The weather in Southern California is wreaking havoc on crowd patterns at Disneyland Resort. Rain has been so heavy in the first quarter of 2017 that the parks have closed early on some days. The effect on crowds is significant because is reduces the crowds on the poor weather days but creates a big, disproportionate bounce-back effect when the sun comes out. So, it is time to update the Disneyland Crowd Calendar.
Hidden under all the volatility due to weather is an overall increase in wait times. The increase has been evident in recent months, especially at Disneyland Park.
The first 50 days of 2017 are unique in the history of Disneyland Crowds
Here is a look at the first 50 days of 2017 compared to what we usually see at Disneyland Resort. Wait times are significantly up but only on certain days. Overall the volatility (range of average daily wait times) is way up too. There are some recent signs that the crowds are returning to normal so we will be watching closely. In the meantime, these latest trends necessitate an update.
What Leads to Updates in the Disneyland Crowd Calendar?
Our crowd calendar models look at hundreds of factors when considering how busy Disneyland Resort will be on any day. Some factors are based on how the economy is doing – things like the U.S. unemployment rate, the Consumer Price Index, and so on. Other factors track the operating schedule. Of those, here’s a list of the things that change often and tend to influence the crowd calendar numbers:
Pandora: The World of Avatar opens May 27, 2017 at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. We don’t know all the details yet, but our experience tells us some basic things about how crowds will interact with Animal Kingdom after the new land opens. Since we hear that pictures are better than words, Brian put together a video to explain. If you would like to see more things like this, please give us some suggestions in the comments. Oh, and don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel so you don’t miss anything!
Pandora: The World of Avatar opens officially at Animal Kingdom on May 27, 2017 and crowds will flock to the park to take in the new attractions. Expect to wait 200 minutes or more to experience the new attractions during the first week of operation. We also expect wait times at other Animal Kingdom attractions to increase 15% when the new Pandora attractions open, and we expect that increase to last throughout most of the summer.
The last major addition to a Disney Park was New Fantasyland at Magic Kingdom. The expansion ended with the opening of Seven Dwarfs Mine Train on May 28, 2014, two days after Memorial Day. Wait times at Magic Kingdom rose dramatically after the headliner opened, not just at nearby Fantasyland attractions but across the park. Animal Kingdom doesn’t draw the same crowds that Magic Kingdom does, and Pandora likely won’t have the same draw that New Fantasyland did, but it is reasonable to expect a significant bump in attendance. The new Pandora attractions will see extreme wait times throughout the summer, but we expect rides like Expedition Everest and Kilimanjaro Safaris to see wait times go up, as well.
As a result, we are updating the Crowd Calendar to reflect the announcement of Pandora’s official opening date. In addition, we are making a few minor updates to other dates and parks in line with our most recent analysis.
Other New Developments That May Affect Crowds
Disney announced an increase to Walt Disney World ticket prices, with costs going up as much as 10% for certain multi-day tickets. A price increase can lead to a small dip in attendance, either through shorter or fewer trips. What we don’t yet know is how much this price increase will affect crowds, given the opening of Pandora and other developments.
We expect Disney’s Hollywood Studios to drop its evening Extra Magic Hours program. We also expect the Animal Kingdom to add evening Extra Magic Hours, and Magic Kingdom not to replace its evening parade (at least with anything new or notable) for the next few months. The net effect of those changes should be to push evening crowds to the Animal Kingdom. We’ve never seen this situation before, though, and we don’t know how much the price increase in park hopper tickets will discourage people from visiting a second park per day.
Is Pandora Animal Kingdom’s New Fantasyland?
It may take our models up to 30 days to recognize the impact of these changes. We’ll adjust each park’s crowd predictions based on that and post something to the blog explaining the changes as we get them.
What’s Behind These Crowd Calendar Updates
Here is a brief description of what you will see on the latest crowd calendar. As always, the crowd levels are subject to change as they are based on the information available to us at the time we make the predictions. We always encourage you use a touring plan as the best defense against any size crowd – they work, so use ’em!
The rest of February will see some minor changes that reflect dips in wait times we have seen in late January and early February, mostly at Hollywood Studios. The calendar is currently not predicting a large boost in wait times at Animal Kingdom when Rivers of Light begins regular performances but that may have to be revised once we see what happens after February 17. Unless you are visiting specifically to see the show, try to avoid that park, especially in the evening.
I’m preparing for a talk with UCF data science students later this month on the statistical and machine learning tools we use for our Disney World wait time predictions.
After covering the basics – how we collect wait times, the hundreds of things we consider (everything from Extra Magic Hours to public school holidays, to the state of Brazil’s economy six months ago) – I wanted to say a little about how to handle the situation where you know in advance that Disney’s posted wait times will be wrong.
I’m comparing Buzz Lightyear’s actual wait times and posted wait times using the graph below. If the time you actually spent in line was exactly the posted wait time, every red dot shown below would fall on the black diagonal line.
As you can see, the red dots do not all fall on the diagonal. Some aren’t even close. The dot in the lower right that I highlighted is an example of someone waiting 5 minutes to ride Buzz Lightyear when the posted wait time said they’d wait 70 minutes.
The other dot I highlighted, in the upper left, represents someone actually waiting 65 minutes when the posted wait said they’d be there for 30 minutes.
The average difference between the actual wait time and the posted wait time at Buzz Lightyear is around 40% – roughly 8 minutes, plus or minus – out of 20 minutes (the average posted wait at Buzz). But as you can see, it varies. A lot.
Back in June and July, we mentioned that there will be tweaks to the Crowd Calendar in 2017. The changes are minor and are intended to better differentiate the crowd levels on different days. Looking back at the 2016 data, the crowd levels were skewed. We want the distribution to be a “normal” or bell-shaped curve. Having half the days in a year a 8, 9, or 10, is not good. We are not re-writing history; we are re-defining what the crowd levels mean. For example, an average wait time of 100 minutes at Space Mountain was a “10,” but with the 2017 adjustment it will be an “8.” It will now take an average wait time at Space Mountain to be above 127 minutes to be considered a 10. Wait times have increased, so an adjustment is needed.
Another New Year is arriving and while the champagne is chilling let’s take our annual look at the crowds in 2016 and what to expect in 2017. Here is last year’s post. 2016 was a year with highly variable crowds at Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios while Magic Kingdom and Epcot remained predictable. Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom saw the most significant changes take place in 2016. The Studios saw many of its attractions affected by the construction of Star Wars Land and Toy Story Land while its most popular attraction, Toy Story Midway Mania increased its capacity per hour by 50%. Animal Kingdom saw major construction as well for Pandora and the park saw closing hours after sunset for the first time in the parks history.
Walt Disney World Crowds Since 2011
In 2016, for only the second time since 2005, Christmas fell on a Sunday. This led us to suggest that Christmas crowds in 2016 might be the lowest in recent memory since school boards spread their scheduled holidays over more weeks than usual. That seems to be coming true as we have yet to see any park reach capacity during this year’s holiday rush. It is very likely that Magic Kingdom will end that streak on New Year’s Eve but in most years we see many park closings due to capacity before December 31st.
Thanksgiving crowds in 2016 were similar to what we see most years and the rest of the fall continued the pattern of larger crowds than what we have seen before 2015. Summer was busy but had pockets of lower than usual crowds. May ended up being a good time to visit, partially due to the lack of Star Wars Weekends at Disney Hollywood Studios. The period between mid-March and Easter week saw some of the largest crowds we have ever seen during that period. Presidents Week was busy as usual and January was similar to what we saw in 2015.
If the crowd levels have changed for your travel dates, don’t panic. A touring plan is still, by far, your best defence against a crowded Universal park. Follow it and you won’t notice a difference between a crowd level ‘5’ and a crowd level ‘8’. If you want to be notified when a crowd level has changed, check out the Crowd Tracker. For a description of how we come up with the numbers, see our Crowd Levels page.
Here is a quick look at how this new update affects the crowd level predictions over the past twelve months.
Crowds at Walt Disney World were down last week, especially during the middle part of the week. Magic Kingdom led the way with the busiest crowd level most days while Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom had some of the lowest crowd levels we have seen this fall.
Let’s look at how the crowd levels stacked up each day last week on the Touringplans Walt Disney World Crowd Calendar Report:
Wait times were up at Disneyland Resort last week, especially during the middle part of the week. Disneyland Park was mostly responsible for the spike with crowd levels two to three points higher than Disney California Adventure most days. Other than on the weekend, Disney California Adventure saw crowd levels no higher than a ‘3’ on our scale.
Let’s look at how the crowd levels stacked up each day last week on the TouringPlans.com Disneyland Crowd Calendar Report:
Universal Crowd Calendar Report for October 30 through November 5, 2016
Last week, Universal Orlando crowds were down, in the lowest third of our crowd scale most days. Universal Studios park saw crowd levels much closer to what the Universal Crowd Calendar predicted than at Islands of Adventure where crowds stayed one to two points lower.
Let’s look at how the crowd levels stacked up each day last week on the TouringPlans.com Universal Crowd Calendar Report: