NOTE: This post is only kind-of edited and will be updated with missing words and potentially for clarity by Saturday. The main points should remain in you’re jonseing to read 2,800+ words about daily variability in Muppet Vision 3D wait times on what is probably a gorgeous Friday afternoon.
Back at the end of last month in a post titled, “Disney World Memorial Day Weekend 2016 Wait Times as Soarin’ and Toy Story Mania Capacities Increase and Animal Kingdom’s Hours Extend,” I promised to post an update on how wait times were progressing headed into a busy summer season. Growing up, Mother always said, “Josh, keep 30% of your promises and you can always find new friends.” Or something like that. I might be confusing proverbs. Nevertheless, let’s see what we’re looking at over the first couple of weeks in June.
You may recall that preliminary conclusions were a little shaky at Animal Kingdom with just four days of 11pm closes having passed after the previous update. But we deduced that DinoLand waits should be short after 8pm and Kali River Rapids is going to be a virtual walk-on by 8:30pm. Everest looked to be more popular and perhaps for good reason as it’s a riot to ride in the dark. We weren’t so sure about Kilimanjaro Safaris with so little to go on. With more than two weeks having gone by now, we should be able to make some more concrete conclusions.
Our first chart shows the overall average wait at all attractions that display one during regular theme park hours. It should offer some insight into how much wait times vary from day to day and how long they typically are:
Waits vary between a low of 18 minutes, the day after the events at Pulse Night Club downtown, and a high of 30 minutes, the Sunday of a very busy holiday weekend. If we eliminate the two lowest and two highest averages, we have a range of 21 to 28 minutes, which still seems significant.
Wednesday June 8th is perhaps what I would consider to be closest to your “average” summer day at Animal Kingdom. Downtime, due to technical failure or weather, has a major impact on attractions like Expedition Everest, Kali River Rapids, Kilimanjaro Safaris, and Primeval Whirl, in addition to sending people towards the exit. Running attractions with variable capacity with fewer vehicles also has a major impact on certain attractions and can push up wait times significantly even when there are fewer people inside the Park.
But in this chart, what we see is what we should expect. Low waits in the first hour that tun into higher and higher waits as the day progresses, peaking from 11:30am to 6pm before things begin to drop off. By 7pm, the wait is nearly a third of the afternoon peak, and by 10pm, waits drop to 10 minutes, compared to 40+ minutes from 11:30am – 1pm. And if you read over the post linked above, you’ll see that most of the other trends that we were expecting to show up do materialize.
Here’s the 15th, with waits that are surprisingly low considering what was a mostly-dry day in mid-June. Capacity still comes into play with Primeval Whirl posting a longer average wait than Safaris, Expedition Everest, or DINOSAUR. Figuring out which attractions are most likely to be operating at reduced capacity will be a big part of selecting intelligent FastPass+ experiences moving forward and a major part of the revised touring plans. In the case of Animal Kingdom, Primeval Whirl is an easy 4th FP+ selection in the afternoon.
Subtract two days to the non-recommended Monday and you have longer waits during regular hours. This also probably has something to do with so many people avoiding all of the Parks on the day prior. Rain is also an issue in the evening as all outdoor attractions are closed by 8:45pm and the first Jungle book show is cancelled.
But one of the big reasons why wait times aren’t a very good indicator of crowd “feel” is how much downtime, even just an hour or two, at key attractions can have a significant impact on overall waits. That in turn makes it more difficult to pinpoint trends from day to day and week to week. Take Friday June 3rd, which has the second longest overall average wait going back a few weeks, including Memorial Day Weekend. But a lot of that can be attributed to less than 90 minutes of downtime at Everest shortly after opening. With so many FastPass+ returners now returning over a shorter period of time, the standby wait goes up because even less capacity is given to standby and there are fewer total rides available over the course of the day with the ride not operating.
Kali River Rapids sees about 45 minutes of downtime in the heart of the afternoon, which pushes up wait times into the triple digits immediately after reopening. It’s also down from 7:45pm through Park close, so we don’t get a bunch of 10 minute waits to pull the average down.
So much like the crowd calendars here on this website, the “why” is much more important than the “what.” We would not want to look at June 3rd and deduce that it is wildly “busier” than the days around it because the wait times are longer due to extended downtime at two key attractions. Everest’s average is higher than any other day that we’re looking at not due to more people in the Park. And the fact that it is longer doesn’t offer any insight into trying to predict which days will be busier later this summer or next year.
It’s sort of a hassle to post the rest of these daily charts as .jpg files, but if you’d like to look at the full charts for the last couple of weeks, here is the Excel file: https://i2.wp.com/easywdw.com/reports13/ak_summer_beginning.xlsx.
So while we won’t be throwing out which day of the week is the “best” to visit, it seems prudent to at least de-emphasize it at times. With maximum FastPass+ distribution at the majority of attractions every single day, it does not necessary matter whether DINOSAUR’s wait at 12:30pm is 40, 50, 60, or 70 minutes. And the wait time may not even correlate at all with how crowded it “feels” or how many other people are in the Park on a given day. That’s particularly true during some special events like the Food and Wine Festival, but as we’ve seen, downtime and capacity reductions have a pronounced effect all year.
Anyway, we’ll revisit similar charts when we discuss touring Animal Kingdom at night in more depth, but it becomes clear what we’re looking at with DINOSAUR above. To avoid actual waits of 20+ minutes, you’ll want to be in line before 10:30am during most of the summer. And the later in the day you visit, the shorter the wait will reliably be again. Note that I did change the waits at the very end of the day on May 29th from “100” to the more likely “10” as to not skew these numbers unnecessarily.
Skipping ahead to another DinoLand attraction in Primeval Whirl, where it’s potentially interesting that the average wait for an off-the-shelf carnival ride is the same as a ride that should on the same level as Indiana Jones in California. As the website has discussed at length, this is a capacity thing where Disney runs only one of two sides of the ride for an extended period of time in the morning and then cuts capacity again in the evening.
Take a look at DINOSAUR waits last year over the same days:
The song remains the same for the most part in the morning. This year, from 9am to 11am, wait times progress from 8 minutes at 9am to 9 minutes at 9:15am and then to 12, 14, 18, 20, 25, 24, and then 27 minutes by 11am. Last year, it was 7 minutes at 9am to 10 minutes at 9:15am and then 12, 14, 15, 19, 21, 25, and then 27 minutes at 11am. So we start and end in the morning at nearly the exact same place. The 26-minute average last year is higher than this year since this year as we have three more hours in the evening with low waits to pull the average down.
While DINO waits are down slightly this year with the extended hours, Primeval Whirl waits are actually up 33%. Part of that is higher FastPass+ distribution as more experiences are used in each possible time slot, but it has a lot more to do with the attraction running at a reduced capacity. There’s no reason that the wait should be 20+ minutes at 10pm or that the average should be 36 minutes at 11am (compared to 17 minutes in 2015). Halve capacity. Double waits.
Also, in the chart above, just try to pretend like 9am – 11:15am and 4:30pm – 8pm are colored green. That means that in 2015, Primeval Whirl was under 20 minutes for a full hour longer than this year, even with significantly shorter operating hours.
If you’re looking for a reason to stay at Animal Kingdom into the late evening, Expedition Everest at night might be enough. Darkness transforms the ride, increasing the sense of speed and making it easy to lose yourself in the mountain. It’s a fantastic experience that wouldn’t have been possible during the majority of the year prior to this summer. With so much capacity given to FastPass+ right off the bat, posted waits do quickly jump in the morning, though most people heading over after Safaris should be able to squeeze in at least one ride with a reasonable actual wait. Otherwise, waits drop in the evening as people head into the 9pm Jungle Book show, leaving the area behind it in Asia extremely quiet (at least crowd-wise), before waits rise a bit as people exit the theater and into the queue. Waits are again largely nonexistent after 10pm with no appreciable waits after 10:30pm most days.
While we’re at it, here’s Everest in 2015. Like DINO, the overall average wait last year was actually higher, though there are also more instances where the wait is under 21 minutes.
Moving on to Kali River Rapids, the nature of the ride here in the summer is what drives wait times. Nobody is particularly interested in starting their day getting soaked for little payoff early in the morning, so waits remain short for the first 75ish minutes of operation. Then with the miserable capacity and increase in popularity as temperatures rise, so do wait times. Once the sun looks to set, people again lose interest and the ride is a a walk-on all night after 8pm with just the occasional long wait posted after extended downtime. We are decidedly in before-10:30am, with FastPass+, or after 8pm territory here.
Like Expedition Everest, Kilimanjaro Safaris remains a top morning priority. Perhaps unlike Everest, nighttime does little to enhance the experience. I was hoping that there would be a bigger, more discernible, guaranteed drop in waits in the middle of the afternoon in between what would hopefully be the morning people headed out and the nighttime people arriving. And while waits do certainly peak at 40+ minutes from 10:30am to 1:30pm, I’m not sure an average of 31 minutes with the possibility that the posted wait will be 50 to 70 minutes at 7pm is worth betting on a standby ride around that time frame.
And while you could walk on the ride basically any day of the week this summer after 10:15pm, I’m not sure that you would necessarily want to as your chances of seeing more than three or four animals are low to nonexistent. With what has ended up being a reduction in the spiel once the sun goes down, I’d suggest booking a FastPass+ window that includes that night’s sunset time and then get in line about ten minutes after that. You can pull up a list of sunset times here and change the month at the bottom. You should be able to enjoy the “real” sunset while the animals are still active. If you’d like to experience the safari in pitch black, I’d suggest getting in line about 30 minutes after sunset. By 10pm, it’s less likely you’ll see much. Afterwards, you can enjoy the nighttime entertainment in Africa at your leisure before swinging by the Tree of Life, riding Expedition Everest without much of a wait, and potentially catching the second and less popular Jungle Book show.
While Animal Kingdom at Dark is still potentially new and some may maintain some semblance of hope, the initiative is not catching on with guests. Tiffins is running around 25% capacity after 7:30pm. Nomad Lounge sees just a handful of tables occupied at any given time. I was at Nomad this past weekend and they sat a total of three parties in the Trek Gallery over the course of the 90ish minutes we were there. Attendance is weak. And it’s very expensive to put on, from the 100+ performers in the Jungle Book show, to all of the front line cast members, to just keeping the Park and the savanna lit.
There are a great number of problems in trying to convince people that are accustomed to leaving the Park at 2pm to stay until at least 10pm. That includes all of the problems that are inherent in trying to keep kids up that late – Hollywood Studios has emptied out immediately after the first Fantasmic for what seems like forever now. We’ve all seen the deluge that is the after-Wishes crowd. And while Disney has emphasized the nighttime enhancements, they continue having trouble convincing the average guest that there is anything worth doing that doesn’t post a 40+ minute wait at some point during the day. So you already have a crowd that is going to be struggling to get to 10pm as it is. And if you Google “Jungle Book Awakening Show Review,” 90% of what you read is going to be negative and the other 10% is going to be paid off or otherwise grasping at straws trying to convince you that it should receive a B- because cast members are trying hard.
You’re more than welcome to leave a comment with your opinion if you’ve experienced Animal Kingdom at Night over the last couple of weeks.
I was hoping that we would be able to discuss the effects of the third theater on Soarin’ wait times, but I don’t think we ever saw all three theaters operating. While the new “Concourse C” has been running since the attraction reopened with the original film over Memorial Day Weekend, “Concourse” A has been closed. That has led to some pretty absurd wait times. It will be interesting to see what standby waits look like over the next couple of weeks and how much Disney messes with the hourly distribution of FastPass+.
Of course, the much bigger deal is Frozen on Tuesday.
Standby waits are down considerably at Toy Story Mania with more FastPass+ availability now that Disney has added a third track and increased the number of FP+ distributed throughout the day. It doesn’t seem like FP+ availability is good enough that the new number distributed reaches the 70% FastPass+ / 30% standby ratio that we are accustomed to seeing and it is possible that the number of FP+ experiences will be increased, which would in turn push up standby wait times. But at the moment, wait times build slower first thing in the morning and peak much lower than they would have last year. Unfortunately, you still probably don’t want to be caught in standby between 9:30am and 8pm, but those that must should be a little happier to find a 50 to 60 minute wait instead of a 70 to 120 minute wait.
Let’s compare the above to the same dates last year:
An overall average drop of 33 minutes is serious as is the posted wait right at rope drop falling by more than half from 51 to 25 minutes. I would reiterate that, practically speaking, there isn’t necessarily a huge difference between a 96-minute average wait at 2:30pm like there was in 2015 compared to 56 minutes this year. They’re both longer than we’d like to wait. But even easydubz can’t construe increased FastPass+ availability and lower wait times into something that’s anything but positive.
But you can bet that I’m going to try.
We’ll take a look at Magic Kingdom separately. I tend to get winded by the time Haunted Mansion comes around and gloss over it in favor of discussing wait time trends at TriceraTop Spin at Animal Kingdom earlier in the post. It will certainly be interesting to see if Animal Kingdom can improve nighttime attendance, how much impact Frozen/New Soarin’ have at Epcot, and how many people opt to see the Star Wars Galactic Spectacular in place of Wishes and the Main Street Electrical Parade.
We’ll see what happens.