June 17, 2024

Magic Kingdom Needs More Changes


Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is the reimagined ride replacing Splash Mountain in Frontierland. Walt Disney World has already announced that the new attraction will use a virtual queue during its initial opening days and will offer

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Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is the reimagined ride replacing Splash Mountain in Frontierland. Walt Disney World has already announced that the new attraction will use a virtual queue during its initial opening days and will offer Genie+ line-skipping service. While we view this news as mostly positive, Magic Kingdom still needs to make more operational, Lightning Lane, extra hours, and VQ changes.

This is because Magic Kingdom will be the park with the most ride access ‘quirks’ come June 28, 2024. As things currently stand, it’ll be the only park with two virtual queues. The only park with two Individual Lightning Lane attractions. The only park that doesn’t open all of its headliners for Early Entry. And so on.

Magic Kingdom is able to “get away with” these operational quirks because it has the deepest ride roster. It’s the only park at Walt Disney World that approaches Disneyland in terms of ride density, so even with some guest unfriendly policies and protocol, Magic Kingdom still isn’t nearly as frustrating as, say, Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Still, it would be nice if the most popular theme park at Walt Disney World made a few more changes in the name of the guest experience. Here’s what we have in mind…

Short-Lived Virtual Queue for Tiana’s Bayou Adventure – When Tiana’s Bayou Adventure opens on June 28, it will use a virtual queue. Guests can request to join the virtual queue via the My Disney Experience app at one of two times: 7 a.m. or 1 p.m. While a standby queue will not be available during the attraction’s initial opening days, Walt Disney World expects to open a standby line soon after the attraction’s opening.

This strongly suggests Tiana’s Bayou Adventure won’t have a virtual queue for nearly as long as any other ride at Walt Disney World. Certainly nothing like Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, which is going on two years of a VQ at this point. But the attraction’s “initial opening days” is still vague and open to interpretation.

Our guess is that this is more like the virtual queue for Moana’s Journey of Water. (Remember that? You might not because it was so short-lived!) The obvious difference between the two is that Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is an actual ride–a reimagining of one of the most popular attractions in all of Walt Disney World–whereas Moana’s Journey of Water is a walk-through. Not quite the same in terms of demand.

Perhaps a more apt comparison is Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway at Disneyland, which dropped its virtual queue less than a month after opening. So that narrows down the range from a few days to about a month for the Tiana’s Bayou Adventure virtual queue. Our guess is that the virtual queue for Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is retired by July 8, 2024 at the latest.

That might be overly optimistic, but I really don’t think so. Walt Disney World’s verbiage of “initial opening days” suggests it’s not lasting until August. That’s the start of the off-season, so surely it’ll be long gone by then, right? RIGHT?!?

While we’re totally on board with a few days to a week or so of a virtual queue to avoid ~300 minute posted wait times, anything more than that borders on causing more problems than it fixes. Here’s hoping the TBA VQ is very short-lived!

Dynamic Virtual Queue for TBA – One of the lessons learned from the virtual queue for Moana’s Journey of Water is that water-based attractions are not as popular once the sun goes down. Really, this wasn’t a new lesson. Splash Mountain and Kali River Rapids have existed at Walt Disney World for decades, and this dynamic has played out there for ages.

When it first opens, there will be no shortage of demand for Tiana’s Bayou Adventure at all hours of the day. It could be 11 p.m., and guests will still be returning to the virtual queue. It helps that Magic Kingdom has a lot to do and late June will be pretty hot, even in the evening.

But that won’t last long. I’d give it a couple of weeks, at most. Even in the summer months, Splash Mountain had much shorter wait times at night–once there was no sun for a free “dry cycle.” If Tiana’s Bayou Adventure does, for whatever reason, keep the virtual queue after July 8, then Disney will need to use the virtual queue dynamically, based on demand. Now this is a lesson learned from Moana’s Journey of Water, which used the virtual queue during the daytime rush but offered open-access at night.

Tiana’s Bayou Adventure will need to do the same thing if the virtual queue lasts more than a week. Otherwise, there will be a lot of angry guests who get shut out of the virtual queue because they didn’t have fast enough fingers to score a spot during the millisecond it was open…only to see the ride dispatching empty logs at the end of the night!

Open TBA for Extended Hours – While Walt Disney World has announced that Tiana’s Bayou Adventure will use a virtual queue during its initial opening days, they’ve been silent as to its status during Extended Evening Hours. This isn’t necessarily cause for concern, as other attractions haven’t had VQ details revealed for Extended Evening Hours until closer to opening. So there’s still time for Tiana’s Bayou Adventure.

Worth noting is that the first Extended Evening Hours at Magic Kingdom after Tiana’s Bayou Adventure opens isn’t scheduled until July 3, 2024. Our bet is that Walt Disney World will keep the virtual queue in place during normal operating hours through the Independence Day holiday weekend, dropping the VQ by July 8 (give or take).

That would mean that there’s at least that one Extended Evening Hours when Tiana’s Bayou Adventure could be using a virtual queue during daytime operations. In such scenarios, there would normally be a 6 p.m. virtual queue entry time for Extended Evening Hours. That’s currently how access to TRON Lightcycle Run works during ExEH.

Regardless of how long the virtual queue lasts for Tiana’s Bayou Adventure during the day, we hope that the ride is both open during Extended Evening Hours and uses a standby line during the bonus time. Given the lessened popularity of water rides at night, we think this seems reasonable. Even if the standby line ends up being long, so what? Let people wait in long lines if they so desire.

Downgrade Seven Dwarfs Mine Train to Genie+ – This roller coaster is now about a decade old, but remains very popular and its Individual Lightning Lanes sell out with regularity. I don’t see circumstances changing between now and Beyond Big Thunder to materially impact its popularity.

It’s also more of a known quantity; less refurbishment-intensive and weather dependent. Meaning Seven Dwarfs Mine Train could continue to sell out ILLs indefinitely on a more consistent basis than Tiana’s Bayou Adventure over the course of the next decade, not just the next few years. Which is probably why Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is retaining its ILL status and Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is joining Genie.

Although ILLs would continue to sell for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train for years to come, the same could be said for the newer Slinky Dog Dash at DHS, and yet, that’s a Genie+ attraction. It’s also just not a good look to charge for a decade-old ride at a time when Walt Disney World is constantly accused of being greedy. All things considered, the safe and guest-friendly move is downgrading Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.

Honestly, Walt Disney World might still come out ahead moving Seven Dwarfs Mine Train to Genie. They could charge even more for the bundle and more guests would buy it thanks to the even more stacked ride roster. But from my perspective, this mostly comes down to pay-per-ride status being more palatable if it’s reserved for only the latest and greatest ride in each park that is in very high demand, but low supply. TRON Lightcycle Run fits the bill, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train does not.

Drop TRON Lightcycle Run’s Virtual Queue – The virtual queue for TRON Lightcycle Run has worn out its usefulness and the attraction would now be better served by a standby line. Not only would this improve efficiency (there are times when it dispatches empty seats first thing in the morning or late at night), but it’s the guest friendly thing to do.

And I say that as someone who personally benefits tremendously from virtual queues, so this perspective is against my own self-interest! I like virtual queues because I’m good at them. If you’re reading this, you probably are, too. Virtual queues are great for people like us because they function similarly to how free FastPass used to work–although the return lines have gotten worse this year. At minimum, they’re more efficient than waiting in a standby line and/or are cheaper than buying an Individual Lightning Lane.

I’m doing TRON Lightcycle Run and Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind almost every single time I visit Magic Kingdom or EPCOT–even on days that are “just for fun” with no strategy or research agenda. The only other headliner attraction I ride as much as those two is Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (can’t resist at the end of the night when it’s a walk-on). That most definitely would not be true if the rides were posting 90+ minute standby wait times–and both would but for the virtual queue.

I know I’m not alone in this. A lot of other Annual Passholders and locals who would otherwise balk at high standby wait times are doing Cosmic Rewind and TRON Lightcycle Run every single visit. The thing is that ride capacity is a zero-sum game. If the virtual queue is filling up with a bunch of APs and locals who would skip a 90-minute standby wait, those spots are coming at the expense of someone else.

The “losers” are disproportionately first-timers and technology-averse guests. These people are often oblivious to virtual queues or unable to join for whatever reason, but many of them are willing to wait in a long standby line. The ‘balking point’ is higher for them–they’ve never done the ride and its marketing might’ve been one of the reasons they booked the Walt Disney World trip in the first place!

These are the very demographics that, in my opinion even as a biased and self-interested Annual Passholder, Walt Disney World should be favoring. It’s probably better for the sake of guest satisfaction and creating new fans to make things easier for these people, and removing one layer of friction. At this point, there’s little compelling reason for TRON Lightcycle Run to still have a virtual queue. Shift to standby, let it post 90+ minute wait times, and people will prioritize accordingly. And again, that’s not the only benefit–it would also increase efficiency in the evenings and mornings. Speaking of which…

Open TRON Lightcycle Run Early – We’ve been saying for years now that Magic Kingdom is the worst park for Early Entry. The combination of the 9 a.m. opening plus a limited ride roster plus Walt Disney World’s most popular park is a recipe for crowds and surprisingly long lines. I’ll have a full report soon, but suffice to say, my most recent Early Entry test runs did not go so well.

There are a few possible fixes for this, but the most realistic one is running TRON Lightcycle Run during Early Entry. If it didn’t have a virtual queue, it almost certainly would operate during Early Entry since it’s in Tomorrowland. Although it would induce some added demand, I’d hazard a guess that the extra capacity would be a net positive, relieving pressure on Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Space Mountain. That extra 30 minutes also means more guests could ride over the course of the day. It’s a win-win move.

Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!


What operational, Lightning Lane, extra hours, VQ (etc.) changes would you like to see made in Magic Kingdom? Are you excited for the opening of Tiana’s Bayou Adventure at Magic Kingdom? Glad that it’ll have a limited time virtual queue for the initial opening period, or would you prefer a multi-hour standby line? What about TBA getting Genie+ status as opposed to an Individual Lightning Lane? Do you agree or disagree with our advice? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!

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