The September crowd calendar is going on three weeks late now. The problem is the operating schedule. Magic Kingdom is still slated to close at 7pm on September 1st, 4th, and 7th even though Disney’s “officially” released dates for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party do not include these dates. According to Disney, the first Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party is September 15th. I’ve talked with over two dozen people with knowledge of the situation and the prevailing opinion is Disney is trying to sell these dates to businesses/organizations for after-hours parties/buy outs. And if they can’t do that, they’ll announce that “due to guest feedback/popularity,” Mickey’s Halloween Party has been added to September 1st, 4th, and 7th. We are strictly in rumor territory with those last two sentences, but the bottom line is that we don’t have anything better to go on than expecting Magic Kingdom to close at 7pm on those three dates in question.

I don’t expect any changes to the recommendations or crowd levels over the first two weeks from the preliminary crowd calendar. Preliminary daily analysis for the first two weeks of the month follows. The first revision for September should be finalized tomorrow – at least as close as we can get with the available information.

Tuesday September 1

Animal Kingdom: 9am – 5pm (Highly Recommended)

Epcot: 9am – 9pm (Not Recommended)

Morning Extra Magic Hour: 8am – 9am

Illuminations: 9pm

Hollywood Studios: 9am – 8pm (Not Recommended)

Fantasmic: 8:30pm

Magic Kingdom: 9am – 7pm (Most Recommended)

Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party or Private after-hours party

Festival of Fantasy Parade: 3pm, Main Street Electrical Parade: None, Wishes Fireworks: None

Animal Kingdom is highly recommended. We don’t have special events, Extra Magic Hours, or anything specific drawing people toward it. Sunday’s and tomorrow’s morning Extra Magic Hours will be more popular with Disney resort guests. It’s early enough in the week that many people on weeklong vacations will be saving Animal Kingdom for later in the week. To have the most success, arrive prior to Park opening and head straight for Kilimanjaro Safaris and Expedition Everest. You’ll have no trouble riding both with very low waits before 10am. Once you get through these two attractions, you have little to worry about other than trying to get to the scheduled shows. Finding Nemo and Festival of the Lion King do get busy during the afternoon shows, so try to see the first or last show of the day. You’ll also want to get to DinoLand USA before 10:30am to ride Primeval Whirl and DINOSAUR because those two attractions are popular. Still, they aren’t necessarily your top morning priorities. You should have no trouble experiencing most everything Animal Kingdom has to offer in one day, provided you arrive early in the morning, tour efficiently, use FastPass+ intelligently, and keep an eye on the time in order to see the scheduled stage shows. Finally, crowds disperse around 3pm. Plan to stay through close because waits will only get shorter as it gets later in the evening. Visit DinoLand after 3pm and Asia after 4pm to find much lower waits than the afternoon.

Epcot is not recommended. Disney is extremely successful at selling the Extra Magic Hours program in its marketing materials. Even people that have no idea what “Soaring” is and think they’ll be riding the monorail from Animal Kingdom to Epcot know about Extra Magic Hours. Even when overall crowds are low, Disney still enjoys 85% occupancy over 25,000 rooms resort-wide. And guess where a lot of those 75,000+ people are going to be headed? Skip it unless you can’t get there any other day or are certain you’ll arrive prior to 8am for the morning Extra Magic Hour and plan to either Park Hop elsewhere or take a break in the afternoon.

Hollywood Studios is not expressly recommended. The short hours at Magic Kingdom will be a big turn off for many and off-site visitors in particular will be looking toward Fantasmic and Toy Story Mania after spending yesterday at Magic Kingdom. I’m looking towards tomorrow and Thursday as a significantly better days to visit and I would hold off until then if possible. With nothing specific attracting anyone to the Studios and the relatively low overall crowd level, you can still do well with an early arrival and an efficient touring plan, but most people will want to take advantage of one of the best days of the week to visit Magic Kingdom.

Magic Kingdom closes at 7pm and doesn’t offer either nighttime spectacular during regular Park hours because it’s hosting Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. This will deter the majority of casual vacationers who prefer to visit when the Park is open later and the fireworks are scheduled during regular hours, even if they don’t plan to take advantage of either. Many guests equate longer hours to a better value for their money. Unfortunately, the heavier crowds that show up on those days lead to longer lines at rides, stores, and quick services, in addition to increased congestion in walkways and fuller shows. I can assure you that a 9am – 7pm day at Magic Kingdom is plenty long and you’ll be able to get more done in those 10 hours than you possibly could hope to on a non-recommended day with 9am – 10pm hours because wait times are so much shorter park-wide. If you’re looking to extend your day, consider taking the monorail or boat to one of the Deluxe resorts. The Wave, Kona Café, ‘Ohana, and Whispering Canyon are all fun casual table service restaurants. For a nicer (and more expensive) meal, consider California Grill, Citricos, or Artist Point. Otherwise, stay through 7pm because crowds will only dissipate with few people Park Hopping over in the afternoon. Just about everyone arriving for the Halloween Party will congregate on Main Street waiting for the Party or head to a character to get in line. Save Fantasyland for after 6pm to find lower waits than any part of the day other than the first hour. With only one day at the Park, you’ll need to decide whether putting up with heavier crowds and longer lines is worth seeing the nighttime entertainment.

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Just a heads up in case you were looking, Disney released more FastPass+ for Wishes. More info about the location etc. is available here.

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We’ll begin coverage of the 2015 Epcot Flower and Garden Festival with a look at the good stuff…a review of the items served at each of the various Outdoor Kitchens sprinkled around World Showcase for the event, which runs from March 5th through May 17th.

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Trattoria al Forno opened in the old Kouzzina by Cat Cora space on the BoardWalk back in December. It becomes the fourth Italian restaurant in the vicinity – there’s Tutto Italia and Via Napoli at Epcot and Il Mulino at the Swan/Dolphin. All of those are operated by third parties, making this the first “Disney” Italian restaurant outside of Tony’s Town Square, which serves primarily frozen food.

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In what has become an increasingly rare occurrence, there are a few things of interest happening at Walt Disney World that don’t include a wall at Animal Kingdom moving from one side of the walkway to the other.

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Dust off that monocle and button up those frilly lace cuffs because we’re headed to Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa!

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As expected, Disney is raising prices on theme park tickets effective Sunday February 22nd. New pricing is as follows. The big change is that No Expiration tickets will no longer be sold.

1-Day to Magic Kingdom

  • Adult: $105
  • Child: $99

1-Day to Animal Kingdom, Epcot, or Hollywood Studios

  • Adult: $97
  • Child: $91

2-Day Ticket

  • Adult: $192
  • Child: $179

3-Day Ticket

  • Adult: $275
  • Child: $256

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Just a heads up in case you’re planning to visit Magic Kingdom on February 23rd or 24th. The close is now 11pm instead of 10pm.

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We’ll head out to Magic Kingdom to check on Presidents Week crowds and a preview of what we can expect over the busy spring break period from March 6 – April 11.

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With the walls changing position, Animal Kingdom beckons our return.

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