Disney released the April 2012 operating schedule today at this link: http://media.disneywebcontent.com/StaticFiles/DTA-Domestic/pdf/ParkHours/WDW_Operating_Calendar_apr.pdf. If you still see April 2011 in the upper right hand corner, click refresh on your browser. Some browsers don’t automatically load new versions of PDF files if they have the same file name.
Just by looking at April 1 – 7th, you can instantaneously tell that it’s going to be crowded – we already have 8am openings at Magic Kingdom, additional Extra Magic Hours, 10pm closes at Hollywood Studios with two Fantasmic shows scheduled every night, and extended hours at Animal Kingdom. The 8am openings, additional Extra Magic Hours, and additional evening entertainment in the initial release of the operating schedule are almost unprecedented. Last year, Disney didn’t add a morning Extra Magic Hour at Magic Kingdom on every day around Easter until a week before the holiday actually happened. Even now, Disney still has Magic Kingdom operating from just 9am – 11pm on Christmas Day, which is always one of the busiest days of the year. By the time all is said and done, we should see Magic Kingdom open from at least 8am – 12am on Christmas. Hopefully this is an indication that Disney will be less conservative and more realistic in the release of their initial operating schedule. Keep in mind that we should see extended hours and additional evening entertainment when Disney makes their major schedule update in the middle of March. Luckily, the recommendations should remain mostly unchanged as any tinkering Disney does to the operating schedule will only make the recommended days “more recommended.”
The following week, from April 8th – 14th, we also see extended operating hours and additional Extra Magic Hours. As we get closer to April, I expect Disney to add a second Fantasmic to each night between April 8th – 14th as well and extend the close to 10pm to accommodate it. Magic Kingdom’s close should also be extended to 12am or 1am on at least several (if not most) dates between April 1st to 14th.
April 15th – 30th should be decidedly less crowded with the end of Easter and Spring Breaks throughout the United States. Still, we have Main Street Electrical Parade and Wishes scheduled every night at Magic Kingdom and Disney continues to schedule Fantasmic almost every night throughout the rest of the month. Animal Kingdom’s 7pm closes are also later than average.
Considering what should be pleasant temperatures with highs in the low to mid 80s, braving average size crowds in the second half of April may be worthwhile. If you’re planning a trip around Easter, which is April 8th in 2012, you’ll want to prepare yourselves to arrive at the theme parks early and make good use of the morning. An Easter trip is certainly “doable,” but crowds are almost as high as Disney resort prices during that time period.
I will begin working on the April 2012 Crowd Calendar. I should have a draft of the Crowd Calendar image by tomorrow afternoon and the full analysis will follow in the next couple of days.