It’s that time of the year again as the biggest crowds of the year descend on Walt Disney World. There are only a handful of days over the course of the year when one of the theme parks is liable to close to capacity and that Park is almost always Magic Kingdom. It basically comes down to a couple of days around Easter, July 4th, and December 24th-31st. Obviously anyone can attribute any crowd number to any day of the year, but this website only assigns a crowd level of “10” when one of the theme parks is likely to close to capacity. Magic Kingdom did close to capacity on December 24th and 25th, though we were spared of a closure on the 26th. On Christmas Day, Magic Kingdom saw a Phase A closure just after 10am. Fortunately, the other Parks saw relatively low wait times.
We start with what is a lousy example of peak crowd levels. Animal Kingdom is almost always the best theme park to visit on major holidays, particularly July 4th, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve. At least until AVATAR opens. The nice thing about the heaviest crowds of the year is that you also see the longest operating hours of the year. Not only is Expedition Everest’s average wait just 27 minutes, but it takes a full two hours in the morning for it to even hit 20 minutes. DINOSAUR does hit 50 minutes in the middle of the afternoon, but you’ve also got the first two and last two hours of the day when the ride is basically a walk-on. Safaris is still a 10-minute wait at 11:30am. You’ve got 2+ hours in the morning to take a picture with Mickey and Minnie together in their holiday sweaters at Adventurers Outpost before waits hit 20 minutes. And while the posted wait is 30 minutes heading towards close, I’d be willing to bet the website’s all-time advertising revenue that you could basically walk right in. And since there are a couple of ads now, I guess that isn’t so much a joke as a challenge. Nobody wants to ride Primeval Whirl whether it’s busy or not and you could take as many spins as you want on TriceraTop Spin with a basically nonexistent wait. Add a fantastic lineup of shows and plentiful FastPass+ availability and you really couldn’t do much better. A great day, not that there are too many bad ones at your favorite theme park (come 2016 if it isn’t already).
As the website has discussed for years, Epcot both handles and doesn’t handle crowds well. While there’s more space to physically stand than the other Parks, there’s also exactly two attractions most people care about. And both are relatively low capacity. But these wait times aren’t all that bad. One thing about Christmas is that the days you have to worry about are December 26 – 31 more than the days leading up to it. Sure, 100 minutes at Mission: SPACE, 130 minutes at Soarin’, 95 minutes at Test Track, 40 minutes at Nemo, 45 minutes for Spaceship Earth, etc. aren’t great wait times. But with so much capacity given to FastPass+ and people generally refusing to get in line at something like Living with the Land when it has a 40-minute wait, we aren’t seeing waits that are all that much longer than earlier in the fall, even given significantly higher attendance. And you can still make it work even with the heavier crowds. You’ll notice in the “Disney News” column to the left (or at the very bottom of the page on mobile) that there’s a post titled “Surprise Epcot Mornings” that explains Disney is even opening Soarin’ and Test Track at 7am for those present that early. So not only do waits at Soarin’ not take off until 8:30am, but you’d have a full hour to enjoy the ride if you were to arrive earlier than that. I’ll run another wait times post for December 28th and 31st wait times. Those numbers will be much, much higher.
Things are pretty chill at Hollywood Studios too. A 40 minute wait at Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster at noon is below average. After an hour of downtime, you do see 100+ minute waits later in the day. You’ve got three hours of 10-minute waits at Star Tours to start the morning. It does peak at 80 minutes, but only briefly. Great Movie Ride’s average wait is just slightly above average, but you do see 30-minute waits most of the day after 10am. It’s a great example of a ride that used to have a high standby capacity, but wait times have risen significantly now that 70% of that capacity is given to FastPass+. You’ve probably seen me mention technical problems at Tower of Terror causing capacity to drop and wait times to rise. That’s what you see most of the day with the 120+ minute waits there. Virtually no capacity is given to standby when the tower is operating at half capacity. There are just too many FastPass+ returners. Those riding Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster also have the option of using their FP+ at Terror during that ride’s downtime. There’s really no such thing as a day that you’d want to be in standby at Toy Story Mania at 2pm, but waits there are significantly above average. I can’t really imagine waiting over two hours. If you look along the bottom, you’ll see the average posted wait for each time slot. Even factoring in 5 minutes at Muppet Vision all day, you’re still looking at 70+ minutes most of the day. It’s FastPass+ and shows in the afternoon, in addition to characters and anytime attractions like One Man’s Dream.
And here’s where everybody is on Christmas Day with the 10am Phase A closure. Phase A doesn’t affect a lot of people – only those with 1-day Magic Kingdom tickets are barred from visiting, which might be a blessing in disguise as I’m not sure you’d want to drop $100+ per ticket and show up at noon here to find an average wait of 60 minutes. But even then, the early morning is still your friend and you can do extremely well from 7am-10am with an efficient touring plan in hand. (This chart doesn’t include waits during the morning extra magic hour from 7am-8am.). Waits also drop off significantly in the late evening, as they do most every day over the course of the year, with most rides reaching walk-on status as early as 10pm. Even something like Space Mountain, which hits 195 minutes in the afternoon, is posting a zero-minute wait for the full hour up until close. Still, once 11am hits, you’d want to be relying on FastPass+ and visiting the high capacity attractions like Enchanted Tiki Room, Hall of Presidents, Country Bear Jamboree, Carousel of Progress, and the like.
If you’re visiting in the next week, the Magic Kingdom chart should give you a good idea about what to expect. The Epcot chart is a little optimistic, though you should be able to do similarly well in the early morning and late evening. It doesn’t really matter if the wait at Living with the Land is 40 minutes or 50 minutes in the afternoon. Animal Kingdom will see similar waits on December 31st, though you’ll want to take a look at the “crowd level 9” and “crowd level 10” wait times charts in the Animal Kingdom Theme Park Touring section to see what wait times will be like on December 27th-30th.
The good news is with the long operating hours, you can still do very well. Add an extra hour at Epcot in the morning and you can easily ride Soarin’ two or three times and then quickly move to Test Track at 8am if you arrive by 6:45am. Animal Kingdom will continue to be light in the morning. Studios sees long waits with the limited number of attractions, but with the 8am open and late close, you can still do well. Magic Kingdom is tough, but the 7am morning extra magic hour is your friend and for those that can stay out late, you’re absolutely golden in the final three hours.
Good luck out there.