One of the more common questions I receive is, “What exactly does a ‘1’ on the Crowd Calendar mean?” Since today was our first day of 2011 with a “1” rating, let’s have a look at today’s wait times.
These are the posted wait times taken between 4:00pm and 4:15pm on January 25th.
Animal Kingdom (#1 Park to Visit):
Dinosaur: 5 minutes
Expedition Everest: 10 minutes
Kilimanjaro Safaris: 15 minutes
Epcot (Park to Avoid):
Maelstrom: 15 minutes
Soarin’: 35 minutes
Spaceship Earth: 5 minutes
Test Track: 25 minutes
Hollywood Studios (#2 Best Park):
Great Movie Ride: 10 minutes
Tower of Terror: 10 minutes
Toy Story Mania: 30 minutes
Magic Kingdom (#3 Best Park):
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad: 20 minutes
Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin: 10 minutes
Haunted Mansion: 10 minutes
Pirates of the Caribbean: 5 minutes
Space Mountain: 15 minutes
Now let’s compare this with Saturday January 15th, a “6” on the Crowd Calendar.
Animal Kingdom (#1 Best Park):
Dinosaur: 15 minutes
Expedition Everest: 25 minutes
Kilimanjaro Safaris: 35 minutes
Epcot (#2 Best Park):
Maelstrom: 20 minutes
Soarin’: 50 minutes
Spaceship Earth: 5 minutes
Test Track: 45 minutes
Hollywood Studios (#3 Best Park):
Great Movie Ride: 15 minutes
Tower of Terror: 30 minutes
Toy Story Mania: 70 minutes
Magic Kingdom (Park to Avoid):
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad: 80 minutes
Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin: 30 minutes
Haunted Mansion: 25 minutes
Pirates of the Caribbean: 30 minutes
Space Mountain: 90 minutes
As you can see, there is a substantial difference in wait times between today and Saturday over Martin Luther King weekend. Even the Park to avoid when the crowd level is a “1” isn’t so bad, although today’s morning Extra Magic Hour at Epcot isn’t a substantial crowd magnet. However, we can expect decently long peak waits at Animal Kingdom tomorrow (for evening Extra Magic Hours), Magic Kingdom (morning Extra Magic Hour and Main Street Electrical Parade) and Hollywood Studios (Fantasmic) on Thursday, and Epcot (evening Extra Magic Hours) on Friday, despite the low overall crowds. This is due to the number of Disney resort guests who visit whichever Park has Extra Magic Hours and the general public that chases nighttime entertainment like Main Street Electrical Parade and Fantasmic. Even when the overall crowd level is low, individual theme parks can still be relatively busy if most Disney resort guests head in one direction.
To put it another way, let’s say you have a fairly standard 2,500 square foot home with four bedrooms on two floors. If you have ten people in that home and they are evenly dispersed around the house, it’s unlikely that the house will feel crowded. Now let’s say Dad is giving away free money in the kitchen and eight people are clamoring about trying to wrestle away $1 bills, while the other two would prefer to play video games. That kitchen is going to feel pretty crowded, even though there are still just ten people in the house. On the other hand, if we fill that same house with 100 people for Christmas, it’s going to feel busy all around the house. While this is a somewhat rudimentary/stupid analogy/metaphor, it might help shine some light on why one theme park can be much busier than the others, even when the overall crowd level is low. It’s because certain events at each theme park attract heavier crowds. Disney World crowds are very rarely dispersed evenly among the four major theme parks.
Another common question is, “Are there really any dead times to visit Disney World? I consider a crowd level of ‘1’ to be ‘walk-ons’ at every theme park all day.” The answer to this question is “yes and no.” Disney controls upwards of 25,000 hotel rooms on Disney property and they are mostly filled throughout the year. According to Disney financial releases, last quarter’s occupancy rate was 86%, or about 21,500 rooms full of Disney vacationers on any given day. When crowds are low, it means that there are few people traveling from resorts/condos/rental homes off-property. At this point in January, very few people are coming in from outside of Disney World, even if Disney’s resorts are 85% full. If you’re looking for zero minute waits at Soarin’, Toy Story Mania, and Space Mountain at 4pm, I have bad news for you. It’s not going to happen. However, you could have very easily ridden Toy Story Mania five times today with short waits, which is virtually unheard of during most of the rest of the year. You could have ridden Space Mountain in the standby line six or seven times between 3:30pm and 4:30pm, which is also virtually unheard of. Just look at January 15th when the standby wait at Space Mountain was 90 minutes. While a “1” means you’ll find the lowest crowds of the year, it doesn’t mean every theme park is going to be empty for the entire day. If you visit Hollywood Studios when it has Fantasmic, Magic Kingdom on a Saturday when it has Main Street Electrical Parade, or Epcot on a Friday with evening Extra Magic Hours, you’re going to run into a lot of people, no matter what time of year you’re traveling. This website is designed to help you identify the least crowded times to visit, but also prepare you to have a successful day no matter the touring conditions.
I’m still working on the Epcot touring plans. I hope to have them up by the end of the weekend. Since football season is basically over, work should increase 500x. I’m sure the boss will be happy.