We’re in the midst of one of the busiest times of year at Disney World, thanks to significant spring break crowds arriving from around the United States and abroad. All of this week and next week is designated as a “crowd level 9,” which is the highest overall crowd level possible without a risk of the Magic Kingdom closing due to capacity. While the overall crowd level is a 9, the wait times you’ll find at most of the Parks resemble more of what you would expect from Christmas week (December 25-31), when crowds are routinely in the “10” range. While the Park hours have been extended longer than you’ll find during most of the year, we aren’t helped by the additional Extra Magic Hours that we see over Christmas week. We also don’t have Fantasmic scheduled every night or 8am openings at Animal Kingdom, among other shortcomings.
From time to time people will ask me (CAN YOU BELIEVE PEOPLE QUESTION ME???????), “Are Mondays at the Magic Kingdom really that bad? They are almost always designated ‘red'” The answer is yes, for most Mondays. However, the busy-Monday-phenomenon is especially apparent when Sunday to Saturday vacations are most common – like what we’re seeing now for spring breaks, which generally last one week from Saturday to the following Sunday. Let me ask you a question, since we’re friends. What seems like the most natural place to go after checking in at your Disney World resort? For most of you, the answer is the Magic Kingdom. For most people on a week long vacation, that first full day falls on Monday. During less busy times of year, Mondays at the Magic Kingdom also feature longer hours and the Main Street Electrical Parade (the nighttime Magic Kingdom parade), when several other days during the week do not have the Parade scheduled. It’s not uncommon for Main Street Electrical Parade to be scheduled on just Monday, Thursday, and Saturday nights in September, for example. This also helps elevate Monday’s crowds because anyone who wants to see the Parade will be forced to visit on one of these days. Because the Main Street Electrical Parade is expensive to perform, Disney schedules it when the most people will be in the Magic Kingdom anyway. Those days are Mondays for the “first day of my vacation” crowd, Thursdays for the Disney resort guest crowd (due to morning Extra Magic Hour), and Saturdays due to the longer hours of operation, visiting locals, and “last day before I leave Disney” crowd. More often than not, Mondays are actually the busiest day of the week at the Magic Kingdom, though it’s often difficult to discern the difference between many Mondays and Saturdays. We see slightly different crowd patterns in June, July, and August, but that ramble will have to wait for another day.
I’ll be taking a look at wait times throughout this week to give you a better idea about what you can expect from a “crowd level 9” during spring break. I’ll also offer some tips on how to beat the hordes if you ever find yourself amongst them. Just as a hint, my advice is always the same. Arrive prior to Park opening. Visit the headlining attractions immediately after Park opening. Use FASTPASS as efficiently and as often as possible throughout the rest of the day. If you do that, you’ll have success no matter which Park you decide to visit.
Tonight (that is, the evening of March 14th), we’ll take a look at 10pm wait times at the two Parks that were open – Hollywood Studios and Magic Kingdom. Magic Kingdom was open to everyone until 1am and Hollywood Studios was open from 8pm to 11pm to Disney resort guests for evening Extra Magic Hours. That means we have about an hour left at Hollywood Studios and three hours of operation left at Magic Kingdom. Both Parks were expressly not recommended. All wait times are taken from what’s listed outside of the attraction between 10:00pm and 10:15pm. In parentheses you’ll find the peak sustained wait during the rest of the day.
Magic Kingdom (Not Recommended):
Big Thunder Mountain: 60 minutes (120 minutes)
Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin: 15 minutes (60 minutes)
Haunted Mansion: 10 minutes (70 minutes)
It’s A Small World: 10 minutes (45 minutes)
Peter Pan’s Flight: 25 minutes (80 minutes)
Pirates of the Caribbean: 10 minutes (40 minutes)
Space Mountain: 100 minutes (140 minutes)
Splash Mountain: 60 minutes (120 minutes)
Winnie the Pooh: 15 minutes (60 minutes)
Those peak waits are about as high as they get, which is what we can expect from such a busy, non-recommend day. Even with the 8am – 1am operating hours, we’re still in the midst of some of the heaviest crowds of the year on the absolute worst day of the week to visit. However, the Fantasyland rides do have shorter waits as it gets later. What you’ll find by 10pm is that many families have left for the night, which makes Fantasyland considerably less busy. While Peter Pan’s wait was in the 60-80 minute range from 10:30am to 8:30pm, the wait drops off substantially as more and more families with young kids leave. If you can’t get to Fantasyland in the first 90 minutes of operation and the Magic Kingdom is open past 10pm, save Fantasyland for the very end of the night. The same holds true for evening Extra Magic Hours – Fantasyland should always be saved for last. Even with these high peak waits, you still could have gotten through most of these attractions between 8am and 10:30am (and FASTPASSed two or three others), had you arrived by 7:40am. Had you shown up for Space Mountain at 1pm to ride in the standby line, you would have been able to ride just Space Mountain. The longer-than-usual peak wait at Haunted Mansion was due to the semi-unveiling of the interactive queue.
Hollywood Studios (Not Recommended)
Backlot Tour: Closed
Great Movie Ride: 30 minutes (40 minutes)
Rock N Roller Coaster: 75 minutes (120 minutes)
Tower of Terror: 40 minutes (90 minutes)
Toy Story Mania: 80 minutes (120 minutes)
Remember, those first numbers are taken at 10pm, which was two hours into evening Extra Magic Hours. Wait times at 8pm and 9pm were even longer. You will routinely see me denounce evening Extra Magic Hours at Hollywood Studios because wait times are almost always just as long as they were during the day and longer than you would find on a recommend day. While wait times are slightly shorter than they were during the day, you certainly wouldn’t want to catch yourself in an 80 minute line at 10pm. Not to mention that Hollywood Studios doesn’t offer FASTPASS during evening Extra Magic Hours. It’s very rare to find shorter lines during evening Extra Magic Hours than you would find on a recommended day, and this week should be no different. With so few attractions open during evening Extra Magic Hours, there simply aren’t enough lines to handle the Disney resort contingent when they are out in force.
What will the rest of the week hold? More triple digit waits probably. But it beats sitting at work and watching your Japan ETF bite the dust. Trust me on that one.