We’re back with another update on Magic Kingdom construction, crowds, and changes. This Walt Disney World park report will take a look at projects happening in advance of the 50th Anniversary, plus wait times, problem points, and congestion during the heart of summer tourist season on July 22, 2021.
The big topic today is crowds at Magic Kingdom. Towards the end of last month, there was a significant Disney Park Pass reservation refill for the remainder of summer. That was the last big replenishment, which might sound like good news for those hoping for reduced capacity during their Walt Disney World vacation, but it’s really not.
There are two reasons for this. First, the calendar has remained largely yellow or green since then, with no grey days. The yellow ones have meant no availability for Disney’s Hollywood Studios and/or Magic Kingdom. Second, Disney Park Pass reservations have been added periodically for the random dates that had diminished availability.
While it probably was not the first time this has happened (we don’t have the means to track that data), yesterday was the first time we saw Magic Kingdom green across all three reservation buckets for such a lengthy amount of time. Both in advance and through the morning-of itself.
This is significant because it means yesterday’s Magic Kingdom crowd level and wait time numbers are more or less a snapshot of organic demand, without any crowd throttles or meaningful limits on attendance. (To be sure, some guests who at some point wanted a Disney Park Pass reservation for Magic Kingdom were probably shut out, but this nevertheless would be close enough to unfettered attendance.)
Back when revising our July 2021 Crowd Calendar & Month Info, we indicated that Walt Disney World’s approach to refilling Park Pass reservations would have a massive impact on crowds, and could result in a huge swing in wait times. If the current (at the time) trajectory were maintained, overall crowd levels would be average or below.
If Walt Disney World “opened the floodgates” and stopped artificially limiting attendance, it would result in a busy summer. As of the last couple weeks, the latter approach has been increasingly adopted. Which brings us to yesterday at Magic Kingdom. Let’s start with a look at average wait times courtesy of Thrill-Data.com:
For perspective, the average wait time across all attractions and the entire day at Magic Kingdom was 46 minutes. This made it tied for the second busiest day of the last year, surpassing even Easter, New Year’s Eve, and Christmas week (save for December 22, the #1 day).
Splash Mountain averaged a triple digit wait, which is unsurprising given the triple digit feels like temperatures. After that, 6 other attractions also averaged wait times of over an hour. Several hours peaked above an hour midday, too.
As suggested above, July 22 was not an anomaly. Crowds and wait times have been trending in this direction for roughly the last two weeks. The graph above shows weekly average wait times at Magic Kingdom–this week is #1.
You might also notice the yellow lines in May and June, and think that doesn’t track with anecdotal reports of “feels like” crowd levels. However, those months are when Walt Disney World was in the process of reducing physical distancing–and thus improving hourly attraction efficiency–but had not yet increased capacity caps to a corresponding degree. July has seen capacity caps catch up to improved operational efficiency–and surpass it.
The wait time data should speak for itself, but we’ll add some corroborating anecdotal observations and color commentary.
All around Magic Kingdom, feels like crowds and posted wait times reflected elevated attendance.
Last Thanksgiving and Christmas, we routinely commented that even when wait times were higher and lines physically longer, it was easy to find pockets of uncrowded space away from other guests.
Not so anymore. You can still get away from the congestion, but it’s not the case that attractions are the only thing that’s busy. The whole park feels chaotic.
We’ve made several trips to Magic Kingdom in the last couple of weeks, and it has clearly been getting busier.
Nevertheless, there were some peak posted wait times yesterday that I haven’t seen in a long time. I can’t remember the last time I saw Under the Sea – Journey of The Little Mermaid hit 50 minutes outside a holiday week.
Here’s a look at the line for the Little Mermaid dark ride.
This snakes around towards Storybook Circus, using part of the meet & greet queue (or former meet & greet queue–the sign has been removed). On the other side of the walkway, there’s a 90 minute line for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.
Over in Tomorrowland, it’s actually not looking too bad for Space Mountain! Earlier this spring, there were times when the queue was heading back towards the speedway.
Turns out that the line for Space Mountain is now routed behind the old Stitch stage, by the restrooms, and beyond.
That “line starts here” marker is not for Carousel of Progress–it’s for Space Mountain.
Also in Tomorrowland, the lines for the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover (far left) and Astro Orbiter (right) both extend out of their designated and overflow areas.
This is almost certainly exacerbated by the brief refurbishment of Buzz Lightyear’s Spaceranger Spin, but it’s not like these waits would be short if that ride weren’t down.
While on the topic of Tomorrowland, here’s a glimpse at TRON Lightcycle Run construction. For more details and updates on the upcoming coaster–including several new photos from inside Magic Kingdom and California Grill–see TRON Lightcycle Run Info: Opening, Construction Photos & Concept Art.
After moving at a glacial pace for much of the last year, work here is now full steam ahead with a huge crew again. That bodes well for a probable 2022 opening date!
Also in Tomorrowland, work continues to remove the gears in the pavement. It’s impossible for me to view this objectively; it might’ve been dated, but I loved the aesthetic of Tomorrowland ’94.
Don’t let the lack of crowd here fool you; I waited to get this photo, and got several dirty looks from people wondering why I was standing in the middle of the walkway like a buffoon. That, or they were jealous of my super cool bucket hat.
In other Tomorrowland news, Walt Disney World announced that several shows would return in August 2021, including Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor. [File photo above.]
We love the Laugh Floor, and are very pleased by this news. Hopefully a lot more is on the horizon–it’s needed!
Haunted Mansion’s line once again extends well outside the entrance, back towards the Rivers of America walkway.
When viewing these overflow queue photos, keep in mind that physical distancing is a relic of the past. So those photos from several months ago with similarly-long queues had significantly fewer people in them.
When I took this photo, the feels like temperature was 107º.
It’s thus understandable that Splash Mountain would be commanding the longest wait time in the park. Just think, after waiting only two hours, much of which is in a shadeless extended queue exposed to direct sunlight, you could enjoy a refreshing water ride! Long before that point, my shirt would be “naturally” soaked.
Here we have a huge crowd gathering as Liver Lips McGrowl waves to his adoring fans.
This photo is deceptive in the opposite way of the Tomorrowland archway one–here I waited until this area was reasonably congested so it looks like Liver Lips is a popular fella. Perhaps I have too much time on my hands.
Coming full circle back to the front of Magic Kingdom, there’s a restoration project underway on the Partners statue.
Per Walt Disney World, Partners is receiving routine care in preparation for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary.
For those who can’t read the small text:
“The process of removing oxidation buildup from patinated bronze is intensive – involving multiple phases to strip the sculpture to its bare metal before cleaning, reapplying a patina, and coating the entire figure in protective polymer and wax.”
After a decade of extensively photographing Partners and Cinderella Castle, this scene looks/feels like Bizarro Magic Kingdom to me.
Not that I’m complaining–if anything deserves some TLC ahead of Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary, it’s Partners!
In other news, the multi-month Confectionary refurbishment has been extended on paper until October 2, 2021.
This is hopefully a matter of the way the DisneyWorld.com calendar is programmed (same thing happened with the PeopleMover refurbishment). Disney has previously stated that this project would be finished by October 1, 2021. I have a hard time imagining the Confectionary won’t be open by that date–that’s prime real estate for selling those special anniversary cupcakes!
In the end, I try wrapping up these park reports on a positive note. Unfortunately, between the heat and crowds, it was not the most pleasant day in Magic Kingdom. Of course, I write this as someone who is able to visit any day of the year, popping in for a few hours here or there, often times at or after sunset. I’m very cognizant of the fact that’s a luxury the vast majority of people do not have. Those who have been stuck at home for the better part of the last year and are just now taking an overdue vacation probably have a very different outlook–hopefully they’re having a good time despite the weather and wait times!
In terms of forward-looking optimism, pent-up demand burning off during the summer months is ideal. While I have no delusions that any day between October through December will have low crowds, more casual guests vacationing now (theoretically) means fewer visiting for the start of Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary. I’m also optimistic that the return of more shows, entertainment, and other things to do–plus longer hours and better weather–will make the coming off-season and last quarter of the year a good time to visit Walt Disney World.
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!
Thoughts on anything covered in this Magic Kingdom park report? If you’ve visited Magic Kingdom recently, what has been your experience with crowds and wait times? Do you expect Walt Disney World to bring back more shows/entertainment/dining/etc., or do you think staffing and/or other constraints will preclude that? Have you been able to loop the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!