We’re heading back to Magic Kingdom for our final visit of Halloween! In this Walt Disney World photo report, we’ll look at late October crowds, wait times, and some final thoughts for spook season. We’ll also offer some strategy on how to approach the park and pre-Christmas commentary.
It’s been a few weeks since our last Magic Kingdom photo report, and that’s partly by design and partly by accident. As we’ve emphasized countless times, wait times and attendance continue to increase. Last month, crowds were up 40% over August. We’ll have another post-mortem once October ends, but (spoiler alert) it has been busier than September.
We’ve been wanting to return on a Wednesday for a while, but other things have kept coming up preventing that from happening. As we’ve stressed in our park hours updates (which also offer best & worst day of the week advice for each park), we recommend doing Magic Kingdom on a Wednesday. Finally, we had the chance yesterday to drop in and again experience Wednesday in Magic Kingdom for ourselves…
Since the reopening of Walt Disney World, literally every visit we’ve made to Magic Kingdom has been busier than the one before it. That is, until this Wednesday visit.
This day was the least crowded we’ve seen Magic Kingdom since probably around early August, with lower wait times and shorter waits across the board than we’d experienced in a while. More on that below–let’s start from the beginning…
Work has not started yet on this one, but it appears that could change within the next few days. Progress is being made on the Magic Kingdom parking plaza arch, but I put my camera away and couldn’t get it out in time, so you’ll just have to take my word on that.
Pretty quiet on Main Street USA.
I was honestly somewhat surprised by this. Between the release of the Haunted Mansion Minnie Mouse: Main Attraction Collection merchandise, end of Halloween season, and few dates left for Cast Members to visit before being blocked out, we expected to see more people.
Even the Halloween entertainment wasn’t drawing large crowds.
Part of this could be standard “Floridian Fatigue” of holidays. Halloween season starts in August, and by this point, many locals are ready to move on to Christmas.
In a normal year, there’s a steady stream of tourists experiencing the entertainment for the first time every single day, amping up excitement leading up to Halloween.
That’s not so much the case this year as there are far more Annual Passholders and other repeat guests visiting Magic Kingdom each day. (Although I’m sure Halloween itself will still be busy in Magic Kingdom–that’s a bit different.)
One thing I doubt will ever happen is “Bear Burnout.”
The Country Bears were once again out waving to the adoring masses, many of whom have traveled thousands of miles just for the chance to snap a selfie with one of these goofy-grinned, bumpkin bears. The way guests wave vigorously and fawn over the Country Bears reminds me a little of when the Beatles first came to America. Granted, I wasn’t alive then, but I’d imagine it’s about the same.
Jack Sparrow was also out across from Pirates of the Caribbean, entertaining guests with his rum-filled shenanigans.
While not rising to bear levels of badassery, he’s pretty cool by human standards.
A look at the entrance to Tomorrowland in the middle of the day.
As we’ve noted before, photos don’t tell the whole story right now. Photos of empty walkways don’t necessarily reflect wait times, which can still be high due to the lack of FastPass displacing guests. Conversely, photos of long-looking lines also don’t tell the story due to physical distancing.
In this case, these photos do tell the full story.
Walkways were uncrowded and lines were pretty short. Above is a 15 minute posted wait time for Space Mountain. That’s lower than it would’ve been a few weeks ago at this time of day. It’s also lower than normal for late October, which has become a busy time the last several years at Walt Disney World.
It’s not uncommon right now for Jungle Cruise to have one of the longest posted wait times in Magic Kingdom. In our experience, these posted times are pretty close to accurate.
As previously noted, we’ve been mostly passing on Jungle Cruise. This is an attraction where the energy of the skipper and guests matters, and we feel that’s significantly hampered by the current health safety protocol. Your mileage may vary.
Peak wait times for Splash Mountain have actually dropped off considerably in the last couple of weeks. This is not a function of the weather (yet), but we’d expect them to further decrease once this weekend’s cold front hits. (With that said, it’s worth noting that you don’t really get wet on Splash Mountain right now.)
It’s still one of the top 3 longest wait times in Magic Kingdom earlier in the day, but by afternoon that’s no longer the case. Pirates of the Caribbean, Jungle Cruise, and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (among other attractions) all had longer wait times at this point.
About a month ago, I commented that wait times “couldn’t get much longer” because there was nowhere for some of these queues to go.
It turns out I dramatically underestimated Walt Disney World’s ability to add queue space…pretty much wherever.
There are several areas of Magic Kingdom where rows of “please wait here” markers literally encompass the entire walkway. There are also some spots where backstage areas have opened to serve as overflow queue.
I’ll keep any potential future commentary about lines not being able to get longer to myself.
One of the biggest offenders on this front has been it’s a small world.
We haven’t done Magic Kingdom on a weekend recently, so I haven’t seen this firsthand, but it supposedly spills out of its overflow queue by the Tangled Toilets and into a backstage area on Saturdays and Sundays.
On this particular weekday afternoon, the scene was fairly subdued in Fantasyland.
Of the iconic dark rides, the longest wait was for Peter Pan’s Flight, and even that wasn’t terrible at only 15 minutes.
The Little Mermaid dark ride was a walk-on, as was the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.
In general, crowds were pretty low back in Storybook Circus and New Fantasyland. The biggest “crowd” was outside Be Our Guest Restaurant, and even then, there was still walk-up wait list availability (with a 40-50 minute wait) for parties of 2-4.
About an hour before park closing, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train had a 40 minute posted wait time (and was even shorter judging by the queue itself).
Our plan was to do it 5 minutes before closing…but we weren’t alone with that bright idea. The physical line was considerably longer, stretching outside the attraction marquee. The posted time was only 45 minutes at that point, which was probably close to accurate. However, I wanted to photograph sunset, so we opted against it.
That ended up being the better decision. Nice sunbursts as the sun was going down, and some good color in the clouds after the park closed.
Even though I’ve photographed the sunset in Magic Kingdom what seems like a thousand times, it’s always different. Plus, we’ve done Seven Dwarfs Mine Train what seems like nearly as many times, and it’s always the same.
Above is a look at what wait times looked like at their midday peaks (more or less).
A few hours later, both “it’s a small world” and Tomorrowland Speedway were walk-ons, with Splash Mountain and Big Thunder also being considerably shorter. The only wait time that held steady was Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, which, as noted above, spiked in the final minutes Magic Kingdom was open.
Ultimately, we had a great day in Magic Kingdom. Between improved weather and lighter attendance, this was probably our best visit since reopening. After a three month stretch of crowds only going up, it was great to see them coming back down. Don’t get me wrong–I want to see Walt Disney World doing well so more can return to normal, but I was also beginning to worry that the trajectory was unsustainable, especially heading into what’s normally the peak holiday season.
I’m reticent to offer much insight or make any strong forward-looking projections about what the recent decrease in crowds could “mean” for the Christmas season. There are several possibilities, including pent-up demand among locals starting to fizzle out, increased cancellations among tourists as case numbers start to spike around the United States, and/or Disney pulling back on Park Passes upon receiving more mixed guest feedback. Regardless, we’re still expecting increased crowds throughout the holiday season–perhaps just not with a trend line that basically goes straight up.
Have you visited Magic Kingdom in the last week or so since wait times started decreasing? Done a Wednesday in the park? What was your experience? Do you think wait times and lines are going to spike heading into the holiday season next week, or should things start to level off? Will you be attempting to visit Walt Disney World this Christmas, or are you waiting until 2021 or beyond? Do you agree or disagree with our advice? 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!