I spent (most of) the last ten hours updating the July Crowd Calendar. June, July, and August are my favorite months of the year for the crowd calendar because the operating hours/entertainment are so uniform from week to week. It’s basically just a glorified copy/paste job from one week to the next. Don’t tell anyone though.
July remains the hottest and busiest month of the year. Most months, there is a sweet spot at some point as far as crowds are concerned. In January, crowds taper off substantially moving into the second week and stay relatively low through the Friday before President’s Day Weekend. The first two weeks in December are pretty slow. The last week in August is less crowded than the 12 weeks that came before it. Almost all of September is “dead,” relatively speaking. July is not one of those months. It’s going to be busy everywhere you go, every single day, with little variation in crowds from one day to the next.
I often see people stating that following the “crowd calendars” is more important in the summer than the “off-season.” “In reality,” the exact opposite is true. In the summer, when operating hours and entertainment are virtually identical every day, we don’t see the great drops in crowds from non-recommended days to recommended days. Going to the recommended Parks will still result in lower crowds and shorter waits, but we’re talking about a peak wait at it’s a small world that’s 25 minutes instead of 35 minutes. Or at Space Mountain, a peak wait of 60 minutes instead of 100 minutes. Fast forward to September, and it’s a small world might have a peak wait of 10 minutes on a most recommended Friday and 50 minutes on the non-recommended Saturday that follows it. At Space Mountain, the wait at 2pm might be 20 minutes instead of 120 minutes.
I’m always amused at the people that come back from an “off-season” trip stating “it was crazy busy.” Inevitably, they visit Magic Kingdom on the Saturday with longer hours/both nighttime spectaculars. They go to Animal Kingdom on a Wednesday because it’s open until 6pm and has a morning Extra Magic Hour. They visit Epcot on a Friday with evening Extra Magic Hours. With Disney’s promotions, on-site occupancy is at least 80% year around. That translates to the same 75,000+ people looking at the Extra Magic Hours schedule in July as will be looking in September. And don’t get me started on people that say, “Magic Kingdom was crazy crowded but we managed to ride Space Mountain three times in a row with no wait at 4pm.” I like to say that the difference between a “busy” and a “not busy” day at Magic Kingdom is about 30,000 people in line. And that’s the truth. There are areas of all four major theme parks that are virtually always congested. The difference being the 20 minute or 120 minute wait at Big Thunder Mountain Railroad once you finally arrive.
Anyway, I was expecting Magic Kingdom to have longer hours. If you look at the final schedule from July 2011, you’ll notice that Magic Kingdom often closes at 12am or 1am. This year, we don’t have 1am closes on any date other than July 4th. Midnight closes are also much rarer. Another amusing myth is the that Disney extends operating hours because “they are expecting heavier than expected crowds.” The opposite is actually true, more often than not. Disney didn’t raise crowd estimates in July on virtually any date, yet the hours are still extended. It’s not at all uncommon for Disney to lower crowd expectations and also extend operating hours. That was particularly true on December 17 – 24 last year. The pattern is the same every month. We see one big update about two weeks before the start of each month. That update always sees extended hours, additional evening entertainment, etc. For a more comprehensive overview of how Disney sets and updates its schedule, see Figuring Out Disney World Theme Park Hours.
Ordinarily, the January 2013 Crowd Calendar image preview would follow shortly. Unfortunately, I don’t have the Extra Magic Hours schedule yet and that’s a big part of how the recommendations are made. I could “run simulations” via “the data,” but there’s really no point in doing so if Disney has something else planned for January. I have never seen an operating schedule come out without the Extra Magic Hour parks listed, but there has always been some odd behavior on those Travel Agent Calendar PDF files. I’ve seen Fantasmic scheduled every night at 0pm. One time it was scheduled at 6.31111111111pm or some such. I got a kick out of that one for obvious reasons. It was about as precise of a starting time as I’ve ever seen on anything. I should have the schedule by the end of the week and the Crowd Calendar image will follow shortly thereafter.
As far as nonsense updates are concerned, I took 370 pictures at the Pop Century resort yesterday. Shell-On Shrimp Tandoori from Art of Animation. We have an ice pop in Japan along with a fun look at the Japan anime exhibit. I have a nice meal at Flying Fish to report on. My guess is my face will be even more punchable than usual after I tell you about the Burgundy wine flight (Puligny Montrachet Domaine Chavy ’09, Chevrey-Chamberlin Vincent Girardin ’08, Chassagne-Montrachet Domaine Jean-Marc Moret ’06), crab cake, oak grilled filet, Napoleon, potato crusted red snapper, rock shrimp, Caesar salad, swordfish, and citrus cheesecake. And more wine. So punchable.
It will continue.