Sunday February 14
Predicted Crowd Level: 9.
Actual Crowd Level: 9.
Weather: High of 70 and low of 46. No precipitation.
This is a continuation of wait times trends that began with Animal Kingdom. That post includes an introduction and should probably be consumed first in case you missed it.
We move on to Epcot, which is probably more interesting than Animal Kingdom, at least so far this year. Usually the website wouldn’t focus much on a single attraction refurbishment. But Soarin’ is arguably half of Epcot, which only has one other headlining attraction in Test Track. And Soarin’ has been closed since January 4th and will be closed for at least a few more months as the change over to Around the World continues, in addition to attaching the third theater. Obviously Soarin’ isn’t literally half of the Park’s offerings, but I think it does buoy most people’s second day at the Park and/or is a big reason why a lot of people visit at all. And we’ve seen a drop in wait times over the first 7+ weeks in 2016 compared to 2015, in addition to a drop in the Park’s daily attendance, even given Walt Disney World being more crowded overall. Here’s what Test Track looks like so far in 2016:
Test Track’s 2016 average so far: 55 minutes.
I had some initial thoughts on what the closure meant to touring Epcot shortly after the extended refurbishment was confirmed back in October in this post. Most of the predictions came true, from Test Track being completely out of FastPass+ before each new day started to fewer people heading to the Land Pavilion. One thing that I didn’t necessarily predict was just how much wait times and daily attendance would drop. Even for some of the least crowded days of the year, these average waits are shockingly low for the most part, falling all the way down to 45 minutes or less on 14 days and occasionally dropping below 40 minutes.
Obviously there are a lot of factors at play affecting wait times, but here’s what Test Track looked like last year:
Test Track’s average over the same days in 2015: 60 minutes.
A five-minute, or 8% drop in overall average wait through February 18th, isn’t really a big deal on the surface. But with overall attendance up about 4%, wait times at just about every ride at every other theme park are up. And with Soarin’ down in 2016, you might expect Test Track to be even more popular with only one headlining attraction in operation.
We see similar drops at other attractions. Journey into Imagination in 2016, for example:
Compared to 2015:
Again, it’s “literally” just a difference of about 1.4 minutes with the decimal point, but that’s still a 12% decrease in wait times when overall crowds are up. And you don’t have Soarin’ running, which means the 1,100 people that would ride that each hour plus the people otherwise waiting in line have to do something else, which should theoretically raise wait times elsewhere.
So the main point here is that wait times and attendance are down at Epcot and should continue to be until Frozen and/or Soarin’ Around the World open(s) you’d think no earlier than late May.
Living with the Land’s average so far: 6 minutes.
Living with the Land has seen largely nonexistent wait times with Soarin’ closed. In a somewhat surprising move, Disney had originally extended the operating hours to Park close here and at Circle of Life, Journey into Imagination, and Pixar Short Film Festival, all of which ordinarily close at 7pm. They did away with that this past week, moving Living with the Land’s close back to 7pm most days and closing Circle of Life for an extended “refurbishment.” Most of the waits in the 3-7 minute range are due to one randomly high wait time raising the average. Like on January 27th, one random 30-minute entry raises the average up to three minutes, even if the posted wait at 30+ intervals over the course of the day was zero minutes.
Character Spot’s average so far: 22 minutes.
While FastPass+ has a number of detractions, one positive of the initiative is that it’s really nice to use FP+ when you have it, particularly at the low-capacity meet and greets. As the website has pointed out time and time again, Character Spot waits are down in the FP+ era mostly thanks to the doubled capacity and the fact that the characters aren’t visible from the breezeway. Average waits run from a minimum of 10 minutes on January 15th, the tornado-warning day, all the way up to 36 minutes with a crowd level of “9” over Presidents Day Weekend.
Looking over wait times over the last few weeks:
On the downside, posted wait times here aren’t particularly accurate as the posted wait time can easily be 30 minutes with “literally” nobody in line. Posted waits can also occasionally fluctuate wildly from one interval to the next, like on February 9th when the wait goes from 60 minutes at noon, down to ten minutes at 12:15pm, and then back up to 45 minutes by 1pm. On February 18th, the wait is 65 minutes at 12:30pm and then down to 5 minutes at 1:30pm. One of the nice things about having posted waits at all attractions all day, every day is being able to see the trends from hour to hour and from day to day instead of having to rely on more anecdotal experiences.
Speaking of fluctuations, Mission: SPACE occasionally sees some pretty crazy, unrealistic ones, that I usually edit down to reality for the normal daily recaps. On February 3rd, there’s no way the ride went from an actual wait of 210 minutes at 5:15pm to a 15-minute wait at 5:30pm, for example, even if that’s what the posted wait indicates.
Mission: SPACE’s 2016 average: 24 minutes.
I mention that because the wait times used in these charts are “raw” so as to not introduce any bias by cherry picking which numbers to change. Here’s last year:
Mission: SPACE’s 2015 average: 20 minutes.
SPACE is actually the one attraction where waits are up in 2016, perhaps helped by its move to Tier 1 FastPass+ status and increased utilization without Soarin’ as an option.
One wonders if My Disney Experience is actually hurting Epcot attendance as anyone that goes on and tries to book FastPass+ will see that Soarin’ is unavailable. Historically, the vast majority of visitors are ignorant to which attractions will be down for refurbishment during their visit.
Spaceship Earth’s average so far: 15 minutes
It’s been interesting watching how much wait times have changed in the FastPass+ era, particularly at attractions that didn’t historically offer it. We haven’t seen big increases in standby waits at the majority of attractions that historically distributed the maximum number of legacy paper FASTPASSes daily. Rides like Peter Pan’s Flight, Toy Story Mania, Test Track, and others see slightly higher waits than a few years ago with more people in the Park, but it’s not like their wait times have doubled or tripled since FP+ came online. Attractions that didn’t historically offer FASTPASS, like Pirates of the Caribbean, it’s a small world, Spaceship Earth, and Journey into Imagination are the rides that see significantly higher standby waits.
Here at Spaceship Earth, we’ve seen significantly higher standby waits with so much capacity given to FastPass+, to the point where we almost always see peak waits of 20+ minutes. In the legacy FASTPASS days, it was rare to see a wait any higher than 10 minutes. At Spaceship Earth, those peak waits are typically seen from 10am-1pm due to the ride’s proximity to the front of the Park as people arrive throughout the morning. One of the reasons why I don’t typically spend much time discussing averages is they don’t really tell us that much about how waits progress over the course of the day, which is much more important than a single number. But in this context, the averages do help paint a broad picture. As I mentioned in the Animal Kingdom post, February 14th saw the heaviest crowds so far this year, so it makes sense that we see the longest average waits over that weekend. Here at the end of February, crowds fall off substantially with similar numbers to the beginning of the month. The end of January into early February is otherwise my favorite time of year to visit with the cooler weather.
The Seas with Nemo’s average so far: 12 minutes
The Seas with Nemo averages don’t waver much thanks to its hefty capacity and nonexistent waits after 4pm most days. The attraction operates through regular Park close, unlike the majority of Future World and Disney doesn’t do much to advertise that fact. If you head into The Seas after 7pm, you’ll likely have the place mostly to yourself.
Overall, there isn’t really anything earth shattering here as we see longer waits at most attractions given higher crowd levels. Many of the trends that have been discussed and otherwise worked into the website’s touring plans are also present. It may be interesting to see how “good” or “bad” things can get as you compare weekdays early in February to Presidents Day Weekend. The period from early January through the end of February is a good indicator of how wait times will shape up for the rest of the year as we see such a variety of wait times and crowd levels from week to week and occasionally from day to day.
We’ll take a look at Hollywood Studios’ five rides next.