Now that the expansion has been "officially" open for about a week (and unofficially open for a while longer), I decided to revisit this section of the park, to ensure that my predictions for waits ended up accurate.
It looks like my predictions were pretty much spot on (which makes me pretty happy). So the advice in that article is quite good and still relevant now. But here are some tweaks and additional advice for visiting the land:
Best bet for visiting "Under the Sea" is to visit it early in the morning or use Fastpass
Wait times have been long for Under the Sea since the official opening - often topping 60 minutes (and this is during the slow season). One would suspect that Fastpass return times would also balloon way out, but surprisingly, this is not the case - most days have seen Fastpass return times only 30-40 minutes out throughout even the busiest times of the day. Why someone would get in a 60 minute standby line instead of getting a Fastpass for 40 minutes out, I'll never understand. But use it to your advantage! Get your Fastpass, see other nearby no-wait attractions (Philharmagic is a good choice in Fantasyland), and then come back with no wait.
Note that as this attraction ages, the lines should also decrease dramatically - it does have a very high capacity. By the summer, this may be nearly a "walk-on" attraction for most of the day!
Enchanted Tales with Belle is a challenge
As I suspected, Enchanted Tales with Belle has seen long waits (45 minutes or longer) most of the day, every day. It's not that surprising - it's a low-capacity attraction, it's brand new, and it's a chance to meet a beloved Disney character, so you get hit with a triple whammy there.
Unfortunately, Fastpass is not available for this attraction. That means, to avoid lines, you need to make it one of the first attractions of the day (if not THE first). But there's a problem with this strategy - this is a long attraction - from start to finish, almost 20 minutes. So if you visit it first (at 9:00am opening for a "typical" day at the park), when you're done, it's 9:20. That means other Fantasyland attractions (like Peter Pan and Winnie the Pooh) have had 20 minutes to build up lines. Wait in those long lines, and then your next attractions will build up lines. Ultimately, you fall way behind.
What's the solution? There are four options:
Option 1 - Visit Enchanted Tales with Belle on your second day. Heading to the Magic Kingdom for two days? Great! I'm going to suggest you skip Enchanted Tales with Belle on day 1, and make it your first stop on day 2. Your day 1 plan will not be slowed down by this attraction, and on day 2, we'll skip the other "long-line" attractions that you already saw on day 1.
Option 2 - Go on an early-entry day. I'm not always a fan of visiting the Magic Kingdom on an early-entry day. But if it's not a busy time of year, it would work well in this case. Enchanted Tales with Belle is not an early entry attraction. That means during the early-entry hour, you can visit other attractions, arriving at Enchanted Tales with Belle right at the time it opens.
Option 3 - Do the best you can. If the first two options are not viable, then we just need to "sequence" your Fantasyland time to avoid lines as best you can. You'll end up with a little time waiting to meet Belle, but we can keep it under 15 minutes with the best sequencing, and still not affect your waits too dramatically at other attractions.
Option 4 - don't visit this attraction. Don't have kids that are huge Belle fans? Then don't go. There are some nice animatronic characters and a cool "magic mirror" effect, but really, this is mostly just a chance to briefly meet Belle. So if that doesn't hold appeal, skip this attraction for something else.
Ariel's Grotto has similar challenges to Enchanted Tales with Belle
Is your kid an Ariel fan? Then a trip to Ariel's Grotto may be in the works. It has similar challenges to Enchanted Tales with Belle - long waits and no Fastpass. However, the meet with Ariel is usually quicker (it's really just a meet-and-greet, there's no "show" aspect like Enchanted Tales with Belle). Because of that, an early trip to visit Ariel won't throw quite as big a monkey wrench into your plans as Enchanted Tales with Belle.
Be Our Guest is great but a challenge to get reservations for dinner
No surprise - the Be Our Guest restaurant is terrific. The ambiance is amazing, and the food is the best at the Magic Kingdom, by far. However, this means one problem - crowds!
Your best bet is, if your vacation is more than 6 months out, making a reservation for dinner (which is table-service with waiters). Reservations are a challenge if you don't make them 180 days out (or close to 180 days, at least). If you don't have a reservation, then you're out of luck for dinner.
For lunch, the restaurant is "quick service" (but with much higher quality food than typical burgers and fries). It's also very popular. I recommend getting to lunch as early as possible (it opens at 11:00am and some people are waiting to enter as early as 10:30am), and recognize you will have some crowds. But the space is so nice that you probably won't mind waiting a little to order!
The Storybook Circus rides (Barnstormer and Dumbo) have crowd levels similar to my projections in my previous article
The Storybook Circus area's rides are seeing crowds similar to how I projected in my previous article. However, there are a few things to note:
- Both attractions have Fastpass - for families focusing on Fantasyland (or trying to sneak in one more ride on Dumbo late in the day), this is a welcome addition.
- Some kids now want to wait for Dumbo! The indoor waiting area for Dumbo is a hugely fun (for little kids) circus-themed play area. Instead of waiting in line, you receive a pager (like you get in restaurants), and your kids can climb, slide, and run around in the play area. Some kids prefer this play area to the actual ride! And there are comfortable places for adults to sit as the kids burn off steam. And it's air-conditioned! If this sounds good to you, then maybe you want to wait 20 minutes for Dumbo!
The Fantasyland Expansion has seen significant crowds - each of the three new attractions has seen waits upwards of 45 minutes, even on non-busy days. However, if you follow the advice above, you can make your way around these crowds and still enjoy everything new Fantasyland has to offer, without missing any of the great "old" stuff at the Magic Kingdom either!