Below is the preliminary crowd calendar for September 2013. Click to enlarge or view a prettier PDF version here. If you have no idea what any of the numbers/letters mean, read the top of this post which explains each line. This is a preliminary version and there may be some tweaks made before the first version is finalized over the next few days.
The crowd calendar should look familiar if you previewed or used September 2012. Like last year, Disney has moved Epcot’s evening Extra Magic Hours to Wednesdays beginning in the second week, even though the Food and Wine Festival doesn’t start until the 27th. In past years, the Food and Wine booths in World Showcase have opened up on the Thursday prior to the start of the Festival. This is billed as a cast member preview, but anyone is welcome and crowds are low until the cast members begin arriving in force at 5pm. Epcot remains recommended on the 26th because it’s the best day to visit Epcot until Monday the 30th. If your trip is ending around there and you want to visit for the Festival food/drink, you may want to strongly consider the 26th.
The other major difference is the addition of the Electrical Parade to all Sundays prior to the 29th, which means the Electrical Parade is scheduled three nights in a row over the weekend. While Magic Kingdom remains “not recommended” each day due to the long hours and nighttime entertainment attracting additional visitors, it should also cause nighttime crowd levels each night to be lower. That means it will be easier to see the Electrical Parade because the number of people that want to see it will be spread out over four nights instead of three. We’ll have to wait to see if Disney elects to schedule a second Parade on any of those nights. An 11pm Parade would be the easiest to see because so many families leave before or immediately after Wishes. In most cases, Thursday is still the best day to see the Electrical Parade and Wishes. Wednesday is still the best day to see Wishes if you don’t care about seeing the Electrical Parade.
As noted on the explanation of what each line of the crowd calendar means, the noted level is an “overall crowd level” and doesn’t indicate each Park is necessarily going to be a “2.” For example, on Monday September 23rd, Magic Kingdom is going to be a lot busier than the “2” indicates, which is why the Magic Kingdom is the least recommended Park. Also as noted, the Parks are arranged from left to right with the far left Park being the “most recommended” and the far right being the “worst Park to visit.”
That recommendation is made considering as many factors as possible, including operating hours, overall crowd levels, individual park crowd levels, special events, nighttime entertainment, and what most families want to achieve during a Disney World trip. Underneath the crowd calendar (when it’s completed) is a list of the Park’s operating hours and nightly entertainment along with an explanation of why the Park was or wasn’t recommended. As often as possible, I try to point out ways to make a non-recommended Park work, particularly at Magic Kingdom with people wanting to visit on a non-recommended day to see the nighttime entertainment. By touring intelligently, you can make almost any visit to any Park “work.” It’s mostly a matter of knowing what to expect. You’ll often see people that read this website returning from a July trip happy with crowds, wait times, and their overall vacation. You’ve probably also talked to someone that’s sworn off Disney World altogether because they didn’t do any research and showed up on July 4th at 12:30pm wanting to ride Space Mountain and Tomorrowland Indy Speedway.
Visit the most recommended Parks and you’ll be pleased with your September choice. Visit the least recommended Parks and you’ll be creating a thread on the DIS with the title “NEVER VISITING AGAIN IN SEPTEMBER.”
One other caveat is how MyMagic+ will alter crowd flow when it’s fully implemented. I’m not expecting Wednesday to all of a sudden be the busiest day of the week at Magic Kingdom, but MyMagic+ and FASTPASS+ probably will change some minds. For example, what do you expect a family to do when they can’t get any reservations they want on Monday, but can book Jungle Cruise, Space Mountain, Be Our Guest lunch, and Wishes on Wednesday? Will that overcome Johnny’s desire to visit Magic Kingdom on their first day? That’s just one hypothetical scenario that could play itself out.