In a few recent posts, we’ve covered the best and worst days to do Magic Kingdom next month. This has been predicated upon the 2022 Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, which causes crowd levels to fluctuate dramatically by day at Walt Disney World in August, September, and October. (Updated July 29, 2022.)
This is really nothing new. As we’ve discussed countless times, MNSSHP disrupts crowd dynamics, but it does so predictably. The Halloween party pushes attendance much higher on the dates it’s not occurring and lower on days of the event. It was a hot topic last year when Disney After Hours Boo Bash was announced, a decision that was likely based at least in part on anticipated heavy crowds for the kickoff of Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary. (Which never materialized due to reinstated mask rules and the Delta variant.)
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 the last 5+ 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.
Recently, Walt Disney World adjusted its schedule to account for this. Magic Kingdom will now stay open for one extra hour–until 11:00 pm–from now through August 2, plus the following dates:
August 13-15, 2022
August 17, 2022
August 20-22, 2022
August 24-25, 2022
August 27, 2022
These extensions are all on nights when Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party is not being held.
Previously, in our August 2022 Crowd Calendar Update, we predicted that these would be the most crowded dates of the month. Of course, that’s relative–after the first 10 days, August is the fall off-season. From mid-August through late September is not a particularly busy time as a whole at Walt Disney World.
More importantly for savvy Walt Disney World vacation planners, Magic Kingdom will open an hour earlier–at 8 am–on the following dates:
August 12, 2022
August 16, 2022
August 19, 2022
August 23, 2022
August 26, 2022
Again, this is also due to MNSSHP–these are all event nights when Magic Kingdom is closing to day guests at 6 pm. We previously predicted these would be the slowest dates of August 2022 at Magic Kingdom.
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 bouncing 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.
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.
All of this was our advice before Magic Kingdom moved to 8 am opening times on MNSSHP dates. Now, it’s an absolute no-brainer, as rope drop occurring at 8 am means significantly lower crowds for that. Ditto Early Entry starting at 7:30 am. The vast majority of guests cannot or will not be at Magic Kingdom at that hour, so you’ll have a tremendous advantage. We’ll test touring strategy once these dates roll around, but I’m guessing (with a reasonable degree of confidence) that Genie+ won’t even be needed at Magic Kingdom on those MNSSHP dates.
We cannot overemphasize the crowd disparity between days with and without the early closure due to the Halloween party. This is a prime example of taking the counterintuitive approach and embracing the shorter hours. You’ve probably read all of this before.
The reason we’re reiterating all of this is because something odd has happened in the last week. Above is a look at the Disney Park Pass calendar for August 2022 as of this morning. Disregard the first week, which is still summer season and the last hurrah for many locals before school goes back into session.
What’s more interesting is August 12, 16, and 19, all of which are yellow–fully booked for Magic Kingdom. (Until yesterday, August 23 was also yellow.) All of those are Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party nights. So, what gives? Are our crowd predictions wrong?
That’s always a possibility. We have been stressing for a while that crowd calendars are less reliable than ever as the reservations system, pent-up demand, and other unprecedented factors undercut historical data and under predictors of crowd levels.
It’s thus possible that we are going to get this one wrong. I’m humble enough to admit when I’m wrong, and will do so again if that turns out to be the case here, and wait time data for Magic Kingdom on non-party days reflects lower crowd levels for those dates.
With that in mind, let’s discuss some possibilities about what’s happening here…
First, one theoretical scenario is that tons of people read our August 2022 recommendations and I single handedly managed to manipulate Walt Disney World attendance patterns. (Not sounding so humble now, am I?!) This is mentioned because commenters occasionally question whether they should do the opposite of our advice since “everyone else” is reading this and will follow these strategies. Consider that the counter-counterintuitive approach.
While I certainly wish more people would heed my warnings and follow my advice, this is utter nonsense. If Walt Disney World visitors were following this blog’s suggestions on any meaningful scale, Country Bear Jamboree would have perpetual 90 minute waits, Sanaa would be the most coveted ADR, Chester & Hester would be out of business, and Mickey would’ve had his chef’s hat revoked by now. None of those things have even come close to happening.
Even if every single person who has read any of our several posts with the August 2022 park recommendations followed them, that would only amount to ~1% of all Magic Kingdom visitors on any given day. In all likelihood, that dramatically overestimates the influence of our advice. A lot of regular readers likely don’t have trips planned for August and others are unwilling or unable to follow our recommendations.
In short, this blog is not moving the needle on crowd patterns at Walt Disney World in any meaningful way. That’s true not just with this particular topic, but always. The counterintuitive strategies here work because the vast majority of visitors don’t use them, and opt for the intuitive approach. Even most people who do read this blog disregard a lot of its advice and will never know the joys of Country Bear Jamboree.
A second possibility is that Walt Disney World has set its preliminary attendance limits for each park in August 2022 and is counting Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party ticket sales against those caps. This would explain why MNSSHP dates have been the fastest to fill up during the early fall off-season.
This would make almost no sense. Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party occurs largely after park closing; the only overlap between that event and day guests occurs between 4 pm and 6 pm. That two hour window can be crowded and chaotic with an influx of arriving and departing guests, but the rest of the park isn’t noticeably busy as a result. (Especially in August.)
Odd as it might sound, this is a possibility. We have it on good authority that Walt Disney World tries to set attendance caps to allow unimpeded Park Hopping, which has meant lower daily limits for Magic Kingdom as more guests head there after their first park for Disney Enchantment.
That makes sense during normal operations if the other parks have excess capacity. Not so much when it comes to Halloween or Christmas party dates since there’s minimal overlap between daily ops and the events. It’s literally just two hours, and there are almost as many people leaving then as are arriving.
If this “doesn’t make much sense,” then why is Disney doing it? Well, your guess is as good as mine. A lot of Walt Disney World fans want to assume that the company is all-knowing, playing a well-orchestrated game of 4D chess that is beyond the comprehension of anyone looking on from the outside.
That’s often not the case–one hand often doesn’t know what the other is doing. Basic blunders are made due to a lack of foresight, loss of institutional knowledge, arrogance, etc. There might be a desire to believe there’s some deeper explanation here, but it’s quite possibly a simple mistake.
Giving Walt Disney World leadership the benefit of the doubt, another possibility is that this is purposeful. Management anticipates the other 3 parks having plenty of excess bandwidth to absorb guests on days that Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party is being held, and has deliberately set a lower attendance cap at Magic Kingdom as a result.
In this scenario, their goal would be ensuring that the guest experience is better for those who have a shorter day in the park, with people able to accomplish just as much in a partial day as a whole one at Magic Kingdom. This would be a charitable explanation, but great if true. My hesitation in believing this is my own eyes. I’ve seen everything else that they’ve done to the guest experience in the last couple of years, making this explanation a hard sell.
It’s also possible that this is purposeful, and due to ongoing staffing shortages. A few people suggested this in the comments and on social media, and it’s highly likely that they are correct. We’ve pointed out on several occasions in park hours updates that Magic Kingdom likely can’t open earlier than 9 am or stay open later than 11 pm without adding shifts, and that can’t be done due to an insufficient number of Cast Members.
While staffing has been improving and likely will get better by the time Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party starts, it’s still an issue. Walt Disney World probably is still in a position that Magic Kingdom will need to reallocate some daytime shifts to the evening during MNSSHP.
In theory, this could impact ride capacity or efficiency, thereby increasing wait times during the day of Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. This would most likely be evident on attractions cast-intensive rides like Jungle Cruise or Space Mountain, but dispatch intervals could be impacted on other attractions.
Still, we would not expect this to increase wait times much in mid to late August 2022 outside a handful of attractions. This is usually a slow time with excess capacity, so a slight decrease in operational efficiency shouldn’t hurt much. What it’s more likely to mean is a longer line to pick up Mobile Orders, fewer PhotoPass photographers during the day, and things that aren’t measured by normal wait time data.
My operating assumption at this point is that Disney has lowered the day guest cap for some reason–whether that be benevolence or clumsily counting MNSSHP guests against it. The real reason doesn’t matter, so long as it’s not actually due to more demand for the 6 pm closure days.
It’s possible–if not probable–that we’ll see more Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party dates “fill up” for Magic Kingdom in August 2022 on the Disney Park Pass reservation calendar. Given how things have played out thus far, that will probably happen before many non-party dates book up. (Although at some point, the yellow will become a self-fulfilling prophecy and people will scramble to book other dates, too.)
However, this does not mean those dates will be busier. As we’ve covered elsewhere, Walt Disney World has been using reservations to manipulate attendance and the Disney Park Pass calendar is not conclusive of crowd levels. The company has been using reservations to increase the utilization and normalize numbers across all four parks.
That’s why “fully booked” days have such inconsistent crowd levels, and Magic Kingdom has ranged from 3/10 to 9/10 crowd levels on dates that were “fully booked.” There would not be such dramatic fluctuations in wait times if “fully booked” were a relatively consistent attendance number.
If our theory is correct here–that Walt Disney World is for some reason counting MNSSHP guests against the daily attendance cap for Magic Kingdom–that will amount to an even odder way of redistributing attendance away from Magic Kingdom. It would also be one that would backfire, assuming adjustments aren’t made with attendance limits prior to the Halloween and Christmas parties.
Personally, I don’t think that’ll happen–or won’t happen more than once. If August 12 rolls around and nothing changes, Magic Kingdom could be quite slow during the day. That would probably (hopefully?) result in leadership reevaluating reservations, and why Magic Kingdom had such low daytime attendance on a fully booked day.
My actual hope and expectation would be that Walt Disney World starts evaluating Park Pass reservations once August arrives, and someone internal questions what’s up with Magic Kingdom. In that scenario, reservation availability is refilled for MNSSHP days, and the dates that actually book up are Saturdays, followed by other non-party dates.
Of course, this is all highly speculative and assumes there’s not some other explanation I’m not overlooking. Maybe mid-August is suddenly the hot time to travel and more people want to visit Magic Kingdom on days it closes at 6 pm. (Perhaps they’re fearful of vampires.) This would defy years of historical precedent, crowd level data, and basic logic. But it’s still possible.
Ultimately, that’s my take and it could be wrong. However, not only am I willing to stick with this one, but I’m doubling down on it pretty strongly via this post. That should say something about my confidence level and the amount of crow I’ll have to eat if this ends up being inaccurate and Magic Kingdom is packed on MNSSHP days with sanguivoriphobiacs.
Even in the face of “evidence” to the contrary via the Disney Park Pass reservation calendar, I simply do not believe days when the Magic Kingdom closes at 6 pm will be busier than days it closes at 11 pm. For one, that would fly in the face of years and years of data to the contrary. For another, the Disney Park Pass calendar stopped being determinative of crowd levels months ago, so why would we suddenly give it any credence?
All things considered, August 2022 should be a relatively low to moderate month across the board at Walt Disney World once school goes back into session, decreasing across the board beginning around August 10, 2022. That’s the date that both Orange County Public Schools and Osceola County Public Schools start their first day of classes, and those districts have a disproportionate impact on crowd levels at Walt Disney World. As other districts around the South, Midwest, and Northeast start their academic years, crowds will continue dropping for the remainder of the month.
What do you think…will non-party days when Magic Kingdom closes at 11 pm be busier, or too much of a vampire risk for the average Walt Disney World guest? Is August 2022 going to be the year that defies historical precedent and logic, with days of MNSSHP being busier? 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!