It’s going to be a very big and very busy week at Walt Disney World! This post takes a look at the changes on the horizon for the end of the 50th and start of the next chapter, plus the crowd forecast for the next week-plus, which could end up being the peak of Spring Break 2023 in the parks.
That’s because we predicted that the week of spring break for Osceola and Orange County school districts in mid-March would be the worst week, and it ended up being not quite as terrible as anticipated. To be sure, it was very busy–but it won’t go down as one of the top 10 weeks of the year by crowd level.
Consequently, the week leading up to Easter should surpass Central Florida’s spring break as the #1 worst week of Spring Break 2023. Hardly a top title that anyone visiting Walt Disney World will want to boast about, but it is likely to happen.
There’s obvious reason for this, which is that “Easter Equals Spring Break” for many school districts throughout the United States. Although many schools no longer tie their break to the floating holiday, the week leading up to Easter is still the single-most common week for spring break.
Beyond that obvious explanation, there are other reasons why we can expect the first week of April 2023 to be particularly bad…
First, we can take a look at Disney Park Pass reservations. Magic Kingdom has no availability for regular ticket holders starting today (March 31) and continuing through April 11, 2023–with the notable exception of April 9, 2023 (more on this in a minute!).
It’s a similar story with Disney’s Hollywood Studios, which is mostly unavailable for the week to come. In fact, there are actually a couple days (April 3-4) that Animal Kingdom is also fully booked, leaving only EPCOT with availability for the entire week!
The situation is slightly better for Annual Passes, which have no availability for Magic Kingdom but are mostly open for everything else, minus a couple days at DHS.
Of course, this assumes you have an Annual Pass that isn’t blocked out for this coming week. It also assumes you were able to purchase one in the first place, as passes have been “temporarily” unavailable for over a year now. (See When Will Walt Disney World Resume Annual Pass Sales? for our predictions about when they’ll return–we’re optimistic about next month!)
It’s worth noting that Park Passes are (again) a good barometer for attendance forecasts. That stopped being the case for a stretch last year, but Walt Disney World has since stopped utilizing Park Pass to redistribute or normalize attendance across all 4 parks. This was something we observed even last August and September, when crowd levels were at their lowest.
I’m really curious what prompted the change. Could be staffing, guest satisfaction, or lost business as a result of trying to “force” people to visit certain parks. Perhaps a combination of the above. But that’s not the point of this post–we’re simply pointing out that the parks being fully booked for certain dates is a red flag (again).
If you’re visiting during the first week-plus of April 2023 and want some last-minute crowd avoidance advice, we can help (a little) with that. One thing we’ve noticed during peak weeks this year is that crowds drop off markedly over the weekend. That was true during Presidents’ Day and Mardi Gras, and has been the case again during the spring break season.
In fact, one of the reasons that the week we predicted to be the worst of spring break wasn’t as bad as expected was because of the weekend drop-off. During the middle of the week, crowd levels were 10/10 and wait times were 54-60 minutes on average. Over the weekend, wait times bottomed out at 31-34 minutes on average, for 3/10 and 2/10 crowd levels.
Over the course of the day, that’s huge–saving ~20 minutes per ride will allow the average visitor to do several additional attractions per day. We were also in the parks that entire week and weekend, and the “feels like” crowds and congestion were noticeably lower over the weekend. It was downright pleasant, and a sharp contrast as compared to mid-week!
If the Park Pass calendar is any indication, a similar scenario will play out this coming week. Our expectation would be that wait times and overall crowd levels are really close to mid-March, perhaps a few minutes higher throughout the week along with a slightly bigger bump over the weekend. I’d expect 10/10 crowd level weekdays, but probably not 2/10 or 3/10 weekends. Still, even if Saturday and Sunday end up being 7/10, that’s manageable–and great by normal Easter week standards.
With that said, Easter itself is still totally green, meaning all parks have availability. While some might attribute this to the holiday itself, and people wanting to be at home to celebrate, that’s probably not the core cause (but is likely a contributing factor).
From what we’ve observed and heard, the biggest explanation is pricing. Airfare is up significantly for spring break, and those costs plus higher hotel rates for the weekend have pushed more tourists to arrive on Sunday and leave on Friday to avoid the highest prices. Walt Disney World prices are up across the board, too. Anecdotally, we’ve heard that people are purchasing shorter-duration tickets as a result.
As a result, the busiest days at Walt Disney World during spring break season have been Monday through Thursday, with wait times dropping on Friday and crowds consistently lowest on Saturday and Sundays. Visiting the highest priority parks (Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios) on the weekends thus makes the most sense.
Although this has happened repeatedly and without exception throughout spring break season, it is possible that the week leading up to Easter will buck the trend…
That’s because a lot is changing at Walt Disney World in the week to come, with one chapter closing and another beginning. On a positive note (I think), the World’s Most Magical Celebration is being put out of its misery today.
For those who are visiting Walt Disney World for the first time in 18+ months in April 2023 and are sad to be missing this, the good news is that there’s a comparable alternative. Simply subscribe to the ad-supported tier of Disney+ and watch the self-promotional segments before your favorite shows start.
I still remember first getting excited about Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary, and counting down the days until it would start. If you told me back in early 2020 that I’d be counting down the days until it ended, I never would’ve believed you.
Of course, there’s a lot of things that have happened since that would’ve caught me by surprise. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t have expected the celebration to be a thinly-veiled sizzle reel for streaming, and not an actual tribute to 50 years of the Vacation Kingdom of the World. What a letdown.
Thankfully, once Walt Disney World turns the page on the World’s Most Magical Celebration for the 50th Anniversary, some good stuff happens. And that’s precisely what might throw a monkey wrench into crowds.
Here’s a rundown of what will change overnight come April 1, and in the days following the conclusion of the World’s Most Magical Celebration…
The Disney Fab 50 Collection of statues will stick around just a bit longer after the celebration. No word on exactly how long, but given that this scavenger hunt is one of the main MagicBand+ interactive offerings at Walt Disney World, it wouldn’t surprise me if these remain in place quite a while longer. It’s entirely possible that they could be rebranded as Disney100 statues. They’d make more sense for that, anyway.
The EARidescent décor will start to come down this weekend, including the phased removal of the 50th Anniversary embellishments on Cinderella Castle. One positive about this celebration was that it taught me the true definition of jabots and swag! (A jabot is one of the long, hanging pieces of faux drapery; swag is a horizontal bunting piece. Those are objectively awesome names, and we will find new ways to continue using them regularly.)
Along with the removal of the jabots and swag on Cinderella Castle, the Beacons of Magic projections effects will conclude at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, and Magic Kingdom. There wasn’t really much to these, so no big loss.
However, Spaceship Earth will continue to shine well into the future with beautiful light displays each night. This is great news, as the Beacons of Magic on Spaceship Earth were one of the highlights of the 50th. It’s pretty impressive how each new festival has gotten a new show. We’re huge fans of the Beacons of Magic on Spaceship Earth, and are impressed that this continues to get bigger and better.
Also at EPCOT, Harmonious will have its last performance in World Showcase Lagoon on April 2, 2023. The following day, the interim EPCOT Forever makes its return while crews work to destroy the Stargate and Water Tacos. (Destruction that will arguably be the best entertainment of all!)
At Magic Kingdom, the beloved Happily Ever After nighttime spectacular makes its triumphant return to Magic Kingdom on April 3, 2023. The Disney Enchantment fireworks will be offered through April 2, 2023.
In addition to that, TRON Lightcycle Run officially opens on April 4, 2023. It’s been in soft opening mode for the last couple of weeks, with that pausing on April 3 before the official launch the next day.
All of that will have an impact on crowds. Everything at Walt Disney World garners a fan following if it’s around for at least 3 months, with guests developing an emotional attachment and wanting to wish it a fond farewell when it’s retired. Doesn’t matter if it’s Stitch’s Supersonic Celebration or a trash can (basically one in the same).
Same will go for both Harmonious and Enchantment. Nighttime spectaculars are inherently emotional offerings, and these two will resonate with some segment of the fanbase. As such, EPCOT and Magic Kingdom will likely see elevated attendance the next few evenings as fans flock to the parks to see them one last time and say goodbye.
As an interim show, it’s unlikely that EPCOT Forever will draw huge crowds to World Showcase for its return. Again, like anything, it undoubtedly has fans–but probably not enough to move the needle on crowds. More people will want to say goodbye to Harmonious than “hello” or whatever to EPCOT Forever.
However, it is a totally different story at Magic Kingdom for Happily Ever After. There will be a crush of crowds around Main Street and beyond on April 3 to see the homecoming of Happily Ever After. The addition of new projections give it added appeal, but honestly, that’s not even necessary. Fans just want to see this favorite on its first night back.
I had the chance to attend a Happily Ever After preview earlier this month, which was bookended by viewings of Disney Enchantment. The crowd response skewed towards tourists for Enchantment, and was quite positive–lots of clapping and cheering. However, even that warm reception was nothing as compared to the excitement for Happily Ever After.
It’s impossible to articulate, but I’ve never experienced anything like that for any fireworks show ever. It’s going to be a similar scene in Magic Kingdom throughout the early days of Happily Ever After’s return in April. Honestly, the emotion and energy might just make the crowds worth enduring! (Just be sure to arrive early–otherwise, you might be stuck watching from the bridge to Tomorrowland or a backstage bypass corridor.)
Then there’s the aforementioned opening of TRON Lightcycle Run. The soft opening will definitely help relieve some pressure from opening day crowds, but those first several days into the weekend will still be bad. For one thing, not everyone knows about the soft opening. Walt Disney World has publicized it to a considerable degree, even sending push notifications about the virtual queue to those with Magic Kingdom reservations.
However, this is nothing in comparison to the overall marketing for the opening of TRON Lightcycle Run. Plugged in fans who learn about everything within minutes of announcement might find this hard to believe, but it takes a lot of effort to raise public awareness. Many average Walt Disney World visitors are unaware of the soft openings. Then there are the diehard fans who will want to be present for the official opening day of TRON Lightcycle Run, even if they’ve already experienced it during previews or soft openings.
Ultimately, all of this is to say that the coming week at Walt Disney World will be very busy, and with some crowd dynamics that don’t comport neatly with trends observed over the course of spring break to date. This is especially true at Magic Kingdom and EPCOT, which are impacted by the conclusion and return of nighttime spectaculars plus TRON Lightcycle Run in Tomorrowland.
Personally, I’d still put more weight on overall crowd and wait time trends than those wildcards if I were visiting in the week (or so) to come. Doing Disney’s Hollywood Studios on Saturday and Magic Kingdom on Sunday makes the most sense, with EPCOT on Friday and Animal Kingdom whenever. To the extent that isn’t possible, lean into Early Entry, rope drop, and late nights to avoid the worst of the midday crowds. Even during a busy week like the one to come, it’s entirely possible to have a successful and fun visit to Walt Disney World. A little preparation and proper timing goes a long way!
Are you visiting Walt Disney World the week leading up to or following Easter? Have you visited thus far during spring break season? What did you think of the crowds? Any parks, times of day, or days of the week noticeably worse than the others? Did you find Saturday and Sunday to be better than the ‘heart’ of the week? If you’ve visited in past weeks before spring break, did you notice a big difference in crowd levels? Do you agree or disagree with our advice for beating the spring break crowds? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!