Beginning on Monday, January 9th, guests at Magic Kingdom will be allowed to enter Main Street, USA prior to the park's scheduled opening time. The official opening will include a new welcome show on the Castle Forecourt Stage. Disney is publicly spinning this as allowing guests time to shop and/or grab breakfast items from the Main Street Bakery. However, rumors indicate that the change is an attempt to free up congestion at the entrance during the opening of the park. Some have assumed this change is happening due to upcoming scheduled refurbishments to the railroad but it does appear that this will be permanent, or in the very least, a test run by Disney to improve the crowding and congestion at the entrance and security checkpoints during the opening of the park.
Some guests are upset over this change as it now removes the ability to enter the park early with a breakfast dining reservation. Well, you still will be able to enter early but now Main Street will not be empty. Have you ever seen photos of guests in front of the castle with no one in the background and wondered how in the world that happened as it is almost impossible to avoid other guests in the background of photos at Magic Kingdom? If you had an advanced dining reservation for an 8:00 breakfast at Crystal Palace and Magic Kingdom officially opened at 9:00, you would be allowed to enter the park early. There are guests who do this regularly in order to enjoy an uncrowded Main Street and views of the castle.
It will be interesting to hear guests' comments this week on their experience with the new opening.
New Dining Option
From January 12 through February 22, guests visiting Magic Kingdom will have the option of purchasing a new dining plan called Dine-on-the-Go. Basically, you purchase a certificate which entitles you to the following:
- One quick service entree and one non-alcoholic beverage (no dessert) prior to 4 p.m.
- One quick service entree and one non-alcoholic beverage (no dessert) after 4 p.m.
- Casey's Corner
- Columbia Harbour House
- Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe
- Pecos Bill Tall Tell Inn
- Pinocchio Village Haus
It is possible that you will pay more for your meal certificate than you would if you simply paid out of pocket for those meals yourself. For example, assume that we decide to eat lunch at Cosmic Ray's and dinner at Pinocchio Haus. I looked through the menus and would probably order the falafel burger with fries for $11.99 and a diet coke for $3.29 at Cosmic Ray's. For dinner at Pinocchio Haus, I'd order the caesar salad with chicken for $9.99 and a diet coke for $3.29. The total cost for both of those meals is $28.56. If I had paid for Dine-on-the-Go, I would have lost 44 cents. Not a big deal but, for me, it wouldn't be worth going out of my way to buy a certificate.
Now, there is a way to get more for your money - simply dine at the more expensive restaurants and order the most expensive items off the menu. Personally, I prefer not to dine this way, especially with children. Lunch is at Pecos Bill where I can order a taco burger for $14.99 and a fountain soda for $3.29. Dinner is at Cosmic Ray's where I can order the 1/2 chicken and pulled pork combo for $15.99 and a fountain soda for $3.29. Total out of pocket cost for both meals is $37.56. I would save $8.56 with Dine-on-the-Go.
Another way to stretch your dollar with multiple kids is to eat at Casey's. Unlike most quick service restaurants, Casey's does not have a kids' menu, which means an entree purchased here for a child is expensive than a kid's meal at other quick service places. Kids' meals typically cost between $5.99 and $6.99 and include milk or water. Entrees (not including drink) at Casey's run between $7.99 and $12.29.
Just like the other dining plans, this one is going to have to come down to personal preference.