Magic Kingdom just had its third least busy day of 2022, and we were in the park the entire day doing rides, testing new strategy, and checking out crowd dynamics. In this Walt Disney World park report, we’ll share what it was like and why, along with how this compares to other days, and more assorted commentary.
Although we predicted that certain dates would be among the least busy of the year at Magic Kingdom, those same days in August were also the first Disney Park Pass reservations to book up. That led more than a few of you to question our advice…hence that post offering potential explanations for the conflict. After all, it seemed unlikely both of things two things could simultaneously be true. And yet, they were.
While the slowdown was particularly pronounced at Magic Kingdom, crowds have been declining throughout Walt Disney World. Schools throughout Florida and other Southern states are back in session, unofficially ushering in the fall off-season. In addition to that, the 2022 Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party is underway, bringing shorter operating hours to Magic Kingdom for regular guests on those evenings.
As we’ve discussed elsewhere, Magic Kingdom crowd dynamics during party season has been one of the key discussion points of our August through December crowd calendars for several years. It’s actually one of the easiest “predictions” we make. Those are air quotes around prediction because this pattern has played out predictably and consistently for years. It’s akin to “predicting” that Peter Pan’s Flight and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train will have higher wait times than Carousel of Progress.
While schools going back into session and fall off-season arriving is a contributing factor, this is mostly about MNSSHP. The Halloween Party disrupts crowd dynamics at Magic Kingdom in a very predictable and consistent manner. The Halloween party pushes attendance much higher on the dates it’s not occurring and lower on days of the event.
For our part, we’ve been strongly recommending that readers visit Magic Kingdom during the day on Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party nights, and then bounce to another park at around 4 pm. Park Hopping is essential during party season.
The underlying rationale for this is that many day guests avoid Magic Kingdom on party dates because the park hours are shorter and fireworks are not shown to regular guests. This results in significantly lighter crowds before the party. These same guests then flock to non-party days in Magic Kingdom.
For visitors without the Park Hopper option (which is a lot of people), visiting Magic Kingdom on non-party nights is the obvious, intuitive choice. For the same ticket price, they get several more hours in the park and get to see the fireworks.
Like clockwork, this prediction was accurate for the day of the first 2022 Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. As noted above, this was the third least-crowded day of the year at Magic Kingdom.
The average posted wait time across all attractions was 18 minutes, which is a 1/10 crowd level at Magic Kingdom. This is as contrasted with a 35 minute wait time average and 5/10 crowd level for the week–with that base level also down considerably as compared to last month. (All wait time stats are courtesy of Thrill-Data.com.)
This post might seem like a self-congratulatory exercise of little practical value. Neither are accurate. Again, this prediction was easy. There’s nothing to pat ourselves on the back about for being able to spot history repeating itself yet again, just as was the case every year from 2015 until 2019. And it is of value for planning purposes, as many more days like this are on the horizon.
Oh, and as for the two least busy days of the year, those were January 25 and February 8. You might recall that we strongly recommended doing Magic Kingdom on those dates because the park was closing at 4:30 pm for Cast Member appreciation events. It’s unlikely that any party season days will dethrone those as the #1 least busy date of the year. Magic Kingdom closed even earlier then and those dates fell during the winter off-season.
Anyway, now that we’ve explained what crowds were like and why, let’s take a stroll around Magic Kingdom on this early-closing day…
Many attractions were walk-ons throughout the day, including Haunted Mansion.
I guess Magic Kingdom day guests didn’t get the memo that the official start of Halloween season occurred in mid-August on a day with triple digit ‘feels like’ temperatures.
Not everything had no wait–or even a short wait–though.
While we found posted times inflated for some rides and meet & greets, others were spot-on.
Splash Mountain was surprisingly quiet despite the heat.
None of the outdoor queue was in use when I did Splash Mountain during the middle of the day. Most of the indoor queue wasn’t being utilized, either.
For many attractions, wait times were dictated more by Lightning Lane utilization than standby line length.
It was almost comical to see only a handful of guests in the standby queue, waiting for the steady stream of Lightning Lane guests to subside. This is always “a thing,” but it’s not as noticeable on busier days because both queues have a decent number of guests in them.
Other attractions had little-to-no Lightning Lane usage, meaning they were a walk-on for standby guests.
“it’s a small world” is a good example of this. Despite the 15 minute posted time, the actual wait was however long it took to walk through the queue.
Same goes for Pirates of the Caribbean.
This is one of several attractions where using a Lightning Lane could theoretically take longer. If there’s a backup at the front tapstile (not uncommon–all it takes is someone having a problem or deciding that it’s a good idea to block the line to ask a random question), it could very well take longer to walk through the empty Lightning Lane than the empty standby line.
Reduced daytime staffing is one of the potential rationales for a lower reservations cap at Magic Kingdom on the days of Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. While this could be happening in ways that are “invisible” to guests, it was not even remotely evident while walking around the park.
To the contrary, PhotoPass photographers were abundant (and the only thing standing between me and empty Main Street shots, quite literally) and every restaurant appeared well-staffed.
There were also no reductions in attraction capacity that I could see.
Two obvious places where this can occur are Space Mountain and Jungle Cruise. If this was happening, I missed it at both–and wait times certainly didn’t reflect it.
Jungle Cruise was still one of the consistently highest wait times in the park, and one of the most popular Lightning Lanes.
That’s nothing new, though. In general, the standby line moved at a swift pace and there were plenty of skippers navigating the perilous waters.
If you’re doubting the legitimacy of these photos or thinking they were taken at strategic times to crop out crowds, above is one that’s undeniable and alone speaks to the low crowd levels at Magic Kingdom.
No line for the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover during the middle of the day. (Okay, maybe this is meaningless for those who haven’t been in a few years–this now always uses the extended queue during the day. The line would normally fill all of these switchbacks, and did on both the day before and after this.)
Magic Kingdom reminded me of this same time exactly two years ago. There were some eerie parallels to those traumatic times.
Definitely not the flashback I wanted to have. I prefer my spook season frights to come from ghosts, goblins, and other assorted things of the not-so-scary variety that aren’t real (allegedly).
There’s probably nothing that sums up our day in Magic Kingdom better than a comparison to August 2020 when the park was operating at ~20% capacity.
While we expected Magic Kingdom to be slow given the circumstances and historical precedent, I wasn’t expecting this. This date was the first to run out of reservations for Magic Kingdom, so this is wholly a result of Walt Disney World setting a low capacity cap. Organic demand would be low, but probably not quite this low.
That’s exactly why our zig when they zag recommendation has been to do Magic Kingdom on days of Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and to Park Hop somewhere else around 4 pm.
Even though Magic Kingdom has longer hours on these days, you will get less done than you could before 4 pm on a party day. So long as you’re comfortable missing the fireworks (Disney Enchantment is nothing special) or are fine watching from a resort restaurant or the TTC, we highly recommend doing your days in Magic Kingdom on party dates.
Again, if at all possible, we would strongly recommend doing Magic Kingdom on the following dates this month:
August 16, 2022
August 19, 2022
August 23, 2022
August 26, 2022
The park is now opening at 8 am on these dates, which is doubly advantageous if you’re eligible for Early Entry. Disney Park Pass reservations are not available for some of these dates, so you might need to be diligent checking for cancellations or reservation refills. The latter has already happened for some dates (and often occurs 1-2 days in advance) and the former happens with regularity.
Ultimately, that’s how the day prior to the first 2022 Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party played out at Magic Kingdom…in predictable fashion. Going forward, the story should be pretty similar for all regular days before 4 pm on MNSSHP nights. With that said, there are a couple of caveats as to how things could differ.
First, Walt Disney World could observe the exact same thing we did, and add reservation capacity as a result. In fact, we would expect this to occur. Probably not by a ton, as the underlying reasons for limiting daytime attendance remain. There’s still a decent chance that management on the ground observed congestion and wait times, determines there was unutilized capacity, and adjusts Park Pass limits upwards as a result.
Second, crowds will keep changing. Fall attendance typically does not bottom out in mid-August, as many school districts are still on break until later in the month. The low point usually occurs after Labor Day, and we’d expect the same in September 2022. Towards the end of that month, attendance remains low but starts to trend upwards.
October usually sees a sharper spike, with November and December being even busier (with the exception of a few weeks between holidays). We are less confident in the degree of these crowd predictions for the holiday season, as they’re at least in part predicated on conventions and other group events. The point stands that crowds are not static–next month will be slower and October through December will be busier. Falling crowds could (more than) offset the aforementioned (potential) increase in reservation capacity, and growing attendance could exacerbate it.
Regardless, all of this will remain true to some degree for the duration of Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party seasons. When crowds change, that occurs across the board–meaning this advice will still be proportionately accurate. (In other words, if it’s more or less busy on party days going forward, the circumstances will be similar for non-party days–meaning the benefit should remain approximately the same.)
To that end, we’re working on putting together a range of other strategy posts for these party days and non-party days in Magic Kingdom. At present, this includes (but is not limited to) using Genie+ on party days, standby-only strategy, 7:30 am Early Entry approach, 8 am rope drop, and Genie+ Park Hopping from Magic Kingdom. If there are any other “run-throughs” you’d like to see, please let us know in the comments. I can’t make any promises, but I’ll try to work that into our/my Magic Kingdom visits.
All things considered, August and September 2022 should be a relatively low to moderate month at Magic Kingdom, and across the board at Walt Disney World. Orange County Public Schools and Osceola County Public Schools have now started their first day of classes, and those districts have a disproportionate impact on crowd levels at Walt Disney World. Other districts around the South have also gone back into session, with the Midwest and Northeast next up to start their academic years.
Now, we just need the weather to cooperate for this to be a truly pleasant time to visit Magic Kingdom. While I’m loving the low crowds, I’m less keen on my shirt being soaked from sweat by 9 am…and then soaked from rain at [insert random time thunderstorm starts]. But that comes with the territory, and I’ll take some unpleasant weather if it means gloriously uncrowded parks!
Have you visited Magic Kingdom for daytime hours on a party night? What was your experience with crowds and wait times? Do you plan on visiting Magic Kingdom during the day before the 2022 Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party? Or, is the loss of fireworks and having to leave by 6 pm a dealbreaker for you? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? 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!