Magic Kingdom Photo Report: Constant Crowds & Castle Construction

After taking a break from Walt Disney World during the peak of spring break, we’re back with another update on Magic Kingdom construction, crowds, and changes. In this park report, we’ll take a look at the current projects around the park, plus preparations for the World’s Most Magical Celebration.

Let’s start with crowds and park congestion. In the couple of weeks since our last Magic Kingdom report, Easter and the last of spring break crowds at Walt Disney World have largely left. However, we’re still not seeing wait times or attendance dropping to back to pre- or even post-Mardi Gras levels.

Historically, this has been ‘shoulder season’ at Walt Disney World, with low to moderate crowds after the spring break rush subsides. This year, what we’re seeing is fully booked Park Pass reservations and a plateauing of crowds at Magic Kingdom. Bookings could still decline heading into May, but we are not expecting that.

Our best explanations for crowds becoming more constant is that people are getting more comfortable traveling with cases declining and vaccinations increasing. We’re also seeing an increasing number of youth sporting groups (almost entirely cheerleading, it would appear) that have kept attendance elevated post-Easter.

Obviously, there’s still a lot of pent-up demand, and remote work and learning are enabling a larger percentage of guests to visit outside of traditional holidays and school breaks. Anecdotally, we’ve seen full parking lots at the off-site family suite and extended stay hotels near us, and there have been stories of vacation home rentals doing gangbuster business.

There’s no reason to expect any of that to change. If anything, we wouldn’t be surprised if some guests moved forward their vacation plans to avoid summer heat, price seasons, and anticipated higher crowd levels. That’s not to say summer will be less busy as a result–postponed trips, capacity caps, park efficiency, stimulus money, personal savings, economic uncertainty, and myriad other competing variables make that a real wild card.

The good news is that wait times right now are not bad, even on days when Magic Kingdom is fully booked across all three buckets of Disney Park Pass reservations. We’re seeing average posted wait times in the neighborhood of 28 to 32 minutes, which is down a tad from the peak of spring break.

A couple of things are worth noting there. First, actual wait times are usually around 75% of posted wait times, give or take, depending upon the attraction, time of day, and random luck. Second, variances in wait times from day to day are almost random. For example, a couple of popular rides being down might push averages up, whereas cooler weather may push down averages because Splash Mountain becomes less popular. Little things like that are enough to move the needle.

Next, let’s turn to construction updates, starting with the most exciting one in Magic Kingdom: Cinderella Castle’s 50th Anniversary makeover. All of the jabots & swag are now installed, as are the golden swirls on the turret spires. The only thing left to be added is the large “50” medallion above the castle’s balcony. Our guess is that Walt Disney World is waiting until the World’s Most Magical Celebration begins before adding that.

The 50th Anniversary overlay is regal and relatively tasteful. It’s not my favorite look for Cinderella Castle–I’d personally prefer something more fun and celebratory–but it’s fine. As a fan of temporary overlays, my view is “the bigger, the better.” I understand how others might prefer something more subtle and less ostentatious.

All of the construction walls have also been removed from in front of the Cinderella Castle forecourt stage. This suggests that the stage replacement is finished. I say “suggests” because I really don’t know what the finished product would look like, but the surface sure looks final to me. Minor finishing touches might still remain.

It would be nice if Walt Disney World would redo the compass rose and pavement in front of the stage. It’s looking a little worse for wear, and while most guests probably don’t notice, they would if it popped a little more.

Most other projects are over in Tomorrowland. The TRON Lightcycle Run canopy installation is now entirely finished. For more details and updates on the upcoming coaster–including photos from the Contemporary–see TRON Lightcycle Run Info: Opening, Construction Photos & Concept Art.

If our last few visits to Magic Kingdom are any indication, work has slowed to a crawl on the coaster. Some of the temporary support columns still need to be removed, but we’re not sure what else will happen before the rumored mothballing of the project.

On a more positive note, the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover has reopened, over a year after its brief unscheduled downtime began. The attraction is still having breakdowns–hopefully that’s something being smoothed out with the new automated ride control system rather than a persistent problem as was the case before.

With this project finished, there’s now only one attraction currently down for an actual refurbishment on the 2021 Walt Disney World Refurbishment Calendar

Hopefully the return of the PeopleMover will help take some of the burden off other attractions in Tomorrowland. It’s being loaded every other vehicle; between that and the stoppages, the ride’s efficiency is pretty low.

Above is a look at the line for Space Mountain, below is the line for Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin.

Suffice to say, some long lines in Tomorrowland right now.

The good news is that some of these lines are moving faster because more seats are being filled on attractions.

As we’ve pointed out, decreasing physical distancing would have two potentially offsetting consequences: increases to both the attendance cap and attraction efficiency.

The latter occurs by virtue of less spacing on attractions, meaning fewer seats/rows/ride vehicles are dispatched empty. More restaurants and “other stuff” reopening would also help.

The other ongoing project, which is occurring while the attraction is operating, is the Jungle Cruise Reimagining.

The posted wait time and line were both really long, so we opted against doing it to bring you indisputable visual evidence that Trader Sam is still missing and his spot is empty. But he is and it is. Sorry, but it was hot and we didn’t feel the need to “confirm” the emptiness.

One thing we can confirm is that it’s hotter in Carousel of Progress than it used to be.

Someone better phone Uncle Orville and tell him to expand his air cooling system!

That’s a wrap on another visit to Magic Kingdom. We’ve been making more of these lately, but haven’t been doing frequent updates simply because they haven’t been particularly popular. That’s understandable, as there’s only so much interest in seeing photos of crowds, overflow queues, and progress on Cinderella Castle.

All in all, it’s a pretty good time to visit right now. While Park Pass bookings and some photos of apparent congestion might suggest otherwise, there are just as many ‘gaps’ in the crowds, lines are moving at a brisk pace, the weather is still relatively mild, and Magic Kingdom is open until reasonably late–while getting darker at an earlier hour than in summertime. On the other hand, a lot of entertainment is still missing and health safety protocol largely remains in place. However, it’s looking increasingly likely that both of those things are likely going to remain true throughout the summer, so if you’re debating May v. July, we’d come down on the side of the former. If it’s May v. October, the calculus is obviously different.

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

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? Happy that the TTA PeopleMover is back in action? Excited to see Cinderella Castle decked out for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary?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!

21 Responses to “Magic Kingdom Photo Report: Constant Crowds & Castle Construction”
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