Magic Kingdom Report: Holiday Weekend Crowds

This Walt Disney World park report covers our holiday weekend visit to Magic Kingdom, the first thus far during the Christmas season. In this, we’ll share our experience plus photos of crowds, entertainment, and other random tidbits that are either interesting or amusing (to us, at least).

For the last couple of years, Veterans Day has had a significant impact on crowds at Walt Disney World. However, it’s also fallen or been observed on a Monday both years, which makes it an easier long weekend for many visitors. The holiday has also coincided with other events that could have contributed to the spike.

This year, Veterans Day occurred mid-week and those other events were cancelled. So it was possible it would not result in an appreciable crowd spike at Walt Disney World. Many readers asked us about this prior to the holiday, and we were frankly not comfortable making any confident predictions. It helped when Disney extended park hours for the weekend pretty significantly because we assume those are based upon internal data and projections, and not just throwing darts at a board…

In comparing data to the weekend before Veterans Day last year (when the holiday was on a Monday), Magic Kingdom wait times were significantly lower this year. Last year, average midday waits for the park were around 50-60 minutes, whereas this year they were around 25-35 minutes.

Beyond the mid-week holiday difference, that’s still not an apples to apples comparison. There was FastPass+ last year, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party pushing people to weekends, and longer park hours (although not by much). In other words, a potentially interesting comparison, but not one that tells us a ton.

Above is a look at average Magic Kingdom wait times for last week (via Thrill-Data). Unsurprisingly, Friday and Saturday were the busiest days, followed by Sunday, Tuesday, and Veterans Day itself. Monday and Thursday were least busy.

Normally, we’d see more separation between Friday through Sunday and other days of the week. As with the year over year comparison, this also doesn’t tell us a ton. But graphs and charts confer authority, so perhaps some of you will now view our analysis and forward-looking predictions with more credibility.

On the topic of crowds, we want to again revisit something covered in Disney’s Fourth Quarter Financial Results. During the Q&A, CEO Bob Chapek said that Walt Disney World was previously at 25% capacity, but has been able to increase that to 35% capacity while still adhering to local health guidance and physical distancing requirements.

Many people interpreted this as a prospective statement–that Walt Disney World just flipped a switch from 25% to 35%. We highly doubt that’s the case, and weekly wait time data doesn’t bear that out. To the contrary, 7-day averages of wait times have been pretty flat since mid-October (there are more ups and downs in the daily numbers), with the biggest spikes occurring prior to then.

Since Chapek indicated that it was predicated upon efficiency improvements, our belief/hope is that the aforementioned capacity increase has already occurred, and was a gradual process rather than an overnight jump.

We’ll find out next week, when Thanksgiving crowds descend upon Walt Disney World for a stretch that is near 100% of the reduced capacity, per statements on Disney’s earnings call. (They also claimed this quarter as a whole is 77% booked.) Note that this is an investor call, so Disney tries to spin its numbers accordingly. The Disney Park Pass Availability Calendar does not support the statements that the parks are close to fully booked for Thanksgiving week.

Nevertheless, Thanksgiving week should be the best test yet of how Magic Kingdom and the other parks can handle moving up to 35% capacity.

Even then, there are a ton of unknowns. How close to being fully-booked were previous dates? What was capacity for said past dates v. holiday weeks? Will Thanksgiving week actually be booked above 90%?

The difficulty in assessing and predicting crowds right now is that we have a bunch of relative numbers but don’t know to what they’re relative. Twenty-five percent, 35%, 77%, and nearly 100%…of what? As compared to what?

Even though we started this out with a very authoritative graph, your guess is as good as ours when it comes to a lot of these numbers. What we do know is that attendance and wait times shot up month over month through October, and have plateaued since. I would not bet on that leveling off continuing through Thanksgiving week.

The week ahead, on the other hand, should be comparable to or perhaps better than the last two weeks. We’re not even super confident in that prediction…but confident enough that we’ve booked ourselves several park visits this week.

Our November 2020 Crowd Calendar predicts that November 15-21, 2020 will be the lowest crowd stretch of the Christmas season. Keep in mind that this was originally made pre-closure, and our accuracy for August and September was not high.

With that said, if you’re a local contemplating a visit to Walt Disney World this coming week or Thanksgiving week, it should be a no-brainer, slam dunk decision to visit this week.

Anyway, let’s move along to a look at crowds this past weekend at Magic Kingdom…

More and more overflow queue is appearing around the park.

Here’s a look at the end of the line for Jingle Cruise, which had a 30 minute wait time at this point of the day.

Continuing in Adventureland, here’s a look at the end of the line for Pirates of the Caribbean.

This starts at the edge of Adventureland, wraps into Frontierland, then back into Adventureland…

The line winds past the front of Pirates of the Caribbean, then snakes down towards Jingle Cruise before doubling back outside and in front of the attraction.

Despite this, the posted wait time was “only” 45 minutes. My guess is that’s pretty close to accurate (we weren’t about to find out), as we’ve seen 45 minute posted wait times for Pirates of the Caribbean with no overflow queue.

One of our objectives for the afternoon was eating more Christmas foods in Magic Kingdom.

We were even going to do the Pistachio Chai Tea Float at Aloha Isle, but every time we passed this area, it was packed with guests waiting on their Mobile Orders. Maybe Next time.

Splash Mountain was down much of the day, and it was a hot one, so that probably would’ve had the longest wait time.

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad instead drew the longest wait we saw–60 minutes. With Tom Sawyer Island closed for the Rivers of America draining, BTMRR used the raft queue as overflow. You can see the Cast Member “end of line” sign on the right side of the photo above.

On the other side of the river, Haunted Mansion was using the Liberty Square Riverboat area for its extended queue, with a posted wait time of 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, the Muppets are back in Liberty Square!

Let me reiterate with a bit more enthusiasm: THE MUPPETS ARE BACK!!!!

I cannot believe I neglected to post about this previously. Between the last two weekends I’ve taken, no joke, 400+ photos of the Muppets. There’s probably not enough to say about this to justify a full post, but I’m sure I can find some excuse…

Continuing with characters, we also have Chip ‘n’ Dale out in Frontierland.

They alternate with the Country Bears, and are sometimes even out when the cavalcades roll through. It’s amusing to watch the characters react to these mini-parades.

Over in Tomorrowland, Santa Stitch and Buzz Lightyear alternate on the stage.

Walt Disney World has already surprised us with some unannounced holiday entertainment at Animal Kingdom, and my (sincere) hope is that the same happens with “A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas.”

Sticking in Tomorrowland, we have a two-for-one here: a look at the line for Space Mountain and canopy construction on TRON Lightcycle Run.

The canopy work has progressed briskly, but the rumor is that not much else is being done on TRON Lightcycle Run and construction will be paused until October 2021 once the canopy is finished.

More overflow queue has been added for Carousel of Progress.

Due to physical distancing in the theaters, stage shows have seen the biggest jumps in average wait times since reopening. With attendance increasing and no way to make these more efficient, the only thing that’ll offset that is nicer weather and less of a “need” for air-conditioned escapes.

Moving to Fantasyland, one of the things we noticed since the summer is an increasing number of strollers. This isn’t particularly remarkable–it’s very normal for Magic Kingdom. But it’s a stark contrast to our earlier post-reopening reports that featured empty stroller parking areas.

Despite this, crowds and wait times were more or less normal in Fantasyland. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train had a 55 minute wait for much of the afternoon, with everything else below that.

Much of the story here has been long overflow queues, but it’s also worth pointing out that many of these were not in use, and 8-10 attractions were posting <30 minute waits at any given time.

If you’re in the park from rope drop until closing, it’s still easy–even without FastPass–to knock out every attraction, do a table service meal, and enjoy the entertainment. (See our 1-Day Magic Kingdom Itinerary for step-by-step strategy.)

Here are guests loitering around Be Our Guest Restaurant waiting for their Advance Dining Reservations or Walk-Up Wait List window to open.

As a reminder, we strongly recommend checking for Walk-Up Wait List availability if you can’t score ADRs. We’ve seen Be Our Guest Restaurant as an option frequently, even on busier days. If the wait list is full, keep checking–especially later in the day.

In addition to everything else, we made a point of watching the Christmas cavalcades again. (Read our Guide to Christmas Character Cavalcades for photos, best viewing spots & info.)

It could be partially due to the heat and sun, but the parade route was not nearly as busy as last weekend. There’s always a fall-off after the debut, but we expected larger crowds. (That’ll probably be the case Thanksgiving week and beyond.)

Ultimately, a solid day in Magic Kingdom. If this quasi-holiday weekend was a preview of what’s to come for Thanksgiving and beyond, that would be great. Our experience was mostly manageable crowds and wait times, with some higher than acceptable (to us) lines. Pretty good by weekend or holiday standards, and not really all that different from any recent visit in the last two months. Our biggest complaint would be the weather, which is outside Disney’s control and irrelevant to a crowd report.

However, our view of the Walt Disney World experience tends to be a more holistic one, with weather factoring heavily into our enjoyment. We’ve repeatedly said that we’d take the higher holiday crowds along with added entertainment, decor, and nicer weather as opposed to the ‘ghost town’ of the summer coupled with miserable heat and humidity. We’re thus salivating over this week, which should be the best of both worlds: low crowds and high temperatures in the 70s. Here’s hoping that pans out!

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 since mid-October, what has been your experience with crowds and wait times? Looking forward to the entertainment, decorations, and better weather of the next couple months, or concerned about the increased attendance? 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!


22 Responses to “Magic Kingdom Report: Holiday Weekend Crowds”
  1. DebC November 22, 2020
  2. Rick November 20, 2020
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