How to Move Through the Crowds at Disney and Make it out Alive

Disney World is a complex land. At times, its four theme parks act more like a giant corn maze or obstacle course then a one way moving sidewalk. Navigating through them at busy times of the day or year, and remaining uninjured is nothing short of miracle. The following is a list of tourists you are bound to run into that will slow you down.

Taken from a Business Insider article about a tourist who fell off a pier in Australia because she was too busy checking her Facebook.

The Texter 
There is reason why it is now illegal to text and drive. Our brain is just not fast enough to respond to these two things at once. Have you ever been trapped walking behind a texter? Their pace slows to that of molasses flowing, and of course their head is down so they are completely unaware they are slowing families down. You might be secretly hoping, like me, they walk unsuspecting into an oncoming parade and security tackles them to the ground.

Cameras have gotten complex
Courtesy of wikipedia

The Photographer
If you ever thought there was a shortage of photographers in the world, just head to the happiest place on Earth. Self-proclaimed photographers will stop mid walk to bust out their obnoxiously large and expensive cameras. There will not be warning about when they stop, and usually it will be at the most annoying locations in the park. In a hurry to make the next bus? The photographer will stop exactly in the single-file only park exit point and hold up the 900 people behind her because the light happens to look pretty on the water from that exact location. Two feet forward or backward would make traffic flow better for a thousand people, but it’s more important that the photographer get that exact angle. Now if you’re the guest walking behind one of these frequently stopping photographers, when the unexpected stop happens and you have now just bumped into him, be prepared, because even though he stopped at the narrow entryway to the ride in a throng of moving people, he’ll still give you a dirty look for ruining his shot.

They’re coming for you
Courtesy of wdwstrollers

Strollers on a Mission
Apparently the days of small, foldable strollers are gone and have been replaced with Hummer sized stroller made of secret, government, heavy-duty plastic. If you are walking behind these strollers you are safe, but step in front of them and say hello to bruises on your legs. I have not only witnessed, but been a victim of stroller injuries.

Safety in Numbers
I am all for enjoying Disney with friends and family, but a strange epidemic has been taking over our country in recent decades: the need to walk 3, 4, 8, and even 10 people across on a six-foot wide sidewalk has become the norm. Somehow it always seems that when faced with these groups in oncoming traffic, I’m the good samaritan that needs to step aside so their small army can pass. Interesting enough, this is usually the group that takes their sweet ol time walking around the park. Damned if you’re behind them, damned if you’re walking into them. Oh yea, they’ll probably have at least one texter and one photographer among them as well.

So what’s an innocent tourist to do? Here are 3 tips to help you make your way through the Disney crowds and maintain your sanity

Always be on the lookout
Courtesy of cookiesandclogs

1. Always Be On The Lookout
Whenever possible, keep your phone down, put your camera away and look up. Being aware of your surroundings will allow you to spot openings in the crowds. Then you can slither your way through (and usually get in line before them). Keeping you head up also helps you avoid awkwardly bumping into small children. I tend to walk with a heightened sense of urgency in the parks and whoever is in my party better follow suit of get left behind.

Take the path past The Plaza Restaurant to Tomorrowland
Courtesy of eastwdw

2. Take the Path Less Traveled
Most newbies to the Disney Parks are going to stay on the main paths. For the Magic Kingdom, they will proceed down Main Street, hit the castle, and probably head to Tomorrowland or Frontierland. There are less crowded paths directly off Main Street that take you to Adventureland or Tomorrowland. There is a fantastic wooden dock that takes you from Big Thunder Mountain all the way to Liberty Square. It runs right along the river and is hardly ever congested. There are also paths that take you either from Liberty Square to Fantasyland or Fantasyland to Tomorrowland. They run right next to Cinderella Castle. Epcot is full on little winding paths in Future World, but not so much in the World Showcase. There are, however, boats that will take you from one side of the lagoon to the other. If the crowds seem to much, you can always hop on one of these boats to get out of the swarms of people. At Disney’s Hollywood Studios, many people are drawn to the Sorcerer hat and then veer left or right. There is a path to the left after walking partially down Hollywood Boulevard that will take you by 50’s Prime Time Cafe and Echo lake. There is also an opening in the Streets of America that leads you directly to Muppet Vision 3D. Disney’s Animal Kingdom is a little tricky at times because the way the paths were built doesn’t allow many additional option but to use them, however, there are many spots in the park to step to the side and check out some cool animal exhibits. Sometimes the path less traveled is through the gift shops. Often (like on Main Street) gift shops connect and you can weave your way in and out of Mickey merchandise to get to your destination dealing with a fraction of the people. Careful though, you break it you buy it.

Let the craziness pass before you proceed
Courtesy of easywdw

3. If You Can’t Be First, Be Last
In my Rides with Virtually no Lines…Magic Kingdom post, I talked about how Disney offers many “show rides.” I mentioned that for most of these attraction you should not be waiting more than 5 minutes. Once the show concludes, to help avoid getting trampled by fanatic tourists, stroll out at a leisurely pace. Sit for a minute, take your time getting up, and try to be one of the last ones out of the theater. If you can’t be one of the first ones out the door, then take a chill pill. Being in the middle of the masses is not a fun place to be. This idea is also very important when it comes to evening festivities. After Wishes, Illuminations, and Fantasmic, hold tight. Find a park bench to people watch. Take out the rest of your sugar glazed almonds and have a snack. Call a friend or family member that is not with you and try to make them jealous you are at Disney. Once you can visually see the crowds starting to thin, then you can make your way out of the park.

A smart tourist is a happy tourist. Know when it’s time to pick up the pace and put your crowd weaving skills to the test, and when it’s time to sit back and let others do the walking first.

Interesting Tidbits about the Contemporary Resort

Disney’s Contemporary Resort
Courtesy of nl.wikipedia.org

I have a vivid memory of being on a bus going into the Magic Kingdom and passing the Contemporary Resort on the right. At this point in my life (awkward middle schooler) I had indeed tasted the Disney Kool-aid and wanted more. I knew one day I wanted to stay at this modern looking A frame hotel. Plus I always liked the shape of the trees out front. Since that point, I have stayed there three times and it remains one of my favorite Disney hotel spots. Here are five interesting tidbits about the Contemporary I’ve experienced during my stays.

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Cool trees outside the Contempory

1. Water, Water, Everywhere

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Bay Lake and Discovery Island

My very first trip to the Contemporary, my mom and I had a room in the main tower facing Bay Lake. It was night when we arrived and everything looked kind of dark from the balcony. When we awoke the next morning (to Chef Mickey, see below) we were blown away by the size of the lake. I know everyone enjoys Google Earthing Disney World like me, so the next time you get around to it, focus on the Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake. You’ll notice that the part of the lake directly outside the Magic Kingdom is only about ⅓ of the actual lake. From the lake facing rooms, you will also get a view of the now retired Discovery Island. This is also the lake in which the long gone River Country resided. RIP you guys. While you can rent boats at many of the other resorts that have water on their property, at the Contemporary, you can actually go Parasailing and get a view of the Magic Kingdom from the sky.

2. Walk it out

This man is on the path to success
Courtesy of traveldealsbydana.com

I am a sucker for convenient locations. I like staying at Epcot resorts for their proximity to Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and I love the Contemporary for the fact I could throw a rock and hit Space Mountain. As of yet, the Contemporary is the only hotel on the monorail line that you can walk to the Magic Kingdom from, and if you are fully capable, I would forgo the monorail and stroll on over. Without a doubt, you will get there faster than taking the monorail, since it will then have to stop at the Transportation and Ticket Center, the Polynesian, and the Grand Floridian before it makes its way to the Magic Kingdom stop. The walkway is only for guests staying at the Contemporary so it is never crowded and it allows you to enter the bag check at your own pace, not being pushed by the mass droves of people off the monorail, ferry, or boat. This walkway also makes it super convenient to head back to the hotel for a midday nap, snack, swim, or all of the above.

3. A Variety of Viewing Locations

Outdoor patio on 4th floor
Courtesy of land.allears.net

Because the Contemporary is in such close proximity to the Magic Kingdom, you have a few ways you can enjoy Wishes from the comfort of your own hotel. If you are eating a late dinner at the California Grill Restaurant, they pipe the music in so you can enjoy the show. If you opted for the concierge level, they have a private room and balcony that has speakers set up and a great view of the show. Guests with a Park view room will be able to enjoy the show from their balconies. Lastly, anyone staying at the hotel can go to a small outdoor patio off the 4th floor and sit on a bench and enjoy the show. Occasionally the monorail might pass by, but I think that makes it even more special.

4. Chef Mickey = Loud

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This mouse get’s an early start

If you have a room in the tower that is on the side with Chef Mickey, you might be both entertained and annoyed. They first couple times I peered over the ledge and saw napkins flying as Mickey made his grand entrance was great. I felt like a kid again. When you hear the music and shouts starting pretty early in the morning for breakfast, it doesn’t seem as great. This might be one of the downfalls to staying in the main tower, it can get noisy at times, since the area is one big open atrium. For those of you that are very early risers, or have a room on the opposite side of the hotel, you might not even notice the noise. And if you have kids that love Mickey, it’s probably worth it.

5. Lights on Parade

Yea America!
Courtesy of planningformagic.com

For anyone staying at the hotel on Bay Lake, you also get the additional bonus of the Electrical Water Pageant every night. A string of floating rafts covered in lights will pass by the hotel playing music and flashing different scenes as it makes its way across the lake. I’m a sucker for anything Patriotic so that scene is definitely my favorite. It’s an understated bit of Disney magic that is fun for the whole family.

With something for everyone, and little bits of magic at every turn, the Contemporary hasn’t seen the last of me. Stay tuned for more interesting tidbits about the Contemporary and other Disney World Resorts.

Rides with Virtually no Lines…Magic Kingdom

Over the past decade or so, die-hard Disney fans probably agree that the “down season” which used to occupy the weeks without major holidays has become a thing of the past. Frequent visitors might also agree that now there are only two real seasons, very crowded, and somewhat less crowded. Disney has really worked hard to get to this point. They have added special events to fill up that down season. This might scare some people away thinking big crowds equal big wait times, but no need to fret. My idea of a vacation is NOT waiting 180 minutes in a crowded line, and by following these tips, you won’t have to either. This blog shares some of my favorite attractions at the Magic Kingdom where you will encounter virtually no lines.

1. “Show Rides” are your friend

Country Bear Jamboree Clock
courtesy of mouseplanet

So I might have just made up the term show ride, but I thought it explained really nicely the rides and attractions that come in a show format. The Magic Kingdom has many of these show rides: The Enchanted Tiki Room, Country Bear Jamboree, Hall of Presidents, Mickey’s Philharmagic, Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor, Stitch’s Great Escape, and the Carousel of Progress. There is no getting in and out of any fancy boat, space ship, or hollowed out log. For these rides, you simply wait until the doors open, go find a seat, prepare to be amazed, be amazed, then head to the exit for the next exciting part of your day. Many of these attractions have clocks  outside of them that tell you when the next show will start. If you don’t see one, I would ask a nearby friendly cast member. A courteous, “Excuse me sir, can you tell me when the next show starts?” should do the trick. If it’s anything more than 5 minutes, I wouldn’t go in yet. The hall of presidents show is about 23 minutes long. If you just missed going into the last show, don’t waste your time waiting around a room. Go outside, go to the bathroom, drink some water, buy a delicious pretzel, check out the nearby souvenir shop, take a selfie, you get the idea. Then when it’s about 5 minutes to showtime, you can head in. For some of these show rides, you can actually see the queue lines before you decide to get into the line. As you’re walking around Adventureland, walk closely behind the Enchanted Tiki Room. If you can’t hear the pre show birds doing their bit yet, don’t go get it line. If the Carousel of Progress is still spinning, see if you can go get your picture taken with Buzz Lightyear which is located right next door, or watch some of the entertainment on the Tomorrowland stage. Once you see the carousel stop, then you will have enough time to go walk in. My advice would be to not use any of your Fastpass selections on these show rides. There is no real benefit of getting into the waiting area long before you have to. Disney theaters can hold a lot of people, and just about any seat is a good seat. (This is especially true with all 3D shows. The magic of 3D is the action comes to you, the seat you sit in is irrelevant.) I like to think of these show rides as great options to fill some time before I can return for my Fastpass attraction.

2. An attraction that requires physical work

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My husband at the top of Swiss Family Robinson Tree House at night. Check out the castle!

Another attraction that if you time it right you will be met with virtually no line is The Swiss Family Robinson Tree house. This is something I often skip when I go with my mom, but try to do when I’m there with my husband because he gets easily distracted and likes to climb on things. This is also something I will avoid doing on a very hot and humid day, or immediately following a run Disney event. I would make an educated decision on the spot whether this is something you really want to do. Those are 100% real life stairs that not only do you have the pleasure of walking up, but walking back down again. Anyone with foot, knee, or hip problems, people with fear of heights, and people with a fear of doing too much exercise on their vacation should probably pass on this. If you do decide to go exploring up the tree, DON’t go when it looks crowded. Since there is only one way up and one way down, you might feel pressure to walk faster, or perhaps you can only move at a snail’s pace because of the people in front of you taking their sweet ol time. Come back to this attraction when you can physically see the line it short. A great time to climb is at night. The lines will be shorter because most people will be tired at this point. You can also get some really cool views from the top.

3. Attractions that let you stop and smell the roses, or at least the sugar glazed almonds and popcorn

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View of Cinderella Castle from the TTA

These three attractions allow you to experience the Magic Kingdom’s beauty from a relaxed position, always something nice on a long, hot day. The Walt Disney World Railroad, Liberty Square Riverboat and the Tomorrowland Transit Authority (TTA aka peoplemover) are definitely hidden gems in the park. The railroad is great because there are 3 stops, Mainstreet, Frontierland, and Fantasyland. You can decide where to get off, or just keep going around and around, taking in the sights. If one particular train stop looks busy, I would keep wandering on my merry way until I stumble upon the next one. The train also falls into the category of being able to see the queue before you go. Use your judgement. If you think you might not make it on to the next train, hop out of line and do something else. You could always wander over to the Liberty Square Riverboat. The boat boards every half an hour, on the half and full hour. This makes it easy to decide if you can just hop on and go, or do something else and come back. If you’re in the mood for something more futuristic, the TTA is one of my favorite rides to relax on. Not only do you get a beautiful view of Tomorrowland, you will get a peek at Cinderella castle. This queue line moves very fast. What might look like a 20 min line will probably be 5 minutes. The ride vehicles move continuously so unlike waiting for a train or a boat, these cars are always there ready for you to hop into.

While at Disney World, you might be a family that has everything planned out to the minute, or you might be the family that is totally winging it. A successful vacation allows for flexibility. I always enjoy the feeling of getting my money’s worth out of my park ticket. I think it would be impossible to do that if I spent the majority of my day waiting in a line. These parks are beautiful places to explore, and the time you will have being out line will allow you to do just that. Stay tuned for Rides with Virtually No Lines at Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom.