Disney World News: Ticket Sales Stopped, Water Park Closure, AP Perks, NYE Fireworks

It’s time for another Walt Disney World news roundup! This one has the latest changes to Extended Hours and New Year’s Eve schedules, Blizzard Beach closure, Indiana Jones stunt showtimes, Annual Pass “perks,” and the suspension of regular theme park ticket sales this week.

As usual, we’ll start with the latest release of new and modified operating schedules. All four theme parks have had hours for another week added to DisneyWorld.com’s park hours. The current calendar now runs through February 2, 2022. Here are the hours for most dates that are newly-added through the end of this year and into Winter 2022:

  • Magic Kingdom: 9 am to 8 pm
  • Epcot: 10 am to 9 pm
  • Hollywood Studios: 9 am to 9 pm
  • Animal Kingdom: 9 am to 7 pm
  • Disney Springs: 10 am to 11 pm (11:30 pm on Fridays & Saturdays)

Remember, Magic Kingdom closes at 8 pm on Disney Very Merriest After Hours dates, with that Christmas party running from 9 pm until 1 am. In addition to that schedule quirk, there are a handful of extensions and cutbacks to report between now and February 2022…

First, park hours for Magic Kingdom have been extended to 1 am on December 30 and 31, and Disney Enchantment has been moved to 6:30 pm on both nights. Likewise, Harmonious has moved to 6:30 pm on December 31, with Epcot closing at midnight.

This is significant because that’s what time Disney Enchantment would occur if Fantasy in the Sky were going to happen in time for the countdown to midnight. It also leaves the door open for…I don’t know, something…at Epcot for the 11:50 pm time slot. While I don’t want to get too excited just yet, there’s nothing to say the Global Countdown to New Year’s tag that used to follow IllumiNations couldn’t be shown. They did it for Epcot Forever.

In addition to Magic Kingdom closing at 8 pm during peak season for the Christmas party, it’ll start closing at 8 pm nightly in January 2022. We’re hoping that these are simply boilerplate hours, but the Extended Evening Theme Park Hours schedule (see below) seems to reinforce this earlier closing time.

It’s worth noting that Disneyland has a normal scheduled opening time of 8 am and closing time of midnight through its published dates in January 2022. Granted, Disneyland has a lot more to do than Magic Kingdom, but the 8 pm closing time is still absurd.

Next, we have more dates for the Extended Evening Theme Park Hours that will allow eligible guests to experience select attractions, shops, and dining after regular park hours—in Epcot and Magic Kingdom on select nights.

We’ve done both and they’ve been fantastic. Here’s our Extended Evening Hours at Magic Kingdom Photo Report. The story is very similar at Epcot. (It’s slightly less advantageous there simply by virtue of the park having fewer rides–but the low crowd atmosphere is excellent at both parks.)

As a reminder, this perk is available to guests staying at Deluxe Resorts, Deluxe Villas, Disney Vacation Club units, or other select hotels (Swan & Dolphin or Shades of Green). Guests staying at Value Resorts or Moderate Resorts at Walt Disney World are not eligible for the Extended Evening Theme Park Hours.

We stopped sharing the weekly updates to this Extended Evening Theme Park Hours schedule a while ago since it was simply adding Epcot each Monday and Magic Kingdom each Wednesday. However, that has changed with the latest schedule update…

Date Theme Park Extended Hours
Monday, Nov 22 EPCOT 10:00 PM – midnight
Wednesday, Nov 24 Magic Kingdom 10:00 PM – midnight
Monday, Nov 29 EPCOT 10:00 PM – midnight
Wednesday, Dec 1 Magic Kingdom 9:00 PM – 11:00 PM
Monday, Dec 6 EPCOT 10:00 PM – midnight
Wednesday, Dec 8 Magic Kingdom 9:00 PM – 11:00 PM
Monday, Dec 13 EPCOT 10:00 PM – midnight
Wednesday, Dec 15 Magic Kingdom 9:00 PM – 11:00 PM
Monday, Dec 20 EPCOT 10:00 PM – midnight
Wednesday, Dec 22 Magic Kingdom 9:00 PM – 11:00 PM
Monday, Dec 27 EPCOT 10:00 PM – midnight
Wednesday, Dec 29 Magic Kingdom 9:00 PM – 11:00 PM
Monday, Jan 3 EPCOT 9:00 PM – 11:00 PM
Wednesday, Jan 5 Magic Kingdom 8:00 PM – 10:00 PM
Monday, Jan 10 EPCOT 9:00 PM – 11:00 PM
Wednesday, Jan 12 Magic Kingdom 8:00 PM – 10:00 PM
Monday, Jan 17 EPCOT 9:00 PM – 11:00 PM
Wednesday, Jan 19 Magic Kingdom 8:00 PM – 10:00 PM
Monday, Jan 24 EPCOT 9:00 PM – 11:00 PM
Wednesday, Jan 26 Magic Kingdom 8:00 PM – 10:00 PM
Monday, Jan 31 EPCOT 9:00 PM – 11:00 PM
Friday, Feb 4 Magic Kingdom 8:00 PM – 10:00 PM

As you can see, the latest addition switches to Friday for Magic Kingdom. Additionally, some of the 2022 Extended Evening hours for both parks shift earlier, likely due to shorter winter operating hours. It’ll be interesting to see whether this is a permanent change or temporary one.

Hopefully it’s temporary, as Wednesday is a better day for Magic Kingdom to offer this perk. If park hours end up being extended due to heavier crowd projections in February (what we’re expecting), this potentially boxes Magic Kingdom into closing earlier on Friday. That pushes even more people to Saturday, which is already the worst day of the week at Magic Kingdom right now.

In other operational updates, Blizzard Beach water park is closed today and tomorrow due to cold weather in the Orlando area. It’s expected to reopen on Thanksgiving, but that’s far from certain.

I’m mentioning this less for the Blizzard Beach component–anyone already here knows it’s not water park weather–but to offer a “heads up” about the cold front to anyone coming down in the next week. Temperatures took a metaphorical ride on Summit Plummet last night, dropping 20 degrees in only a couple hours. We were at Epcot and the park cleared out in the evening–but was still busy as compared to a couple weeks ago.

Lows are in the low 50s or upper 40s for most of the extended forecast. Anyway, consult our Winter Packing Tips for Walt Disney World, as staying late to outlast the guests who didn’t pack for the weather is pretty much the best strategy right now.

In other calendar news, we’ve known for several weeks now that Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular returns on December 19, 2021. (It’s really needed this week!)

Today, Walt Disney World posted showtimes for the Indy stunt show through January 12, 2022. It’ll be performed daily at 12:00 pm, 1:15 pm, 3:15 pm, 4:45 pm, and 6 pm.

Following the news that Walt Disney World was temporarily suspending sales of new Annual Passes, they announced new AP perks coming to the parks. I’m not sure if this was an attempt to change the narrative or rub salt in the wound. I don’t think it really succeeds at doing either, since the “benefits” end up having air quotes around them.

First, Annual Passholders can enjoy reserved seating to Disney KiteTails at Animal Kingdom from December 1-15, 2021. Seating is “limited” and Annual Passholders should plan to arrive no later than 5 minutes before showtime. Passholders should enter across from Theater in the Wild and show their valid Annual Pass to a Cast Member. Passholder Entrance signage will also be available to help guide Passholders to the correct entrance. (Even on busy days, KiteTails has abundant seating–and this doesn’t sound like it’s by the coveted crash zone, anyway.)

Second, there’s going to be a cup that Annual Passholders will be able to purchase with a Gingerbread Milkshake at the Donut Box Holiday Kitchen during the 2021 Epcot Festival of the Holidays. Passholder must present a valid AP card and government-issued photo ID to purchase. If this is anything like other special ‘milkshake mugs’ we’ve bought at Walt Disney World, it’ll be great at melting in the dishwasher.

Finally, Walt Disney World has stopped selling tickets for the remainder of Thanksgiving week. This follows the temporary suspension of Annual Pass sales earlier this week, which is almost certainly due to holiday season attendance forecasts. (As we wrote yesterday, this will be the busiest week of the year at Walt Disney World.) It also isn’t the first time this has occurred–it’s supposed to happen anytime the Park Pass calendar goes grey.

The ticket calendar shows today through November 26 as being unavailable to purchase, which tracks with the Disney Park Pass reservation calendar. It’s likely November 27 will also soon be unavailable for buying tickets, as Epcot is the only park with reservations available on Saturday at this point, and those aren’t likely to last.

For the exact same reason, tickets are also unavailable for December 28-30, 2021.

If you’re planning on visiting during the Christmas season and haven’t already purchased tickets and made reservations, we would strongly recommend that you do so immediately. While it’s possible more availability is added, it’s even more likely that additional dates will sell out. Be prepared for all of those “Some Parks Available” dates (and then some) to become unavailable.

There was a lot of backlash to the pause on AP sales. Those who were planning on purchasing them as Christmas gifts are understandably upset, and we feel for them–that’s a gut punch. We’re surprised Disney didn’t try to come up with a work-around for that, because that’s going to cost the company a lot of lost sales and make for unhappy guests. (The only real winner there is Universal!)

However, there have also been complaints that Walt Disney World isn’t actually capping attendance. It’s hard to simultaneously argue against the reservation system and claim there aren’t caps–the two are at odds. The reservations system showing no availability and sales being suspended are signs that Disney is limiting attendance, and is leaving money on the table to do so.

Again, Walt Disney World is still not operating at 100% efficiency or capacity. That explains higher “feels like” crowds despite lower capacity caps. None of this has anything to do with physical distancing or health safety at this point–and hasn’t for months.

Rather, it’s because many stage shows are dark, some nighttime spectaculars & parades are still cut, meet & greets are mostly absent, atmospheric entertainment isn’t back, hours remain reduced, and restaurants aren’t filling all tables. All of those things would help absorb crowds and enable the parks to admit more guests.

Some of the lower attendance limits result from unforced errors on Disney’s part, as the company has been slow to scale up operations. Certain things on the aforementioned list could’ve been brought back by now–there’s little question about that. Their own cost-cutting measures have come around to bite them when demand has picked up.

Other things are beyond their control. In particular, Walt Disney World continues to have staffing shortages for key positions, despite offering higher wages and hiring bonuses of up to $1,500. This is an issue well beyond Disney; it’s happening throughout the United States and is pronounced in Central Florida. From the outside, it’s difficult to say what’s Disney’s fault and what’s a larger issue, so I won’t attempt to ascribe “blame” for this or that. As with so many things, it’s complicated.

In any case, stopping the sale of Annual Passes and regular park tickets this week–or operating entire hotels and restaurants below full capacity–is the responsible thing to do that shows at least some modicum of concern for guest satisfaction. Disney could just sell the parks to full capacity, seat every table, fill every room–and let service and satisfaction suffer.

In the case of APs, Disney could’ve kept selling until no reservations were available for months–as is the case at Disneyland. All of that would be the short-term cash grab. (Not that Walt Disney World is totally above that, but at least they’re not being brazen about it here.)

This is not in defense of Walt Disney World. To the contrary, from what we’ve seen so far this week, they should’ve capped things lower than they have. Congestion is worse than a normal Thanksgiving, wait times are high (and have been exacerbated by ride downtime), and there’s almost no reprieve from the crowds since so much entertainment is still missing. This is to say absolutely nothing of Genie+, which is essentially collapsing under the weight of crowds and demand.

Rather, this is to advocate for consistency. Don’t be against the reservation system or the pausing of Annual Pass and ticket sales–but also against high crowds and wait times. It’s tough to have it both ways. To be sure, there are structural and theoretical fixes that solve for all of this in the long-term. However, none of them are realistic in the short-term, especially given the overarching labor market and unpredictability that this year has brought with it. Now, let’s circle back to Genie+ and Lightning Lanes tomorrow, because oof…

Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!

YOUR THOUGHTS

What do you think about all this Walt Disney World news? Thoughts on WDW suspending ticket sales for the remainder of Thanksgiving week? What about the release of new AP “perks” the day after those sales were temporarily paused? Do you agree or disagree with our commentary? 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!

18 Responses to “Disney World News: Ticket Sales Stopped, Water Park Closure, AP Perks, NYE Fireworks”
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