Conquering the Magic Kingdom Mountains in an Hour

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Photo courtesy of WDWnews.com
Photo courtesy of WDWnews.com

While it’s true that the Magic Kingdom is home to a number of classic family attractions, such as “it’s a small world” and the Jungle Cruise, the park is also home to a number of thrill rides promising speed, drops, and screams!

It seems, however, that at the Magic Kingdom there is a rule that the park’s thrill rides must be delivered in the form of mountains. Attractions such as Splash Mountain and Space Mountain are some of the park’s most popular and both are known to flood their queues with guests and evaporate those FastPass+ reservations. This causes guests like myself to plan and strategize on how to get that adrenaline fix without wasting valuable park time in line.

Usually I trust FastPass+ or a Magic Kingdom Touring Plan to get me on these mountain-shaped attractions without suffering long waits, but during my last trip I had a crazy thought — Can you conquer the Magic Kingdom Mountains in an hour? Feeling confident, as well as caffeinated, I decided to find out.

The Magic Kingdom Mountains: There are four “mountain” attractions at the Magic Kingdom: Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Space Mountain, and the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. Now, there may be some debate over whether or not the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is considered a Magic Kingdom Mountain, but I’m included it in this challenge as most Disney coasters are found in mountains and the ride structure does resemble mountain or hill terrain. Also, like the other Magic Kingdom Mountains, it’s pretty hard to miss!

My Plan: I decided to set aside the morning of June 2nd to take on this challenge. The Touring Plans Crowd Calendar predicted the Magic Kingdom to be an 8 out of 10, which is crowded, but not completely unmanageable. I already had early reservations at the Crystal Palace at 8:00 AM and the park was scheduled to open at 9:00 AM. I figured that I would be finished with my meal at the time the park opened and would have a little jump start on the crowds by already being in the park. I booked one FastPass+ for Space Mountain; For the other three mountains, I planned to ride it out in the stand-by queues.

What Actually Happened: I was staying at Animal Kingdom Lodge’s Jambo House and arrived at the bus stop at 7:15 AM. For whatever reason, a Magic Kingdom bus didn’t arrive until after 8:00 AM! After my family and I had squeezed on board, our bus still had to pick up guests at Animal Kingdom Lodge’s Kidani Village where only four people out of the dozens waiting were able to get on — and remember, I had reservations for 8:00 AM! So yeah, the day was looking anything but magical and my plans for this Magic Kingdom Mountain Challenge were on life support.

By the time our bus arrived at the Magic Kingdom, the Magic Kingdom Welcome Show was happening and my family and I had some decisions to make. We entered the park through the early reservation and tour entrance at the left side of the gate and immediately headed towards the Crystal Palace. There, we spoke with an understanding Cast Member about what happened and they were willing to cancel our reservation for us without penalty. While I love the Crystal Palace, I had dined there before; on this particular day, time in the park was more important than characters.

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
My view heading into the mine.

So by the time that was all taken care of, we heard over the speakers that the park was being opened! Early! My brother (who volunteered to be my partner for this challenge) and I hurried from the Crystal Palace, through Cinderella Castle, and straight to the first mountain on my list: Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.

8:51 – Enter the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train queue.

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The view from my mine car!

I decided to tackle Seven Dwarfs Mine Train first as it is the newest attraction at the Magic Kingdom and is incredibly popular. It’s also unique in that it’s both a mild coaster and a dark ride! Guests board a mine car that swings slightly and are sent smoothly and speedily up and over grassy hills and around turns before entering the Seven Dwarfs Mine. Inside, the mine cars slow down and take guests past incredibly realistic audio-animatronic dwarfs as they sing iconic songs from the film and mine for glittering jewels and diamonds. There are a few more dips and hills in store before the cars slow down yet again for the finale, where guests pass by the dwarfs cottage where Snow White and the dwarfs are dancing inside!

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Creepiest villain ever. No contest.

During my ride that morning, I was in for a special treat. The cars were a little backed up and the car my brother and I were in stopped right in front of the cottage. In the past, the sun was either too bright to see inside the cottage or the car took me by too fast. But that day, I got a good long look, as well as a photo of the Evil Queen with her basket of apples!

8:58 – Exit the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

After riding the Mine Train, my brother and I left New Fantasyland, went past the beloved Tangled Bathrooms, through a beautifully empty Liberty Square, and then up the slight hill in Frontierland to where our next two Magic Kingdom Mountains sit: Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Splash Mountain. I decided to take on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad first as Splash Mountain’s queue tends to move quickly and I wasn’t sure if that would be the case for Big Thunder later.

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

9:04 – Enter Big Thunder Mountain Railroad Queue

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is the Magic Kingdom’s other mine train attraction, but this one takes you back in time to the Old West during the gold rush. On this attraction, guests board a train in a mine shaft and are then sent on a bumpy, rickety ride around curves, over hills, and in and out of the detailed mountain. It’s a little rough and pretty fast, but a lot of fun and still mild enough for kids over 40 in.

Front row on Big Thunder!
Front row on Big Thunder!

My brother and I had no one in front of us as we passed through the outdoor portion of the queue with its gags, and there was no one at the top in the interactive portion either. In fact, I never realized just how much walking you have to do and how many lines to pass through before you head down the ramps into the mine. Only there did we find a handful of people waiting to ride — and that’s when a Cast Member directed the two of us to the first row on the train! The first row! Yeah, I was excited.

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad isn’t called “the wildest ride in the wilderness” for nothing. The ride is jerky and takes your stomach a time or two; while riding up front was a fun experience for the two of us, we both agree the riding in the back offers a much better experience. The front part of the train seems to slow down much more in order for the back to catch up, and the seats towards the rear of the train just seem faster. Also, I think riding this attraction at night (which is what I usually do) is better than during the day. Just try it for yourself — I think you’ll agree with me.

9:12 – Exit Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Next, my brother and I went right next door to Splash Mountain. This is one of my all-time favorite Disney World attractions and it’s one of my brother’s favorites too. It’s one of the park’s longest and we love the attraction’s excellent storytelling of Br’er Rabbit’s quest for his “laughing place” while trying to avoid Br’er Fox and Br’er Bear. Although I must confess: while I love the attraction, I do skip it at times because I’m not a big fan of getting drenched. But for this morning’s challenge, I came prepared; I brought a rain poncho.

Splash Mountain by Erin Foster
Splash Mountain by Erin Foster

9:15 – Enter Splash Mountain’s queue

Like the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, my brother and I wound our way through Splash Mountain’s queue and saw no one until we until we reached the boarding platform. We were ushered to our log so quickly that I was still struggling to pull on my poncho as I climbed in the second row of our log. That’s important to note too, as some argue that the second row is one of the wettest places to sit on Splash Mountain!

The queue was completely empty, we walked right on!
The queue was completely empty, we walked right on!

The outside portions of our ride were beautiful that morning as it was sunny and just starting to get warm; but during the part of the attraction where your log floats next to a splashing waterfall, the logs ahead of us backed up and I had to endure some spray for a moment or two. I always love the build-up of anticipation for that huge drop, and I can’t help scream as we go down. It helps somehow? Anyway, as we floated through the last scenes, the logs backed up again for a few minutes. Fortunately I was still doing good on time for the challenge and was beginning to believe that I just might be able to pull it off!

9:29 – Exit Splash Mountain queue

Splash Mountain logs backed up at the exit
Splash Mountain logs backed up at the exit

After peeling off my poncho, my brother and I took a slight detour. We had only one mountain left in our challenge, Space Mountain, but we were in desperate need of some breakfast. So we left Frontierland and cut through Adventureland. That’s where I dropped by the new location of Sunshine Tree Terrace, formerly the site of Aloha Isle, to say good morning to the Orange Bird and to see if he had settled in his new home. From there, we headed over to the umbrellas in front of The Plaza where the rest of our family had coffees and breakfast treats.

With something now on my stomach, I then started towards Tomorrowland to ride Space Mountain. For this attraction though, I was riding solo. My brother decided to opt out for this part of the challenge as Space Mountain isn’t his favorite. I walked quickly because I knew Space Mountain has a lengthy queue to pass through and because Tomorrowland was already pretty crowded. But then again, Tomorrowland always feels crowded to me. Am I the only one?

Space Mountain
Space Mountain

9:42 – Entered the Space Mountain queue

Once I scanned my MagicBand in the FastPass+ line and the little Mickey icon turned green, I hurried inside the dark queue and kept a brisk pace in order to make up the time I lost during my Main Street detour.

I can never decide if I like Space Mountain’s queue or not. The darkness is kinda cool because it’s a nice break from the glaring Florida sun and sets the stage for the feeling that you’re in outer space. But then again, it’s so dark that it hurts my eyes at times and the line feels like it goes on and on! The standby line already had quite a few people waiting; fortunately for me, the FastPass+ queue was empty until I reached the short lines by the boarding platform.

Empty FastPass+ queue for Space Mountain
Pretty much the only line I had to deal with on Space Mountain

Space Mountain is an indoor coaster that takes places in the dark! The concept is simple, a rocket ride through space and all the thrills that come with such a venture. Space Mountain was Disney World’s very first coaster and even though it’s several decades old, it still offers an exciting ride! But to be honest, I don’t think it’s as great as it used to be. I miss not being able to see the projections of asteroids and other details.

Once my rocket ride to space had returned to earth and I climbed out onto the platform, it was 9:51. Exactly an hour since I stepped foot into the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train queue. You know what that means? It means I did it! Without a minute to spare!

So… the challenge was a success and I can personally attest that it is possible to ride the Magic Kingdom Mountains in an hour! It’s also exhausting — but totally fun — and it worked to my family’s advantage as it freed up a lot of our time at the Magic Kingdom to experience other attractions and entertainment since I had already checked the ever-popular mountains off my to-do list. Hopefully, this will help our families and individuals who don’t have the luxury of a long stay at Disney World or a lot of time in the park. But before you start making plans to tackle the mountains in an hour yourself, there are a few things to consider.

A Few Things to Note:

While Touring Plans predicted an 8 out of 10 at the Magic Kingdom, what they saw that day was actually a 7 out of 10.

I booked only one FastPass+ for this challenge and I had to book it in advance in order to secure it for the hour window that I had set aside for this challenge. If you can’t get a FastPass+ reservation for the time you want, keep checking! Something could open up at any time.

The best chance to experience the most attractions in the shortest period of time is first thing after rope drop. While different times of the year make a difference in the crowd levels guests experience at the Magic Kingdom, that first hour of the day almost always has low crowds and the chance to walk on a number of attractions. I highly doubt I could’ve completed challenge could be completed within an hour, particularly during the summer months, if I hadn’t arrived at rope drop or with only one FastPass+ reservation.

During this challenge, my brother and I kept a quick, steady pace when going from one attraction to the next, something that not all guests may be able to do or maintain. Be sure to factor in and consider your group’s pace, as well as your own, when planning to take on the Magic Kingdom Mountains in an Hour.

Alternatives:

Couldn’t get a FastPass+ for a Magic Kingdom Mountain in your hour window? Is one of the attractions down for maintenance or refurbishment? Are you or any members of your family prone to motion sickness or don’t quite meet the height requirements? Here are a few worthy alternatives:

Pirates of the Caribbean: While it’s not a mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean does possess the same excitement and thrill of adventure as the mountain attractions at the Magic Kingdom. In addition, it also has a great drop, just like the Magic Kingdom Mountains! During my challenge, Pirates of the Caribbean still boasted a 5 minute wait at 9:45 AM. (Pirates of the Caribbean is currently closed and is scheduled to re-open September 26, 2015)

The Barnstormer: The Barnstormer at Storybook Circus is a whimsical, mild coaster that’s aimed towards young kids. The reason why the Barnstormer is a great substitute attraction for one of the Magic Kingdom Mountains is because it’s the only other coaster in the park that doesn’t have a mountain theme and has several hills and dips of its own. It also doesn’t form much of a wait until 30 minutes or so after the park has opened and sometimes even later than that.

Looking to see if you can experience other big Magic Kingdom attractions in an hour? Consider taking on the park’s most iconic attractions, such as Pirates of the Caribbean, Dumbo the Flying Elephant, “it’s a small world,” and the Jungle Cruise. These attractions are much more friendly for all members of the family, especially for your little princes and princesses who may not be ready for a spin on Space Mountain or a drop into the Briar Patch on Splash Mountain. They also can be done in an hour if you arrive at the park early as I did.

So have you ever tackled the Magic Kingdom Mountains in an hour? Or are you willing to? Feeling better about what you can do in the most popular park, even during busy times of year? Do you have any park attraction challenges of your own that you would like to try? I want to hear from you!

Savannah Sanders

Savannah has been visiting Disney World since she was a year old and has gone back almost every year since. In the real world, she teaches high school history and government and enjoys writing about all things Disney. Savannah can be reached on Twitter @DisneyParkSavvy.

12 thoughts on “Conquering the Magic Kingdom Mountains in an Hour

  • June 22, 2015 at 8:08 am
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    This is our challenge most MK visits. On our visit in early June (Saturday 6th) we managed all four in 40 minutes on an 8am opening day (not EMH), but our route was SDMT / Space / Thunder / Splash with no fast passes used. We had quite the sense of accomplishment 🙂

    • June 22, 2015 at 11:00 am
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      Kirsty, that’s impressive and sounds like fun! Doesn’t visiting the park first thing in the morning make the biggest difference? Thanks for sharing and letting readers know that you can experience the best even when its crowded and even without FastPasses!

  • June 22, 2015 at 9:38 am
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    Congratulations! Sounds like some planets had to align for you to complete your mission.

    Is a 45 minute wait the new normal for morning busses? During our last visit to the Yacht Club in June, we walked out just as the MK bus was pulling away. In the next 45 minutes we saw two Downtown Disney busses come through minutes apart (who’s going to Downtown Disney at 8am) and two Animal Kingdom busses also back-to-back. Is there actually a scheduling system for the busses or is it truly as random as it seems.

    We had a reservation for the Ultimate Day of Thrills Tour so we had to grab a taxi to Bay Lake Tower and walk from there to Magic Kingdom. Even then, we missed the first ride of the tour.

    Why doesn’t Disney use the data they have in MyMagic+ to optimize the bus pickup? If they know X number of guests at each hotel have breakfast, tour or Fastpass reservations in the morning, then they should use that data to send a bus to pick them up in a timely manner.

    • June 22, 2015 at 11:08 am
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      Todd, thanks for your comment! I found it interesting that you encountered the same problem that I did and I like your suggestion about using MyMagic+ in regards to buses. I’ve seen some Disney Resorts testing out screens posting bus wait times, but I haven’t heard if this will be implemented everywhere or how helpful it actually is for guests waiting. You were smart to get a taxi. That’s what I should’ve done so I would’ve been able to enjoy my reservation. I’m sure Disney will find a way to use their new technology to resolve this issue, but in the meantime I guess we will just have to stay tuned to see.

      • June 22, 2015 at 11:50 pm
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        We had the same issue in November @ Pop Century (which is typically a non-crowded time) the longest wait for buses was the one that had extra magic hours that morning (Hollywood Studios) we saw multiple buses for every other park before we finally had one for the studios. If not using the Magic Band technology (as far as planning on who will be there from reservations, fastpass+, and park schedules) then you would think the bus drivers would radio in and say, “I am at x resort and there is a 2 buses worth wait for this park” (especially at the Values where this a clear queue). There also was a cast member at the buses but I don’t know what that purpose was as it didn’t seem to improve anything (as far as timing). This is so frustrating!

        • June 22, 2015 at 11:52 pm
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          *I meant to say at the Value Resorts where there is a clear queue for buses going to each park.

  • June 22, 2015 at 4:45 pm
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    This is a great post and a great idea! I’m going in July and just might try this out.

    I agree about the buses and schedules, my last visit in November 2014, I waited 45 minutes for a bus from HS to GF. I started counting the buses that were coming on a regular basis, I noticed that the value resorts buses were coming about every 5-10 minutes. It was close to park closing which was odd, I figured there would be more buses coming to pick guests up. I think using the MyMagic+ would be a great benefit to Disney.

    I believe all the magic bands all have GPS, you would think the bus stops would be equipped with some kind of GPS reader so Disney could see how many people were waiting for buses. They could take it a step further and have different codes for each bus stop and location to see where there might be a back log of guests.

    • June 23, 2015 at 6:22 am
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      MagicBands don’t have GPS.

  • June 22, 2015 at 9:46 pm
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    Transportation to the parks doesn’t start (usually) until one hour before opening, so your breakfast reservation should have had fine print about taking alternate transportation. For our recent 8:10am BoG reservation for a 9am park opening, we took an Uber from the Yacht Club to the Contemporary, and walked the 10 mins to the Magic Kingdom. It worked well! I think it cost $7.50, and was worth not having to stress.

  • June 23, 2015 at 1:42 pm
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    Super interesting! I will consider taking this challenge on my next visit. Also, a note on taxis: I know that taxis can’t go straight to the Magic Kingdom, and most Disney tipsters will suggest taking a cab to the Contemporary and walking to MK, but it’s much more efficient to have the cab drop you off at the Grand Floridian and take the monorail over. MK is one stop from the Floridian, so it’s quick, plus you can save some walking energy for park touring.

  • June 23, 2015 at 8:30 pm
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    Great article!
    By the way, I clicked on your link above for rope drop, and read about the procedure for all four parks. These need to be updated though! Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom all discuss getting FASTPASS tickets!

  • June 29, 2015 at 6:51 am
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    Great post, thank you. I seem to remember reading on one of the blogs that the hotel you stay at can alert bus that you have early entry for breakfast for a park. Wonder if that can be so, and if it works as it should. We stayed last yr at dolphin, buses were terrific for all emh and rope drops, which we always do. Had a problem with the boats for parks due to weather, but were able to walk briskly and make those emh days in time with no problem as well.

    Looking forward next trip to get early morn ressie for bog, hopefully will hear more about disney extending that option.

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