Fastpass+ & Express Pass Will be Essential For Future Visits
2014 is set to be another big year in Orlando’s major theme parks. With some big new attractions looming, guests have an opportunity to experience fabulous new adventures and experiences like never before, including;
- Diagon Alley (new Harry Potter area) at Universal Studios
- The Festival of Fantasy parade at the Magic Kingdom
- The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at the Magic Kingdom
- Anna & Elsa meet and greet at the Magic Kingdom
Much has been written about the fabulous new attractions, but little has been mentioned about how the parks will change as a result of their arrival.
We thought we’d take a little look at how some of the top new attractions could change the way we visit their parks. Be warned; things are never going to be the same again!
Frozen, an unprecedented success for Disney
To give you a great opening example of how the parks are changing, the overwhelming popularity of the Frozen character greet at Epcot’s Norway Pavilion, appeared to completely surprised Disney.
Over the winter months of 2013/14, and even before the movie premiered last November, lines snaked all the way back past the Mexico Pavilion and waits reached beyond 5 hours.
Finally, in April of 2014, Disney responded with a permanent home for Anna and Elsa over in the Magic Kingdom’s newly built Princess Fairytale Hall, offering Fastpass+ reservations to meet the royal duo.
If you were hoping that would help, you’d be interested to hear that currently, standby wait times often reach 5 hours during most days, as families desperately try to have a keepsake with the Frozen team. The good news, is that you can at least TRY to get a Fastpass+ to save time!
Add to that, a rush for Frozen merchandize that has forced Disney to impose a 5 doll limit for Anna or Elsa, and you begin to realise how popular these ‘softer’ attractions can become.
If you are thinking about getting into the Magic Kingdom to meet Anna & Elsa early, you’d be wise!
But don’t think for one minute that you’d be alone!
This week, Disney actually changed their rope drop procedure for the foreseeable future in order to quell the throngs of Frozen fans that were literally running like crazy from the end of Main Street USA at the rope drop.
To prevent injury, and also to prevent guests taking short cuts through stores, the rope drop procedure has been amended to prevent the Olympic efforts of the ‘Khaki shorts moms’ so desperate to grab Frozen Princess Dresses, Dolls and of course places in the line to meet and greet Anna & Elsa!
So now Cast Members create a ‘walking rope’ to guide the ‘initial guests’ all the way to new Fantasyland each and every morning.
Editor: Can you imagine those initial Photopass shots of the day? Mom’s hair all windswept, with a red blotchy face?
Carrying on with the Frozen phenomena, the Magic Kingdom has also recently changed the Festival of Fantasy parade score to reflect even more content from the Frozen movie.
This of course should help spread avid fans of the icy fable around the park, at least for a few more years!
With so much additional footfall, the Magic Kingdom is already taking steps to widen its huge hub around the Central Plaza in front of Cinderella Castle. Moats are being filled in and kerbs removed to allow easy passage of guests during busy times. Disney are even developing an improved ‘hidden’ exit route that runs from behind the Plaza restaurant to Tony’s Town Square Restaurant.
I can’t recall any theme park undertaking such a large scale adjustment to crowd management!
The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
The Magic Kingdom sits comfortably at the very top of the theme parks in Orlando, in visitor numbers at least.
But now, just days away from soft openings of the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, the park will undoubtedly attract many more guests this summer, as the cult followers of Disney, arrive to sample some unseen Disney Magic for themselves.
Uniquely, Disney seem to rely more on that special charm and dreamy childhood nostalgia than the high adrenalin thrills of say Busch Gardens or Islands of Adventure. Whether it is enough in the longer term, remains to be seen, but, if any classic movie conjures up that magic, it has to be Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
Even if you decide to Fastpass+ the Seven Dwarfs mine Train, (which we highly recommend), the ‘spill over’ effect of guests onto lesser attractions will definitely catch out guests that failed to research their vacation.
The solution is really simple though, get into the parks very early, definitely book your Fastpass+ reservations in advance and thoughout the day, and always keep up to date with the latest Fastpass+ guidance.
But do remember, during busy times, without Fastpass+, the Magic Kingdom may not be the park you once knew!
Universal’s Diagon Alley – THE game changing attraction
There’s been a vast amount of speculation and hype about Universal’s colossal new Diagon Alley that now rises majestically from the grounds of the old JAWS area of Universal Studios.
We thought we’d make our opinion on all of this hype: It is probably totally justified.
Soon, by mid July at the very latest, Diagon Alley will open to the public to build upon the highly successful Hogsmeade area of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
With the permanently darkened streets of Nocturn Alley, the Escape From Gringotts ride, the Hogwarts Express and lots of exciting and unusual shops and dining spots, Diagon Alley is guaranteed a long and prosperous life in Orlando.
For the tiny theme park itself, the changes this summer will totally transform the home of the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit and the Revenge of the Mummy.
Gone will be the days of quietly meandering around the park and hopping on sub 20 minute attractions.
Even more so than the Magic Kingdom, Universal Studios will suffer from guest ‘spill over’ between Diagon Alley and the other areas of the park(s).
Diagon Alley almost certainly won’t be offering Express Pass to begin with.
If Hogsmeade was anything to go by, we may not even see Express Pass there during 2015.
The result is going to be a lot of people arriving at the park only to ‘give up with Diagon Alley’ and head instead to many of the other great attractions and shows.
So, although Express Pass isn’t of much use to Harry Potter fans, it will prove invaluable, if not essential to guests visiting the general areas of both Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios.
There’s simply going to be no substitute for planning your future Orlando vacations, arriving very early and making every possible use of priority line wait systems like Fastpass+ and Express Pass!