Magic Kingdom Wait Times Since Disney World Reopened
Now that Magic Kingdom Park and Disney’s Animal Kingdom have been open for a little over three weeks, and Epcot and Hollywood Studios will be open for a similar amount of time before we get to the analysis there, I thought it would be prudent to take a look at how wait times have progressed at what is probably still the most popular theme park in the world. Like its competitors, Magic Kingdom is currently seeing dramatically reduced attendance. When combined with reduced capacity and physical distancing, how has that affected wait times? The experience in general? And for how long? We should be able to come to some conclusions based on what we’re already seeing.
We started our on-the-ground reporting with Magic Kingdom on reopening day back on Saturday, July 11th, 2020. You can pull up any of the parts in that series to get an idea about what average crowds and Magic Kingdom wait times look like so far:
- Magic Kingdom Rope Drop Expectations and Tips
- Morning Touring in the Current Normal
- Fantasyland and Frontierland Touring in the Current Normal
- Late Morning Splash Mountain and Adventureland Touring
- Afternoon Touring After Reopening
- A Virtually Crowd-less Opening Day at Magic Kingdom
While wait times were low on the day of my visit, and only got lower as the day wore on, I mentioned several times during the series that the day of my visit had been the most crowded thus far. That checked out, since it was a Saturday, and there was some amount of pent up demand after a ~100 day closure. Plus, vloggers.
Reopening day was only the most crowded day at Magic Kingdom for about a week. It did stay in the top 25% of most-crowded days for the first two weeks before things shot up a bit. Here’s a familiar breakdown of the average wait time across 17 of the most popular attractions at the Park by day:
The 13-minute average for the day that I experienced right off the bat is very slightly above the 12.8-minute average that we’ve seen so far. July 26th, or about a week ago, also saw a 13-minute average wait.
Here’s the chart for July 26th, which includes the attractions that we’re considering on the left and the time of day across the top. The overall average for the day is then in the bottom right corner:
Current posted standby waits at Magic Kingdom are less than a third of what we saw over the entirety of 2018 and 2019. That’s a decrease of about 27 minutes in line for each attraction, on average.
Right off the bat, that makes sense. By now, we’re all familiar with FastPass+ priority. Between that, Disability Access, and VIP Tours, about 70% of an eligible attraction’s capacity went to the FastPass+ line. In many cases, that meant those arriving with FastPass+ priority after those already waiting in standby were able to board first. Thus, standby waits were much longer.
In simple terms, if a ride moved through 1,000 people per hour, only about 300 of them would be pulled from standby, with 700 going through FastPass+. Eliminate FastPass+, and virtually all of an attraction’s capacity goes to standby. While it doesn’t quite have the staying power of “Feels Crowded,” we did like to say that FastPass+ was great when we had it, and sucked when we didn’t. Now, nobody has it. So far, that doesn’t seem to be such a bad thing. Just look at Buzz Lightyear’s 5-minute wait almost day. Back in the FastPass+ days of…a few months ago, the ride averaged 40+ minutes.
Since reopening, the busiest day at Magic Kingdom was Saturday, July 25th, 2020. That day narrowly beat out Saturday, August 1, 2020, potentially in part due to concerns over the tropical storm. We’ll focus largely on that day, since we typically plan for the worst and then come out ahead.
Here’s the chart from the 25th, which was just one day earlier than the previous chart:
For what is technically the busiest day of the summer at Magic Kingdom so far, wait times remain more than reasonable compared to any of the last several years. Over the last five, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train has posted a 93-minute wait. Its 41-minute average for the day is less than half that. The ride never hit a wait longer than an hour. Even on the busiest day since reopening. Before the extended closure, the only times that you’d see waits this short were immediately around major hurricanes in September. That month, which we’re coming up on shortly, is already the least crowded, historically.
One other interesting thing about the “current normal” is how much wait times have changed relative to each other given physical distancing and a lack of FastPass+.
For more than 45 years, a ride like Pirates of the Caribbean enjoyed one of Magic Kingdom’s highest hourly capacities. You’ve got five rows per boat with two independent loading platforms. Something like 2,400 people per hour can ride when you’re packing them in, which can include seating multiple parties in the same row. With social distancing in place, only the first and fifth rows may be filled and parties will never share the same row. That drops capacity by more than half, and sends it south to something like 1,000 riders per hour.
At Peter Pan’s Flight, we might be distanced physically in the queue by these stickers, but cast still seat guests in every pirate ship. Just as they did before. Also at Peter Pan, guests never shared rows, so nothing has changed on that front, either. Peter Pan’s Flight basically has the same hourly capacity with physical distancing in place. That means Pirates and Peter Pan’s Flight now enjoy similar hourly capacities.
This chart shows the overall average wait at each Magic Kingdom ride between July 15th and August 2nd, 2020:
The top three attractions aren’t too much of a surprise, though I think most of us would still expect to see Seven Dwarfs Mine Train as the attraction at Magic Kingdom with the highest posted wait. It is interesting to see how Pirates now has a higher average wait than Peter Pan’s Flight. That goes back to our point about capacity, which, combined with demand, is what drives wait times. How quickly wait times build is also the basis for how we go about touring. We always want to be at an attraction just before extended waits begin to build.
You’ll often see people wondering aloud how Peter Pan’s Flight could still pull 60+ minute waits even if it “was old” or “not that good.” Well, when only 250 people per hour from standby can ride, and it’s one of the most iconic attractions at one of the most iconic places in the world, you’re going to see continued demand. With almost all of the attraction’s capacity now going to standby, wait times have an opportunity to drop. Of course, waits have also dropped substantially across the board since the Park reopened.
Disney’s announcement that Splash will eventually close has increased demand, apparently to the point where the attraction sees the highest waits in the Park. The ride is also naturally more popular during the summer heat. With physical-distancing, Cast typically seat guests in just the first and fourth rows, which also halves theoretical capacity. The ride has also gone down for technical trouble more than usual. I kept it off of our daily wait time averages because its number could swing things so much.
But we will not ignore it entirely. Here’s a look at Splash over the last few weeks. Blank spaces represent about 15 minutes of downtime each:
We saw about 2.5 days of technical difficulties over the past week, in addition to a couple of other unplanned spurts of downtime due to weather. Over the weekend, one of the vehicles purportedly sunk with guests largely on-board, not unlike what we saw at Jungle Cruise earlier this year. Everyone involved managed to survive the five inches of water, though you can still drown in a puddle.
Supposedly, Splash’s re-theme is years off, which makes some sense given so many other projects are paused or canceled. That includes the massive Spaceship Earth overhaul. Still, Disney announced Splash’s change over to “The Princess and The Frog” in June with some knowledge about how slow things were going to be after the Parks reopened. Internally, Disney may be using the Splash project to keep on staff that would otherwise be project-less and let go. We’re likely about to see layoffs numbering in the tens of thousands across numerous divisions.
We’ll return to this chart, which shows the average wait by attraction since July 15th:
Take away FastPass+, and the whole “economy is in shambles etc.” thing, and 13 of Magic Kingdom’s 18 major rides average a wait of 15 minutes or less. Only Splash Mountain sees an average wait of over a half hour at the moment. That also goes back to a lot of recent downtime for technical trouble. Magic Kingdom is currently open ten hours, from 9am to 7pm daily. If Splash is down for three hours, then a similar number of people now only have a 7-hour window to ride.
It will potentially be interesting to see if these fluctuations in wait times cause substantial changes in how we efficiently tour. If Tomorrowland Speedway and Buzz Lightyear are going to average waits under ten minutes, then they no longer need to be prioritized. Historically, Buzz’s average has been around 45 minutes. Tomorrowland Speedway came in around a half hour, almost all of which was unpleasant, outside, and clogged with exhaust.
Currently, four of the five attractions with the highest average waits are in Adventureland and Frontierland, making both areas higher priorities. The Frontierland rope drop used to be more of our “take it easy day,” since Big Thunder enjoyed a massive capacity and few people were interested in getting wet on Splash before 10:30am.
According to our charts, Big Thunder is still largely a walk-on for the first hour of operation. Splash Mountain is also. With elevated crowds, and more people heading to those destinations first, we may need to be in a bit more of a hurry. Of course, with no Welcome Show currently scheduled, we’re not missing anything by huffing it back to Frontierland first thing anyway. On our next Magic Kingdom rope drop, we’ll probably focus on Adventureland and Frontierland first, and then move on to Tomorrowland. We’ll save Fantasyland for the end of the night.
Overall, the priorities are still the priorities for the most part, even if they’re now more forgiving. It still makes sense to prioritize Peter Pan’s Flight if it’s the sixth most popular attraction in the Park by average wait, but it’s certainly not the rush that it was when its average wait was about four times what it currently is. If we can get in line for Peter Pan at 5pm and wait 15 minutes then we’re in good shape.
At the beginning of the year, with FastPass+ in play, the average wait would still be 50+ minutes. That’s longer than we want to wait, particularly with the aggravation of FastPass+ priority. With wait times as low as they currently are, you could basically have no idea what you’re doing and still complete a lot of attractions over ten hours.
As I’ve mentioned before, overall demand for the theme parks remains low. Here’s Disney Park Pass availability for Theme Park Tickets Guests:
If you have purchased regular tickets, all Parks are available to visit via the Disney Park Pass System. The same is true for Disney Resort guests. Every day in August, they have their choice of Park.
The story remains very different for Annual Passholders:
Until the last week in August, Passholders may only visit Epcot at the moment. You can pull up a live version of the Parks Pass Calendar here. My thoughts on how the Disney Park Pass system works and how you can best take advantage of it are located here.
The overall point is that the attendance cap for Magic Kingdom Park has not yet been reached. Disney is willing to admit more people into the Park. More people should increase wait times, which means the current normal is not yet the “new normal.” Eventually, and likely later this fall, attendance will increase as temperatures cool. That will be offset somewhat if things in Florida don’t improve. People are probably eyeballing 2021 visits more so than late 2020 visits. While wait times might be low, you’ll remember that we still don’t have the Happily Ever After Fireworks, Festival of Fantasy Parade, any traditional meet and greets, etc. That will also eventually change as things return to the old normal.
There have already been a few wrinkles with Park Pass availability. First, Disney has already reallocated Park Pass availability to Passholders on more than one occasion. That makes sense, since they are the guests who are able and willing to visit the Parks. This past week, Disney also removed blockouts for cast members, meaning they could use their main gate passes to enter a Park other than Hollywood Studios through August 2nd. They were previously blocked out through November. That was likely also partially why we saw the uptick in wait times. Tens of thousands of cast members who previously had little opportunity to visit Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, and Epcot were able to do so during the week ending August 2nd. It will be interesting to see if waits drop again this week.
So far, wait times are trending up at Magic Kingdom Park. Here’s the same daily data from our chart organized in a different way:
That increase is a little more obvious when taking things by week:
Week Three’s increase in wait times also came during some fear of a hurricane hitting in our vicinity. Both August 1st and 2nd likely would have seen higher wait times without that threat. Even so, there’s more than a 50% increase in wait times between the first full week Magic Kingdom was open and its third full week. If I was in the fear mongering business, the title of this post would be something like, “MAGIC KINGDOM WAIT TIMES UP MORE THAN HALF IN JUST TWO WEEKS EVEN AS SEVERE STORMS THREATEN RESORT. TIME TO CANCEL?!?!?!?!” It does have a bit of a ring to it. An average wait of 15 minutes is still absurdly short, so we won’t go that route quite yet.
It will be interesting to see if wait times continue to climb through August, with lower-tier passholders no longer blocked out. Thousands of videos and national reports of short wait times have also circulated en masse, which is at least enough to get Passholders considering visits. Disney could also fill its Parks with more cast members whenever they want by eliminating the blockouts. Of course, local passholders and hourly cast members are not exactly the big money whales that Disney is trying to lure to its resorts. That’s why you continue to see Park Pass availability for the other segments, while Annual Passholders can’t get in. Disney Resort Guests, elegantly trapped on property and thanking Disney for the privilege, are the ones spending the big bucks.
So far, it’s “felt” like crowds and wait times decrease substantially as closing time approaches. Let’s see how true that is at Magic Kingdom. We’ll bring back up the chart for our busiest day so far, Saturday, July 25th, 2020. Here’s just the first two hours:
By 10:45am, the average wait has already doubled from the 8.5 minutes we see at 9:15am. The average for the two hours is less than 13 minutes. By 11am, waits are prohibitive at a number of attractions, including 30+ minutes at Big Thunder, Jungle Cruise, and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. Splash Mountain is also at 60 minutes.
Let’s check on 11:15am to 2pm:
Wait times at several of these attractions remain prohibitive, though I think most of us would take 20 minutes for Space Mountain. For much of the late morning, other attractions, like Jungle Cruise and Haunted Mansion, actually see higher waits. The overall average wait for this time period is up almost ten minutes. Not great, but not terrible.
Here’s 1:15pm to 3pm:
Waits are nearly 80% higher than the first two hours of the day here during the heart of the afternoon. This is when it makes the most sense to rest via a lazy lunch and some anytime attractions. We’ll take a look at how those attractions stack up momentarily.
In the early evening, from 3:15pm to 5pm, Magic Kingdom wait times begin to fall off a bit:
But only about 7% compared to 11:15am to 1pm.
Then in the last two hours, we do see a drop of about 27% compared to the busiest part of the day:
As usual, Disney doesn’t drop the posted wait at the end of the day to coincide with what is usually a much shorter wait. Actual waits at Big Thunder and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train should both be under 15-minutes in the last hour. They’ll still likely read 30+ minutes.
At least at Magic Kingdom, the morning is still the best time to tour with the 12.7-minute average. The last two hours, with the 16.6-minute average, is also quite good. With the relatively short waits that we’ve seen so far, even the afternoon’s 22.7-minute average isn’t too nutty.
With the sheer number of things to do at Magic Kingdom, it makes sense that we see less of a drop-off in wait times as we’ll likely see at the other Parks. Over at Animal Kingdom, you can “do everything” in three or four hours. At the Studios, it takes about six hours. At Epcot, it’s probably closer to five minutes to inspect the hole in the middle of the Park and leave. Once you’ve “done everything,” you’re likely on your way out. This is particularly true given the afternoon heat, rain, and mandatory face coverings making things a little less pleasant. Magic Kingdom simply has too many attractions to get done in one day. That likely keeps people in the Park longer. While you might answer “no” to a fourth ride on Expedition Everest, you may be more inclined to stick around for a first ride on Jungle Cruise.
Fortunately, Magic Kingdom does offer a number of anytime attractions. Here’s a look again at the busiest day so far since Magic Kingdom reopened. This chart includes the low priority/high-capacity attractions instead:
Amusingly, the 12-minute average posted wait for Mickey’s PhilharMagic actually puts it within three minutes of Peter Pan’s Flight, Space Mountain, and Haunted Mansion, in addition to being longer than eight rides. In reality, even with rows closed and three empty seats in between parties, you should be able to walk into the next PhilharMagic, even if the posted wait is 10 or 15 minutes. That’s just how long it takes for the next show to start. When it’s raining, or during peak afternoon times, it’s possible that you would need to wait through an entire show. At the same time, waits will be at their longest elsewhere as well.
As far as what day of the week will see lower waits, it’s likely too early to tell. Here’s how things have shaped up so far:
Wednesdays and Sundays see the lowest waits, while Fridays, Saturdays, and Mondays see the longest waits. The difference between Wednesday and Saturday, of a little more than five minutes on average, isn’t terrible. But it does add up. Saturday’s average wait is almost 50% longer than Wednesdays. At the moment, most prospective guests would probably prefer to visit with the fewest other people around for a variety of other reasons. Sundays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays are your best bets with Wednesday leading the charge.
That goes back to my advice that a visit from Sunday to Friday is better than a visit from Thursday through Tuesday. Of course, skipping the weekend isn’t always viable, which is part of why Saturdays see higher waits.
Last year, I used this as the header picture from the top of Splash Mountain for our deep dive into the data titled, “Does It Really Matter Which Day of the Week You Visit Each Walt Disney World Theme Park?”
For a very anecdotal look at crowds, here’s basically the same picture from reopening day. It’s a stark contrast.
Based on our research last year, we came away with the following chart for Magic Kingdom. It also shows the average wait across multiple attractions by day of week:
Even then, Wednesdays and Sundays saw the lowest average waits, while Mondays and Saturdays trended higher. Look at all of those 40+ minute averages, compared to waits that are less than half that now.
At the moment, we have no Extra Magic Hours scheduled. There are basically no special events on the books. And we’ve got the same 9am to 7pm hours every day. Still, Sundays and Wednesdays look to be a little better even without those factors playing a role. You’ll remember that I threw out the crowd calendars a few years ago after the historical drivers of crowds played much less of a role. FastPass+ kept wait times high right out of the gate. Disney also began reducing staffing, hours of operation, and attraction capacities on days that it expected to be less crowded. You could have very easily waited longer on a “less crowded” day than a much busier one with shorter hours and reduced capacities.
Since Magic Kingdom has the most attractions, you may want to prioritize days there that will be less crowded. We’ll see how the other Parks stack up as we move through this series. If Sundays and Wednesdays are less crowded across all the Parks, then we won’t be quite as well off. We can’t be everywhere on Wednesday, particularly with no Park Hopping privileges.
Overall, what has happened so far is about what we were expecting after we saw opening weekend crowds.
Or, more accurately, just how low crowds could be.
Two big questions remain:
- How much will Disney pull back? We haven’t seen significant reductions in Park operations beyond what we were expecting. Disney is running both sides of Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, and Pirates of the Caribbean, for example. This is likely due in part to the capacity reductions that we’ve seen caused by physical-distancing. Still, once Disney realizes that Space Mountain’s average wait is under 20 minutes most of the day, and we’re heading into what is historically the least crowded period of the year, we may see some cutbacks that affect Magic Kingdom wait times. Space Mountain’s wait would basically double if they halved capacity.
- How quickly will demand return? Disney doesn’t seem too bullish. They’ve postponed the openings of several of its resorts, including the Polynesian, Beach Club, and BoardWalk. All of those are particularly popular in the fall. If demand was there, those resorts, in addition to others that are currently closed, would be open. The All-Stars and Port Orleans complex don’t even have reopened dates. That’s 8,500 vacant rooms right there.
As we take a look at the other Parks, and continue moving forward, we should have a better idea about the current normal and what it will eventually mean for the new normal. You would have to think that it will be at least ten weeks before we approach crowds that resemble anything close to moderate. Depending on how Disney goes about staffing and Park hours, it could “feel” busier sooner rather than later.
On the other hand, short waits are really what Disney World has going for it at the moment. Take those away, along with all of the parades, character meets, fireworks, nighttime spectaculars, park hopping, Nine Dragons, etc. and it’s possible that the resort doesn’t have a whole lot to offer at the moment. From talking to people debating whether or not to visit Walt Disney World this fall, the promise of short waits is a big determining factor. Disney may still elect to cut costs by reducing staffing and capacity. If and when that happens, we’ll be able to tell.
As always, we’ll continue to reassess the situation.