Sunday February 14
Predicted Crowd Level: 9.
Actual Crowd Level: 9.
Weather: High of 70 and low of 46. No precipitation.
As you may be aware, the website publishes wait times charts in their entirety all day, every day in the column on the far left on the homepage or via the Wait Times Recap category. But since Presidents Day Weekend, and the “9 level” crowds that came with it, are behind us, I thought it would be prudent to take a look back at wait times so far in 2016. What’s kind of interesting about the period from January 1st to the end of February is that we see crowd levels from the very lowest they get during some weekdays in January, all the way up to the highest they get over holiday weekends over the first couple days of January, over Martin Luther King Jr. Weekend, and then Presidents Day Weekend. We don’t actually see any “10s” as this website only attributes the maximum crowd level to a day when a theme park is liable to close to capacity. And that usually only happens around Easter, on July 4th, and the period between December 25th and 31st.
I’ll briefly discuss wait times from February 14th, which saw the highest overall attendance this year, and then we’ll go attraction by attraction looking at the average wait times each day at Animal Kingdom, followed by the other Parks. One thing to note on the overall averages is that they’re not the end-all, be-all of crowd prediction. They take all of a Park’s operating hours into account, so you sometimes see lower average wait times at some attractions even with much higher peak attendance. At Animal Kingdom, a Park that’s open anywhere from 9am-5pm to 7am-9pm, the average wait time at a ride like DINOSAUR can be lower than you’d expect given a high overall crowd level due to low wait times from 7am-10am and again from 6pm to 9pm, even if the waits from 10am-5pm are much longer than virtually any other day of the year.
As always, the crowd levels on this website are based on attendance, which is sourced from internal projections like Magical Express ridership and restaurant staffing, expected on-site hotel occupancy, FastPass+ utilization, and off-site factors. Crowd level predictions are then checked against the actual peak attendance at each Park.
DINOSAUR’s average wait so far in 2016: 23 minutes
Instantaneously, we see how much wait times can swing from one day to the next, ranging anywhere from a low of 9 minutes all the way up to 43 minutes. We saw 9 minutes on January 22nd, predicted to be a “2” and January 26th, predicted to be a “1.” No surprise there. We get 40 minutes on January 2nd with the “9” overall crowd level and again on January 4th, with an overall crowd level of “6” and non-recommended status, in addition to lengthy downtime. Waits spike again from January 16th to 18th for Martin Luther King Jr. Weekend, with crowd levels of “8.” It’s an average over 30 again on January 30th and 31st, predicted to be a “6” and “7” for above average crowds. The other 30s on February 7th and 8th are also 6s and 7s and then you’ve got 34+ minutes over Presidents Day, which is 8s and 9s. But it doesn’t always work out. Take January 15th for example, which was expected to be a “crowd level 7” and sees a 13-minute average, which is one of the shortest of the year. If you pull up the chart for that day, you’ll see that there was a tornado warning in the area in the morning followed by heavy rain and wind most of the day. Those that have been reading over the recaps daily will see that weather has an immense impact on crowds this time of year as temperatures and rainfall are erratic. From May – September, weather has much less of an effect as it’s always hot and always wet.
Expedition Everest’s average wait so far in 2016: 31 minutes
Expedition Everest’s longest average wait came on January 24th, a day when the Park was “most recommended” with an overall average of “5.” Does the 63-minute average indicate the website was grossly mistaken? Not exactly if you look over the chart, which explains a bit what happens to wait times when attractions experience downtime. Everest saw over six hours of downtime on the 24th, which pushed the wait time up to triple digits once it reopened, even given a below average number of people in the Park. That’s one of many reasons why posted wait times aren’t an accurate indicator of actual crowds. Otherwise, trends are similar to DINOSAUR above, with the average ranging from 7 minutes on January 27th during a torrential downpour, all the way up to 58 minutes on February 14th given no significant downtime and the highest crowd level of the year. Otherwise, you see high wait times in the first few days and again over the holidays. Presidents Day Weekend again sees the highest 3-day total given the high crowd level, even with the extended hours.
It’s Tough To Be A Bug’s average wait so far in 2016: 6.5 minutes
I usually ignore attractions like It’s Tough To Be A Bug, Muppet Vision, 3D, and Mickey’s PhilharMagic when discussing wait times in the daily recaps, but a chart like this is actually really helpful when identifying which days are busier. It’s Tough To Be A Bug runs pretty much continuously, one show after another, all day and rarely closes due to a problem, so the hourly capacity is almost always the same. And when you see an 8+ minute average, you can be pretty sure that people are having to wait through an entire show because the theater is at capacity, which indicates that there are a lot of people in the Park. So let’s see which days have an 8+ minute average and what the predicted overall crowd level was, along with whether the Park was Recommended (R) or Not Recommended (NR).
- January 2nd: Crowd Level 9R
- January 16th: 8NR
- January 17th: 8R
- January 18th: 6NR
- January 30th: 7NR
- February 6th: 7NR
- February 7th: 7R
- February 12th: 8R
- February 13th: 9NR
- February 14th: 9R
- February 15th: 9NR
Unsurprisingly, all of the days with well-above-average waits at Bug are also days with well-above-average crowds. Of the 17 days with a 5-minute average, only two saw an above-average predicted crowd level. That includes January 3rd, a cold and rainy most-recommended day, and January 15th, the tornado day.
Kali is a lousy example since it’s been closed for refurbishment since January 4th. It’s supposed to be back open, but nobody really rides it in cooler temperatures, so we’re not going to see it reopening until mid-March. The big drop from January 1st to 3rd is indicative of the lousy weather on that date. Fast forward to June and the average will be over 60 minutes daily with little fluctuation from one day to the next.
Kilimanjaro Safaris average wait so far in 2016: 40 minutes.
Safaris is usually another good indicator of crowds because it almost never goes down, but capacity does fluctuate based on the number of vehicles operating and animals standing in the way of the trucks occasionally delay things. One species of zebra that has since been removed from the savanna was notorious for standing toe to toe with oncoming trucks. Average waits otherwise vary wildly from nine minutes on a cold, wet day early in the month all the way up to 98 minutes on February 13th, a non-recommended Saturday with a morning Extra Magic Hour and “9” overall crowd level. On the 11 days with averages of 20 or less minutes, all had crowd levels of “4” or less or saw heavy rain and wind.
Looking over Safaris’ wait times over the last three weeks or so, you can get a good idea about how wait times fluctuate over the course of the day from the least crowded weekdays at the end of January all the way through some of the highest crowds of the year over Presidents Day Weekend from the 11th to 15th. As the website has been noting for years, Animal Kingdom is very forgiving in the morning. Even on February 13th, when the average wait is going to be just shy of one and a half hours, you still have nearly two hours in the morning with a wait of 20 minutes or less and over an hour when it’s going to be basically a walk-on. It will be interesting to see what happens with the nighttime safari. From now until mid-March, when daylight savings strikes again, Safaris closes before 6pm daily due to darkness. From mid-March, the closing time will be no earlier than 6:45pm. That gives the attraction some time to see waits again wane in the evening. Of course, crowd patterns will likely shift significantly once Rivers of Light begins and the other nighttime enhancements start, along with what are going to have to be very late closes to support the nighttime entertainment.
Meet Mickey and Minnie at Adventurers Outpost average wait so far in 2016: 15 minutes.
It’s been kind of interesting to see what’s happened with Mickey and Minnie’s wait times after they’ve been moved behind closed doors here and at Epcot in particular. The two characters are again on the move over at Hollywood Studios, which will make it their sixth new location in less than eight months. Mickey was in the Animation Building for years before moving out in front of Great Movie Ride, then over to the old Backlot Tour queue, and then over to the old Legend of Jack Sparrow Space. Minnie went from in front of Great Movie Ride to Animation Building to outside Disney Jr. and will then move to across from Sci-Fi Dine-In. Anyway, waits for the pair at Animal Kingdom are surprisingly short considering it’s been the only place to meet both together for over a year now, the meet is air-conditioned, and the outfits are cute. Unlike Safaris, which saw a 1000% increase in wait times from the least crowded day to the most, we only go from a minimum average of nine minutes to a maximum of 23 minutes with the average almost always under 20 minutes. The website rates FastPass+ relatively highly here anyway because the supply is so limited.
Thank the inconspicuous signage and the fact that the kids can’t see the characters from the outside. If you dressed the characters up in the same outfits and stuck them outdoors just inside the entrance, the wait would be 60+ minutes all day. Doubling capacity here and at Character Spot has also helped.
Primeval Whirl’s average wait so far in 2016: 19 minutes.
Not much to add at Primeval Whirl as the average wait distribution is similar to the other attractions. One potentially interesting thing about Primeval Whirl is that it operates with two independent, nearly identical sides. And later in the day, when crowds are expected to wane, one side can be shut down, which in turn basically doubles wait times as capacity is cut in half. It’s one of the reasons why the website recommends visiting DinoLand with two hours to close and then recommends heading to Asia to finish the day. Waits are reliably short at the DinoLand attractions by that time and you don’t run into the capacity issues at Primeval and DINOSAUR. Then you can take advantage of nearly nonexistent waits at Kali River Rapids in the final hour and Everest at the very end of the day, when you can usually walk on three or four times in less than 40 minutes.
Overall, there aren’t a ton of surprises at Animal Kingdom as we’re still looking towards what should be a lot of changes once Rivers of Light comes online. Epcot should prove a little more interesting with Soarin’ closed along with the changes to entertainment and attractions. Hollywood Studios is going to be ugly with the few remaining rides operating there. And Magic Kingdom continues to suffer as people ignore Epcot and Studios and instead focus more time on the Most Magical Place on Earth.
The other theme parks will follow if there’s any interest.