Post Thanksgiving week crowds at Walt Disney World are usually a lot like pre-Thanksgiving crowds, lighter than average but not as low as early fall. This year, crowds during the first week of December were at or below average but higher than we predicted. In some cases, much higher. We under-predicted every day by one or two index points. The first week of December is one of our favorite times of year to visit Walt Disney World. The crowds are usually below average, the parks and resorts are decorated for Christmas, but the fall heat has faded to a moderate temperature, perfect for touring. Given the levels hit this past week, it may be a sign that the first week of December is losing favor as a great time to visit, perhaps due to special events. The Christmas Day Parade taping at the Magic Kingdom brings hordes of visitors to Main Street, U.S.A., in early December, and the Pop Warner Football Championship brings thousands of ‘tweens and their families to the value resorts. If you can avoid the impact of these events, then the festive atmosphere and cool temperatures may make the first week of December a favorite for your family.
|December 1 to 7, 2013|
On Sunday all parks were below average except for the Magic Kingdom which reached a level ’5′ on our scale. This was two levels higher than the ’3′ we predicted thanks to higher than expected wait times at Jungle Cruise (34 minutes) and Peter Pan’s Flight (49 minutes). Surprisingly, several headliner attractions had lower than expected average waits. Namely Big Thunder at 38 minutes (predicted 54) and Space Mountain at 33 minutes (predicted 41). The Studios came in two levels lower than predicted thanks to low waits at Tower of Terror and Star Tours.
On Monday, the Magic Kingdom surprised us again reaching a level ’7′ on our scale, strange for a Monday although we often see larger crowds when Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party takes a day off. Average wait times were 10 to 15 minutes higher than expected at the headliners. This is a day where the Optimize option on our mobile app Lines is a great help so you can re-organize your touring plan live in the park. Lines tracks wait times every day as they happen and sometimes it determines that you can gain an advantage by readjusting your plan for the day. All the other three parks had crowd levels lower than the Magic Kingdom, as predicted.
If there were surprises on Tuesday they happened at Epcot and Animal Kingdom although neither park hit above crowd level ’5′, we predicted ’3′. The headliners at Epcot had low waits (63 average for Soarin’, 71 average for Test Track), it was the lesser attractions that pushed the park level up to a ’5′. Living with the Land at 11 minutes and Spaceship Earth 14 minutes. At the Animal Kingdom it was Dinosaur (30 minutes, predicted 11) and Kilimanjaro Safaris (45 minutes, predicted 19) that pushed the park level higher than expected. Still, both parks had manageable crowds with the majority of attractions having below average wait times.
The lack of a Christmas Party brought higher than expected wait times to the Magic Kingdom again on Wednesday. This time it was Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin (32 minutes), Pirates of the Caribbean (20 minutes), Splash Mountain (34 minutes) and The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (42 minutes) that had higher than expected waits. It is interesting that we accurately predicted waits for the headliners like Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Peter Pan’s Flight but underpredicted the others. Any other park was a good choice with none reaching a park level above ’3′, although even with the higher waits, the Magic Kingdom remained a reasonable choice at a level ’5′.
Wait Times at the Animal Kingdom were much higher than expected at each of the main attractions. Dinosaur hit a 34 minute average wait time, Expedition Everest 27, Kilimanjaro Safaris 34 and Primeval Whirl 14. These were about double what we predicted, our worst performance since the launch of Crowd Calendar 4. We predicted a level ’1′ but these wait times translated to a level ’5′. It is unclear why wait times reached this much higher than expected, our models would suggest that this underprediction would happen only about 2% of the time. It may be part of this random 2% or it may be due to some some reason(s) that we don’t yet know about. Other parks were higher than expected although within normal prediction errors, at a level ’4′ or below.
Resort wide crowds reached a level ’5′ again on Friday. Only Epcot exceeded that when it hit a level ’6′ on our scale. We had the Studios as the lowest crowd level which ended up correct so we hope you picked that park as your park to visit on Friday. Our under-predictions continued Friday which each park coming in two points higher than our predictions. Touring plans performed well on Friday however since the under-predictions were generally across the board, with no particular park or attraction standing out.
Our models returned to proper error limits on Saturday where we were within 1 index point for our resort wide level and at every park except Epcot. Epcot crowd levels reached a ’6′ on our scale, three higher than the ’3′ we predicted thanks to average wait times that reached 10 to 15 minutes higher than we expected. Once again, it was the less popular attractions like Spaceship Earth and Living with the Land that drive the park levels higher, not the headliners so those of you following touring plans at Epcot likely managed fine. The Studios had the lowest park level as we predicted so those of you that took advantage of the Extra Magic Hour morning experienced the lowest waits of the week.
|December 8 to 14, 2013|
Crowds are projected to be below average again this week with the exception of Saturday, December 14. Watch out for bottlenecks on Main Street, U.S.A during the taping of the Christmas Parade and beware of the busy value resorts during the final days of Pop Warner Football Championships.
Successful touring this week will depend on manoeuvring around the Very Merry Christmas Parties to plan the right day to visit the Magic Kingdom. Use your Lines app while in the parks to adjust your touring if the crowds are larger than expected. Enjoy the holiday atmosphere and make sure to see the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at the Studios, a perennial favorite.
To see Walt Disney World Crowd predictions for the days of your vacation, check the Crowd Calendar.
The separately ticketed Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party continues on many nights at Magic Kingdom, which means savvy planners who don’t mind the shortened park hours can experience low wait times during the day.
To get details about our predictions of future crowds or details about crowds in the past check out the Crowd Calendar and select “Jump to Date” on the left margin.