Mardi Gras 2023 Crowds at Disney World

Mardi Gras plus the holiday weekends of Presidents’ Day, Lunar New Year, and Valentine’s Day plus scattered winter school breaks resulted in heavy crowds during what’s otherwise winter off-season at Walt Disney World. This stretch of February and March 2023 will be busy, with higher wait times, attendance, and congestion in Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios.

Mardi Gras 2023 won’t be anything like last year–it’ll be much more like two years ago, due to the break also coinciding with Presidents’ Day this year. As we stressed repeatedly months beforehand, that week was a “red flag” on our Walt Disney World Crowd Calendars. We predicted it would be the busiest week of the first quarter of the year, and one of the worst 5 weeks of the entire year at Walt Disney World.

In a nutshell, this was due to a confluence of circumstances resulting in several holidays all more or less coinciding with one another, plus Mardi Gras festivities being cancelled in New Orleans. Consequently, crowds started swelling a couple of days in advance of the Presidents’ Day (etc.) long weekend and crowds getting really heavy during Mardi Gras week. On our highly scientific scale of LSU and Saints shirts spotted in the parks, basically the entire state of Louisiana visited Walt Disney World that week.

The final weekend of Mardi Gras was particularly busy. All four Walt Disney World theme parks hit capacity for all ticket types and Disney did a last-minute extension to weekend park hours. This came after Walt Disney World previously extended hours several times, with closing times of 10 pm and 11 pm some nights for Magic Kingdom and EPCOT. This is several hours later than normal 7 pm and 8 pm park closing this time of year, and suggested Disney’s internal forecasts were projecting a busy week.

As it turned out, the week of Presidents’ Day and Mardi Gras was one of the busiest weeks of the year at Walt Disney World. It was especially bad for Magic Kingdom. Last year, Mardi Gras wait times at Magic Kingdom were on par with the week leading up to New Year’s Eve, and higher than the week leading up to Christmas.

The story was similar at Animal Kingdom, which was above holiday season peaks. At Animal Kingdom, this was second-busiest week there since last July, with wait times triple that month and August levels.

EPCOT likewise went from averaging 16 to 22 minute wait times from mid-January through mid-February to 35 minute waits. EPCOT also sees a significant difference between holidays/weekends and weekdays (the spikes are all Saturday and Sunday or holiday breaks).

Disney’s Hollywood Studios was up significantly as compared to the mid-January to mid-February, but more or less on par with weekly October through December levels. As we’ve stated repeatedly, DHS is always an anomaly because it’s often coming close to park capacity.

We’re sharing this not to take a victory lap because our forecast was dead on the money–we also point out when we get crowd predictions wrong. Rather, we’re pointing it out because this happens every single year and there’s a lesson to be learned. It’s not boasting, it’s preserving for posterity a record of crowd levels so fans aren’t caught off-guard when it occurs again, plus predictions for Walt Disney World crowds in February 2023.

You know what they say? “Fool me once, strike one. But fool me twice… strike three.” ~Michael Scott

It’s understandable that the spike in crowds continues to surprise Walt Disney World fans year after year. There are probably several factors at play here.

First, reports of low crowd levels for two months or so beforehand lull people into a false sense of security and optimism that off-season trends will continue. If you’re seeing rock-bottom wait times one week, you probably don’t expect those to (essentially) double overnight. But they do.

Second, while most people are generally aware of the aforementioned February holidays, not many people have them off work. Presidents’ Day and Mardi Gras are not exactly like Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year’s Eve. The degree to which a couple of states or a region having a school break can impact Walt Disney World crowd levels is actually pretty significant.

If you live in the Midwest, you may not be aware that Mardi Gras is a “big deal” and popular travel period for the Southeast. It’s also a popular winter break for some Northeast school districts. If you don’t live in those locations, it’s an understandable blind spot. The same thing happens with Jersey Week, which impacts crowd levels at Walt Disney World.

Essentially, our point here is that this is going to happen again in 2023. Don’t dismiss last year’s crowds as an aberration because of Disney’s capacity constraints or Mardi Gras events in New Orleans being cancelled. While those almost certainly factored in and exacerbated crowd levels, that week would’ve been bad regardless.

Presidents’ Day is always celebrated on the third Monday of February. That means it’s February 20, 2023. Being a native Midwesterner, my knowledge of Mardi Gras is minimal, but it’ll be February 21, 2023. (Here’s the basis for those dates.)

To compound matters, the following weekend is Princess Half Marathon Weekend, with official event dates of February 23-26, 2023. Most runners will show up early rather than staying late. Consequently, we’d recommend avoiding February 17-26, 2023 if at all possible.

Both Osceola and Orange County, Florida are scheduled to have their Spring Breaks March 13-17, 2023. That alone will make that week plus the weekends before and after pretty busy.

In addition to all of these February and early March 2023 holiday weekends and weeks, Spring Break and Easter 2023 are the high profile ‘events’ that will have a significant impact on attendance and wait times.

If you’re contemplating a visit in the next few months, we’d recommend consulting our February 2023 Crowd Calendar, March 2023 Crowd Calendar for specific best and worst dates to visit Walt Disney World. In particular, avoid Osceola and Orange County K-12 Spring Breaks. Same goes for our April 2023 Crowd Calendar, although the spike there should be more obvious.

If you’re already looking ahead to next year, the 2023 winter crowd spike should more closely mirror last year with Mardi Gras and Presidents’ Day coinciding. We’ll say it now so you have over a year to plan and aren’t caught flat footed at the last minute: avoid February 17-26, 2023 at Walt Disney World!

Overall, attendance levels at Walt Disney World are becoming increasingly difficult to predict. For the last few years, we’ve cautioned against over-reliance on crowd calendars (including our own!) for more distant dates. That’s truer than ever right now; I honestly cannot predict with a high degree of accuracy how crowded October 14 or November 3 will be–or even which will be busier. At this point, no one can.

However, I can predict with almost complete certainty that the aforementioned week in February 2023 will be crowded at Walt Disney World. Unless America stops honoring its leaders or New Orleans gives up partying, it’ll be bad. It’s not a matter of our crystal ball having hyperopia or haziness at random. Some dates are just easier to predict than others; right now, school calendars and holidays provide the most “crowd clarity.” Plan your winter off-season visits to Walt Disney World in 2023 accordingly to avoid these “surprise” peak season crowds!

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!


Have you visited Walt Disney World during Mardi Gras, Presidents’ Day, Lunar New Year, or Valentine’s Day? Were you in the parks during any of these holidays last year? What did you think of the crowds? Any parks, times of day, or days of the week noticeably worse than the others? Did you notice a significant difference between posted and actual wait times? If you visited in the weeks before/after Mardi Gras, did you notice a big difference in crowd levels? Visited for past Mardi Gras weeks? Do you agree or disagree with anything in our crowd report? 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!

63 Responses to “Mardi Gras 2023 Crowds at Disney World”
  1. Jeff Homel March 1, 2022
  2. Sheila January 14, 2022
  3. Nicki January 14, 2022
  4. Sheila January 14, 2022
  5. S.Luke January 14, 2022
  6. Nicki January 14, 2022
  7. Eve Miley October 19, 2021
  8. Marcia Tipton February 28, 2021
  9. Sherry Keller February 28, 2021
  10. Scott February 27, 2021
  11. Greg Newman February 26, 2021
  12. Jason February 26, 2021
  13. Andrea February 25, 2021
  14. Chelsey February 25, 2021
    • Susan February 26, 2021
  15. Rachel Mears February 25, 2021
  16. Paul February 25, 2021
  17. Paul February 25, 2021
  18. Linda Ruffin February 25, 2021
  19. MIKE M February 25, 2021
    • Robin Rudacille February 25, 2021

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *