Disney World Crowd Calendar Preview 2016

by on January 11, 2016 16 Comments

Filed under: Crowd Blog, Walt Disney World (FL)

The New Year has arrived and so it is time to take a look back at Disney World crowds in 2015 and what might be in store for Disney World guests in 2016. Last year we did a similar review for 2014 and 2015 including this graphic for which we still don’t have a good name. Wheel of Crowds? Spiro-graph? The Blotchy Donut? Here it is updated with what we actually observed in 2015 and what the Disney World Crowd Calendar predicts for 2016.

Disney World Crowd Preview 2016

Disney World Crowd Preview 2016

One thing that stands out is the brightness of fall 2015 compared to what we saw in previous years. In 2010 to 2014 most of the days in September and October are white or light red but in 2015 the colors are much darker. In fact, it is not hard to see the overall trend of light to dark when you expand out from the centre. The lower crowd levels ( ‘1’s, ‘2’s and ‘3’s) on the Crowd Calendar that we saw in years past just don’t seem as frequent in the present. Disney World is becoming more and more crowded every year.

As you scroll around the circle for 2015 and 2016 the opportunities for low crowds are few and far between. We can see light patches historically in January, late April, early May, September and early December. But in 2015 and 2016 your choices are early September or early December, that’s it.

Let’s take a closer look at 2016, month by month. To see what the crowd will be like on the day of your visit, check the Disney World Crowd Calendar.

January

The Walt Disney World Marathon (January 6-10, 2016) brings in tens of thousands of runners in early January but by January 11 crowds will be minimal for about a week. This might end up being one of the least crowded weeks of 2016. The long weekend for Martin Luther King Jr. Day is the only major bump in crowds in January, this year it falls on January 18. January is also refurbishment season so note that many attractions close for annual upkeep. Soarin’ closes on January 4 for a lengthy rehaul. See all closures here.

February

Unlike 2015, Mardi Gras and Presidents Day do not overlap in 2016. Mardi Gras is February 9, Presidents Day is February 15 so that will spread out the February crowds a little thinner than last year. February is still considered a busy month however, especially in the middle of the month. February 10 to 20 is much busier than the beginning and end of the month.

March

Easter Sunday is March 27 in 2016 so expect March to be very busy. Many school boards have planned spring break adjacent to the Easter holiday. As in most years crowds build from moderate levels in the early part of the month to extreme highs by the end of the month.

April

With Easter out of the way, April 2016 may be a decent month to visit Disney World in 2016. Some school districts will have a week off in early April but the rest of the month should be moderate to busy. Watch out for a bump in attendance during Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend April 14-17. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad goes dark for a lengthy refurbishment starting on April 4.

May

Other than the continuation of Epcot’s Flower and Garden Festival the event calendar in May 2016 is noticeably sparse without Star Wars Weekends at Disney Hollywood Studios. This could make May even more desirable than in years past. Memorial Day weekend will be extremely busy as usual. Animal Kingdom’s new nighttime entertainment might be in full swing by May so that may counteract the lack of Star Wars Weekends and keep the resort wide crowds about the same.

June

June will be a lot like May in terms of crowds. Expect the parks to be busy, hot and humid. Many school districts begin to end their 2016 season in June which means a lot of grad trips to the resort.

July

As much as crowds in fall 2015 surprised us, summer 2015 did not. July crowds have been comparable every year since 2006. The parks will be hot with a significant chance of thundershowers every afternoon. Park hours are extended however, ready for savvy guests to exploit. The only extreme crowds in July will be around July 4 which occurs on a Monday this year.

August

If you must travel to Disney World in summer, we believe that August will be your best bet in 2016 once again. The later in the month you can push your trip, the better. August has no special events.

September

In 2016 Labor Day falls on September 5. As much as September 2015 crowds were surprisingly high, September remains the single best time of the year to visit Disney World if your only objective is to avoid crowds. It may not be the empty oasis that it was in years past but early September is still a great choice. If your kids don’t return to school until after Labor Day consider a trip between August 28 and September 4. It might be the best seven day period all year for low crowds. Disney World is always a crowded place, however, September is simply more manageable.

October

Columbus Day is Monday, October 10 and the weekend surrounding it will be busy. Other than that, October is another good choice for visiting the parks but our Crowd Calendar predictions for October 2016 are noticeably higher than in years past, obviously a reaction to what we saw in 2015. Note that projected crowd levels for 2016 depend greatly on park hours and Halloween party schedules that have not yet been announced. Once the schedule is set, the crowd projections may change.

November

Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival, the Wine & Dine Half Marathon, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas parties, Veterans Day and Thanksgiving make November a difficult month to summarize. Crowds vary widely day-to-day depending on the event schedules. Thanksgiving falls on November 24 in 2016 and Veterans Day falls on a Friday which may increase crowds during that weekend.

December

As busy as fall 2015 was relative to years past, December 2015 was more typical although still busier than expected. Even with the busier parks early December remains one of our favorite times of year to visit Disney World. The parks are festive, temperatures are pleasant and crowds are busy but manageable. Christmas Day falls on a Sunday in 2016 so our projections for crowds will depend greatly on when school districts decide to break for the holiday. If schools choose to end on December 23 then the holiday rush will be pushed a little later into January.

Posted on January 11, 2016

16 Responses to “Disney World Crowd Calendar Preview 2016”

  • Hi Fred- thanks for the article! Just one question: you mention 8/28-9/4 as “the best seven day period all year for low crowds,” however the crowd calendar itself has numbers as high as 6 and 7 during that time period. Do you think that week will be better than mid-September which lists max crowds around 3 and 4? Thanks for your help!

  • Great article! I had one question – actually about the Universal crowd calendar. Is it a bit like weather forecasts and the further out you go, the less accurate they are? I was noticing very low crowd numbers for the end of May 2016. But when I went and looked at actual crowds for that time in the historic crowd data, the numbers were quite high!

  • Fewer 1’s, 2’s, and 3’s than in the past? I thought with the revamp you guys did to the Crowd Calendar a few years back, it was based on percentiles. So a 1 would be in the bottom 10% of crowds for any given year, even if it had more projected visitors than a 1 did in a previous year. I other words, shouldn’t there be approximately 36.5 1’s, 36.5 2’s, and 36.5 3’s in every year?

    • Ah, Mark, but you’re thinking of Crowd Calendar 2.0. When TP went to CC 4.0, it was a return to the idea of numbers being based on actual wait times, rather then relative to other days.
      This was actually a benefit, in the sense that if an update suddenly predicts lower crowds for a few days in November, the percentile system might then result in a higher crowd level prediction for a day in August, even though the actual crowd for that day is the same as it was before.

  • What ever happened to the “What’s Up with Wait Times” installment for Magic Kingdom from Len Testa? The articles for the other three parks at the end of October were very interesting. Did I miss the MK version? Is that still “coming soon”?

  • Thanks Fred. Spot on: We’ve planned a trip at the end of August, so no one else is allowed to change their dates now! 🙂 Are there likely to be modifications to the Crowd Calendar projections later this year, similar as happened in the fall?

  • How about naming this chart the “Spiral of Death”, since it is heading toward total darkness?

  • Greetings, I hate to hijack the thread but I have a question and am uncertain where to ask it.

    I have 2 days in the parks on Friday April 8th and Saturday April 9th. I am uncertain which day to go to the Magic Kingdom.

    Prevailing advice is to avoid MK on Friday due to the AM EMH. However, other advice says to avoid the MK on a Saturday due to the influx of locals etc.

    So, which day do you folks think will be my best bet in terms of crowds and overall enjoyment, Friday with EMH or Saturday?

    Any advice would be a huge help!

    thanks in advance.

    PS – your crowd calendar and touring plans made my family’s visit last April amazing!

  • “Big Thunder Mountain Railroad goes dark for a lengthy refurbishment starting on April 4.” Other websites previously had this listed as well, however on all of them they aren’t listed anymore. Does this need to be updated? Have things changed?

    I saw this and cried as it’s my children’s favorite ride, though Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is new and we haven’t had a ride yet

  • I have a couple of questions please. Is it best to queue for rides first thing and then use your 3 FP, or use FP from 9am? If a park has early magic hrs is it best to use that park or avoid it? If I’d like to use FP on getting a good position for the parade do I need to do this as one of my original FP choices or should I be able to get one later in the day? I presume the answers depend on how busy the parks are, is there a tipping point, like if crowds are 8/10 you’ll only get 3 decent FP a day and best to avoid parks with early opening?

    • IMO – We used the crowd calendar to plan our visits. We like to arrive at the parks as early as possible and ride without FP+ but working them in throughout the morning. My advice is get FP+ for the rides that have typically have the longest wait time. 7 Dwarfs, Space and Peter Pan. After the first 3 FP+ are used you can pick up FP+ for other rides even if on days of big crowds. We visited over NYE and New Years.