Grad Night Crowds Underestimated by Crowd Calendar

We’ve noticed that our crowd estimates on the Crowd Calendar for the last few Grad Nights have been too low. On evenings when the Magic Kingdom closes early for special events such as Grad Nights we typically see diminished crowds during the day. We had predicted crowd levels of 4 and 5 for the last few Grad Nights but thanks to our dedicated Lines users we see that really, the crowds should have been more like a 6 or 7 on our scale.

We have made the necessary adjustments for days when the Magic Kingdom closes early in April and May.

Consider avoiding the Magic Kingdom when it hosts a special event. Afternoon crowds tend to be larger and the shortened park hours make completing a one-day touring plan more difficult.

Fred Hazelton

Fred Hazelton maintains the crowd calendar, theme park wait time models and does hotel rate analysis for the Unofficial Guides. He's also done the models for the new mobile wait times product Lines. Fred Hazelton is a professional statistician living in Ontario, Canada. His email address is You can also follow him on Twitter: @DisneyStatsWhiz.

14 thoughts on “Grad Night Crowds Underestimated by Crowd Calendar

  • April 29, 2010 at 10:58 am

    Hmm. Don’t you guys usually notice a dip in wait times on other special events nights (like MNSSHP)?

    • April 29, 2010 at 11:27 am

      Yes we do. Thats why we (our model) was surprised to see higher wait times during Grad nights. Typically, the early close would keep crowds light. It seems like Grad Nights are an exception so we made the adjustment. It may also be that the affect of events on crowds is seasonal. Maybe during moderate crowd seasons the events don’t reduce crowds as much as lower crowd seasons.

  • April 29, 2010 at 11:13 am

    Grad nights were the only bad thing about our late April trip in 2006.
    And it was because of grad crowds combined with cheerleaders. It led to a little more obnoxiousness than needed. There were a lot of unsupervised high-schoolers in either uncompromising groups or making out in nooks and crannies, especially in the Seas.
    It also messed up our plans to see Wishes. We had missed it earlier in the trip and intended to go back later in the week. But the early closure for grad night caught us by surprise. So, no Wishes on that trip.

    • April 29, 2010 at 11:25 am

      Yes, this is one of the reasons why we usually suggest skipping hte magic Kingdom on days with special events. Missing Wishes is a big gap in the Magic Kingdom experience in our opinion.

  • April 29, 2010 at 11:26 am

    As long as you have park hopper, we think MK is a great park when it closes early. We can use the morning and early afternoon to get all of those long-queue rides done, then come back another day for what we missed – essentially two half-days rather than a full day. I know this works for MNSSHP in September and MVMCP in early December.
    Grad Nites may be different in that the special event ticket holders may show up even earlier. Although MNSSHP allows entry as early as 4:00 sometimes, I’ve noticed that most people arrive around an hour before the party starts. But perhaps the kids try to maximize their time.

    • April 29, 2010 at 11:29 am

      Yes, good tip! Park hoppers are the great equalizer. They can work for special events and extra magic hour mornings. Tour in the morning and hop to a lighter park in the afternoon.

  • April 29, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    Well that makes me feel a little better…we were at MK on Friday, April 23 and it looked much more crowded than a 4 to me! The wait-time for space mountain at 2:15 was posted as 30 min and after 25 minutes in line we hadn’t even gotten into the official queue, we were still lined up into the plaza…then a ride attendant came out and said the sign was wrong it was going to be another 60 minutes from where we were (just outside the entrance).

  • April 29, 2010 at 3:14 pm

    My family was there April 16 -25, staying at the Poly. The crowds were VERY heavy, we thought. Animal Kingdom on the 24th was so full, it was borderline not enjoyable. We went to MK on the 19th, just at night for Spectromagic, knowing that your crowd calendar had adjusted to a “9” that day. WOW – I have only seen it worse at Christmas, and not by much! We were so glad we had gone to Epcot that day instead. (Epcot was crowded too, but not like MK!) Thanks to your touring plans, (we combined a few together) and advise, we did well the entire trip. We regularly saw waits for over an hour all week, but we never waited more than 20 minutes! I don’t know how people do it, when they show up at 10:00 – 11:00 in the morning and with no plan. I am wondering if January, November or early December is better, in terms of crowds/weather. I’ve heard that the early December crowds are really growing, and that this past January people were actually having to wear winter coats and mittens. It’s so hard to figure out when is the best time to go!!!!! Can’t thank you enough for the excellent web site, book and touring plans.

  • April 29, 2010 at 4:28 pm

    I’m tentatively planning a trip for mid-November, so I would very much appreciate it if you all could discourage people from going in November! 🙂 Wink, wink!

    Seriously, love and love the touring plans! I agree with Dawn on the importance of getting there early, but I sure do appreciate all those folks who don’t.

  • April 29, 2010 at 5:46 pm

    Just out of curiosity, what do you attribute to the increase in crowds? Were there more people overall in the parks, or were the higher crowds due to the presence of the Grad Night-eligible crowd (ie, they came earlier in the day and just stayed through the Grad Night event)? I’m scheduled to leave for WDW on Tuesday, May 4th. I’m very happy with the crowd calendar as it stands right now…do you think you under-predicted those days?

  • April 29, 2010 at 7:32 pm

    I’m not sure what Fred would say, Katherine, but the week I was there it was just plain tons of people overall! The Polynesian employees we talked to (and overheard talking to others) said it was way more crowded than what is typical for this time of year. They thought the recent discounts were having a big effect. I bet you’ll have a better week, though, because you’re that much further out from Spring Break. I was there the first week of May a couple of years ago, and it was moderate crowds. The number one thing to do: get to the parks early! Just like the Unofficial Guide tells you – and for some reason, most people simply don’t do this. The first two hours of the day are so pleasant compared to afternoon! It’s like night and day! Just follow their advise and touring plan, and you will have a great trip!

    • April 30, 2010 at 7:19 am

      Thanks Dawn! We went the 2nd week of May last year, and it wasn’t too bad. The worst crowds were the day we went to EPCOT. But, that was also the week the monsoons hit, so the rain cleared a lot of the people out of the parks. We plan to be at every park for rope drop, and we are staying on-site, so we will take advantage of EMH. Hoping the weather stays nice this time! Sounds like you had a great trip, even with the crowds!

  • April 30, 2010 at 2:11 pm

    The dates for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween party have been announced. They start 9/14 instead of earlier in the month. So the big question is: Are you going to re-do the crowd calendar for the early September ?

  • May 5, 2010 at 12:01 pm

    We just got back from Disney. We were there from April 24 – April 28 and were pleasantly surprised how empty the parks were. We found that the crowd level estimates were too high, especially, on April 26 – 28 (levels 5 – 6)and too low on April 24 (level 4). On April 24, Test Track at Epcot had a wait of 130 mins!! While on April 28, the lines were so short at the big ticket rides (Space Mtn, Splash Mtn, Thunder Mtn) they weren’t even operating the fast pass lines. Splash Mountain the two times we went had waits of 5 mins and Thunder Mtn only had a wait of 10 mins. Even Buzz Lightyear wait was only 10 mins and this was early afternoon. Poor economy must be hitting Disney hard since we went the same time 3 years ago and hit much bigger lines.

Comments are closed.