Magic Kingdom Report: Our Favorite Week

It’s time for our first visit to Magic Kingdom of December 2020 for more Christmas cavalcades, character greetings, photos, and fireworks! In this Walt Disney World park report, we’ll share our experience with entertainment, crowds, wait times, and weather.

Long-time readers of the blog might know that this is our favorite week of the year at Walt Disney World. That’s been true for ages. Back when we lived in the Midwest, our annual Christmas trip usually started the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Obviously, we’re in the parks weekly now, but for “personal enjoyment” visits, we still look forward to this not-so-secret best week.

With everything being “different” this year, we weren’t sure of what to expect post-Thanksgiving at Walt Disney World. Nevertheless, we were hoping that this visit to Magic Kingdom would be a post-holiday cool-down in terms of crowds. Well, we certainly got a cool-down, albeit of a different variety…

The day we visited Magic Kingdom instead saw a weather cool-down, with a low temperature of 39º and daytime high of only 76º. That alone was a victory as far as I was concerned. Being a native Michigander, I far prefer weather like this over a normal Florida summer day. I was also hoping that the chilly temperatures might keep other Floridians away, further depressing crowds.

Sadly, that was not the case. After very light crowds at EPCOT the previous day, we were surprised to find Magic Kingdom’s crowd level still slightly elevated.

I wish I had an explanation to fully account for this, but I don’t.

It could be the full Disney Park Pass reservations refill of all three buckets—theme park ticket holders, resort guests, and Annual Passholders—for November 29 through December 19, 2020. It could be residual crowds from Thanksgiving. It could be more flexible school and work schedules making non-break trips easier. It could be a combination of the three and/or other factors.

I think one thing we’ve all learned since Walt Disney World reopened is that the traditional crowd “rules” and trends do not apply this year. Whatever the explanation, wait times remained elevated as compared to before Thanksgiving week.

In fact, many of these photos probably resemble what those from our Magic Kingdom Crowd Report: Fully Booked, 35% Capacity Day from Thanksgiving week. (The biggest difference is that everyone is bundled up in these shots, thanks to a ~25 degree difference in temperatures.)

In actuality, there are a lot of differences between this week and Thanksgiving week.

For one, congestion is down significantly. Adventureland and Fantasyland both previously had areas that were difficult to navigate due to overflow queues and stroller parking shrinking the usable walkway space. No such issues this visit.

Additionally, not every attraction has elevated wait times this week.

Sure, the line for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is still back over the bridge and the posted wait time is 60 minutes, but take a look at Splash Mountain…

Literally the shortest wait time in Magic Kingdom at 5 minutes, which is 15 minutes less than you’d wait for Country Bear Jamboree at the exact same time of day!

While you’ll get a “refreshing” mist on your face and shirt, Splash Mountain is completely tolerable this time of year. The water cannons have been off since the park reopened, so it’s highly unlikely you’ll get uncomfortably wet or soaked, even on a warm day.

The point is that Magic Kingdom is really hit or miss.

Throughout the day, we never saw Peter Pan’s Flight using its extended queue. It’s actually somewhat frustrating that it was up all day despite not being utilized–it takes up half the walkway and contributes to congestion between Liberty Square and Fantasyland.

Conversely, Haunted Mansion frequently had wait times above 45 minutes, extending out into the Rivers of America walkway in Frontierland. Above is actually one of the shorter lines we saw for it.

Same for Jingle Cruise. Its line hovered around 50-60 minutes for most of the day and ended near the bridge to Adventureland at some points.

For the most part, Magic Kingdom felt more comfortable despite longer-than-expected wait times at some attractions.

Most walkways were not packed with people. Additionally, even with fewer dining options open, we didn’t see crowds loitering around counter service restaurants waiting for Mobile Order pickup.

Our main reason for visiting Magic Kingdom was simply to enjoy the nice weather and Christmas character cavalcades.

We spent much of the day hanging around the hub, watching the entertainment. I’m not going to rehash all of that here–check out our Christmas Character Cavalcade Guide for best viewing locations, tips & info about that daytime entertainment.

I’m not entirely sure why Mickey & Minnie were out in the Omnibus instead of on their Christmas tree float, as there was no rain in the forecast.

Nevertheless, it’s always nice to see the Omnibus rolling through Magic Kingdom, so we’ll take it.

Plus, like an hour or two later, they were back out on the float like normal.

While we prefer Main Street for parade viewing, there’s something to be said for Frontierland right now. It’s especially awesome when the Country Bears or Chip ‘n’ Dale are out during the cavalcades (which is almost always the case) and they interact with the characters on the floats (also almost always the case, except with the princesses).

Main Street tends to be more crowded, except directly in front of Cinderella Castle.

While the garland up on Main Street makes for a more Christmasy backdrop, it’s hard to argue with Cinderella Castle.

We also wanted to get some “circa-2020” Christmas photos of us with festive attire.

Approximately 75% of my wardrobe is sweaters, flannel shirts, and down jackets. It should go without saying, but those are not the optimal outfits for Florida. Sarah is much more stylish than me, and her clothing is somehow also more practical. That’s probably obvious without me pointing it out.

Our expectation and hope was that the crowds would thin out once the sun went down and the temperature dropped.

This was not the case.

Many guests were camped out in the Central Plaza, Cinderella Castle Forecourt, and Plaza Gardens (Hub Grass).

We saw several parade mats and guests bundled up–clearly hunkered down for the evening.

After each of the “pyrotechnic pixie-dust moments,” Incredi-Crew Cast Members were going around the hub and announcing to guests that there was no nighttime spectacular.

It would now seem these Cast Members are tasked with face mask enforcement and being the bearers of bad news about fireworks. As if their jobs weren’t already difficult enough…

In the couple of hours I was wandering around the hub and Main Street, I probably overheard these “conversations” between Cast Members and guests a dozen times.

The overheard guest responses were about a 50/50 mix of “we know, we’re here for the long haul” (paraphrasing) and various forms of confusion, followed by guests moving along.

At this point, I honestly don’t see much of a difference between these perplexing “pyrotechnic pixie-dust moments” and a full nighttime spectacular from a health safety perspective.

There’s the optics and cost of one versus the other, which is probably what led to this. As far as crowds and physical distancing go, there’s not a huge difference. A full fireworks show would undoubtedly draw more guests, but it would do so for a shorter period of time. As things currently stand, there are many guests hanging around the front of the park for hours.

To be clear, I’m not advocating for the return of full fireworks shows right now. That would be a poor decision for multiple reasons given the circumstances. My point is simply that this probably isn’t any more or less safe given guest behavior.

The pyro enhancements also create confusion and are not particularly compelling. The congestion they contribute to the front of the park probably isn’t worth the limited ‘awe-factor’ they offer. It strikes me as an odd addition that is probably better for marketing than actual guests in the park. Nevertheless, it’s nice to see fireworks back in some fashion…even like this.

Above is Sarah’s video featuring two of the pyro pixie dust moments. Keep in mind that this is the extent of each such moment, and they occur once every 15 minutes with the projection scene change. Meaning that if you want to see an entire nighttime spectacular, you’re going to need to camp out at Magic Kingdom for over a week from dusk to park close.

I mentioned being around the hub for a couple of hours in the evening. This is not because I was truly mesmerized by the pyro pixie dust. Rather, because I’m an idiot and forgot my tripod, and thus had to capture handheld fireworks photos. I knew exactly when each burst would be shot and yet, each burst startled me enough to induce camera shake. So apologies for the poor photo quality…but these are literally the best of the bunch captured over the course of two frustrating hours.

Ultimately, a good day in Magic Kingdom during our favorite week of the year at Walt Disney World. Even though some wait times remained higher than I would’ve expected, the lower congestion levels as compared to Thanksgiving week made a huge difference for us in terms of overall comfort level (the weather also helped there). The only time and place we ever saw crowding was in the hub and Main Street after sunset, and even that was mostly manageable.

The big question we can’t yet answer is whether what we experienced is residual Thanksgiving travel, or what should be expected for the remainder of the year. Christmas and New Year’s weeks will obviously be busy, but we were hoping for a temporary reprieve from the crowds the next few weeks with early through mid-December being actual off-season once again, after about a decade of increasing attendance.

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 post-Thanksgiving this year, what has been your experience with crowds and wait times? Issues with congestion or breakdowns in physical distancing? Thoughts on the pyro pixie dust moments v. full fireworks shows? If you’ve visited this same week in prior years, how do you think this year compares? Thoughts about anything else covered here? Do you plan on visiting Walt Disney World this Christmas, or are you sitting this year out? 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!

26 Responses to “Magic Kingdom Report: Our Favorite Week”
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