Disney released the September 2016 operating schedule at the usual link: http://media.disneywebcontent.com/StaticFiles/ParkHours/WDWTravelAgent_september.pdf. Click “refresh” on your browser to load the newest version.
September is, for the most part, the least crowded time of year to visit Walt Disney World. There were a lot of reports last year that the month was “crazy crowded,” which I suppose is true and not true. It’s not at all compared to the rest of the year, but Magic Kingdom remains the most popular theme park in the world with peak attendance that easily averages over 40,000 guests a day. You’re not going to be the only one there. I post wait times charts every day in the category to your left on the main page, so you can compare waits and crowd levels from day to day.
Attendance remains up about 3.5% over last year. On Disney’s last two quarterly reports, they’ve quoted a much higher number for all domestic theme parks with the caveat that the weeks that comprise the quarter favor the current year. In other words, the weeks have shifted by one so the quarter includes one very busy week this year compared to a below average week last year. For the past quarter, when Disney quoted a 10% increase in attendance across Disneyland and WDW, the quarter included the week after Christmas instead of a significantly less crowded week during fall. Disneyland also proved significantly busier with the 60th Anniversary Diamond Celebration. While Walt Disney World attendance remains healthy, we’re already seeing a drop off from the impending doom in South America, and Brazil in particular, in addition to some less than rosy domestic indicators.
With that said, September 7th to 14th and the week following should be the two least crowded weeks of the entire year. Even with Labor Day falling on Monday September 5th, the first full week in September is also very good. Things spike upwards in the final week, but it’s still well above average as the Food and Wine Festival kicks off.
Looking over the operating schedule, it looks like we see Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party begin in early September again with a 7pm close on September 2nd, which should indicate a Party. Last year, Disney originally scheduled some 7pm closes early, then later moved the close later and the first Halloween Party didn’t end up being scheduled until September 15th. With nearly every date selling out last year, Disney may elect to start the event earlier in the month. Or they could change their mind again. As it stands, it looks like the Halloween Party will be scheduled on the 2nd, 8th, 11th, and 13th. If you’re flexible with your dates and want to be certain that the Party will be offered, you’d want to include at least September 16th in your trip.
One other peculiarity is that the Electrical Parade and Wishes are not scheduled at all from September 5th through September 23rd. The two shows “going dark” isn’t unheard of – the same thing happened in late January and into February in 2012. And on top of that, Fantasmic wasn’t operating for a three week stint at the same time. This far out, “things change,” so I wouldn’t necessarily jump to the conclusion that the Electrical Parade and Wishes won’t be featured on those dates with any kind of certainty. Disney could easily change their mind. On the other hand, it is a distinct possibility that we’ll see some downtime, probably under the guise of a “much needed” refurbishment.
Other than all of those things, September looks to be about what you would (or should) expect. With the Mickey’s Party schedule closing Magic Kingdom at 7pm on multiple nights, the recommendations are more important than the summer when the operating schedule is nearly the same every day. (Un)Fortunately, we may not see the swings if Magic Kingdom does not show its iconic fireworks show in the evening, but most casual vacationers will still stick to the days when the Park is open until 9pm or later.
A preliminary crowd calendar should follow shortly.