July 22, 2024

TRON Lightcycle Run Virtual Queue’s Roller Coaster Highs & Lows

The virtual queue for TRON Lightcycle Run has changed a bit in the last few months, with official new ‘rules’ for Party Season and unofficial updates to procedures. This Walt Disney World photo report shares recent experiences with Magic Kingdom’s new roller coaster, what you need to know for increasing your chances of success, and minimizing your time spent waiting in line.

For starters, the first thing you need to know is that there’s no standby line at TRON Lightcycle Run. That and other foundational information about Walt Disney World’s newest attraction is covered in our Ride Guide for TRON Lightcycle Run, which includes our patented (not really) speed strategy for scoring spots in the virtual queue.

TRON Lightcycle Run not having a standby line that doesn’t mean you won’t wait in line. More than anything else, that’s what this update concerns, as the informal/unposted wait time for TRON Lightcycle Run has become high at times and the not-totally-virtual queue return line frequently is quite long…

Let’s start with a statistical update for Party Season, as the early closing of Magic Kingdom multiple nights per week brings a new dynamic to the TRON Lightcycle Run virtual queue. When it comes to the 7 am virtual queue, not much has changed. Availability is still usually gone within seconds–almost always less than one minute.

The 1 pm entry time is when things have gotten interesting. As we’ve noted in countless posts, Magic Kingdom is far less busy on days when Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party is held. However, this does not translate to the 1 pm virtual queue for TRON Lightcycle Run. The reason for this is fairly obvious once you think about it.

With Magic Kingdom closing at 6 pm on Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party nights, there’s a lot less time to accommodate anyone who enters the 1 pm virtual queue. Even though demand for the park as a whole is far lower, it doesn’t drop enough as compared to a normal day to offset losing ~4 hours of capacity for TRON Lightcycle Run. So in essence, it’s a straightforward supply and demand imbalance.

Actually, it’s not just that. On a normal night when Magic Kingdom closes at 10 pm or 11 pm, there’s no sense of urgency to clear the queue by any specific time. If TRON Lightcycle Run experiences a lot of downtime–I was just at the park the other day when it broke down for roughly 3 hours–the ride can keep running and processing guests right up until park closing.

By contrast, the goal on MNSSHP nights is to clear TRON Lightcycle Run of day guests by 6 pm–not just call all boarding groups by then. At least so far, it thus appears that the result of this is Disney being more conservative with the number of boarding groups distributed to day guests during the 1 pm drop on MNSSHP days. That means even less supply, and more of the aforementioned imbalance.

Rather than continuing to over-explain the why of this, I’ll cut to the chase and give you the key takeaway: the 1 pm virtual queue is closing far faster on MNSSHP days than non-party days. That’s the bad news. The good news is that it’s still open for more than just a few seconds–often 5-8 minutes. That’s as compared to the TRON Lightcycle Run 1 pm virtual queue staying open for roughly 30 t0 90 minutes on many recent non-party days.

But wait, there’s more (bad news)! Although those averages aren’t too shabby, they are trending in the wrong direction. In the last few days, there have been instances of the virtual queue closing even faster in the afternoon. It remains to be seen whether those are anomalies or the start of a new-normal as Party Season gets into full swing and guests have a sudden sense of urgency.

Regardless of what happens in the near-term during Walt Disney World’s September slowdown, we’d expect the virtual queue for TRON Lightcycle Run to become (much) more competitive in the medium term, from around late September through December 2023. That’s when Party Season expands from 2 days per week to 3-4 days per week, which is enough to disrupt this dynamic.

That’ll limit supply even further, and also mess with attendance patterns pretty significantly. Unless there’s a lot of unaccounted for change in demand, expect the 1 pm virtual queue to be much more difficult during the heart of Party Season. That’ll continue during the peak of the holiday season, through around January 8, 2024.

For Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party attendees, there’s more good and bad news. We mentioned above that Disney attempts to clear TRON Lightcycle Run of day guests by 6 pm. Well, this means that if you’re fast, score a low boarding group, and return before 7 pm, the return line should be pretty manageable.

Before I get ahead of myself, above and below are screenshots of the process for joining the TRON Lightcycle Run virtual queue during MNSSHP. I’m not going to belabor how this works, but the process is the same as joining at 7 am or 1 pm, and it is not necessary to have already entered Magic Kingdom.

In terms of policy, the virtual queue for MNSSHP is identical to Extended Evening Hours at Magic Kingdom. You can enter at one of the earlier times and again at 6 pm for the bonus hours after normal park closing time. In fact, you could theoretically ride TRON Lightcycle Run up to 3 times in one day if you’re a day guest and party attendee. Once thanks to one of the earlier two VQ times, once via Individual Lightning Lane, and a third time during MNSSHP.

Circling back, my experience with the TRON Lightcycle Run virtual queue during Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party was completely frictionless. I was called back at 6:24 pm and there was no line whatsoever when I arrived.

The whole process was speedy, especially as contrasted with some of the recent waits I’ve endured on regular days and nights in Magic Kingdom. Suffice to say, you can pretty easily be done with TRON Lightcycle Run before 7 pm if you play your cards right.

For what it’s worth, I checked back later during MNSSHP and the return line was longer but still not bad. I can’t speak with authority about the wait time then, but it looked to me as being more consistent with the Lightning Lane than the virtual queue on a normal night. That makes sense, and is more or less what I’d expect throughout Party Season so long as there are no ride breakdowns. (Of course, this is highly anecdotal, so I’d love to hear from others who have done TRON Lightcycle Run during the parties!)

That’s the good news. The bad news is that I wouldn’t be surprised if this changes. The 6 pm virtual queue for TRON Lightcycle Run during Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party has been filling up almost instantly. We’re talking under 10 seconds for all of the parties thus far, which is fairly comparable to Extended Evening Hours at Magic Kingdom.

This leaves absolutely no margin for error. If you don’t have an alarm set, you or your phone are slow, My Disney Experience freezes, or you have any number of other issues–all of which can and do happen to guests every single day–you’re out of luck. There’s a certain “tolerance” for this when it comes to Extended Evening Hours since that is a “free” perk, but it wouldn’t surprise me if this is generating guest complaints at the pricey MNSSHP.

If there are enough complaints…and if TRON is sending out too many empty lightcycles due to the conservative callback of groups aimed at keeping the line short…it also wouldn’t surprise me if there are more policy changes. Basically, I could see the short return lines discussed above become progressively longer over the course of MNSSHP and MVMCP season. In fact, that’s what I’d expect.

As implied above, it’s a different story on normal nights in Magic Kingdom. You will likely be waiting–and potentially for a long time–after returning to the attraction when your boarding group is called.

We offered an update on this over the summer, after several readers reported waiting 45 to 90 minutes in the outdoor overflow queue during the day before boarding a lightcycle. I’ve since been in the same boat, and have waited 40-55 minutes for TRON Lightcycle Run at various points in mid-August 2023.

With that said, I still can’t speak to the average wait time; if the line is outside the attraction entrance, you’re looking at 30 minutes at the very least. If the Lightning Lane is also backed up, virtual queue return wait times of 60-90 minutes are entirely plausible, as priority is given to paid Lightning Lane users.

Previously, I mentioned that the reason this was not on my personal radar was because I always do the 1 pm virtual queue drop and I always hesitate and wait for a few minutes after 1 pm (between 1:05 pm and 1:15 pm based on my perception of crowd levels–or right at 2 pm if I’m Park Hopping). I started doing this because I prefer TRON Lightcycle Run at night, and continued doing it because the return line is almost always shorter after 8 pm. Or rather, because the line used to be shorter at night.

More recently, I’ve either gotten tremendously unlucky with downtime or Walt Disney World has wisened up to this and is distributing more boarding groups and calling back more in the evening hours. Again, entirely anecdotal, but my recent waits have been just as bad at night as during the day.

This was even true during a recent (and particularly bad) Extended Evening Hours at Magic Kingdom, when the return line for TRON Lightcycle Run wrapped all the way back to the attraction marquee that’s at the entrance to the miniland. I actually didn’t end up waiting in that line due to user error (it’s a long and uninteresting story), but it wouldn’t surprise me if it was a 90 minute wait. Not exactly what I’d expect from ExEH!

Previously, I had never used the “speed strategy” for Extended Evening Hours because I prefer having an end-of-night callback. After this experience, I’m going to up my game and see if having one of the first boarding groups distributed during ExEH helps reduce wait times. Given everything else that went wrong that night at Magic Kingdom, it’s certainly worth testing–I can’t see it going any worse!

A few nights after that, TRON Lightcycle Run went down in the evening and had a lengthy overflow queue as a result. Again, I didn’t bother. In this case, it was a calculated decision, though. If the ride goes down during your callback window, you can return at a later time without issue…so there’s very little upside in waiting out the indefinite closure.

Instead, I raced around photographing a stunning sunset (which would’ve been better with lightcycles whizzing by overhead, but ya can’t win ’em all!) and doing a number of other attractions. To the best of my knowledge, TRON Lightcycle Run never reopened that night.

Even if TRON Lightcycle Run doesn’t break down while you’re in the return line, downtime can impact you. If the attraction is temporarily unavailable earlier in the day, that creates a backlog of guests who purchased Individual Lightning Lane access to TRON Lightcycle Run.

Because that’s paid and, naturally, Walt Disney World doesn’t want to issue any more refunds than necessary (and thus lose revenue), Lightning Lane guests are prioritized over those in the regular return line. This is actually true at all attractions with Lightning Lanes, which is why the standby line can come to a crawl–and posted wait times immediately skyrocket–after rides return from downtime. It’s because the ratio of Lightning Lane to standby guests shifts dramatically in favor of the former. Those ratios are always variable, but become the most lopsided post-downtime.

Ultimately, my hope is that this provides some actionable advice or at least interesting insight into how things are going for TRON Lightcycle Run at Magic Kingdom. For what it’s worth, my recent experiences with Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind at EPCOT suggest something somewhat similar happening there with more boarding groups being called back and longer return times, but it hasn’t been nearly as pronounced/bad.

It’s a bit beyond the scope of this post, but the under-discussed angle of these virtual queues is the impact on crowd levels. Weekly wait time averages for August 2023 have been 33-36 minutes across the entirety of Walt Disney World. The lines for both Cosmic Rewind and TRON Lightcycle Run likely have higher averages than that, but are excluded from the data. And again, that’s just the return lines.

It’s impossible to calculate what the actual wait times would be if these rides had standby lines (you can’t come up with a credible number by adding the virtual queue wait to the return wait; there’s no opportunity cost to the virtual queue and thus no balking point), but my guess is at least 120 minutes each on average. That’s a large enough number to have a non-negligible impact on overall crowd levels at both Magic Kingdom and EPCOT.

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YOUR THOUGHTS

Do you have any recent experience with TRON Lightcycle Run? In particular, how long did you wait in the return line and when? Was it during MNSSHP or Extended Evening Hours? After TRON Lightcycle Run had experienced downtime? Any other feedback based on your experiences? Do you agree or disagree with any of our assessment and advice? Any questions? 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!