairie Outpost, you’ll find one of my favorite still-operating attractions from the Magic Kingdom’s opening year. The Country Bear Jamboree has been tweaked and trimmed over the years, but it’s still a classic.
If you enjoy the Country Bears as much as I do, kick back with your bear feet on the coffee table and clap along to this full show video, filmed in 4K. And if you don’t like it, just grin and bear it!
If you have a few minutes to kill in Frontierland, stop by the Shootin’ Arcade and sit down for a quiet game of checkers. This is the kind of unadvertised low-key diversion that Disneyland is famous for (or at least it was, before that park’s recent closures) and I was thrilled to find it among the Magic Kingdom’s overstimulation.
Looking for a sign that the Magic Kingdom is crowded? Just take a look at the Diamond Horseshoe. If this seasonal venue is open and vending lunch, you know you’re in for a busy visit.
While this Sunday before Martin Luther King Day began with wintery weather, by early afternoon blue skies were forming a beautiful backdrop behind Cinderella Castle.
On the back side of the castle (not to be confused with the back side of water) construction walls and high-reach cranes were in place for removal of the Christmas lights.
Just around the corner, it appears that the relatively low wait times I spotted for the Anna & Elsa meet & greet during my last visit have grown back to their previous astronomical levels. It will be interesting to see if interest in the Frozen sisters starts to seriously wane, or if this year’s opening of Arendelle in Epcot reenergizes their fandom.
Heading back to Frontierland through Liberty Square, I stuck my head into the Heritage House outside the Hall of Presidents. Once upon a time, this store sold historical souvenirs, some of which were moved to the Christmas shop across the street. Then it became a FastPass+ kiosk center, followed by a Tiana meet & greet. And today, it’s…an empty room.
Who is hungry for lunch? Ever since the the Mexican menu was introduced, Pecos Bill’s Tall Tale Inn and Cafe has become my second-favorite quick service restaurant in the Magic Kingdom, right behind Columbia Harbour House.
The bill of fare has been tweaked a bit recently. This was the Pecos Bill menu late last year:
And here is the current Pecos Bill menu as of early 2016:
As you may have noticed, a southwestern burger has been added, and several item have been removed. The biggest loss was the rice bowls, but there is good news: if you ask, they will still serve you a rice bowl, even though it isn’t listed. My vote is for the beef or vegetarian options, as I’ve found the chicken to be a bit dry and overcooked.
The best part of Pecos Bill’s is the extensive toppings bar. I know many folks were fans of the former cheese sauce and sautéed mushrooms, but now you can get all the fresh guacamole you can handle for free!
Here’s another off-menu tip: request tortillas with your salad or rice bowl, and they’ll give you a small foil package of warm soft tortillas for free! You can make your own impromptu tacos, and still have plenty left over to share. In fact, my wife and I could barely finish one bowl between the two of us.
The Jungle Cruise recently returned to its regular version, after removing the Jingle Cruise seasonal overlay on January 11. The loss of the holiday decor doesn’t seem to have diminished the ride’s popularity, as there was a 45 minute posted wait.
While I thought that Disneyland’s Jingle Cruise was a wonderful upgrade, the Florida version of the overlay was far less extensive and impressive. I was happy to see the original Jungle Cruise restored, especially since we had an exceptionally good skipper.
Explore the rivers of the world with me through this Jungle Cruise full ride through POV, recorded in (you guessed it) glorious 4K.
After returning from my two week jungle expedition, I took a swing through the Main Street Emporium to look at some souvenirs that I want but really shouldn’t buy…
…and the Main Street Confectionery, to drool over candy that I want but really shouldn’t eat.
As a pleasant bonus, the daily Festival of Fantasy parade was entering Town Square just as I exited the Confectionery, affording me a perfect view of the procession.
Last but not least, no visit to the Magic Kingdom is complete without meeting Mickey Mouse himself. My wife had never seen the interactive meet & greet in Town Square, and was blown away by how chatty the Big Cheese was.
Well, after all this fun, I think we all need a nap…
Sweet dreams, and I’ll see you for the next Best Week Ever!