With the heaviest crowds of the year and Magic Kingdom expected to close to capacity most days between Christmas and New Year’s, we’ll take a look at wait times on Christmas Day in particular.
Animal Kingdom was the most recommended Park, as it usually is on national holidays. That may (but probably won’t) change with Avatar and Rivers of Light opening in the next few years, but it remains a safe bet for now. With the 8am open, you don’t even see a posted wait time over 10 minutes for a full two hours into operation. Safaris doesn’t even hit 30 minutes until noon, though peak waits after 2pm are 60+ minutes with the early dusk closure. Everst’s average wait of 35 minutes is a little higher than average, but far from unmanageable, particularly with lower wait times returning in the final hour of operation. Kali River Rapids sees short wait times with a high temperature in the low 60s, As is typical in the post-FP+ era, DINOSAUR actually sees longer waits than the headliners for most of the day with about 70% of capacity going to FP+ users. Finally, Primeval Whirl and TriceraTop Spin, with their relatively lousy capacities, do get bogged down a bit in the afternoon with some of the highest wait times of the year, but you’ve still got four hours of short waits in the morning and about two hours of short waits before close. Add a trip over to Animal Kingdom Lodge in the afternoon or at the end of the night and you have one of my favorite days spent in the Parks. Very nice.
Hey, at least Captain EO was never over 5 minutes.
Epcot is rarely recommended on national holidays and Christmas Day is no exception. As the website has pointed out numerous times before, while there is a lot of physical space to stand and a lot of relatively short lines for Bud Lights, there are basically two things anyone is really interested in riding – Soarin’ and Test Track. Average and peak waits are actually lower this year thanks to FP+, but if you got in line at Soarin’ at 2pm and rode Test Track immediately after, you’d end up finishing both around 7pm, for a total wait of around 4.5 hours. With that said, you can still make the day work with a very early arrival, particularly with Disney inviting guests to enter the Park at 7am to ride Soarin’ or Test Track a full hour before official open. The 8am open also benefits many of the secondary attractions, which don’t build waits until about 2.5 hours into operation.
Still, it’s hard to imagine waiting 30 to 50 minutes for Journey into Imagination, Living with the Land, and The Seas with Nemo, in addition to 75-minute waits at Spaceship Earth for about five hours in the afternoon. In fact, Spaceship Earth saw the longest average wait thus far this year, though that record should be challenged on the 31st. Most other attractions were also near yearly highs for both average and peak waits. Epcot was hosting evening Extra Magic Hours, which benefits morning wait times as many casual vacationers tend to arrive later in the afternoon. Evening EMH is a good opportunity to enjoy the secondary attractions, but you’d still expect to wait 30 to 40 minutes for both Soarin’ and Test Track. If you were keen on riding both headliners between 9:30pm and 11:30pm, you wouldn’t have much time for anything else during those two hours. And it’d be pretty well impossible to get up the next morning to take advantage of much lower early morning wait times the following morning.
Someone remind me around January 4th when everyone leaves and we can take a look at how wait times fluctuate daily over the busy Christmas season. According to the crowd calendar:
“Hollywood Studios is highly recommended, though it will still be busy with the high overall crowd level and waits will be long from 9:30am – 8pm with the limited number of attractions. Animal Kingdom is the best Park to visit, but if you have no interest in it or taking a day off to relax, then Hollywood Studios is the best place for you. It’s imperative that you arrive by 8am and tour efficiently in the first two hours or arrive later and rely on FastPass+. Even with the recommendation, Toy Story Mania, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, and Tower of Terror will hit triple digit waits during the day, including 180 minutes at Toy Story and 150 at Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. There’s no way around that fact when crowds are this heavy. The waits just won’t arrive as early or stay that high for as long as other days this week.”
Luckily(?) peak waits didn’t quite hit those highs with Toy Story Mania coming in at “just” 120 minutes in the middle of the afternoon. You can see how much of a profound impact 3+ hours of downtime at Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster has at other attractions, particularly Tower of Terror, where waits skyrocket shortly after the roller coaster goes down at 3:15pm. Even attractions as far off as Muppet Vision feel some of the pain, where posted waits over 10 minutes are virtually unheard of, even over the busy summer. 30 minutes for Muppets is not good.
But the positive recommendation comes back to how slowly waits build in the morning and the relatively low peak waits in the afternoon, though those are skewed by RnR’s downtime. The Studios’ morning touring plan doesn’t change:
1. Toy Story Mania
2. Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster
3. Tower of Terror
And you can see why that order is so important as waits first build at Toy Story, then Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, and then Tower of Terror. Star Tours waits don’t hit 30 minutes for a full three hours after open and Great Movie Ride waits remain low all the way until 12:30pm, before hitting a solid block of 30 to 50 minute standby waits. Early morning (and very late evening) touring really is the key regardless of which day you choose to visit.
Magic Kingdom closed to a “Phase A” capacity closure at 10:30am and reopened at 4pm. A “Phase A” closure means just those staying off-site with 1-day Magic Kingdom tickets are asked to visit another Park. One only needs to look at the 50-minute wait at Mickey’s PhilharMagic to ascertain it’s “crowded,” in addition to 90 minutes at Buzz, 135 at Big Thunder, 70 at it’s a small world, 120 at Peter Pan’s Flight, 145 at Space Mountain, 45 at Stitch, 70 at Under the Sea, etc. Magic Kingdom was recommended today (December 26th) and still closed to a Phase A capacity closure, though “just” from 11:40am to 1pm. Here on Christmas Day, wait times rise faster and peak higher than recommended days. Again, we can look at the big picture once the holidays pass to get a better idea about how wait times fluctuate with near-daily capacity closures of some variety.
It’s only going to get worse the next few days as even more people descend on the Parks. December 28th and 31st are typically the two days that see the highest overall attendance of the year.