Magic Kingdom Report: Crowds & Decor Down

It’s time for our first Magic Kingdom park report of 2021! In this Walt Disney World update, we take a look at the cavalcades, character greetings, crowds, wait times, construction progress, and more.

While this isn’t our first visit to Magic Kingdom of the year, it is since the Christmas decorations–and crowds–have gone down. Both stayed up longer than we anticipated, probably in large part due to residual bookings of annual Walt Disney World Marathon trips (despite its cancellation).

It’s always a bit odd to see Magic Kingdom in its vanilla state for the first time after months of Halloween and Christmas. It’s like visiting “Diet EPCOT” in June (or July in 2021) to see the park without festival booths. That’s how it looks in a normal, unadorned state, but you just get used to the overlays. I don’t know where I’m going with this, so let’s switch gears…

One of the most exciting things about the start of the winter off-season for me is that it kicks off the home stretch between now and the start of Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary. I’m really anxious for that to start, even in what’ll undoubtedly be a scaled-back form as compared to what was originally planned.

Here’s hoping that in the next couple of months as things start to improve, Walt Disney World gets more aggressive with its plans and preparations. Given the current crowd trends, now is the perfect time for attractions to go down for refurbishments and plussing…

With the Christmas season over, Magic Kingdom also ends its multi-month run of holiday cavalcades.

These are still a nice touch that infuse the park with characters and energy, but they don’t hold a candle to the Halloween and Christmas ones. It doesn’t help that the floats themselves are pretty tired–it’d be nice to see ones from Festival of Fantasy used.

Instead, Mickey Mouse is still wearing his Wonder Bread Wardrobe from his 90th anniversary.

This limited time costume now debuted two years ago as part of the Surprise Celebration overlay to the Move It! Shake It! MousekeDance It! Street Party. Even that was several months after the actual 90th anniversary.

Not to knock the cavalcades too much, especially after we praised them upon their debut last summer. These are still a great touch, and first-time visitors will enjoy them.

It’s just now that we’ve enjoyed the superior seasonal ones, our “tastes” have evolved. Sort of like eating steak for the first time after years of meat loaf. The latter is good, but it’s no steak. In this case, Walt Disney World should also be iterating upon and improving its offerings as the phased reopening continues.

One such improvement is relocating Cinderella’s Stepsisters to outside Princess Fairytale Hall.

I’m not sure whether this is a permanent thing, but it’s a savvy move that allows more fluid and sharper interactions with guests…while also not resulting in congestion behind Cinderella Castle.

Winnie the Pooh and friends (or in this case, just the friends) have relocated from Crystal Palace to the Train Station for their physically-distanced greetings. This is new to us, but I have no clue when it happened–sometime since mid-December.

Speaking of Crystal Palace, we have not done the modified meal (and have no intention to do so), but we’ve heard literally nothing positive about it. That’s not a huge surprise, and is fairly common for the reconfigured character buffets. We’d love to hear more feedback and reader reviews on these meals, so please share the good and bad in the comments.

On the construction front, the canopy for the TRON Lightcycle Run roller coaster continues to be installed.

We wandered around from Tomorrowland to Storybook Circus trying to get peeks through the trees, and the canopy support infrastructure appears pretty close to finished.

The gravity building is also enclosed, with this being the view of that over by Barnstormer. Once it’s done, this will be the worst view, as it’s one of the few angles where the show building won’t be concealed by the canopy. We’re probably less fixated on sight-lines than other fans; this doesn’t really bother us. One really extreme angle from a kiddie coaster queue is hardly make or break.

When it comes to TRON Lightcycle Run’s ongoing work, the best view is actually outside the park; you can see canopy installation that still needs to be done on the Contemporary Resort side.

Here’s a look where the gravity building has been sealed around the coaster track. This is (obviously) temporary, done because TRON Lightcycle Run construction will soon pause until at least the next fiscal year starts in October 2021.

As a reminder, Walt Disney World has hinted that TRON Lightcycle Run isn’t expected to open for the start of the park’s 50th birthday year. That isn’t officially confirmed, but it’s an open secret at this point. The best case scenario is TRON Lightcycle Run debuts by Summer 2022 for a second push of what’s likely to be an 18-month celebration of Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary.

Turning to refurbishments, the Rivers of America remains drained.

It may not look like it from the photo above, but a lot has been happening here and on Tom Sawyer Island.

Aside from track replacement for the Liberty Square Riverboat, the big visible thing thus far has been the refurbishment and repainting of Harper’s Mill.

The scrim is now down here, revealing a fresh new look and rock-work. It’s always nice to see Disney giving attention to lower-profile projects like this. Here’s hoping more 1971 originals receive TLC between now and October!

Across the way, the Hall of Presidents is now closed for an unannounced amount of time to add a President Biden Audio Animatronics and…who knows what else.

In our updated 2021 Walt Disney World Refurbishment Calendar, we offer speculation about the scope of this work, potential reopening date, what’s unlikely to change, and more.

Over in Fantasyland, the scrims are now down on ‘it’s a small world’, revealing a vibrant new facade.

You might also notice from this photo that crowds are pretty light in Magic Kingdom’s perpetually-congested “Irvine Alley.” On that note, let’s turn our attention to attendance…

While not quite hitting the ghost town levels of last July, Magic Kingdom is pretty dead on weekdays right now.

It was overshadowed by the Disney’s Magical Express update, but last week’s Walt Disney World News Roundup detailed how wait times were at their lowest level since August.

Even with the holiday on Monday, this week has been more of the same.

Magic Kingdom wait times are up slightly week over week, but we’re still talking averages hovering around 20 minutes. That’s not bad compared to November and December–or even last January, which was actually busier than the prior holiday season.

Lower wait times also impact the congestion and “feels like” crowd levels, as far fewer overflow queues are in use.

Back during the holidays, the above stretch of Adventureland became a pinch-point due to the lines for Pirates of the Caribbean, Jingle Cruise, and stroller parking consuming much of the walkways.

It’s the same story around counter service restaurants.

Previously, there were guests loitering around outside Cosmic Ray’s, Pecos Bill, and other eateries. We haven’t seen that at all–even during peak hours–since the first week of January.

It’s not as if everything is a walk-on. We don’t want to showcase empty park photos and give you that impression. Again, the average wait is still ~20 minutes.

For instance, Haunted Mansion might be at 5 minutes. Meanwhile, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is posting a 45 minute wait at the exact same time. Most of you probably understand how “averages” work, so we won’t belabor the point.

Our expectation is that this continues between now and (roughly) mid-March, with only a few spikes. (See our Will Crowds Keep Skyrocketing at Walt Disney World in 2021?)

There are no guarantees, but our expectation is that crowd trends will be more difficult to predict the deeper we get into the year. Beyond the wildcard of pent-up demand and revenge travel, there are also a lot of unknowns about rules, entertaiment, hours, etc. Things could be back to normal by September…or things could be largely unchanged save for higher crowd levels. It’s impossible to predict right now, but we’ll keep you posted based on our observations in the parks and with speculation based on other real-world developments.

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

If you’ve visited Magic Kingdom this month, what has been your experience with crowds and wait times? Issues with congestion or crowds? Thoughts on visiting during the winter off-season v. waiting for more normalcy? Are you anxious for more info or announcements about Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary? Thoughts about anything else covered here? Do you plan on visiting Walt Disney World this year, or are you sitting it out until 2022? 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!


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