Following up on September’s update, titled, Waits Times During a Sold Out Mickey’s Halloween Party and What The Lowest Crowds of the Year Look Like and October’s update, titled The Reality of Above Average Crowds at Walt Disney World – October 2015 Wait Times, we’ll take a look at November trends as we head into the first legitimately “busy” week since mid-August.
First up though, a few newsworthy notes as I’ve been busy with some “behind the scenes” updates and haven’t had much of an opportunity to be out and about filling you in on what’s going on as I prance around the theme parks. The redesigned site will have more of an emphasis on keeping up to date with what’s going on in terms of changes, openings, refurbishments, etc. I’ll be out early next week for some fresh Pictures in the Parks.
When Jedi Training Academy reopens, the new signup location will be the Indiana Jones Adventurers Outpost store, which is in between 50’s Prime Time Cafe and the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular show. Remember that the child between the ages of 4 and 12 needs to be present at signup. I always recommend signing up first thing if it’s important that your child participate. People often ask if it’s safe to do Toy Story Mania immediately prior and my advice is always to play it safe. Once Jedi Training spots are full – they’re full, barring a signed up child skipping out on their slot. You never know how many people are headed over there. Toy Story Mania is going to take about 20 minutes plus the time to double back to Jedi Training signups. Unfortunately, the wait at Toy Story will likely be prohibitively long by the time you do signup. Here’s a look at Toy Story waits over the last six weeks or so:
By 9:15am, you’re looking at an actual wait in the vicinity of 60-75 minutes pretty much regardless of the day you visit. If you’re willing to wait that long, it would make sense to do so later in the day and instead take advantage of relatively short waits elsewhere.
Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster is more doable, but with FastPass+ returners with priority boarding arriving as early as 9am, waits are pushed up there much faster than the good old days:
Tower of Terror, Great Movie Ride, and Star Tours would still be more or less walk-ons if you wanted to head in one of those directions after signing up.
Star Tours’ new scene based on The Force Awakens debuted on the 16th. It doesn’t look to have a great effect on wait times:
That’s a lot of 10s.
Elsewhere at Hollywood Studios, the close is being extended until 9:30pm on November 21, 22, 24, and 25. On December 4, the close is extended until 9pm and on the 5th, until 9:30pm.
It sounds like the Star Wars fireworks at the Studios will be scheduled nightly beginning January 5th instead of just on the weekends.
The rope drop holding areas at the Studios have also been updated. Here’s a map.
Over at Epcot, Captain EO will host its final show on December 6th. It will be replaced by a collection of Pixar shorts in the interim.
The Flower and Garden Festival will be expanded to 75 days next year, running from March 2 through May 30. The wildly unpopular “Outdoor Kitchens” will return. Maybe this year, Disney. Maybe this year…
Speaking of things that are unpopular, Made with Magic will debut at Epcot on November 23rd with the various light-up items apparently interacting with different areas in World Showcase. In my opinion, the accessories are more distracting than entertaining. Nobody goes to Fantasmic to see your nine foot tall bow on top of your head light up.
There’s a new show schedule at Biergarten over the holidays. Check it out here.
Over at Mission: SPACE. it looks like more capacity is going to be given to the Orange team. Theoretically, the ride’s bays can either host the less intense “green team” or the spinning “orange team.” Historically, Disney has always posted a shorter wait for the green team so people wouldn’t feel pressured to try the more intense version to save some time. It’s possible that orange is so much more popular that it’s no longer necessary to run more green simulators.
Speaking of Mission: SPACE, during Soarin’s downtime starting January 4th, the “attraction” will be a Tier 1 choice. That means you can’t select both Test Track and Mission: SPACE in advance. I have some additional thoughts on how the downtime will affect Epcot touring in this post. Basically, if you’re headed to Sum of All Thrills and Mission: SPACE and want to ride Test Track twice, you’re best off heading straight for Test Track at rope drop before moving over to Sum of All Thrills and Mission: SPACE. If you’re not interested in those attractions and either don’t want to ride Test Track or are happy with one ride, then it makes more sense to start on the other side of Future World, ideally with Character Spots, The Seas with Nemo, Turtle Talk, Living with the Land, and then Journey into Imagination.
Over at Animal Kingdom, Disney Parks Blog released new details on Rivers of Light and “Tiffins,” the name of the signature restaurant likely to be attached to Pizzafari and surely the next restaurant with inaccurate apostrophe placement a la O’Hana’s. Do yourself a favor and watch the YouTube video. Rivers of Light looks to be fantastic and will probably an absolute nightmare to see. Maybe there will be a dessert party at the top of Everest or something. Actually, you’d think there would be something at Flame Tree, otherwise that area will be mobbed.
Touring Plans is asserting that Animal Kingdom attendance is up 15% year over year, which is even more ludicrous than doubling down on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving being a “5 out of 10.” Maybe…maybe they’ll see that big of a bump once Rivers of Light comes online along with the other nighttime enhancements, but AK attendance isn’t even up 15% over the last ten years, let alone seeing that big of a jump with literally nothing new attracting anyone outside of a paint job on Flame Tree Barbecue. Studios attendance was up a little over the summer, boosted by a rehash of Frozen Summer Fun and slightly higher overall attendance. They’re certainly not bleeding 1.5 million visitors because the Animation Building closed. The additional Star Wars elements should be enough to prop up the Park during the beginning stages of construction. I think most of us would trade Studio Backlot Tour, in the condition it was in when it closed, for Star Wars fireworks, the various meet and greets, and the ability to put up a couple popcorn buckets on eBay and have our vacations virtually paid for.
Flights of Wonder will add FastPass+ beginning November 25th, if you can believe that. It’s highly unlikely FastPass+ will be necessary there, but as we’ve talked about, Disney is desperate to add more overall availability to the system as maximum FastPass+ distribution at the majority of attractions continues to propel wait times higher. If anything, the addition is good news as some number of people will use FastPass+ there instead of something more important like DINOSAUR. Still, I wouldn’t expect the addition to have a major impact on FP+ availability or wait times.
The new store attached to Disney Outfitters, Riverside Depot, is set to open December 8th. Island Mercantile will close next year for a refurbishment.
Santa Goofy and holiday-collared Pluto are meeting at Animal Kingdom, in addition to holiday outfits on Donald Duck in DinoLand, Chip and Dale at Rafiki’s Planet Watch, Baloo and King Louie in Asia, and Mickey and Minnie Mouse at Adventurers Outpost.
Planet Hollywood will close for about six months starting in January of next year.
That should be about it on the news front. Moving on to wait times…
Disney had moved Animal Kingdom’s open to 8am on several dates in November. Those sorts of things can be good or bad news – the good news is that you basically get an extra hour of low waits. The bad news is having to wake up for it, in addition to ruining any advantage an 8am breakfast might have on touring. Here at Expedition Everest, you could more or less ride nonstop from 8am to 9:30am and the attraction doesn’t hit a wait north of 20 minutes until after 10am, a full two hours after Park open. Kilimanjaro Safaris is the same way. Despite briefly peaking at 60 minutes, you have plenty of opportunities to ride early or late with the ride again dropping to 10 minutes in the final hour.
Midweek with the lower overall crowd level, things are even better for the most part, though the Mickey waits are longer. It’s possible they were only running one room.
Fast forward to the weekend with a higher overall crowd level and things aren’t quite so great on Wednesday. You’ve still got an hour of short waits at Safaris, Everest, and elsewhere in the morning, but afternoon waits are prohibitive in places. Even so, by 6pm the place has completely cleared out and you could walk on any operating attraction.
Looking at the numbers, it’s hard to account for what went on at Kilimanjaro Safaris from November 10th through the 14th. Things progress like you would expect in the morning with its usual walk-on status. Everest never hits anything above 40 and it’s 20 or less for the majority of the day, so we’re certainly not talking about crushing crowds elsewhere around the Park.
Here on a relatively busy Saturday, the high wait times at Safaris continue with relatively nominal waits elsewhere for most of the day. Again, the 8am open is always your friend.
Fortunately, those waits didn’t extend into the following week, which should end up being the fourth or fifth least crowded overall, even if the 21st is expected to see above average crowds. Everest is never above 25 minutes. Safaris is a walk-on for a full two hours and is 20 minutes or less for more than five hours in the afternoon.
Altogether, Animal Kingdom wait times are pretty boring, but I guess that’s okay.
There isn’t any question that you want to avoid Epcot on the weekends during the Food and Wine Festival, which leaves just four “good” days a week in which to pick. This is Monday November 2nd and things are exactly what you would expect. Test Track never posts anything less than 30 minutes first thing, but the wait doesn’t increase to 40 for a full hour, which is well better than average. Soarin’ is rough – my estimation is that the addition of the third theater won’t do much to mitigate the high wait times here, but at least more people per day will be able to experience it. Spaceship Earth sees its usual 35-minute peak wait as those arriving late get in line and battle with the FastPass+ returners, who always win.
Nothing otherwise looks particularly noteworthy at Epcot over the last few weeks and unlike with Animal Kingdom, I won’t bore you with a dozen charts that all look the same. As I mentioned previously, this past week will likely prove to be one of the least crowded of the year. This is Wednesday November 18th with Epcot as the most recommended Park and Magic Kingdom pulling a ton of people with evening Extra Magic Hours and both nighttime spectaculars. I’d have to go back over the averages for the full year, but these look to be among the lowest of the year, if not the absolute lowest.
If the Studios has really sent 1.5 million people packing, you certainly wouldn’t pick that up from the high wait times at its remaining attractions. Granted this is a non-recommended day with evening Extra Magic Hours attached, but not being able to ride anything that moves without a 30+ minute wait in the afternoon is rough.
As is usually the case, the following day was “highly recommended” with reliably shorter waits. Still, with maximum FastPass+ distribution at virtually every attraction virtually all day, standby waits still suffer at a Park with five rides. Here with the Osborne Lights, you do see lower wait times in the evening. That should continue with the Star Wars fireworks next year.
Otherwise, all of the charts more or less look the same. Since we’ve been discussing November 18th at each Park, here’s the Studios. Downtime at Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster pushes up wait times later in the day, but this is otherwise as good as it gets, even with 100-minute waits at Toy Story and 75+ at Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster.
Magic Kingdom continues to suffer the most under maximum FastPass+ utilization. Even given far below average crowds on the last Halloween Party date of the year, evening Extra Magic Hours pulling people towards the Studios, and Food/Wine at Epcot, we see plenty of unfortunately long waits. It’s still strange seeing Pirates of the Caribbean with one of the longest waits at the Park, at times eclipsing the likes of Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Anna/Elsa, Space Mountain, and others. You can’t argue that it’s an attendance thing, otherwise you’d see longer waits everywhere else and particularly at the attractions that don’t offer FastPass+, like Astro Orbiter. For Pirates to hit 60 minutes in the legacy FASTPASS days, you’d see triple digit waits virtually everywhere else on perhaps December 28th, which typically sees the highest attendance of the year.
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Of course, it only gets worse from there, particularly during Mickey’s Party season when non-Party dates see wild crowds and uncompromising standby waits. I’ve seen a lot of people returning from their trips saying the crowd calendars are “way off” with crowds “significantly higher than expected,” which is absolutely false. Or should I say, wait times and crowd levels are exactly what this website was expecting and has been reporting on for the last 2+ years. When you have the maximum number of people arriving with priority at virtually every attraction all day, regardless of whether or not it’s a “busy” day, you’re going to see things like a 65 minute wait at Pirates of the Caribbean. When you have downtime at a ride and everyone that had scheduled a FastPass+ returns after it reopens, you’re going to see some shockingly long standby waits as virtually zero standby riders board as Disney tries to accommodate angry FP+ returners. After Space Mountain reopens after just an hour of downtime in the afternoon, it reopens with 100+ minute waits and doesn’t have time to recover until after 10pm.
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Here’s the 18th, which we’ve discussed at each of the other Parks – at Magic Kingdom, it’s a rare day with both nighttime spectaculars and evening Extra Magic Hours. In the grand scheme of things, this really isn’t all that bad. Yes, Big Thunder at 80 minutes, Buzz at 50, Mansion at 50, small world at 30, Peter Pan’s Flight at 105, Pirates at 60, Mine Train at 100, Mermaid Ride at 45. It’s not a bad day, really.
Here on a Party day a couple of days later, things are still pretty rough. You’ve got far fewer overall FastPass+ experiences to offer over the course of a 10-hour day compared to a 15-plus-hour day and given the same high number of people returning with FastPass+ priority, similar wait times occur even given significantly fewer people in the Park. Come 12pm, there aren’t a lot of places to hide outside of Liberty Square Riverboat and Stitch’s Great Escape, which is one of the reasons why the website recommends using your allotted FP+ in the early afternoon. With a 9am-10am slot at Peter Pan’s Flight or Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, you can legitimately save some time if you use it closer to 10am, but you’d probably be better off trying to sneak into something like Pirates of the Caribbean when it still has a short wait. If you spend 15 minutes using FastPass+ at Mine Train at 9:30am, it just means you’re going to wait longer in standby at your next attraction as wait times only go up heading into the afternoon.
That’s about where we’re at as things remain more than manageable at Animal Kingdom, relatively manageable at Epcot and Hollywood Studios, and somewhat less so at Magic Kingdom. Given maximum FastPass+ utilization at the majority of attractions every day, we don’t see the drops in wait times on Party days that we enjoyed prior to MyMagic+. Subtract three years and you’d be looking at a lot of 5s, 10s, and 15s on the Magic Kingdom charts. That’s not reality when 70% of an attraction’s capacity is given to people in FastPass+, almost all of which will arrive after a given person in standby and be on their way much sooner.
Adjust your expectations.