Sunday February 14 2016 Walt Disney World Wait Times Recap and Trends – Animal Kingdom Edition

Sunday February 14

Predicted Crowd Level: 9.

Actual Crowd Level: 9.

Weather: High of 70 and low of 46. No precipitation.

Larger: https://www.easywdw.com/reports13/ak21416.jpg

As you may be aware, the website publishes wait times charts in their entirety all day, every day in the column on the far left on the homepage or via the Wait Times Recap category. But since Presidents Day Weekend, and the “9 level” crowds that came with it, are behind us, I thought it would be prudent to take a look back at wait times so far in 2016. What’s kind of interesting about the period from January 1st to the end of February is that we see crowd levels from the very lowest they get during some weekdays in January, all the way up to the highest they get over holiday weekends over the first couple days of January, over Martin Luther King Jr. Weekend, and then Presidents Day Weekend. We don’t actually see any “10s” as this website only attributes the maximum crowd level to a day when a theme park is liable to close to capacity. And that usually only happens around Easter, on July 4th, and the period between December 25th and 31st.

I’ll briefly discuss wait times from February 14th, which saw the highest overall attendance this year, and then we’ll go attraction by attraction looking at the average wait times each day at Animal Kingdom, followed by the other Parks. One thing to note on the overall averages is that they’re not the end-all, be-all of crowd prediction. They take all of a Park’s operating hours into account, so you sometimes see lower average wait times at some attractions even with much higher peak attendance. At Animal Kingdom, a Park that’s open anywhere from 9am-5pm to 7am-9pm, the average wait time at a ride like DINOSAUR can be lower than you’d expect given a high overall crowd level due to low wait times from 7am-10am and again from 6pm to 9pm, even if the waits from 10am-5pm are much longer than virtually any other day of the year.

As always, the crowd levels on this website are based on attendance, which is sourced from internal projections like Magical Express ridership and restaurant staffing, expected on-site hotel occupancy, FastPass+ utilization, and off-site factors. Crowd level predictions are then checked against the actual peak attendance at each Park.

Larger: https://www.easywdw.com/reports13/dinosaur_2016_wait_times_chart.jpg

DINOSAUR’s average wait so far in 2016: 23 minutes

Instantaneously, we see how much wait times can swing from one day to the next, ranging anywhere from a low of 9 minutes all the way up to 43 minutes. We saw 9 minutes on January 22nd, predicted to be a “2” and January 26th, predicted to be a “1.” No surprise there. We get 40 minutes on January 2nd with the “9” overall crowd level and again on January 4th, with an overall crowd level of “6” and non-recommended status, in addition to lengthy downtime. Waits spike again from January 16th to 18th for Martin Luther King Jr. Weekend, with crowd levels of “8.” It’s an average over 30 again on January 30th and 31st, predicted to be a “6” and “7” for above average crowds. The other 30s on February 7th and 8th are also 6s and 7s and then you’ve got 34+ minutes over Presidents Day, which is 8s and 9s. But it doesn’t always work out. Take January 15th for example, which was expected to be a “crowd level 7” and sees a 13-minute average, which is one of the shortest of the year. If you pull up the chart for that day, you’ll see that there was a tornado warning in the area in the morning followed by heavy rain and wind most of the day. Those that have been reading over the recaps daily will see that weather has an immense impact on crowds this time of year as temperatures and rainfall are erratic. From May – September, weather has much less of an effect as it’s always hot and always wet.

Larger: https://www.easywdw.com/reports13/everest_2016_wait_times_chart.jpg

Expedition Everest’s average wait so far in 2016: 31 minutes

Expedition Everest’s longest average wait came on January 24th, a day when the Park was “most recommended” with an overall average of “5.” Does the 63-minute average indicate the website was grossly mistaken? Not exactly if you look over the chart, which explains a bit what happens to wait times when attractions experience downtime. Everest saw over six hours of downtime on the 24th, which pushed the wait time up to triple digits once it reopened, even given a below average number of people in the Park. That’s one of many reasons why posted wait times aren’t an accurate indicator of actual crowds. Otherwise, trends are similar to DINOSAUR above, with the average ranging from 7 minutes on January 27th during a torrential downpour, all the way up to 58 minutes on February 14th given no significant downtime and the highest crowd level of the year. Otherwise, you see high wait times in the first few days and again over the holidays. Presidents Day Weekend again sees the highest 3-day total given the high crowd level, even with the extended hours.

Larger: https://www.easywdw.com/reports13/bug_2016_wait_times_chart.jpg

It’s Tough To Be A Bug’s average wait so far in 2016: 6.5 minutes

I usually ignore attractions like It’s Tough To Be A Bug, Muppet Vision, 3D, and Mickey’s PhilharMagic when discussing wait times in the daily recaps, but a chart like this is actually really helpful when identifying which days are busier. It’s Tough To Be A Bug runs pretty much continuously, one show after another, all day and rarely closes due to a problem, so the hourly capacity is almost always the same. And when you see an 8+ minute average, you can be pretty sure that people are having to wait through an entire show because the theater is at capacity, which indicates that there are a lot of people in the Park. So let’s see which days have an 8+ minute average and what the predicted overall crowd level was, along with whether the Park was Recommended (R) or Not Recommended (NR).

  • January 2nd: Crowd Level 9R
  • January 16th: 8NR
  • January 17th: 8R
  • January 18th: 6NR
  • January 30th: 7NR
  • February 6th: 7NR
  • February 7th: 7R
  • February 12th: 8R
  • February 13th: 9NR
  • February 14th: 9R
  • February 15th: 9NR

Unsurprisingly, all of the days with well-above-average waits at Bug are also days with well-above-average crowds. Of the 17 days with a 5-minute average, only two saw an above-average predicted crowd level. That includes January 3rd, a cold and rainy most-recommended day, and January 15th, the tornado day.

Kali is a lousy example since it’s been closed for refurbishment since January 4th. It’s supposed to be back open, but nobody really rides it in cooler temperatures, so we’re not going to see it reopening until mid-March. The big drop from January 1st to 3rd is indicative of the lousy weather on that date. Fast forward to June and the average will be over 60 minutes daily with little fluctuation from one day to the next.

Larger: https://www.easywdw.com/reports13/safaris_2016_wait_times_chart.jpg

Kilimanjaro Safaris average wait so far in 2016: 40 minutes.

Safaris is usually another good indicator of crowds because it almost never goes down, but capacity does fluctuate based on the number of vehicles operating and animals standing in the way of the trucks occasionally delay things. One species of zebra that has since been removed from the savanna was notorious for standing toe to toe with oncoming trucks. Average waits otherwise vary wildly from nine minutes on a cold, wet day early in the month all the way up to 98 minutes on February 13th, a non-recommended Saturday with a morning Extra Magic Hour and “9” overall crowd level. On the 11 days with averages of 20 or less minutes, all had crowd levels of “4” or less or saw heavy rain and wind.

Larger: https://www.easywdw.com/reports13/kilimanjaro_safaris_wait_times_2016

Looking over Safaris’ wait times over the last three weeks or so, you can get a good idea about how wait times fluctuate over the course of the day from the least crowded weekdays at the end of January all the way through some of the highest crowds of the year over Presidents Day Weekend from the 11th to 15th. As the website has been noting for years, Animal Kingdom is very forgiving in the morning. Even on February 13th, when the average wait is going to be just shy of one and a half hours, you still have nearly two hours in the morning with a wait of 20 minutes or less and over an hour when it’s going to be basically a walk-on. It will be interesting to see what happens with the nighttime safari. From now until mid-March, when daylight savings strikes again, Safaris closes before 6pm daily due to darkness. From mid-March, the closing time will be no earlier than 6:45pm. That gives the attraction some time to see waits again wane in the evening. Of course, crowd patterns will likely shift significantly once Rivers of Light begins and the other nighttime enhancements start, along with what are going to have to be very late closes to support the nighttime entertainment.

Larger: https://www.easywdw.com/reports13/mickey_minnie_meet_2016_wait_times_chart.jpg

Meet Mickey and Minnie at Adventurers Outpost average wait so far in 2016: 15 minutes.

It’s been kind of interesting to see what’s happened with Mickey and Minnie’s wait times after they’ve been moved behind closed doors here and at Epcot in particular. The two characters are again on the move over at Hollywood Studios, which will make it their sixth new location in less than eight months. Mickey was in the Animation Building for years before moving out in front of Great Movie Ride, then over to the old Backlot Tour queue, and then over to the old Legend of Jack Sparrow Space. Minnie went from in front of Great Movie Ride to Animation Building to outside Disney Jr. and will then move to across from Sci-Fi Dine-In. Anyway, waits for the pair at Animal Kingdom are surprisingly short considering it’s been the only place to meet both together for over a year now, the meet is air-conditioned, and the outfits are cute. Unlike Safaris, which saw a 1000% increase in wait times from the least crowded day to the most, we only go from a minimum average of nine minutes to a maximum of 23 minutes with the average almost always under 20 minutes. The website rates FastPass+ relatively highly here anyway because the supply is so limited.

Thank the inconspicuous signage and the fact that the kids can’t see the characters from the outside. If you dressed the characters up in the same outfits and stuck them outdoors just inside the entrance, the wait would be 60+ minutes all day. Doubling capacity here and at Character Spot has also helped.

Larger: https://www.easywdw.com/reports13/primeal_whirl_2016_wait_times_chart.jpg

Primeval Whirl’s average wait so far in 2016: 19 minutes.

Not much to add at Primeval Whirl as the average wait distribution is similar to the other attractions. One potentially interesting thing about Primeval Whirl is that it operates with two independent, nearly identical sides. And later in the day, when crowds are expected to wane, one side can be shut down, which in turn basically doubles wait times as capacity is cut in half. It’s one of the reasons why the website recommends visiting DinoLand with two hours to close and then recommends heading to Asia to finish the day. Waits are reliably short at the DinoLand attractions by that time and you don’t run into the capacity issues at Primeval and DINOSAUR. Then you can take advantage of nearly nonexistent waits at Kali River Rapids in the final hour and Everest at the very end of the day, when you can usually walk on three or four times in less than 40 minutes.




Overall, there aren’t a ton of surprises at Animal Kingdom as we’re still looking towards what should be a lot of changes once Rivers of Light comes online. Epcot should prove a little more interesting with Soarin’ closed along with the changes to entertainment and attractions. Hollywood Studios is going to be ugly with the few remaining rides operating there. And Magic Kingdom continues to suffer as people ignore Epcot and Studios and instead focus more time on the Most Magical Place on Earth.

The other theme parks will follow if there’s any interest.

Comments

  1. Thomas says

    Love, love, love the data driven approach this website takes when making recommendations. Thanks for your hard work!

  2. AggieAmy says

    I find all of this fascinating! Bring on the stats for the other parks! We will be visiting AK for the first time on 3/16. All previous trips were in the sweltering summer, so we avoided AK. Looking forward to it!

  3. Stephen says

    Josh,

    A short while back, you described Kali River Rapids as (paraphrasing) a ride that people will find to be one of the bigger disappointments in all of WDW. I’m curious why that is.

    • Heather says

      My two cents is it’s incredibly short with little interest brought by the boring route with minimal curves/surprises, the story is poorly told as compared to many other rides including Splash Mountain, and it dumps water ALL over you, which makes it miserable to walk around in all day. Soaked bra and underwear feels gross regardless of the temp outside.

  4. Sarah says

    More parks please! I like the daily recaps, too, but I think occasionally looking at patterns and trends over time can be really interesting, especially as changes are happening in the different parks.

  5. Kelli says

    Thanks for the info – we are going in 3 weeks and it’s the first trip where I’ve used your site for planning so I really like seeing how you get to the numbers you do, and your analysis.

  6. Heather says

    We just returned from our 8 day trip from 2/9 a 2/17 and found your predictions and recommendations to be right on! We have followed them for several trips and also appreciate their data driven nature plus the human factors you always take into account to explain the recs. We sure enjoyed 2/9 through 2/12, the Pres weekend was definitely like a different trip! When will Disney make FP+ for quick service?? We found it terribly slow the entire trip with the exception of the Epcot Stabucks. Waited 35 minutes for a Margarita on the rocks inside the pavilion at La Cava. But it was darn strong :)

  7. Steve B says

    Looking at the 11 days when ITTBAB had 8+ minute average waits (ie. busier than other days), AK was recommended on 5 of those days and not recommended on 6 days. So, this site was correct around 50% of the time – which is about the same result one would get purely by random chance.

    “As good as random chance” isn’t much of a recommendation for this site’s crowd calendar. :/

    I’m also surprised you didn’t point out the weekly variations in wait times during February (it’s not as noticeable in January). Wait times tend to be longer at the weekends than in the week, at least from these AK numbers. Which, I guess, is to be expected.

    • Sarah says

      I don’t see the logic in your “as good as random chance” assessment. 4 of the 5 days where ITTBAB had 8+ minute waits were crowd level days of 8 or 9. The only way to know if his AK recommendation on those days was better than random chance to compare wait times with similar attractions at the other parks. I mean, I guess he could look at crowd level days of 8 or 9 and say, “F this, no parks are recommended!” (and come to think of it, I guess that’s kind of what he does for the second half of December), but if crowds are heavy all over, then waits are going to be high regardless. It still doesn’t change that certain parks will probably be more tolerable than others on those days, and that if you arrive for rope drop and tour smartly in the morning, you can get a lot done before you submit to a 12 minute wait at ITTBAB in the afternoon.

      • Steve B says

        I’m merely pointing out that, on the 11 days (out of around 45 days) that had significantly higher waits at ITTBAB than the other nearby days, half of those were recommended. You’d expect these days with long waits would be “not recommended” (or at least most of them to be not recommended).

        I agree that the numerical crowd levels do generally match the actual measured wait times (at ITTBAB and elsewhere). I was only commenting on the “R” and “NR” predictions and pointing out that approximately half of the highest wait days were recommended.

        Anyway, no big deal. :)

        • josh says

          There are recommended and not recommended Parks every single day of the year. With higher crowd levels come longer waits. It’s not like there’s some magical day with a crowd level of 9 when Animal Kingdom is going to have wait times of a crowd level 2, barring the chance of terrible weather. Look at the charts for one day prior: http://www.easywdw.com/easy/wait-times-recap/saturday-february-13-2016-walt-disney-world-wait-times-recap. Hollywood Studios overall wait of 54 minutes is undeniably high, but it’s also lower than the non-recommended days around it. That’s the point of the recommendations. Saying Animal Kingdom (or any other theme park) is never recommended when the crowd level is a 7+ wouldn’t be helpful.

          • Steve B says

            I get what you are saying. I guess the problem here is that this post only discusses AK and none of the other parks. Although AK’s crowds may be higher on these recommended days, the other parks are even worse and therefore AK is the best of a bad bunch for that day (as it were).

            Still, pointing out that on the 11 busiest days at a park, EasyWDW recommended visiting that same park on half of those days – without the context of how much worse it was at the other parks – struck me as peculiar.

            BTW, I still love these data-driven daily updates almost as much as the wonderful snark-filled reviews you do. Keep ’em coming!

      • Sandy says

        You made me laugh…screw this…that’s it…no parks are recommended! I might just throw 1000.00 on the ground and leave! LOL! I always go by Josh’s recommendations and they are right on with the exceptions of unforeseen crowds like cheer groups and such. Thank you Josh for all you do!!!

    • josh says

      The website’s recommendations are designed to get you to the best park to visit each day based on a myriad of factors. Given a crowd level of “8” or “9” you’re going to see significantly higher waits whether you visit during a recommended day or a non-recommended day. But the recommended days reliably see shorter waits given a certain crowd level.

      The website also publishes expected wait times based on crowd level for each theme park. Animal Kingdom’s wait times are listed at the end of this post or in the PDF cheat sheet: http://www.easywdw.com/easy/animal-kingdom/animal-kingdom-touring-plans-rope-drop-wait-times-and-fastpass-priority/

      If you scroll down to “Crowd Level 7-8,” you’ll notice that the wait times for Tough To Be A Bug are as high as 15 minutes. That is to be expected. If you take an average of those numbers, you get 9.16 minutes. The average for “Crowd Level 9” is 12.7 minutes with peak waits of 20 minutes. So it’s not surprising that the average waits for crowd levels 7 and 8 are 8+ minutes, just like we see the 12 minutes over Presidents Day Weekend with the crowd level 9s.

      If you look over the crowd calendar for January: http://www.easywdw.com/easy/calendars/january-2016-walt-disney-world-crowd-calendar/ or February: http://www.easywdw.com/easy/calendars/february-2016-walt-disney-world-crowd-calendar/ you’ll notice that crowd levels are typically higher on the weekends, sometimes by 2 or 3 whole levels. So the longer wait times during weekends are to be expected.

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