We’ll visit Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort to check out a new Disney Vacation Club Studio and hit the Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto patio. We’ll return for a look inside Trader Sam’s and for a walk around the resort to see what’s changed during construction.

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Instead of inputting the various attractions we’re interested in experiencing through a computer algorithm that doesn’t work and pretending like that offers insight into why our crowd calendar is permanently broken, we’ll hit the pavement and see how the 1-day cheat sheet touring plan actually plays out on the ground.

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Larger: http://www.easywdw.com/reports13/tornup.jpg

Heavy roadwork on Buena Vista Drive and Hotel Plaza Blvd continues as crews widen the road to ten lanes. My advice is to avoid both as much as possible and use Epcot Center Drive and Bonnet Creek Pkwy as far as you can. You’ll still turn onto Buena Vista Drive for a short stretch as pictured above at the turn, but you can take a left into the parking garage and avoid almost all of the current roadway construction.

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5/18/15 Update: Daily analysis added for the beginning of the month. The Extra Magic Hours schedule and expected crowd levels at the individual theme parks are still not known. Will update when the information is available. See this post for more information on what to expect from the final operating schedule, including expected daily 8am openings at Magic Kingdom.

This is the Free December 2015 Disney World Crowd Calendar that shows the Recommended Parks to Visit, Overall Crowd Level Estimation, Cost, Historic High/Low Temperature, Historic Chance of Precipitation, Extra Magic Hours Schedule, Fantasmic Show Times, Holidays, and Special Events.

Make sure you first read my month-by-month overview of visiting Disney World, located here. The overview will give you an idea of what to expect in terms of cost, crowds, weather, and special events on a broader scale. Once you figure out when you would like to visit, you can move on to this more detailed look.

Here’s a quick explanation of how to read the calendar and what the numbers mean. It may seem like it’s a little long, but you’ll only need to read the explanation once.

  • The first line in each box is the date.
  • The second line shows the cost to book a room at a Disney-owned resort. $ = Value Season, $$ = Regular Season, $$$ = Summer Season, $$$$ = Peak Season, and $$$$$ = Holiday Season. Occasionally there will be a + or – after the $$$ to show that the cost is slightly higher or lower than usual, but not by enough to raise it another $ notch.
  • The third line is the average high and low temperature and the chance of precipitation. All data is based on the last 15 years. I wouldn’t read too much into the precipitation percentages for each day because just one or two additional days of rain in the last 15 years can raise the percentage substantially. I included it so you can look at the precipitation trends throughout the month(s) and take it into consideration when deciding when to book your vacation. For a broader overview of the month, read the month-by-month overview I linked to above.
  • The fourth line is an estimation of the overall crowd level. A “5″ refers to average crowds. Numbers above 5 refer to a larger than average overall crowd level and numbers below 5 refer to lower than average overall crowds. A day with an overall crowd level of “1″ means that the crowds are expected to be the absolute lowest of the year and a “10″ means crowds are expected to be at their largest of the year. In other words, the overall crowd level estimation will give you an idea of how many people are in the four major theme parks. Individual theme parks can have smaller or larger crowds than the overall estimation, which is where the theme park recommendations come in.
  • The fifth line shows the theme parks I recommend visiting in green and the theme parks I recommend avoiding in red. There is also a | sign that splits up the recommended and not recommended Parks for the color blind or those printing in black and white (the Parks to the left of the | sign are recommended). I use the usual abbreviations for the Parks; AK is the Animal Kingdom, EP is Epcot, HS is Hollywood Studios, and MK is the Magic Kingdom. In addition to the colors, the Park on the far left is the most recommended Park to visit that day. The Park second to the left is the second most recommended and so on. For example, if the line reads AK EP | HS MK then the Animal Kingdom is the most recommended and Epcot is the second most recommended. On the other side of the | sign, Hollywood Studios is not recommended and the Magic Kingdom is expressly not recommended even more. If possible, I would strongly recommend you visit the Park that is most recommended each day. Please read below the calendar for an overview of how I’ve selected the recommended Parks and also a day-by-day explanation.
  • The sixth line lists which Parks have Extra Magic Hours and at what time they start. Morning Extra Magic Hour lasts one hour and usually starts at 8am. Evening Extra Magic Hours last two hours from the start time. For example, if you see AK:8am EP:9pm, that means the Animal Kingdom has a morning Extra Magic Hour from 8am-9am and Epcot has evening Extra Magic Hours from 9pm-11pm.
  • The seventh line lists the Fantasmic show times at the Hollywood Studios.
  • The eighth line lists the start time of Main Street Electrical Parade (MSEP:) and Wishes Fireworks at Magic Kingdom(W:). For example, if you see, MSEP: 9pm & 11pm W: 10pm, it would mean that Main Street Electrical Parade begins at 9pm and 11pm and Wishes begins at 10pm.

The Calendar is also available in an easy to view and print PDF file, Here.

Click the image to enlarge it.

Tuesday December 1

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

Epcot: 9am – 9:30pm (Not Recommended)

Morning Extra Magic Hour: 8am – 9am

Illuminations: 9:30pm

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

Fantasmic: 7pm

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

Mickey’s Very Merry 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. Wednesday’s and Friday’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 in the early afternoon around 4pm. Plan to stay through close because waits will only get shorter as it gets later in the evening. Visit DinoLand with two hours to close and Asia in the final hour to find much shorter waits than the afternoon.

Epcot is not recommended. Disney is extremely good 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. Remember that well over 25,000 rooms resort-wide have access to Extra Magic Hours on any given day. And guess where a lot of those 75,000+ people are going to be headed? With Magic Kingdom proving unpopular with the 7pm close and no evening Extra Magic Hours scheduled anywhere, most people will want to visit another Park.

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. Tomorrow will also be significantly less popular with the early close and lack of Fantasmic and the Osborne Lights in the evening. With nothing specific attracting people, you can do well with an 8:15am arrival and an efficient touring plan. A late arrival that also includes the Osborne Lights may also make sense.

Magic Kingdom is the best Park to visit, despite the truncated operating schedule and lack of both Main Street Electrical Parade and Wishes. Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is scheduled tonight. It’s a separately ticketed event that begins at 7pm and runs through 12am. Because the hours are “so short” and there’s no evening entertainment during the regular day, most Disney vacationers will plan to visit on another day. Yesterday will have been busy and tomorrow will also be busier, thanks to longer hours and evening entertainment. Today is an excellent opportunity to visit the Fantasyland and headlining attractions with minimal waits as well as visit the popular characters and whatever else you’d like to experience. Because waits are shorter and the crowd level is so much lower, you’ll actually be able to accomplish more during the day today than either yesterday or tomorrow, despite the Park being open fewer hours. For maximum efficiency, arrive by 8:30am and use FastPass+ in the early afternoon when crowds and waits peak. Consider a second day at the Magic Kingdom to see the Main Street Electrical Parade and Wishes or ideally Park Hop over in the evening on a night that it’s available. Wednesday is the best day of the week to see the Main Street Electrical Parade at night, but that isn’t saying a whole lot when your other options are a busy Monday and Saturday. Finally, Mickey’s Christmas Party does feature the special Holiday Wishes fireworks spectacular at 9:30pm above Cinderella Castle. This show is viewable from a variety of locations around Disney property. My favorite is the Polynesian Resort’s beach, which is directly across from the Magic Kingdom. The 4th floor observatory at the Contemporary Resort is another excellent location. The boat launch and marina at the Grand Floridian also offer pretty good views, though less direct angles. The boat dock at the Transportation and Ticket Center also offers an underrated view and it makes for the easiest exit if you’re driving because you’re already at the parking lot. The soundtrack is easiest to hear at the Contemporary, Transportation and Ticket Center, and Polynesian in that order. You might consider taking the monorail or boat to one of the Monorail Deluxe resorts for dinner after the Magic Kingdom closes at 7pm and then get into position to enjoy the fireworks around 9:20pm at one of the previously mentioned locations. You can then transfer back to the Magic Kingdom and take a resort bus back to your resort or hop in your car and head wherever you like. Each of the Deluxe resorts have pretty good quick service locations too, so you can also eat on the cheap if you prefer and look around the resort(s) for a while until Holiday Wishes begins. In a perfect world, I would hit Kona Café for dinner and enjoy Holiday Wishes from the Polynesian’s beach.

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Comments Should Be Working Again

by josh on May 18, 2015

A couple of days ago something goofy happened with the database, which caused comments on new posts to go up on a completely different, seemingly random post. So if you were to try to comment on the Shutters review, the comment could just as easily show up on the November 2013 crowd calendar or a review for ABC Commissary. That phenomenon should now be fixed and you’re welcome to go back and ask any questions or make any comments you might have.

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We’ll visit Epcot on the afternoon of Friday May 8th. I think it’s been a while, but don’t worry…you haven’t missed anything. We’re headed into the last weekend of the Flower and Garden Festival, which means Mickey and his fake topiary friends are headed back to the warehouse on Sunday.

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This is what we’re looking at for December. Click to enlarge or view as a prettier PDF. And if you don’t know what the numbers/letters mean, read the top of this post. The full operating schedule is available here.

December continues the Extra Magic Hours schedule that began in October, moving Magic Kingdom’s morning Extra Magic Hour from Thursdays to Mondays and its evening Extra Magic Hours from Saturdays to Wednesdays, in addition to Epcot moving its evening Extra Magic Hours from Fridays to Thursdays and Animal Kingdom moving one of its morning Extra Magic Hours from Sundays to Fridays. That schedule continues through the third week of the month, until we see another slight change as Christmas approaches. Unfortunately, Disney omitted additional Extra Magic Hours that we can expect over the two weeks that comprise the busy Christmas/holiday season. To get an idea about what I’m talking about, take a look at last year:

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We begin at Shutters at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, the property’s table service restaurant. There are virtually no reviews of Shutters from the various Disney blogs, which may be unfortunate because in my opinion, the restaurant is actually pretty good. My previous review covers more of the atmosphere and some background on the chef change, in addition to some nighttime photos around the resort: http://www.easywdw.com/uncategorized/shutters-review-and-caribbean-beach-resort-at-night/.

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Disney made some relatively minor changes to the month of September. A more substantial update should arrive in the middle of August. The full operating schedule is available here: http://media.disneywebcontent.com/StaticFiles/ParkHours/WDWTravelAgent_september.pdf. Click “refresh” to load the newest version.

Tuesday September 1:

  • No changes.

Wednesday September 2:

  • No changes.

Thursday September 3:

  • Magic Kingdom hours extended to 9am-11pm from 9am-10pm. Second Main Street Electrical Parade added at 11pm, in addition to 9pm Parade.

Friday September 4:

  • No changes.

Saturday September 5:

  • Magic Kingdom hours extended to 9am-12am from 9am-10pm. Second Main Street Electrical Parade added at 11pm, in addition to 9pm Parade.

Sunday September 6:

  • Magic Kingdom hours extended to 9am-12am from 9am-10pm. Second Main Street Electrical Parade added at 11pm, in addition to 9pm Parade.

Monday September 7:

  • Second Fantasmic added at Hollywood Studios at 10pm, in addition to 8:30pm show.

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Disney made more changes to the June operating schedule, including eleven new 8am openings at Magic Kingdom and a few extensions at Animal Kingdom. The full operating schedule is available here: http://media.disneywebcontent.com/StaticFiles/ParkHours/WDWTravelAgent_june.pdf. Click “refresh” to load the newest version.

The 8am openings are mostly good news as the extra hour basically provides an additional hour of low wait times in the morning. The downsides are that it’s awfully early for most people and the 8am opens also negate most benefits from 8am breakfast reservations at Crystal Palace, Cinderella’s Royal Table, and Be Our Guest Restaurant. If you do have an 8am reservation with a new 8am opening, my advice is to cancel it. Otherwise you’re eating a very expensive breakfast while wait times increase everywhere around you.

Monday June 1:

  • Magic Kingdom hours extended to 8am-12am from 9am-12am.

Tuesday June 2:

  • No changes.

Wednesday June 3:

  • Animal Kingdom hours extended to 9am-7pm from 9am-6pm.

Thursday June 4:

  • No changes.

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